on: Jan 13, 2017, 04:10 PM
|Started by Rad - Last post by dollydaydream|
Rad and Kristin, thanks for taking the time to review our work, and special thanks for the encouragement. There is nothing like a tailwind to help with the journey. DDD
on: Jan 13, 2017, 10:52 AM
|Started by Rad - Last post by Kristin|
Dear Heather & DDD,
I am so impressed with the growth in both of you. This is a direct reflection of the efforts and strides you are making to deepen into this work. Way to go!!! Keep on going and growing. This work will continue to amaze you.
For those others who have been working on this thread, I also encourage you to post on the composite of Chloe and Shaw. It will help secure those final pieces within yourself and bring this assignment to completion.
Great work you two
on: Jan 13, 2017, 09:07 AM
|Started by Rad - Last post by Rad|
A Nevada woman dies of a superbug resistant to every available antibiotic in the US
12 Jan 2017 at 19:23 ET
Doctors say this case is yet another sign that we need to be taking antibiotic resistance seriously.
If it sometimes seems like the idea of antibiotic resistance, though unsettling, is more theoretical than real, please read on.
Public health officials from Nevada are reporting on a case of a woman who died in Reno in September from an incurable infection. Testing showed the superbug that had spread throughout her system could fend off 26 different antibiotics.
"It was tested against everything that's available in the United States … and was not effective," said Dr. Alexander Kallen, a medical officer in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's division of health care quality promotion.
Although this isn't the first time someone in the US has been infected with pan-resistant bacteria, at this point, it is not common. It is, however, alarming.
"I think this is the harbinger of future badness to come," said Dr. James Johnson, a professor of infectious diseases medicine at the University of Minnesota and a specialist at the Minnesota VA Medical Center.
Other scientists are saying this case is yet another sign that researchers and governments need to take antibiotic resistance seriously. It was reported Thursday in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, a journal published by the CDC.
The authors of the report note this case underscores the need for hospitals to ask incoming patients about foreign travel and also about whether they had recently been hospitalized elsewhere.
The case involved a woman who had spent considerable time in India, where multi-drug-resistant bacteria are more common than they are in the US. She had broken her right femur - the big bone in the thigh - while in India a couple of years back. She later developed a bone infection in her femur and her hip and was hospitalized a number of times in India in the two years that followed. Her last admission to a hospital in India was in June of last year.
The unnamed woman - described as a resident of Washoe County who was in her 70s - went into hospital in Reno for care in mid-August, where it was discovered she was infected with what is called a CRE - carbapenem-resistant enterobacteriaceae. That's a general name to describe bacteria that commonly live in the gut that have developed resistance to the class of antibiotics called carbapenems - an important last-line of defense used when other antibiotics fail. CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden has called CREs "nightmare bacteria" because of the danger they pose for spreading antibiotic resistance.
In the woman's case, the specific bacteria attacking her was called Klebsiella pneumoniae, a bug that often causes of urinary tract infections.
Testing at the hospital showed resistance to 14 drugs - all the drug options the hospital had, said Lei Chen, a senior epidemiologist with Washoe County Health District and an author of the report. "It was my first time to see a [resistance] pattern in our area," she said.
A sample was sent to the CDC in Atlanta for further testing, which revealed that nothing available to US doctors would have cured this infection. Kallen admitted people in this field experience a sinking feeling when they're faced with a superbug like this one.
"I think it's concerning. We have relied for so long on just newer and newer antibiotics. But obviously the bugs can often [develop resistance] faster than we can make new ones," he said.
Doctors and scientists who track the spread of antibiotic resistance - the rapidly proliferating swarm superbugs - see this case as a big red flag.
"If we're waiting for some sort of major signal that we need to attack this internationally, we need an aggressive program, both domestically and internationally to attack this problem, here's one more signal that we need to do that," said Lance Price, who heads the Antibiotic Resistance Action Center at George Washington University.
There is international recognition of the threat, which an expert report published last year warned could kill 10 million a year by 2050 if left unchecked. In September, the UN General Assembly held a high-level meeting on antibiotic resistance, only the fourth time the body had addressed a health issue.
The woman in Nevada was cared for in isolation; the staff who treated her used infection control precautions to prevent spread of the superbug in the hospital. Chen and Randall Todd, a health department colleague, told STAT testing was done to look for additional infections, but so far none have been detected.
Johnson said it's likely, though, that other people in the US are carrying similar bacteria in their guts and could become sick at some point. "It's possible that this is the only person in the US and she had the bad luck to go to India, pick up the bad bug, come back and here it is, we found her and now that she's dead, it's gone from the US. That is highly improbable," he said.
"People have asked me many times 'How scared should we be?' … 'How close are we to the edge of the cliff?' And I tell them: We're already falling off the cliff," Johnson said. "It's happening. It's just happening - so far - on a relatively small scale and mostly far away from us. People that we don't see … so it doesn't have the same emotional impact.''
on: Jan 13, 2017, 07:27 AM
|Started by Rad - Last post by Rad|
Simply excellent EA work DDD. Your diligence in this EA work had allowed you to really get it. Big high fives. Thank you for this wonderful contribution.
God Bless, Rad
on: Jan 13, 2017, 07:24 AM
|Started by Rad - Last post by Rad|
Look at how far you have come ! Your EA work on the composite chart of Chloe and Shaw is excellent. And accurate. A big high five Heather.
God Bless, Rad
on: Jan 13, 2017, 07:17 AM
|Started by Rad - Last post by Rad|
Trump risks 'war' with Beijing if US blocks access to South China Sea, state media warns
Threats by Rex Tillerson, would-be secretary of state, to stop access to islands are ‘mish-mash of naivety and shortsightedness’, says China Daily
Benjamin Haas in Hong Kong
Friday 13 January 2017 03.59 GMT
The US risks a “large-scale war” with China if it attempts to blockade islands in the South China Sea, Chinese state media has said, adding that if recent statements become policy when Donald Trump takes over as president “the two sides had better prepare for a military clash”.
China has controversially built fortifications and artificial islands across the South China Sea. Rex Tillerson, Trump’s nominee for secretary of state, said China’s “access to those islands … is not going to be allowed”.
China claims nearly the entire area, with rival claims by five south-east Asian neighbours and Taiwan.
Tillerson did not specify how the US would block access but experts agreed it could only be done by a significant show of military force. Tillerson likened China’s island building to “Russia’s taking of Crimea”.
“Tillerson had better bone up on nuclear power strategies if he wants to force a big nuclear power to withdraw from its own territories,” said an editorial in the Global Times, a Communist-party controlled newspaper.
“China has enough determination and strength to make sure that his rabble rousing will not succeed … Unless Washington plans to wage a large-scale war in the South China Sea, any other approaches to prevent Chinese access to the islands will be foolish.”
Under Barack Obama the US remained neutral on sovereignty claims, not recognising any ownership, but often challenged China’s control of the area by sailing warships past islands in what it called freedom of navigation exercises.
If that policy became more confrontational, including denying China access to islands it already controls, “it would set a course for devastating confrontation between China and the US”, declared the state-run China Daily.
China’s official response was more tame. Foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said China-US relations were based on “non-confrontation, non-conflict, mutual benefit and win-win cooperation”.
Both newspapers also dismissed recent statements by Trump and his team – taking a similar stance to the Chinese government, which is waiting for Trump to be sworn in before equating his words with policy.
Tillerson’s remarks “are not worth taking seriously because they are a mish-mash of naivety, shortsightedness, worn-out prejudices and unrealistic political fantasies”, the China Daily wrote. “Should he act on them in the real world it would be disastrous.”
There are signs, though, that Trump shares Tillerson’s views and they will be carried into the White House.
In December, Trump made similar comments in an interview with Fox News, accusing Beijing of “building a massive fortress in the middle of the South China Sea, which they shouldn’t be doing”.
Peter Navarro, Trump’s pick to head the newly created national trade council, has been extremely hostile to China and encouraged the president-elect to pursue a “peace through strength” policy in the region.
“Beijing has created some 3,000 acres of artificial islands in the South China Sea with very limited American response,” Navarro has previously written.
on: Jan 13, 2017, 07:16 AM
|Started by Rad - Last post by Rad|
Russia says US troops arriving in Poland pose threat to its security
Early deployment of biggest American force in Europe since cold war may be attempt to lock Trump into strategy
Ewen MacAskill Defence correspondent
Thursday 12 January 2017 18.54 GMT
The Kremlin has hit out at the biggest deployment of US troops in Europe since the end of the cold war, branding the arrival of troops and tanks in Poland as a threat to Russia’s national security.
The deployment, intended to counter what Nato portrays as Russian aggression in eastern Europe, will see US troops permanently stationed along Russia’s western border for the first time.
About 1,000 of a promised 4,000 troops arrived in Poland at the start of the week, and a formal ceremony to welcome them is to be held on Saturday. Some people waved and held up American flags as the troops, tanks and heavy armoured vehicles crossed into south-western Poland from Germany, according to Associated Press.
But their arrival was not universally applauded. In Moscow, Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said: “We perceive it as a threat. These actions threaten our interests, our security. Especially as it concerns a third party building up its military presence near our borders. It’s [the US], not even a European state.”
The Kremlin may hold back on retaliatory action in the hope that a Donald Trump presidency will herald a rapprochement with Washington. Trump, in remarks during the election campaign and since, has sown seeds of doubt over the deployments by suggesting he would rather work with than confront Putin.
But on Thursday Nato officials played down Trump’s comments, saying they hoped and expected that he would not attempt to reverse the move after he became president on 20 January.
That prediction was reinforced by Trump’s proposed defence secretary, James Mattis, and his proposed secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, who backed Nato during Senate confirmation hearings.
Mattis, in rhetoric at odds with the president-elect, said the west should recognise the reality that Putin was trying to break Nato.
Tillerson, who has business dealings in Russia, described Russia’s annexation of Crimea as “as an act of force” and said that when Russia flexed its muscles, the US must mount “a proportional show of force”.
Nato was caught out by the Russian annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 and has struggled to cope with Russia’s use of hybrid warfare, which combines propaganda, cyberwarfare and the infiltration of regular troops disguised as local rebels.
In response, the US and its Nato allies have been steadily increasing air patrols and training exercises in eastern Europe. The biggest escalation is the current deployment of US troops, agreed at last summer’s Nato summit in Warsaw.
The move was billed as an attempt to reassure eastern European states who have been calling for the permanent deployment of US troops in the belief that Russia would be less likely to encroach on territory where US troops are present.
Peter Cook, the Pentagon press spokesman, said: “The United States is demonstrating its continued commitment to collective security through a series of actions designed to reassure Nato allies and partners of America’s dedication to enduring peace and stability in the region in light of the Russian intervention in Ukraine.”
Poland in particular has pressed for a permanent US troop deployment since soon after the fall of communism in 1989.
Nato officials insist that the US and other alliance troops deployed to eastern Europe are not “permanent”, which would be in breach of an agreement with Russia. The US plans to rotate the troops every nine months, so it can argue they are not in breach of the Russian treaty, but effectively there will be a permanent presence.
Deployment was originally scheduled for later in the month but a decision was made last month to bring it forward, possibly a move by Barack Obama before he leaves office to try to lock the president-elect into the strategy.
The troops from the Third Armor Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, based in Fort Carson, Colorado, along with hundreds of armoured vehicles and tanks, were moved from the US to Germany last week for transit by rail and road to Poland and elsewhere in eastern Europe. The US is sending 87 tanks, and 144 armoured vehicles.
As well as being stationed in Poland, the US troops will fan out across other eastern European states, including Estonia, Bulgaria and Romania.
The UK is also contributing to the buildup of Nato forces in eastern Europe. The UK formally took command this week of Nato’s response force, made up of 3,000 UK troops plus others from Nato who will be on permanent standby ready to deploy within days. The contributing countries include the US, Denmark, Spain, Norway and Poland.
Few at Nato seriously believe that war with Russia is likely but there have been dangerous developments, with escalation on both sides, including a buildup of Russian troops. Russia alarmed Poland and other eastern European states by moving nuclear-capable Iskander-M missiles to its naval base at Kaliningrad in the autumn. At the time Nato regarded the move as a response to its own deployments.
The Polish foreign minister, Witold Waszczykowski, voicing concern in eastern Europe that Trump might do a deal with Putin, said this week he hoped that any such reconciliation would not be at Poland’s expense.
on: Jan 13, 2017, 07:12 AM
|Started by Rad - Last post by Rad|
Russia dossier: what happens next – and could Donald Trump be impeached?
What are the origins of the 35-page intelligence dossier containing allegations about links between Donald Trump and the Kremlin – and how bad could it get?
Ed Pilkington in New York
Thursday 12 January 2017 18.50 GMT
With days to go before Donald Trump is inaugurated as the 45th president of the United States, Washington has been convulsed by news of a 35-page intelligence dossier containing incendiary allegations from Russian spies about close links between the Trump camp and the Kremlin as well as salacious sexual details that could allegedly expose the next US head of state to blackmail. The allegations are wholly unsubstantiated, but were deemed serious enough for US intelligence agencies to pass a two-page summary of them last week both to Trump and the current president, Barack Obama.
Donald Trump dossier: intelligence sources vouch for author's credibility
The provenance of the dossier lies with a Washington-based opposition research firm, Fusion GPS, led by former journalists skilled in digging up secrets on public figures. The company was employed in September 2015 by one of Trump’s Republican detractors to look into his dealings. According to the BBC, an outside group supporting then presidential candidate Jeb Bush was the main client initially, followed by an anonymous Democratic donor. Fusion GPS in turn contracted a former British counter-intelligence officer with strong Russia contacts to delve into Trump. Reports gathered by the contractor based on his Russian sources were brought together to form the dossier, which in turn began to circulate between the FBI, British intelligence and DC-based journalists who looked into the allegations but could not stand them up. The dossier was also personally passed by the Republican senator John McCain, a critic of the president-elect who learned about the allegations in November, to the FBI director, James Comey. Top federal officials decided the claims in the dossier, albeit unverified, were so explosive that Trump and Obama had to be informed, so they appended the summary to their report to the president and president-elect last week on Russian hacking of Democratic emails during the 2016 election.
At a press conference on Wednesday in Trump Tower, the president-elect dismissed the dossier as “fake news”, “phony stuff”, “crap” and the work of “sick people” among his political opponents. Certainly, none of the news organizations that had access to the dossier before this week, including the Guardian, were able to verify its most salacious details and nor have the intelligence agencies been able to ascertain whether it is at all reliable. But it is unlikely to be discarded as quickly or as conclusively as Trump would like. The flip side of information that cannot be classed reliable is that neither can it be classed unreliable. The individual responsible for compiling the reports – a former British MI6 officer called Christopher Steele – is highly regarded among US and UK intelligence circles and was at one point head of MI6’s Russia desk. He was described to the Guardian by a US official as consistently reliable, meticulous and well-informed, with extensive Russian contacts.
The most sensational details contained in the dossier concern the allegation that Russian spies gathered compromising material, or “kompromat”, on Trump by secretly recording audio and video tape of his sexual activities in the presidential suite of the Ritz Carlton hotel in Moscow. Such content is virtually impossible to prove, or disprove, other than in the unlikely circumstance that tapes were to emerge. A potentially more potent line of inquiry contained in the dossier that could yet cause Trump trouble relates to allegations that members of his team were in close contact with Russian officials in the course of last year’s presidential election over Russian hacking of Democratic emails that were later published by WikiLeaks. Independent reports suggest that US intelligence agencies were already investigating alleged links, such as those between businessman Carter Page and senior Russian officials. The president-elect’s spokesman Sean Spicer this week said that the president-elect “does not know” Page, even though Trump himself last March described Page as a member of his foreign policy team.
How bad could it get for Trump?
As ever, the question of whether the Russia dossier has legs is a matter not of science but of politics. The degree to which it might continue to snap at the heels of the 45th president depends on whether there is the appetite to pursue the claims. News outlets can be expected to stick with the theme, though all efforts so far on their part have failed to throw up anything solid. Congress has formidable powers to subpoena witnesses that have the potential to uncover secrets that others cannot reach. Two Republican senators, John McCain and Lindsey Graham, both of them Trump skeptics, have been pushing for a no-holds-barred investigation into Russian hacking by a special select committee of the ilk of the Watergate panel. But so far the leadership of the Republican party, who control both chambers of Congress and thus have the final say on any such exercise, have shown no appetite for rocking the boat with their new president. That leaves the intelligence agencies. The danger for Trump here is that he has so alienated senior officials, not least by likening them to Nazis, that he has hardly earned their loyalty.
Donald Trump's truce with spy agencies breaks down over Russia dossier
We are currently a very long way from this point, but not so far to prevent speculation about whether Trump could be impeached. Were Trump’s team to be found to have conspired with the Kremlin to distort the 2016 presidential election, that would certainly fall into the impeachable category. But, again, it is entirely unsubstantiated. To take a flight of fancy, what if it were substantiated? That would again come down to a question of politics. No US president has ever been forced out of office by impeachment (Richard Nixon resigned before the vote; Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton were acquitted by the Senate). Any such procedure would have to be prepared and approved by a majority of the House of Representatives, and then passed to the Senate for a two-thirds majority vote. As the Republicans hold the reins in both chambers, it would take an almighty severing of ties between Trump and his own party to even get close to such a place.
Sir Andrew Wood, former UK-Moscow ambassador, consulted on Trump dossier
Sir Andrew Wood told US senator that Christopher Steele’s report ‘might be true, might be untrue’ but that author was credible
Luke Harding and Alice Ross
Friday 13 January 2017 12.52 GMT
A former British ambassador to Moscow has revealed the role he played in bringing the explosive dossier about Donald Trump’s alleged links to Russia to the attention of the US intelligence agencies.
Sir Andrew Wood was consulted about the claims by Senator John McCain at a security conference in Canada shortly after the US election.
Wood said he did not have the dossier but that McCain obtained it from his own sources. It was written by former British MI6 agent Christopher Steele and handed to the director of the FBI, James Comey.
“I told him I was aware of what was in the report but I had not read it myself, that it might be true, it might be untrue. I had no means of judging really,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
The dossier, published this week by BuzzFeed, alleges that acts of sexual impropriety involving Trump occurred in Moscow, and says there was collusion between the Russian government and the Republican candidate’s campaign team.
Trump has flatly denied the stories, which he described as “fake news”.
Wood said he believed Steele was a “very competent professional operator”, adding: “I do not think he would make things up. I don’t think he would necessarily always draw the correct judgment but that’s not the same thing at all.”
Former Foreign Office and intelligence officials told the Guardian on Thursday that Steele was highly respected in the intelligence community.
Steele’s dossier contains “pretty central accusations” about a presidential candidate being complicit in the hacking of his rival, and about the Russian intelligence services holding lurid sexual material on Trump, Wood said. “These seemed to me to have important implications - if true.”
The allegations were lent weight by some of Trump’s public behaviour on the campaign trail, he added. “It is a suggestion that was I think given certain colouration by the way Trump talked about the hacking exercise and by the stories about his treatment of women, and of course the KGB and FSB now make it a regular practice to do honeytrap exercises.”
The former spy went into hiding this week after his cover was blown. “Russia would certainly like to know where he got his information from - assuming his information is basically true and he hasn’t just made it up, which I don’t believe for a moment - and they’re accustomed to take action,” said Wood, describing the allegations as “dangerous knowledge”.
He dismissed the suggestion that the allegations could be fabricated by Russia as part of a Russian false-flag operation. “That would be a fairly elaborate exercise designed to get at Chris Steele, and I don’t see why that would be done.”
Russian Embassy, UK (@RussianEmbassy)
Christopher Steele story: MI6 officers are never ex: briefing both ways - against Russia and US President pic.twitter.com/tJwLtLZs24
January 12, 2017
The Russian embassy in London claimed in a tweet that the British intelligence services played a role in the scandal, writing: “MI6 officers are never ex”. Wood brushed off this suggestion, saying: “They’re speaking [about] their experience with KGB officers, I suppose.”
The former diplomat denied that the publication of the allegations had strengthened Vladimir Putin’s position: “I think the fact that it’s been exposed or rumoured or suggested reduces that power. I think also that Mr Trump is not a man who’s regularly driven by bashfulness or shame and even if this is true, that he’s been compromised in that way, he would react pretty strongly and say so what. That’s my opinion.”
Steele has gone to ground but further details about his career continue to emerge. He was hired by England’s 2018 World Cup bid to gather intelligence on Fifa, the world football organisation, and England’s rivals including Russia, the BBC reported on Friday. Russia won the bid.
How the Trump dossier came to light: secret sources, a retired spy and John McCain
What began as opposition research during the Republican primary slowly grew from a covert investigation into an extraordinary but unverified global story
Julian Borger in Washington
Thursday 12 January 2017 10.36 GMT
The extraordinary but unverified documents published on Tuesday on Donald Trump’s ties with Moscow began life as a piece of opposition research, which has become as much a part of US politics as yard signs and coloured balloons.
There is a small industry of research and investigative firms in Washington, typically staffed by a mix of former journalists and security officials, adept at finding information about politicians that the politicians would rather stay hidden. The firms often do not know who exactly is hiring them; the request could come from a law firm acting on behalf of a client from one of the parties.
In this case, the request for opposition research on Donald Trump came from one of his Republican opponents in the primary campaign. The research firm then hired one of its sub-contractors who it used regularly on all things Russian: a retired western European former counter-intelligence official, with a long history of dealing with the shadow world of Moscow’s spooks and siloviki (securocrats).
By the time the contractor had started his research, however, the Republican primary was over. The original client had dropped out, but the firm that had hired him had found a new, Democratic client. This was not necessarily the Hillary Clinton campaign or the Democratic National Committee. Opposition research is frequently financed by wealthy individuals who have donated all they can and are looking for other ways to help.
By July, the counter-intelligence contractor had collected a significant amount of material based on Russian sources who he had grown to trust over the years – not just in Moscow, but also among oligarchs living in the west. He delivered his reports, but the gravity of their contents weighed on him. If the allegations were real, their implications were overwhelming.
He delivered a set to former colleagues in the FBI, whose counter-intelligence division would be the appropriate body to investigate. It is believed he also passed a copy to his own country’s intelligence service, but it felt constrained in what action it could take and left it up to the Americans to do their own investigation and draw their own conclusions.
As summer turned to autumn, the investigator was asked for more information by the FBI but heard nothing back about any investigation. The bureau seemed obsessed instead with classified material that flowed through a private email server set up by Clinton’s aides. The FBI’s director, James Comey, threw the election into a spin 11 days before the vote by announcing his investigators were examining newly discovered material.
The former intelligence official grew concerned that there was a cover-up in progress. On a trip to New York in October, he was persuaded to tell his story to David Corn, the Washington editor of Mother Jones, who first reported the existence of the material on 31 October.
The FBI however continued to refuse to comment on the issue, despite reports that it had requested and perhaps acquired a warrant for further investigation from the Foreign intelligence surveillance (Fisa) court. The silence was not altogether surprising. The FBI counter-intelligence division, headquartered in Washington, is extremely secretive, much more so than the New York field office, which had strong links to former prosecutor and mayor Rudy Giuliani, who was by then working for Trump. The threat of leaks from New York about Clinton emails had reportedly pushed Comey into making his October surprise announcement.
In mid-November, the documents took another route into Washington that ultimately led to them being mentioned in the joint intelligence report on Russian interference that was delivered to President Obama and President-elect Trump. On 18 November, the annual Halifax International Security Forum opened in the Canadian city, bringing together serving and former security and foreign policy officials from around the world.
Senator John McCain, a hawkish Republican, was there and was introduced to a former senior western diplomat who had seen the documents, knew their source and thought him highly reliable. McCain decided the implications were sufficiently alarming to dispatch a trusted emissary, a former US official, to meet the source and find out more.
The emissary hastily arranged a transatlantic flight and met the source at the airport as arranged. (The Guardian has agreed not to specify the city or country where the meeting took place.) The meeting had a certain cold war tradecraft to it, as he was told to look for a man with a copy of the Financial Times. Having found each other, the retired counter-intelligence officer drove the emissary to his house, where they discussed the documents and their background.
The emissary flew back within 24 hours and showed McCain the documents, saying it was hard to impossible to verify them without a proper investigation. McCain said he was reluctant to get involved, lest it be perceived as payback for insulting remarks Trump had made about him during his rambunctious campaign.
However, on 9 December, McCain arranged a one-on-one meeting with Comey, with no aides present, and handed them over.
“Upon examination of the contents, and unable to make a judgment about their accuracy, I delivered the information to the Director of the FBI. That has been the extent of my contact with the FBI or any other government agency regarding this issue,” the senator said in a statement on Wednesday morning.
It is not clear what underpinned the FBI’s decision to include a summary of the documents in its highly classified briefing to the president and president-elect and their top staff, before the bureau had completed its investigation. It may have been as a defensive measure, to prove for posterity that it was not involved in a cover-up, or because its investigators believed them to be credible.
Whatever the motive, it was quickly leaked – first to CNN, which reported on the material on Wednesday. That triggered a controversial decision by BuzzFeed to publish an unredacted version of the documents on its website. It is unclear where the BuzzFeed version came from. The author of the reports had been insistent on blotting out references to his Russian sources in the copies he gave to the press, including the Guardian, out of fear for their safety. The unredacted version could have come from the original client, who commissioned the research, or from intermediaries between the counter-intelligence contractor and the client.
Donald Trump dossier: intelligence sources vouch for author's credibility
Ex-MI6 officer Christopher Steele, named as writer of Donald Trump memo, is ‘highly regarded professional’
The MI6 building in central London.
Nick Hopkins and Luke Harding
Thursday 12 January 2017 23.48 GMT
His denials – at least some of them – were emphatic, even by the standards that Donald Trump has come to be judged by. The dossier, he said, was a confection of lies; he compared it to Nazi propaganda; it was fake news spread by sick people.
At his press briefing on Wednesday, the president-elect dared the world’s media to scrutinise the 35 pages of claims, before throwing down a challenge – where’s the proof? Nobody had any. Case closed.
But in the rush to trample all over the dossier and its contents, one key question remained. Why had America’s intelligence agencies felt it necessary to provide a compendium of the claims to Barack Obama and Trump himself?
And the answer to that lies in the credibility of its apparent author, the ex-MI6 officer Christopher Steele, the quality of the sources he has, and the quality of the people who were prepared to vouch for him. In all these respects, the 53-year-old is in credit.
On Thursday night, as the former spy was in hiding, having fled his home in the south-east of England, former colleagues rallied to defend him. One described him as “very credible” – a sober, cautious and meticulous professional with a formidable record.
The former Foreign Office official, who has known Steele for 25 years and considers him a friend, said: “The idea his work is fake or a cowboy operation is false – completely untrue. Chris is an experienced and highly regarded professional. He’s not the sort of person who will simply pass on gossip.”
The official added: “If he puts something in a report, he believes there’s sufficient credibility in it for it to be worth considering. Chris is a very straight guy. He could not have survived in the job he was in if he had been prone to flights of fancy or doing things in an ill-considered way.”
That is the way the CIA and the FBI, not to mention the British government, regarded him, too. It’s not hard to see why.
A Cambridge graduate, Steele was one of the more eminent Russia specialists for the Secret Intelligence Service (MI6). The Guardian understands that he focused on Soviet affairs after joining the agency, and spent two years living in Moscow in the early 1990s.
This was a period when Russia and the breakup of the eastern bloc were still the prime focus for Britain’s intelligence agencies, and a successful spell in the region was a good way to get on.
By all accounts, that’s exactly what Steele did. And his interest in Russia did not diminish as he continued to rise up the ranks, a friend and contemporary of Alex Younger – now head of MI6.
Over a career that spanned more than 20 years, Steele performed a series of roles, but always appeared to be drawn back to Russia; he was, sources say, head of MI6’s Russia desk. When the agency was plunged into panic over the poisoning of its agent Alexander Litvinenko in 2006, the then chief, Sir John Scarlett, needed a trusted senior officer to plot a way through the minefield ahead – so he turned to Steele. It was Steele, sources say, who correctly and quickly realised that Litvinenko’s death was a Russian state “hit”.
As good as he was, Steele was unlikely to get the top MI6 job, perhaps because his specialisms were not a priority in that period – Russian espionage was taking a back seat to Islamic terrorism and non-state threats. And, of course, there is money to be made in the private sector – lots of it, particularly in the past two years. He decided to quit the service in 2009.
As the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, exerted influence in all kinds of spheres, so Steele’s background made him hot property. Though he could not travel to Russia, he appears to have maintained his contacts and made new ones, using old-school techniques: going out, meeting people, shaking hands, making friends – and paying for information.
With his business partner, Chris Burrows, he set up the London-based company Orbis Business Intelligence, which was busy and expanding. Their operation would have been a good choice for anyone trying to gather intelligence about Russia and Trump.
It is unlikely that Steele would have had direct contact with the unnamed Kremlin officials who allegedly gave sensitive information on the president-elect. In fact, it’s believed the former spy hasn’t been able to visit Russia for more than 20 years. Rather, Steele would have tapped up his network of sources deep inside the country, some of them dating from his time there and others cultivated later, British officials suggested.
In turn, these individuals will have had sources of their own. Steele would likely have subcontracted some of his Trump investigation to trusted intermediaries in Moscow, who will have reported back to him via secure channels.
This method of intelligence collection may explain the odd language anomaly in the Trump dossier that emerged into the public eye late on Tuesday. In a September briefing note, Steele mentions the Alpha-Group, a reference to the consortium headed by the powerful oligarch Mikhail Fridman. The more usual English spelling is Alfa.
Almost certainly, a native Russian speaker wrote the original material, correctly transliterating the Russian “f” as “ph”. It was Steele’s job to collate, evaluate and verify this material before passing it to his American client Fusion GPS, a Washington-based political research firm. The company had been hired originally by one of Trump’s early Republican opponents before the contract was taken up by senior Democrats.
The Foreign Office official who spoke to the Guardian on Thursday acknowledged that the Steele dossier was not perfect. But he pointed out that intelligence reports always came with “gradations of veracity” and included phrases such as “a high degree of probability”. “You aren’t dealing with a binary world where you can say this is true and this isn’t,” the official said.
He added: “The strongest reason for giving this report credence is that intelligence professionals in the US take it seriously. They were sufficiently persuaded by the author’s track record to find the contents worth passing to the president and president-elect.”
The CIA and FBI will have taken various factors into consideration before deciding on its credibility. They could include Trump’s public comments during the campaign, when he urged Russia to hack Hillary Clinton’s emails. The agencies may also have classified, intercepted material provided by the National Security Agency and Britain’s GCHQ.
They must, equally, have considered whether some of the claims in the report might have been part of an elaborate Russian disinformation exercise. “This is unlikely. The dossier is multi-dimensional, involving many different people, and many moving parts,” the official suggested.
Steele’s personal views on Russia are unlikely to be very different from those of his former employers – or from those of a former UK ambassador to Moscow who is understood to have passed the dossier to the Republican senator John McCain, who in turn passed it to the FBI.
MI6 has been privately warning that Putin, unchallenged by the west, has grown in confidence and, of course, that the Kremlin has targeted Trump. It would be odd if it hadn’t. The consensus among British securocrats is that “Putin is a wolf … and he preys on the weakest sheep.”
But intelligence is not evidence, and Steele would have known, better than anyone, that the information he was gathering was not fact and could be wrong. In the smoke-and-mirrors world of counterespionage, there are few certainties.
Those caveats do not appear on the documents – but they are given by Steele as a warning to prospective new clients.
Whether he could have imagined that a summary of his work would be used in this way is a moot point; Steele did not go to ground in the weeks before Christmas as US media outlets tried to stand up some of the claims against Trump. He was in London, thinking about where to take Orbis next, eating his favourite tapas and pottering around Victoria, the home of his newly refurbished office.
From Moscow’s perspective, the report’s publication can hardly be counted as a success. As a former KGB agent, Putin understands the first rule of intelligence: that special operations should remain secret. “In the world in which Putin operates, if people can see the strings, you’ve failed,” the Foreign Office official said. “The Russians will be asking: ‘How the hell did it get out?’”
The spotlight is certainly not something Steele was looking for. He is mainly distrustful of the media – he chooses who to speak to, having been let down, so he has confided to friends, by reporters working for a Sunday newspaper.
After a career in MI6, anonymity is something he has prized. He once asked a journalist if he had ever heard of him. The reporter’s reply was a decisive no. Steele was relieved: “That’s the way I like it.”
Now that his cover has been blown, his next steps are uncertain. The fact that Steele is a British citizen and an outed former MI6 officer makes him relatively secure from any act of Russian revenge. At the moment, the situation may look bleak for Steele. But things can change.
“This will eventually blow over,” Steele’s friend said. “What you are left with is a effective marketing campaign. He’s a very sober guy, but he also has a sense of humour.”
The leaked Trump-Russia dossier rings frighteningly true
Thursday 12 January 2017 19.56 GMT
The Kremlin has dismissed the stories about Donald Trump’s alleged dealings with Russia as “pulp fiction”. Even a superficial glance at the dossier on his relationship with Moscow supposedly compiled by a former M16 counter-intelligence officer and published by BuzzFeed reveals a confusion that raises questions about its credibility at the very least.
For example, the FSB unit named as responsible for gathering material on Hillary Clinton – Department K – has nothing to do with eavesdropping or cyber investigations. It was, however, much in the Russian news recently because it was tasked with “supervising” the banking and financing system and its officers were involved in a major scandal that ended with an Interior Ministry official jumping out of a window during interrogation. There is another Department K in the Interior Ministry and it is this that is in charge of cyber investigations. The dossier names Igor Diveikin, a senior official in the political department of Putin’s office, as tasked to deal with the US election. He was indeed in charge of elections, but in Russia, not the US. Last October, a month before the US elections, he was moved to the apparatus of the state Duma.
Beyond the factual detail, there are problems too with the document’s analysis: as in a classic conspiracy, Putin’s decisions in 2016 to fire prominent officials, including the all-powerful Sergei Ivanov, a head of the presidential administration, are explained via the ups and downs of Russia’s interference in the American election.
But Putin had plenty of other reasons to start selective repressive acts against his elites – 2016 was also a year of the Duma elections and there is palpable anxiety in Moscow about the presidential elections in 2018. There are big questions too about the sources: high-placed Kremlin officials seem a little too keen to talk to a former British spy, and feed him damaging information about the most sensitive Kremlin operation in the 21st century – right in the middle of the operation.
Though many of the report’s elements appear hastily compiled, overall it reflects accurately the way decision-making in the Kremlin looks to close observers. There’s been much focus on the shakier elements but what is plausible about this episode? The leaked document paints a picture of groups of hackers all over the world hired to attack western targets. And that sounds about right. I have been covering the Russian secret services since 1999 and have spent the last five years researching Russian cyber activities. Outsourcing sensitive offensive operations is the Kremlin’s way to lower risk and create deniable responsibility. It was used in Crimea, Ukraine and Syria with Russian “volunteers” and private military companies, while in cyberspace it has been the Kremlin tactic since the mid-2000s.
The dossier suggests that Putin personally supervised the operation, with the Foreign Ministry playing only a minor role. This is exactly what has been observed since the annexation of Crimea – that the Foreign Ministry is no longer in charge of defining policy for Ukraine or Syria, so decision-making is likely to be more capricious. It also fits with the assessment of many experts that the hack of the US Democrats was prompted by the Panama Papers exposé, which was seen in the Kremlin as a personal attack on Putin.
Finally, the dossier states that the Kremlin extensively borrowed its methods for dealing with Trump from the KGB playbook. For instance, it claims the Russian secret services were eager to collect dirt on Trump during his trips to Russia to explore whether a recruitment was feasible. The evidence is questionable, but the idea looks entirely plausible – after all, the KGB even had a special terminology for this kind of operation: it was called razvedka s territorii or “gathering intelligence from the territory”, meaning recruiting foreigners once they come to Russia. For that purpose every regional department of the KGB had a “first section” tasked to deal with foreigners once they get to the “territory” of the region, and Putin himself spent a few years in this section in St Petersburg.
The goal, the dossier states, was to create kompromat on Trump. And kompromat, meaning compromising material, as a tactic to smear one’s opponents in the media, came into use in Russia in the late 1990s. It was a mix of intercepted phone calls and analytical profiles prepared by the oligarchs’ shadowy security agencies and government security services. In the 2000s and 2010s, kompromat was redirected against Russian opposition leaders, as well as western diplomats. Videos with kompromat were aired on state television and posted on the websites of pro-Kremlin media outlets.
Unverifiable sensational details aside, the Trump dossier is a good reflection of how things are run in the Kremlin – the mess at the level of decision-making and increasingly the outsourcing of operations, combined with methods borrowed from the KGB and the secret services of the lawless 1990s. That is not the picture projected by the Kremlin externally – namely, that the Russian government is an effective bureaucracy, strategic in foreign policy planning and ruthless in execution. And that, whatever the truth of Putin’s connections with Trump, makes it all pretty scary.
Penthouse may have proof of Trump’s ‘golden shower’ tryst at Moscow hotel
International Business Times
13 Jan 2017 at 08:12 ET
Adult magazine Penthouse has received three claims for its $1 million offer to anyone who could provide real tapes of President-elect Donald Trump’s alleged and unproven sexual escapades at the Ritz-Carlton in Moscow, the publication’s editor exclusively revealed to International Business Times Thursday.
Penthouse editor Raphie Aronowitz said the magazine isn’t conducting a “witch hunt,” but wants to prove whether the allegations against Trump are true. Aronowitz said the lucrative offer falls in line with the magazine’s well-established brand, though to his knowledge Penthouse has never made such an exorbitant offer before.
“If the story is real, which we don’t know if it is or not, it really kind of hits at the intersection between politics, scandal and sex, which as a brand both historically and currently is our sweet spot,” Aronowitz said in a phone interview.
He also said the advent and effect of “fake news” – articles containing false or inaccurate information spread by social media sites that many have credited with helping Trump win the Oval Office, including President Barack Obama - played a role in the offer.
“For us, this was the type of story that we wanted to jump all over. But at the same time there’s been so much floating around - as far as fake news stories – there have been so many people who have just been taking shots at President-elect Donald Trump because he’s an easy target, and we as a brand and as an informational source, we didn’t want to jump on the bandwagon,” Aronowitz said. “We wanted to make sure this story could be verified, that the murmurings of their being actual video documentation that corroborates the allegations, do exist. For us, this was a very real ask, which is just ‘Give us some facts, and let us share the real story with our readers and with the public.’”
Aronowitz’s comments fell in line with the statement released by Penthouse Global Media CEO Kelly Holland following the offer’s announcement Tuesday on Twitter. The magazine, best known for publishing pornography, offered $1 million for exclusive rights to videos proving the allegations against Trump.
Arnowitz said Penthouse, which has published controversial documents and interviews in the past, has not received physical tapes or video files but individuals have responded to the offer via email and its customer help line.
Should Penthouse receive a tape or file, Aronowitz said it will then turn it over to experts formerly affiliated with the Federal Bureau of Investigation – how they were affiliated Aronowitz would not explain – in order to authenticate it. Aronowitz said he hoped to see a video by the end of the week but that there is no set time frame or deadline.
President-elect Donald Trump denied the sexual accusations levied against him Wednesday during his first press conference in six months. Photo: Reuters
The so-called “Golden Shower Gate” scandal stems from reports from CNN and BuzzFeed Tuesday involving the release of an unverified 35-page dossier that included, among many other accusations, details of Trump allegedly booking the upscale hotel suite where President Barack Obama and the First Lady Michelle Obama had previously stayed in Moscow and hiring prostitutes to urinate on the bed. The FSB, Russia’s top internal security agency, is believed to have “control” of the entire hotel, including hidden microphones and cameras, according to the dossier. The unverified documents allege the FSB collected information against Trump in order to blackmail him.
In his first press conference since winning the election in November, Trump completely denied the dossier’s allegations Wednesday and called CNN and BuzzFeed promoters of “fake news” for publishing their stories.
“As everyone on our team including the President- elect stated yesterday, this is a fabricated story from a phony document,” Hope Hicks, spokesman for Trump’s presidential transition team, told IBT in an email Thursday.
CNN and BuzzFeed caused a major uproar by releasing the dossier, which had reportedly made the rounds in political and media circles for months. The contents have not been verified by U.S. intelligence officials or other credible sources. Trump and Obama were both briefed last week on the documents.
This isn’t the first time a media outlet has offered up a prize for an interview or video before. In 2013, recently shuttered Gawker started a crowdsourcing effort to raise $200,000 to purchase a video of former and late Toronto mayor Rob Ford smoking crack cocaine. A video was eventually released in August of last year. In January 2014, Jezebel, previously under the Gawker umbrella, offered up $10,000 for unretouched images of comedic actress and writer Lena Dunham’s photo shoot with Vogue. A day later they were published.
Penthouse, too, has a history of publishing questionable materials. In December 1988, it published an interview with former televangelist John Wesley Fletcher, during which he claimed to have slept with fellow televangelist and “The PTL Club” host Jim Bakker. The revelation came as Bakker was facing a federal investigation into his finances and had claimed in a sworn deposition never to have had any homosexual encounters.
In 1995, Penthouse publisher and magazine titan Bob Guccione went so far as to publish Ted “The Unabomber” Kaczynski’s manifesto after he claimed he would stop his bombings if the 35,000-page document hit newsstands. Guccione also offered Kaczynski a regular column.
Why The Flurry Of Calls From Flynn To Russian Envoy On Day Obama Expelled Diplomats?
By Karoli Kuns
It would be a hell of a lot easier to dismiss the allegations in that bombshell dossier if Trump and his closest advisers didn't keep confirming it.
Here's today's bombshell, via David Ignatius:
Retired Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn, Trump’s choice for national security adviser, cultivates close Russian contacts. He has appeared on Russia Today and received a speaking fee from the cable network, which was described in last week’s unclassified intelligence briefing on Russian hacking as “the Kremlin’s principal international propaganda outlet.”
According to a senior U.S. government official, Flynn phoned Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak several times on Dec. 29, the day the Obama administration announced the expulsion of 35 Russian officials as well as other measures in retaliation for the hacking. What did Flynn say, and did it undercut the U.S. sanctions? The Logan Act (though never enforced) bars U.S. citizens from correspondence intending to influence a foreign government about “disputes” with the United States. Was its spirit violated? The Trump campaign didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
On the day President Obama imposed sanctions and expelled diplomats, Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn had multiple phone calls with the Russian Ambassador. What did he say, and why did he say it?
I can think of a couple of things, right off the top. He might have promised to lift the sanctions and reverse the expulsions right after Trump's inaugural to calm Putin down. He might have had to explain that he had no influence over President Obama and apologize for his actions.
The thing is, that's all speculation. We don't know why, but it's certainly quite suspicious to see that it did, in fact, happen.
on: Jan 13, 2017, 06:57 AM
|Started by Rad - Last post by Rad|
Italy's Five Star Movement part of growing club of Putin sympathisers in west
M5S leader Beppe Grillo’s attitude to Russia has changed markedly as Kremlin courts anti-establishment parties
Stephanie Kirchgaessner in Rome
Thursday 5 January 2017 07.00 GMT
Ten years ago, in the wake of the murder of the leading Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya, a popular comedian-turned-blogger in Italy named Beppe Grillo urged tens of thousands of his readers to go out and buy Putin’s Russia, her searing exposé of corruption under the leadership of Vladimir Putin.
“Russia is a democracy based on the export of gas and oil. If they didn’t export that, they would go back to being the good old dictatorship of once upon a time,” Grillo wrote in a mournful 2006 post about the journalist’s murder.
But today, Grillo’s position on Russia has radically changed. He is now part of a growing club of Kremlin sympathisers in the west – an important shift given that the comedian has become one of the most powerful political leaders in Italy and his Five Star Movement (M5S), the anti-establishment party he created in 2009, is a top contender to win the next Italian election.
Some of Grillo’s lieutenants in the Five Star Movement are vocal supporters of Putin’s policies, including in Syria, where the party’s top spokesman on foreign policy, Manlio Di Stefano, has praised the shelling of Aleppo as a “liberation” of the city.
Manlio Di Stefano (@ManlioDS)
#M5S #ObiettivoEsteri LA LIBERAZIONE DI #ALEPPO https://t.co/9TxluNREsh pic.twitter.com/zbn076mJnl
December 16, 2016
In a speech in June before a conference of Putin’s United Russia party, Di Stefano claimed that the M5S was neither pro-Russian nor pro-American. But he went on to call for the end of EU sanctions against Russia; railed against an “aggressive” Nato; called for the strengthening of intelligence ties between the EU and Russia and said it was evident that the “Ukraine crisis” was a result of meddling by the EU and US in Russian affairs.
Di Stefano also singled out and thanked two Russian officials, Sergei Zheleznyak, the deputy speaker of the Russian parliament, who as a top Russian government official is subject to US sanctions, and Andrei Klimov, a Russian senator and head of the Duma’s international affairs committee, whom he suggested he met with in Rome.
The pro-Russian rhetoric has stumped and worried some foreign diplomats in Rome who are trying to come to grips with what the party – which claims to be post-ideological – really stands for.
“We can’t understand why they are on the side of Putin and not Pussy Riot,” said one western diplomat, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “I think there was a decision that Russia works for them because they think it is politically advantageous. They are opportunistic. Tactically they feel this is a vote-getter.”
As the M5S’s rhetoric has become pro-Russian, it is simultaneously becoming more critical of the EU, including a vow to hold a referendum on the euro. Such a vote would be likely to have a destabilising effect on European unity, even if in practice it would be difficult to execute a departure from the single currency. Grillo has also called for a “review” of the EU’s open borders under the Schengen agreement, in response to the shooting in Milan of Anis Amri, the suspected terrorist behind last month’s attack on a Berlin Christmas market.
In the meantime, Russia has forged ties with far-right parties across Europe, including Marine Le Pen’s Front National. In an interview earlier this year, Alexander Dugin, a political scientist who has been called Putin’s Rasputin, made it clear that the M5S was on his radar, telling the Defend Democracy Press website – incorrectly – that the party has called for a referendum on Italy’s exit from the EU. If the Italians, Germans and French were given the chance to withdraw, he claimed “it would happen the next day”.
Another diplomatic source said the evolution in the M5S stance towards Russia reflected its general anti-establishment philosophy: in a world where the EU and the US represent the powerful monied interests, the Russians represent a rejection of that alliance and of Italy’s alleged subservience to those powers.
The diplomatic source said he believed that the biggest danger of an M5S win was not that it would align Italy and Russia, or that M5S would seek a referendum on the euro – it may do both – but that it would profoundly damage Italy because of the party’s lack of experience and governance ability, a problem that has become all too evident in its poor management of the city of Rome since it won mayoral elections in June.
Stefano Stefanini, who served as Italy’s ambassador to Nato from 2007 to 2010, said he found it difficult to imagine that the M5S could win national elections. But he said the party had clearly emerged as sympathetic to Russia, far more so than to western policy.
“If there was a Five Star win, plus the Northern League [the rightwing party headed by Matteo Salvini], in addition to a pro-Russian president in France, the whole EU line on Russia would crumble,” Stefanini said.
“The union would be badly divided.”
Stefanini said he did not believe that Russia would necessarily be a big election issue when Italy headed to the polls, possibly as early as spring 2017. But he said it was important to note that Italians did not feel threatened by Russia or Putinism in the way westerners felt threatened by the Soviet Union. Italians were, however, asking themselves questions about the pro-US and EU stance that Italy has adopted for decades.
“The traditional western democratic values are in general under discussion, because they don’t seem to work for normal people, they aren’t delivering what people were expecting,” he said.
Foreign diplomats in Rome said it was easy to overestimate the M5S’s chances of winning the next Italian election and that expected changes to Italy’s electoral rules would make an M5S victory difficult. That calculation is based on the fact that the M5S has always opposed forging governing alliances with other parties, which has made it impossible so far for the party to achieve a majority coalition in parliament.
But a handful of diplomats have also suggested that the ruling Democratic party, which is still led by former prime minister Matteo Renzi, may not be fully alert to the potential threat of Russian interference in Italian elections, and is not as concerned about the issue as it should be.
Igor Pellicciari, a consultant to the Russian foreign ministry who spends most of his time in Moscow and works as a university professor in Italy and Russia, said it was clear to him that the M5S had changed its stance on Russia over the last two years.
“I followed them [in the beginning] and they were very anti-Russian. And then at a certain point they turned to be, basically, pro-Russian or neutral,” he said.
“But I don’t think Russia has ever done anything to reinforce the Five Star Movement or to establish a special relationship with them or support them instead of Renzi for instance, or even [Romano] Prodi or Silvio Berlusconi,” he added.
Instead, Pellicciari said that it was the M5S who had warmed to Russia, probably in part because of the economic impact EU-imposed Russian sanctions have had on parts of the Italian economy, particularly in northern Italy.
“The story of the Five Star and Moscow should be perceived from the Five Star rather than the Kremlin,” he said.
on: Jan 13, 2017, 06:55 AM
|Started by Rad - Last post by Rad|
The Canada experiment: is this the world's first 'postnational' country?
When Justin Trudeau said ‘there is no core identity, no mainstream in Canada’, he was articulating a uniquely Canadian philosophy that some find bewildering, even reckless – but could represent a radical new model of nationhood
Wednesday 4 January 2017 12.00 GMT
As 2017 begins, Canada may be the last immigrant nation left standing. Our government believes in the value of immigration, as does the majority of the population. We took in an estimated 300,000 newcomers in 2016, including 48,000 refugees, and we want them to become citizens; around 85% of permanent residents eventually do. Recently there have been concerns about bringing in single Arab men, but otherwise Canada welcomes people from all faiths and corners. The greater Toronto area is now the most diverse city on the planet, with half its residents born outside the country; Vancouver, Calgary, Ottawa and Montreal aren’t far behind. Annual immigration accounts for roughly 1% of the country’s current population of 36 million.
Canada has been over-praised lately for, in effect, going about our business as usual. In 2016 such luminaries as US President Barack Obama and Bono, no less, declared “the world needs more Canada”. In October, the Economist blared “Liberty Moves North: Canada’s Example to the World” on its cover, illustrated by the Statue of Liberty haloed in a maple leaf and wielding a hockey stick. Infamously, on the night of the US election Canada’s official immigration website crashed, apparently due to the volume of traffic.
Of course, 2016 was also the year – really the second running – when many western countries turned angrily against immigration, blaming it for a variety of ills in what journalist Doug Saunders calls the “global reflex appeal to fear”. Alongside the rise of nativism has emerged a new nationalism that can scarcely be bothered to deny its roots in racial identities and exclusionary narratives.
Compared to such hard stances, Canada’s almost cheerful commitment to inclusion might at first appear almost naive. It isn’t. There are practical reasons for keeping the doors open. Starting in the 1990s, low fertility and an aging population began slowing Canada’s natural growth rate. Ten years ago, two-thirds of population increase was courtesy of immigration. By 2030, it is projected to be 100%.
The economic benefits are also self-evident, especially if full citizenship is the agreed goal. All that “settlers” – ie, Canadians who are not indigenous to the land – need do is look in the mirror to recognize the generally happy ending of an immigrant saga. Our government repeats it, our statistics confirm it, our own eyes and ears register it: diversity fuels, not undermines, prosperity.
Telling an Italian or French citizen they lack a “core identity” may not be the best vote-winning strategy
But as well as practical considerations for remaining an immigrant country, Canadians, by and large, are also philosophically predisposed to an openness that others find bewildering, even reckless. The prime minister, Justin Trudeau, articulated this when he told the New York Times Magazine that Canada could be the “first postnational state”. He added: “There is no core identity, no mainstream in Canada.”
The remark, made in October 2015, failed to cause a ripple – but when I mentioned it to Michael Bach, Germany’s minister for European affairs, who was touring Canada to learn more about integration, he was astounded. No European politician could say such a thing, he said. The thought was too radical.
For a European, of course, the nation-state model remains sacrosanct, never mind how ill-suited it may be to an era of dissolving borders and widespread exodus. The modern state – loosely defined by a more or less coherent racial and religious group, ruled by internal laws and guarded by a national army – took shape in Europe. Telling an Italian or French citizen they lack a “core identity” may not be the best vote-winning strategy.
To Canadians, in contrast, the remark was unexceptional. After all, one of the country’s greatest authors, Mavis Gallant, once defined a Canadian as “someone with a logical reason to think he may be one” – not exactly a ringing assertion of a national character type. Trudeau could, in fact, have been voicing a chronic anxiety among Canadians: the absence of a shared identity.
But he wasn’t. He was outlining, however obliquely, a governing principle about Canada in the 21st century. We don’t talk about ourselves in this manner often, and don’t yet have the vocabulary to make our case well enough. Even so, the principle feels right. Odd as it may seem, Canada may finally be owning our postnationalism.
There’s more than one story in all this. First and foremost, postnationalism is a frame to understand our ongoing experiment in filling a vast yet unified geographic space with the diversity of the world. It is also a half-century old intellectual project, born of the country’s awakening from colonial slumber. But postnationalism has also been in intermittent practise for centuries, since long before the nation-state of Canada was formalised in 1867. In some sense, we have always been thinking differently about this continent-wide landmass, using ideas borrowed from Indigenous societies. From the moment Europeans began arriving in North America they were made welcome by the locals, taught how to survive and thrive amid multiple identities and allegiances.
That welcome was often betrayed, in particular during the late 19th and 20th centuries, when settler Canada did profound harm to Indigenous people. But, if the imbalance remains, so too does the influence: the model of another way of belonging.
Can any nation truly behave “postnationally” – ie without falling back on the established mechanisms of state governance and control? The simple answer is no.
Canada has borders, where guards check passports, and an army. It asserts the occasional modest territorial claim. Trudeau is more aware than most of these mechanisms: he oversees them.
It can also be argued that Canada enjoys the luxury of thinking outside the nation-state box courtesy of its behemoth neighbour to the south. The state needn’t defend its borders too forcefully or make that army too large, and Canada’s economic prosperity may be as straightforward as continuing to do 75% of its trade with the US. Being liberated, the thinking goes, from the economic and military stresses that most other countries face gives Canada the breathing room, and the confidence, to experiment with more radical approaches to society. Lucky us.
Nor is there uniform agreement within Canada about being post-anything. When the novelist Yann Martel casually described his homeland as “the greatest hotel on earth,” he meant it as a compliment – but some read it as an endorsement of newcomers deciding to view Canada as a convenient waystation: a security, business or real-estate opportunity, with no lasting responsibilities attached.
Likewise, plenty of Canadians believe we possess a set of normative values, and want newcomers to prove they abide by them. Kellie Leitch, who is running for the leadership of the Conservative party, suggested last autumn that we screen potential immigrants for “anti-Canadian values.” A minister in the previous Conservative government, Chris Alexander, pledged in 2015 to set up a tip-line for citizens to report “barbaric cultural practises”. And in the last election, the outgoing prime minister, Stephen Harper, tried in vain to hamstring Trudeau’s popularity by confecting a debate about the hijab.
To add to the mix, the French-speaking province of Quebec already constitutes one distinctive nation, as do the 50-plus First Nations spread across the country. All have their own perspectives and priorities, and may or may not be interested in a postnational frame. (That said, Trudeau is a bilingual Montrealer, and Quebec a vibrantly diverse society.)
Can any nation truly behave 'postnationally' – ie without state governance and control? The simple answer is no
In short, the nation-state of Canada, while wrapped in less bunting than other global versions, is still recognisable. But postnational thought is less about hand-holding in circles and shredding passports. It’s about the use of a different lens to examine the challenges and precepts of an entire politics, economy and society.
Though sovereign since 1867, Canada lingered in the shadow of the British empire for nearly a century. Not until the 1960s did we fly our own flag and sing our own anthem, and not until 1982 did Trudeau’s father, Pierre, patriate the constitution from the UK, adding a charter of rights. He also introduced multiculturalism as official national policy. The challenge, then, might have seemed to define a national identity to match.
This was never going to be easy, given our colonial hangover and American cultural influence. Marshall McLuhan, one of the last century’s most seismic thinkers, felt we shouldn’t bother. “Canada is the only country in the world that knows how to live without an identity,” he said in 1963.
According to poet and scholar BW Powe, McLuhan saw in Canada the raw materials for a dynamic new conception of nationhood, one unshackled from the state’s “demarcated borderlines and walls, its connection to blood and soul,” its obsession with “cohesion based on a melting pot, on nativist fervor, the idea of the promised land”. Instead, the weakness of the established Canadian identity encouraged a plurality of them – not to mention a healthy flexibility and receptivity to change. Once Canada moved away from privileging denizens of the former empire to practising multiculturalism, it could become a place where “many faiths and histories and visions” would co-exist.
That’s exactly what happened. If McLuhan didn’t see how Chinese, Japanese, Ukrainian and later Italian, Greek and Eastern European arrivals underpinned the growth of Canada in that sleepy first century, he surely registered before his death in 1980 the positive impact of successive waves of South Asians, Vietnamese and Caribbean immigrants. The last several decades have been marked by an increasingly deep diversity, particularly featuring mainland Chinese, Indians and Filipinos.
Others have expanded on McLuhan’s insight. The writer and essayist John Ralston Saul (co-founder of the charity for which I work) calls Canada a “revolutionary reversal of the standard nation-state myth”, and ascribes much of our radical capacity – not a term you often hear applied to Canadians – to our application of the Indigenous concept of welcome. “Space for multiple identities and multiple loyalties,” he says of these philosophies, the roots of which go deep in North American soil, “for an idea of belonging which is comfortable with contradictions.”
How unique is any of this? Ralston Saul argues that Canada’s experiment is “perpetually incomplete”. In other countries, a sovereignty movement like Quebec’s might have led to bloodshed. Instead, aside from a brief period of violent separatist agitation culminating in kidnappings and a murder in 1970, Canada and Quebec have been in constant compromise mode, arguing at the ballot box and finding ways to accommodate. Canada’s incomplete identity is, in this sense, a positive, a spur to move forward without spilling blood, to keep thinking and evolving – perhaps, in the end, simply to respond to newness without fear.
We’re still working on the language. The same Canadian who didn’t appreciate being told he has no identity might rankle at being called a citizen of an “incomplete” nation. The American and European citizen, too, may find all this chatter about inclusion and welcome ethereal, if not from another planet given the events of 2016, in which the US elected an authoritarian whose main policy plank was building a wall, Britain voted to leave the EU in large part to control immigration, and rightwing political parties gleefully hostile to diversity may soon form national governments, including in France.
None of this raw populism is going away in 2017, especially as it gets further irritated by the admittedly formidable global challenge of how to deal with unprecedented numbers of people crossing national borders, with or without visas. But denial, standing your nativist ground, doing little or nothing to evolve your society in response to both a crisis and, less obviously, an opportunity: these are reactions, not actions, and certain to make matters worse.
If the pundits are right that the world needs more Canada, it is only because Canada has had the history, philosophy and possibly the physical space to do some of that necessary thinking about how to build societies differently. Call it postnationalism, or just a new model of belonging: Canada may yet be of help in what is guaranteed to be the difficult year to come.
Charles Foran is a novelist and the CEO of the Institute for Canadian Citizenship