Monsanto Colluded With EPA, Was Unable To Prove Roundup Does Not Cause Cancer, Unsealed Court Docs Reveal

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Zero Hedge : March 14, 2017

If we had a dime for every kooky, left-wing theory we’ve heard alleging some vast corporate conspiracy to exploit the treasures of the earth, destroy the environment and poison people with unknown carcinogens all while buying off politicians to cover their tracks, we would be rich. The problem, of course, is that sometimes the kooky conspiracy theories prove to be completely accurate.

Lets take the case of the $60 billion ag-chemicals powerhouse, Monsanto, and their controversial herbicide, Roundup as an example. For those who aren’t familiar, Roundup Ready is Monsanto’s blockbuster weedkiller, credited with transforming U.S. agriculture, with a majority of farm production now using genetically modified seeds resistant to the chemical.

For years the company has assured farmers that their weed killing product was absolutely safe to use. As proof, Monsanto touted the approval of the chemical by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

That said, newly unsealed court documents released earlier today seemingly reveal a startling effort on the part of both Monsanto and the EPA to work in concert to kill and/or discredit independent, albeit inconvenient, cancer research conducted by the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC)….more on this later.

But, before we get into the competing studies, here is a brief look at the ‘extensive’ work that Monsanto and the EPA did prior to originally declaring Roundup safe for use (hint: not much). As the excerpt below reveals, the EPA effectively declared Roundup safe for use without even conducting tests on the actual formulation, but instead relying on industry research on just one of the product’s active ingredients.

“EPA’s minimal standards do not require human health data submissions related to the formulated product – here, Roundup. Instead, EPA regulations require only studies and data that relate to the active ingredient, which in the case of Roundup is glyphosate. As a result, the body of scientific literature EPA has reviewed is not only primarily provided by the industry, but it also only considers one part of the chemical ingredients that make up Roundup.”

Meanwhile, if that’s not enough for you, Donna Farmer, Monsanto’s lead toxicologist, even admitted in her deposition that she “cannot say that Roundup does not cause cancer” because “[w]e [Monsanto] have not done the carcinogenicity studies with Roundup.”

And just in case you’re the super skeptical type, here is Farmer’s actual email, from back in 2009, which seems pretty clear:

“you cannot say that Roundup does not cause cancer..we have not done carcinogenicity studies with “Roundup”.

And while the revelations above are quite damning by themselves, this is where things get really interesting.

In early 2015, once it became clear that the World Health Organization’s IARC was working on their own independent study of Roundup, Monsanto immediately launched their own efforts to preemptively discredit any results that might be deemed ‘inconvenient’.

That said, Monsanto, the $60 billion behemoth, couldn’t possibly afford the $250,000 bill that would come with conducting a legitimate scientific study led by accredited scientists.  Instead, they decided to “ghost-write” key sections of their report themselves and plotted to then have the independent scientists just “sign their names so to speak.”

“A less expensive/more palatable approach might be to involve experts only for the areas of contention, epidemiology and possibly MOA (depending on what comes out of the IARC meeting), and we ghost-write the Exposure Tox & Genetox sections…but we would be keeping the cost down by us doing the writing and they would just edit & sign their names so to speak.”

Finally, when all else fails, you call in those “special favors” in Washington D.C. that you’ve paid handsomely for over the years.

And that’s where Jess Rowland, the EPA’s Deputy Division Director for the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention and chair of the Agency’s Cancer Assessment Review Committee, comes in to assure you that he’s fully exploiting his role as the “chair of the CARC” to kill any potentially damaging research…”if I can kill this I should get a medal.”

(read the full article at Zero Hedge)

RELATED:
Whistleblower Says USDA Protecting Pesticide Makers

Scientist defends WHO report linking herbicide to cancer

Monsanto GMO Soy Is Scarier Than You Think

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Donald Trump gives CIA power to carry out its own drone strikes

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Harriet Agerholm
Independent : March 14, 2017

The CIA can now kill potential terror suspects with drone strikes after being granted new powers by President Donald Trump, according to a new report.

The new authority – said to have been granted shortly after Mr Trump’s inauguration – takes drone strikes out of the sole control of the military, sparking fears about accountability.

Under the drone policy of the Obama administration, the CIA could find a suspect, but the armed forces would carry out the actual strike.

Unlike the Pentagon, the CIA does not need to disclose drone strikes — or any resulting civilian casualties.

(read the full article at Independent)

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US Treasury Shows How To Fix Vancouver & Toronto Housing Markets

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AlternativeFreePress.com

Canada has a money laundering problem, and it has been causing real estate prices in Toronto & Vancouver to soar to ridiculous levels. More than half of B.C.’s most expensive homes are owned by secret shell companies. Of course, this is not a problem exclusive to Canada.

In February 2016, the United States Treasury’s FinCEN enacted “GEOGRAPHIC, ANTI-MONEY-LAUNDERING, TARGETING ORDERS of 2016″, and as a result found that half the real estate being purchased was with illicit funds. John Tobon, U.S. Homeland Security Investigations Deputy Special Agent in Charge for South Florida, told the Miami Herald in January. “We come across real estate being purchased with illicit funds once every other case.”

Within U.S. markets where the anti-money laundering efforts have targeted, prices have started to drop significantly:

Manhattan Apartment Prices Continue To Slide

Manhattan Luxury Housing In Freefall: J.Crew CEO Slashes Tribeca Loft Price By Over 40%

Miami luxury condo prices take a plunge

SF home prices see big drop in January

The US crack down seems to be working, hopefully The Government of Canada acts soon.

Source:
Feds: “We Come Across Real Estate Being Purchased With Illicit Funds Once Every Other Case”

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Canadian bank employees admit to breaking the law for fear of being fired

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Erica Johnson
CBC News : March 10, 2017

A CBC report earlier this week about TD employees pressured to meet high sales revenue goals has touched off a firestorm of reaction from TD employees across the country — some of whom admit they have broken the law at their customers’ expense in a desperate bid to meet sales targets and keep their jobs.

Hundreds of current and former TD Bank Group employees wrote to Go Public describing a pressure cooker environment they say is “poisoned,” “stress inducing,” “insane” and has “zero focus on ethics.”

Some employees admitted they broke the law, claiming they were desperate to earn points towards sales goals they have to reach every three months or risk being fired. CBC has agreed to conceal their identities because their confessions could have legal ramifications.

TD insists all its employees are to follow the company’s code of ethics, but many employees who contacted Go Public said that’s impossible to do given the sales expectations.

“I’ve increased people’s lines of credit by a couple thousand dollars, just to get SR [sales revenue] points,” said a teller who worked for several years at a TD branch in Windsor, Ont.

He admits he didn’t tell the customers, which is a violation of the federal Bank Act.

Another teller with over 20 years’ experience at an Ontario TD branch said she has increased customers’ overdraft protection amounts without their knowledge, and increased their TD Visa card limits on the sly — all to earn units towards her sales revenue target.

Many TD workers wrote to say they are on medical leave, suffering from anxiety and/or depression because of the constant pressure to upsell customers.

One teller on sick leave described how a manager stood behind her three times a day, pushing her to sell more.

“They just really stress you out and say, ‘You’re not doing good. I need you to do double the amount you’ve been doing.’ I couldn’t sleep. I’d be thinking … ‘What can I do tomorrow to try and get sales?'”

She admits to upgrading customers to a higher-fee account without telling them.

“Because that gives us sales revenue. And the customers don’t have to sign for it.”

[…]

TD employees tell Go Public the pressure to deceive customers extends beyond front-line staff to workers handling wealth management.

“We do it because our jobs are at stake,” said one financial adviser in Ontario.

She admits she acted in her own interest rather than that of her clients after being put on a Performance Improvement Plan — a program that involves coaching and could result in termination of employment — because she wasn’t meeting her sales targets.

“I have invested clients’ savings into funds which were not suitable, because of the SR [sales revenue] pressure,” she said. “That’s very difficult to admit. I didn’t do this lightly.”

A former TD financial adviser in Calgary says he would downplay the risk of products that gave him a big boost towards his quarterly goal.

“I was forced to lie to customers, just to meet the sales revenue targets,” he said.

“I was always asked by my managers to attach unnecessary products or services to the original sale just to increase the sales points — and not care if the customer can afford it or not.”

A financial adviser who worked for six years in Nanaimo, B.C., before quitting says “people eventually snap, or lose all sense of themselves and do anything to close sales.”

“I have had multiple conversations with branch and district managers. These conversation lead to my being asked if I was still the right fit for the job.”

(read the full article at CBC)

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Japan still has no clue when or how they will clean up Fukushima

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Chairman of Japan’s nuclear regulation authority admits “we are still feeling around in the dark”.

Dying robots and failing hope: Fukushima clean-up falters six years after tsunami

Justin McCurry
The Guardian : March 9, 2016

Exploration work inside the nuclear plant’s failed reactors has barely begun, with the scale of the task described as ‘almost beyond comprehension’

Barely a fifth of the way into their mission, the engineers monitoring the Scorpion’s progress conceded defeat. With a remote-controlled snip of its cable, the latest robot sent into the bowels of one of Fukushima Daiichi’s damaged reactors was cut loose, its progress stalled by lumps of fuel that overheated when the nuclear plant suffered a triple meltdown six years ago this week.

As the 60cm-long Toshiba robot, equipped with a pair of cameras and sensors to gauge radiation levels was left to its fate last month, the plant’s operator, Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco), attempted to play down the failure of yet another reconnaissance mission to determine the exact location and condition of the melted fuel.

Even though its mission had been aborted, the utility said, “valuable information was obtained which will help us determine the methods to eventually remove fuel debris”.

The Scorpion mishap, two hours into an exploration that was supposed to last 10 hours, underlined the scale and difficulty of decommissioning Fukushima Daiichi – an unprecedented undertaking one expert has described as “almost beyond comprehension”.

Cleaning up the plant, scene of the world’s worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl after it was struck by a magnitude-9 earthquake and tsunami on the afternoon of 11 March 2011, is expected to take 30 to 40 years, at a cost Japan’s trade and industry ministry recently estimated at 21.5tr yen ($189bn).

The figure, which includes compensating tens of thousands of evacuees, is nearly double an estimate released three years ago.

The tsunami killed almost 19,000 people, most of them in areas north of Fukushima, and forced 160,000 people living near the plant to flee their homes. Six years on, only a small number have returned to areas deemed safe by the authorities.

Developing robots capable of penetrating the most dangerous parts of Fukushima Daiichi’s reactors – and spending enough time there to obtain crucial data – is proving a near-impossible challenge for Tepco. The Scorpion – so called because of its camera-mounted folding tail – “died” after stalling along a rail beneath the reactor pressure vessel, its path blocked by lumps of fuel and other debris.

The device, along with other robots, may also have been damaged by an unseen enemy: radiation. Before it was abandoned, its dosimeter indicated that radiation levels inside the No 2 containment vessel were at 250 sieverts an hour. In an earlier probe using a remote-controlled camera, radiation at about the same spot was as high as 650 sieverts an hour – enough to kill a human within a minute.

Shunji Uchida, the Fukushima Daiichi plant manager, concedes that Tepco acquired “limited” knowledge about the state of the melted fuel. “So far we’ve only managed to take a peek, as the last experiment with the robot didn’t go well,” he tells the Guardian and other media on a recent visit to the plant. “But we’re not thinking of another approach at this moment.”

Robotic mishaps aside, exploration work in the two other reactors, where radiation levels are even higher than in reactor No 2, has barely begun. There are plans to send a tiny waterproof robot into reactor No 1 in the next few weeks, but no date has been set for the more seriously damaged reactor No 3.

Naohiro Masuda, the president of Fukushima Daiichi’s decommissioning arm, says he wants another probe sent in before deciding on how to remove the melted fuel.

Despite the setbacks, Tepco insists it will begin extracting the melted fuel in 2021 – a decade after the disaster – after consulting government officials this summer.

But Shaun Burnie, a senior nuclear specialist at Greenpeace Germany who is based in Japan, describes the challenge confronting the utility as “unprecedented and almost beyond comprehension”, adding that the decommissioning schedule was “never realistic or credible”.

The latest aborted exploration of reactor No 2 “only reinforces that reality”, Burnie says. “Without a technical solution for dealing with unit one or three, unit two was seen as less challenging. So much of what is communicated to the public and media is speculation and wishful thinking on the part of industry and government.

“The current schedule for the removal of hundreds of tons of molten nuclear fuel, the location and condition of which they still have no real understanding, was based on the timetable of prime minister [Shinzo] Abe in Tokyo and the nuclear industry – not the reality on the ground and based on sound engineering and science.”

Even Shunichi Tanaka, the chairman of Japan’s nuclear regulation authority, does not appear to share Tepco’s optimism that it will stick to its decommissioning roadmap. “It is still early to talk in such an optimistic way,” he says. “At the moment, we are still feeling around in the dark.”

(read the full article at The Guardian)

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US Government Secretly Paying To Keep US Software Unsafe

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AlternativeFreePress.com

Edward Snowden’s first impression of the Wikileaks Vault 7 release is that it is authentic, and genuinely a big deal. He points out that this leak has provided the first public evidence that the US Government is secretly paying to keep US software unsafe & that any hacker can use the security holes the CIA left open.





Inside the CIA’s global hacking force: “Vault 7″ CIA Hacking Tools Revealed

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Wikileaks : March 7, 2017

Today, Tuesday 7 March 2017, WikiLeaks begins its new series of leaks on the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. Code-named “Vault 7″ by WikiLeaks, it is the largest ever publication of confidential documents on the agency.

The first full part of the series, “Year Zero”, comprises 8,761 documents and files from an isolated, high-security network situated inside the CIA’s Center for Cyber Intelligence in Langley, Virgina. It follows an introductory disclosure last month of CIA targeting French political parties and candidates in the lead up to the 2012 presidential election.

Recently, the CIA lost control of the majority of its hacking arsenal including malware, viruses, trojans, weaponized “zero day” exploits, malware remote control systems and associated documentation. This extraordinary collection, which amounts to more than several hundred million lines of code, gives its possessor the entire hacking capacity of the CIA. The archive appears to have been circulated among former U.S. government hackers and contractors in an unauthorized manner, one of whom has provided WikiLeaks with portions of the archive.

“Year Zero” introduces the scope and direction of the CIA’s global covert hacking program, its malware arsenal and dozens of “zero day” weaponized exploits against a wide range of U.S. and European company products, include Apple’s iPhone, Google’s Android and Microsoft’s Windows and even Samsung TVs, which are turned into covert microphones.

Since 2001 the CIA has gained political and budgetary preeminence over the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA). The CIA found itself building not just its now infamous drone fleet, but a very different type of covert, globe-spanning force — its own substantial fleet of hackers. The agency’s hacking division freed it from having to disclose its often controversial operations to the NSA (its primary bureaucratic rival) in order to draw on the NSA’s hacking capacities.

By the end of 2016, the CIA’s hacking division, which formally falls under the agency’s Center for Cyber Intelligence (CCI), had over 5000 registered users and had produced more than a thousand hacking systems, trojans, viruses, and other “weaponized” malware. Such is the scale of the CIA’s undertaking that by 2016, its hackers had utilized more code than that used to run Facebook. The CIA had created, in effect, its “own NSA” with even less accountability and without publicly answering the question as to whether such a massive budgetary spend on duplicating the capacities of a rival agency could be justified.

In a statement to WikiLeaks the source details policy questions that they say urgently need to be debated in public, including whether the CIA’s hacking capabilities exceed its mandated powers and the problem of public oversight of the agency. The source wishes to initiate a public debate about the security, creation, use, proliferation and democratic control of cyberweapons.

Once a single cyber ‘weapon’ is ‘loose’ it can spread around the world in seconds, to be used by rival states, cyber mafia and teenage hackers alike.

Julian Assange, WikiLeaks editor stated that “There is an extreme proliferation risk in the development of cyber ‘weapons’. Comparisons can be drawn between the uncontrolled proliferation of such ‘weapons’, which results from the inability to contain them combined with their high market value, and the global arms trade. But the significance of “Year Zero” goes well beyond the choice between cyberwar and cyberpeace. The disclosure is also exceptional from a political, legal and forensic perspective.”

Wikileaks has carefully reviewed the “Year Zero” disclosure and published substantive CIA documentation while avoiding the distribution of ‘armed’ cyberweapons until a consensus emerges on the technical and political nature of the CIA’s program and how such ‘weapons’ should analyzed, disarmed and published.

Wikileaks has also decided to redact and anonymise some identifying information in “Year Zero” for in depth analysis. These redactions include ten of thousands of CIA targets and attack machines throughout Latin America, Europe and the United States. While we are aware of the imperfect results of any approach chosen, we remain committed to our publishing model and note that the quantity of published pages in “Vault 7″ part one (“Year Zero”) already eclipses the total number of pages published over the first three years of the Edward Snowden NSA leaks.

* * *

Analysis

CIA malware targets iPhone, Android, smart TVs

CIA malware and hacking tools are built by EDG (Engineering Development Group), a software development group within CCI (Center for Cyber Intelligence), a department belonging to the CIA’s DDI (Directorate for Digital Innovation). The DDI is one of the five major directorates of the CIA (see this organizational chart of the CIA for more details).

The EDG is responsible for the development, testing and operational support of all backdoors, exploits, malicious payloads, trojans, viruses and any other kind of malware used by the CIA in its covert operations world-wide.

The increasing sophistication of surveillance techniques has drawn comparisons with George Orwell’s 1984, but “Weeping Angel”, developed by the CIA’s Embedded Devices Branch (EDB), which infests smart TVs, transforming them into covert microphones, is surely its most emblematic realization.

The attack against Samsung smart TVs was developed in cooperation with the United Kingdom’s MI5/BTSS. After infestation, Weeping Angel places the target TV in a ‘Fake-Off’ mode, so that the owner falsely believes the TV is off when it is on. In ‘Fake-Off’ mode the TV operates as a bug, recording conversations in the room and sending them over the Internet to a covert CIA server.

As of October 2014 the CIA was also looking at infecting the vehicle control systems used by modern cars and trucks. The purpose of such control is not specified, but it would permit the CIA to engage in nearly undetectable assassinations.

The CIA’s Mobile Devices Branch (MDB) developed numerous attacks to remotely hack and control popular smart phones. Infected phones can be instructed to send the CIA the user’s geolocation, audio and text communications as well as covertly activate the phone’s camera and microphone.

Despite iPhone’s minority share (14.5%) of the global smart phone market in 2016, a specialized unit in the CIA’s Mobile Development Branch produces malware to infest, control and exfiltrate data from iPhones and other Apple products running iOS, such as iPads. CIA’s arsenal includes numerous local and remote “zero days” developed by CIA or obtained from GCHQ, NSA, FBI or purchased from cyber arms contractors such as Baitshop. The disproportionate focus on iOS may be explained by the popularity of the iPhone among social, political, diplomatic and business elites.

A similar unit targets Google’s Android which is used to run the majority of the world’s smart phones (~85%) including Samsung, HTC and Sony. 1.15 billion Android powered phones were sold last year. “Year Zero” shows that as of 2016 the CIA had 24 “weaponized” Android “zero days” which it has developed itself and obtained from GCHQ, NSA and cyber arms contractors.

These techniques permit the CIA to bypass the encryption of WhatsApp, Signal, Telegram, Wiebo, Confide and Cloackman by hacking the “smart” phones that they run on and collecting audio and message traffic before encryption is applied.

 

CIA malware targets Windows, OSx, Linux, routers

The CIA also runs a very substantial effort to infect and control Microsoft Windows users with its malware. This includes multiple local and remote weaponized “zero days”, air gap jumping viruses such as “Hammer Drill” which infects software distributed on CD/DVDs, infectors for removable media such as USBs, systems to hide data in images or in covert disk areas ( “Brutal Kangaroo”) and to keep its malware infestations going.

Many of these infection efforts are pulled together by the CIA’s Automated Implant Branch (AIB), which has developed several attack systems for automated infestation and control of CIA malware, such as “Assassin” and “Medusa”.

Attacks against Internet infrastructure and webservers are developed by the CIA’s Network Devices Branch (NDB).

The CIA has developed automated multi-platform malware attack and control systems covering Windows, Mac OS X, Solaris, Linux and more, such as EDB’s “HIVE” and the related “Cutthroat” and “Swindle” tools, which are described in the examples section below.

 

CIA ‘hoarded’ vulnerabilities (“zero days”)

In the wake of Edward Snowden’s leaks about the NSA, the U.S. technology industry secured a commitment from the Obama administration that the executive would disclose on an ongoing basis — rather than hoard — serious vulnerabilities, exploits, bugs or “zero days” to Apple, Google, Microsoft, and other US-based manufacturers.

Serious vulnerabilities not disclosed to the manufacturers places huge swathes of the population and critical infrastructure at risk to foreign intelligence or cyber criminals who independently discover or hear rumors of the vulnerability. If the CIA can discover such vulnerabilities so can others.

The U.S. government’s commitment to the Vulnerabilities Equities Process came after significant lobbying by US technology companies, who risk losing their share of the global market over real and perceived hidden vulnerabilities. The government stated that it would disclose all pervasive vulnerabilities discovered after 2010 on an ongoing basis.

“Year Zero” documents show that the CIA breached the Obama administration’s commitments. Many of the vulnerabilities used in the CIA’s cyber arsenal are pervasive and some may already have been found by rival intelligence agencies or cyber criminals.

As an example, specific CIA malware revealed in “Year Zero” is able to penetrate, infest and control both the Android phone and iPhone software that runs or has run presidential Twitter accounts. The CIA attacks this software by using undisclosed security vulnerabilities (“zero days”) possessed by the CIA but if the CIA can hack these phones then so can everyone else who has obtained or discovered the vulnerability. As long as the CIA keeps these vulnerabilities concealed from Apple and Google (who make the phones) they will not be fixed, and the phones will remain hackable.

The same vulnerabilities exist for the population at large, including the U.S. Cabinet, Congress, top CEOs, system administrators, security officers and engineers. By hiding these security flaws from manufacturers like Apple and Google the CIA ensures that it can hack everyone &mdsh; at the expense of leaving everyone hackable.

 

‘Cyberwar’ programs are a serious proliferation risk

Cyber ‘weapons’ are not possible to keep under effective control.

While nuclear proliferation has been restrained by the enormous costs and visible infrastructure involved in assembling enough fissile material to produce a critical nuclear mass, cyber ‘weapons’, once developed, are very hard to retain.

Cyber ‘weapons’ are in fact just computer programs which can be pirated like any other. Since they are entirely comprised of information they can be copied quickly with no marginal cost.

Securing such ‘weapons’ is particularly difficult since the same people who develop and use them have the skills to exfiltrate copies without leaving traces — sometimes by using the very same ‘weapons’ against the organizations that contain them. There are substantial price incentives for government hackers and consultants to obtain copies since there is a global “vulnerability market” that will pay hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars for copies of such ‘weapons’. Similarly, contractors and companies who obtain such ‘weapons’ sometimes use them for their own purposes, obtaining advantage over their competitors in selling ‘hacking’ services.

Over the last three years the United States intelligence sector, which consists of government agencies such as the CIA and NSA and their contractors, such as Booze Allan Hamilton, has been subject to unprecedented series of data exfiltrations by its own workers.

A number of intelligence community members not yet publicly named have been arrested or subject to federal criminal investigations in separate incidents.

Most visibly, on February 8, 2017 a U.S. federal grand jury indicted Harold T. Martin III with 20 counts of mishandling classified information. The Department of Justice alleged that it seized some 50,000 gigabytes of information from Harold T. Martin III that he had obtained from classified programs at NSA and CIA, including the source code for numerous hacking tools.

Once a single cyber ‘weapon’ is ‘loose’ it can spread around the world in seconds, to be used by peer states, cyber mafia and teenage hackers alike.

 

U.S. Consulate in Frankfurt is a covert CIA hacker base

In addition to its operations in Langley, Virginia the CIA also uses the U.S. consulate in Frankfurt as a covert base for its hackers covering Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

CIA hackers operating out of the Frankfurt consulate ( “Center for Cyber Intelligence Europe” or CCIE) are given diplomatic (“black”) passports and State Department cover. The instructions for incoming CIA hackers make Germany’s counter-intelligence efforts appear inconsequential: “Breeze through German Customs because you have your cover-for-action story down pat, and all they did was stamp your passport”

 

Your Cover Story (for this trip)
Q: Why are you here?
A: Supporting technical consultations at the Consulate.

Two earlier WikiLeaks publications give further detail on CIA approaches to customs and secondary screening procedures.

Once in Frankfurt CIA hackers can travel without further border checks to the 25 European countries that are part of the Shengen open border area — including France, Italy and Switzerland.

A number of the CIA’s electronic attack methods are designed for physical proximity. These attack methods are able to penetrate high security networks that are disconnected from the internet, such as police record database. In these cases, a CIA officer, agent or allied intelligence officer acting under instructions, physically infiltrates the targeted workplace. The attacker is provided with a USB containing malware developed for the CIA for this purpose, which is inserted into the targeted computer. The attacker then infects and exfiltrates data to removable media. For example, the CIA attack system Fine Dining, provides 24 decoy applications for CIA spies to use. To witnesses, the spy appears to be running a program showing videos (e.g VLC), presenting slides (Prezi), playing a computer game (Breakout2, 2048) or even running a fake virus scanner (Kaspersky, McAfee, Sophos). But while the decoy application is on the screen, the underlaying system is automatically infected and ransacked.

 

How the CIA dramatically increased proliferation risks

In what is surely one of the most astounding intelligence own goals in living memory, the CIA structured its classification regime such that for the most market valuable part of “Vault 7″ — the CIA’s weaponized malware (implants + zero days), Listening Posts (LP), and Command and Control (C2) systems — the agency has little legal recourse.

The CIA made these systems unclassified.

Why the CIA chose to make its cyberarsenal unclassified reveals how concepts developed for military use do not easily crossover to the ‘battlefield’ of cyber ‘war’.

To attack its targets, the CIA usually requires that its implants communicate with their control programs over the internet. If CIA implants, Command & Control and Listening Post software were classified, then CIA officers could be prosecuted or dismissed for violating rules that prohibit placing classified information onto the Internet. Consequently the CIA has secretly made most of its cyber spying/war code unclassified. The U.S. government is not able to assert copyright either, due to restrictions in the U.S. Constitution. This means that cyber ‘arms’ manufactures and computer hackers can freely “pirate” these ‘weapons’ if they are obtained. The CIA has primarily had to rely on obfuscation to protect its malware secrets.

Conventional weapons such as missiles may be fired at the enemy (i.e into an unsecured area). Proximity to or impact with the target detonates the ordnance including its classified parts. Hence military personnel do not violate classification rules by firing ordnance with classified parts. Ordnance will likely explode. If it does not, that is not the operator’s intent.

Over the last decade U.S. hacking operations have been increasingly dressed up in military jargon to tap into Department of Defense funding streams. For instance, attempted “malware injections” (commercial jargon) or “implant drops” (NSA jargon) are being called “fires” as if a weapon was being fired. However the analogy is questionable.

Unlike bullets, bombs or missiles, most CIA malware is designed to live for days or even years after it has reached its ‘target’. CIA malware does not “explode on impact” but rather permanently infests its target. In order to infect target’s device, copies of the malware must be placed on the target’s devices, giving physical possession of the malware to the target. To exfiltrate data back to the CIA or to await further instructions the malware must communicate with CIA Command & Control (C2) systems placed on internet connected servers. But such servers are typically not approved to hold classified information, so CIA command and control systems are also made unclassified.

A successful ‘attack’ on a target’s computer system is more like a series of complex stock maneuvers in a hostile take-over bid or the careful planting of rumors in order to gain control over an organization’s leadership rather than the firing of a weapons system. If there is a military analogy to be made, the infestation of a target is perhaps akin to the execution of a whole series of military maneuvers against the target’s territory including observation, infiltration, occupation and exploitation.

 

Evading forensics and anti-virus

A series of standards lay out CIA malware infestation patterns which are likely to assist forensic crime scene investigators as well as Apple, Microsoft, Google, Samsung, Nokia, Blackberry, Siemens and anti-virus companies attribute and defend against attacks.

“Tradecraft DO’s and DON’Ts” contains CIA rules on how its malware should be written to avoid fingerprints implicating the “CIA, US government, or its witting partner companies” in “forensic review”. Similar secret standards cover the use of encryption to hide CIA hacker and malware communication (pdf), describing targets & exfiltrated data (pdf) as well as executing payloads (pdf) and persisting (pdf) in the target’s machines over time.

CIA hackers developed successful attacks against most well known anti-virus programs. These are documented in AV defeats, Personal Security Products, Detecting and defeating PSPs and PSP/Debugger/RE Avoidance. For example, Comodo was defeated by CIA malware placing itself in the Window’s “Recycle Bin”. While Comodo 6.x has a “Gaping Hole of DOOM”.

CIA hackers discussed what the NSA’s “Equation Group” hackers did wrong and how the CIA’s malware makers could avoid similar exposure.

 

Examples

The CIA’s Engineering Development Group (EDG) management system contains around 500 different projects (only some of which are documented by “Year Zero”) each with their own sub-projects, malware and hacker tools.

The majority of these projects relate to tools that are used for penetration, infestation (“implanting”), control, and exfiltration.

Another branch of development focuses on the development and operation of Listening Posts (LP) and Command and Control (C2) systems used to communicate with and control CIA implants; special projects are used to target specific hardware from routers to smart TVs.

Some example projects are described below, but see the table of contents for the full list of projects described by WikiLeaks’ “Year Zero”.

 

UMBRAGE

The CIA’s hand crafted hacking techniques pose a problem for the agency. Each technique it has created forms a “fingerprint” that can be used by forensic investigators to attribute multiple different attacks to the same entity.

This is analogous to finding the same distinctive knife wound on multiple separate murder victims. The unique wounding style creates suspicion that a single murderer is responsible. As soon one murder in the set is solved then the other murders also find likely attribution.

The CIA’s Remote Devices Branch‘s UMBRAGE group collects and maintains a substantial library of attack techniques ‘stolen’ from malware produced in other states including the Russian Federation.

With UMBRAGE and related projects the CIA cannot only increase its total number of attack types but also misdirect attribution by leaving behind the “fingerprints” of the groups that the attack techniques were stolen from.

UMBRAGE components cover keyloggers, password collection, webcam capture, data destruction, persistence, privilege escalation, stealth, anti-virus (PSP) avoidance and survey techniques.

 

Fine Dining

Fine Dining comes with a standardized questionnaire i.e menu that CIA case officers fill out. The questionnaire is used by the agency’s OSB (Operational Support Branch) to transform the requests of case officers into technical requirements for hacking attacks (typically “exfiltrating” information from computer systems) for specific operations. The questionnaire allows the OSB to identify how to adapt existing tools for the operation, and communicate this to CIA malware configuration staff. The OSB functions as the interface between CIA operational staff and the relevant technical support staff.

Among the list of possible targets of the collection are ‘Asset’, ‘Liason Asset’, ‘System Administrator’, ‘Foreign Information Operations’, ‘Foreign Intelligence Agencies’ and ‘Foreign Government Entities’. Notably absent is any reference to extremists or transnational criminals. The ‘Case Officer’ is also asked to specify the environment of the target like the type of computer, operating system used, Internet connectivity and installed anti-virus utilities (PSPs) as well as a list of file types to be exfiltrated like Office documents, audio, video, images or custom file types. The ‘menu’ also asks for information if recurring access to the target is possible and how long unobserved access to the computer can be maintained. This information is used by the CIA’s ‘JQJIMPROVISE’ software (see below) to configure a set of CIA malware suited to the specific needs of an operation.

 

Improvise (JQJIMPROVISE)

‘Improvise’ is a toolset for configuration, post-processing, payload setup and execution vector selection for survey/exfiltration tools supporting all major operating systems like Windows (Bartender), MacOS (JukeBox) and Linux (DanceFloor). Its configuration utilities like Margarita allows the NOC (Network Operation Center) to customize tools based on requirements from ‘Fine Dining’ questionairies.

 

HIVE

HIVE is a multi-platform CIA malware suite and its associated control software. The project provides customizable implants for Windows, Solaris, MikroTik (used in internet routers) and Linux platforms and a Listening Post (LP)/Command and Control (C2) infrastructure to communicate with these implants.

The implants are configured to communicate via HTTPS with the webserver of a cover domain; each operation utilizing these implants has a separate cover domain and the infrastructure can handle any number of cover domains.

Each cover domain resolves to an IP address that is located at a commercial VPS (Virtual Private Server) provider. The public-facing server forwards all incoming traffic via a VPN to a ‘Blot’ server that handles actual connection requests from clients. It is setup for optional SSL client authentication: if a client sends a valid client certificate (only implants can do that), the connection is forwarded to the ‘Honeycomb’ toolserver that communicates with the implant; if a valid certificate is missing (which is the case if someone tries to open the cover domain website by accident), the traffic is forwarded to a cover server that delivers an unsuspicious looking website.

The Honeycomb toolserver receives exfiltrated information from the implant; an operator can also task the implant to execute jobs on the target computer, so the toolserver acts as a C2 (command and control) server for the implant.

Similar functionality (though limited to Windows) is provided by the RickBobby project.

See the classified user and developer guides for HIVE.

 

* * *

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Why now?

WikiLeaks published as soon as its verification and analysis were ready.

In Febuary the Trump administration has issued an Executive Order calling for a “Cyberwar” review to be prepared within 30 days.

While the review increases the timeliness and relevance of the publication it did not play a role in setting the publication date.

Redactions

Names, email addresses and external IP addresses have been redacted in the released pages (70,875 redactions in total) until further analysis is complete.

  1. Over-redaction: Some items may have been redacted that are not employees, contractors, targets or otherwise related to the agency, but are, for example, authors of documentation for otherwise public projects that are used by the agency.
  2. Identity vs. person: the redacted names are replaced by user IDs (numbers) to allow readers to assign multiple pages to a single author. Given the redaction process used a single person may be represented by more than one assigned identifier but no identifier refers to more than one real person.
  3. Archive attachments (zip, tar.gz, …) are replaced with a PDF listing all the file names in the archive. As the archive content is assessed it may be made available; until then the archive is redacted.
  4. Attachments with other binary content are replaced by a hex dump of the content to prevent accidental invocation of binaries that may have been infected with weaponized CIA malware. As the content is assessed it may be made available; until then the content is redacted.
  5. The tens of thousands of routable IP addresses references (including more than 22 thousand within the United States) that correspond to possible targets, CIA covert listening post servers, intermediary and test systems, are redacted for further exclusive investigation.
  6. Binary files of non-public origin are only available as dumps to prevent accidental invocation of CIA malware infected binaries.

Organizational Chart

The organizational chart corresponds to the material published by WikiLeaks so far.

Since the organizational structure of the CIA below the level of Directorates is not public, the placement of the EDG and its branches within the org chart of the agency is reconstructed from information contained in the documents released so far. It is intended to be used as a rough outline of the internal organization; please be aware that the reconstructed org chart is incomplete and that internal reorganizations occur frequently.

Wiki pages

“Year Zero” contains 7818 web pages with 943 attachments from the internal development groupware. The software used for this purpose is called Confluence, a proprietary software from Atlassian. Webpages in this system (like in Wikipedia) have a version history that can provide interesting insights on how a document evolved over time; the 7818 documents include these page histories for 1136 latest versions.

The order of named pages within each level is determined by date (oldest first). Page content is not present if it was originally dynamically created by the Confluence software (as indicated on the re-constructed page).

What time period is covered?

The years 2013 to 2016. The sort order of the pages within each level is determined by date (oldest first).

WikiLeaks has obtained the CIA’s creation/last modification date for each page but these do not yet appear for technical reasons. Usually the date can be discerned or approximated from the content and the page order. If it is critical to know the exact time/date contact WikiLeaks.

What is “Vault 7″

“Vault 7″ is a substantial collection of material about CIA activities obtained by WikiLeaks.

When was each part of “Vault 7″ obtained?

Part one was obtained recently and covers through 2016. Details on the other parts will be available at the time of publication.

Is each part of “Vault 7″ from a different source?

Details on the other parts will be available at the time of publication.

What is the total size of “Vault 7″?

The series is the largest intelligence publication in history.

How did WikiLeaks obtain each part of “Vault 7″?

Sources trust WikiLeaks to not reveal information that might help identify them.

Isn’t WikiLeaks worried that the CIA will act against its staff to stop the series?

No. That would be certainly counter-productive.

Has WikiLeaks already ‘mined’ all the best stories?

No. WikiLeaks has intentionally not written up hundreds of impactful stories to encourage others to find them and so create expertise in the area for subsequent parts in the series. They’re there. Look. Those who demonstrate journalistic excellence may be considered for early access to future parts.

Won’t other journalists find all the best stories before me?

Unlikely. There are very considerably more stories than there are journalists or academics who are in a position to write them.

wikileaks

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Elections BC investigates illegal Liberal party donations

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Tess van Straatenon
CHEK News : March 6, 2017

Elections B.C. investigates explosive allegations that lobbyists have been illegally funneling money to the B.C. Liberals

Pricey fundraisers bring in big bucks for the B.C. Liberals but two months before the provincial election, the party’s fundraising practices are being probed by Elections B.C.

“I’m very concerned,” says chief electoral officer Keith Archer. “That’s why we’re launching the investigation.”

At issue, whether lobbyists are illegally funneling money to the party on behalf of corporate and special interests.

An investigative report by the Globe and Mail found tens of thousands of dollars — in multiple donations — by lobbyists who said they were buying tickets to Liberal events for clients and then getting reimbursed, which is against the law.

“The election act is really clear that political donations cannot be made indirectly,” explains Archer.

B.C. Green Party leader Andrew Weaver is also now calling on the RCMP to investigate

“I was sickened when I first read about what was going on,” says the Oak Bay-Gordon Head MLA. “This is egregious. We have very few rules in B.C. on election financing but at least one of them says you can’t donate on behalf of others.”

The law’s been in place for more than 20 years and watchdog group Integrity B.C. says more than $1 million in donations could be in violation in just the last decade.

(read the full article CHEK)

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Canadian bank employees disclose that “job is now to set people up for financial failure”

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Erica Johnson
CBC: March 6, 2017

Three TD Bank Group employees are speaking out about what they say is “incredible pressure” to squeeze profits from customers by signing them up for products and services they don’t need.

The longtime employees say their jobs have become similar to that of the stereotypical used car salesman, as they’re pushed to upsell customers to reach rising sales revenue targets.

They say there has always been a sales component to the job, but the demand to meet “unrealistic” quarterly goals has intensified in recent years as profits from low interest rates have dropped and banks became required — after the financial meltdown of 2008 — to keep more capital on hand to protect against a downturn in the market.

“I’m in survival mode now,” says a teller who has worked at TD for more than 15 years, “because it’s a choice between keeping my job and feeding my family … or doing what’s right for the customer.”

She and the two managers who contacted Go Public have worked more than 50 years combined at the bank. CBC has agreed to conceal their identities and location because they are worried about being fired.

“When I come into work, I have to put my ethics aside and not do what’s right for the customer,” says the teller.

Documents provided to Go Public show the teller’s sales revenue goals have more than tripled in the past three years.

“You don’t know what it’s like to go to bed at night, knowing your job is now to set people up for financial failure,” says the teller, her voice cracking.

Go Public has heard from TD tellers in several Canadian cities who say they quit their jobs because the pressure to push products was so extreme.

“I was made to feel as if I was committing a huge wrong for looking out for the best interests of my customer over the interests of the bank,” says Dalisha Dyal, who worked as a TD teller in Vancouver for four years.

Another TD teller says the relentless pressure to meet sales numbers is so severe, the teller is currently on a medical leave.

The three bank employees who initially contacted Go Public explained how tellers upsell customers: when a customer keys in a PIN at the teller counter, a gold star lights up on the teller’s computer screen, indicating that “Advice Opportunities Exist.”

When a teller clicks on the star, products and services the customer hasn’t purchased pop up, such as overdraft protection, credit card or line of credit.

Each time a teller gets a customer to sign up for one of those options, it counts towards meeting their sales targets.

“Customers are prey to me,” says the teller. “I will do anything I can to make my [sales] goal.”

(read the full article at CBC)

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To Solve Refugee Crisis, Stop Funding Terrorism

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Darius Shahtahmasebi
The Anti-Media : March 2, 2017

Democratic Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, the politician who previously accused the U.S. of arming ISIS, is still calling on the U.S. government to stop its disastrous regime change policies in the Middle East.

According to a press release made public on Tuesday, Gabbard has again called for the U.S. to stop aiding terrorists like al-Qaeda and ISIS. Gabbard’s guest at the presidential address to Congress, a Kurdish refugee activist, also called for an end to the U.S. policy of “regime change in Syria.”

Gabbard said:

“In the face of unimaginable heartbreak, Tima has been a voice for the voiceless, a champion for refugees worldwide, and a strong advocate for ending the regime change war in Syria. I am honored to welcome her to Washington tonight as we raise our voices to call on our nation’s leaders to end the counterproductive regime change war in Syria that has caused great human suffering, refugees, loss of life, and devastation. We urge leaders in Congress to pass the Stop Arming Terrorists Act and end our destructive policy of using American taxpayer dollars to provide direct and indirect support to armed militants allied with terrorist groups like al-Qaeda and ISIS in Syria, who are fighting to overthrow the Syrian government.”

Gabbard also reportedly told Russian state-owned news station RT:

“For years, our government has been providing both direct and indirect support to these armed militant groups, who are working directly with or under the command of terrorist groups like Al-Qaeda and ISIS, all in their effort and fight to overthrow the Syrian government.”

The activist, Tima Kurdi, is more widely known as the aunt of a three-year-old boy who drowned on the shores of Turkey in September 2015. The image went viral on social media and was easily manipulated by the mainstream media to further the United States’ agenda in the region, never once laying blame to the U.S. military establishment for spending over $1 billion a year arming Syrian rebels.

According to the press release, Kurdi said the following:

“I am proud to stand with Tulsi and support her work to end regime change war in Syria. My people have suffered for more than six years—enough is enough. Tulsi understands that arming the so-called “rebels” in Syria has only led to more bloodshed, more suffering, and created more refugees. A military solution in Syria is not the answer. I hope that President Trump will stop arming terrorists and commit to a political solution in Syria—it is the only way to restore peace.”

Gabbard came under fire earlier this year when she took a secretive trip to Syria and met with President Assad, as well as a number of other people on the ground. The fact that her proposed policies have the backing of the relative of the drowned Syrian refugee — whose images the media exploited in 2015 to advance the western narrative against Assad — should speak volumes about the efficacy of Gabbard’s approach. Despite this, the media hardly pays heed to Gabbard’s ideas.

In 2014, PBS ran a report in which they interviewed Syrian rebels who had been trained by the CIA at a camp in Qatar. According to one of the fighters:

“They trained us to ambush regime or enemy vehicles and cut off the road…They also trained us on how to attack a vehicle, raid it, retrieve information or weapons and munitions, and how to finish off soldiers still alive after an ambush.” [emphasis added]

The latter emboldened section is a blatant war crime and is also the standard operating procedure for ISIS. Regardless of the banner these rebels operate under, this is a terrorist tactic, and it is ultimately what American taxpayer dollars have been doing in Syria.

Source:The Anti-Media (republished this article under a Creative Commons license)

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The US stock market is highly overvalued. Here’s why…

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Simon Black
sovereign man : February 23, 2017

This is really starting to get out of control.

No doubt you’re familiar with the S&P 500, the stock index that measures the performance of the largest US companies.

And as we’ve discussed before, one of the most important benchmarks in measuring whether stocks are overvalued or undervalued is the Price/Earnings, or P/E ratio.

Looking back through more than a century of financial data, the long-term average P/E ratio for the S&P 500 has been about 15.

As of yesterday afternoon, the P/E ratio for the S&P 500 stock index reached 26.5.

That’s high– more than 75% higher than the long-term average.

More importantly, since the 1870s, there have been a total of THREE periods in which the average stock P/E ratio was above 26.5.

The first time was around the Panic of 1893.
The second was around the 2000 dot-com crash.
And the third was around the 2008 financial collapse.

See the pattern? Whenever financial markets get overheated, bad things tend to happen.

It’s also important to consider that economic growth worldwide has been slowing.

Global trade growth, for example, is at its lowest level since the financial crisis.

And in the United States in particular, GDP growth was just 1.6% in 2016.

In fact the US economy has gone 11 straight years without seeing 3% GDP growth.

Slow economic growth is generally negative for corporate profits, so it’s difficult to imagine phenomenal earnings with such tepid economic growth.

As an example, HSBC is one of the largest banks in the world with operations in dozens of countries.

Two days ago the bank announced that profits had plunged 62% due to slow growth and uncertainty around the world.

That brings me to another major indicator of the stock market– something known as the “Buffett Valuation”.

The Buffett Valuation looks at the total value of the stock market relative to the country’s GDP.

Warren Buffet has called this ratio “probably the best single measure of where valuations stand at any given moment.”

Right now, for example, the total size of the US stock market according to Federal Reserve data is $22.6 trillion.

Meanwhile the total size of the US economy is $18.8 trillion.

This puts the Buffett valuation at around 1.2, meaning the stock market is about 20% larger than the entire US economy.

Historically speaking, this is expensive. Stock markets start getting into trouble when the ratio surpasses 1.0.

(The Buffett ratio was 1.11 before the 2008 crash…)

On top of everything else, as we discussed yesterday, many of the largest companies in the US have been artificially inflating their stock prices.

They’re taking on billions of dollars in debt to pay out phony dividends and buy back their own shares.

As an example, I just read an article in a major financial publication that General Motors is the “best” stock to buy.

Really?

General Motors made $16.5 billion from its ongoing business operations in 2016.

But they had to spend an incredible $29 billion in capital expenditures just to sustain the business.

So GM’s Free Cash Flow was negative.

It was similar in 2015.

In order to make ends meet, GM increased total debt by an incredible $40 BILLION over the last two years.

This is seriously the best deal in the market?

None of this adds up.

Look, I don’t have a crystal ball. And if there’s one thing that’s consistent about financial bubbles, it’s that they can last longer than anyone expects.

So, yes, it’s possible prices go much higher.

But is it worth the risk in light of such obvious data?

(read the full article at sovereign man)

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2017 Toronto Mumps Outbreak : Nearly half of infected population was fully vaccinated

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AlternativeFreePress.com

Toronto is experiencing a Mumps outbreak. All of the currently confirmed cases have been in adults between 18 and 35. CBC reports that “About 60 per cent” of them had not received the two recommended doses of the MMR vaccine. Lab results have confirmed that 14 people have become infected with the virus, so “about 60 per cent” is most likely 57% or 8 out of 14 people. That means that 6 of the 14 people or 43% were completely vaccinated.

The MMR vaccine is ineffective. This recent outbreak in Toronto is far from the first time that vaccinated people have fallen ill . In 2014 we wrote about outbreaks in Massachusetts, Ohio and New York which were infecting vaccinated populations.

15 out of 15 students infected with whooping cough last month at Falmouth High School in Massachusetts had been vaccinated.

At Fordham University in New York City all students are required to be vaccinated including the vaccination for mumps, measles, and rubella (MMR), but as of February 21st, 13 cases of the mumps had been reported with 100% of those infected having already been vaccinated.

In Ohio, as of March 24th there were 63 reported cases & 97% of those infected had been vaccinated.

Dr Tetyana Obukhanych is an Immunologist who earned her PhD in Immunology at the Rockefeller University in New York and did postdoctoral training at Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA. and Stanford University in California. In an interview with Catherine Frompovich, Dr Obukhanych explains why these outbreaks are occurring among the vaccinated population:

I think this is happening because vaccination does not engage the genuine mechanism of immunity. Vaccination typically engages the immune response—that is, everything that immunologists would theoretically “want” to see being engaged in the immune system. But apparently this is not enough to confer robust protection that matches natural immunity. Our knowledge of the immune system is far from being complete.

Dr Obukhanych describes natural immunity as: “in a way, a tautological expression because immunity can only be acquired naturally at this point, only through the exposure to an infected individual, although occasionally such exposure would go asymptomatic while still establishing immunity. Nevertheless, because there is a common misconception that vaccines also confer immunity, it is sometimes necessary to use a qualifier “natural,” when referring to immunity, to distinguish it from vaccine-based protection.

In the following video Dr Obukhanych explains how protective serum titers drop very quickly after the second MMR dose, meaning some vaccinated people do not receive any lasting protection from the MMR vaccine.

Here is a screenshot of the chart in the video highlighting the data which shows the MMR booster is not very effective & provides at best, leaky immunity.

Dr. Russell Blaylock, a board-certified neurosurgeon, author and lecturer who attended the LSU School of Medicine and completed his internship and neurosurgical residency at the Medical University of South Carolina explains how herd immunity is only truly obtainable through natural immunity:

In the original description of herd immunity, the protection to the population at large occurred only if people contracted the infections naturally. The reason for this is that naturally-acquired immunity lasts for a lifetime. The vaccine proponents quickly latched onto this concept and applied it to vaccine-induced immunity. But, there was one major problem – vaccine-induced immunity lasted for only a relatively short period, from 2 to 10 years at most, and then this applies only to humoral immunity. This is why they began, silently, to suggest boosters for most vaccines, even the common childhood infections such as chickenpox, measles, mumps, and rubella.

Then they discovered an even greater problem, the boosters were lasting for only 2 years or less. This is why we are now seeing mandates that youth entering colleges have multiple vaccines, even those which they insisted gave lifelong immunity, such as the MMR. The same is being suggested for full-grown adults. Ironically, no one in the media or medical field is asking what is going on. They just accept that it must be done.

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Flynn’s Gone But They’re Still Gunning For You, Donald

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by David Stockman
Ron Paul Institute for Peace & Prosperity : February 17, 2017

General Flynn’s tenure in the White House was only slightly longer than that of President-elect William Henry Harrison in 1841.  Actually, with just 24 days in the White House, General Flynn’s tenure fell a tad short of old “Tippecanoe and Tyler Too”.  General Harrison actually lasted 31 days before getting felled by pneumonia.

And the circumstances were considerably more benign. It seems that General Harrison had a fondness for the same “firewater” that agitated the native Americans he slaughtered at the famous battle memorialized in his campaign slogan. In fact, during the campaign a leading Democrat newspaper skewered the old general, who at 68 was the oldest US President prior to Ronald Reagan, saying:

Give him a barrel of hard [alcoholic] cider, and… a pension of two thousand [dollars] a year… and… he will sit the remainder of his days in his log cabin.

That might have been a good idea back then (or even now), but to prove he wasn’t infirm, Harrison gave the longest inaugural address in US history (2 hours) in the midst of seriously inclement weather wearing neither hat nor coat.

That’s how he got pneumonia! Call it foolhardy, but that was nothing compared to that exhibited by Donald Trump’s former national security advisor.

General Flynn got the equivalent of political pneumonia by talking for hours during the transition to international leaders, including Russia’s ambassador to the US, on phone lines which were bugged by the CIA. Or more accurately, making calls which were “intercepted” by the very same NSA/FBI spy machinery that monitors every single phone call made in America.

Ironically, we learned what Flynn should have known about the Deep State’s plenary surveillance from Edward Snowden. Alas, Flynn and Trump wanted the latter to be hung in the public square as a “traitor”, but if that’s the solution to intelligence community leaks, the Donald is now going to need his own rope factory to deal with the flood of traitorous disclosures directed against him.

In any event, it was “intercepts” leaked from deep in the bowels of the CIA to the Washington Post and then amplified in a 24/7 campaign by the War Channel (CNN) that brought General Flynn down.

But here’s the thing. They were aiming at Donald J. Trump. And for all of his puffed up bluster about being the savviest negotiator on the planet, the Donald walked right into their trap, as we shall amplify momentarily.

But let’s first make the essence of the matter absolutely clear. The whole Flynn imbroglio is not about a violation of the Logan Act owing to the fact that the general engaged in diplomacy as a private citizen.

It’s about re-litigating the 2016 election based on the hideous lie that Trump stole it with the help of Vladimir Putin. In fact, Nancy Pelosi was quick to say just that:

‘The American people deserve to know the full extent of Russia’s financial, personal and political grip on President Trump and what that means for our national security,’ House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said in a press release.

Yet, we should rephrase. The re-litigation aspect reaches back to the Republican primaries, too. The Senate GOP clowns who want a war with practically everybody, John McCain and Lindsey Graham, are already launching their own investigation from the Senate Armed Services committee.

And Senator Graham, the member of the boobsey twins who ran for President in 2016 while getting a GOP primary vote from virtually nobody,  made clear that General Flynn’s real sin was a potential peace overture to the Russians:

Sen. Lindsey Graham also said he wants an investigation into Flynn’s conversations with a Russian ambassador about sanctions: “I think Congress needs to be informed of what actually Gen. Flynn said to the Russian ambassador about lifting sanctions,” the South Carolina Republican told CNN’s Kate Bolduan on “At This Hour. And I want to know, did Gen. Flynn do this by himself or was he directed by somebody to do it?”

We say good riddance to Flynn, of course, because he was a shrill anti-Iranian warmonger. But let’s also not be fooled by the clinical term at the heart of the story. That is, “intercepts” mean that the Deep State taps the phone calls of the President’s own closest advisors as a matter of course.

This is the real scandal as Trump himself has rightly asserted. The very idea that the already announced #1 national security advisor to a President-elect should be subject to old-fashion “bugging,” albeit with modern day technology, overwhelmingly trumps the utterly specious Logan Act charge at the center of the case.

As one writer for LawNewz noted regarding acting Attorney General Sally Yates’ voyeuristic pre-occupation with Flynn’s intercepted conversations, Nixon should be rolling in his grave with envy:

Now, information leaks that Sally Yates knew about surveillance being conducted against potential members of the Trump administration, and disclosed that information to others. Even Richard Nixon didn’t use the government agencies themselves to do his black bag surveillance operations. Sally Yates involvement with this surveillance on American political opponents, and possibly the leaking related thereto, smacks of a return to Hoover-style tactics. As writers at Bloomberg and The Week both noted, it wreaks of ‘police-state’ style tactics. But knowing dear Sally as I do, it comes as no surprise.

Yes, that’s the same career apparatchik of the permanent government that Obama left behind to continue the 2016 election by other means. And it’s working. The Donald is being rapidly emasculated by the powers that be in the Imperial City due to what can only be described as an audacious and self-evident attack on Trump’s Presidency by the Deep State.

Indeed, it seems that the layers of intrigue have gotten so deep and convoluted that the nominal leadership of the permanent  government machinery has lost track of who is spying on whom. Thus, we have the following curious utterance by none other than the Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Devin Nunes:

‘I expect for the FBI to tell me what is going on, and they better have a good answer,’ he told The Washington Post. ‘The big problem I see here is that you have an American citizen who had his phone calls recorded.’

Well, yes. That makes 324 million of us, Congressman.

But for crying out loud, surely the oh so self-important chairman of the House intelligence committee knows that everybody is bugged. But when it reaches the point that the spy state is essentially using its unconstitutional tools to engage in what amounts to “opposition research” with the aim of election nullification, then the Imperial City has become a clear and present danger to American democracy and the liberties of the American people.

As Robert Barnes of LawNewz further explained, Sally Yates, former CIA director John Brennan and a large slice of the Never Trumper intelligence community were systematically engaged in “opposition research” during the campaign and the transition:

According to published reports, someone was eavesdropping, and recording, the conversations of Michael Flynn, while Sally Yates was at the Department of Justice. Sally Yates knew about this eavesdropping, listened in herself (Pellicano-style for those who remember the infamous LA cases), and reported what she heard to others. For Yates to have such access means she herself must have been involved in authorizing its disclosure to political appointees, since she herself is such a political appointee. What justification was there for an Obama appointee to be spying on the conversations of a future Trump appointee?

Consider this little tidbit in The Washington Post. The paper, which once broke Watergate, is now propagating the benefits of Watergate-style surveillance in ways that do make Watergate look like a third-rate effort.  (With the) FBI ‘routinely’ monitoring conversations of Americans…… Yates listened to ‘the intercepted call,’ even though Yates knew there was ‘little chance’ of any credible case being made for prosecution under a law ‘that has never been used in a prosecution.’

And well it hasn’t been. After all, the Logan Act was signed by President John Adams in 1799 in order to punish one of Thomas Jefferson’s supporters for having peace discussions with the French government in Paris. That is, it amounted to pre-litigating the Presidential campaign of 1800 based on sheer political motivation.

According to the Washington Post itself, that is exactly what Yates and the Obama holdovers did day and night during the interregnum:

Indeed, the paper details an apparent effort by Yates to misuse her office to launch a full-scale secret investigation of her political opponents, including ‘intercepting calls’ of her political adversaries.

So all of the feigned outrage emanating from Democrats and the Washington establishment about Team Trump’s trafficking with the Russians is a cover story. Surely anyone even vaguely familiar with recent history would have known there was absolutely nothing illegal or even untoward about Flynn’s post-Christmas conversations with the Russian Ambassador.

Indeed, we recall from personal experience the thrilling moment on inauguration day in January 1981 when word came of the release of the American hostages in Tehran. Let us assure you, that did not happen by immaculate diplomatic conception — nor was it a parting gift to the Gipper by the outgoing Carter Administration.

To the contrary, it was the fruit of secret negotiations with the Iranian government during the transition by private American citizens. As the history books would have it because it’s true, the leader of that negotiation, in fact, was Ronald Reagan’s national security council director-designate, Dick Allen.

As the real Washington Post later reported, under the by-line of a real reporter, Bob Woodward:

Reagan campaign aides met in a Washington DC hotel in early October, 1980, with a self-described ‘Iranian exile’ who offered, on behalf of the Iranian government, to release the hostages to Reagan, not Carter, in order to ensure Carter’s defeat in the November 4, 1980 election.

The American participants were Richard Allen, subsequently Reagan’s first national security adviser, Allen aide Laurence Silberman, and Robert McFarlane, another future national security adviser who in 1980 was on the staff of Senator John Tower (R-TX).

To this day we have not had occasion to visit our old friend Dick Allen in the US penitentiary because he’s not there; the Logan Act was never invoked in what is surely the most blatant case ever of citizen diplomacy.

So let’s get to the heart of the matter and be done with it. The Obama White House conducted a sour grapes campaign to delegitimize the election beginning November 9th and it was led by then CIA Director John Brennan.

That treacherous assault on the core constitutional matter of the election process culminated in the ridiculous Russian meddling report of the Obama White House in December. The latter, of course, was issued by serial liar James Clapper, as national intelligence director, and the clueless Democrat lawyer and bag-man, Jeh Johnson, who had been appointed head of the Homeland Security Department.

Yet on the basis of  the report’s absolutely zero evidence and endless surmise, innuendo and “assessments”, the Obama White House imposed another round of its silly school-boy sanctions on a handful of Putin’s cronies.

Of course, Flynn should have been telling the Russian Ambassador that this nonsense would be soon reversed!

But here is the ultimate folly. The mainstream media talking heads are harrumphing loudly about the fact that the very day following Flynn’s call — Vladimir Putin announced that he would not retaliate against the new Obama sanctions as expected; and shortly thereafter, the Donald tweeted that Putin had shown admirable wisdom.

That’s right. Two reasonably adult statesman undertook what might be called the Christmas Truce of 2016. But like its namesake of 1914 on the bloody no man’s land of the western front, the War Party has determined that the truce-makers shall not survive.

The Donald has been warned.

Source: The Ron Paul Institute

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“Unimaginable” radiation levels at Fukushima cause second robot to be abandoned

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Second robot abandoned due to ‘extreme radiation’ in Fukushima nuclear plant

James Gorman
9news: February 20, 2017

Another robot sent to investigate the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant has been abandoned after succumbing to extreme radiation levels.

The “Scorpion” robot, designed by the Tokyo Electric Power company (TEPCO), experienced catastrophic failure as it approached the core of reactor number two due to “unimaginable” radiation levels.

It is the second robot TEPCO has been forced to abandon inside the crippled plant, which suffered a catastrophic meltdown during an earthquake and subsequent tsunami in 2011, phys.org reports.

The advanced robot had been carrying two small cameras and other sensor equipment in an attempt to locate melted fuel cells inside the plant.

As it suffered the failure, it was moved to a position so as not to hinder future expeditions. It was then shut down and abandoned.

Earlier this month, TEPCO revealed the radiation level in the containment vessel of reactor two had reached more than of 530 sieverts per hour.

The “unimaginable” radiation levels were assessed by the National Institute of Radiological Sciences (NIRS).

According to the NIRS, just 4 sieverts of radiation exposure would be enough to kill a handful of people.

Earlier this month, TEPCO sent in its first exploratory robot to clear debris out of the way for future missions. The robot’s cameras shut down when it exceeded its maximum tolerance of 1000 sieverts.

TEPCO has insisted it will continue to push forwards with missions to examine the crippled reactors one at a time, as pressure mounts from the public and government officials to officially decommission the plant – an endeavour the company is still unsure how to accomplish.

(Read the full article at 9news)

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The Cancer Of War: U.S. Admits To Using Radioactive Munitions In Syria

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Daniel Mcadams
February 17, 2017 : The Ron Paul Institute for Peace & Prosperity

Despite vowing not to use depleted uranium (DU) weapons in its military action in Syria, the US government has now admitted that it has fired thousands of the deadly rounds into Syrian territory. As Foreign Policy Magazine reports:

US Central Command (CENTCOM) spokesman Maj. Josh Jacques told Airwars and Foreign Policy that 5,265 armor-piercing 30 mm rounds containing depleted uranium (DU) were shot from Air Force A-10 fixed-wing aircraft on Nov. 16 and Nov. 22, 2015, destroying about 350 vehicles in the country’s eastern desert.

Operation Inherent Resolve spokesman John Moore said in 2015 that:

US and coalition aircraft have not been and will not be using depleted uranium munitions in Iraq or Syria during Operation Inherent Resolve.

Now we know that is not true. 

Numerous studies have found that depleted uranium is particularly harmful when the dust is inhaled by the victim. A University of Southern Maine study discovered that:

…DU damages DNA in human lung cells. The team, led by John Pierce Wise, exposed cultures of the cells to uranium compounds at different concentrations.

 

The compounds caused breaks in the chromosomes within cells and stopped them from growing and dividing healthily. ‘These data suggest that exposure to particulate DU may pose a significant [DNA damage] risk and could possibly result in lung cancer,’ the team wrote in the journal Chemical Research in Toxicology.

We should remember that the United States is engaged in military activities in Syria in violation of international and US law. There is no Congressional authorization for US military action against ISIS in Syria and the United Nations has not authorized military force in violation of Syria’s sovereignty either.

The innocent citizens of Syria will be forced to endure increased risks of cancer, birth defects, and other disease related to exposure to radioactive materials. Depleted uranium is the byproduct of the enrichment of uranium to fuel nuclear power plants and has a half-life in the hundreds of millions of years. Damage to Syrian territory will thus continue long after anyone involved in current hostilities is dead.

Source: Ron Paul Institute for Peace & Prosperity

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BC Liberals Posted Unprotected Voter Information Online; Caught Lying In Cover-up

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The Canadian Press : February 10, 2017

An Independent member of British Columbia’s legislature has stepped forward to shed light on Premier Christy Clark’s allegations that the New Democrat Opposition hacked the B.C. Liberal party’s website.

Vicki Huntington, the member for the riding of Delta-South, says her staff found unprotected, personal information about voters posted on the B.C. Liberal party website.

Huntington says she shared the information with a reporter and was shocked when the Liberal party blocked access to the formerly unprotected section of its website and Clark claimed someone with malicious intent, working from within legislature, had hacked the site.

Huntington says she burst out laughing when Clark said the alleged hacking was an attempt to thwart the democratic process.

(read the full article at thechronicleherald.ca)

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9/11 Mastermind’s Letter to Obama: Here’s Why We Attacked America

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Carey Wedler
Anti-Media :February 8, 2017

When Barack Obama was still in office, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, one of the perpetrators of the 9/11 terror attacks, penned a letter to him. Though a judge recently ruled that letter could be sent to the White House before the outgoing president left office, the contents were to be withheld from the public until a month later — until after President Trump had assumed power.

This week, the Miami Herald obtained and published the contents of the 18-page letter, originally written in 2015 and titled “LETTER FROM THE CAPTIVE MUJAHID KHALID SHAIKH MOHAMMAD TO THE HEAD OF THE SNAKE, BARACK OBAMA, THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, THE COUNTRY OF OPPRESSION AND TYRANNY.” It contains the Kuwait-born Pakistani terrorist’s insights into why 9/11 occurred, as well as surprisingly accurate assessments of American politics.

One of the main reasons for 9/11, according to Mohammed, is one terrorists have referenced before: American foreign policy. His explanation is rooted both in history and in current affairs.

The American people were misled by the Johnson administration and the Pentagon into waging a war in Vietnam that cost 58,000 U.S. lives and millions of Vietnamese lives and ultimately led to a humiliating defeat,” he writes, correctly referencing Johnson’s false flag attack in the Gulf of Tonkin, which the Democratic president used to push the U.S. into a prolonged, messy, and ultimately failed war.

Mohammed also focused on U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East and the Muslim world specifically, providing a long list of reasons why the “U.S. reaped what it sowed on 9/11.” One of those grievances was the U.S. government and CIA’s scheme to back and support  “the Indonesian dictator Suharto when his army-led massacres slaughtered hundreds of thousands of landless farmers,” though his examples span the globe.

He cites America’s notorious desire for oil, referencing when the U.S. built “military bases in the Arabian Peninsula in Tabuk, Dhahran, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, and U.A.E – which is prohibited by Sharia laws – to secure a non-stop flood of oil to [their] country at the cheapest price.” He argues this was “to support the dictatorial rule of monarchial families and oppressive, corrupt, dynastic regimes and looting the wealth of the Muslim Ummah population; and to accomplish [U.S.] military objectives there.”

He references the CIA’s 1953 coup in Iran — conducted in conjunction with their British intelligence counterparts — to overthrow the country’s democratically elected leader and empower the “Shah of Iran and Safak, the brutal Iranian intelligence agency, for 40 years.”

Discussing Iraq in the 1990s, he references “when Anglo-Saxon crusaders imposed sanctions against the Iraqi people in a manner of collective punishment that resulted in the death of half a million civilians.” He later addresses former U.N. ambassador Madeleine Albright’s claim that the deaths of half a million children were “worth it.”

Mohammed also points out hypocrisies in American foreign policy, such as the American officials’ ties to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad before they wanted to oust him. He also points out that before invading Iraq, the U.S. “supported Saddam Hussein during the Iran-Iraq War, even when he was using poison mustard gas against the Kurds…”

Mohammed discusses at length the centuries of Western attacks on Muslims and their countries, also noting the way Western countries broke up formerly Ottoman nations in the early 20th century, dividing them up and claiming control in the region.

He circles back to indict the whole of American foreign policy, noting the U.S. has escaped prosecution for their “brutal and savage massacres against the American Indian and [their] crimes in Vietnam, Korea, Tokyo, Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Dresden, and Latin America; and for [their] support for the Chinese Dictator, Chiang Kai-Shek, and Mexico’s dictator, Santa Ana.”

You can keep your military bases in Japan, Germany, Italy, and elsewhere,” he writes, “but Muslim land will never accept infidels army bases in their land.” He credits Allah with helping them fight back against Western aggression, frequently weaving in religious sentiments as justification for further violence.

Though Mohammed focuses largely on U.S. imperialism, one of his main grievances is the U.S. government’s support for Israel throughout the decades. He argues America reaped what it sowed on 9/11 in part because of America’s backing of Israel “in the political arena, when you blocked resolutions in the United Nations Security Council more than 45 times to protect repeated Israeli crimes.” Mohammed cites the U.S.’ support for Israel’s invasions of Lebanon throughout the years, ultimately arguing that jihadists fight for all oppressed Muslims. He claims they represent Palestinians and others who have been crushed by Western influence and invasion (of course, it is impossible to prove all victimized Muslims support terrorism as recourse, making this claim rather grandiose).

He discusses Obama’s ongoing efforts to continue providing weaponry to Israel even as the former president openly questioned Israeli settlements. “While your children may play safely in the White House backyard, the entire world is watching your weapons kill Palestinian children at play on the Gaza beach during Holy Month of Ramadan or studying in their classrooms.”

Mohammed criticizes American politicians’ repeated claims that Israel “has a right to defend itself.”

Why can’t you or any American president before you say that the Palestinians have a right to defend themselves against Israeli crimes?” he wonders. “The answer is very clear but you can’t say it because your lords will be very angry.” Indeed, Israel wields significant influence over American policy.

The notion that American politicians are beholden to higher powers is echoed throughout the letter, but not just with regard to Israel’s influence through lobbying organization AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee). With surprising accuracy, Mohammed details corporate influence throughout government. Early in the letter, he points out that politicians must serve their donors, whether they are in the healthcare industry, the prison industry, or “Blackwater, Halliburton, or any other arms industry of weapons firm.” He says the latter industry requires politicians “to push the DoD and U.S. soldiers into more wars…

He condemns American capitalism and the farce of democracy throughout the letter, referring to politicians as mercenaries working for their financiers. He asserts that “[i]n the end, this will lead the rich to grow richer and the poor to grow poorer. The country will sink into debt and finally the nation will die.

Mohammed also singles out Obama, citing his drone strikes, which killed countless innocent civilians and children. He condemns Obama’s assassination of American citizen Anwar al-Awlaki without trial — followed by the killing of his 16-year-old son — as well as the president’s establishment of indefinite detention and his failure to close Guantanamo, where Mohammed has been imprisoned for years.

He calls out Western media, as well. “Don’t let Fox, CNN, BBC, or American and pro-Israeli channels cover your eyes because they never show the truth, their main task is brainwashing,” he argues. “They are experts at lying and distorting the facts to achieve their masters’ ends.

(Instead, he praises Al-Jazeera, which is, in fact, a news agency originally funded by the oil-rich Qatari government, an ally of the United States.)

Since 9/11, the political establishment’s narrative has asserted Islamic terrorists target the United States because they hate us for our freedom, because their religion is violent, and because they are hellbent on destroying anyone who disagrees with their ideology. While it’s indisputable that anyone who would seek to kill 3,000 civilians is a cold-blooded murderer, his explanation has been echoed by terrorists before; the Charlie Hebdo shooters, the Boston Marathon bombers, and the Orlando night club shooter all referenced violent, imperialistic American policy as reasons for their attacks.

Mohammed concludes:

If your government and public won’t tolerate 9/11, then how can you ask Muslims to tolerate your 60 years of crimes in Palestine, Lebanon, the Arabian Peninsula and the whole Muslim World?

As former congressman and longtime non-interventionist Dr. Ron Paul warned in 1998 — long before 9/11:

“Far too often, the bombing of declared (or concocted) enemies, whether it’s the North Vietnamese, the Iraqis, the Libyans, the Sudanese, the Albanians, or the Afghans, produces precisely the opposite effect to what is sought. It kills innocent people, creates more hatred toward America, unifies and stimulates the growth of the extremist Islamic movement and makes them more determined than ever to strike back with their weapon of choice – terror.”

The Anti-Media (cc)

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Trump proves he is a tool for Wall Street after all

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Extreme Vetting, But Not for Banks

Matt Taibbi
February 3, 2017: Rolling Stone

Donald Trump, the man who positioned himself as the common man’s shield against Wall Street, signed a series of orders today calling for reviews or rollbacks of financial regulations. He did so after meeting with some friendly helpers.

Here’s how CNBC described the crowd of Wall Street CEOs Trump received, before he ordered a review of both the Dodd-Frank Act and the fiduciary rule requiring investment advisors to act in their clients’ interests:

“Trump also will meet at the White House with leading CEOs, including JPMorgan’s Jamie Dimon, Blackstone’s Steve Schwarzman, and BlackRock’s Larry Fink.”

Leading the way for this assortment of populist heroes will be former Goldman honcho Gary Cohn, now Trump’s chief economic advisor.

Dimon, Schwarzman, Fink and Cohn collectively represent a rogues’ gallery of the creeps most responsible for the 2008 crash. It would be hard to put together a group of people less sympathetic to the non-wealthy.

Trump’s approach to Wall Street is in sharp contrast to his tough-talking stances on terrorism. He talks a big game when slamming the door on penniless refugees, but curls up like a beach weakling around guys who have more money than he does.

The two primary disasters in American history this century (if we’re not counting Trump’s election) have been 9/11 and the 2008 financial crisis, which cost 8.7 million people their jobs and may have destroyed as much as 45 percent of the world’s wealth.

The response to 9/11 we know: major military actions all over the world, plus a radical reshaping of our legal structure, with voters embracing warrantless surveillance, a suspension of habeas corpus, even torture.

But the crisis response? Basically, we gave trillions of dollars to bail out the very actors who caused the mess. Now, with Trump’s election, we’ve triumphantly put those same actors back in charge of non-policing themselves.

In between, we passed a few weak-sauce rules designed to scale back some of the worst excesses. Those rules presumably will be tossed aside now.

Trump’s “extreme vetting” plan for immigrants and refugees is based upon a safety argument – i.e., that the smallest chance of a disaster justifies the most extreme measures. Infamously this week, administration spokesdunce Kellyanne Conway resorted to citing a disaster that never even happened – the “Bowling Green Massacre” – as a justification for the crazy visa policy.

This makes Trump’s embrace of the Mortgage Crash Dream Team as his advisory panel for how to make Wall Street run more smoothly all the more preposterous.

The crisis was caused by the financial equivalent of open borders. Virtually no one was monitoring risk levels or credit worthiness at the world’s biggest companies.

The watchdogs who are supposed to be making sure the morons on Wall Street don’t blow up the planet all failed: the compliance people within private companies, the so-called self-regulating organizations like the NYSE, and finally the government agencies like the OCC and the OTS.

These companies are now so enormous that they can’t keep track of their own positions. Also, in sharp contrast to the propaganda about what brainy people they all are, many of them lack even the most basic understanding of the potential consequences of deals they might be making.

The leadership of AIG, for instance, basically had no clue how its derivatives portfolio worked, despite the fact that they had $79 billion worth of exposure. Similarly, then-CEO Chuck Prince of Citigroup told the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission that a $40 billion mortgage position “would not in any way have excited my attention.” Both companies ended up needing massive bailouts.

Not only can they not keep track of their own books, they already blow off regulators whenever they get the chance. Take JPMorgan Chase’s “London Whale” episode, in which some $6.2 billion in losses in one portfolio accumulated practically overnight. In that case, Dimon simply refused to give the federal regulators routine, required reports as to what was going on with his bank’s positions, probably because he himself had no idea how big the hole was at the time.

“Mr. Dimon said it was his decision whether to send the reports to the OCC,” a regulator later told the Senate.

This is the same Jamie Dimon about whom Trump said today, “There’s nobody better to tell me about Dodd-Frank than Jamie Dimon, so thank you, Jamie.”

The enduring lesson of the financial crisis is that in markets as complex as this one, the most extreme danger is in opacity. The big problem is that these egomaniacal Wall Street titans want markets as opaque as possible.

This is why they want to get rid of the fiduciary rule, because they don’t think it’s anyone’s business if they choose to bet against their clients (as Cohn’s Goldman famously did), or overcharge them, or otherwise screw them.

They don’t want to have to submit to even the most basic capital requirements, or be classified a systemically important company, or have to keep their depository businesses separate from their gambling businesses, or have to have a plan for dissolution if they melt down, or really deal with any intrusions at all.

(read the full article at Rolling Stone)

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Trump Keeps Swamp Full of Goldman Sachs Scum

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‘The swamp is Goldman Sachs': how the bank is rewarded for putting profits over people

Sarah Jaffe
The Guardian : January 18, 2017

In a persistent drizzle on 17 January, a group of protesters swathed in green ponchos unfurled tarps and sleeping bags on the sidewalk in front of Goldman Sachs’ high-rise building on the West Side highway in New York City. A few of them wore handmade swamp creature masks; others bore signs with the swamp creatures on them. A light-board sign declared the bank “Government Sachs”.

The protest was the beginning of a multi-day camp-out aiming to stay on the sidewalk outside the investment bank until the inauguration of Donald Trump, and to bring people affected by the bank’s policies to the doorstep of some of the world’s richest people – some of whom will belong to the Trump administration.

“It’s about highlighting the lie that was told to millions of people in this country, the lie that Trump was draining the swamp. If we really want the swamp to be drained, we have to do it ourselves and we’re doing it by going to Goldman Sachs,” says Nelini Stamp of the Working Families party.

As the crowd of about 100 people set up camp, the police erected barricades around them but mostly held off as the crowd moved from chanting “The swamp is getting deeper! The swamp is Goldman Sachs!” to a series of speak-outs from the crowd about the bank’s connection to payday lending, the economic crisis in Puerto Rico, foreclosures and more.

For Jean Sassine, who lost his job and nearly lost his home during the 2008 financial crisis, fighting the influence of the big banks in Washington is personal. He became a member of community organization New York Communities for Change (NYCC) six years ago as a way to fight back, and for him the Goldman action “means trying to wake people up that these are the people who were part of the big crisis in 2008, that Steven Mnuchin was called Mr Foreclosure at OneWest and Goldman Sachs. Do you want Mr Foreclosure to be secretary of the treasury?”

The organizers targeted Goldman Sachs because, as Stamp explains, the bank “is a pipeline to government”. Through Democratic and Republican administrations, she notes, Goldman Sachs in particular has fed its bankers into high-ranking government positions – if Mnuchin is confirmed as treasury secretary, Trump will be the third of the past four presidents to have hired for that job from Goldman’s ranks. To Stamp, particularly in the post-financial crisis era, this means the bank is being rewarded for its involvement in subprime mortgages and the financial instruments created to profit from them.

On that front, says Renata Pumerol of NYCC, it is important to confront the power brokers directly as well as the elected officials who work with them. Calling them “Government Sachs” is a way to highlight the level to which they have captured Washington and influence policy that benefits themselves.

As for the occupation itself, the tactic obviously brings echoes of Occupy Wall Street, but Pumerol says that this demonstration differs in its specific demands – to halt the appointment of Mnuchin as well as fellow Goldmanites Gary Cohn, Anthony Scaramucci, Dina Powell and Steve Bannon. Also, she notes, this action is led by people of color and people who have been directly affected by Goldman’s actions.

“It’s an interesting circle of life for someone like myself, who was involved with Occupy,” Stamp adds, “to see this fake crony populism of ‘draining the swamp’ while the swamp is actually continuing to be filled.”

For many of the people involved in the Government Sachs action, it seemed obvious that Trump’s promises to drain the swamp were less than genuine. But for Richard Robinson, they resonated and led him to vote for the president-elect.

The 60-year-old veteran and truck driver from Utah lives on social security after a work accident nearly killed him and pushed him into medical retirement. Out of work, he says, he found himself “sitting at home feeling worthless, didn’t feel like I was accomplishing anything”. A friend suggested he get a hobby, and, he laughs: “I became an activist, I guess.”

Robinson lives in a manufactured home community, and through forming a group called MH Action to deal with the issues that he and his neighbors faced, he began to get in touch with other people working on similar issues around the country.

Robinson’s community is owned by a multistate corporation that also owns apartment complexes in New York and Chicago, which helped him get in touch with NYCC. “These companies are buying communities, buying apartment complexes and their business model is not acceptable to me. It’s to raise rents as quickly as possible and decrease maintenance of the communities, and that’s not a good business model for America,” he says.

His vote for Trump, he says, was based on the assumption that because the president-elect was not a career politician, “maybe things would be run differently in Washington”. But the number of Wall Streeters and ultra-wealthy in the administration has him frustrated, and brought him to New York in protest. “He actually hit Hillary Clinton over meeting behind closed doors with [Goldman Sachs] and now I believe he was meeting with them at the same time. He’s appointed them so quickly that I’ve got to believe at the same time he was campaigning hard on Hillary Clinton for meeting with them behind closed doors, I believe he was doing the same thing.”

Nomi Prins, former managing director at Goldman Sachs turned journalist and author of All the President’s Bankers, says that rather than make sincere promises Trump simply attacked weaknesses, taking advantage of widespread anger at Wall Street to score points against first his Republican opponents and then Clinton. Mnuchin, she points out, was his finance adviser the whole time. “There were more apparent Wall Street connections through Hillary Clinton because of the foundation, the speeches and because of Bill Clinton that were real,” she says, “but these are bipartisan relationships; Wall Street is a bipartisan opportunist.” (That relationship is visible in New York City, where Alicia Glen, formerly of Goldman Sachs, serves as deputy mayor to Bill de Blasio.)

That bipartisan relationship, and the bipartisan anger at the power of finance, is what makes it so important to target the banks and lay groundwork for white working-class communities to come together with communities of color to fight, Pumerol says. Adds Sassine: “It is clear that they are ready to raid the American people as opposed to benefiting. Government is supposed to be for the benefit of the people, whether you believe in small government, big government, it’s supposed to be for the benefit of the people.”

(read the full article at the guardian

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Canadians Won’t Forget Trudeau’s Broken Promise on Electoral Reform

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Claudia Chwalisz
The Tyee: February 3, 2017

In his mandate letter to the new Minister of Democratic Institutions, Karina Gould, Justin Trudeau told the nation that he was breaking one of his key election promises: “Changing the electoral system will not be in your mandate.”

Blaming a lack of consensus on reform despite extensive consultations, Trudeau claimed that it would be harmful to Canada’s stability to pursue reform or a referendum on the issue. In question period, he added, “I’m not going to do something that is wrong for Canadians just to tick off a box on an electoral platform.”

His other comments implied that now that Canadians had a government with which they were happy, they were less interested in changing the system. But Trudeau’s remarks fly in the face of the truth.

The All-Party Parliamentary Committee which was tasked with recommending a way forward on reform said that “overwhelming majority” of submissions by almost 200 electoral experts and by thousands of Canadians were in favour of proportional representation. The committee itself recommended the government design a new system of proportional representation and gauge public support through a referendum.

In terms of wider public opinion, a recent Ekos poll found that 43 per cent of Canadians said proportional representation would be the best option for Canada (higher than for any other option) and 33 per cent said it would be second best. The same survey found that 59 per cent of people think the Liberals should deliver on their promise.

Why would the Liberals abandon their promise in the face of such stark evidence? They must feel they can get away with it electorally. They are riding high in the polls. Only one in five Canadians appeared to be engaged with the consultation process. They’re betting that most people don’t care. That gamble may come back to haunt them.

First, neither of the main opposition parties has a leader at the moment, so it is not surprising that they’re faring worse in the polls. It’s not guaranteed that either party will come back strongly with new leadership, but their public profiles and their ability to scrutinize the government will both be stronger when they are no longer concentrating on internal party politics.

Second, while the Liberals may be reassured by the fact that such a small percentage of Canadians was highly engaged in the electoral reform debate, it would make sense to assume that many of those engaged voters were current or former Green or New Democratic Party supporters. Both parties have been advocates of proportional representation for a long time. In the context of the “Anybody But Harper” election, some of them cast strategic votes for the Liberals at the expense of their beliefs, thinking the next time around the electoral system wouldn’t force them into this situation. Tactical voters will be less likely to believe the Liberals a second time.

Third, while the Liberals are probably banking on most people forgetting the issue by the time 2019 rolls around, there is no way that Elizabeth May, the Green Party leader, will forget, and neither will the NDP after its extensive involvement in the all-party committee. Expect both parties to campaign heavily on the issue, with the added bonus of being able to repeat that Trudeau failed to deliver “real change.” Even the Conservatives are jumping on the opportunity to call Trudeau a liar despite their stance against reform.

(read the full article at The Tyee

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