Sunday, November 18, 2018

Today's links

1--Bubble Trouble: Seattle-Bellevue Metro Housing Market Goes South 


The inflection point was July. Conditions have deteriorated since.

Active listings of houses and condos for sale in October in King County – which includes Seattle and Bellevue but does not include Tacoma – nearly doubled compared to October last year, jumping 91% to 5,749 listings, according to data by the National Association of Realtors. This was the largest inventory for sale since the end of Housing Bust 1 going back to 2012.

Inventory for sale started surging off low levels in the spring. In July, it reached the highest level since October 2014; and it continued to soar from then on. By this measure, July marked the inflection point of the housing market in King County. The red bars in the chart mark the months following the inflection poin

2-- Committee to Protect Journalists issues scathing report on Obama administration, glenn greenwald

It's hardly news that the Obama administration is intensely and, in many respects, unprecedentedly hostile toward the news-gathering process. Even the most Obama-friendly journals have warned of what they call "Obama's war on whistleblowers". James Goodale, the former general counsel of the New York Times during its epic fights with the Nixon administration, recently observed that "President Obama wants to criminalize the reporting of national security information" and added: "President Obama will surely pass President Richard Nixon as the worst president ever on issues of national security and press freedom."

Still, a new report released today by the highly respected Committee to Protect Journalists - its first-ever on press freedoms in the US - powerfully underscores just how extreme is the threat to press freedom posed by this administration. Written by former Washington Post executive editor Leonard Downie, Jr., the report offers a comprehensive survey of the multiple ways that the Obama presidency has ushered in a paralyzing climate of fear for journalists and sources alike, one that severely threatens the news-gathering process.

The first sentence: "In the Obama administration's Washington, government officials are increasingly afraid to talk to the press." Among the most shameful aspects of the Obama record:

Based on all this, Downie himself concludes:
The administration's war on leaks and other efforts to control information are the most aggressive I've seen since the Nixon administration, when I was one of the editors involved in The Washington Post's investigation of Watergate. The 30 experienced Washington journalists at a variety of news organizations whom I interviewed for this report could not remember any precedent."
And this pernicious dynamic extends far beyond national security: "Ellen Weiss, Washington bureau chief for E.W. Scripps newspapers and stations, said 'the Obama administration is far worse than the Bush administration' in trying to thwart accountability reporting about government agencies." It identifies at least a dozen other long-time journalists making similar observations.

The report ends by noting the glaring irony that Obama aggressively campaigned on a pledge to usher in The Most Transparent Administration Ever™. Instead, as the New Yorker's investigative reporter Jane Mayer recently said about the Obama administration's attacks: "It's a huge impediment to reporting, and so chilling isn't quite strong enough, it's more like freezing the whole process into a standstill."

Six government employees, plus two contractors including Edward Snowden, have been subjects of felony criminal prosecutions since 2009 under the 1917 Espionage Act, accused of leaking classified information to the press—compared with a total of three such prosecutions in all previous U.S. administrations. Still more criminal investigations into leaks are under way. Reporters' phone logs and e-mails were secretly subpoenaed and seized by the Justice Department in two of the investigations, and a Fox News reporter was accused in an affidavit for one of those subpoenas of being 'an aider, abettor and/or conspirator' of an indicted leak defendant, exposing him to possible prosecution for doing his job as a journalist. In another leak case, a New York Times reporter has been ordered to testify against a defendant or go to jail."

 3--Syrian Army preparing for large-scale operation in Idlib


The main objective of this operation will be clear the remaining towns under the control of Hay’at Tahrir Al-Sham near this imperative military installation.


4--Iran-Iraq free trade zone?


On November 16th, Iran and Iraq agreed on the establishment of a free trade zone, according to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.
“We have agreed to create a free trade zone between the two countries, which will enable us to launch joint ventures,” Rouhani said at a press conference held after the meeting, as broadcast by Press TV.
According to Rouhani, currently Iran-Iraq trade amounts to approximately $12 billion, but with some effort could grow to $20 billion.
Rouhani also said that the two leaders also talked about electricity and gas swap, as well as cooperation on petroleum products and oil exploration

5--Enemy of the State?

“It appears that Julian Assange and WikiLeaks are the 'enemy,'” Michael Ratner, Assange's US attorney, said. “An enemy is dealt with under the laws of war, which could include killing, capturing, detaining without trial, etc.”

6--Greece--crushed by the eu bureaucracy, george galloway 


7--Peace at last?  Afghanistan


The long-awaited peace deal between the Afghan government and the Taliban may be reached by April next year, a US special envoy for Afghanistan said following a meeting with insurgent group’s emissaries in Qatar.
Zalmay Khalilzad, the US special representative for Afghanistan reconciliation, said on Sunday that he hopes “a peace deal is reached before April 20 next year,” according to Reuters. The war-torn country will hold a presidential election on that day.

Washington’s own estimates indicate that the Western-backed Afghanistan government has uncontested control of just over 57 percent of the country. Meanwhile, a recent British study revealed that the Taliban are “openly active” in around 70 percent of the nation.

8--China's ‘One Belt, One Road’ global investment plan mapped out 


This year marks the fifth anniversary of the Belt and Road initiative, proposed by Chinese authorities in the autumn of 2013. The ambitious project is aimed at creating infrastructure networks linking Europe, Asia and Africa.
So far, the challenging project has attracted around 100 countries across three continents. The new infrastructure project links Asia, Europe, and Africa through a network of railroads and shipping lanes, and is set to reach South America.

The ambitious economic cooperation campaign, also known as the Silk Road Economic Belt, was initially represented by two major segments. The first, the Silk Road Economic Belt, refers to a half-dozen land corridors linking China with Southeast Asia, South Asia, West Asia, the Middle East and then with Europe. The second, the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, is a sea route linking Asia, Africa and Europe.

The Silk Road was a land route across Europe and Asia used by ancient and medieval merchants to carry silk and other commodities by camel or horse to and from China, Persia and the Roman Empire.
China has invested heavily into the project with reported $900 billion having been spent on projects in partner countries. As part of the broader initiative, a 336 kilometers (209 miles) rail line was constructed to link Budapest and Belgrade, a gas pipeline was built in Pakistan, and a high-speed rail link was launched in Thailand.

Most of the investment projects of the Belt and Road initiative have reportedly benefitted China’s state-owned corporations. Statista's Agne Blazyte has visualized distribution of Chinese heavy investments connected to the project across the world. As the map shows, Southeast Asia remains a high priority for China, while India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Myanmar are among other important beneficiaries.

9--China’s New Silk Road to significantly boost global trade


China’s ambitious multi-trillion-dollar One Belt One Road Initiative could increase global trade by as much as 12 percent, cutting trading costs by half for the countries involved, senior economist with ING Joanna Konings said.
“Trade between Asia and Europe, not including trade between EU countries, accounts for 28 percent of world trade, so making those trade flows easier has a large potential impact,” said Konings, who specializes in international trade analysis. “The size of this impact depends on the sensitivity of trade to changes in relative costs,” she added.

Countries in Eastern Europe and Central Asia are set to benefit most, the economist said, explaining that the benefits will depend on where trade costs fall.

Konings considered three scenarios with a varying number of countries affected by the initiative, while assuming a 50-percent drop in costs. In the most conservative case, which includes only countries along the Eurasian economic corridor (China, Kazakhstan, Russia, Belarus, and Poland), BRI will boost global trade by four percent.

In the most optimistic scenario involving both BRI countries and their partners, nations in Central Asia and Eastern Europe will see the biggest increases. Trade for Russia, Kazakhstan, Poland, Nepal, and Myanmar would rise by an estimated 35 percent to 45 percent. China would see its trade jump by about 20 percent, Konings estimates.

10--Globalist Pence delivers ultimatum to Beijing--The Deep state's messenger boy

Smaller economies in the Asia-Pacific have long sought to balance ties, reaping the benefits of trade with China’s fast-growing economy while relying on American firepower to rein in Beijing’s assertiveness over disputed territory. Yet the trade war has raised the prospect that nations will now need to pick sides, particularly as higher U.S. tariffs threaten to alter long-established supply chains.
Earlier this month, former U.S. Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson warned of an “Economic Iron Curtain” dividing the world if the U.S. and China fail to resolve strategic differences. That could lead both sides to deny each other technology, capital and investment, reversing decades of gains from globalization.

‘Desperate Fence Sitters’

While the U.S. can depend on allies like Japan, Australia and Taiwan, nations such as South Korea and the Philippines that have defense arrangements with the U.S. would try to hedge, according to Minxin Pei, a China scholar and specialist in U.S.-Asia relations.
Southeast Asian countries were “desperate fence sitters” who don’t want to make China an enemy, said Pei, who is a professor of government at Claremont McKenna College in California. “China and the U.S will try very hard in the next few years to charm the countries in the region.”

Seeking Friends

Pence also had stinging remarks for Xi’s Belt-and-Road Initiative, which Morgan Stanley says may total $1.3 trillion by 2027 -- dwarfing the funds the U.S. and allies have mobilized. The vice president said the U.S. doesn’t “drown our partners in a sea of debt” or “offer a constricting belt or a one-way road.”
Compared with Pence, Xi had a softer message for Asia this week. He voiced support for the multilateral trading system, called for greater cooperation, and said that implementing tariffs and breaking up supply chains was “doomed to failure.” He also defended his signature Belt-and-Road Initiative, which dwarfs any infrastructure funding backed by the U.S., saying it’s “not a trap as some people have labeled it.”

11--Salon attacks first amendment  --Why comments sections must die


Far from being open forums, comments sections filter out thoughtful conversation in favor of hate. Time to end them

As I've argued before, comments sections are not a zeitgeist of our culture, nor are they a populist reflection of public sentiment. Selection bias and the online disinhibition effect means that the voices of cruelty and hate will always reign, and the voices of reason will sink — or merely not post to begin with. As slanted cauldrons of hate, comments sections do not epitomize the Western ideal of "free speech" in any way. Time to end them.




Saturday, November 17, 2018

Today's links --Strategic Information, public relations, and propaganda etc

1--Congressmen Seek To Lift Propaganda Ban, Michael Hastings

Propaganda that was supposed to target foreigners could now be aimed at Americans, reversing a longstanding policy.

An amendment that would legalize the use of propaganda on American audiences is being inserted into the latest defense authorization bill, BuzzFeed has learned.
The amendment would “strike the current ban on domestic dissemination” of propaganda material produced by the State Department and the independent Broadcasting Board of Governors, according to the summary of the law at the House Rules Committee's official website.

The tweak to the bill would essentially neutralize two previous acts—the Smith-Mundt Act of 1948 and Foreign Relations Authorization Act in 1987—that had been passed to protect U.S. audiences from our own government’s misinformation campaigns.

The bi-partisan amendment is sponsored by Rep. Mac Thornberry from Texas and Rep. Adam Smith from Washington State.

In a little noticed press release earlier in the week — buried beneath the other high-profile issues in the $642 billion defense bill, including indefinite detention and a prohibition on gay marriage at military installations — Thornberry warned that in the Internet age, the current law “ties the hands of America’s diplomatic officials, military, and others by inhibiting our ability to effectively communicate in a credible way.”

The bill's supporters say the informational material used overseas to influence foreign audiences is too good to not use at home, and that new techniques are needed to help fight Al-Qaeda, a borderless enemy whose own propaganda reaches Americans online.
Critics of the bill say there are ways to keep America safe without turning the massive information operations apparatus within the federal government against American citizens.

“Clearly there are ways to modernize for the information age without wiping out the distinction between domestic and foreign audiences,” says Michael Shank, Vice President at the Institute for Economics and Peace in Washington D.C. "That Reps Adam Smith and Mac Thornberry want to roll back protections put in place by previously-serving Senators – who, in their wisdom, ensured limits to taxpayer–funded propaganda promulgated by the US government – is disconcerting and dangerous."

“I just don’t want to see something this significant – whatever the pros and cons – go through without anyone noticing,”
“ says one source on the Hill, who is disturbed by the law. According to this source, the law would allow "U.S. propaganda intended to influence foreign audiences to be used on the domestic population."

The new law would give sweeping powers to the government to push television, radio, newspaper, and social media onto the U.S. public. “It removes the protection for Americans,” says a Pentagon official who is concerned about the law. “It removes oversight from the people who want to put out this information. There are no checks and balances. No one knows if the information is accurate, partially accurate, or entirely false.”

According to this official, “senior public affairs” officers within the Department of Defense want to “get rid” of Smith-Mundt and other restrictions because it prevents information activities designed to prop up unpopular policies—like the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Critics of the bill point out that there was rigorous debate when Smith Mundt passed, and the fact that this is so “under the radar,” as the Pentagon official puts it, is troubling.
The Pentagon spends some $4 billion a year to sway public opinion already, and it was recently revealed by USA Today the DoD spent $202 million on information operations in Iraq and Afghanistan last year.

In an apparent retaliation to the USA Today investigation, the two reporters working on the story appear to have been targeted by Pentagon contractors, who created fake Facebook pages and Twitter accounts in an attempt to discredit them.

(In fact, a second amendment to the authorization bill — in reaction to the USA Today report — seeks cuts to the Pentagon’s propaganda budget overseas, while this amendment will make it easier for the propaganda to spread at home.)

The evaporation of Smith-Mundt and other provisions to safeguard U.S. citizens against government propaganda campaigns is part of a larger trend within the diplomatic and military establishment.
In December, the Pentagon used software to monitor the Twitter debate over Bradley Manning’s pre-trial hearing; another program being developed by the Pentagon would design software to create “sock puppets” on social media outlets; and, last year, General William Caldwell, deployed an information operations team under his command that had been trained in psychological operations to influence visiting American politicians to Kabul.

A U.S. Army whistleblower, Lieutenant Col. Daniel Davis, noted recently in his scathing 84-page unclassified report on Afghanistan that there remains a strong desire within the defense establishment “to enable Public Affairs officers to influence American public opinion when they deem it necessary to "protect a key friendly center of gravity, to wit US national will," he wrote, quoting a well-regarded general.

The defense bill passed the House Friday afternoon.
CORRECTION: The amendment under consideration would not apply to the Department of Defense, though the it is attached to a defense authorization bill.

2--Misinformation campaign targets USA TODAY reporter, editor--USA Today

A USA TODAY reporter and editor investigating Pentagon propaganda contractors have themselves been subjected to a propaganda campaign of sorts, waged on the Internet through a series of bogus websites.

Sponsored Links

Fake Twitter and Facebook accounts have been created in their names, along with a Wikipedia entry and dozens of message board postings and blog comments. Websites were registered in their names.
The timeline of the activity tracks USA TODAY's reporting on the military's "information operations" program, which spent hundreds of millions of dollars on marketing campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan campaigns that have been criticized even within the Pentagon as ineffective and poorly monitored.

3--Obama Quietly Signs The "Countering Disinformation And Propaganda Act" Into Law


Late on Friday, with the US population embracing the upcoming holidays and oblivious of most news emerging from the administration, Obama quietly signed into law the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) which authorizes $611 billion for the military in 2017....


the biggest news is what was buried deep inside the provisions of the Defense Authortization Act...


Recall that as we reported in early June, "a bill to implement the U.S.’ very own de facto Ministry of Truth had been quietly introduced in Congress. As with any legislation attempting to dodge the public spotlight the Countering Foreign Propaganda and Disinformation Act of 2016 marks a further curtailment of press freedom and another avenue to stultify avenues of accurate information. Introduced by Congressmen Adam Kinzinger and Ted Lieu, H.R. 5181 seeks a “whole-government approach without the bureaucratic restrictions” to counter “foreign disinformation and manipulation,” which they believe threaten the world’s “security and stability.”

Also called the Countering Information Warfare Act of 2016 (S. 2692), when introduced in March by Sen. Rob Portman, the legislation represents a dramatic return to Cold War-era government propaganda battles. “These countries spend vast sums of money on advanced broadcast and digital media capabilities, targeted campaigns, funding of foreign political movements, and other efforts to influence key audiences and populations,” Portman explained, adding that while the U.S. spends a relatively small amount on its Voice of America, the Kremlin provides enormous funding for its news organization, RT.

Long before the "fake news" meme became a daily topic of extensive conversation on such discredited mainstream portals as CNN and WaPo, H.R. 5181 would task the Secretary of State with coordinating the Secretary of Defense, the Director of National Intelligence, and the Broadcasting Board of Governors to “establish a Center for Information Analysis and Response,” which will pinpoint sources of disinformation, analyze data, and — in true dystopic manner — ‘develop and disseminate’ “fact-based narratives” to counter effrontery propaganda.
In short, long before "fake news" became a major media topic, the US government was already planning its legally-backed crackdown on anything it would eventually label "fake news...

Fast forward to December 8, when the "Countering Disinformation and Propaganda Act" passed in the Senate, quietly inserted inside the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) Conference Report.
And now, following Friday's Obama signing of the NDAA on Friday evening, the Countering Disinformation and Propaganda Act is now law.
* * *
Here is the full statement issued by the generously funded Senator Rob Portman (R- Ohio) on the singing into law of a bill that further chips away at press liberties in the US, and which sets the stage for future which hunts and website shutdowns, purely as a result of an accusation that any one media outlet or site is considered as a source of "disinformation and propaganda" and is shut down by the government.

President Signs Portman-Murphy Counter-Propaganda Bill into Law
Portman-Murphy Bill Promotes Coordinated Strategy to Defend America, Allies Against Propaganda and Disinformation from Russia, China & Others

U.S. Senators Rob Portman (R-OH) and Chris Murphy (D-CT) today announced that their Countering Disinformation and Propaganda Act – legislation designed to help American allies counter foreign government propaganda from Russia, China, and other nations has been signed into law as part of the FY 2017 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) Conference Report. The bipartisan bill, which was introduced by Senators Portman and Murphy in March, will improve the ability of the United States to counter foreign propaganda and disinformation from our enemies by establishing an interagency center housed at the State Department to coordinate and synchronize counter-propaganda efforts throughout the U.S. government. To support these efforts, the bill also creates a grant program for NGOs, think tanks, civil society and other experts outside government who are engaged in counter-propaganda related work. This will better leverage existing expertise and empower our allies overseas to defend themselves from foreign manipulation. It will also help foster a free and vibrant press and civil society overseas, which is critical to ensuring our allies have access to truthful information and inoculating people against foreign propaganda campaigns.

“Our enemies are using foreign propaganda and disinformation against us and our allies, and so far the U.S. government has been asleep at the wheel,” Portman said. “But today, the United States has taken a critical step towards confronting the extensive, and destabilizing, foreign propaganda and disinformation operations being waged against us by our enemies overseas. With this bill now law, we are finally signaling that enough is enough; the United States will no longer sit on the sidelines. We are going to confront this threat head-on. I am confident that, with the help of this bipartisan bill, the disinformation and propaganda used against us, our allies, and our interests will fail.

The bipartisan Countering Disinformation and Propaganda Act is organized around two main priorities to help achieve the goal of combatting the constantly evolving threat of foreign disinformation from our enemies:
  • The first priority is developing a whole-of-government strategy for countering THE foreign propaganda and disinformation being wages against us and our allies by our enemies. The bill would increase the authority, resources, and mandate of the Global Engagement Center to include state actors like Russia and China as well as non-state actors. The Center will be led by the State Department, but with the active senior level participation of the Department of Defense, USAID, the Broadcasting Board of Governors, the Intelligence Community, and other relevant agencies. The Center will develop, integrate, and synchronize whole-of-government initiatives to expose and counter foreign disinformation operations by our enemies and proactively advance fact-based narratives that support U.S. allies and interests.
  • Second, the legislation seeks to leverage expertise from outside government to create more adaptive and responsive U.S. strategy options. The legislation establishes a fund to help train local journalists and provide grants and contracts to NGOs, civil society organizations, think tanks, private sector companies, media organizations, and other experts outside the U.S. government with experience in identifying and analyzing the latest trends in foreign government disinformation techniques. This fund will complement and support the Center’s role by integrating capabilities and expertise available outside the U.S. government into the strategy-making process. It will also empower a decentralized network of private sector experts and integrate their expertise into the strategy-making process.

And so, with the likes of WaPo having already primed the general public to equate "Russian Propaganda" with "fake news" (despite admitting after the fact their own report was essentially "fake"), while the US media has indoctrinated the public to assume that any information which is not in compliance with the official government narrative, or dares to criticize the establishment, is also "fake news" and thus falls under the "Russian propaganda" umbrella, the scene is now set for the US government to legally crack down on every media outlet that the government deems to be "foreign propaganda."

Just like that, the US Ministry of Truth is officially born.

4--All the President’s Propaganda

But democracy is distorted when the government uses our tax dollars to shape our opinions about what government should do, and how it is performing. And whatever Mr. Trump does with these tools, he won’t be the first to manipulate the government’s informational power.

The beginnings of such efforts date from the earliest days of the republic. Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton generated favorable government reports to promote his pro-industrial policies. But it wasn’t until World War I that the nation saw the beginnings of a systematic, pervasive program of government propaganda. The Committee on Public Information, which tried to drive support for the war, was headed by President Woodrow Wilson’s own Bannon, the journalist George Creel, whose approach was emotion-laden and often coercive. “There was no part of the great war machinery that we did not touch,” Creel said, “no medium of appeal that we did not employ.”


U.S. Repeals Propaganda Ban, Spreads Government-Made News to Americans

For decades, a so-called anti-propaganda law prevented the U.S. government’s mammoth broadcasting arm from delivering programming to American audiences. But on July 2, that came silently to an end with the implementation of a new reform passed in January. The result: an unleashing of thousands of hours per week of government-funded radio and TV program

The restriction of these broadcasts was due to the Smith-Mundt Act, a long-standing piece of legislation that has been amended numerous times over the years, perhaps most consequentially by Arkansas Senator J. William Fulbright. In the 1970s, Fulbright was no friend of VOA and Radio Free Europe, and moved to restrict them from domestic distribution, saying they "should be given the opportunity to take their rightful place in the graveyard of Cold War relics." Fulbright’s amendment to Smith-Mundt was bolstered in 1985 by Nebraska Senator Edward Zorinsky, who argued that such "propaganda" should be kept out of America as to distinguish the U.S. "from the Soviet Union where domestic propaganda is a principal government activity."
Zorinsky and Fulbright sold their amendments on sensible rhetoric: American taxpayers shouldn’t be funding propaganda for American audiences. So did Congress just tear down the American public’s last defense against domestic propaganda?

former U.S. government source with knowledge of the BBG says the organization is no Pravda, but it does advance U.S. interests in more subtle ways. In Somalia, for instance, VOA serves as counterprogramming to outlets peddling anti-American or jihadist sentiment. "Somalis have three options for news," the source said, "word of mouth, al-Shabab, or VOA Somalia." 

But if anyone needed a reminder of the dangers of domestic propaganda efforts, the past 12 months provided ample reasons. Last year, two USA Today journalists were ensnared in a propaganda campaign after reporting about millions of dollars in back taxes owed by the Pentagon’s top propaganda contractor in Afghanistan. Eventually, one of the co-owners of the firm confessed to creating phony websites and Twitter accounts to smear the journalists anonymously. Additionally, just this month, the Washington Post exposed a counter-propaganda program by the Pentagon that recommended posting comments on a U.S. website run by a Somali expat with readers opposing al-Shabab. "Today, the military is more focused on manipulating news and commentary on the Internet, especially social media, by posting material and images without necessarily claiming ownership," reported the Post.

But for BBG officials, the references to Pentagon propaganda efforts are nauseating, particularly because the Smith-Mundt Act never had anything to do with regulating the Pentagon, a fact that was misunderstood in media reports in the run-up to the passage of new Smith-Mundt reforms in January.
One example included a report by the late BuzzFeed reporter Michael Hastings, who suggested that the Smith-Mundt Modernization Act would open the door to Pentagon propaganda of U.S. audiences. In fact, as amended in 1987, the act only covers portions of the State Department engaged in public diplomacy abroad (i.e. the public diplomacy section of the "R" bureau, and the Broadcasting Board of Governors.)

6-- Was Michael Hastings Targeted By The CIA? Wikileaks Reveals Agency’s Covert Carjacking Ability


Immediately prior to his death, Hastings had published a strong critique of the Obama administration titled “Why Democrats Love to Spy on Americans,” which exposed the party’s hypocrisy regarding some of the civil liberty overreaches they had criticized under Bush but embraced under Obama. San Diego 6 News reported that Hastings had been investigating CIA Director John Brennan for an upcoming exposé prior to the crash....

former U.S. National Coordinator for Security, Infrastructure Protection and Counterterrorism Richard A. Clarke, who told the Huffington Post that the crash that killed Hastings was “consistent with a car cyber attack.”

“It’s relatively easy to hack your way into the control system of a car, and to do such things as cause acceleration when the driver doesn’t want acceleration, to throw on the brakes when the driver doesn’t want the brakes on, to launch an air bag. You can do some really highly destructive things now, through hacking a car, and it’s not that hard,” Clarke said.

Wikileaks has made the possibility of remotely hijacking vehicles for covert assassinations easier to prove, thanks to its recent release of the “largest ever publication of confidential documents” related to the CIA. On Tuesday, Wikileaks released a trove of documents code-named “Vault 7” that contain details regarding the CIA’s global covert hacking program. Within its press release, Wikileaks noted that “as of October 2014, the CIA was also looking at infecting the vehicle control systems used by modern cars and trucks. The purpose of such control is not specified, but it would permit the CIA to engage in nearly undetectable assassinations.”

While the Wikileaks documents confirm that this technology existed in 2014, there is reason to believe that the CIA was capable of hacking vehicles as far back as the late 1990s. Gordon Duff, senior editor of Veterans Today, wrote in 2010 about what he termed the CIA’s “Boston Brakes” assassination technique.

In the article, Duff noted that the deaths of Chilcot Inquiry witness Richard Waddington, anti-Zionist Austrian politicians Jorg Haider and even Princess Diana all involved car crashes where the vehicle crashed into objects like concrete abutments but left no skid marks – not unlike the Hastings crash. If Hastings really was the victim of CIA vehicle hijacking, it seems unlikely that he was the agency’s first victim of its “undetectable” assassinations.

In addition, some of the other revelations found in “Vault 7” are rumored to be related to the very story Hastings was working on at the time of his death. According to a WhoWhatWhy story published in 2013 – long before “Vault 7” was made public – Hastings, through his connections to imprisoned journalist Barrett Brown, was said to have been working on exposing the CIA’s use of weaponized malware, as well as the agency’s ability to hack smartphones to access the communications of private citizens. Was Hastings killed for investigating the very revelations that Wikileaks has now made public?

7--Why Democrats Love To Spy On Americans


Besides Sens. Ron Wyden and Mark Udall, most Democrats abandoned their civil liberty positions during the age of Obama. With a new leak investigation looming, the Democrat leadership are now being forced to confront all the secrets they've tried to hide.

For most bigwig Democrats in Washington, D.C., the last 48 hours has delivered news of the worst kind — a flood of new information that has washed away any lingering doubts about where President Obama and his party stand on civil liberties, full stop.
Glenn Greenwald's exposure of the NSA's massive domestic spy program has revealed the entire caste of current Democratic leaders as a gang of civil liberty opportunists, whose true passion, it seems, was in trolling George W. Bush for eight years on matters of national security.

any so-called credible DOJ/FBI leak investigation, by its very nature, would have to involve the Obama administration invasively using the very surveillance and data techniques it is attempting to hide in order to snoop on a few Democratic Senators and more media outlets, including one based overseas...

Jacob Appplebaum, a transparency activist and computer savant, has been repeatedly harassed at American borders, having his laptop seized. Barrett Brown, another investigative journalist who has written for Vanity Fair, among others publications, exposed the connections between the private contracting firm HB Gary (a government contracting firm that, incidentally, proposed a plan to spy on and ruin the reputation of the Guardian's Greenwald) and who is currently sitting in a Texas prison on trumped up FBI charges regarding his legitimate reportorial inquiry into the political collective known sometimes as Anonymous.

That's not to mention former NSA official Thomas Drake (the Feds tried to destroys his life because he blew the whistle ); Fox News reporter James Rosen (named a "co-conspirator" by Holder's DOJ); John Kirakou, formerly in the CIA, who raised concerns about the agency's torture program, is also in prison for leaking "harmful" (read: embarrassing) classified info; and of course Wikileaks (under U.S. financial embargo); WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange (locked up in Ecuador's London embassy); and, of course, Bradley Manning, the young, idealistic soldier who provided the public with perhaps the most critical trove of government documents ever released.

The attitude the Obama administration has toward Manning is revealing. What do they think of him? "Fuck Bradley Manning," as one White House official put it to me last year during the campaign

8-- Wikileaks: CIA's Brennan on 'witch hunt' when Hastings was killed

Hastings, a reporter for the Rolling Stone who ruffled many feathers in his career, was killed in an unusual high-speed car accident in which the vehicle exploded on impact with a tree, and perhaps before. Hastings' wife confirmed to San Diego 6 News Television, soon after the uncharacteristic high-speed automobile crash, that Hastings' next "big story," as he called it, was to be on Brennan. The email, written by Stratfor President Fred Burton and reported by San Diego 6, reads: Brennan is behind the witch hunts of investigative journalists learning information from inside the beltway sources. Note -- There is specific tasker from the WH to go after anyone printing materials negative to the Obama agenda (oh my.) Even the FBI is shocked. The Wonder Boys must be in meltdown mode... The story on Brennan was never published



Friday, November 16, 2018

Today's Links

1--Nader on the War on Words

Civic globalization recognizes that the nation state remains, economist Herman Daly has noted, the main defense against global corporate predators.
Turning “globalists” and “globalization,” without any adjectives, into pejorative stereotypes fosters other forms of prejudicial propaganda.

Conservatives supported slavery, women’s disenfranchisement, and stood against the great progressive reforms by farmers and industrial workers in the late 19th and early 20th century. Conservatives opposed progressive taxation, social security, Medicare, labor union rights, and more recently, the civil rights, consumer rights, and environmental protections. Liberals led in support of these expansions of justice in our country. Yet liberals are timid about using the liberal label...

In 2017, 60 percent of the Democrats voted for a larger military budget than even Donald Trump requested from Congress....

More recently, Republican extremists and the media have usurped the word “populist” to misuse it as a pretext to “divide and rule,” while the corporatists laugh all the way to the megabanks that are “too big to fail.” Populism was a political movement against gigantic concentrated corporate power of the banks and railroads over 100 years ago, on behalf of all the people. That is what the farmers and workers were driving their populist revolts to achieve.

2--North Korea tests ‘ultramodern tactical weapon’

The type of the new weapon has not been identified, but the test does not seem to be in violation of the voluntary moratorium Pyongyang imposed on tests of nuclear and long-range ballistic missiles this year....

North Korea’s Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho said at the United Nations General Assembly late September that “there is no way we will unilaterally disarm ourselves first.”

3--‘Russia has made clear’ that status quo of Syria strikes is ‘gone’ – Israeli media

Russia has made it clear to Israel in many ways that the status quo ante is gone,” Harel noted, hinting that Moscow would no longer allow Tel Aviv to disrupt Russia’s “main project” in Syria: the restoration of Syrian government control over the country and the signing of contracts President Assad “that will protect Moscow’s security and economic interests in the country.”

As evidence, the observer cited the Russian military’s “confrontational attitude” toward Israeli forces in Syria, and a “more aggressive tone” on the emergency hotline between the Russian base at Hmeymim and Israeli Air Force HQ.

4--Russia's Game in Libya Explained


Russia is interested in Libya for several reasons. First of all, the main one: the strategic one. Moscow has always needed to have outposts in the Mediterranean. Access to warm seas is fundamental to the Kremlin's naval strategy....


To these interests of a military nature, huge economic interests joined. There are basically three guidelines on which Russian politics in Africa and the Middle East develop: energy, infrastructure and weapons...


infrastructure is only a small part of Moscow's economic interests. Rosneft, a Russian energy giant, has already signed agreements with the National Oil Corporation (NOC) for the exploration, extraction and purchase of oil. In Rosneft, there are also Gazprom and Tatneft, already involved in the North African country and the latter in particular in Sirte and Ghadames. Three giants who represent the three arms of energy with which Russia wants to return to the Libyan match after years of exclusion. And it is also for this reason that the United States has begun to reactivate in Libya also on the energy front


5--Judge orders Trump administration to restore CNN reporter Jim Acosta's White House press pass

  If you are a professional entertainer working for a billion dollar fake news corporation, the court will defend your civil rights. If you are a young black man gunned down by a cop in Cincinnati, forget about it. 


6--How Elites Use Mainstream Media to 'Maintain and Expand Their Power



One-such 'fact-checker' is the Atlantic Council, a NATO-offshoot with a board of directors comprised of a 'who's who' of contentious US political figures, including Henry Kissinger, Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell, Robert Gates, Michael Hayden and David Petraeus, among others.
It partnered with Facebook in May to "independently monitor disinformation and other vulnerabilities" and combat the spread of fake news on the platform. To date, the collaboration has resulted in untold hundreds of pages and personal accounts being shut down — rather than being promulgators of propaganda though, the overwhelming bulk of the banished were alternative news sources, political organizations and individuals, highlighting issues and events the mainstream media downplays or ignores, such as US interventionism, drug legalization and police brutality....

Moreover, that elites exploit social media's information-sharing capabilities to suit their own objectives is well-established.
"The US State Department has used major social networks to recruit revolutionaries on several occasions, most notably during the ‘Arab Spring', connecting ‘moderate rebels' — actually violent jihadist lunatics — in select countries. Washington wanted Assad, Gaddafi and Mubarak gone, because they weren't following orders — but there were no Twitter or Facebook ‘revolutions' in the Gulf states, because the American empire wanted their rulers to remain in place. 2007 the Campaign Against Sanctions and Military Intervention in Iran published an analysis of 44 articles written by Daily Telegraph Defence Editor Con Couglin on Iran — including stories suggesting North Korea was helping Tehran prepare a nuclear weapons test, and the country was grooming Bin Laden's successor. They found the pieces almost invariably were based on "unnamed or untraceable" sources in intelligence agencies or the UK Foreign Office and "published at sensitive and delicate times" when there'd been "relatively positive diplomatic moves" towards Iran, and contained 'exclusive revelations' about Iran combined with eye-catchingly controversial headlines, which were typically based on a single sentence in the wider article.

Prison Break

Despite his bleak analysis, TJ does not view the elite monopoly on information as insurmountable, or invincible — there's much individuals and groups can do to shatter the stranglehold.
"People should keep a keen eye on sources that analyse news reporting and misreporting, such as Glasgow University Media Group and MediaLens, which offer alternative information and tell you what media coverage is actively omitting from the real story. However, change must come from within too — people should divorce themselves from preconceptions, and question their beliefs wherever and whenever possible. When presented with information that doesn't conform to our predispositions, we should ask ourselves whether it's true, rather than reflexively dismissing it outright," TJ says.

7--Putin's Interests in Syria and Lebanon Are Limiting Israel's Military Options 


Moscow's warnings against renewed Israeli attacks in Syria, as well as an increased Russian interest in events in Lebanon, are worrying developments and there' a "real danger" of closing the Israel Defence Forces' "operational window of opportunity" in these countries, Haaretz defence contributor Amos Harel wrote....


"Whether Russia is truly still angry over the downing of [the Il-20]…during an Israeli airstrike two months ago or is just exploiting it to dictate new strategic rules in the north, the result is the same," Harel argued, pointing to Russian President Vladimir Putin's comments Thursday that he had no further plans to meet with his Israeli counterpart anytime soon....



Russia may challenge Israeli military options in Lebanon, too, with the analyst pointing to what he said was Putin's "increased interest in events" in that country recently. "In the worst-case scenario, the defensive umbrella – both real and symbolic –that Russia has spread over northwest Syria would be expanded to Lebanon, further complicating Israel's calculus," the observer wrote


8--Trump Raises the Stakes with CNN


The First Amendment guarantees CNN reporters and anchors the right to say what they wish about Trump. It does not entitle Acosta to a front-row seat in the White House briefing room or the right to grill the president at East Room press conferences.

Why was he expelled from the White House?
Says press secretary Sarah Sanders, “The First Amendment is not served when a single reporter, of more than 150 present, attempts to monopolize the floor.”

if the press declares itself an adversary of the White House and if it acts as an adversary — as it has a First Amendment right to do — such members of the media are no more entitled to the run of the West Wing than would be a member of Congress who regularly attacks the president.
Acosta baits the president, argues, refuses to yield the floor, manifests a hostility to Trump and trashes him regularly on-air...

The White House should set down rules of conduct for reporters in the briefing room, and if reporters repeatedly violate them, that should cost them their chairs and, in cases like Acosta’s, their credentials.

9--European Leaders Have Lost the Will to Defend Western Civilization


10--Orbán: EU Leaders are “Slowly But Surely Turning Indigenous Europeans Into a Minority”


Orbán says of the globalist vision:
Brussels today is ruled by those who want to replace an alliance of free nations with a European empire: a European empire led not by the elected leaders of nations, but by Brussels bureaucrats. Believers in a European empire are also in government in a number of European countries today. This is how we can know what that brave new world will be like if it is up to them: the appearance of increasing numbers of men of fighting age arriving from other continents and other cultures, within our lifetime shaping European cities in their own image, slowly but surely turning indigenous Europeans into a minority; terror as a part of life in large cities; political manipulation an everyday reality, justified on the grounds of the rule of law; and freedom of speech and the press which only extends as far as the freedom to echo their ideas.

Those who want to mold the European Union into a European empire are all, without exception, supporters of immigration. They have made the admission of migrants the litmus test of being European, and expect every country and nation to become multicultural without delay. Now we can see that they deliberately failed to use their enormous police and military capability, and they deliberately failed to defend Europe from the migrant masses. If we were able to do it, they could have done so too. What was lacking was not the ability, but the will. Even today, the Brussels vanguard and the other leaders who are opposed to nation states see migration as a chance, an opportunity. They see it as a chance to replace the European Union of nation states with a multicultural empire of mixed populations, smoothed into a unity: a Europe without nation states; an elite separated from its national roots; an alliance with multinational power groups; a coalition with financial speculators. This would be paradise for George Soros...

Returning to Orbán’s speech, he urges us choose nationhood over globalism:
Let us choose independence and the cooperation of nations over global governance and supervision. Let us reject the ideology of globalism, and instead support the culture of patriotism. The world can be richer and mankind can be better if the earth is populated by the diverse world of nations. We believe that every nation is special and unique in its own way, and can be a shining light in that segment of the world which is entrusted to it.
He is convinced of the value of families, historical knowledge, and patriotic feeling to a society’s flourishing:
We believe in strong families, we look upon our history and traditions as something exceptional, we celebrate our heroes – and, above all, we love our country. We do not want to surrender it – and shall not surrender it – in order to accept any empire or global governance. We do not want to erase our national feelings, but in fact we want to encourage them and set them free to release and liberate the capabilities and talents within Hungarian people. 
In a sea of betrayal among Western political leaders, Viktor Orbán’s has been a lonely voice warning us what is to come. He has affirmed the importance of European nations’ demographic and cultural recovery again and again, as necessary to our civic freedom and indeed to our very survival. Let those who have ears, listen. Given the recent spread of populist governments, opposed to immigration and supportive of European fertility, in Poland, Austria, Italy, and elsewhere, it seems that many are indeed awakening.

11--Nothing could be worse than the Brexit deal struck by Mrs May, the most duplicitous prime minister in my lifetime


12--Bipartisan panel: US must prepare for “horrendous,” “devastating” war with Russia and China


The latest example of such plain speaking comes in the form of a new report published by the National Defense Strategy Commission, a body set up by Congress to assess the Pentagon’s new National Security Strategy, issued early this year, which declared that “great-power competition—not terrorism—is now the primary focus” of the US military.

The findings of the panel, published as a report titled “Providing for the Common Defense,” can be summarized as follows: The US military is entirely correct to prepare for war with Russia and China. But the Pentagon, which spends more each year than the next eight largest national military forces combined, requires a massive expansion in military spending, to be paid for with cuts to bedrock social programs like Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security.

The report is, in other words, a congressional rubber-stamp on the Trump administration’s military build-up, putting into words what the Congress did in deeds this year when it passed, with overwhelming bipartisan support, the largest military budget increase since the Cold War.

But beyond the recognition that the United States should prepare for an imminent, “whole-of-society” war with “devastating” impacts on the American population, the document is a stark warning of another basic reality: The United States could very well lose such a war, which requires, in effect, the military conquest of the entire planet by a country with less than five percent of the world’s population....

To pay for all this, social services are to be gutted. “Mandatory entitlement programs drive spending growth,” the report complains, demanding that Congress address these programs, which include Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. It warns that “such adjustments will undoubtedly be quite painful.”
And finally, all of society must be mobilized behind the war effort. A “whole-of-nation” approach must be adopted, including “trade policy; science, technology, engineering, and math education.” Everything from private corporations to academic institutions must be brought to bear.

The United States “might struggle to win, or perhaps lose, a war against China or Russia,” it declares. These wars would not just be fought overseas, but would likely target the American population: “it would be unwise and irresponsible not to expect adversaries to attempt debilitating kinetic, cyber, or other types of attacks against Americans at home while they seek to defeat our military abroad.”

13--Ocasio-Cortez leads Pelosi "love fest" to confuse bewildered supporters

Newly elected Democratic Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and that of the DSA as a whole, is to provide a political cover for the Democrats as they pursue their own right-wing campaign. In the aftermath of the 2018 midterm elections, which saw the Democrats take back control of the House, Pelosi has declared her readiness to work closely with the Trump administration, while the Democrats continue to focus their criticism of the administration on issues of foreign policy.
There is nothing remotely “left” about the DSA. It is merely a faction of the right-wing, militarist Democratic Party.

In fact, the event was clearly a calculated political operation by Ocasio-Cortez aimed at solidarizing herself with the Democratic Party establishment and boosting the credentials of Pelosi.
Speaking to a group of reporters covering the protest, Ocasio-Cortez began by burnishing Pelosi’s credentials: “One of the things that I admire so much about Leader Pelosi, is that she comes from a place of activism and organizing and she really appreciates civic engagement.”

She went on to say that should “Leader Pelosi” become the next Speaker of the House, “We need to tell her that we’ve got her back in showing and pursuing the most progressive energy agenda that this country has ever seen.”
Ocasio-Cortez’s adoration of Pelosi did not stop there. Later that day, after the photo-op with the students, Cortez tweeted at Pelosi to thank her. She commended Pelosi’s quick response to the event: “I have spoken with @NancyPelosi about how our commitments to climate change should take shape in the 116th Congress. Her office has responded quickly, and she has recommended the reinstatement of the Select Committee on Climate Change.

Pelosi, who was not present at the time of the protest, told her staffers to welcome the protesters. She said in statement later that day, “We are inspired by the energy and activism of the many young activists and advocates leading the way on the climate crisis, which threatens the health, economic security and futures of all our communities."
In other words, a more concise accounting of the event would be as follows: Pelosi praises the protesters, Ocasio-Cortez praises Pelosi, Jacobin praises Ocasio-Cortez and concludes that the day of exchanging pleasantries in Washington represents a “qualitatively different type of leftist politics.”

14--Geoffrey Rush’s lawyer slams “gutter journalism” in Sydney defamation trial


15--US reduces Syrian cities into Dresden-like rubble


Speaking to reporters Thursday after a regular meeting of the UN humanitarian agency, Jan Egeland, a special advisor to the UN on Syria, said that the problem of Syrian refugees had been compounded by the destruction of entire cities, which he compared to the decimation of Stalingrad and Dresden in World War II.


Among the worst hit of these cities was Raqqa, the so-called Syrian capital of ISIS, which US airstrikes and artillery bombardments largely reduced to rubble, while killing thousands of innocent civilians.
Russia’s foreign ministry—citing the letters sent by Damascus to the United Nations—reported on Thursday that over 8,000 bodies have been recovered from the ruins of Raqqa, which was besieged by the US military one year ago, between June and October of 2017.

“The bodies of over 4,000 people were found while clearing away the rubble in two of the city’s residential neighborhoods left over from the airstrikes and also around the stadium and the zoo,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told the media. “Those were mainly women, the elderly and children. In addition, a mass grave where more than 2,500 people were buried was uncovered at a farm near a pediatric clinic and the National Hospital, while another burial site was opened near Al-Panorama where 1,500 of the bombing raids’ victims were buried.”

The letters to the UN indicated that just two percent of the rubble has been cleared away in Raqqa, where returning residents are living among the ruins and amid the continuing stench of human remains.

In a Wednesday press conference, the State Department’s special representative for “Syria engagement,” James Jeffrey, indicated the aims that American imperialism is pursuing by means of this unrelenting carnage.

Claiming that the military objective of the more than 2,000 US troops on Syrian soil is the defeat of ISIS, Jeffrey made clear that this campaign is seen as a virtually unending venture by the Pentagon and the White House, bound up with the goal of regime change in Damascus, as well as in Tehran.

Jeffrey insisted that “you cannot have an enduring defeat of ISIS until you have fundamental change in the Syrian regime and fundamental change in Iran’s role in Syria, which contributed greatly to the rise of ISIS in the first place in 2013, 2014.”

This is utter nonsense. The rise of ISIS was rooted in the US destruction of Iraqi society after its 2003 invasion and occupation of the country, followed by the CIA’s orchestration of a war for regime change in Syria by means of funneling vast quantities of arms, money and foreign fighters to Islamist militias, with ISIS proving to be the principal beneficiary.

With this attempt to effect regime change through the promotion of Al Qaeda-connected militias having failed, Washington is now pursuing the same aims by somewhat different methods.
Pressed by a reporter as to when US troops would be withdrawn from Syria, given Jeffrey’s prediction that ISIS would be defeated within the next few months, the US ambassador responded that the mission in Syria was to ensure the “enduring defeat” of ISIS, which he said required “building up local security forces” and “participating in a political process that gives the people of the northeast a future so that they aren’t going to be subject to temptations to go with ISIS as they did back in 2013-2014.

In other words, Washington is preparing a permanent occupation of northeastern Syria, with the dual aims of controlling a region that contains the country’s oil and gas fields, vital for Syria’s reconstruction, and securing the border with Iraq.

The escalation of US military operations in Syria are bound up with the strategy being pursued by Washington throughout the Middle East to roll back Iranian influence and destroy the Iranian economy by means of sweeping unilateral economic sanctions that are tantamount to an act of war.
Within this broader context, the brutal US offensive being waged in northeastern Syria—at the cost of an increasing number of civilian lives—has the potential for igniting a far more devastating region-wide war

16--The Silence of Mueller's Trump-Russia 'Canaries' 


17--When the middle class lost its wealth


For the bottom 50% virtually all wealth growth over the 1971-2007 period came from higher asset prices. From a political economy perspective, it is conceivable that these large wealth gains for the middle and lower middle class helped to dispel discontent about stagnant incomes for some time.

When house prices collapsed in the 2008 crisis, the same leveraged portfolio position of the middle class brought about substantial wealth losses, while the quick rebound in stock markets boosted wealth at the top. The bottom 50% lost 15% of wealth relative to 2007 levels, mainly because of lower house prices. By contrast, the top 10% were the main beneficiaries from the stock market boom and were relatively less affected by the drop in residential real estate prices. Substantial wealth losses at the bottom and in the middle of the distribution, coupled with wealth gains at the top, produced the largest spike in wealth inequality in postwar American history between 2007 and 2016.

We also study another central dimension of inequality, namely the racial income and wealth gap between black and white households. We show that income disparities between black and white households are as large today as they were in the pre-civil rights era. In 1950, the income of the median white household was about twice as high as the income of the median black household. In 2016, the median white household still has double the income of a black household. The racial wealth gap is even wider, and is as large as it was in the 1950s and 1960s. The median black household persistently has less than 15% of the wealth of the median white household, and the typical black household remains poorer than 80% of white households. Over the past seven decades, next to no progress has been made in narrowing black-white income and wealth differences. Designing policies to address these persistent racial inequalities more successfully than in the past thus remains an urgent policy priority.









Thursday, November 15, 2018

Today's Links

Say what?
Nov 13
The story in the New York Times concerning North Korea developing missile bases is inaccurate. We fully know about the sites being discussed, nothing new - and nothing happening out of the normal. Just more Fake News. I will be the first to let you know if things go bad!
he U.S. envoy to Syria James Jeffrey has once again renewed the call for Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad to immediately step down from his position. During a press conference on Wednesday, Jeffrey said that the U.S. does not believe the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL/IS/Daesh) can be fully defeated until Assad and his government are removed from power.

“We also think that you cannot have an enduring defeat of ISIS until you have fundamental change in the Syrian regime and fundamental change in Iran’s role in Syria, which contributed greatly to the rise of ISIS in the first place in 2013 and 2014,” Jeffrey said.

2--DOJ saw no reason to ban CIA torture progra

Legal barbarity for the exceptional nation

3--Brennan's  Obsession With Leaks’ Drove Obama CIA to Spy on Congress

The Central Intelligence Agency surveilled and analyzed the emails of Congressional staffers during the Obama administration, according to recently declassified Congressional notifications detailing the snooping.
The CIA was collecting information specifically related to CIA whistleblowers and dumping it into a report that was sent to Congress. This week, that report was declassified.

During former US President Barack Obama's second term in office, the foreign intelligence gathering agency was "reading Congressional staff's emails about intelligence community whistleblowers," Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) said in a Friday statement, noting that it "raises serious policy concerns as well as potential constitutional separation-of-powers issues that must be discussed publicly.

Senate Judiciary Chairman Grassley told the Washington Times that not only did the CIA's interception program run for four years, but the CIA dragged its feet in responding to requests for the report to be declassified, only releasing the information once Brennan was out of the organization. "The Obama administration, specifically John Brennan and [former Director of National Intelligence] James Clapper… ignored him," Kiriakou explained, saying the CIA inspector general who finally declassified the report "essentially apologized for the information not having been declassified before

"I think when Barack Obama was running for president in 2008, he was serious about transparency. He was serious about whistleblower protection. But he was convinced otherwise by the likes of" Clapper and Brennan, Kiriakou said.

Clapper notably misled Congress in 2013 when he told Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) the NSA didn't "wittingly" gather intelligence on millions of Americans. Whistleblower Edward Snowden's disclosures proved the NSA was, in fact, deliberately capturing and storing cellular phone and email information from domestic targets.

Obama "said that he was going to be the friendliest president for whistleblowers ever, and he said he was going to be the most transparent president ever, and neither of those things were true. When I started working on the Foreign Relations Committee, too, I wanted to investigate and then talk about the Dasht-i-Leili massacre, which is kind of a famous massacre of 2,000 Taliban soldiers in late October and early November of 2001," Kiriakou said.

The other thing that struck me was — nowhere does it say that the emails that were intercepted were specifically from the Intelligence Committee, so why is Grassley talking about this? Why isn't this [Senator Richard] Burr? Or [Senator Mark] Warner? That tells me it's because this was also the Judiciary Committee — at least," said Kiriakou, who is also a former senior Senate investigator. "Maybe even the Foreign Relations Committee. Maybe the Armed Services Committee. I think that it's the tip of the iceberg, frankly.

4--Russia says Syria air defense shot down Il-20 military aircraft after Israeli airstrikes


5--OIL NEWS: Russia and Saudi Arabia's 'long-term relationship' WILL survive

TIES between Saudi Arabia and Vladimir Putin’s Russia have a “long-term relationship” which is strategically beneficial to both of them, and which underlines their position as the world’s most influential oil producers, alongside the United States, an industry expert has said.


6--Why the US Fears Russian Peacemaking in Afghanistan


Russian-sponsored efforts quickly exposed American doublespeak on the issue -- Washington says it wants peace but actually isn't willing to contemplate a total US withdrawal but instead wants permanent military bases...

Why is the US so adamant that Russia cannot play a role in Afghanistan?
Since 2001, Russia has actually supported the new Afghan system that the US put in place and has made contributions to the reconstruction efforts in the country, including training the Afghan security forces, supplying military equipment, supporting joint counter-narcotics activities with the US, and even providing development aid. This is one thing.
On the other hand, no one can deny that Russia has legitimate interests in an Afghan settlement, especially with regard to the security of the Central Asian region that forms its soft underbelly. In particular, the flow of narcotic from Afghanistan causes serious problems for the regional states, especially Russia....

, the Trump administration wants to end the war, but in reality, the objective of the war itself has narrowed down to the preservation of the American military bases in Afghanistan.

As recent developments show, Washington will sup with the devil, if need be, provided it can keep its bases in Afghanistan. (See my blog US takes leap of faith toward Taliban, al-Qaeda)
Why are these bases so crucially important?

The crux of the matter is that these bases provide vital underpinning for the US’ regional strategies vis-à-vis the regional states surrounding Afghanistan – Pakistan, Iran, Russia and China, in particular.
The recent appointment of a hugely controversial neocon Cold Warrior with a record of hostility toward Pakistan, Iran and Russia, Zalmay Khalilzad as the US special representative testifies to the US intentions. Although an ethnic Afghan notionally, Khalilzad is a widely disliked figure among Afghans, including among the Kabul elite.

7--Trump to meet Kim in 2019, press for plan to end North Korea arms program


8--Graham: I would ‘totally’ investigate FBI over Russia probe, Clinton emails as Judiciary chair


Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) on Tuesday said he would "totally" look into the FBI's handling of its investigations into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's emails if he becomes chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
"The oversight function will be very much front and center," Graham said in an appearance on CNN.
Graham is in position to rise to chairman of the Judiciary Committee if Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), the current chairman, opts to head up the Senate Finance Committee instead.

The South Carolina Republican, who has emerged as one of President Trump's strongest advocates, has previously expressed a desire to look into the FBI's investigations. He has suggested on multiple occasions that a second special counsel should be appointed to probe GOP allegations of bias within the bureau.
Graham also indicated on Tuesday that he would support a bill to protect special counsel Robert Mueller in his investigation into Russian election interference, but cautioned that he doesn't believe there's a need for it.
“I don’t see any movement to get rid of Mueller," he said. "But it probably would be good to have this legislation in place just for the future.”
Graham co-sponsored a bill to protect the Mueller investigation in April that would codify Justice Department regulations that say only a senior official can fire Mueller or another special counsel.

Democrats and some Republicans have revived calls for legislation to protect the special counsel after Trump fired Jeff Sessions as attorney general and replaced him with acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker, who penned opinion pieces as a private citizen arguing for stifling Mueller's funding and curbing the scope of his investigation.


9--Is Michelle Obama the one critic Trump can’t hit back?

Attacks Trump on book tour in lead up to presidential bid 

10--DSA calls US midterm elections the “rebirth of the American socialist movement”

DSA member Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the newly elected congresswoman from New York. After winning the primary, in which she buried her affiliation with the DSA, she moved quickly to dissociate herself not only from socialism, but from anything smacking of opposition to militarism, Zionism or the persecution of immigrants.

Within days of her primary victory, she disavowed all “isms,” repudiated previous criticisms of Israel, pledged her support for “border security,” and stood beside Bernie Sanders, nodding in agreement, as the Vermont senator endorsed the Democrats’ anti-Russia campaign. A few weeks later she joined the sickening chorus of praise for Senator John McCain, following the death of the reactionary war-monger (see: “Ocasio-Cortez 
and Sanders praise McCain: An object lesson in the politics of the pseudo-left”).
As for the other DSA-endorsed candidates cited in the National Political Committee statement, not one of them could be considered genuinely on the left, let alone socialist. Every one of the 12 nationally endorsed candidates ran and was elected as a Democrat. They are for the most part Democratic Party machine functionaries....

The reality is that far from being reformed, the Democratic Party is moving sharply to the right, and on some major issues, including censorship, the war in Syria and the confrontation with Russia, is to the right of the Trump administration....

The Democrats’ supposed focus on health care omitted any reference to earlier calls for “Medicare for all” and amounted to nothing more than the defense of the reactionary Obamacare program, which imposes higher costs for reduced services on millions of workers, while shielding the profits of the insurance and drug corporations.
During the election campaign, the Democratic Party and its media mouthpieces demanded that young people, in particular, vote for the Democrats, attempting to shame them with the libel that abstaining or voting for a third-party candidate made them complicit in Trump’s criminal policies....

The incoming class of newly elected Democrats includes a sprinkling of DSA-backed purported “progressives,” but it is dominated by nearly a dozen former intelligence operatives, military officers and national security officials, as well as an enlarged caucus of right-wing “Blue Dog” Democrats. There is, in fact, no contradiction between those bourgeois politicians labeled “progressive” by the DSA, including the likes of Ocasio-Cortez, and what the WSWS has called the “CIA Democrats.” The former completely support and fundamentally agree with the latter on all basic questions.

Here is the real political lineup: The Democrats, working with the trade unions and pseudo-left organizations such as the DSA, focus their efforts on suppressing the anger and opposition of the working class to the entire political and economic set-up; they seek to collaborate with Trump and the Republicans in this effort, including through the strengthening of the police powers of the state; the DSA works to provide a “progressive” and “democratic” gloss to this anti-working class party of Wall Street, the military/intelligence establishment and the most privileged sections of the middle class.

They are all united in their fear of a mass independent movement of the working class, which will threaten the foundations of the capitalist system. This, in fact, is the sole basis for the fight for socialism, not a reshuffling of personnel and right-wing parties in Congress or, for that matter, the White House.

This midterm election has underscored the futility of all attempts to effect progressive change through the bourgeois electoral system, itself a travesty of real democracy. After a record $5 billion spent, most of it by billionaire oligarchs who buy politicians by the dozens, endless mud-slinging, lying campaign ads that insult the intelligence of the electorate, and empty promises broken within minutes of Election Day, there is a growing sense that this system is hopelessly rigged and corrupt and cannot be reformed.
The DSA document states near the end: “Nearly fifty thousand people have joined the Democratic Socialists of America since Trump’s 2016 election. Inspired by Bernie Sanders’s message of a moral economy and his call for a political revolution, a new generation is eager to take up the cause of democratic socialism.”
The growth in DSA membership certainly is a barometer of a significant change in the political situation. Millions of workers and young people are looking for a political alternative. The Sanders campaign did not radicalize this layer of workers and youth but served to uncover the growth of anti-capitalist sentiment. These workers were radicalized by decades of deepening economic inequality, ceaseless war and attacks on democratic rights, i.e., the policies of the Democratic Party no less than the Republicans.