Jan 08

Today’s News 8th January 2018

  • How Three European Oligarchs Looted 100s Of Millions From Ukraine

    Via AlJazeera.com,

    Three Ukrainian oligarchs traded part of around $1.5bn in illicit assets traced to cronies of former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich, an exclusive investigation by Al Jazeera revealed on Sunday.

    They did so as the war-torn country struggled to return suspected misappropriated funds to its coffers.

    An unsigned contract obtained by Al Jazeera’s Investigative Unit identifies Alexander Onyschenko – the gas tycoon, former member of parliament and currently one of Ukraine’s most-wanted men – and Pavel Fuchs, a real estate tycoon who made his fortune in Moscow, as the buyers in the illegal deal.

    Other documents suggest the seller was Serhiy Kurchenko – a fugitive Ukrainian gas tycoon based in Moscow who was known as Yanukovich’s “family wallet”.

    The contract obtained by Al Jazeera, revealed in The Oligarchs investigation, said Onyschenko and Fuchs paid $30m, including cash and a private jet, for the Cyprus-based company, Quickpace Limited.

    That company held $160m-worth of bonds and cash, which was frozen by a Ukrainian judge as they were suspected of being proceeds of crime.

    The findings were “unbelievable”, said Daria Kaleniuk, executive director of the Anti-Corruption Action Centre (ANTAC).

    “It sounds like an agreement between criminal bosses, you know? You can sign it with your blood.”

    It is illegal in Ukraine and abroad to trade with frozen assets.

    “The whole idea is I’ve frozen the asset because I think it’s the proceeds of crime,” said Jon Benton, former director of the International Corruption Unit at Britain’s National Crime Agency.

    “It’s like trading in stolen goods that have been taken by the police. You’re putting the cash in the getaway car,” he told Al Jazeera.

    The buyers aim to make a $130m profit by persuading a judge to unfreeze the assets.

    Article 4.4 of the contract said that the buyers would cooperate in “taking action to remove the arrest from the accounts” held by Quickpace Limited.

    Looted state

    Ukrainian authorities froze the assets in June 2014 across numerous companies in Cyprus, the UK, Panama, Belize and the British Virgin Islands totalling $1.5bn. It is estimated that that Yanukovich and his cronies stole far more.

    Evidence found on Yanukovich’s abandoned property hidden outside Kiev showed one of his clan’s corporate networks. Documents obtained by Al Jazeera expose another.

    They reveal how Yanukovich’s clan pumped stolen money into companies in Ukraine with bank accounts in Latvia and gradually passed it through dozens of offshore shell companies in Cyprus, Belize, British Virgin Islands and other money-laundering hotspots including the UK.

    “The philosophy of money launderers is just to create a situation where the money has moved through so many different companies and so many different countries, in so many different accounts that it would be almost impossible to recreate the trail,” said Bill Browder, chief executive of Hermitage Capital.

    Yanukovich’s name never appeared on any of the paperwork.

    The companies bear the names of nominee directors – cut-out characters who appear to be the owner of a company, but simply act on instruction by the real owner.

    Ukraine’s new authorities started to look into the corrupt schemes after Yanukovich’s removal from office in 2014.

    It began a series of reforms that included the establishment of the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine (NABU).

    But nothing important has been achieved in terms of the prosecution of the corrupt individuals or the recovery of the stolen assets.

    “Resistance is very strong from the elites who are in power now and the more we investigate, the more we face this resistance,” Artem Sytnyk, NABU director, told Al Jazeera.

    “Parliament is taking steps to sideline the management of the Anti-Corruption Agency and take control.”

    Nazar Holodnitsky, Ukraine’s special anti-corruption prosecutor, refused Al Jazeera’s requests for information, saying: “Until this investigation is complete, any comments, assertions regarding the existence or absence of certain documents is premature.”

    Onyschenko took the position that there was nothing wrong with buying a company holding frozen assets. “You can buy cheap and try to fix the problem to make money,” he told Al Jazeera.

    Onyschenko confirmed Fuchs’ and Kurchneko’s role in the deal, but denied the deal went ahead.

    “It was like normal business, but this has not happened. We didn’t buy.”

    However, a Cypriot lawyer and the NABU, who worked on the deal, confirmed the sale of Quickpace went through and company documents record a transfer of ownership to one of Mr Fuchs’s companies.

    Al Jazeera obtained a record of an initial payment of $2m from an account at Barclays Bank to another at a Russian-owned Latvian bank, Norvic Banka.

    Currently, Quickpace is owned by Evermore Property Holdings Limited, a Cyprus company, which, in turn, is owned by Dorchester International Incorporated. Fuchs is its owner.

  • Who Killed The Iran Protests?

    One prime indicator that anti-government protests in Iran have truly died down to the point of now being completely snuffed out as reports today suggest, and as we began reporting at the end of last week, is that current headlines are now merely focused on the barely lingering and ephemeral “social media battle” and anonymous YouTube activism, along with multiple postmortem accounts of a failed movement already out. It seems there’s now clear consensus that Iran’s streets have grown quiet. 

    It was evident by the end of last week that demonstrations were fizzling – even as the headlines breathlessly attempted to portray a bigger and more unified movement than what was really occurring on the ground. By many accounts, it was the much larger pro-government rallies that began to replace the quickly dying anti-regime protests by the middle of last week.

    But a central question that remains is, who killed the Iran protests? There seemed to be a direct correlation between Western and outside officials weighing in with declarations of “solidarity” and support for regime change, and the drastic decline in protest size and distribution

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    Image source: Breaking News TV

    One such postmortem on the now dead Iran protests published on Sunday begins by lamenting:

    Less than 10 days ago, a few sporadic demonstrations about economic hardships across Iran sparked a global media frenzy. In a matter of hours, social media became delirious with #IranProtest, awash with confident assertions that “The Iranian People want regime change”. Donald Trump waded in with his support. Nigel Farage, the unlikely new champion of Iran’s revolution, hosted an LBC radio Iran special.

    Despite all of this excitement, reports from Tehran over the past few days have suggested that #IranProtests may – for now – be fizzling out (read brutally contained by the authorities).

    Within the first days of protests and rioting, we posed the obvious question, “Are we witnessing regime change agents hijacking economic protests?” – this after the US State Department’s first statement declared solidarity with “freedom and democracy seeking” protesters while prematurely speaking of “transition of government”. Immediately came the predictable flurry of tweets and statements from government officials and think tankers alike echoing the familiar script which seems to roll out when anyone protests for any reason in a country considered an enemy of the United States.

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    And then there was Bibi Netanyahu’s surprising televised address to “the Iranian people” on behalf of the state of Israel, wishing them “success in their noble quest for freedom” – something which we predicted would only have an adverse effect on the demonstrators’ momentum, considering that authorities in Tehran accused protest leaders of serving the interests of and being in league with foreign “enemies” like Saudi Arabia and Israel nearly from day one. 

    The address was surprising precisely because it was the surest way to kill the protests as quickly as possible. From the moment Netanyahu publicly declared, “When this regime [the Iranian government] finally falls, and one day it will, Iranians and Israelis will be great friends once again” – all the air was sucked out of whatever momentum the protesters had. 

    For many average Iranians who had not yet joined anti-government demonstrations at that point, Bibi’s speech gave them every incentive to stay home. All that the regime had to say at that point was, “see, you are in league with enemies of the nation!” And that is exactly what Tehran did. It was on the very Monday of Netanyahu’s speech that Iran’s elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) announced it would be taking charge of the security situation in Tehran, though likely they were mobilized earlier. 

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    Early on Sunday the IRGC declared that rioting, sedition, and demonstrations are now finished: “Iran’s revolutionary people along with tens of thousands of Basij forces, police and the Intelligence Ministry have broken down the chain [of unrest] created… by the United States, Britain, the Zionist regime [Israel], Saudi Arabia, the hypocrites [Mujahideen] and monarchists,” a statement from the group’s Sepahnews website said. Also on Sunday state TV reported that Iranian Parliament held a closed-door meeting to assess the security situation throughout the country – no doubt they were talking about the plotting of external enemies to exploit Iran’s domestic situation.

    And who can blame the Iranian authorities for believing this? Even France seemed to be in rare agreement with both Russia, China, and even the Iranian authorities on this one. 

    Speaking of Iran’s parliament, Iranian citizens probably remember very well that a short time ago (June 2017), parliament was hit by a deadly ISIS attack which involved gunmen and suicide bombers terrorizing central Tehran, leaving 12 dead and 42 injured. What was Washington’s response? The White House essentially said that Iran had it coming:

     

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    White House response to the June 2017 ISIS attack on downtown Tehran: “We underscore that states that sponsor terrorism risk falling victim to the evil they promote.”

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    So likely, Iranians don’t believe for a minute that either the American or Israeli governments actually care for people protesting on the streets – only a short while ago they were told “it’s your fault” as ISIS shed blood in their streets and government buildings. 

    During Friday’s UN emergency session in which the US found itself isolated, France stuck by President Macron’s earlier words blaming the US, Israel, and Saudi Arabia for stoking tensions and exploiting Iran’s domestic unrest in a situation he said could lead to war. French Ambassador Francois Delattre urged Iran’s enemies to back off, saying just before the UN meeting, “Yes, of course, to vigilance and call for full respect of freedom of expression, but no to instrumentalization of the crisis from the outside – because it would only reinforce the extremes, which is precisely what we want to avoid.” 

    His call to cautiously prevent the “instrumentalization of the crisis from the outside” was a clear reference to the repeat Israeli and US officials’ demands for international solidarity with the anti-Tehran protesters in cause of regime change. Or perhaps France also simply understood the obvious truth… that all the premature foaming at the mouth talk of Tehran regime overthrow coming out of Washington and Tel Aviv or other Western capitals would be the surest way to halt protests dead in their tracks. 

    Because nobody wants to be hijacked in their cause… nobody wants to play stooge to foreign powers… nobody wants to be a geopolitical pawn, not the least of which the Iranians, who’ve had a long and bloody history of outside foreign meddling in their politics. Though the usual pundits will now simply fault the brutal and efficient IRGC for snuffing out the protests, they should look much closer to home. 

  • CNN's Jake Tapper Abruptly Cuts Off White House Adviser Stephen Miller

    President Donald Trump’s Saturday morning tweet storm has been the dominant news story in the US over the weekend. And with the White House staff still in disarray following the publication of Michael Wolff’s “Fire and Fury” book, senior aide Stephen Miller took to the Sunday shows, appearing on “State of the Union” With Jake Tapper to rebut CNN’s questions about Trump’s fitness for office and some of the claims in Wolff’s book about former Chief Strategist Stephen Bannon’s role in the administration.

    But the mood on camera quickly turned caustic, as Tapper accused Miller of cynically repeating talking points crafted to placate the president, while ignoring questions about the claims raised in Wolff’s book.

    Miller responded by lashing out at CNN for inaccuracies of its coverage of the president, and accused it of failing to represent the perspective of the American voters who voted for Trump.

    Tapper replied with more jokes about Miller performing for an audience of one.

    “I’m sure he’s watching and he’s happy that you said that,” Tapper said

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    After Miller refused to answer questions about Bannon’s influence on the administration, Tapper cut off his guest and accused him of wasting his audience’s time.

    “There’s one viewer you care about. You’re being obsequious and you’re being a factotum in order to please him – and I think you’re wasting my viewers time. Thank you Stephen.”

    Tapper then abruptly launched into a teaser for an upcoming piece about Attorney General Jeff Sessions before the camera cut away.

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    For what it’s worth, Trump tweeted his approval after Miller’s performance, writing that “Jake Tapper of Fake News CNN just got destroyed in his interview with Stephen Miller of the Trump Administration. Watch the hatred and unfairness of this CNN flunky!”

     

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  • Upcoming OIG Report Likely To Trigger Second Special Counsel; Comey, Lynch And Clinton In Crosshairs

    While most of the MSM fixated last week on whether or not President Trump eats McDonald’s in bed while watching Gorilla TV, a flurry of investigative bombshells involving Hillary Clinton, the Clinton Foundation, and conduct by the FBI’s top brass during the 2016 election splashed across the headlines. As a quick review: 

    • The DOJ is “taking a fresh look” into the Hillary Clinton email ‘matter’ 
    • The FBI has launched a new investigation into the Clinton Foundation the day after the Clinton’s Chappaqua property catches fire
    • Former FBI Director James Comey’s full Clinton memo was released, revealing felony evidence of changes which “decriminalized” Hillary Clinton’s behavior. Oh, and every one of the memos he leaked to his Cornell professor buddy was classifiedper a sworn statement by the FBI’s “chief FOIA officer” in a sworn declaration obtained by Judicial Watch.
    • The House Intelligence Committee will be granted access to “all remaining investigative documents,” unredacted, along with all witnesses sought per a deal reached between Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and Nunes 
    • Opposition research firm Fusion GPS was forced to hand over banking records detailing various clients and their intermediary law firms, including the Clinton Campaign and a Russian money launderer whose lawyer was none other than Natalia Veselnitskaya of Trump Tower meeting fame

    Most of these wheels which appear to be in motion are the result of corresponding groundwork laid on Capitol Hill you may not be aware of, including what might be the most important document in the entire process, expected in a little over a week. 

    On January 15, the DOJ’s internal watchdog – the Office of the Inspector General (OIG), is expected to present their findings to Congressional investigators regarding a wide variety of alleged bias and malfeasance by the FBI, the Clinton campaign, and the Obama Administration – both during and after the 2016 election. Moreover, the man heading up the OIG investigation, Michael Horowitz, fought the Obama Administration to regain investigative powers which were restricted by former Attorney General Eric Holder during the Fast and Furious scandal. 

    As you will read below, this highly anticipated report is likely to be the legal impetus behind a second Special Counsel – as detailed by an independent researcher from New York who goes by the Twitter handle “TrumpSoldier” (@DaveNYviii). His reporting, conveyed below, is a deep dig into the OIG’s ongoing investigation, how Congress and the OIG have worked in tandem to pave the way for a Special Counsel, and how Michael Horowitz went to war with the Obama Administration to restore the OIG’s powers

    Who is Michael Horowitz? 

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    Michael Horowitz testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

    Horowitz was appointed head of the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) in April, 2012 – after the Obama administration hobbled the OIG’s investigative powers in 2011 during the “Fast and Furious” scandal. The changes forced the various Inspectors General for all government agencies to request information while conducting investigations, as opposed to the authority to demand it. This allowed Holder (and other agency heads) to bog down OIG requests in bureaucratic red tape, and in some cases, deny them outright. 

    What did Horowitz do? As one twitter commentators puts it, he went to war

    In March of 2015, Horowitz’s office prepared a report for Congress  titled Open and Unimplemented IG Recommendations. It laid the Obama Admin bare before Congress – illustrating among other things how the administration was wasting tens-of-billions of dollars by ignoring the recommendations made by the OIG. 

     

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    After several attempts by congress to restore the OIG’s investigative powers, Rep. Jason Chaffetz successfully introduced H.R.6450 – the Inspector General Empowerment Act of 2016 – signed by a defeated lame duck President Obama into law on December 16th, 2016cementing an alliance between Horrowitz and both houses of Congress. 

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    See here for a complete overview of the OIG’s new and restored powers. And while the public won’t get to see classified details of the OIG report, Mr. Horowitz is also big on public disclosure: 

    Horowitz’s efforts to roll back Eric Holder’s restrictions on the OIG sealed the working relationship between Congress and the Inspector General’s ofice, and they most certainly appear to be on the same page. Moreover, brand new FBI Director Christopher Wray seems to be on the same page as well. Click here and keep scrolling for that and more insight into what’s going on behind the scenes. 

    Here’s a preview: 

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    Which brings us back to the OIG report expected by Congress a week from Monday.

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    On January 12 of last year, Inspector Horowitz announced an OIG investigation based on “requests from numerous Chairmen and Ranking Members of Congressional oversight committees, various organizations (such as Judicial Watch?), and members of the public.” 

    The initial focus ranged from the FBI’s handling of the Clinton email investigation, to whether or not Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe should have been recused from the investigation (ostensibly over $700,000 his wife’s campaign took from Clinton crony Terry McAuliffe around the time of the email investigation), to potential collusion with the Clinton campaign and the timing of various FOIA releases. 

     

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    Courtesy @DaveNYviii

    On July 27, 2017 the House Judiciary Committee called on the DOJ to appoint a Special Counsel, detailing their concerns in 14 questions pertaining to “actions taken by previously public figures like Attorney General Loretta Lynch, FBI Director James Comey, and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.” 

    The questions range from Loretta Lynch directing Mr. Comey to mislead the American people on the nature of the Clinton investigation, Secretary Clinton’s mishandling of classified information and the (mis)handling of her email investigation by the FBI, the DOJ’s failure to empanel a grand jury to investigate Clinton, and questions about the Clinton Foundation, Uranium One, and whether the FBI relied on the “Trump-Russia” dossier created by Fusion GPS. 

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    On September 26, 2017, The House Judiciary Committee repeated their call to the DOJ for a special counsel, pointing out that former FBI Director James Comey lied to Congress when he said that he decided not to recommend criminal charges against Hillary Clinton until after she was interviewed, when in fact Comey had drafted her exoneration before said interview. 

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    And now, the OIG report can tie all of this together – as it will solidify requests by Congressional committees, while also satisfying a legal requirement for the Department of Justice to impartially appoint a Special Counsel.

    As illustrated below by TrumpSoldier, the report will go from the Office of the Inspector General to both investigative committees of Congress, along with Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and is expected on January 15. 

     

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    DOJ Flowchart, Courtesy TrumpSoldier (@DaveNYviii)

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    Once congress has reviewed the OIG report, the House and Senate Judiciary Committees will use it to supplement their investigations, which will result in hearings with the end goal of requesting or demanding a Special Counsel investigation. The DOJ can appoint a Special Counsel at any point, or wait for Congress to demand one. If a request for a Special Counsel is ignored, Congress can pass legislation to force an the appointment. 

    And while the DOJ could act on the OIG report and investigate / prosecute themselves without a Special Counsel, it is highly unlikely that Congress would stand for that given the subjects of the investigation. 

    The OIG report could be in the hands of the DOJ as soon as January 8 for review, however it is unclear whether their response will be included in the copy of the report issued to Congressional investigators on January 15. Their comments are key. As TrumpSoldier points out in his analysis, the DOJ can take various actions regarding “Policy, personnel, procedures, and re-opening of investigations. In short, just about everything (Immunity agreements can also be rescinded).” 

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    Meanwhile, recent events appear to correspond with bullet points in both the original OIG investigation letter and the 7/27/2017 letter forwarded to the Inspector General: 

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    With the wheels set in motion last week seemingly align with Congressional requests and the OIG mandate, and the upcoming OIG report likely to serve as a foundational opinion, the DOJ will finally be empowered to move forward with an impartially appointed Special Counsel with a mandate to investigate whether or not we should “lock her up” (along with members of her motley crew). Maybe that’s why Sessions has been sitting on his hands? 

  • "Spare Us The Thought Police!" Germans Rage As New Hate Speech Law Backfires

    As we reported recently, in what was officially a noble attempt to eliminate online hate speech in social media, and unofficially a devious crackdown on free speech, on January 1, 2018, Germany passed a law that forces websites to censor content deemed illegal under the new law and have it deleted within 24-hours. Ironically, as we observed last week, just hours after the law’s passage it immediately backfired when it claimed its first victim, a German satirical magazine’s Twitter account which “parodied anti-Muslim comment.”

    Incidentally, this perfectly predictable if “totally unexpected” outcome is exactly what we, and many others had warned would happen. And now, it is finally dawning on Germany that any time the government gets involved in defining what is allowed and what isn’t – especially when it comes to that most fundamental of liberties, free speech – the result is always a disaster.

    According to Germany’s top-selling, and most popular newspaper, Bild, the new German law meant to curtail online hate speech is “stifling free speech and making martyrs out of anti-immigrant politicians whose posts are deleted.”

    The law which took effect on Jan. 1 can impose fines of up to 50 million euros ($60 million) on sites that fail to remove hate speech promptly and threatens the profitability  of such social media giants as Twitter and Facebook.

    Please spare us the thought police!” read the headline in Wednesday’s Bild above an article that called the law a “sin” against freedom of opinion enshrined in Germany’s constitution, Reuters reported.

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    While the law requires social media sites to delete or block obviously criminal content within 24 hours, Bild Editor-in-Chief Julian Reichelt said it could be applied against anything and anyone since there was no definition of what was “manifestly unlawful” in most cases.

    Intended to prevent radical groups from gaining influence, “it was having precisely the opposite effect,” he warned.

    “The law against online hate speech failed on its very first day. It should be abolished immediately,” Reichelt wrote, adding that the law was turning AfD politicians into “opinion martyrs”.

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    Two examples where the German law was already applied, included tweets deleted by AfD lawmaker Beatrix von Storch criticising police for tweeting in Arabic, saying they had sought “to appease the barbaric, Muslim, rapist hordes of men”. Police have since asked prosecutors to investigate her for possible incitement to hatred.

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    There was also deleted tweet by another AfD member of parliament, Jens Maier, called Noah Becker – the son of former tennis champion Boris Becker – a “half-nigger”.

    In response to the criticism, Germany’s Justice Minister Heiko Maas defended the law, telling Bild that freedom of opinion did not mean carte blanche to spread criminal content on the internet.

    “Calls to murder, threats, insults and incitement of the masses or Auschwitz lies are not an expression of freedom of opinion but rather attacks on the freedom of opinion of others,” he said.

    Germany is no stranger to limiting free speech: the country has some of the world’s toughest laws on defamation, incitement to commit crimes and threats of violence, with prison sentences for Holocaust denial or inciting hatred against minorities.

    Maas said social networks needed to stick to the law like everyone else, adding: “Those who care about protecting freedom of opinion can’t just look on as criminal incitement and threats inhibit the open exchange of views.”

    And so, the government refuses to back down even as the rest of Germany realizes what a profound chilling effect the new law will have on online speech everywhere. Once the lawsuits start flying and the social networks are punished a few hundred million, it will only embolden the critics, who will then lash out again “anything and anyone” because, as the Bild editor correctly noted, “there is no definition of what was manifestly unlawful.” Incidentally, this inexplicably broad definition, one which puts any content creator immediately on the defensive, is precisely what the government intended.

  • How Jeff Bezos' Washington Post Became The US Military-Industrial Complex's Chief Propagandist

    Authored by Eric Zuesse via The Strategic Culture Foundation,

    It used to be that the New York Times and the Washington Post competed against each other to be the chief propagandist for the hundred or so top firms who sell to the US federal government – the 100 top “federal contractors,” almost all of which are Pentagon contractors – mainly these are weapons-manufacturing firms, such as the biggest, Lockheed Martin. The federal government is a large part of these firms’ essential market; so, invasions by the US against other countries require lots of their goods and services; and, also, America’s foreign allies additionally buy these weapons; and, right now, US President Trump is demanding that they increase their ‘defense’ budgets to buy more of them. Wars produce corporate profits if (like in the United States) the military suppliers are private corporations instead of government-owned (socialized). Selling wars is crucial to such firms’ bottom lines. And, since there is no law against owning a ‘defense’ contractor and owning or donating to newsmedia (especially newsmedia such as the Times and Post, which publish lots of international news and so can encourage lots of invasions), a sensible business strategy for investors in ‘defense’ stocks is to also own or donate to some international-‘news’ media, in order to generate additional business for the arms-maker or other ‘defense’ firm. Not only does this business-plan relate to such newspapers as the NYT and WP, but they’ll be the focus here, because they are the most important of America’s international-news media.

     

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    Serious periodicals, such as The New Republic, The Atlantic, and Mother Jones, have also been steady propagandists for ‘defense’ companies, but magazines don’t reverberate through the rest of the mass-media to the extent that the serious national (NYC & DC) newspapers do. TV and radio pick up on, and transmit, their news (and even CNN and others rely upon them more than these newspapers rely upon the broadcast media); and, in America, a lion’s share of the national political news, and especially of international news, is originated in the New York Times and Washington Post. This megaphone-effect forms the public’s opinions about whether we should invade or not. The owners of those two powerful newspapers, via their boards of directors and appointed editorial boards, make the key decisions regarding hiring, firing, promotions, and demotions, which determine news-slants from their employees (both from the reporters and especially from the editors who select what stories to publish and whether on page-one or inside the paper), and this power that these owners have, reverberates immensely (especially in regards to international relations) and thus largely shapes the results in the national polls (sampling the public, who view the world through the newsmedia); and, thus, every US President and every member of Congress becomes heavily impacted by that ‘news’, that ‘world’ the voting public see. And this coloring of the ‘news’ especially concerns international-news reporting, and the opinions that Americans have of foreign countries — such as of Iran.

    Back in 2002, when the US Government was lying through its teeth about what it knew for certain and didn’t know about “Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction (WMD),” the New York Times (NYT) was then the leading neoconservative (i.e., pro-imperialistic, pro-invasion, pro military-industrial-complex or “MIC”) propaganda-organ, stenographically transmitting to the public this Government’s provably false allegations, and the Washington Post (WP) was only #2 in this regard. But that order has now switched, and now the WP is even worse.

    The latest MIC-promoted top story-line concerns the protests in Iran – a country the US long controlled via America’s agent, the brutal Shah, by and after a 1953 CIA coup there, and which country thus very reasonably loathes and fears the US Government. What caused these protests, and what they mean, are much in the news; and, the news-reporting and editorials and op-eds in the NYT have been significantly more honest and varied than in the WP. Here’s a sampling of that:

    As of the time of this writing (January 5th), there has not yet been an editorial from the NYT regarding the protests in Iran. (Similarly, many other newspapers, such as Britain’s Guardian, haven’t yet ventured official editorial opinions regarding this matter.) However, one opinion-piece that has been published regarding it, has become an especially prominent target of attack by the more overtly pro-MIC propagandists: the NYT’s “How Can Trump Help Iran’s Protesters? Be Quiet.” It’s by “a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. He was an assistant secretary of state and White House coordinator for the Middle East during the Obama administration.” That writer closes by saying: “If Mr. Trump blows up the [Iran nuclear] deal and reimposes sanctions, he will not be doing the opposition a favor but instead giving Iranians a reason to rally to — rather than work against — the government they might otherwise despise. The protests taking place in Iran today are perhaps a sign that, in the long run, the Iranian people want to be accepted as free, responsible members of the international community and that in time they might demand and achieve real change. The best way for Mr. Trump to help test that proposition and increase the chance of its success is to do nothing.” That’s a rare example of an anti-MIC (military-sales-suppressing) opinion-piece in a major American ‘news’medium.

    Less ‘controversial’ (more clearly mainstream) than that has been another NYT opinion-piece, “The Worst Thing for Iran’s Protesters? US Silence.” It’s by “a former Iranian-targets officer in the Central Intelligence Agency, … a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.” The FDD is an Israeli front US think-tank, funded by many MIC-invested billionaires in both countries. The author concludes: “The Trump administration can do better [than did the Obama Administration]. The president’s tweets in support of the protesters were a good start. Washington should also let loose a tsunami of sanctions against the Revolutionary Guards, the linchpin of Iran’s dictatorship. Policy-wise, that would be a good place to start. Contrary to received wisdom, the absolute worst thing that the United States can do for the Iranian people is to stay silent and do nothing.”

    Another NYT op-ed is “Why Iran Is Protesting” and it’s by “an Iranian novelist and journalist.” He concludes that in Iran, “something has fundamentally changed: The unquestioning support of the rural people they relied on against the discontent of the metropolitan elite is no more. Now everyone seems unhappy.” That too is mainstream — it implies that the people of Iran have a bad Government, which should be removed.

    The closest thing yet to being a NYT editorial on the subject of these protests is a column by the Times’s Roger Cohen, “Trump Is Right, This Time, About Iran.” It closes by advising the Administration: “It should not, whatever happens, impose new sanctions: They only benefit the Revolutionary Guards. And it should learn, finally, that Iran is not, as Steve Bannon told Joshua Green, ‘like the fifth century — completely primeval’ — but rather a sophisticated society of deep culture full of unrealized promise better served by engagement than estrangement.” That is a remarkably sympathetic (to the Iranian people) statement, but it nonetheless argues the exact opposite: “Trump Is Right, This Time, About Iran.” Its conclusion is the opposite of its title, but the main part of the article’s text is irrelevant to both the title and the conclusion. People such as this become columnists at top ‘news’media.

    Those are the relevant opinions selected by the owner of the NYT for publication. They’re pro-MIC, but not fanatically so.

    The WP published on January 1st their editorial on the subject, “The Post’s View: The West should support the protesters in Iran.” It’s like Roger Cohen’s column in the NYT. It closes: “Mr. Trump should avoid acts that would undercut the protests and empower the regime’s hard-liners. Foremost among these would be a renunciation of the 2015 nuclear accord. That would divide the United States from European governments when they should be coordinating their response to the uprising, and it would give the regime an external threat against which to rally. Reform of the nuclear accord can wait. Now is the time for Mr. Trump to focus on supporting the people of Iran.” Both Roger Cohen and the WP favor “supporting the people of Iran” while opposing and hoping for an overthrow of the President who was chosen by those people in the 2017 Iranian Presidential election, which was at least as democratic as was America’s 2016 US Presidential election. The Iranian polls right before the 19 May 2017 Presidential election showed the top three candidates as being Rouhani 35%, Raisi 18%, and Ghalibaf 2%. (20% “Won’t say.”) Ghalibaf and some of the other and even smaller candidates withdrew just days before the election. The final election result was Rouhani 57.14%, Raisi 38.28%. Raisi campaigned on a platform emphasizing that “Preventing the mixing of men and women in the office environment means that men and women can serve the people better” and advocating “Islamization of universities, revision of the Internet and censorship of Western culture.” Probably many of the recent protesters had voted for him. Perhaps if Iran becomes ruled by a “regime” instead of by an at least marginally democratic Government, then they’ll get a President like Raisi, after the US coup — which would be America’s second one in Iran. But, instead, Iranians chose Rouhani — and the U.S Government and its media call it a “regime” and say that the US Government wants to “support the people of Iran” by overthrowing the Government that Iranians voted for and support — support more than Americans support ours. (But whereas America’s CIA stirs protest-groups to overthrow Iran’s leaders, Iran has no equivalent operating in America, to overthrow our aristocracy’s choice of our leader.)

    On January 3rd, the WP issued an opinion-piece by US V.P. Mike Pence, whose views are much closer to Raisi’s than to Rouhani’s. It was titled, “This time, we will not be silent on Iran.”

    Another opinion-piece from the WP was the far-right Israeli Natan Sharansky’s ”The West should stop dithering and show its support for the protesters in Iran”, which attacked the Times’s “How Can Trump Help Iran’s Protesters? Be Quiet.” Sharansky said: “As an opinion piece in the New York Times recently put it, the best way for the US government to help the Iranian protesters is to ‘Keep quiet and do nothing.’ Fortunately, President Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have already shown themselves unwilling to follow this advice.”

    Yet another opinion-piece that the WP’s editors selected for publication on this topic was “Europe’s best chance on Iran could soon evaporate.” It criticized the Iran nuclear deal, and urged the Trump Administration to work with the EU “to sculpt a bipartisan policy that can save us from the next crisis, which is quickly coming our way.” This string of clichés ignored the fact that the only two actual available options for the US are to commit to the deal or else to depart from the deal; because Iran won’t leave it unless the US does, but it might leave it if the US does. And then, everything would be worse than it was previously. For the US to leave it while some of its allies don’t, would turn those allies to opposing the US Government and supporting Iran’s Government. And for the US to ‘renegotiate’ it would be impossible. Any European Government that would join with the US in order to attempt to force Iran to renegotiate it, would become embarrassed amongst its EU colleagues, and amongst its public. And yet, still, Iran would promptly resume its prior nuclear program, not renegotiate. To force Iran isn’t going to be so easy as such commentators presume it will. The article didn’t say how anything that it proposed to be achieved, could be achieved. It was simply trash.

    Another WP opinion-piece was “The protesters in Iran need real help from Washington” and it was written by a top official of a think thank, WINEP, about which, as one knowledgeable person has said, “WINEP was to be AIPAC’s cutout. It was funded by AIPAC donors, staffed by AIPAC employees, and located one door away, down the hall, from AIPAC Headquarters (no more. It has its own digs). It would also hire all kinds of people not identified with Israel as a cover.” None of this information was revealed by WP about the piece’s author. It can only be called blatant Israeli propaganda, surreptitiously fed to readers as if it weren’t.

    The WP columnist David Ignatius bannered “Trump is right to tell Iran the world is watching.” He closed by saying, about the “surprise explosion” of these protests: “Khamenei will want to crush it. The best gift the United States can give the Iranian people is a digital lifeline, so humanity can witness their brave struggle and encourage them to prevail.” The US regime already gave the Iranian people its ‘best gift’ in 1953 when it destroyed their democracy and instituted a 26-year-long dictatorship — and, Iranians can see through the US propaganda-media’s hypocrisies, even if the US public have been too deceived by those media, for too long, to be able to see through those lies. 

    So, the WP has become even more neoconservative (i.e, more in favor of invading countries that haven’t invaded us) now than it was back in 2002 when it cheered on George W. Bush’s lies about Iraq, after 9/11. How did this change happen?

    In 2013, Jeff Bezos and Donald Graham met at the Bilderberg conference, and two months later, Bezos agreed to buy the Washington Post from Graham.

    Less than a year after that, Bezos’s Amazon won the CIA-NSA cloud computing contract, vital to the US military.

    Bezos’s most profitable operation has been that military contract — it is allegedly responsible for changing Amazon from a money-losing to a profit-making corporation. The money-losing Washington Post already had been, under Graham and before, a longstanding supporter of US armed invasions, which now require lots of cloud computing (and not only of the types of weaponry that Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Raytheon, etc., supply). For example: the WP was gung-ho for regime-change in Iraq in 2002, as well as, more recently, for bombing Libya, Syria, and the bombing in Ukraine’s civil war after the coup. The main topic at the next year’s, 2014, meeting of the Bilderberg group was the war in Ukraine, but other wars were also on the agenda, such as Syria, and so were President Obama’s ’trade’ treaties: TPP, TTIP, and TISA. Luminaries present at that year’s secret discussions were Timothy Geithner, Eric Schmidt, Robert Rubin, Lawrence Summers, Charles Murray, etc., and Europeans such as Christine Lagarde and Anders Fogh Rasmussen. Perhaps some sales were made there, too.

    Meanwhile, the NYT became the most-frequently-cited mis-reporter of such things as “Saddam’s WMD” during the years after the 2003 invasion on the basis of lies; and its publisher, Arthur Ochs Sulzberger Jr., was forced quietly to fire his close friend and star White House stenographer (oops, ‘reporter’ — and she was even a Pulitzer-winning one!), Judith Miller, on account of the fraud-based Iraq War that she had so prominently and exceptionally helped to promote in her ‘news’-stories. Probably, Sulzberger’s successor, Arthur G. Sulzberger, is happy that when on 14 December 2017 his father handed the corporation’s controls over to him (effective on January 1st), the NYT’s position as the nation’s #1 PR-agent for US invasions has now been taken over by Jeff Bezos’s WP.

    But, of course, Sulzberger’s profits don’t depend nearly as much on America’s MIC as Bezos’s do. The WP’s business plan is even more dependent upon war-promotion than the rest of America’s major ‘news’media’s are. However, if, say, a firm such as General Dynamics were to buy out the Sulzbergers, then perhaps the NYT would become #1 in the neoconservative league, once again. But, even when a major ‘news’medium, such as Mother Jones, isn’t owned (like the WP now is) by someone who also largely owns (via Amazon) a major military contractor, it still promotes invasions, and has deep connections to America’s Deep State. You can count on the fingers of a fingerless hand the number of major American newsmedia — online, print, or broadcast — that are not neoconservative. There are none — right, left, or center. Today’s ‘respectable’ American purveyors of alleged news have some ideological diversity, but all exist within the framework of being neoliberal and neoconservative.

  • Bitcoin Futures Traders Are Quietly Building A Big Short Position

    In retrospect, the launch of bitcoin futures one month ago has proven to be a modestly disappointing event: while it helped send the price of bitcoin soaring as traders braced for the institutionalization of bitcoin, the world’s most popular cryptocurrency has stagnated since the beginning of December when first the Cboe then CME started trading bitcoin futures, trading in a range between $12,000 and $17,000.

    And while bitcoin futures markets volumes have been lower than most had expected, the past 4 weeks have provided enough data to observe how volumes and open interest have evolved.

    We discussed previously  that Bitcoin futures were off to a slow start in the first week of trading, with volumes of CBOE Bitcoin futures averaging just around $40MM per day, despite intense media hype helping fuel heavy trading when both contracts launched, at least in the first hours of trading.

    Since then, volumes spike briefly in the following week coinciding with the launch of the CME futures, with volumes of on both exchanges at relatively similar levels.

    Then, as JPM’s Nikolaos Panagirtzoglou shows, after a spike in volumes to around $200mn on 22 December, which saw sharp swings in underlying Bitcoin prices, volumes have averaged around $50mn and $60mn per day on the CBOE and CME futures, respectively.

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    One month after their launch, futures trading volumes remain very modest compared to average Bitcoin trading volumes of around $15bn per day since futures contracts were launched according to coinmarketcap.com data. While open interest in both the CBOE and CME contracts has risen steadily, it too remains rather modest at around $60mn and $70mn, respectively.

    Putting futures volumes in context, on Friday, the combined size of the bitcoin-futures markets at the two exchanges was roughly $150 million, measured in terms of the value of outstanding contracts, while the total value of all bitcoins in existence was around $290 billion. 

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    Another factor behind the slow volume growth may be the reluctance of many Wall Street banks to touch bitcoin futures. Firms such as JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Bank of America Merrill Lynch haven’t offered their clients access to bitcoin futures.

    Another notable observation: with both volumes and open interest between the two sets of futures contracts converging, it suggests that a large degree of arbitraging of price differentials has taken place between the contracts which initially showed significant divergence. As JPM further notes, when trading in the CBOE futures initially started, a striking feature was the wide basis between the futures contract and the underlying bitcoin prices, which intraday exceeded $2000 or more than 12% of the underlying price at the time. While traders provided numerous explanation for the spread, since then the difference between futures prices on both the CBOE and CME contracts and underlying bitcoin prices has narrowed significantly (chart below), and even turned negative briefly last week.

    asd

    That covers bitcoin futures volumes, but what about positioning? Well, as many traders expected, it appears that institutions are using the futures product to slowly but surely build a short position in bitcoin. According to the CFTC Commitment of Traders report (available CBOE futures), non-commercial traders held a net short position of around $30mn as of Tuesday Dec 26, or around half of the total open interest.

    Separately, the Traders in Financial Futures breakdown provided by the CFTC show that the leveraged funds category that consists largely of hedge funds and various money managers had a short of around $14mn, or around a quarter of the total open interest.

    In other words, spec investors have used the futures contracts to establish Bitcoin shorts.

    How does this compare with other asset classes typically used as a store of wealth such as gold and silver? As JPMorgan explains, for gold futures, non-commercial investors held as of Dec 26 a net long position of around 30% of open interest, of which the managed money category held around 80%, while in silver futures both the non-commercial and managed money categories were close to zero.

    asd

    * * *

    An analysis by the Wall Street Journal  confirms that while hedge funds and other large traders are betting that bitcoin will fall, small investors remain convinced that bitcoin prices will keep on rising.

    As the WSJ reports, for traders who hold fewer than 25 of Cboe’s bitcoin futures contracts—a category that likely encompasses many retail investors—bullish bets are 3.6 times more common than bearish ones, according to the latest Commodity Futures Trading Commission data that cover trading through Tuesday.

    Meanwhile, the big CBOE players in bitcoin futures tend to be short. For instance, among “other reportables”—large trading firms that don’t necessarily manage money for outside investors—short bets outweighed bullish “long” bets by a factor of 2.6 last week.

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    The historical data will probably not come as a big surprise: many skeptics on Wall Street have called bitcoin a bubble and would be more apt to bet on its decline. In a sign of how more conservative firms are keeping their distance, the CFTC data show near-zero trading in Cboe’s bitcoin futures by banks and asset managers.

    There is probably more optimism in the retail segment than there is in the institutional segment,” said Steven Sanders, an executive vice president at Interactive Brokers Group Inc., an electronic brokerage firm that offers its customers access to bitcoin futures.

    And sure enough, presenting JPM’s data in a slightly different context, COT data shows that hedge funds and other money managers had placed almost 40% more short bets than long bets last week.

    Curiously, it is worth noting that that represented a less bearish outlook than they had in late December, when such funds had more than four times as many short bets as long bets.

    To be sure, shorting bitcoin futures doesn’t necessarily mean a trader expects bitcoin to crash. In a natural hedge, a cryptocurrency trading firm with significant holdings of bitcoin might go short to hedge those inventories against a price fall. That would make the firm indifferent as to whether bitcoin goes up or down.

    As the WSJ further notes, shorting futs could also be part of certain sophisticated trading strategies, such as betting that rival cryptocurrencies will outperform bitcoin. One such rival, Ethereum, rose above $1,000 for the first time last week, more than double its value from the beginning of December.

    With the CFTC data, “you’re not seeing the full picture,” said James Koutoulas, chief executive of hedge-fund firm Typhon Capital Management, which trades futures in bitcoin as well as commodities. Typhon has swung back and forth, being long and short bitcoin futures at various times, Mr. Koutoulas said.

    Of course, it’s not just bitcoin.

    As JPM writes, any given cryptocurrency faces competition from other cryptocurrencies, posing risks to their individual valuations. Indeed, the market capitalisation of Bitcoin has risen by around $100bn to around $270bn since late November, while other cryptocurrencies have seen a significant increase in market cap from around $130bn to nearly $500bn currently.

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    Other cryptocurrencies – mostly ethereum and ripple – have benefited from the increased interest in Bitcoin amid the listing of exchange traded futures, as well as the sharp rise in Bitcoin average transaction costs from around $6 per transaction in early December to nearly $60 per transaction on Dec 22, before settling in a $25-$30 range in recent days.

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    By contrast, average transaction fees in Ethereum reached a high of $1.50 in early December and were around $1 on Jan 4, while average transaction fees in Ripple measure a few cents according to bitinfocharts.com. The one-third share of Bitcoin of the total cryptocurrency market cap of around $770bn represents a new low. In contrast, the market of $770bn for the total cryptocurrency market represents a new high.

    * * *

    And while we await futures contracts to be announced on other cryptos, most likely ethereum and ripple next, events which we believe will be catalysts for substantial price upside in both cryptocurrencies, the question for bitcoin is who will be right: institutions, who are short, or retail investors (especially those in Japan and South Korea) who remain fervently long. If the past 7 years – in which retail has consistently trounced “smart money” returns are any indication, bitcoin is about to soar as yet another major short squeeze develops in the coming weeks and months.

  • US Border Patrol Conducted Record 30,000 Phone Searches In 2017

    While civil-libertarian minded lawmakers and the ACLU push to tighten restrictions on phone searches of American citizens, particularly when leaving or entering the US, the Customs and Border Protection Agency reported that the number of phone searches executed at the border skyrocketed in 2017, the Wall Street Journal reported.

    The border patrol conducted a record number of cellphones and other devices at US points of entry last year as they intensified their hunt for smugglers and terrorists.

    In fiscal year 2017, which ended Sept. 30, the government searched the devices of 30,200 people, the vast majority leaving the country, up from 19,051 in fiscal year 2016. More than 80% of the devices belonged to foreigners or legal permanent residents, with less than one in five owned by a U.S. citizen.

    “In this digital age, border searches of electronic devices are essential to enforcing the law at the U.S. border and to protecting the American people,” said John Wagner, deputy executive assistant commissioner for the agency’s Office of Field Operations.

    The agency on Friday released a new written policy outlining procedures for searching and seizing electronic devices at the border. The new guidance makes clear that agents can only examine information stored on the device, not data stored “in the cloud” that’s accessible from the device.

    The policy makes clear that while agents can ask for passwords to access a device, the passwords aren’t to be retained in any way.

    And the policy sets forth standards for agents to do an “advanced search,” which involves connecting the device to a computer to retrieve and copy information. Under the rules, advanced searches are allowed only if there is “reasonable suspicion” and “articulable facts” to support it, and with the approval of a supervisor. The standards for more in-depth searches hadn’t been spelled out before. No such standard exists for basic searches.

    The new policy also requires border agents to notify a traveler when his or her device is to be searched, unless telling the traveler would harm “national security, law enforcement, officer safety, or other operational interests.”

    Still, the ACLU and its plaintiffs in a lawsuit against the federal government believe these guidelines are still too loose.

     

    Border

    Last year, the American Civil Liberties Union and the Electronic Frontier Foundation sued the administration on behalf of 10 US citizens and one legal permanent resident whose devices were searched or seized at the border. The groups argue in their suit that the government should be required to have a warrant to look at a traveler’s electronic devices.

    Among the plaintiffs is a NASA engineer who said he was forced to unlock his phone and give customs agents access to its contents when he returned to the U.S. from Chile on Jan. 31, in the midst of chaos at airports from the fallout of President Donald Trump’s original travel ban. Sidd Bikkannavar is an American-born engineer for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California.

    Privacy advocates wanted more protections for travelers’ rights. “This policy still falls far short of what the Constitution requires—a search warrant based on probable cause,” said Neema Singh Guliani, legislative counsel at the American Civil Liberties Union, in a statement.

    Specifically, ACLU believes these types of searches should require a warrant based on probable cause in every case – a standard we imagine the border patrol would roundly reject.

    Oregon Democrat Ron Wyden and Kentucky Republican Rand Paul are working together on a bill that would raise the requirements for law enforcement searches of individuals’ phones.

    Sen. Ron Wyden (D., Ore.), who with Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky has introduced a bill that would require officials to obtain warrants before such searches, suggested the policy didn’t go far enough to protect U.S. citizens’ rights.

    “There’s more work to do here,” Mr. Wyden said. “Manually examining an individuals’ private photos, messages and browsing history is still extremely invasive, and should require a warrant. I continue to believe Americans are entitled to their full constitutional rights, no matter where they are in the United States.”

    However, given the Trump administration’s emphasis on tightening border security – a battle that is just ramping up in Congress – it’s unlikely the administration would stand by and let lawmakers handicap the border patrol.

    White House Chief of Staff John Kelly has even hinted that border patrol agents might start asking for the social media passwords of non-citizens trying to enter the country.

     

  • Pakistan's Asymmetrical Response To Trump Is A Clever Way To Flip The Tables On Afghanistan

    Authored by Andrew Korybko via Oriental Review,

    Pakistan’s announcement that it will seek the expulsion of over 1,5 million Afghan refugees in the next 30 days is being tacitly justified by Trump’s tweet and channels his zero-tolerance stance towards immigration from “terrorist”-prone states, but it also represents the employment of reverse-“Weapons of Mass Migration” in pushing Kabul closer towards the edge of collapse and consequently filling the Taliban’s rank of supporters.

     

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    Trump is going to soon regret what he tweeted about Pakistan on New Year’s Day in accusing it of “giving safe haven to terrorists”, since Islamabad is poised to hit Washington with an asymmetrical counterpunch that it surely won’t forget.

     

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    The Pakistani government just announced that over 1.5 million Afghan refugees must leave the country within the next 30 days, a plan that it’s been working on for a while but which just received a fresh impetus and internationally-acceptable justification with Trump’s tweet.

    Had it not been for the American President’s zero-tolerance towards immigration from what his administration labels as “terrorist”-prone countries, which crucially includes Afghanistan for substantial and not political reasons (as the latter relates to Iran’s inclusion and Saudi Arabia’s exclusion), then Pakistan would have risked drawing heavy pressure from the State Department on exaggerated claims that it’s “violating the human rights” of the refugees.

    Trump, however, said that Pakistan was “giving safe haven to terrorists”, and since the US formally regards Afghan refugees as being too much of a potential security hazard to allow into its own country, it’s forced to accept Pakistan’s expulsion of 1,5 million of them on the implicit basis that they also constitute a serious terrorist threat to the state such as the one that the President just tweeted about.

    This isn’t at all what Trump meant when he issued his tweet, nor the reaction that he was expecting, but by cleverly exploiting the President’s own policies at home and the suggestion he was making towards Pakistan abroad, Islamabad found a creative way to asymmetrically strike back at Washington.

    Not only could Pakistan soon rid itself of actual terrorist sleeper cells and societal malcontents who have long overstayed their welcome in the neighboring country, it will also be catalyzing a series of cascading crises for Kabul through the employment of what can be described as reverse-“Weapons of Mass Migration”.

    To briefly explain, Ivy League researcher Kelly M. Greenhill introduced the concept of “Weapons of Mass Migration” in 2010 to describe the ways through which large-scale population movements — whether “naturally occurring”, engineered, or exploited — impact on their origin, transit, and destination societies, theorizing that this phenomenon can have a strategic use in some instances.

    Of relevance, the influx of millions of Afghan “Weapons of Mass Migration” into Pakistan since 1979 had the effect of destabilizing the host country’s border communities and eventually contributing to the spree of terrorist attacks that have since claimed over 60,000 lives in the past 15 years, but now the large-scale and rapid return of these “weapons” to their country of origin will also inevitably destabilize Afghanistan.

    The landlocked and war-torn country is utterly unable to accommodate for what amounts to a roughly 3% increase in its total population in the next 30 days, especially seeing as how the Kabul government exerts little influence beyond the capital and has no sway in the approximate half of the country that’s under the control of the Taliban.

    The US-backed Afghan government is already failing its citizens as it is and that’s why so many of them have either joined the Taliban or sympathize with it in the first place, so the odds of the returned refugees successfully reintegrating into their homeland’s socio-economic fabric and becoming “model citizens” is close to nil, meaning that it should be expected that the vast majority of these 1,5 million people will more than likely come to side with the Taliban than Kabul and consequently make the country much more difficult for the US to control.

    In essence, what Pakistan has done is throw Trump’s tweet right back at him by using it as the internationally plausible pretext for initiating this long-planned move that was originally predicated on solely apolitical security-centric domestic interests but has now pertinently come to embody geostrategic contours by powerfully turning the tables against the US in Afghanistan through the employment of reverse-“Weapons of Mass Migration”.

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