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Feb 23, 2018, 12:53 AM
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 on: Feb 19, 2018, 10:14 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Trump’s first year in office was so bad that scholars already rank him as the worst president ever

Brad Reed
Raw Story
19 Feb 2018 at 10:24 ET                   

President Donald Trump’s first year in office — which was marked by a nonstop stream of scandals, as well as record-low approval ratings — was so bad that a survey of scholars has already ranked Trump as the worst president ever.

Writing in the New York Times, political scientists Brandon Rottinghaus and Justin S. Vaughn reveal that their most recent survey of scholars shows that Trump’s first year was seen as a catastrophe by both Democrats and Republicans in the field of political science.

According to the survey, Democratic scholars rank Trump dead last among all presidents, while Republican scholars rank him ahead of only Andrew Johnson, Franklin Pierce, James Buchanan and William Henry Harrison — the president who infamously died after only one month on the job. Independent scholars, meanwhile, ranked Trump only ahead of Buchanan, whose presidency set the stage for the American Civil War.

The full survey also reveals that Trump is seen as the most polarizing president in American history, with a polarization score that ranked him significantly ahead of former President Andrew Jackson, who ranked second in terms of presidential polarization.

“In sum, Trump’s freshman year grades were not strong, even among those experts most likely to support him,” the study says. “He consistently did very poorly when it comes to Embodying Institutional Norms and performed best in Communicating with the Public, but never received higher than the equivalent of a C from any group along any dimension.”

 on: Feb 19, 2018, 09:07 AM 
Started by Deva - Last post by Deva
The next step is to add the sign to Pluto’s polarity point. Remember that the sign conditions the house. In our example chart, Pluto’s polarity point and the North Node are in Aries in the 12th house. How does the sign of Aries condition the expression of Pluto’s polarity point and the North Node in the 12th house? The need to align with natural, universal principles, embrace the whole rather than the part, and define meaning from within rather than externally is linked with self-discovery, development of the independent voice, and initiation of action. In essence, evolution from temporal values taught within the society of birth to natural, timeless values, and actualization of right work become vehicles through which self-discovery, and development of the independent voice takes place. Evolution occurs as the individual independently acts upon these principles, and creates solutions rather than recycling perpetual crisis. Imbalances, extremities, and co-dependencies within relationships are purged as the Soul acts upon natural, universal values (Pluto in Libra/6th house conjunct the South Node. Pluto’s polarity point in Aries/12th house).

The Mars/Aries/1st house symbolizes that a brand new evolutionary cycle has just begun. It correlates with the universal experience of a continuous state of becoming. As such, the Soul will need freedom and independence in order to discover what this new cycle is about. Pluto’s polarity point in Aries in the 12th house symbolizes that the new evolutionary cycle is relative to alignment with timeless, natural values, defining meaning from within rather than externally, and embracing the whole  rather than the part. In this way, healing from inner feelings of lack, guilt, and the compulsive need to create crisis can take place. The Soul will need freedom and independence in order to initiate the necessary experiences through which alignment with universal, timeless principles can occur. For example, the individual may decide to commit to a higher cause or purpose (Pluto’s polarity point in the 12th house). This becomes a means for development of the independent voice and self discovery to manifest. In other words, the sense of identity is linked with the evolution from temporal values to timeless, universal values, and the actualization of right work.

The North Node in Aries in the 12th house reflects that the evolving egocentric structure of the Soul, the ego that the Soul will construct in order to evolve itself, is founded upon the same archetypical dynamics described above. It re-emphasizes the evolutionary intentions symbolized by Pluto’s polarity point. The current evolutionary intentions will be consciously actualized through development of the independent voice, and self-discovery in the context of evolution from temporal to timeless, natural principles, defining meaning from within rather than externally, and commitment to a higher cause. Within this, the Soul must learn to discern whom to initiate a relationship with and whom not. The lesson is to initiate relationships that are based upon mutual independence, co-equality, and alignment with timeless, natural values (Pluto in Libra in the 6th house conjunct the South Node, Pluto’s polarity point and the North Node in Aries in the 12th house).In this way, a brand new evolutionary cycle is put into motion.

Consensus State: In the Consensus State this will manifest as development of the independent voice, self-discovery, and initiation of action through actualization of meaningful work within the mainstream society. Right work that reflects evolution from temporal values to universal, natural values becomes a means to develop the independent voice within the mainstream society (Pluto’s polarity point and the North Node in Aries in the 12th house). For example, commitment to a humanitarian or “global” cause may provide a platform for self-discovery and development of the independent voice to take place. This becomes a vehicle through which the Soul consciously actualizes the current life’s evolutionary intentions (Pluto’s polarity point and the North Node in Aries in the 12th house).

In this evolutionary state, the Soul will desire to advance within the social strata through initiation of meaningful work within the mainstream. In a positive expression, the Soul will develop an independent voice through its right work that advocates social equality, justice, and service to the underprivileged, to help others improve their overall life conditions (Pluto conjunct the South Node in Libra in the 6th house conjunct the South Node, Pluto’s polarity point and the North Node in Aries in the 12th house A new evolutionary cycle is put into motion ans the Soul aligns with timeless, natural values and commitments to higher cause within the mainstream.

Individuated State: In the Individuated State, this will manifest as development of the independent voice, self-discovery, and initiation of action via actualization of meaningful work within an alternative field. A new cycle of evolutionary becoming is linked with the evolution from temporal values taught within the mainstream society of birth to natural values, and liberation from external societal factors. In this way, meaning will progressively be defined from within the Soul itself.

In this evolutionary state, self -discovery will take place through initiation of actions that allow alignment with right work within an alternative field. Meaningful work that reflects universal, timeless principles within an alternative field will become a means to consciously actualize the current life’s evolutionary intentions (Pluto’s polarity point and the North Node in the 12th house). In so doing, the Soul will heal from past experiences of persecution and rejection from those in the mainstream, and evolve of of these conditions instead of re-creating these same dynamics (Pluto in Libra in the 6th house conjunct the South Node, Pluto’s polarity point and the North Node in the 12th house).

Spiritual State: In the spiritual state, this will manifest as development of the independent voice, self-discovery, and initiation of action via actualization of right work through union with the Source. A new evolutionary cycle of becoming is linked with independent spiritual development, to act upon the desire to merge with the Source in such a way that direct experience of universal, natural laws unfolds. For example, the Soul could actualize “right” work that reflects knowledge of natural, timeless principles. This then becomes a vehicle through which development of the independent voice and self-discovery takes place.

In this evolutionary state, the Soul will desire to serve others as a reflection of service to the Source. The actualization of right work that is based upon healing through alignment with natural forms of spiritualization, such as Kriya Yoga, meditation, and fusion with Nature and the natural laws therein, are possible expressions of service to the Source. In so doing, a brand new evolutionary cycle is put into motion. This becomes a vehicle through which the Soul consciously actualizes the current life’s evolutionary intentions (Pluto’s polarity point and the North Node in Aries in the 12th house). 

Please write out in your own words an analysis of Pluto's polarity point and the North Node in Aries in the 12th house.



 on: Feb 19, 2018, 07:08 AM 
Started by soleil - Last post by Rad
Hi Soleil,

For me it manifests as taking the long view: holding one's consciousness within it. This means what I mentioned in an earlier post with you about the natural sweep of time in the context of America: the demographic changes that will turn that country brown, and the progressive coalition between women, minorities, and the young people who will progressively vote out the evil stain manifesting now in the form of Trump, but more importantly the Republican party itself that is ALLOWING all this to occur. They are indeed the underbelly of the racist, white, nationalists that are doing all they can to sustain their power. So knowing that, in the long run, this stain will be removed.

At the same time joining forces with other humans who are of like mind who will facilitate these changes so they can happen as quickly as possible.

God Bless, Rad

 on: Feb 19, 2018, 06:57 AM 
Started by Stacie - Last post by Rad
Hi Stacie,

There has been over time different life forms that have impregnated small amounts of humans for purposes that we can not really know. One of those life forms appears to us as wasp like creatures. The individual that JWG encountered in Israel was one such life form in that that person was human yet has the impregnated Wasp genetics within it. In the last talk of his in Sedona many years ago he does speak to that experience he had while teaching in Israel.

God Bless, Rad

Here are the links to his last talk in Sedona:


And, now, for the second part of his last public talk please click on this link:


 on: Feb 19, 2018, 06:52 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Andromeda Galaxy's true size stuns scientists: What will happen when it collides with Milky Way? Video

Andromeda Galaxy, which was previously thought to be three times as massive as the Milky Way, will collide with the latter in 4 billion years.

February 15, 2018 17:00 IST

Astronomers believe the Andromeda and the Milky Way galaxies will collide in 4 billion years and become one forever. However, Andromeda will not be able to overpower our galaxy entirely as it is not as big as it was believed to be.

Yes, the Andromeda galaxy was thought to be three times as big as the Milky Way, but a recent study has shown that we overestimated our cosmic neighbor, which is located 2.5 million light years away from us.

Astronomers at the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR) in Australia have concluded that Andromeda is 800 billion times heavier than the Sun, which makes it similar to the Milky Way.

The team studied escape velocity to determine the size of the galaxy, which is named after the mythological Greek princess Andromeda. They calculated the speed that a quick-moving star would need to escape the gravitational pull of its host galaxy to speculate the size of the concerned galaxy.

Physics defines escape velocity as the minimum velocity required for an object to escape the gravitational influence of a massive body.

"When a rocket is launched into space, it is thrown out with a speed of 11 km/s to overcome the Earth's gravitational pull... Our home galaxy, the Milky Way, is over a trillion times heavier than our tiny planet Earth so to escape its gravitational pull we have to launch with a speed of 550 km/s. We used this technique to tie down the mass of Andromeda," said astrophysicist Dr Prajwal Kafle from the University of Western Australia branch of ICRAR, according to an official statement on the ICRAR website.

Kafle used the same technique to study the mass of the Milky Way in 2014. He concluded that our galaxy has lesser dark matter than previously thought. Dark matter is a hypothetical type of matter that has gravity but does not interact with light.

Similarly, the astrophysicist said, the amount of dark matter in the Andromeda is actually a third of what was previously believed.

Though scientists are unable to say exactly what will happen when these two galaxies collide, one thing is sure that these new findings have completely altered their understanding of the cosmic bodies.

"It's really exciting that we've been able to come up with a new method and suddenly 50 years of collective understanding of the Local Group has been turned on its head," said Kafle.

Local Group is the name of a galaxy cluster and Andromeda is the largest galaxy in it. Milky Way and Triangulum are two more galaxies in the cluster.

Andromeda galaxy, which is a spiral galaxy, is so huge that its diameter is estimated to be 260,000 light years.

Not only this, Andromeda has a very special characteristic. It has a double nucleus. This means at the center there is a massive cluster of stars, while at the core, there is at least one super-massive black hole.

Meanwhile, watch the simulation of what may happen when Andomeda and the Milky Way collide:


 on: Feb 19, 2018, 06:29 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja
continued ...

Yet interestingly, CIA Director Mike Pompeo – a Trump loyalist who has been criticized for transparently currying favor with Trump in hopes of being named secretary of state – still stands by the January intelligence assessment. In November, after Trump once again publicly trashed the intelligence community’s conclusions, the CIA issued a statement that “the Director stands by and has always stood by the January 2017 Intelligence Community Assessment.” According to the CIA, “the intelligence assessment with regard to Russian election meddling has not changed.” Pompeo’s willingness to stand by the assessment is clearly not in his own political interest and thus, lends credibility to the assessment.

Earlier this week, meanwhile, top intelligence officials, including Pompeo and Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, underlined their ongoing concerns about Russian election meddling, warning that Moscow once again seems to be seeking to intervene, this time in the 2018 midterm elections. In a congressional hearing, Coats suggested that the Russians believe they were successful in 2016 and want to build on their success in 2018. Coats said that “the 2018 midterm elections are a potential target for Russian influence operations,” and that “at a minimum, we expect Russia to continue using propaganda, social media, false flag personas, sympathetic spokespeople, and other means of influence to try to exacerbate social and political fissures in the United States.”

Further documentary evidence of Russian intervention in the 2016 election came from an important story published by The Intercept last June.

The story was notable because it was based on a classified U.S. intelligence document about Russian election hacking obtained through an unauthorized leak. All the other U.S. intelligence assessments and reports that have so far been made public about the issue have come through officially authorized channels. Thus, the NSA report leaked to The Intercept has the enhanced credibility that comes from being disclosed against the will of the U.S. intelligence community.

The classified report is significant because it reveals that Russian interference in the election extended beyond the direct attack on the Democratic Party and included attempts to gain access to the basic infrastructure involved in actually counting American votes. It details how the GRU conducted a cyberattack on a U.S. voting software supplier and engaged in spear-phishing to try to hack local election officials before the 2016 vote

    Pompeo’s willingness to stand by the assessment is clearly not in his own political interest and thus, lends credibility to the assessment.

The classified May 2017 NSA report, provided anonymously to The Intercept, shows that Russian hackers sought to pose as an e-voting vendor and trick local government officials into opening Microsoft Word documents loaded with malware that would let the hackers remotely control the government computers. To fool the local officials, the Russians first sought to gain access to the vendor’s internal systems, which they hoped would provide a convincing disguise.

“Russian General Staff Main Intelligence Directorate actors [redacted] executed cyber espionage operations against a named U.S. company in August, 2016, evidently to obtain information on elections-related software and hardware solutions, according to information that became available in April, 2017,” the report states. “The actors likely used data obtained from that operation to create a new email account and launch a voter registration-themed spear-phishing campaign targeting U.S. local government organizations.”

The compromise of the vendor would provide cover for the direct attack on the local officials. “It was likely that the threat actor was targeting officials involved in the management of voter registration systems,” the report adds. “It is unknown whether the aforementioned spear-phishing deployment successfully compromised the intended victims, and what potential data could have been accesses by the cyber actor.”

The growing evidence that Russia was behind the attack on the Democratic Party now includes the confession of a Russian hacker in a Moscow court. The story of Konstantin Kozlovsky appears to be one of the most significant of the entire Trump-Russia saga. It is one of several intriguing tales now emerging that suggests that the secrecy surrounding the Russian hacking is beginning to unravel.

In December 2017, The Bell, an independent Russian news site, reported on Kozlovsky’s stunning testimony in Moscow City Court. Kozlovsky — a young Russian hacker who had been arrested, along with other members of the Lurk hacking group, in connection with the cybertheft of more than $50 million from Russian bank accounts — testified that he had conducted the Democratic Party hack on behalf of Russian intelligence. In an August 15 court hearing in Moscow, Kozlovsky said he “performed various tasks under the supervision of FSB officers,” including hacking “of the National Committee of the Democratic Party of the USA and electronic correspondence of Hillary Clinton,” and hacking “very serious military enterprises of the United States and other organizations,” according to the Bell.

The news site reported that Kozlovsky said he had conducted the hack at the direction of Dmitry Dokuchaev, a major in the FSB’s Information Security Center, the intelligence agency’s cyber arm.

When Kozlovsky made this statement in court, he was already facing serious criminal charges for hacking. He may have thought that claiming involvement in the DNC hack would help him with his ongoing criminal case, or he may have thought that he had nothing left to lose and so should tell all. He remains in pretrial detention in Moscow.

Dokuchaev, meanwhile, is a fascinating character, and his involvement in Kozlovsky’s story plunges it into the wilderness of mirrors of present-day espionage battles between the U.S. and Russia.

In December 2016, Dokuchaev was arrested in Moscow and charged with spying for the United States. He and three others have reportedly been accused of providing information to U.S. intelligence on the Russian hack of the Democratic Party. Along with Dokuchaev, FSB Col. Sergey Mikhailov, Ruslan Stoyanov of Kaspersky Labs, and Georgy Fomchenkov, a Russian businessman, have been charged with treason in the case.

Dokuchaev is now being detained in Russia, but since Kozlovsky’s confession was made public, Dokuchaev, through his lawyer, has told the Russian press that he doesn’t know the hacker and was not involved with the theft of documents from the Democratic Party.

In March 2017, just months after Dokuchaev was arrested in Moscow for spying for the United States, the U.S. Justice Department announced that he had been indicted by a federal grand jury on charges of hacking Yahoo’s network and webmail accounts. Dokuchaev, identified by the Justice Department as a 33-year-old FSB officer, was one of four men indicted in the case. “The defendants used unauthorized access to Yahoo’s systems to steal information from about at least 500 million Yahoo accounts and then used some of that stolen information to obtain unauthorized access to the contents of accounts at Yahoo, Google and other webmail providers, including accounts of Russian journalists, U.S. and Russian government officials, and private-sector employees of financial, transportation and other companies,” according to the Justice Department.

At the press conference announcing the indictments, officials displayed a large FBI wanted poster for Dokuchaev.

This chain of events leaves plenty of questions unanswered, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Dokuchaev’s December 2016 arrest for treason in Moscow and his March 2017 indictment in the United States were somehow related.

While the Washington press corps has been obsessing over Donald Trump’s tweets and a ginned-up memo from House Republicans seeking to discredit the Trump-Russia investigation, another major break in the story has just begun to unfold in the Netherlands. In late January, a Dutch newspaper, de Volkskrant, along with Nieuwsuur, a Dutch current affairs television program, reported that Dutch intelligence service AIVD has turned over to the FBI conclusive inside information about the Russian hack of the Democratic Party.

The two news organizations reported that in 2014, Dutch hackers working for the AIVD gained secret access to the Russian hacker group known as Cozy Bear – also known as Advanced Persistent Threat 29 – a Russian intelligence unit behind the hack of the DNC.

Dutch intelligence first told their American counterparts about their successful penetration of Cozy Bear in 2014, tipping off Washington that the Russian hackers were trying to break into the State Department’s computer system. That warning led the NSA to scramble to counter the Russian threat.

In 2015, the Dutch were also able to watch, undetected by the Russians, as the Cozy Bear hackers launched their first attack on the Democratic Party, according to the two news organizations. In addition to gaining access to the Cozy Bear computers, the Dutch were able to hack into a security camera that recorded who was working in Cozy Bear’s office in a university building in Moscow near Red Square. The Dutch discovered that there were about 10 people working there, and they were eventually able to match the faces to those of Russian intelligence officers who work for the SVR.

The information flowing from the Dutch was considered so vital by the Americans that the NSA opened a direct line with Dutch intelligence to get the data as fast as possible, according to the Dutch news organizations. To show their appreciation, the Americans sent cake and flowers to AIVD headquarters in the Dutch city of Zoetermeer.

If the Dutch story is accurate, it would help explain why the U.S. intelligence community is so confident in its assessment that Russian intelligence was behind the attack on the Democratic Party.

The Dutch news organizations say that the AIVD is no longer inside the Cozy Bear network, and that Dutch intelligence has become increasingly suspicious of working with the Americans.

Since Trump’s election, who can blame them?

‘He’s scared out of his mind’: Ex-official nails Trump over blaming FBI for shooting to deflect from Russia probe

Tom Boggioni
Raw Story
18 Feb 2018 at 11:19 ET        

Appearing on AM Joy, former FBI Assistant Director for Counterintelligence Frank Figliuzzi harshly criticized Donald Trump for attacking the FBI over the tragedy in Parkland, Florida, in an attempt to deflect attention away from Friday’s bombshell indictments of 13 Russians accused of meddling in the election that put Trump in the White House.

During a panel discussion, Figliuzzi was asked about a Sunday morning tweet from the president which implied that the FBI “missed all of the many signals sent out by the Florida school shooter” because “they are spending too much time trying to prove Russian collusion with the Trump campaign.”

“Frank, I’ll go to your reaction to the President of the United States blaming the FBI, in essence, for the massacre at Parkland,” host Joy Reid prompted.

The former FBI official appeared furious at the suggestion.

“Joy, let’s distill down what that late night tweet really says after some cheeseburger induced coma after 11:00PM last night,” Figliuzzi explained. “The president puts this squarely on FBI. Here’s what he’s telling parents of America, ‘hey, our gun violence problem would go away if the FBI would just leave me alone.’ That is what he’s saying.”

“He’s saying the FBI is spending too much time on the Russian threat while he is spending zero time addressing the gun violence threat,” he continued. “He’s choosing to ignore what the FBI actually does for a living. He’s choosing to ignore the fact that the local police visited this guy 39 times in response to 911 calls. Social services for the county had to do an assessment of this. Everyone in the school saw the warning signs and indicators, yet he decides not to address the mental health issues, not to propose solutions on making it easier to deny an assault weapon purchase because you have mental health issues.”

“Instead he ‘s defending himself from the FBI,” the disgusted FBI man stated. “Why? He’s read the 32-page indictment Mueller issued on Friday and he knows there’s electronic intercepts of Russian officials. He’s scared out of his mind and playing with the parents of America this morning.”


Howard Dean: Devin Nunes and people like him ‘belong in jail’

David Edwards
Raw Story
18 Feb 2018 at 14:23 ET                  

Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean (D) on Sunday asserted that Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) “belongs in jail” for using his power as chairman of the House Intelligence Committee to obstruct the investigation into Russia’s interference in the U.S. election.

In an interview on MSNBC, host Alex Witt asked Dean if President Barack Obama “should have done more” to prevent Russia from meddling in the election.

Dean agreed that “in retrospect” Obama could have done more.

“I told him a long time ago before he started his term that he was wasting bipartisanship on the Republicans,” Dean said. “They don’t give a damn about the country. They only care about their own power.”

“I have plenty of disagreements with Obama but Obama always put the country first,” he continued. “That is something that [Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell] does not do and certainly people like Devin Nunes, who I suspect belong in jail, has not done.”

Nunes has been accused of repeatedly colluding with the Trump White House to cast doubt on investigations into Russia’s election interference.


Top U.S. officials tell the world to ignore Trump’s tweets

By Michael Birnbaum and Griff Witte
February 19 2018
WA Post

MUNICH — Amid global anxiety about President Trump’s approach to world affairs, U.S. officials had a message for a gathering of Europe’s foreign policy elite this weekend: Pay no attention to the man tweeting behind the curtain.

U.S. lawmakers — both Democrats and Republicans — and top national security officials in the Trump administration offered the same advice publicly and privately, often clashing with Trump’s Twitter stream: The United States remains staunchly committed to its European allies, is furious with the Kremlin about election interference and isn’t contemplating a preemptive strike on North Korea to halt its nuclear program.

But Trump himself engaged in a running counterpoint to the message, taking aim on social media at his own national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, because he “forgot” on Saturday to tell the Munich Security Conference that the results of the 2016 election weren’t affected by Russian interference, a conclusion that is not supported by U.S. intelligence agencies. They say they will probably never be able to determine whether the Russian involvement swung the election toward Trump.

The determination to ignore Trump’s foreign policy tweets has been bipartisan.

“There is a lot more support for continuing our past policies than it might appear from some of the statements,” Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) told an audience on Sunday that was made up mostly of Europe’s foreign policy elite. “The unanimity comes from those folks who are actually operationalizing policy.”

“The values are the same, the relationships are the same,” said Rep. Michael R. Turner (R-Ohio). “What you do see is this administration willing to put pressure upon the systems.”

The question of whom they should believe — the president or his advisers — has befuddled European officials. German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel confessed Saturday that he didn’t know where to look to understand America.

“Is it deeds? Is it words? Is it tweets?” he asked.

He said he was not sure whether he could recognize the United States.

Away from the glare of television cameras, many European diplomats and policymakers echoed the same concerns. One diplomat, speaking on the condition of anonymity to avoid provoking Trump, asked whether policymakers like McMaster who adhere largely to traditional U.S. foreign policy positions were falling into the same trap as Germany’s elite during Hitler’s rise, when they continued to serve in government in the name of protecting their nation.

The answer, the diplomat said, might be found after a “nuclear war,” which he feared could be provoked by the Trump administration’s hawkish approach to North Korea.

Testing those lines, McMaster offered a starkly different view of the world from that of his boss, saying that the “evidence is now incontrovertible” that Russia intervened in the U.S. political system. Trump has played down Russian involvement, saying that he believes the reassurances of Russian President Vladimir Putin that the Kremlin was not involved in the election.

McMaster even walked back some of his own previous tough language. Asked about a Wall Street Journal op-ed he co-
authored with White House economic adviser Gary Cohn last year that said they embraced a world that was “an arena where nations, nongovernmental actors and businesses engage and compete for advantage,” McMaster said it was actually a call for greater cooperation among Western powers.

U.S. Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats took a similarly reassuring stance hours later.

The assertions that nothing fundamental has changed about Washington’s commitments to the world do seem to have eased some concerns among some allies, particularly regarding the U.S. commitment to defend NATO allies against the threat of Russian aggression.

In the Baltic nations, which border Russia, Trump’s election had raised concerns about U.S. commitments to NATO. But that doubt is now “gone,” Estonian President Kersti Kaljulaid said in an interview, embracing the Pentagon’s stepped-up military commitments to Eastern Europe.

Even hawkish Republicans shrugged on the matter of Trump’s top priorities. While speaking on a panel Friday, Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) was cued up by a questioner to attack the “failure” of Europe to spend 2 percent of its economic output on defense — a frequent Trump talking point. Graham demurred.

“I want you to get to 2 percent so Trump will be quiet,” he said before swiftly moving on.


‘Stormy Daniels is not the only one’: Ex-adult star hints more performers may be coming forward to expose Trump

Tom Boggioni
Raw Story
18 Feb 2018 at 15:29 ET                  

Speaking with MSNBC host Alex Witt, a former adult film star who still has connections in the industry claimed more actresses may come forward with tales of dalliances with President Donald Trump,

According to RebeccaKensington, who writes for the Daily Beast while still using her acting name, others may follow in the footsteps of porn actress Stormy Daniels and discuss their interactions with the president before he was elected.

Discussing the latest revelation that a former Playboy playmate admitted she had an affair with Trump, Snow stated she it was to be expected.

‘I don’t think it’s a surprise,” she told the MSNBC host. “This isn’t something we expect from a presidential candidate, much less our president, because usually signs of affairs are, you know, a mark of bad character. But I think there’s a lot of other evidence of that out there.”

“What about Stormy Daniels?” Witt pressed. “I know you’ve written about it. Do you see similarities between her story and that of the most recent one which came out this week?”

“There are quite a bit of similarities down to the place that they were, down to the money that was offered. They have very similar descriptions,” Snow agreed while admitting, “I mean, obviously I wasn’t there, but where there’s smoke, there’s fire. I would not be surprised if there are more stories like this out there.”

“Did Donald Trump have a reputation?” Witt asked. “Had you heard about him and the exploits that he would brag about or that he was involved with people or anything in your world, the world you inhabited, in the adult film world, before you started writing?”

“There are certainly a few other people in the adult film world that have had some experiences, but those aren’t my stories to share,” Snow teased before coyly pausing and claiming, “Stormy Daniels is not the only one.”

 on: Feb 19, 2018, 06:26 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja
Trump faces calls to act against Russia after Mueller's indictments

Democrats and former intelligence officials argue Trump had done nothing to protect future elections from Russian interference

Oliver Laughland in New York
19 Feb 2018 17.38 GMT

Donald Trump faced mounting calls on Sunday to act against Russia after special counsel Robert Mueller unveiled indictments on Friday accusing 13 Russians and three companies of interfering in the 2016 presidential election to help Republicans.

Trump has attempted to spin the indictments as a personal victory, falsely claiming that they prove his campaign did not collude with the foreign power during the election and that Russian meddling had no effect on the outcome. But the president has voiced no interest in the detailed evidence contained in the indictments suggesting that those charged had targeted US democracy via online interference from as far back as 2014.

Trump took to Twitter on Sunday morning to again criticize the ongoing investigations into Russian interference. “They are laughing their asses off in Moscow,” he wrote. “Get smart America!”.

But the president faced a growing chorus of alarm from Democrats and former intelligence officials who argued Trump had done nothing to protect future elections from Russian interference and sought to draw his own political capital from the special counsel’s indictments.

James Clapper, the former director of national intelligence under the Obama administration, told CNN: “Above all this rhetoric here, again we’re losing sight of what is it we’re going to do about the threat posed by the Russians. He [Trump] never talks about that. It’s all about himself.”

Democratic senator Chris Coons of Delaware urged the president to impose further sanctions on Russia after Friday’s indictments, using the power given to him via a bipartisan vote in the senate last year. Coons also called for better engagement with allies in Europe to combat the threat posed by Vladimir Putin.

“To me the most maddening question is why is President Trump failing to act to protect our democracy when there is indisputable proof now that Russia interfered in our 2016 elections,” Coons told CBS news on Sunday.

Trump’s failure to grapple with Russia’s successful meddling in the election and inability to articulate a strategy to prevent it occurring again, has placed him at odds with the consensus among his administration’s security officials.

On Tuesday, Daniel Coates, Trump’s director of national intelligence, warned that Russia viewed the upcoming 2018 midterm elections as a “potential target”, adding there should be “no doubt” they viewed meddling in 2016 as a success.

On Saturday the president’s national security adviser HR McMaster told a conference in Germany that Mueller’s indictments highlighted that the evidence was “now really incontrovertible and available in the public domain”.

Following McMaster’s remarks Trump once again took to Twitter late on Saturday in an attempt to correct his own official by falsely claiming again that McMaster had “forgot to say that the results of the 2016 election were not impacted or changed by the Russians”. Trump also alleged, without evidence that the Democrats had colluded with Russia during the election.

John Podesta, Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign manager who had his emails hacked in a cyber attack attributed to a Russian backed group, also called on Trump to impose tougher sanctions on the Putin government.

“If this is information warfare, then I think he’s [Trump] the first draft-dodger in the war. I mean, he has done nothing but tried to undermine the Mueller investigation,” Podesta told CBS News.


Is Donald Trump a Traitor?

James Risen
February 16 2018, 1:00 p.m.
The Intercept

Trump and Russia Part 1

Americans must live with the uncertainty of not knowing whether Trump has the best interests of the United States or those of Russia at heart.

Part 2 is coming soon

I find it hard to write about Donald Trump.

It is not that he is a complicated subject. Quite the opposite. It is that everything about him is so painfully obvious. He is a low-rent racist, a shameless misogynist, and an unbalanced narcissist. He is an unrelenting liar and a two-bit white identity demagogue. Lest anyone forget these things, he goes out of his way each day to remind us of them.

At the end of the day, he is certain to be left in the dustbin of history, alongside Father Coughlin and Gen. Edwin Walker. (Exactly – you don’t remember them, either.)

What more can I add?

Unfortunately, another word also describes him: president. The fact that such an unstable egomaniac occupies the White House is the greatest threat to the national security of the United States in modern history.

Which brings me to the only question about Donald Trump that I find really interesting: Is he a traitor?

Did he gain the presidency through collusion with Russian President Vladimir Putin?

One year after Trump took office, it is still unclear whether the president of the United States is an agent of a foreign power. Just step back and think about that for a moment.

    The fact that such an unstable egomaniac occupies the White House is the greatest threat to U.S. national security in modern history.

His 2016 campaign is the subject of an ongoing federal inquiry that could determine whether Trump or people around him worked with Moscow to take control of the U.S. government. Americans must now live with the uncertainty of not knowing whether the president has the best interests of the United States or those of the Russian Federation at heart.

Most pundits in Washington now recoil at any suggestion that the Trump-Russia story is really about treason. They all want to say it’s about something else – what, they aren’t quite sure. They are afraid to use serious words. They are in the business of breaking down the Trump-Russia narrative into a long series of bite-sized, incremental stories in which the gravity of the overall case often gets lost. They seem to think that treason is too much of a conversation-stopper, that it interrupts the flow of cable television and Twitter. God forbid you might upset the right wing! (And the left wing, for that matter.)

But if a presidential candidate or his lieutenants secretly work with a foreign government that is a longtime adversary of the United States to manipulate and then win a presidential election, that is almost a textbook definition of treason.

In Article 3, Section 3, the U.S. Constitution states that “treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort.”

Based on that provision in the Constitution, U.S. law – 18 U.S. Code § 2381 – states that “whoever, owing allegiance to the United States, levies war against them or adheres to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort within the United States or elsewhere” is guilty of treason.  Those found guilty of this high crime “shall suffer death, or shall be imprisoned not less than five years and fined under this title but not less than $10,000; and shall be incapable of holding any office under the United States.”

Now look at the mandate given to former FBI Director Robert Mueller when he was appointed special counsel by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who was acting in place of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who had recused himself because of his role in the Trump campaign and the controversy surrounding his own meetings with the Russian ambassador to the United States.

On May 17, 2017, Rosenstein issued a letter stating that he was appointing a special counsel to “ensure a full and thorough investigation of the Russian government’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election.” He added that Mueller’s mandate was to investigate “any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump; and any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation.” Rosenstein noted that “f the Special Counsel believes it is necessary and appropriate, the Special Counsel is authorized to prosecute federal crimes arising from the investigation of these matters.”

How closely aligned is Mueller’s mandate with the legal definition of treason? That boils down to the rhetorical differences between giving “aid and comfort, in the United States or elsewhere” to “enemies” of the United States and “any links and/or coordination” between the Russian government and Trump campaign aides related to “the Russian government’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election.”

Sounds similar to me.

As a practical matter, the special counsel is highly unlikely to pursue treason charges against Trump or his associates. Treason is vaguely defined in the law and very difficult to prove. To the extent that it is defined – as providing aid and comfort to an “enemy” of the United States – the question might come down to whether Russia is legally considered America’s “enemy.”

Russia may not meet the legal definition of an “enemy,” but it is certainly an adversary of the United States. It would make perfect sense for Russian President and de facto dictator Vladimir Putin to use his security services to conduct a covert operation to influence American politics to Moscow’s advantage. Such a program would fall well within the acceptable norms of great power behavior. After all, it is the kind of covert intelligence program the United States has conducted regularly against other nations – including Russia.

Throughout the Cold War, the CIA and the KGB were constantly engaged in such secret intelligence battles. The KGB had a nickname for the CIA: glavnyy vrag or “the main enemy.” In 2003, I co-authored a book called “The Main Enemy” with Milt Bearden, a retired CIA officer who had been chief of the CIA’s Soviet/Eastern European division when the Berlin Wall fell and the Soviet Union collapsed. The book was about the intelligence wars between the CIA and the KGB.

Today’s cyber-spy wars are just the latest version of “The Great Game,” the wonderfully romantic name for the secret intelligence battles between the Russian and British empires for control of Central Asia in the 19th century. Russia, the United States, and other nations engage in such covert intelligence games all the time – whether they are “enemies” or simply rivals.

In fact, evidence of the connections between Trump’s bid for the White House and Russian ambitions to manipulate the 2016 U.S. election keeps piling up. Throughout late 2016 and early 2017, a series of reports from the U.S. intelligence community and other government agencies underlined and reinforced nearly every element of the Russian hacking narrative, including the Russian preference for Trump. The reports were notable in part because their findings exposed the agencies to criticism from Trump and his supporters and put them at odds with Trump’s public dismissals of reported Russian attempts to help him get elected, which he has called “fake news.”

In addition, a series of details has emerged through unofficial channels that seems to corroborate these authorized assessments. A classified NSA document obtained by The Intercept last year states that Russia’s military intelligence agency, the GRU, played a role in the Russian hack of the 2016 American election. In August, a Russian hacker confessed to hacking the Democratic National Committee under the supervision of an officer in Russia’s Federal Security Service, or FSB, who has separately been accused of spying for the U.S. And Dutch intelligence service AIVD has reportedly given the FBI significant inside information about the Russian hack of the Democratic Party.

On February 16, just hours after this column was published, the special counsel announced indictments of 13 Russians and three Russian entities for meddling in the U.S. election. The special counsel accused them of intervening to help Trump and damage the campaign of Hillary Clinton. The indictments mark the first time Mueller has brought charges against any Russians in his ongoing probe.

Given all this, it seems increasingly likely that the Russians have pulled off the most consequential covert action operation since Germany put Lenin on a train back to Petrograd in 1917.

There are four important tracks to follow in the Trump-Russia story. First, we must determine whether there is credible evidence for the underlying premise that Russia intervened in the 2016 election to help Trump win. Second, we must figure out whether Trump or people around him worked with the Russians to try to win the election. Next, we must scrutinize the evidence to understand whether Trump and his associates have sought to obstruct justice by impeding a federal investigation into whether Trump and Russia colluded. A fourth track concerns whether Republican leaders are now engaged in a criminal conspiracy to obstruct justice through their intense and ongoing efforts to discredit Mueller’s probe.

This, my first column for The Intercept, will focus on the first track of the Trump-Russia narrative. I will devote separate columns to each of the other tracks in turn.

The evidence that Russia intervened in the election to help Trump win is already compelling, and it grows stronger by the day.

There can be little doubt now that Russian intelligence officials were behind an effort to hack the DNC’s computers and steal emails and other information from aides to Hillary Clinton as a means of damaging her presidential campaign. Once they stole the correspondence, Russian intelligence officials used cutouts and fronts to launder the emails and get them into the bloodstream of the U.S. press. Russian intelligence also used fake social media accounts and other tools to create a global echo chamber both for stories about the emails and for anti-Clinton lies dressed up to look like news.

To their disgrace, editors and reporters at American news organizations greatly enhanced the Russian echo chamber, eagerly writing stories about Clinton and the Democratic Party based on the emails, while showing almost no interest during the presidential campaign in exactly how those emails came to be disclosed and distributed. The Intercept itself has faced such accusations. The hack was a much more important story than the content of the emails themselves, but that story was largely ignored because it was so easy for journalists to write about Clinton campaign chair John Podesta.

    The attack on the Clinton campaign and the Democratic Party looks like the contemporary cyber-descendant of countless analog KGB propaganda efforts.

To anyone who has studied the history of the KGB, particularly during the Cold War, the attack on the Clinton campaign and the Democratic Party during the 2016 U.S. election looks like the contemporary cyber-descendant of countless analog KGB propaganda efforts. Back in the 1970s and 1980s, the KGB frequently engaged in ambitious disinformation campaigns that were designed to sow suspicion of the United States in the developing world. The KGB’s so-called “active measures” programs would use international front organizations, cutouts, and sometimes unwitting enablers in the press to disseminate their anti-American propaganda.

The most infamous and dangerously effective KGB disinformation campaign of the Cold War was known as Operation Infektion. It was a secret effort to convince people in developing countries that the United States had created the HIV/AIDS virus.

In 1983, a newspaper in India printed what purported to be a letter from an American scientist saying the virus had been developed by the Pentagon. The letter went on to suggest that the U.S. was moving its experiments to Pakistan, India’s archenemy. Meanwhile, the KGB got an East German scientist to spread misinformation supporting the Moscow-backed conspiracy theory that the U.S. was behind the virus.

While these lies never penetrated the U.S. mainstream, they nonetheless spread insidiously through much of the world.

Vladimir Putin was a KGB officer during the 1980s when the KGB was conducting this disinformation campaign. He was stationed in East Germany in the late 1980s, and there is a good chance he knew about the East German component of Operation Infektion.

After the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, the KGB was broken up and its successor agencies renamed. But the KGB never really went away. Instead, it underwent an extensive rebranding that did little to change its culture and traditions.

The KGB’s First Chief Directorate, its foreign intelligence service, was renamed the SVR. Like its predecessor agency, it was still housed in the First Chief Directorate’s headquarters in the Yasenevo District of Moscow, which was known as the “Russian Langley” for its similarities to CIA headquarters. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, I met many former KGB officials in Moscow, including Leonid Shebarshin, the last leader of the First Chief Directorate, who was running the agency in 1991 when communist hardliners launched a coup against Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev. By the time I met Shebarshin, he was retired and running an “economic intelligence” firm out of an office in Moscow’s old Dynamo Stadium, the home of the KGB’s soccer team. A mural on his office wall depicted scenes from the Battle of Stalingrad and the Bolshevik Revolution, signaling his immersion in the Soviet era.

After the Soviet collapse, the KGB’s Second Chief Directorate, which handled spy-hunting and counterintelligence, along with other directorates that handled the KGB’s internal police state functions, were bundled into a new organization known as the FSB, the Federal Security Service. I conducted extensive interviews with one of the most legendary spy-hunters of the Second Chief Directorate, Rem Krassilnikov, a man whose personal history showed how entwined Russian intelligence still was with its Soviet past. His first name, Rem, was an acronym for Revolutsky Mir – the “World Revolution” Soviet leaders had longed to bring about. His father had been a general in the NKVD, the Stalinist predecessor to the KGB, and whenever I talked to him, Krassilnikov made it clear that he still considered the United States his adversary. He proudly took me on a tour of sites around Moscow where he had arrested American spies.

No one even bothered to rename the GRU, Russia’s military intelligence agency. During the Cold War, the KGB considered the GRU a lower-class cousin, much as the CIA has always looked down upon the Pentagon’s Defense Intelligence Agency. Today, the GRU has added cyber and hacking capabilities like those of the National Security Agency. The GRU was involved in the Russian hack of the 2016 American election, according to a classified NSA document obtained by The Intercept, yet it still operates in the shadows of the more influential FSB and SVR.

Russian intelligence was briefly weakened following the collapse of the Soviet Union, but under Putin – the first KGB man to run the country since Yuri Andropov died in 1984 – it has come roaring back. During his KGB career, Putin served in both the First and Second Chief Directorates. One of his key formative experiences occurred in 1989, when the Berlin Wall fell. Putin was stationed in East Germany at the time, and his biographers have written that the personal humiliation he felt watching the Soviet empire collapse helps explain his drive to return Russia to great power status.

In 1998, Russian President Boris Yeltsin named Putin director of the FSB. Since coming to power himself, Putin has deployed his country’s spies in Chechnya, Georgia, the Crimea, eastern Ukraine, and Syria in a bid to reassert Moscow’s global influence.

The chronology of the attack on the Democratic Party is a sad testament to the overconfidence of the Clinton campaign. It also highlights the inattention of American intelligence and law enforcement and their failure to adequately warn the major political parties of looming cyberthreats to the U.S. electoral system.

In September 2015, the FBI made a halfhearted effort to tell the DNC that its computer system had been invaded. In November 2015, the FBI told the DNC that its computers were sending data to Russia, but even that didn’t seem to prompt much concern on the Democrats’ part. In March 2016, Podesta’s email account was hacked in a phishing attack, giving thieves access to thousands of his emails.

In May 2016, CrowdStrike, a cybercompany hired by the DNC after the party finally recognized it had a problem, told DNC officials that its computers had been compromised in two separate attacks with two sets of malware associated with Russian intelligence.

While the DNC used CrowdStrike, a private contractor, to conduct an investigation, it did not give the FBI access to its computer systems. That fact has since been seized upon by skeptics who say that CrowdStrike’s analysis can’t be considered credible. But according to a November BuzzFeed story, CrowdStrike’s lead investigator, Robert Johnston, was a former Marine captain who had previously worked at the U.S. Cyber Command, where he had investigated an attempted hack of the Joint Chiefs of Staff that he identified as likely associated with the FSB. He had recent experience in identifying the signatures of hacking linked to Russian intelligence.

In June 2016, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said WikiLeaks had obtained emails associated with Clinton. Just days later, the Washington Post reported that Russian intelligence had hacked the DNC’s computers.

In July 2016, just before the Democratic National Convention, Wikileaks released thousands of DNC emails, and the party’s chairwoman, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, was forced to resign.

In September 2016, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, and Rep. Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence panel, issued a statement that they had received classified briefings that made it clear that Russian intelligence was trying to intervene in the election.

    The pattern and timing of the disclosures strongly suggests that the objective was to damage Clinton’s campaign and help Trump.

“We believe that orders for the Russian intelligence agencies to conduct such actions could come only from very senior levels of the Russian government,” their statement noted.

The key moment in the 2016 campaign came on October 7, when three events unfolded one after another. That afternoon, the Department of Homeland Security and the Director of the Office of National Intelligence issued a statement that U.S. intelligence believed Russia was behind the Democratic Party hacks and email releases.

“The U.S. Intelligence Community (USIC) is confident that the Russian Government directed the recent compromises of emails from US persons and institutions, including from US political organizations,” the statement read. “The recent disclosures of alleged hacked e-mails on sites like DCLeaks.com and WikiLeaks and by the Guccifer 2.0 online persona are consistent with the methods and motivations of Russian-directed efforts. These thefts and disclosures are intended to interfere with the U.S. election process.”

That statement was immediately overshadowed later that afternoon when the Washington Post published the infamous “Access Hollywood” tape, in which Trump is heard talking about how easy it is for him to get away with sexual assault, including groping and forcibly kissing women.

Later that afternoon, WikiLeaks started tweeting links to emails hacked from Podesta’s account. WikiLeaks then began releasing Podesta emails on a regular basis throughout the last month of the campaign. Meanwhile, a group called DC Leaks, which is now believed to be a front for the Russian hackers who sought to intervene in the election, released more Democratic Party-related documents.

Within days, Trump was telling his supporters at rallies: “I love WikiLeaks.”

The scope of the impact of Russian hacking and subsequent disclosures of Democratic Party emails and data on the outcome of the 2016 election remains unclear. But the disclosures certainly helped take at least some of the media’s attention off Trump, and probably should be credited with giving him time to recover from the disastrous “Access Hollywood” tape. The pattern and timing of the disclosures also strongly suggests that the objective was to damage Hillary Clinton’s campaign and help Donald Trump.
Former Democratic US Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton greets staff and supporters after making a concession speech at the New Yorker Hotel after her defeat last night to President-elect Donald Trump
In December 2016, a month after the election, the FBI and the National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center issued a joint report detailing the cybertools used by Russian intelligence to attack the Democratic Party.

The report is still illuminating today because it suggests that the original DNC hack in 2015 was part of a much broader Russian cyberassault on a wide array of American institutions, including government agencies. Originally, it seems, the Russians were not specifically targeting the Democrats, but were simply casting a wide net in Washington to see who might take the bait.

The agencies’ report determined that in the summer of 2015, “an APT29 [Advanced Persistent Threat 29, one of two Russian intelligence “actors” identified in the report, also known as Cozy Bear] spearphishing campaign directed emails containing a malicious link to over 1,000 recipients, including multiple U.S. Government victims. APT29 used legitimate domains, to include domains associated with U.S. organizations and educational institutions, to host malware and send spearphishing emails. In the course of that campaign, APT29 successfully compromised a U.S. political party.”

The report adds that the Russians quickly followed up when they gained access to the Democrats. “APT29 delivered malware to the political party’s systems, established persistence, escalated privileges, enumerated active directory accounts, and exfiltrated email from several accounts through encrypted connections back through operational infrastructure.”

While intervening in the 2016 election may not have been the initial purpose of the cyberattack, once the Russians opportunistically struck gold by breaking into the DNC, they went after the Democrats relentlessly.

“In spring 2016, APT28 [another Russian intelligence “actor”] compromised the same political party, again via targeted spearphishing,” the report states. “This time, the spearphishing email tricked recipients into changing their passwords through a fake webmail domain hosted on APT28 operational infrastructure. Using the harvested credentials, APT28 was able to gain access and steal content, likely leading to the exfiltration of information from multiple senior party members.”

By luck or design, Russian intelligence had obtained a vast trove of inside information from the Democratic Party in the middle of a presidential campaign.

In January 2017, just days before Trump took office, a remarkable report from the CIA, FBI, and NSA was made public, plunging the U.S. intelligence community into American politics in an unprecedented way. Its aftershocks continue to reverberate a year later.

The report states that “we assess Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the US presidential election.” It continues: “Russia’s goals were to undermine public faith in the US democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency. We further assess Putin and the Russian Government developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump. We have high confidence in these judgments. We also assess Putin and the Russian Government aspired to help President-elect Trump’s election chances when possible by discrediting Secretary Clinton and publicly contrasting her unfavorably to him.”

The report also notes that “further information has come to light since Election Day that, when combined with Russian behavior since early November 2016, increases our confidence in our assessments of Russian motivations and goals.”

Trump has sought to discredit the report, and by extension, the entire intelligence community, ever since. His cronies have chimed in, dismissing it as the work of the so-called deep state.

 on: Feb 19, 2018, 06:04 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja

Orbán claims Hungary is last bastion against 'Islamisation' of Europe

PM steps up populist rhetoric in annual state of the nation speech ahead of April elections

Daniel Boffey in Brussels
19 Feb 2018 18.34 GMT

The prime minister of Hungary, Viktor Orbán, has ramped up his populist rhetoric ahead of April elections to claim that “dark clouds are gathering” and that his country is a last bastion in the fight against the “Islamisation” of Europe.

In his annual state of the nation speech, Orbán, who already appears set to win a third consecutive four-year term, made what are now familiar claims about his success in beating back threats to Hungary’s way of life from “Brussels, Berlin and Paris politicians”.

“We sent the muzzle back to Brussels and the leash back to the IMF,” he said early in his address on Sunday, praising the strength of the country’s economy.

The part of his speech which inevitably alighted on the threat of immigration will particularly concern Orbán’s many critics home and abroad.

He claimed the west had “opened the way for the decline of Christian culture and … Islamic expansion” while his administration had “prevented the Islamic world from flooding us from the south”.

Deploying a host of questionable statistics and apocalyptic visions, Orbán said: “We are those who think that Europe’s last hope is Christianity … If hundreds of millions of young people are allowed to move north, there will be enormous pressure on Europe. If all this continues, in the big cities of Europe there will be a Muslim majority.”

He said immigration was no more helpful for a country’s national development than influenza contributed to a human body’s health.

The rhetoric will strengthen the hand of those calling for Orbán’s rightwing populist party Fidesz to be ousted from the transnational European People’s party, of which Angela Merkel’s CDU is a member.

Orbán’s personal bete noire, the Hungarian-American financier and philanthropist George Soros, was also once again a target.

He accused Soros of having used his fortune not only to buy influence in Brussels and the west, but also at the UN. Further unspecified measures were floated as a response, building on legislation designed to crack down on foreign-funded organisations.

There was a conspiracy to create a “Homo sorosensus, the Soros type of man” that must be a rejected, he said.

“Hungary is not a country of troubled people, we understand that György Soros’s men were already in the UN,” Orbán told his audience at the Várkert Bazár, a restored neo-Renaissance building on the Danube, outside which hundreds of people protested.

Orbán pledged his government’s solidarity with “those western European people and leaders who want to save their country and their Christian culture”.

“We are waiting for the Italian elections, where Silvio Berlusconi can again occupy the government positions.”

Gyula Molnár, the president of the socialist MSZP, said of the speech: “It was the product of a medium-sized enterprise manager with some fake illusions.”

Fidesz has the support of more than 40% of decided voters in a country where the media is largely pliant and the opposition divided.

 on: Feb 19, 2018, 06:02 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja

Communist past returns to haunt embattled Czech PM

Slovakian court dismisses Andrej Babiš claim he was wrongly identified as a former agent

Robert Tait in Prague
Mon 19 Feb 2018 05.00 GMT

Only the fear of being unmasked as a collaborator seemed to cloud the businessman’s horizon as he signed up as an informer for communist Czechoslovakia’s secret police in jarringly jovial surroundings.

Over generous refreshments during a 90-minute meeting in a Bratislava wine bar on 11 November 1982, the agent soon to be known as Bureš was asked to report what associates were saying about the late Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev, whose death the previous day threatened to shake the communist world and the east-west cold war confrontation to the core.

According to archived documents, the recruit, Andrej Babiš – today the Czech Republic’s prime minister and second richest man – was worried someone might see him with officers from the security services, hampering his career with a state trading company that enabled a privileged existence and foreign travel.

Whatever Babiš told his handlers about sentiments towards Brezhnev – a leader widely disliked in the former Czechoslovakia for ordering the 1968 Warsaw Pact invasion that crushed the Prague Spring – is lost to posterity. Document analysts believe the issue’s sensitivity led to his answers being fed to a special intelligence department which passed them to the ruling politburo, which possibly feared that Brezhnev’s passing could trigger a new uprising.

Communist rule in Czechoslovakia and neighbouring eastern European countries came to an end in 1989. Babiš’s concerns that his clandestine activities might one day come to haunt him proved equally prescient.

Last week a court in Bratislava – capital of the independent Slovakia that emerged, along with the Czech Republic, from Czechoslovakia’s dissolution in 1993 – delivered a powerful political and legal blow by dismissing his argument that he had been wrongly identified as a former agent.

The verdict appeared to mark the final failure of a years-long campaign by the Slovak-born Babiš to prove he was the victim of a smear campaign by enemies designed to destroy his political career and his business empire, which encompasses about 230 companies in a vast conglomerate called Agrofert.

Babiš had argued that, far from being a collaborator, he was in reality a victim of the communist-era security services, known as the StB, who he said blackmailed him into cooperating to maintain his children’s education and his right to travel abroad. He even produced the agent who supposedly recruited him in that 1982 meeting, Lieutenant Julius Suman, to testify in court that his security file had been deliberately falsified to conceal Bureš’s true identity.

That was initially accepted by a Bratislava court, which ruled in 2014 that Babiš had been wrongly listed as a communist agent. But the ruling was overturned last year by Slovakia’s constitutional court, which said Suman’s testimony was inadmissible because the StB was a “criminal organisation”.

It also said Babiš was wrong to sue Slovakia’s Nation’s Memory Institute, which merely held the documents in its archive. Last week’s verdict, which is final, confirmed the constitutional court’s ruling.

The development deepens the troubles of a politician already facing fraud charges after being accused by Czech police of illegally obtaining European funds for one of his businesses. A leaked report from the EU’s fraud unit, Olaf, recently said multiple European and Czech laws had been breached in obtaining nearly €2m for his Stork’s Nest hotel and conference centre outside Prague.

It could further complicate Babiš’s attempts to form a viable government after his first attempted administration collapsed within a month after losing a parliamentary confidence vote.

Although his populist Action for Dissatisfied Citizens party easily won last October’s parliamentary election, most other parties refuse to enter a coalition with Babiš as leader, citing the criminal charges against him.

Miloš Zeman, the Czech president who was re-elected last month, has defied such resistance by inviting Babiš to try again to form a government.

Perhaps not coincidentally, the Czech Communist party, which holds 15 seats in the 200-member parliament and opposes membership of the EU and Nato, is one of the few groupings to express possible willingness to support a Babiš government.

While communist sympathies may seem incongruous for a man today known for his $4bn (£2.9bn) fortune, lavish lifestyle and a pragmatic political approach seemingly bereft of ideology, they would not have seemed unusual in Czechoslovakia in the early 1980s when the end of the cold war seemed a barely remote possibility.

Babiš, 63, is the son of a senior communist official who served as Czechoslovakia’s representative to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (Gatt) in Geneva. He is believed to have joined the communist party himself in 1980, a move possibly driven as much by career ambitions as political convictions.

Radek Schovánek, an expert in communist-era security files for the Czech defence ministry, said Babiš served the StB as an informal “trusty” before becoming a fully fledged agent. There was little doubt from Babiš’s 12 surviving security files – others have been destroyed – that he joined willingly, Schovánek said.

Among Babiš’s recorded achievements were informing on an individual who illegally imported western video recorders, “corrupting” his colleagues.

Schovánek, who testified as a witness against Babiš at the original Slovakian trial, said his activities could have been far more extensive than what is revealed in the files, which were made available in the early 1990s.

“It’s a joke to claim he was a victim,” he said. “Falsifying the files was impossible. There were very strict rules regarding the paperwork of secret collaborators. We have analysed all the information that Babiš gave them. It was accurate and according to the rules, everything was in order.”

 on: Feb 19, 2018, 05:59 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja

'Serial stowaway': how does a 66-year-old woman keep sneaking on to flights?

It might seem harmless, comical, or a damning picture of airport security, but the true story of Marilyn Hartman is a tragic one that shines a light on mental illness

Joe Eskenazi in San Francisco
2/19/ 2018 06.00 GMT

It required a concatenation of foul-ups for Marilyn Hartman to elude security at Chicago’s O’Hare airport and make it all the way to London Heathrow last week without a ticket or a passport. She kept her head down. She hid behind other passengers. Somehow she managed to walk past airport security agents, shuttle bus drivers, and ticketing agents. If she’d managed to sneak on to a domestic flight instead of an international one, she might well have pulled it off.

A few people may well lose their jobs, and a few policies may have to be reviewed. But, make no mistake, Hartman is not some manner of gate-crashing Moriarty. She’s just persistent. Because this is not the first time the 66-year old Chicagoan has managed to fly without a ticket. And it probably won’t be the last.

In the US, Hartman is known as the “serial stowaway”, an inveterate sneaker-on-to-planes. Her exploits have spawned countless news stories, scads of bad puns (a Chicago judge last week declared her a “flight risk”), and a wall of near-identical lost granny mugshots by now resembling a Warhol polyptych.

The techniques that got her into the UK last week mirrored those she’s been practicing since 2009, according to multiple police reports. These include ducking under the velvet ropes, piggybacking her way into small groups, presenting other people’s boarding passes, or simply answering “yes”, when airport staff ask leading questions such as: “Are you Maria Sandgren?”

These are not sophisticated or even novel procedures and, even before sneaking on to planes, Hartman is often caught by airport workers. The befuddled older white woman, however, is never summarily thrown in jail. The Department of Homeland Security isn’t called and triumphalist press releases about a terror suspect attempting to ferret herself on to a plane are never issued. Instead, Hartman is usually told to get out of line and sit down. And she does. Until she gets up and does it again.

Hartman’s story started in 2014, when she waged a virtual assault on San Francisco international airport, where she attempted to sneak on to half a dozen planes over the course of several months.

She is not, however, just a chancer seeking a free holiday. The reasons why Hartman, a longtime homeless woman, feels compelled to do this, insofar as she can address them, would appear to have more unhappy origins. In 2009, she told police in Hawaii that she’d attempted to masquerade as another woman and board a plane because “she really wanted to get off the island”. And yet, in 2014, she told San Francisco cops that she needed to secrete herself on to a plane to Hawaii; she worried she had cancer and “wanted to go to a warm place and die” (Hartman didn’t have cancer).

While researching a lengthy 2015 article about Hartman and her unusual preoccupations, I found arrest records dating back to 2009 documenting her attempts to sneak on to airplanes. During this time, Marilyn Hartman called me – frequently. There were collect calls from jails and then rambling cellphone conversations from buses and libraries and Chicago streets and halfway houses.

These monologues described a conspiratorial worldview in which every passing glance from a fellow transit passenger or store patron was an indicator of a vast illuminati network dedicated to a decades-long mission of harassing Marilyn Jean Hartman. Mysterious individuals left her tickets to various locales and airport officials let her use them, only to pounce later. It was all part of the plan to hound her into vagrancy and, per Hartman, it went up to the very top (“For 25 years, Barack Obama knew about my case and all that went wrong when the ruling came down against me, but chose not to do the right thing,” she claimed in one email.)

Eventually, Hartman stopped responding to my calls and emails. Before cutting off contact, however, she claimed to be suffering from “whistleblower trauma syndrome”, a self-diagnosed condition not found in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. This condition, Hartman claims, induces her with a very literal “fight or flight” reaction: “I feel the need to get on a plane to go away,” she said.

    She worried she had cancer and 'wanted to go to a warm place and die'

A generation ago, people tried to pull stuff like this more frequently. Back in 2015 , Jeffrey Price, a professor of aviation management at Denver’s Metropolitan State University, told me that distracting the agent at the gate and sneaking your friends on to the plane used to be de rigueur among cheap college kids looking to economize. Airports were vastly different places before 9/11, after all.

On that note, for those worrying about what a 66-year-old woman’s ability to elude the system says about our terror readiness, Price has one word for you: don’t.

Hartman managed to make a lot of people look foolish and took a $2,400 flight for free. But that’s not a security issue. That’s a business issue. Hartman is not Jackie Chan. She is not going to take down a flight with her bare hands. And while she managed to get past security without a boarding pass or passport, she was screened for weapons – and, presumably, nail files and tubes of ointment – like everyone else.
‘Marilyn Jean Hartman hasn’t revealed serious weaknesses in airport security. But she has shone a light on a justice system ill-equipped to handle mentally-ill rule-breakers.’

Her secret weapon is revealed by that wall of mug shots: Hartman is an ageing and grandmotherly white woman who blends into crowds and does not make airport figures nervous. It is impossible to conceive of a younger person of, say, Middle Eastern origin, being treated so innocuously at the airport after being caught in the midst of sneaky behavior. It is also impossible to conceive of such a person being allowed to do this again and again and again with minimal repercussions.

But that’s what’s happened to Hartman. Despite her claims that the vast army of shadow agents plotting against her are setting her up for some manner of lengthy punishment she is, repeatedly, freed by well-meaning judges and told not to misbehave again. She often promises to do just that – before breaking those pledges within days or even hours.

Marilyn Jean Hartman hasn’t really revealed serious weaknesses in airport security. But she has shone a light on a justice system ill-equipped to handle mentally ill rule-breakers who don’t present a serious threat to themselves or others. In state after state, public defenders successfully argue jail is not the solution for her problems. In state after state, she’s released and sent to homeless services she finds filthy and unacceptable. She bounces, quickly, and the cycle begins anew.

There is not a battalion of ageing, white-haired women inundating our nation’s friendly skies. But there are legions of mentally ill homeless people, many of them older and unwell, wandering the streets of every large American city. And not only do we not do all that much to help them – we don’t even know how.

And that is the real tragedy of Marilyn Hartman.

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