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After a Tesla crash killed 3 in Newport Beach, federal authorities investigate Autopilot"s role

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said it had sent a team to investigate the possibility that Tesla's Autopilot was involved in the crash on Pacific Coast Highway.The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said it had sent a team to investigate the possibility that Tesla's Autopilot was involved in the crash on Pacific Coast Highway......»»

Category: topSource: latimesMay 18th, 2022

Victor Davis Hanson: What The January 6 Committee Might Have Been

Victor Davis Hanson: What The January 6 Committee Might Have Been Authored by Victor Davis Hanson, Congress should investigate fully the January 6 riot at the Capitol - and similar recent riots at iconic federal sites. But unfortunately, it never will. Why not? The current committee is not bipartisan. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., forbade Republican nominees traditionally selected by the House minority leader to serve on the committee. No speaker had ever before rejected the minority party's nominees to a select House committee. Pelosi's own cynical criteria for Republican participation was twofold: Any willing minority Republican members had to have voted to impeach former President Donald Trump while having no realistic chance of being reelected in 2022. Of some 210 Republican House members, that left just Representatives Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., and Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., who were willing and able to fit Pelosi's profile. A real investigation would have ignited argumentation, cross-examination, and disagreements - the sort of give-and-take for which congressional committees are famous. In contrast, the January 6 show trial features no dissenting views. Its subtext was right out of the Soviet minister of Internal Affairs Lavrentiy Pavlovich Beria's credo: "Show me the man and I'll show you the crime." If Trump was not considering a third run for the presidency, would the committee even have existed? Its slick Hollywood-produced optics demonstrate that the committee has no interest in inconvenient facts. Why did a Capitol officer lethally shoot a petite unarmed woman entering a Capitol window? And why was the officer's identity and, indeed all information about his record, withheld from the public? Why did the committee not investigate whether large numbers of FBI agents and informants were ubiquitous among the crowd? After all, progressive New York Times reporter Matthew Rosenberg who was there on January 6, claimed, "There were a ton of FBI informants amongst the people who attacked the Capitol." About his own journalistic colleagues advancing a psychodramatic "insurrection" narrative, Rosenberg scoffed, "They were making too big a deal. They were making (Jan. 6) some organized thing that it wasn't." A real committee would also investigate why there were lots of warnings that a large crowd would assemble, but apparently little government follow-up to ensure security, should rogue elements turn violent. A real committee would learn why the government and media insisted that officer Brian Sicknick was killed by Trump supporters - even when it was known he died of natural causes. None of the questions will be answered because none will be asked because the committee's role is not inquiry but confirmation of a useful narrative. A real committee would also investigate the other, far larger and more lethal riots on iconic federal property months earlier. On May 31, 2020, for example, violent demonstrators tried to rush the White House grounds. Rioters sought to burn down the nearby historic St. John's Episcopal Church. D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser mysteriously did not send police to reinforce overwhelmed Secret Service agents who, at moments, seemed unable to keep the mob from the White House itself. The giddy New York Times later crowed, "Trump shrinks back." Was the Times preening that the president was a coward for retreating from a righteous mob? As a precaution, the Secret Service removed the president and first family to a safe underground bunker. Such riots near or at the White House continued for much of the fall, before mysteriously tapering off in the last weeks before the election. Less than three weeks after the violent Washington riot, Democratic vice-presidential nominee Kamala Harris seemed to incite the continuing violent protests, "They're not going to stop . . . This is a movement . . . they're not going to let up. And they should not, and we should not." Note that Harris' cheerleading was joined by a host of prominent left-wing luminaries who contextualized the violence. The "1619 Project" architect Nikole Hannah-Jones boasted, "Destroying property, which can be replaced, is not violence." Former CNN anchor Chris Cuomo pontificated, "And please, show me where it says protesters are supposed to be polite and peaceful." Note that the 2020 summer rioting, arson, and looting continued for nearly four months. Its toll resulted in over 35 dead, some 1,500 police officers injured, around 14,000 arrests, and between $1-2 billion in property damage. The violence was often aimed at iconic government buildings, from courthouses to police precincts. There were never any federal investigations to determine why state, local, and federal officials allowed the destruction to continue. Why were the vast majority of those arrested simply released by authorities? And how had antifa and BLM radicals orchestrated the violence using social media? What was the role of prominent elected officials in either condoning or encouraging the violence or communicating with the ring leaders? A truly bipartisan House select committee dedicated to ending all violence directed at the White House, the Capitol, or federal courthouses might have been useful in probing this dark period in American history. And that is precisely why there was no such committee. Tyler Durden Thu, 06/16/2022 - 17:40.....»»

Category: blogSource: zerohedgeJun 16th, 2022

Sunday Collum: 2021 Year In Review, Part 3 - From "Insurrection" To Authoritarianism

Sunday Collum: 2021 Year In Review, Part 3 - From 'Insurrection' To Authoritarianism Authored by David B. Collum, Betty R. Miller Professor of Chemistry and Chemical Biology - Cornell University (Email: dbc6@cornell.edu, Twitter: @DavidBCollum), I have a foreboding of an America in my children’s or grandchildren’s time when the United States is a service and information economy; when nearly all the manufacturing industries have slipped away to other countries; when awesome technological powers are in the hands of a very few, and no one representing the public interest can even grasp the issues; when the people have lost the ability to set their own agendas or knowledgeably question those in authority; when, clutching our crystals and nervously consulting our horoscopes, our critical faculties in decline, unable to distinguish between what feels good and what’s true, we slide, almost without noticing, back into superstition and darkness. The dumbing down of America is most evident in the slow decay of substantive content in the enormously influential media, the 30 second sound bites (now down to 10 seconds or less), lowest common denominator programming, credulous presentations on pseudoscience and superstition, but especially a kind of celebration of ignorance. ~  Carl Sagan, 1995, apparently having invented a time machine Every year, David Collum writes a detailed “Year in Review” synopsis full of keen perspective and plenty of wit. This year’s is no exception. Read Part 1 - Crisis Of Authority & The Age Of Narratives here... Read Part 2 - Heart Of Darkness & The Rise Of Centralized Healthcare here... So, here we are at the third and final part of the 2021 Year in Review and it’s no longer 2021. Sorry about that pfuck-up. Think of it as not in 2021 but from 2021. You may have noticed that the first 200 pages (parts 1 and 2) were laced with a recurring catchphrase, “WTF is happening?” It was a literary device for noting that the events ceased to make sense within a conventional worldview, suggesting it is time to torch the old model and start anew. Our response to a disease that was killing a very small slice of the population was to sequester and vaccinate the entire population with an experimental drug of real but unquantified fatality rate. The apparent scientific illiteracy was not some mass psychosis. Y’all just got suckered by America’s Most Trusted Psychopathic Mass Murderer assisted by an epic media blitz sponsored by the pharmaceutical industry that had a distinct authoritarian quality. Unthinking respect for authority is the greatest enemy of truth. ~ Albert Einstein During the brief period after uploading part 2 while grinding on this last portion, the Supreme Court took on the vaccine mandate issue, ruling that the only people forfeiting control of their own healthcare are the healthcare workersref 2 The court also illustrated their profound ignorance of the pandemic and what they were even charged to assess—the Constitutionality of mandates, not the efficacy.ref 3 The CEO of a major insurer reported a 40% spike in fatalities within the 18–65 age bracket that was not from Covid.ref 4 He said 10% would be a 3-sigma, once-every-200-year event: 40% is unheard of. Although he refrained from identifying a cause—deaths of despair, neglected healthcare, or a toxic vaccine—he knows precisely what did them in. They have been studying this stuff for centuries. I suspect his real message was that the insurance industry is about to contribute to inflation with rising premiums. Meanwhile, the pathological liars running the covid grift decided after two years the masks you’ve been wearing served no medical purpose and that the vaccines don’t work either. Wait: who said the masks and vaccines don’t work? We have known for many months that COVID-19 is airborne and therefore, a simple cloth mask is not going to cut it…Cloth masks are little more than facial decorations. ~ Leana Wen, MD, CNN medical expert with no admitted ties to the CCPref 5 Two doses of the vaccine offers very limited protection, if any. Three doses with a booster offer reasonable protection against hospitalization and deaths. Less protection against infection. ~ Albert Bourla, Pfizer CEOref 6 Here is my most heartfelt response to them: You psychopathic lying sacks of shit. You had us wear rags across our faces and put rags across the kids’ faces when clinical studies that could be read by people with half your IQs showed they were worthless. Suicide rates and other deaths of despair soared while you petty tyrants played your little games and generated billions of dollars of profits while destroying the middle class. You have maimed or killed an unknown number of gullible victims with your lockdowns, vaccines, remdesivir, and oppression of Ivermectin. You jammed a vaccine that bypassed animal trials into the fetuses of pregnant women, assuring them it was safe. If we spoke up, we got muzzled. If we refused the vaccine, we got fired. You should all hang from your necks until dead. I will piss on your graves. I feel better already. Very refreshing. Meanwhile, many of my friends and colleagues look at the same data and say, “Oh. I guess I better get the booster and a KN95 mask.” You have got to unfuck yourselves. You’ve been duped. It will get worse. The tactics used to oppress us would have made Stalin smirk. Australia was a beta test for what is to come in the rest of the west if we don’t wake up soon. They are gonna keep coming for one simple reason: we accepted it. We got bent over and squealed like pigs. What normalization does is transform the morally extraordinary into the ordinary. It makes us able to tolerate what was once intolerable by making it seem as if this is the way things have always been. ~ Jason Stanley, How Fascism Works A person is considered ‘ordinary’ or ‘normal’ by the community simply because he accepts most of its social standards and behavioral patterns; which means, in fact, that he is susceptible to suggestion and has been persuaded to go with the majority on most ordinary or extraordinary occasions. ~ William Sargant, in Battle of the Mind Meanwhile, the financial world became even more dominated by central bankers who haven’t the slightest understanding of free-market capitalism. These twits or criminals—maybe both—have blown the most colossal bubble in history if you account for both price and breadth across the spectrum of asset classes. For the layperson, that means they have set us up for a colossal failure. Go back and re-read Valuations if you cannot picture the epic financial carnage lying dead ahead. The gap between the Fed funds rate and headline inflation has never been this large. These pinheads believe that if the markets do not coincide with their world views, the markets must be wrong. I am not an economist, but it appears that none of them are either. The notion that a dozen nitwits should set the most important price of them all—the price of capital—rather than letting the markets set it through price discovery is financial authoritarianism or what some call State Capitalism. I am angry in case it doesn’t show. Meanwhile, in 2020–21 the Fed contributed to destroying upwards of a half-million mom ’n’ pop businesses—they gutted the middle class—while giving BlackRock credit at 0.15% interest rates to buy up all their houses. Here is my advice to those day trading criminals: look both ways as you enter crosswalks. What I believe the response of society to a severe downturn given the current political climate will be epic. Big downturns come after euphorias. We have never entered a downturn with society at large this grumpy. We are in the early stages of The Fourth Turning.ref 7 The deterioration of every government begins with the decay of the principles on which it was founded. ~ Charles-Louis De Secondat When a State has mortgaged all of its future revenues the State, by necessity, lapses into tranquility, langor, and impotence. ~ David Hume, 1752 So, WTF is going on here? In this final part, I address geopolitics. It begins with a relatively benign analysis of Biden’s first year in office, culminating with what I think Afghanistan is really about. The second section addresses my view of what may prove to be the most important day in US History—January 6, 2021. Although it is my best shot—Dave’s Narrative—I will not attempt to nor will I inadvertently spread the love to both sides of the political spectrum. It is a right-wing view that most right-wing politicians and pundits are too cowardly to state in polite company. The final section addresses the Rise of Global Authoritarianism. For a topic covered by thousands of treatises to call my knowledge skeletal is a reach. I have merely created an intellectual foundation—a chalk outline—to ponder why authoritarianism is here and what could stop it. (Plot spoiler: I do not believe it can be stopped.) They know where we are, they know our names, they know from our iPhones if we’re on our way to the grocery store or not. But they haven’t acted on that to put people in camps yet. They could do it. We could be East Germany in weeks, in a month. Huge concentration camps and so forth. ~ Daniel Ellsberg (@DanielEllsberg), author of The Pentagon Papers and Secrets Before moving on, let me give a plug for a book.ref 8 I have not even finished it yet, but it will change your worldview. Look at those ratings! I can guarantee none of those readers enjoyed it. Kennedy will curdle your bone marrow describing 35 years of atrocities commited by America’s Most Trusted Madman. It is emblematic of a much larger problem. Evil is powerless if good men are unafraid – Americans don’t realize what they have to lose. ~ Ronald Reagan The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary. ~ H. L. Mencken Biden – Freshman Year Scorecard Let’s go, Brandon! ~ Cheers across America Most presidents begin their reign with a calling. Reagan raised our national self-esteem after a period of economic and political malaise. Bush Sr. took on the Gulf War, for better or worse. Clinton oversaw the economic boom and bank deregulation, again for better or worse. Bush Jr. was handed 9/11 and, in my opinion, boned it badly. Obama had to wrestle with the Great Financial Crisis. Trump was charged with disturbing the peace—drain the swamp if you will. Biden undeniably needed to begin healing the social discord that, regardless of its source, left the country wounded and divided. Maybe that was not Biden’s calling, but I wanted to see him become the president of all the people. This is not revisionist history of my failing memory: Biden’s the last of the Old Guard, which is probably why he was slipped into the office by the DNC old guard. I am guessing there will be no Supreme Court stacking; that was just rhetoric (I hope). There will be wars just like every president (except Trump, who brought troops home.) Congress is more balanced again and, at the time of this writing, the Senate is still in Republican hands. Hopefully, the gridlock will usher in some garden-variety dysfunction. I have subtle concerns about a Harris presidency. Admittedly, my opinion is based on precious few facts, but Harris displays a concerning shallowness of character, a lack of a moral compass, and the potential to slide to the left of Bernie. (I sometimes reflect on what it must have been like raising the teenaged Kamala.) I am trying to reserve judgment because first impressions scavenged from the digital world are sketchy if not worthless. ~ 2020 Year in Review By this description, Biden tanked his GPA. He ushered in a Crusade to erase the Trump era and its supporters. The weaponizing of social media and censorship against one’s opponents was probably unavoidable, but the downside will be revealed when the wind changes. Team Biden took banishing of political opponents on social media to new levels by, as noted by Jen Psaki, flagging “problematic posts” and the “spread of disinformation” for censorship. NY Timeslapdog Kevin Roose called for a “reality Czar,” not noticing the Russian metaphor problem. The War on Domestic Terror may prove to be a turning point in American history, one that risks extinguishing the flame of the Great American Experiment. Significant erosions of Constitutionally granted civil liberties discussed throughout the rest of this document may not have been Biden’s fault, but they occurred on his watch. If you see an injustice and remain silent, you own it. I can’t remain silent. Biden is the epitome of the empty, amoral creature produced by our system of legalized bribery. His long political career in Congress was defined by representing the interests of big business, especially the credit card companies based in Delaware. He was nicknamed Senator Credit Card. He has always glibly told the public what it wants to hear and then sold them out. ~ Chris Hedges, right-wing hatchet man Team Biden. Books have been written about Trump’s fumbles in the first months (or four years) of his presidency. See Josh Rogin’s Chaos Under Heaven in Books or Michael Lewis’ less balanced The Fifth Risk reviewed in last year’s YIR. The Cracker Jack team assembled for Joe reveals a glob of feisty alt-left activists and omnipresent neocons. According to Rickards, two dozen players on Biden’s roster were recruited from the consulting firm WestExec Advisors (including Psaki and Blinken.)ref 1 That’s power and groupthink. David Axelrod: You must ask yourself, ‘Why are we allowing him to roll around in the hallways doing impromptu interviews?’ Jen Psaki: That is not something we recommend. In fact, a lot of times we say ‘don’t take questions.’ Young black entrepreneurs are just as capable of succeeding given the chance as white entrepreneurs are, but they don’t have lawyers; they don’t have accountants. ~ Joe Biden Joe Biden, President – Joe is the Big Guy. In an odd sense, he is immunized from criticism because he is visibly losing his marbles. His cognitive decline is on full display; this 52 seconds of gibberish about inflation is emblematic.ref 2 He’s 80 years old, for Cripes sake. I read a book this year entitled, When the Air Hits Your Brain, which derives from a neurosurgical aphorism that finishes with “you ain’t never the same.” Wanna guess who had two brain aneurysms (one rupturing) years ago leading to a miraculous recovery?ref 3 You’re the most famous African-American baseball player. ~ Joe Biden to the Pope, context unknown (possibly even a deep fake)ref 4 I am neither reveling in Joe’s problems nor do I believe he is calling the shots. Claims that the puppet master is Harris are, no offense, on the low side of clueless. Obama seems like a better guess but Barrack was a front man too. Having an impaired leader of a superpower, however, is disquieting and potentially destabilizing, especially with Taiwan in play. Biden’s energy policy that clamped down on fossil fuel production only to ask OPEC to open the spigots is one for the ages. The covid policies bridging both administrations were catastrophic, but throwing workers out of jobs into the teeth of unprecedented labor shortages makes zero sense. The nouveau inflation—Bidenflation—may stick to him like it stuck to Jimmy Carter, but that is unfair to both presidents. Look to the Fed in both cases for blame. Troubles at the southern border and the Afghanistan pullout are a couple of serious logs for a raging inferno that represents Biden’s first year in office. As discussed in a later section, demonizing “white supremacists”—not just political opponents but opponents labeled by their race—will not be viewed well by historians unless history is at a serious fork and Joe is ultimately protrayed as the founder of some new Fatherland. Kamala Harris, Vice President – Whenever situations heat up, Harris is off like a prom dress. During the crisis at the border that she was charged with overseeing, she took off to Europe, cackling about never even visiting the border. Kamala endorsed and claimed credit for the Kabul evacuation.ref 5,6 Realizing she had pulled yet another boner she pulled out before they renamed it Kamalabad. (Hey: At least I had the decency to pass on the Kamalatoe joke.) In a moment of surreal comedy, Harris hosted a public chat with Bill Clinton on “empowering women.”ref 7 She can even serve up semi-reasonable ideas with dollops of cringe. If the Democrats nominate her in 2024, may God have mercy on their souls—she is unelectable—or maybe on our souls—I could be wrong. Jen Psaki, Press Secretary – The role of any press secretary is to calm the press down with nuggets of insight—to feed the birds. When that fails, lie your ass off, all with a cold, calculating sociopathy. I would say she did the best job imaginable given the hand she was dealt. Disagree? I’ll just have to circle back with you on that. Ron Klain, Whitehouse Chief of Staff – This guy might be the rainmaker, but I haven’t quite figured him out. He has the durability of Andrei Gromyko, maintaining a central role through three democratic administrations. Keep an eye on him. Janet Yellen, Secretary of the Treasury – We have yet to find out Yellen’s role because she has not been pressed into service by a crisis. To resolve the minor “meme stock” bruhaha, which did not call for a resolution, she needed an ethics waiver owing to the soft corruption of her bank-sponsored million-dollar speaking tour. My expectations of her are quite low, and I imagine she will meet them. Antony Blinken, Secretary of State – He has a good resume. Like Psaki, he is forced to play a weak hand. He lacks Psaki’s skills. Jennifer Mulhern Granholm, US Energy Secretary – In a press conference she was asked how many barrels of oil a day the US consumes and said, “I do not have those numbers in front of me.” ‘Nuff said. Get her out of there. Merrick Garland, Attorney General – The press will tear anybody a new one so snippets with bad optics are always dangerous. I would say, however, ordering the FBI to investigate parents who get irate at school boards—even those who seem rather threatening—is over the top. Leave that to the local and state police. His role in the January 6th event and push into domestic terrorism is potentially sinister and moves him onto my shitlist. Saule Omarova, nominee for Comptroller of the Currency – This one blows my circuits. She is what in the vernacular is called “a commie” straight from Kazakhstan with a thesis on Marxism—a devout believer that the State should run the show. She also hails from Cornell Law School. (Yeah. I know. STFU.) Matthew Continetti of the National Review noted she is, “an activist intellectual who is—and I say this in the kindest way possible—a nut.”ref 8 There will be no more private bank deposit accounts and all of the deposit accounts will be held directly at the Fed. ~ Saule Omarova, Cornell Law Professor   We want them to go bankrupt if we want to tackle climate change. ~ Saule Omarova, on oil and gas companies For those who have seen the horror movie The Ring, Cornell tried to exorcise the demon by sending “the VHS tape” to Washington, D.C., but it came back stamped “Return to Sender.” She withdrew. Hey Team Biden: you could want to snatch up MIT’s Venezuelan-derived president who is already on the board of the World Economic Forum and was instrumental in pushing Aaron Swartz to off himself.ref 9 John Kerry, Climate Czar – Don’t we have enough Czars? John is charged with flying around the world in his private jet, setting the stage for a 30-year $150 trillion push to make many bank accounts much My disdain for the climate movement catches Kerry in the splash zone. Pete Buttegieg, Transportation Secretary – I must confess to liking Mayor Pete and would have been happier if he had gotten the crash course in the oval office rather than Joe. The one criticism I would make is that taking two months of paternity leave during the nation’s greatest transportation crisis seemed odd. I think when you are in such an important position you find a way. Get a nanny. Bring the twins to your office. Leave them with your spouse. For Pete’s sake (sorry), stay at your post. For the record, after my youngest son was born my wife had health problems. I used to bring him to work and lecture with him in a Snugly and changed a shitload of diapers. You could have done it too, Pete. Samantha Power, Head of the US Agency for International Development (USAID) – Sam is a garden-variety neocon, having served as ambassador to the UN and on the National Security Council, both under Obama. She was central to the planning behind destabilizing Libya,ref 10 which sure looks like a bad idea unless destabilizing the Middle East is our foreign policy. Please just don’t fuck up too much. Cass Sunstein, Homeland Security employee. This is not really an appointment, per se. Cass is the Harvard-employed husband of neocon Samantha Powers. In his 2008 book, Conspiracy Theories, Cass declared “the existence of both domestic and foreign conspiracy theories” to be our greatest threat, outlining five possible solutions, and I quote, “(1) Government might ban conspiracy theorizing. (2) Government might impose some kind of tax, financial or otherwise, on those who disseminate such theories. (3) Government might engage in counter-speech, marshaling arguments to discredit conspiracy theories. (4) Government might formally hire credible private parties to engage in counter-speech. (5) Government might engage in informal communication with such parties, encouraging them to help.” Guys like Cass who come out of Harvard’s CIA training camps are menaces to society. Marvelous hire, Joe. Victoria Nuland, Undersecretary for Political Affairs – She is famous for her hot mic “Fuck the EU” comment and for engineering the coup in Ukraine—a Wonder Bread neocon. William J. Burns, Head of the CIA – I’ve got nothing on Bill, not even a fingerprint. It would be difficult for me to grade him poorly on a curve with the likes of John Brennan, William Casey, and Alan Dulles. (I once had dinner with a former CIA head John Deutch. What a dick.) Christopher Wray, Head of the FBI – As the FBI increasingly looks like the Praetorian Guard for the power elite (both in and out of public office), Wray has followed in the footsteps of his predecessors like J. Edgar Hoover and James Comie to be both top cop and dubious scoundrel. Wray’s fate might be dictated by the ongoing Durham investigation, but I have not seen any heads roll inside the Beltway since Watergate a half-century ago. Tony Fauci, Director of NIAID – That bipartisan, power-hungry authoritarian—The Most Trusted Madman in America—is a recurring theme. He doesn’t know any science. He is a political hack—a chameleon—who survived 35 years multiple administrations by being able slither out of anybody’s claws and regrow his tail. Rochelle Walensky, Director of the CDC – She got serious attention in part 2. I am horrified by her sociopathy. I think she is evil. Amy Gutmann, Ambassador to Germany – Guttman was given the job after giving the Big Guy more than $900,000 in speaking fees and an honorary degree from UPenn when she was the University’s president. I am sure every ambassador pays market rates for the job.  Cathy Russell, Biden’s Director of Presidential Personnel–She is married to Tom Donlin, Chairman of the gargantuan multinational investment firm, BlackRock. Their daughter made it into the Whitehouse National Security Council. A talented family enjoying the political respect accorded to billionaires. Asmeret Asefaw Berhe, Head of the Office of Science – Despite scientific chops as a climate-change-supporting agronomist, she has no administrative experience and is inexperienced in the scientific programs that she is overseeing. Of course, everything is now about the $150 trillion climate grift, so she’s our girl. Jared Bernstein, Whitehouse Economic Advisor – He is highly educated, with a bachelor’s degree in music, master’s degrees in social work and philosophy, and a Ph.D. in social welfare. His greatest strength may be his complete lack of training in economics. Shalanda Baker, Deputy Director for Energy Justice in the Office of Economic Impact and Diversity at the Department of Energy – Is that a salaried position? ‘Nuff said. General Mark Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff – Mark transitioned from the Trump administration. It caused a stir when he went more “woke” than Chelsea Manning. We will no longer defeat our enemy but assign them pronouns and include them. This was followed by a scandal outlined in Bob Woodward’s book in which he instructed military leaders in a secret meeting to bypass Trump on important military decisions.ref 11 He then unilaterally told his peer in the Chinese military that he would drop a dime if there was an impending military conflict. He tried to hang it on the Secretary of Defense, but the Secretary spit the bit fast.ref 12 My theory is that the sudden wokeness was to commandeer allies on the far left knowing that scandal was coming. It worked. He looks like he is right out of Dr. Strangelove without the lip gloss and eye shadow. Xavier Becerra, Secretary of Health and Human Services. He refuses to acknowledge the merits of natural Covid-19 immunity. That puts him near the top of my shitlist. Becerra has no medical or scientific training. He’s a lawyer, but at least he is from an underrepresented group. Rachel Levine, Assistant Secretary of Health and Human Services – I know little about her. She might be the most qualified candidate, certainly more so than her boss Becerra. Call me skeptical of a purely merit-based appointment. Hunter Biden. I was going to place Hunter in the bullets and call him Head of the DEA and National Association of the Arts, but I had reservations. There are sad, heartwarming, and troubling roles played by Hunter Biden. His addiction is a highly personal problem that is difficult for the first family to deal with, especially given other tragedies in their lives. Joe Rogan succinctly explained Hunter’s remarkably odd behavior: “he is a crackhead.” They are part and parcel of being dopesick. Leaked emails from the laptop show Dad to be a compassionate and loving father struggling to save his son. Ironically, old footage surfaced of Joe ranting about how we have to deal with crackheads severely no matter whom they know.ref 13 It did not age well. It is clear that Hunter Biden was selling access and influence. It appears that Joe Biden was aware of that effort. That is very serious. If these emails are false, this is a major story. If they are true, this is a major scandal. ~ Jonathan Turley Before you start blubbering, however, recall that Hunter’s laptop revealed that he was playing critical roles in Russian and Chinese dealings for the Biden family. The Kleenex gets tossed and the gloves now come off. Hunter’s business partner stepped forward admitting nefarious deals were made with Joe involved. Joe denied knowing the clown, but a then photo of the two surfaced.ref 14 This year Hunter also began selling his artwork for up to $500,000 a pop behind a “Chinese Wall”—a veil that ensures we cannot find out who bought the art.ref 15,16,17 The money might literally be from behind a Chinese wall. That buys a lot of crack even after the Big Guy’s 10% cut. Figure 1 shows two paintings, one by a Hunter and the other by two elephants. (No joke, elephants have been painting brilliant pictures free-trunk for decades.) Figure 1. Biden art (left) brought $500,000. The elephant painting (shown being painted) brought $39,000. We are a democracy…there are things you can’t do by executive order unless you are a dictator. ~ Joe Biden, several years ago Executive Orders. Before the first week of his presidency was over, Biden had signed 37 of those beauties. Some, such as the order extending rent moratoria, were overtly unconstitutional. Some merely unwound Trump’s orders that had unwound Obama’s orders. This is dodge ball. While Yale was battling a civil rights case for discriminatory admissions practices, the Biden DOJ dismissed it without comment.ref 18 Yale is said to have promptly destroyed the evidence, which shows they have good lawyers. Transgender athletes were reinstated in women’s sports, ensuring that longstanding records will be shattered.ref 19 It got surreal when UPenn’s transgender swimmer was beaten by Yale’s transgender swimmer.ref 19a An executive order giving the IRS direct access to our bank accounts seems both sinister and inevitable…death and taxes as they say.ref 20 There are a lot of Republicans out there giving speeches about how outraged they are about the situation at the border. Not many who are putting forward solutions. ~ Jen Psaki, forgetting about the wall idea Crisis at the Border. The mainstream press covered this one exhaustively. There are parallels here with the North Africans crossing into Europe several years back. It looks intentional, but why? Don’t tell me about building a democratic base. That is too far in the future and too simplistic. It is far easier to control the elections at the server level. Baffling details include the administration’s suggestion that border agents should be empowered to authorize the immigration of “climate migrants.”ref 21 That could boost a few agents salaries. Rumors of US military planes transporting illegals into the US suggests somebody could punk the elite: load up a boat and drop a couple hundred on Martha’s Vineyard. On further thought, rather than offering Vineyardians more gardeners, drop off some Afghans.ref 22Whoever is calling the shots, this is neither about civil rights nor climate change. Attorney General Merrick Garland clarified the immigration challenge: Today marks a step forward in our effort to make the asylum process fairer and more expeditious. This rule will both reduce the caseload in our immigration courts and protect the rights of those fleeing persecution and violence. If you do that, that will set off a mass migration that’s like nothing that we have ever seen in this country because the entire world will then come on through to get their asylum, essentially legalizing illegal immigration, in a very clever way. ~ Attorney General Merrick Garland WTF did Garland just say? Both his meaning and intent are unclear. The immigrants, of course, were all unvaccinated, which would have been OK by me had the administration not gone Third Reich to vaccinate US citizens. The administration also wanted to offer $450,000 to every immigrant family separated from their loved ones: why?ref 23They seemed to walk that third-trimester idea back and then walked it forward again. A half-billion-dollar, no-bid contract to manage the immigrants went to friends of the administration.ref 24 Your tax dollars at work. At least we are back to business as usual. By the way, where is Border Czar Kamala Harris while all this is going on? Making creepy videos.ref 25,26 People who like quotes love meaningless generalizations. ~ Graham Greene Miscellaneous issues surfaced that either went away or are still festering quietly. On the positive side, stacking the Supreme Court—increasing the number of justices to get a left-leaning majority—seems to have been only a political football. Granting Washington DC statehood, while to a plebe like me doesn’t seem nuts, has the trappings of a massive powershift to the left in national elections. Joe invaded the legal process by declaring Chauvin guilty and Kyle Rittenhouse a white supremacist. Would Obama have done this? I don’t think so. Rittenhouse may get his “10% for the Young Guy” in defamation suits against Joe and every media outlet on the planet. Joe checking his watch five times at the funeral of dead marines didn’t play well,ref 27 but if you put a camera on me I wouldn’t make it to lunchtime without serving up Jim Acosta fresh meat. The main drama of Biden’s first year, however, played out in a distant land.   Afghanistan—where empires go to die. ~ Mike Malloy Afghanistan. I’ve been groping for nomenclature — Afghazi, Afghazistan, Benghanistan, Benghazistan, Saigonistan, Clusterfuckistan, and Bidenistan—to describe this odd moment in history. That 20-year skirmish cost an estimated $2.3 trillion.ref 28 The idea that it was only a few thousand troops with no fatalities in the last year or two makes me question my wisdom, but I can’t start revising history. Whether for right or wrong, I was glad we were getting out. The ensuing Crisis in Kabul looked like the graveyard of a presidency—a combination of the Bay of Pigs and the Iran Hostage Crisis that would dog us for years. They are chanting “Death to America”, but they seemed friendly at the same time. ~ CNN reporter wearing a burka looking for a husband Even before the evacuation started we were hearing about huge caches of weapons that would be abandoned.ref 29 In an eat-and-dash that would make an IHOP waiter wince, we bugged out at 2:00 AM without telling anybody.ref 30Jalalabad Joe had assured us repeatedly the 300,000-strong Afghan army would hang tough. They were defeated in time to chow down on some goat stew for dinner. Images of desperate Afghan’s clinging to transport planes brought up images of the Saigon Embassy rooftop. We left service dogs in cages.ref 31 Marines would never do that. Stranded Americans and Afghan collaborators were begging for help to get to the airport and even to get into the airport.ref 32The administration used a drone to strike on some kids and their dads loading water into a truck to change the news cycle briefly.ref 33 The Afghan who is credited with saving Joe Biden and John Kerry in a disastrous excursion to Afghanistan years earlier got left behind pleading for help:ref 34 Hello Mr. President: Save me and my family. Don’t forget me here. Mercenaries like Blackwater’s Erik Prince tried to prevent Americans from taking The Final Exit,ref 35 only to get stonewalled by the Whitehouse. Meanwhile, the top commander and four-star Wokie, Mark Milley, was too mired in scandal.ref 36 Retired generals were calling for the active-duty generals to resign.ref 37 The withdrawal could not be botched worse if you tried. The populace are now facing a winter of profound famine.ref 38 Rural Afghanistan has been rocked by climate change. The past three decades have brought floods and drought that have destroyed crops and left people hungry. And the Taliban — likely without knowing climate change was the cause — has taken advantage of that pain. ~ CBS News, sticking it like a Russian gymnast This vexing story was from the Theater of the Absurd. Starting with the caches of military equipment left behind, I have two simple solutions that a group of teenagers could have concocted: Announce Blow Shit Up Friday (BSUF). Provide the military personnel with some grenade launchers and a few kegs of beer, grill up some goat burgers, and start blowing shit up. That would be a blast. If that is too unprofessional, you gather all armaments and anything of else of value into an open space. Once the wheels go up on the last troop transport, drop a MOAB—Mother of All Bombs.ref 39 Tough luck for those who were trying to hotwire the stuff when the MOAB arrives. It will take a year to get them out…If you use those billions of dollars of weapons behind I promise they’ll be using them against your grandchildren and mine someday. ~ Joe Biden, Presidential Candidate, 2007ref 40 The collapse of the Afghan Army also couldn’t have come as a surprise. The military and CIA certainly knew that those troops wouldn’t withstand a West Side Story-level brawl.ref 41 The soldiers were paid by the US for their service COD, and there was no C left. Shockingly, most of the payroll booty had long-since been snarfed up by the politicians and top military brass from the only swamp in Afghanistan.ref 42 Whocouldanode? Taliban can murder as many people as they want. But if they keep trolling Biden like this they’re gonna get kicked off of social media. ~ Jesse Kelley, noting the Taliban has an active Twitter feed Here is a script playing out in my noggin. The Crisis in Kabul was an arms deal—Fast and Furious 2.0. One of our top diplomats called the Taliban and said, “We are pulling out in a month. We’ll leave the keys in the ignition and pallets of $100 billsref 43 to help pay for upkeep. If you guys let us sneak out unmolested, you can party like it’s 999—an authentic Taliban-themed fraternity party. We will leave you guns, money, nice facilities, and even a few wives. If you fuck this up, however, we will be right back here.” The Whitehouse also lent a legitimizing tone to the regime when speaking about “working with the Taliban” as part of the deal. In return, the State Department called on the Taliban to form an “inclusive and representative government,”ref 44 so there’s that bit of risible nonsense. Neville Chamberlain couldn’t have done any better. The bottom line: 90% of Americans who wanted to leave Afghanistan were able to leave Afghanistan. ~ Jalalabad Joe Biden That might be a great poll number or inflated final exam grade at a college Joe erroneously claimed to attend, but I am not sure “90%” is impressive in this context. The actual evacuation was ineptly executed from the get-go. Mr. Rogers, with the help of his viewing audience of toddlers, could have Kabuled together a better plan based on the simple precept, “pull out the civilians then the military.” Baffling claims the Whitehouse was obstructing evacuations of charter flights containing Americans was not right-wing propaganda: Where are they going to land? A number of these planes have a handful of Americans, but they may have several hundred individuals who do not have proper documentation of identity….we don’t have manifests for them, we don’t know what the security protocols are for them, we don’t know what their documentation is…hard choices you face in government. ~ Jen Psaki, press conference WTF actually happened? When nothing makes sense your model is wrong. Glenn Greenwald got the scent that withdrawal was intentionally mishandled, suggesting this is “fully within the character of the deep-state operatives.”ref 45We also forgot to destroy our sophisticated FBI-derived software and a complete database containing the biometrics of Friends of the USA,ref 46,47,48 enabling the Taliban to find potential detractors for an attitude correction. Think of it as Afghanistan’s high-tech War on Domestic Terror. The stonewalling of help from other countries also makes no sense using a conventional model.ref 49 Biden’s CIA Director met with Taliban leadership covertly—so covertly we all knew about it—to concoct a “deal”, but what kind of deal?ref 50 During the evacuation, we gave the Taliban names of American citizens, green card holders, and Afghan allies supposedly to let them pass through the militant-controlled perimeter of the city’s airport.ref 51 They would never abuse this list, right? A large number of Afghan refugees—possibly as many as 100,000 according to Tucker Carlson—entering the US are consistent with our open border policy along the Mexican border, but what is that all about? Afghans, by the way, are reputed to be always recalcitrant to assimilate in Europe just in case you’re thinking of renting out your basement as an Airbnb.ref 52 What happened in Afghanistan is not incompetence. We are not that incompetent. ~ General George Flynn The goal is to use Afghanistan to wash money out of the tax bases of the US and Europe through Afghanistan and back into the hands of a transnational security elite. The goal is an endless war, not a successful war. ~ Julian Assange, 2011ref y I have no doubt that blood was shed after we left. More than a few US sympathizers surely lost their heads. As to the stranded Americans, why were they still there? China had evacuated their citizens months earlier.ref 53(Hmmm…Chinese citizens were there?) Two dozen students from the Cajon Valley Union School District and 16 parents there for an enriching summer trip were stranded.ref 54 How did they get visas? That field trip will generate a few college essays that will beat any written about dead grandparents, although Kabul State College may be their only option. This is now on-track, Peter, to be the largest airlift in U.S. history. I would not say that is anything but a success. ~ Jen Psaki to Peter Doucy The media can create, steer, or smother narratives at will. I have a question: Where are all the dead Americans—thousands of them—said to be left behind? Horror stories should be surfacing daily, but they’re not. We shit a mudbrick when One Dead Kashoggi (ODK) got fed to the camels in Saudi Arabia. Three thousand fatalities on 9/11 got us into Afghanistan in the first place. We supposedly left behind “thousands of Americans” but without generating a single headline? So much for that Bay of Pigs­–Iran Hostage Crisis analogy. So here are my next questions and I am deadly serious: Did we get duped? Was the whole thing more sham than farce? There is no such thing as a true account of anything. ~ Gore Vidal Here is Dave’s Narrative. We installed the Taliban as the rulers of Afghanistan as the best of many bad options. The winners are the Taliban and China. The two are inking deals for mineral rights as I type. The chaos was intentional. But why accept such a profound humiliation and dashed hopes of future alliances in global hotspots? I think that the Taliban winning the war in Afghanistan, and then the way our exit happened, has absolutely inspired jihadists all over the world. The Taliban is saying, we just didn’t defeat the United States, we defeated NATO. We defeated the world’s greatest military power, ever. I think, not only will the jihadists be inspired, but a lot of them are going to come to Afghanistan to be part of the celebration, to be part of jihadist central. We are more at risk, without a doubt. ~ Michael Morell, former CIA Director under Obama Maybe China has way more than just Hunter’s laptop to blackmail us and is about to take possession of Taiwan soon. While we await the next Kyle Rittenhouse trial to preoccupy ourselves, take a peek at this video. Skip over the election stuff since we all have rock-hard opinions on that and go to minute 55:30. Xi Jinping’s right-hand man, Di Dongsheng, publicly explained the extent Beijing controls US politics:ref 55 There is nothing in the world that money can’t fix, right? If one wad of cash can’t handle it, then I’ll have two wads. (laughter) Of course this is how I do things. In fact, to be a bit blunt, in the past 30 years or past 40 years, we manipulated the core power circle in the United States, right? I mentioned earlier that Wall Street started to have a very strong influence on U.S. domestic and foreign affairs in the 1970s. So we figured out our path and those we could be dependent on. But the problem is that Wall Street’s status has declined after 2008. More importantly, starting in 2016 Wall Street has no influence on Trump. Why? It is awkward. Trump had a soft breach of contract on Wall Street once, so the two sides had conflicts. They tried to help during the Sino-US trade war. As far as I know, friends from the U.S. told me that they tried to help, but they were too weak. But now we see that Biden has come to power. (crowd laughs) The traditional elites, political elites, and the establishment have a very close relationship with Wall Street. You all see it: Trump talked about Biden’s son, “You have investment funds around the world.” Who helped him build the funds? You understand? There are transactions involved. (laughter) So at this point in time, we use an appropriate way to express a certain kind of goodwill. (applause) ~Di Dongsheng, Vice Director and Secretary of the Center for Foreign Strategic Studies of Chinaref 55 January 6th Capitol Insurrection Alec Baldwin killed more people in 2021 than did the January 6th insurrectionists. Anybody reading this far knows that the January 6th riots stemmed from the right-wing voters who doubted the veracity of the 2020 election. Twitter polls show that view is not as partisan or as rare as the media would lead you to believe. I happen to doubt U.S. election integrity but have for quite a few election cycles. ref 1 Hacked Stratfor emails show the democrats rigged the vote in ’08 ref 2 and Republicans rigged it in ’04.ref 3 It is bipartisan Capture the Flag with red and blue pinnies.ref 4 In any event, Trump’s Green Goblin strategy was to beckon the MAGA faithful to the Capitol to protest the Electoral College signing off on the results. It was not so different than the mobs outside the courthouses trying to subvert the Rittenhouse and Chauvin trials, but the scale of January 6th was much larger and the optics were Biblical. It got out of hand and, at times, even a little Helter Skelter. Mob psychology elicits dramatic changes in brain chemistry and has been the topic of many laboratory studies.”ref 5 Temporary insanity is not a crazy defense. My Tweet got some hysterically hateful responses from the Right who missed the sarcasm and the Left who did not. I think I squandered more of my valuable time left on this planet burrowing through the January 6th story than on the Covid-Vaccine combo platter. I should preface this section by noting that I was praised by a thoughtful long-time reader for being “balanced and measured and carefully worded, even on edgy topics.” I may be on the cusp of disappointing him. It’s impossible to peer at the The Great Insurrection through a non-partisan lens. Both sides may find common ground in the belief that January 6th is a profound fork in the road of the American Experiment. The sock-starching Left will celebrate it as a national holiday every year while the bed-wetting Right will try to ignore it. Both are wrong. Look at that photo and pause to ponder its implications. Put a funny caption to it. Let’s hear from some Republicans first: We must also know what happened every minute of that day in the White House — every phone call, every conversation, every meeting leading up to, during, and after the attack. ~ Liz Cheney I think Lizard nailed it. We’re on the same page. Let’s keep going… January 6 was worse than 9/11, because it’s continued to rip our country apart and get permission for people to pursue autocratic means, and so I think we’re in a much worse place than we’ve been. I think we’re in the most perilous point in time since 1861 in the advent of the Civil War. ~ Michael Dowd, former Bush strategist I would like to see January 6th burned into the American mind as firmly as 9/11 because it was that scale of a shock to the system. ~ George Will, syndicated columnist Mike and George are as unhinged as I am but on different hinges. I think they are delusional and offensive. Edging forward… The 1/6 attack for the future of the country was a profoundly more dangerous event than the 9/11 attacks. And in the end, the 1/6 attacks are likely to kill a lot more Americans than were killed in the 9/11 attacks, which will include the casualties of the wars that lasted 20 years following. ~ Steve Smith, Lincoln Project co-founder Now I’m getting the heebie-jeebies if for no other reason than the Lincoln Project is filled with Democratic operatives (or at least neocons) pretending to be Republicans—as authentic as the Indians at the Boston Tea Party or stepmoms on PornHub. We have seen growing evidence that the dangers to our country can come not only across borders but from violence that gathers within…There is little cultural overlap between violent extremists abroad and violent extremists at home… But in their disdain for pluralism, in their disregard for human life, in their determination to defile national symbols, they are children of the same foul spirit. ~ George W. Bush, a thinly veiled allusion to January 6 George got some serious guff from more than a few of the 80 million Fox-watching extremists including the Grand Wizard: So interesting to watch former President Bush, who is responsible for getting us into the quicksand of the Middle East (and then not winning!), as he lectures us that terrorists on the ‘right’ are a bigger problem than those from foreign countries that hate America. ~ Donald Trump He nailed it. I have stated previously that Bush committed war crimes. Of course, the National Security Machine chimed in… The No. 1 national security threat I’ve ever seen in my life to this country’s democracy is the party that I’m in — the Republican Party. It is the No. 1 national security threat to the United States of America. ~ Miles Taylor, a former Department of Homeland Security (DHS) official Dude! You just tarred about 80 million asses with that brushstroke. Let’s move further left to find some middle ground: They swooned for him on 9/11 because he gave them what they most crave: the view that Al Qaeda is comparable to those who protested at the Capitol on 1/6. ~ Glenn Greenwald, on George Bush’s comments Glenn is part of a growing cadre of liberals including Matt Taibbi, Tim Pool, Bill Maher, The Weinstein Brothers, and Joe Rogan who are unafraid to extend olive branches across The Great Partisan Divide at risk of being labled white supremacists and Nazis, but they are hardly emblematic of the Left. From the elite Left… I think we also had very real security concerns. We still don’t yet feel safe around other members of Congress.  ~ AOC AOC’s comment prompted one pundit to tell her to “get a therapist”, which seems correct given her moment of maximum drama was when a security guard was screaming outside her door, “Are you OK, Ma’am?” #AlexandriaOcasioSmollett began trending on social media when it was disclosed that she was not even in the building when Ragnar and his buddies showed up.ref 6 They will have to decide if Donald J. Trump incited the erection…the insurrection. ~ Chuck Schumerref 7 What ya thinking about Chuckie? We are facing the most significant test of our democracy since the Civil War. That’s not hyperbole. Since the Civil War. The Confederates back then never breached the Capitol as insurrectionists did on Jan. 6. ~ Joe Biden Joe may be on the A-Team, but he hasn’t found his way out of the locker room. The blue-check-marked liberals did not mince words… The 9/11 terrorists and Osama bin Laden never threatened the heart of the American experiment. The 1/6 terrorists and Donald Trump absolutely did exactly that. Trump continues that effort today. ~ S.V. Dáte, Huffington Post’s senior White House correspondent The only effective way for the government to respond to an act of war by domestic terrorists is to be prepared to meet them with machine guns and flamethrowers and mow them down. Not one of those terrorists who broke through police lines should have escaped alive. ~ a Washington Post commenter Moving as far left as you can by tuning into the most cunning commie who can outfox any Western leader… Do you know that 450 individuals were arrested after entering the Congress? They came there with political demands. ~ Vladimir Putin The Cast of this Drama. This Kafkaesque narrative will be scrutinized by historians and democratic operatives for years to come. The Left will cast this event as a truly unique moment in US history, but it was precedented. I see parallels with the 1920’s Bonus Army in which World War I veterans were pissed off about unpaid post-war benefits.ref 8 In the saddest of ironies, many were killed by Army regulars. Some authorities, including a young Dwight Eisenhower, thought it was a benign protest while others thought it was an assault on America. Grumpy crowds appear at the Capitol only on days of the week that end in “y.” Recently, f.....»»

Category: blogSource: zerohedgeFeb 6th, 2022

US Drug Agents Ramp Up Fentanyl Counterattack On Chinese Mainland (As DEA Faces Its Own Troubles At Home)

US Drug Agents Ramp Up Fentanyl Counterattack On Chinese Mainland (As DEA Faces Its Own Troubles At Home) Authored by Vince Bielski via RealClearInvestigations.com, U.S. drug agents are expanding operations in China – six years after America’s largest trading partner and global rival emerged as the main source of chemicals used to make highly lethal fentanyl. It’s now claiming 65,000 American lives a year. The small crew of about a dozen Drug Enforcement Administration agents, including those in new outposts in Shanghai and Guangzhou, is nearly double the number in 2018. They face what seems like mission impossible: collaborating with Chinese agents to try to bust traffickers hidden somewhere in a sprawling export supply chain that’s linked to 160,000 companies.  “It’s such a massive chemical industry, and then there are layer upon layer of traders, brokers and freight forwarders,” says Russ Holske, the DEA’s director for the Far East, who set up the new offices in China before he retired. “It’s a daunting challenge.” A 2020 Drug Enforcement Administration report maps the flow of fentanyl to the U.S., DEA The DEA’s predicament in China is part of a larger one at the beleaguered agency, whose mission is to break up major drug trafficking rings worldwide. Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that’s mostly made in Mexico with Chinese chemicals, is the deadliest illicit drug ever sold. It’s behind the record number of overdose deaths that keeps growing each year. But the DEA is facing this menace after suffering a series of blows that has left it a smaller and less aggressive and effective outfit, according to several former special agents, high-ranking officials and agency documents. Some of the damage has been self-inflicted. An embarrassing sex scandal involving agents in Colombia and a botched operation that took four civilian lives in Honduras have made Congress wary of the agency. It was left to drift without a Senate-confirmed leader for half a decade, and retreated from some foreign operations, as fentanyl was beginning to leave its lethal mark on the streets. The DEA also has been swept up in the country’s turn against law enforcement as a force for good, leading to morale problems that afflict police departments as well as the Border Patrol. Hundreds of DEA agents left and weren’t replaced, sapping it of its crime-fighting prowess. Some academics, along with the Drug Policy Alliance, which advocates for decriminalization, are even calling for the group to be eliminated. “Yes, the DEA should be disbanded,” says sociologist Alex Vitale, author of “The End of Policing.” “They have two strategies, interdiction and criminalization, and neither is working.” The agency declined to comment for this story. Restoring DEA’s Urgency Critics such as Vitale blame the agency for the easy availability of narcotics like heroin in every part of the country. But that’s not entirely the DEA’s fault. With a force of 4,700 agents – a third the number of FBI agents – the DEA is up against sophisticated transnational criminal organizations. Mexico’s Sinaloa Cartel alone rakes in several billions of dollars in revenue a year, according to estimates. That’s about the size of the entire DEA $3 billion budget. With DEA offices in 69 countries, its ability to crack down on cartels depends on the cooperation of foreign leaders. The agency has apparently found a willing partner in China, which banned a half-dozen fentanyl substances that traffickers were shipping to the states. As clandestine chemists circumvented the restrictions by tweaking the molecules of the substances to create new ones, China got tougher, outlawing the entire class of fentanyl drugs in 2019. This win for the DEA reflected a collaboration with China not enjoyed by other U.S. agencies.  “China, to its credit, helped us quite a bit,” says Holske, the former DEA director. “The controls tightened the pipeline of fentanyl that was coming directly to the U.S. and killing Americans.” But Chinese traffickers quickly found another workaround by selling the chemicals to make fentanyl to cartels in Mexico, which put up roadblocks to DEA agents. In the past year alone, Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has delayed visas for agents and restricted intelligence sharing in protest of the DEA arrest of a former defense minister on drug-related charges. U.S. officials recently pressured Mexico to restore some cooperation with DEA agents in pursuit of the Sinaloa and Jalisco New Generation cartels – the biggest producers of fentanyl powder and counterfeit pharmaceutical pills laced with it. The cartels smuggle the contraband into the states at official ports of entry and along open patches of the border left unguarded as Border Patrol agents are diverted to deal with another crisis – the surge of migrants. Still, the DEA’s interdiction efforts may have saved thousands of lives. In August, a two-month domestic enforcement surge nabbed 850 dealers and added to the total of more than 15 million fake pills seized in the past year. Some 40% of those pills contained a potentially lethal dose of fentanyl, which is 50 times more potent than heroin. The agency could be more effective, some former agents say, if it revived its aggressive pursuit of international cartels and replenished its ranks. President Biden did appoint a permanent DEA chief, Anne Milgram, who has a record as a law enforcement reformer who gets results. But the administration’s fentanyl strategy focuses heavily on increasing drug prevention and treatment – a long-term approach that can curb overdose deaths only if the drug supply on the streets is also reduced by law enforcement agents, according to treatment experts.  “I cut my teeth as an agent on the street. We were risk-takers and aggressive in everything we did to put bad guys in jail,” said Jack Riley, who was the DEA’s second-in-command before retiring in 2017. “But we have lost that sense of urgency. We need to get that back to be more effective.” Taking Down Medellin Riley, who helped put Sinaloa’s most notorious leader – Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman – in prison, says the agency has proved its mettle over the years. Consider the dismantling of Colombia’s Medellin and Cali cartels in the 1990s. Medellin’s leader, Pablo Escobar, led a murderous campaign against government officials and became a threat to the country’s democracy. Although new cartels grew out of the ashes of Medellin and Cali – showing that law enforcement alone won’t end drug trafficking – the killing of Escobar was itself a win, says David Gaddis, a former DEA agent in Colombia and high-ranking official. “Escobar tried to take over the Colombian government and he was almost successful,” Gaddis says. “The new cartels do not have the same influence over the government as Medellin did. That’s a success for DEA.” The DEA bagged several other drug kingpins before the agency lost some of its luster. Agency veterans date the DEA’s decline to 2015 after revelations that 10 agents had participated in “sex parties” in Colombia with prostitutes paid for by the cartels. The uproar in Congress led to the departure of DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart, a former agent who embodied the agency’s boldness. Leonhart’s 2015 exit was followed by a parade of five acting administrators over five years. Putting a Rein on Agents First up was Chuck Rosenberg, a prosecutor who aimed to rein in what some saw as a cowboy mentality. Edicts from headquarters instructed agents to be more careful in carrying out operations. Leaders feared a questionable shooting could derail the DEA in the wake of the 2014 police killing in Ferguson, Mo., says Jeffrey Higgins, a former special agent for two decades. The biggest pullback was overseas. DEA had built a large special forces operation of about 125 personnel to battle narco-terrorists in Afghanistan. The operation paid off with the conviction of Haji Bagcho, the world’s biggest heroin trafficker. But after the killing of Americans in Benghazi in 2012, the Obama administration reduced the DEA’s presence in Kabul to only a handful of agents, says Riley. Rosenberg then disbanded the DEA’s FAST units, a paramilitary force that assisted local officers in high-risk operations. A 2017 inspector general report found that FAST agents were involved in an operation in Honduras in which four likely bystanders were killed. The end of FAST marked a shift in DEA strategy to focus more on domestic smugglers and street gangs. Some agents opposed it. “It makes no sense,” says Higgins, who worked in about 50 countries. “It’s far more effective to put resources into dismantling a major global exportation organization than to go downstream and take out one of 30 U.S. distribution groups that get the drugs from that criminal organization.” Citing differences over policing with new president Donald Trump, Rosenberg resigned after two years and became an MSNBC commentator. His replacement at DEA found that the “acting administrator” title was worthless and walked after eight months. Next up was Uttam Dhillon, a former federal prosecutor in Los Angeles then on Trump’s White House staff. He didn’t understand the DEA’s organizational issues and lost the support of agents, Riley says. He was replaced in 2020 by another short-lived acting head. The churn at the top produced disillusionment in the ranks. Many agents retired early or just quit the agency, leaving the DEA down 700 agents  compared to a decade ago. Foreign offices shrunk by a quarter. Predictably, the number of crime organizations that agents disrupted or dismantled worldwide plummeted by one-third – from 2,735 to 1,869 – between 2016 and 2020, according to DEA’s recent report to Congress. The timing couldn’t have been worse. The DEA was losing muscle just as Chinese traffickers were increasing shipments of illicit fentanyl to the U.S. The agency had finally gotten a handle on the oversupply of prescription opioids like OxyContin that were killing an alarming number of Americans. But now fentanyl, a more deadly synthetic opioid, was filling the void. A Conundrum in China The DEA led a full-court press to get China to ban fentanyl, an array of spinoffs and the chemicals to make them. Starting in 2014, acting DEA chiefs, Justice Department officials and chemical experts began holding regular meetings with their Chinese counterparts in Washington and Beijing to press for the restrictions. China has long taken a hard line against drug traffickers, which created some common ground for the rival superpowers to cooperate despite tensions about trade and human rights. The secretive courts in China have handed out death sentences to those convicted of major drug offenses. Recent cases involving Canadian and Australian nationals have sparked protests from Amnesty International and pleas for leniency from foreign officials. But China’s harsh punishments weren’t an issue in the successful bilateral talks over the criminalization of fentanyl, perhaps because no Americans were facing the death penalty.  The fentanyl bans don’t mean much, however, if they’re not enforced. While Chinese authorities have curtailed shipments directly to the U.S., the DEA says, traffickers are supplying Mexican cartels with enough of the precursor chemicals – some of them also outlawed – to flood the states with deadly pills and powder. U.S. border agents seized 10,600 pounds of fentanyl in fiscal 2021, more than twice the prior year. That’s a small fraction of the amount that reaches cities like New York, Chicago and San Francisco. The biggest case in China to date was kicked off by U.S. agents who shared intelligence about the “Diana” criminal group with the Chinese Narcotics Control Bureau. The joint investigation led to the conviction of nine Chinese citizens for fentanyl smuggling in 2019. One defendant received a suspended death sentence and a few were sent to prison for life. Officials from both countries hailed the investigation, which continues today, as a sign of their expanding cooperation. But while China has made several more fentanyl-related arrests, it doesn’t appear to have convicted any major traffickers in the two years since the Diana case. Some former DEA agents question how far China is willing to go in enforcing its bans since the U.S. would be the main beneficiary. While DEA agents in countries such as Indonesia join police in raids and debriefing defendants, in China they are unarmed and play a more limited role. Agents exchange intelligence and discuss cases with local officers but only occasionally work in the field.    At times agents also run into resistance from Chinese authorities, according to an August report by a congressional group that examines U.S.-China economic and security issues. “Chinese regulatory authorities continue to delay requests for access to inspect and investigate potential sites of illegal chemical production where precursors are made,” the report said. “Requests are often delayed for days, allowing any illegal operation to vacate or clean up the premises.” The Chinese Embassy in Washington issued a strongly worded rebuttal in September, showing the tenuous nature of China’s cooperation with the DEA. The embassy called the assessment that Chinese precursors are flowing to Mexico and that authorities obstruct the work of U.S. agents “utterly false.” “It is disappointing that for all the goodwill and sincerity of the Chinese side,” the embassy said, “some American politicians and media are still hyping up such disinformation.” A strong impression on agents: DEA's Milgram speaks movingly at slain agent Michael Garbo's service. DEA/YouTube New Leaders Take Charge Milgram, the new DEA chief, has an advantage that eluded her predecessors in the global war on fentanyl. She won Senate confirmation in June, giving her the authority to reshape the troubled agency at a pivotal time. Milgram has a record of bringing innovative, data-driven approaches to law enforcement agencies that still tend to operate on gut instinct and perform poorly. After New Jersey took control of the Camden police because of the city’s alarmingly high crime rate, Milgram, who was the state’s attorney general, used data analysis to shake up the department. In 2009 murders fell by 38% from the prior year by making cops walk the streets and confiscate guns. At DEA, she is preparing to make changes too. In August the administrator began a top-to-bottom review of foreign operations supervised by a team of outsiders, saying she’s looking for “areas of improvement” as well as “controls to ensure integrity and accountability.” She also tapped the politically savvy Jon DeLena, an associate special agent in charge, to examine how the agency can repair relations with Congress, which is crucial to funding and hiring agents, says Riley, the former deputy. In another move in August, Milgram brought back Lou Milione as her deputy. Riley says the veteran of special operations was known for his “kick ass” leadership against cartel bosses. Milione’s return may signal a revival of a more aggressive approach to the kind of global crime groups that run the fentanyl trade. “He’s a smart guy and he really understands the good results you get from targeting the international cartels,” says Higgins, the former FAST agent who helped take down Haji Bagcho. In October, Milgram for the first time faced the killing of one of her agents. The shooting death of group supervisor Mike Garbo in Arizona rocked the DEA – a reminder of the added dangers when there are fewer agents in the field. The administrator spoke at the memorial service. Her detailed account of Garbo’s talents made a strong impression on agents, whose support she needs in her efforts to revive the DEA, Riley says. “Milgram will make changes,” he says. “But she has a huge challenge with fentanyl. China and Mexico have to do much more to stop it. The DEA can only do so much on its own.” Tyler Durden Wed, 12/15/2021 - 23:00.....»»

Category: personnelSource: nytDec 16th, 2021

The Federal Bureau Of Tweets: Twitter Is Hiring An Alarming Number Of FBI Agents

The Federal Bureau Of Tweets: Twitter Is Hiring An Alarming Number Of FBI Agents Authored by Alan MacLeod via Mint Press News, Twitter has been on a recruitment drive of late, hiring a host of former feds and spies. Studying a number of employment and recruitment websites, MintPress has ascertained that the social media giant has, in recent years, recruited dozens of individuals from the national security state to work in the fields of security, trust, safety and content. Chief amongst these is the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The FBI is generally known as a domestic security and intelligence force. However, it has recently expanded its remit into cyberspace. “The FBI’s investigative authority is the broadest of all federal law enforcement agencies,” the “About” section of its website informs readers. “The FBI has divided its investigations into a number of programs, such as domestic and international terrorism, foreign counterintelligence [and] cyber crime,” it adds. For example, in 2019, Dawn Burton (the former director of Washington operations for Lockheed Martin) was poached from her job as senior innovation advisor to the director at the FBI to become senior director of strategy and operations for legal, public policy, trust and safety at Twitter. The following year, Karen Walsh went straight from 21 years at the bureau to become director of corporate resilience at the silicon valley giant. Twitter’s deputy general counsel and vice president of legal, Jim Baker, also spent four years at the FBI between 2014 and 2018, where his resumé notes he rose to the role of senior strategic advisor. Meanwhile, Mark Jaroszewski ended his 21-year posting as a supervisory special agent in the Bay Area to take up a position at Twitter, rising to become director of corporate security and risk. And Douglas Turner spent 14 years as a senior special agent and SWAT Team leader before being recruited to serve in Twitter’s corporate and executive security services. Previously, Turner had also spent seven years as a secret service special agent with the Department of Homeland Security. When asked to comment by MintPress, former FBI agent and whistleblower Coleen Rowley said that she was “not surprised at all” to see FBI agents now working for the very tech companies the agency polices, stating that there now exists a “revolving door” between the FBI and the areas they are trying to regulate. This created a serious conflict of interests in her mind, as many agents have one eye on post-retirement jobs. “The truth is that at the FBI 50% of all the normal conversations that people had were about how you were going to make money after retirement,” she said. Many former FBI officials hold influential roles within Twitter. For instance, in 2020, Matthew W. left a 15-year career as an intelligence program manager at the FBI to take up the post of senior director of product trust at Twitter. Patrick G., a 23-year FBI supervisory special agent, is now head of corporate security. And Twitter’s director of insider risk and security investigations, Bruce A., was headhunted from his role as a supervisory special agent at the bureau. His resumé notes that at the FBI he held “[v]arious intelligence and law enforcement roles in the US, Africa, Europe, and the Middle East” and was a “human intelligence and counterintelligence regional specialist.” (On employment sites such as LinkedIn, many users choose not to reveal their full names.) Meanwhile, between 2007 and 2021 Jeff Carlton built up a distinguished career in the United States Marine Corps, rising to become a senior intelligence analyst. Between 2014 and 2017, his LinkedIn profile notes, he worked for both the CIA and FBI, authored dozens of official reports, some of which were read by President Barack Obama. Carlton describes his role as a “problem-solver” and claims to have worked in many “dynamic, high-pressure environments” such as Iraq and Korea. In May 2021, he left official service to become a senior program manager at Twitter, responsible for dealing with the company’s “highest-profile trust and safety escalations.” Other former FBI staff are employed by Twitter, such as Cherrelle Y. as a policy domain specialist and Laura D. as a senior analyst in global risk intelligence. Many of those listed above were active in the FBI’s public outreach programs, a practice sold as a community trust-building initiative. According to Rowley, however, these also function as “ways for officials to meet the important people that would give them jobs after retirement.” “It basically inserts a huge conflict of interest,” she told MintPress. “It warps and perverts the criminal investigative work that agents do when they are still working as agents because they anticipate getting lucrative jobs after retiring or leaving the FBI.” Rowley – who in 2002 was named, along with two other whistleblowers, as Time magazine’s Person of the Year – was skeptical that there was anything seriously nefarious about the hiring of so many FBI agents, suggesting that Twitter could be using them as sources of information and intelligence. She stated: Retired agents often maintained good relationships and networks with current agents. So they can call up their old buddy and find out stuff… There were certainly instances of retired agents for example trying to find out if there was an investigation of so and so. And if you are working for a company, that company is going to like that influence.” Rowley also suggested that hiring people from various three-letter agencies gave them a credibility boost. “These [tech] companies are using the mythical aura of the FBI. They can point to somebody and say ‘oh, you can trust us; our CEO or CFO is FBI,’” she explained. Twitter certainly has endorsed the FBI as a credible actor, allowing the organization to play a part in regulating the global dissemination of information on its platform. In September 2020, it put out a statement thanking the federal agency. “We wish to express our gratitude to the FBI’s Foreign Influence Task Force for their close collaboration and continued support of our work to protect the public conversation at this critical time,” the statement read. One month later, the company announced that the FBI was feeding it intelligence and that it was complying with their requests for deletion of accounts. “Based on intel provided by the FBI, last night we removed approximately 130 accounts that appeared to originate in Iran. They were attempting to disrupt the public conversation during the first 2020 U.S. Presidential Debate,” Twitter’s safety team wrote. Yet the evidence they supplied of this supposed threat to American democracy was notably weak. All four of the messages from this Iranian operation that Twitter itself shared showed that none of them garnered any likes or retweets whatsoever, meaning that essentially nobody saw them. This was, in other words, a completely routine cleanup operation of insignificant troll accounts. Yet the announcement allowed Twitter to present the FBI as on the side of democracy and place the idea into the public psyche that the election was under threat from foreign actors. Based on intel provided by the @FBI, last night we removed approximately 130 accounts that appeared to originate in Iran. They were attempting to disrupt the public conversation during the first 2020 US Presidential Debate. — Twitter Safety (@TwitterSafety) October 1, 2020 Iran has been a favorite Twitter target in the past. In 2009, at the behest of the U.S. government, it postponed routine maintenance of the site, which would have required taking it offline. This was because an anti-government protest movement in Tehran was using the app to communicate and the U.S. did not want the demonstrations’ regime-change potential to be stymied. A carnival of spooks The FBI is far from the only state security agency filling Twitter’s ranks. Shortly after leaving a 10-year career as a CIA analyst, Michael Scott Robinson was hired to become a senior policy manager for site integrity, trust and safety. The California-based app has also recruited heavily from the Atlantic Council, a NATO cutout organization that serves as the military alliance’s think tank. The council is sponsored by NATO, led by senior NATO generals and regularly plays out regime-change scenarios in enemy states, such as China. The Atlantic Council has been associated with many of the most egregious fake news plants of the last few years. It published a series of lurid reports alleging that virtually every political group in Europe challenging the status quo – from the Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn and UKIP in Great Britain to PODEMOS and Vox in Spain and Syriza and Golden Dawn in Greece – were all secretly “the Kremlin’s Trojan Horses.” Atlantic Council employee Michael Weiss was also very likely the creator of the shadowy organization PropOrNot, a group that anonymously published a list of fake-news websites that regularly peddled Kremlin disinformation. Included in this list was virtually every anti-war alternative media outlet one could think of – from MintPress to Truthout, TruthDig and The Black Agenda Report. Also included were pro-Trump websites like The Drudge Report, and liberatarian ventures like Antiwar.com and The Ron Paul Institute. PropOrNot’s list was immediately heralded in the corporate press, and was the basis for a wholescale algorithm shift at Google and other big tech platforms, a shift that saw traffic to alternative media sites crash overnight, never to recover. Thus, the allegation of a huge (Russian) state-sponsored attempt to influence the media was itself an intelligence op by the U.S. national security state. In 2020, Kanishk Karan left his job as a research associate at the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensics Research (DFR) Lab to join Twitter as information integrity and safety specialist – essentially helping to control what Twitter sees as legitimate information and nefarious disinformation. Another DFR Lab graduate turned Twitter employee is Daniel Weimert, who is now a senior public policy associate for Russia – a key target of the Atlantic Council. Meanwhile, Sarah Oh is simultaneously an Atlantic Council DFR Lab non-resident senior fellow and a Twitter advisor, her social media bio noting she works on “high risk trust and safety issues.” In 2019, Twitter also hired Greg Andersen straight from NATO to work on cybercrime policy. There is sparse information on what Andersen did at NATO, but, alarmingly, his own LinkedIn profile stated simply that he worked on “psychological operations” for the military alliance. After MintPress highlighted this fact in an article in April, he removed all mention of “psychological operations” from his profile, claiming now to have merely worked as a NATO “researcher.” Andersen left Twitter in the summer of last year to work as a product policy manager for the popular video platform TikTok. Twitter also directly employs active army officers. In 2019, Gordon Macmillan, the head of editorial for the entire Europe, Middle East and Africa region was revealed to be an officer in the British Army’s notorious 77th Brigade – a unit dedicated to online warfare and psychological operations. This bombshell news was steadfastly ignored across the media. Positions of power and control With nearly 400 million global users, there is no doubt that Twitter has grown to become a platform large and influential enough to necessitate extensive security measures, as actors of all stripes attempt to use the service to influence public opinion and political actions. There is also no doubt that there is a limited pool of people qualified in these sorts of fields. But recruiting largely from the U.S. national security state fundamentally undermines claims Twitter makes about its neutrality. The U.S. government is the source of some of the largest and most extensive influence operations in the world. As far back as 2011, The Guardian reported on the existence of a massive, worldwide U.S. military online influence campaign in which it had designed software that allowed its personnel to “secretly manipulate social media sites by using fake online personas to influence internet conversations and spread pro-American propaganda.” The program boasts that the background of these personas is so convincing that psychological operations soldiers can be sure to work “without fear of being discovered by sophisticated adversaries.” Yet Twitter appears to be recruiting from the source of the problem. These former national security state officials are not being employed in politically neutral departments such as sales or customer service, but in security, trust and content, meaning that some hold considerable sway over what messages and information are promoted, and what is suppressed, demoted or deleted. It could be said that poachers-turned-gamekeepers often play a crucial role in safety and protection, as they know how bad actors think and operate. But there exists little evidence that any of these national security state operatives have changed their stances. Twitter is not hiring whistleblowers or dissidents. It appears, then, that some of these people are essentially doing the same job they were doing before, but now in the private sector. And few are even acknowledging that there is anything wrong with moving from big government to big tech, as if the U.S. national security state and the fourth estate are allies, rather than adversaries. That Twitter is already working so closely with the FBI and other agencies makes it easy for them to recruit from the federal pool. As Rowley said, “over a period of time these people will be totally in sync with the mindset of Twitter and other social media platforms. So from the company’s standpoint, they are not hiring somebody new. They already know this person. They know where they stand on things.” Is there a problem? Some might ask “What is the problem with Twitter actively recruiting from the FBI, CIA and other three-letter agencies?” They, after all, are experts in studying online disinformation and propaganda. One is optical. If a Russian-owned social media app’s trust, security and content moderation was run by former KGB or FSB agents and still insisted it was a politically neutral platform, the entire world would laugh. But apart from this, the huge influx of security state personnel into Twitter’s decision-making ranks means that the company will start to view every problem in the same manner as the U.S. government does – and act accordingly. “In terms of their outlooks on the world and on the question of misinformation and internet security, you couldn’t get a better field of professionals who are almost inherently going to be more in tune with the government’s perspective,” Rowley said. Thus, when policing the platform for disinformation and influence campaigns, the former FBI and CIA agents and Atlantic Council fellows only ever seem to find them emanating from enemy states and never from the U.S. government itself. This is because their backgrounds and outlooks condition them to consider Washington to be a unique force for good. This one-sided view of disinformation can be seen by studying the reports Twitter has published on state-linked information operations. The entire list of countries it has identified as engaging in these campaigns are as follows: Russia (in 7 reports), Iran (in 5 reports), China (4 reports), Saudi Arabia (4 reports), Venezuela (3 reports), Egypt (2 reports), Cuba, Serbia, Bangladesh, the UAE, Ecuador, Ghana, Nigeria, Honduras, Indonesia, Turkey, Thailand, Armenia, Spain, Tanzania, Mexico and Uganda. One cannot help noticing that this list correlates quite closely to a hit list of U.S. government adversaries. All countries carry out disinfo campaigns to a certain extent. But these “former” spooks and feds are unlikely to point the finger at their former colleagues or sister organizations or investigate their operations. The Cold (cyber)war Twitter has mirrored U.S. hostility towards states like Russia, China, Iran and Cuba, attempting to suppress the reach and influence of their state media by adding warning messages to the tweets of journalists and accounts affiliated with those governments. “State-affiliated media is defined as outlets where the state exercises control over editorial content through financial resources, direct or indirect political pressures, and/or control over production and distribution,” it noted. In a rather bizarre addendum, it explained that it would not be doing the same to state-affiliated media or personalities from other countries, least of all the U.S. “State-financed media organizations with editorial independence, like the BBC in the U.K. or NPR in the U.S. for example, are not defined as state-affiliated media for the purposes of this policy,” it wrote. It did not explain how it decided that Cuban, Russian, Chinese or Iranian journalists did not have editorial independence, but British and American ones did – this was taken for granted. The effect of the action has been a throttling of ideas and narratives from enemy states and an amplification of those coming from Western state media. As the U.S. ramps up tensions with Beijing, so too has Twitter aggressively shut down pro-China voices on its platform. In 2020, it banned 170,000 accounts it said were “spreading geopolitical narratives favorable to the Communist Party of China,” such as praising its handling of the Covid-19 pandemic or expressing opposition to the Hong Kong protests, both of which are majority views in China. Importantly, the Silicon Valley company did not claim that these accounts were controlled by the government; merely sharing these opinions was grounds enough for deletion. The group behind Twitter’s decision to ban those Chinese accounts was the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI), a deeply controversial think tank funded by the Pentagon, the State Department and a host of weapons manufacturers. ASPI has constantly peddled conspiracy theories about China and called for ramping up tensions with the Asian nation. ASPI - The Gov’t-Funded Conspiracist Think Tank Now Controlling Your Social Media Feed Perhaps most notable, however, was Twitter’s announcement last year that it was deleting dozens of accounts for the new violation of “undermining faith in the NATO alliance.” The statement was widely ridiculed online by users. But few noted that the decision was based upon a partnership with the Stanford Internet Observatory, a counter-disinformation think tank filled with former spooks and state officials and headed by an individual who is on the advisory board of NATO’s Collective Cybersecurity Center of Excellence. That Twitter is working so closely with organizations that are clearly intelligence industry catspaws should concern all users. Not just Twitter While some might be alarmed that Twitter is cultivating such an intimate relationship with the FBI and other groups belonging to the secret state, it is perhaps unfair to single it out, as many social media platforms are doing the same. Facebook, for example, has entered into a formal partnership with the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensics Research Lab, whereby the latter holds significant influence over 2.9 billion users’ news feeds, helping to decide what content to promote and what content to suppress. The NATO cutout organization now serves as Facebook’s “eyes and ears,” according to a Facebook press release. Anti-war and anti-establishment voices across the world have reported massive drops in traffic on the platform. The social media giant also hired former NATO Press Secretary Ben Nimmo to be its head of intelligence. Nimmo subsequently used his power to attempt to swing the election in Nicaragua away from the leftist Sandinista Party and towards the far-right, pro-U.S. candidate, deleting hundreds of left-wing voices in the week of the election, claiming they were engaging in “inauthentic behavior.” When these individuals (including some well-known personalities) poured onto Twitter, recording video messages proving they were not bots, Twitter deleted those accounts too, in what one commentator called a Silicon Valley “double tap strike.” An April MintPress study revealed how TikTok, too, has been filling its organization with alumni of the Atlantic Council, NATO, the CIA and the State Department. As with Twitter, these new TikTok employees largely work in highly politically sensitive fields such as trust, safety, security and content moderation, meaning these state operatives hold influence over the direction of the company and what content is promoted and what is demoted. Likewise, in 2017, content aggregation site Reddit plucked Jessica Ashooh from the Atlantic Council’s Middle East Strategy Task Force to become its new director of policy, despite the fact that she had few relevant qualifications or experience in the field. Jessica Ashooh: The Taming of Reddit and the National Security State Plant Tabbed to Do It In corporate media too, we have seen a widespread infiltration of former security officials into the upper echelons of news organizations. So normalized is the penetration of the national security state into the media that is supposed to be holding it to account, that few reacted in 2015 when Dawn Scalici left her job as national intelligence manager for the Western hemisphere at the Director of National Intelligence to become the global business director of international news conglomerate Thomson Reuters. Scalici, a 33-year CIA veteran who had worked her way up to become a director in the organization, was open about what her role was. In a blog post on the Reuters website, she wrote that she was there to “meet the disparate needs of the U.S. Government” – a statement that is at odds with even the most basic journalistic concepts of impartiality and holding the powerful to account. Meanwhile, cable news outlets routinely employ a wide range of “former” agents and mandarins as trusted personalities and experts. These include former CIA Directors John Brennan (NBC, MSNBC) and Michael Hayden (CNN), ex-Director of National Intelligence James Clapper (CNN), and former Homeland Security Advisor Frances Townsend (CBS). And news for so many Americans comes delivered through ex-CIA interns like Anderson Cooper (CNN), CIA-applicants like Tucker Carlson (Fox), or by Mika Brzezinski (MSNBC), the daughter of a powerful national security advisor. The FBI has its own former agents on TV as well, with talking heads such as James Gagliano (Fox), Asha Rangappa (CNN) and Frank Figliuzzi (NBC, MSNBC) becoming household names. In short, then, the national security state once used to infiltrate the media. Today, however, the national security state is the media. Social media holds enormous influence in today’s society. While this article is not alleging that anyone mentioned is a bad actor or does not genuinely care about the spread of disinformation, it is highlighting a glaring conflict of interest. Through its agencies, the U.S. government regularly plants fake news and false information. Therefore, social media hiring individuals straight from the FBI, CIA, NATO and other groups to work on regulating disinformation is a fundamentally flawed practice. One of media’s primary functions is to serve as a fourth estate; a force that works to hold the government and its agencies to account. Yet instead of doing that, increasingly it is collaborating with them. Such are these increasing interlocking connections that it is becoming increasingly difficult to see where big government ends and big media begins. Tyler Durden Thu, 06/23/2022 - 22:20.....»»

Category: blogSource: zerohedgeJun 23rd, 2022

Family Of Latest Clinton-Linked Suicide Blocks Release Of Shotgun Death Details

Family Of Latest Clinton-Linked Suicide Blocks Release Of Shotgun Death Details The family of yet another dead Clinton pal has petitioned a judge to prevent pictures of Mark Middleton from being released under a Freedom of Information Act. And while there's been no response from the court, a local Arkansas sheriff is interpreting the request itself as a full-stop on information requests, according to the Daily Mail. All we know thus far is that the 59-year-old Middleton - who admitted Jeffrey Epstein to the White House seven out of at least 17 times - was discovered on May 7 hanging from a tree at the Heifer Ranch in Perryville by an electrical cord, with a shotgun blast to his chest. The ranch, located 30 miles from Middleton's home, is owned by an anti-poverty nonprofit called Heifer International. The seemingly redundant 'suicide' methods used by the married father of two, or whoever killed him, will remain a mystery, for now. "The investigation is still open. I can't say anything more," Perry County Sheriff Scott Montgomery told the Mail, adding that the family said he was "depressed." "'I don't know the man, and I don't [know] why he picked our county or picked that location to commit suicide. To our knowledge, he had never been there before, and we have no record of him being there before, Montgomery told Radar Online before he clammed up. "He died from a self-inflicted shotgun wound to the chest. He found a tree and he pulled a table over there, and he got on that table, and he took an extension cord and put it around a limb, put it around his neck and he shot himself in the chest with a shotgun ... It was very evident that the shotgun worked because there was not a lot of blood or anything on the scene. You can tell the shotgun blast was on his chest, you can tell that because there is a hole in the chest and pellets came out the back of his back. It was definitely self-inflicted in our opinion." As the Mail notes, Middleton's mysterious death adds to the list of Clinton associates who have died unexpectedly - many in small plane crashes. Middleton's family did not disclose the cause of death at the time but authorities later confirmed the former White House official took his own life with a self-inflicted gunshot at an urban farm in Perryville, Arkansas. In a lawsuit filed on May 23, the family admits Middleton committed suicide, and says they have 'a privacy interest' in preventing any 'photographs, videos, sketches (or) other illustrative content' from the death scene being released. They claim it would lead to 'outlandish, hurtful, unsupported and offensive articles' being published online. They argued that keeping the footage and files sealed would halt a proliferation of 'unsubstantiated conspiracy theories'. A judge is due to hear the case on June 14. -Daily Mail Middleton was an associate of the late Jeffrey Epstein - who made at least 17 trips to the White House between 1993 and 1995. Bill Clinton, meanwhile, was one of dozens of passengers to fly on Epstein's "Lolita Express" - where witnesses have placed the former president on Epstein's private island. According to the Heifer International spokesman Chris Cox Heifer, Middleton's car was found in the parking lot by ranch employees who then notified the sheriff. His body was found shortly thereafter. "He wasn't invited to the property and staff became aware that he was there without authorization," said Heifer, adding "We have not found any connection to Heifer." "The ranch is well known in the area and it's possible that he could have attended something here but we couldn't' find any major links," he continued. "The ranch hosts school groups for things like lambing so he could have attended one of those. It's a very unfortunate incident." According to the Mail, Middleton left the White House in February 1995 - and allegedly held himself out as an international dealmaker, something Epstein might have been attracted to. In 1996, an investigation found that Middleton had abused his access to the White House to impress business clients, and was barred from the executive mansion without senior approval - claims he's denied. Meanwhile, the Mail has provided a list of the 'Clinton body count.' Judi Gibbs, 32, January 3, 1986: The one-time Penthouse Pet died alongside her lover Bill Puterburgh, 57, in an unexplained house fire in Fordyce, Arkansas. She was a high-class prostitute who used hotels and racetracks to pick up rich and powerful men and was known to have had an affair with then-Arkansas governor Bill Clinton who would fly her from her home town to Little Rock. Rumors of a compromising picture of the two of them were rife, but if it ever existed, it was probably destroyed in the fire. The families of both Gibbs and Puterburgh told DailyMail.com in 2016 they believe the fire was set deliberately. Kevin Ives, 17, and Don Henry, 16, August 23, 1987: The two teens were crushed by a train, in Alexander, Arkansas. Their deaths were ruled accidental, with the medical examiner saying they had fallen asleep on a railroad line after smoking marijuana, but a grand jury found they had been murdered before being placed on the tracks. They had allegedly stumbled on a plot to smuggle drugs and guns from an airport in Mena, Arkansas, that Gov. Bill Clinton was said to be involved in. Victor Raiser, 53, July 30, 1992: The second finance co-chair of Bill Clinton's presidential campaign was killed along with his son in a plane crash during a fishing vacation in Alaska. Conspiracy theorists believe the crash was deliberately caused. Campaign press secretary Dee Dee Myers called Raiser a major player in the organization. Paul Tully, 48, September 25, 1992: The Democratic strategist died of an apparent heart attack. A chain-smoking, heavy-drinking political consultant who weighed in at more than 320 lb. Tully died seven weeks before Clinton's first presidential election win. He had been political director of the DNC during Clinton's rise. Tully was on the left of the Democratic Party and usually worked for those who shared his views, however he agreed to work for Clinton because he was impressed with his oratory and thought he was the only Democrat who could beat President George Bush. Paula Gober, 36, December 7, 1992: Clinton's interpreter for the deaf for several years died in a single car accident. Gober had traveled with him while he was governor of Arkansas. Her vehicle overturned on a bend, throwing her 30 feet. There were no witnesses. Vince Foster, 48, July 20, 1993: The Arkansas lawyer committed suicide. President Clinton appointed Foster to deputy White House counsel when he became president in 1993. It didn't take long for Foster, 48, to realize he had made a terrible mistake by accepting the post. He hated the work and fell into a deep depression. Just six months into the job, his body was found in his car in Fort Marcy Park, Virginia, a gun in his hand and a suicide note torn into 27 pieces in the trunk. Conspiracy theorists believe he was murdered by the Clintons for knowing too much. Stanley Heard, 47, September 10, 1993: The Arkansas chiropractor died in a small plane crash. According to 1998 book 'A Profession of One's Own,' the doctor treated the Clinton family. Heard was asked by Bill Clinton to represent the practice as plans for 'Hillarycare' were being finalized. His attorney Steve Dickson, was flying him home from a healthcare meeting in Washington DC just eight months into the Clinton presidency. On the way to the capital from his home in Kansas, Dickson's small plane developed problems so he landed in St. Louis and rented another plane. That rented plane was the one that crashed in rural Virginia, killing both men. Jerry Parks, 47, September 23, 1993: The head of security for Bill Clinton's headquarters in Arkansas, was shot to death. As he drove home in West Little Rock, two men in a white Chevrolet pulled alongside his car and sprayed it with semi-automatic gunfire. As Parks's car stopped a man stepped out of the Chevy and shot him twice with a 9mm pistol and sped off. Despite there being several witnesses, no-one was ever arrested. The killing came two months after Parks had watched news of Vince Foster's death and allegedly told his son Gary 'I'm a dead man.' His wife Lois remarried and her second husband, Dr. David Millstein was stabbed to death in 2006. Edward Willey Jr, 60, November 29, 1993: The Clinton fundraiser was found dead in the Virginia woods. He was having serious money problems and his wife, a volunteer aide in the White House, agreed to ask Bill Clinton for a paid job. Their meeting ended when Clinton allegedly forced himself on her in the Oval Office, kissing her, fondling her breast and pushing her hand on to his genitals. Four years later Kathleen Willey wrote a book in which she put forward a theory that the Clintons may have had her husband murdered. She said after his death, a friend had told her that Ed had confided that he took briefcases full of cash to the Clintons' base in Little Rock, Arkansas during Bill's first presidential campaign. Herschel Friday, 70, March 1, 1994: The Arkansas lawyer died in a small plane crash when he lost control as he came in to land at his Arkansas ranch. President Richard Nixon had once considered Friday for the Supreme Court. He was known as a benefactor of Bill Clinton, serving on his campaign finance committee after his law firm had persuaded the then-governor to support a tax package that helped the state's horse racing industry. Kathy Ferguson, 37, May 11, 1994: The ex-wife of Arkansas State Trooper Danny Ferguson, who was named in a sexual harassment suit brought by Paula Jones against Bill Clinton. Ferguson died by gun suicide. She left a note blaming problems with her fiancé, Bill Shelton. A month later Shelton, upset about the suicide verdict, killed himself. Ron Brown, 54, April 3, 1996: The chair of the Democratic National Committee died in a plane crash in Croatia. He became head of the DNC during Bill Clinton's rise to the presidential nomination and was rewarded with the cabinet position. He was under a corruption investigation when his plane slammed into a mountainside. Doctors who examined his body found a circular wound on the top of his head which led to suspicions that he had died before the plane crashed, but that theory was later discounted. The crash was attributed to pilot error. Charles Meissner, 56, April 3, 1996: The assistant secretary for international trade died in the same plane crash as Brown. Meissner had been criticized for allegedly giving special security clearance to John Huang, who later pleaded guilty to federal conspiracy charges for violating campaign finance laws, in a case that enmeshed the Clinton administration. Seth Rich, 27, July 10, 2016: The Operations Director for Voter Expansion for the DNC, was found murdered on in Washington, DC. He was shot in the back a block from his apartment at 4:20am. His killers have not been identified. Conspiracy theorists believe Rich may have been involved in the DNC email leak in 2016. His death initially appeared like a robbery gone wrong but his mother Mary Rich claims that nothing was taken from her son, who was found with two shots in his back. The mystery surrounding his death sparked a flurry of theories, including claims that he was on his way to speak to the FBI when he was shot. To see the rest of the list, click here. Tyler Durden Tue, 06/07/2022 - 20:25.....»»

Category: blogSource: zerohedgeJun 7th, 2022

Asylum Seekers Overwhelm Shelters In Portland, Maine

Asylum Seekers Overwhelm Shelters In Portland, Maine Authored by Steven Kovac via The Epoch Times (emphasis ours), Facing an impending humanitarian crisis, Portland Family Shelters Director Mike Guthrie has a simple message to anyone who will listen, “We need help!” Families of asylum seekers warehoused outside of an overcrowded family shelter in Portland, Maine, on May 25, 2022. (Steven Kovac/Epoch Times) Guthrie, a hands-on, frontline worker in the effort to feed, clothe, and house a continuous flow of foreign nationals arriving in Portland by airplane or bus from the U.S. southern border, told The Epoch Times, “Our family shelter facilities, our warming room, and even area hotel space is at capacity. We have maxed out our community resources. “The time is coming when I’m going to have to look a dad in the face and tell him and his family that I don’t know where they’re going to sleep tonight.” The Portland Family Shelter is a complex of four rented buildings in various states of renovation located in the heart of downtown. Some of the structures are gradually being converted into small apartments where up to four families will share a single kitchen and bathroom. All four buildings are overflowing their present capacity. “The intake is greater and faster than we can process,” Guthrie said. Mike Guthrie, director of the family shelter in Portland, Maine, on May 25, 2022. (Steven Kovac/Epoch Times) To accommodate the stream of new arrivals, the family shelter program has in recent months placed 309 families (1,091 people) in eight hotels located in five neighboring municipalities spread over three counties of southeastern Maine’s prime tourist and vacation region. Those moves, with their attendant complications and problems, have resulted in some pushback from the local Mainers who fear their prized relaxed lifestyle may never be the same. And they resent not having a voice in any of it. “It’s just part of the state government’s plan to bring the slums to the suburbs,” said a Mainer from the resort and tourist community of Kennebunkport, a small town about 28 miles down the Atlantic coast from Portland. “The United States cannot rescue Africa.” Coming out of the Kennebunkport post office, long-time Mainers Virginia and Robert shared their opinions on what the locals see as the “invasion” of Maine by immigrants. Virginia commented, “We have sympathy for the asylum seekers, but resources are over-extended and now it’s going beyond Portland.” “Eventually, it’s going to impact our quality of life,” Robert said. A view of Dock Square in Kennebunkport, Maine, on May 25, 2022. (Steven Kovac/Epoch Times Pressures on Portland’s homeless shelter capacity last year inspired a York County community action group to obtain a federal grant to help house the city’s regular homeless population. The plan included renting half a dozen large motels in a three-mile corridor in the heart of southeastern Maine’s Atlantic-shore tourist region. Motels within walking distance of shopping opportunities were selected. The motels close in the off-season, so it appeared to some people to be a win-win arrangement. Included in the plan was the small, quiet, resort town of Wells, located about six miles from Kennebunkport. Though the program sheltered hundreds of individuals from the brutal Maine winter, the resulting wave of never-before-seen vandalism, burglaries, and other property crimes in the commercial district forced the city of Wells to evict every tenant for violations of several municipal ordinances. It is unclear where the evicted people were relocated. Homeless Victimized and Intimidated A motel in Wells, Maine, that was used to shelter the homeless of Portland on May 26, 2022. (Steven Kovac/Epoch Times) According to Captain Gerald Congdon of the Wells Police Department, the crimes were not committed by foreign asylum seekers, Wells residents, or by the many legitimate, disadvantaged, and debilitated people housed in the motel. “The perpetrators arrested were mostly ‘couch-surfers’ spending time with homeless friends staying legally at the motel. However, the bulk of grant-qualified motel dwellers had drug problems,” Congdon said. One small business operator, whose sweetshop was burglarized, told The Epoch Times, “The thieves were druggies in need of a fix. They came in through a window, stole the cash from the register, and took our digital scales. “These people were brought in around Christmastime. It was like an invasion. We never had a crime at our store before they came in and ruined things. “It’s not fair. We now think differently. They changed the whole landscape of how we do business. We don’t want to see them come back.” Congdon told The Epoch Times, “There was shoplifting at the bigger chain stores and car break-ins going after loose change in the strip mall parking lot. “A small bike shop was burglarized twice, losing thousands of dollars-worth of high-end bicycles—never happened to them in 42 years of business. “Our officers spent a lot of time on disturbance calls and enforcing warrants. We made quite a few arrests and recovered some stolen property. “The management of the area’s motels got tired of seeing us there. They were tired of their legitimate businesses being associated with crime. “The nice tenants, many of whom are truly deserving of help, were being victimized and intimidated. They were afraid to call us.” Congdon said his department was not consulted and was given no advance notice on the plan to bring hundreds of homeless people—including many known drug-addicts—into their city. The City of Wells was not compensated for the additional hours of policing. A broad, sandy, beach in the tourist region of southeastern Maine, on May 26, 2022. (Steven Kovac/Epoch Times) ‘Feeder Sources’ On May 1, a hotel in the resort town of Old Orchard Beach, located about halfway between Portland and Kennebunkport, evicted all of its residents for a different reason. This time, they were asylum seekers evicted in order to make room for the arrival of legally permitted temporary seasonal workers to lodge there. These special visa-holders make up the majority of the workforce needed by the region’s thriving hospitality industry. The asylum seekers were relocated to motels in three other southern Maine communities, according to Portland city officials. In Portland, 500 single asylum seekers are housed in a municipal shelter separate from the family shelter, according to a spokesperson for the city. It too is at capacity. Guthrie told The Epoch Times that city authorities have publicly notified what he calls “the feeder sources” at the southern border and in Washington D.C. about the immigration crisis unfolding in Portland. The city administration asked Border Patrol, Health and Human Services, and participating non-profits to stop sending asylum seekers to Portland until sufficient resources become available to adequately care for them. But the force of the city’s request was blunted when it announced immediately after the notification that it would not turn anybody away, acknowledged Guthrie. Maine Gov. Janet Mills in 2019. (Rebecca Hammel/U.S. Senate/Public Domain) Guthrie stated that the city asked Maine Gov. Janet Mills, a Democrat, to call out the National Guard to set up emergency shelters and feeding stations but has not yet received an answer. On June 2, in remarks before the Portland Regional Chamber of Commerce, Mills committed the state to building a new emergency shelter in the city and said she was working to create additional housing for asylum seekers in the area. She also spoke of the desirability of the in-migration as a source of labor to fill many existing job openings. Speaking of the migrants, Mills said, “We need the workforce here. We want them to be available for work. Some of them come with incredible skills and experiences that we can employ.” One long-time Maine resident, who visited the Portland Family Shelter to see the situation for himself, told The Epoch Times, “Mike Guthrie is like a man frantically trying to bail out a sinking rowboat, while his superiors continue to drill holes in it.” During the month of May, the family shelter took in 79 families consisting of 262 individuals with no slowdown in sight, Guthrie said. “220 people turned up in just 20 days. We’re trying to help anybody that comes to the door. Thus far, nobody coming to us has had to sleep outside but we can no longer guarantee shelter upon arrival,” he said. “We need the state of Maine to step in and create safe places for these people. We need a facility to be created and run like a FEMA camp. “Our legislators are talking about buying and renovating older apartments throughout the region that could house 140 families. That’s great in the long-term, but the problem is now! “At the rate things are going, we’d have those places filled in two months. Then what?” Guthrie asked. Portland’s pastors, church members, and its citizens have been stepping forward to do what they can. “Local churches and those in Cumberland are offering space for people to sleep and some Portland residents have even opened up their homes,” Guthrie said. A surge in asylum seekers crossing the border in the Rio Grande Valley has put a strain on the immigration system. Here, migrants are on the move, in Mission, Texas, on March 17, 2021. (Los Angeles Times via TCA) Where Are the Asylum Seekers Coming From? The vast majority of the new arrivals at the family shelter in Portland have come from Angola and the Congo in Africa, with some coming from Haiti in the Caribbean. They make the arduous and often dangerous journey any way they can—largely on foot. Guthrie told of a father and child who recently showed up at the shelter. “The man said that his wife, the young child’s mother, died on the way. She was swept away while crossing a river.” Guthrie explained that the route to Portland for most of the asylum seekers begins in chaos-torn western equatorial Africa. “They cross the Atlantic to South America. They go up through South America and then north through Central America, ending up in northern Mexico, from which they cross the southern border into the United States. “At that point, they present themselves to Border Patrol. “A new arrival tells Border Patrol ‘I am here to seek asylum. If I go back home, I will be killed. I fear for my life.’ That’s the difference between an asylum seeker and an immigrant,” he said. Those three short sentences guarantee a person’s admission for a lengthy stay in the United States as his or her claim is adjudicated. Guthrie went on to explain, “After some additional questioning, the individual is issued minimal paperwork by immigration authorities and told they will be contacted about a formal hearing on their asylum plea. They are then turned over to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.” Most are given cell phones. Public servants with the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), and representatives of various American non-profit, philanthropic organizations, ask the asylum seekers where they want to go in the interior of the United States to await their asylum hearing. For many, their answer is “Portland.” “They are then put on buses or airplanes and sent on their way,” Guthrie said. Lobsterman Tucker Soule unloads a trap at Cape Porpoise near Kennebunkport, Maine, on May 23, 2022. (Steven Kovac/Epoch Times) Why Portland? Guthrie said that Portland is often recommended to people enroute to the United States by relatives who are already living in the city. “Once they get here, the majority of the new arrivals want to stay in Portland. They tell their relatives and friends about us,” he said. Jessica Grondin, the city’s director of communications and media, told The Epoch Times in a phone interview, “Portland is happy about and proud of our good reputation as a ‘Welcoming City.’ We presently have a large Somali population, as well as many Iraqis and Afghans who arrived here previously.” Grondin said that several busloads of asylum seekers recently shipped off to Washington D.C. by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, ultimately made their way to Portland. She stated that, along with the lack of housing, one of the biggest problems facing the city is a shortage of staff to care for the volume of new arrivals. Guthrie said that the influx asylum seekers has exceeded the city’s ability to offer basic services. “As we outgrow our past limits, we are being forced to prioritize what we are doing for these people. We are no longer able to help them connect with local immigration attorneys, nor help them learn English,” he said. Effective May 7, a policy change took effect forbidding the shelter’s staff from assisting asylum seekers in finding an apartment. “Instead, these folks, who are complete strangers to this community and speak no English, are being qualified for a state General Assistance housing voucher. “They are given a sample lease, a rental form, and an explanation of the GA process, and are then sent out on their own to find a place to live,” Guthrie said. While most of the new arrivals speak Portuguese, some speak French, Lingala, or another tribal language. Many are bilingual, but none speak English. Weary of waiting around, some of the French-speakers asked to be sent to Quebec, but the strict Canadian rules concerning COVID-19 prevented them from entering, Guthrie stated. Condition and Needs of Asylum Seekers Guthrie described the migrants’ situation, saying, “Understand, the majority of these people arrive here with no money. They spent their life savings during their trip and have to start over. They need everything. “They come from hot climates wearing summer clothes. We have given away about 97 percent of our clothing stock to help them cope with the colder weather here in Maine. “We have to keep many people outside during the day and then pack them into our warming room for the chilly Maine nights, or on rainy days,” he said. Fathers, mothers, and their numerous small children are kept outside all day long. They stand on the sidewalk across the street from the shelter or sit in an alley between two old houses passing the time until the next meal. The grimy concrete and stony gravel of the alley serve as furniture. There are no chairs or tables. They sit or recline on whatever is at hand, or on the bare dirt. The shade formed by the receding shadow of the walls of the surrounding old buildings is their only comfort. Antsy and bored small children have no toys with which to amuse themselves, except for one little boy who rides a plastic big-wheel tricycle around the alley. A small bathroom is available to people upon request in one of the shelter’s buildings, or at a nearby city-owned singles’ shelter around the block. “For showers, we team up with a local church that comes by with a bus and offers showers to any of them that want to go,” Guthrie said. When asked if the asylum seekers are Christians, Guthrie answered that many ride a bus to church services on Sunday morning. The shelter provides families with three meals a day, prepared off-site by “community partners.” “We pick up the meals and bring them here and serve them indoors. The food is decent. A typical lunch is a sandwich, salad, soup, granola bars, snacks, milk and water,” Guthrie said. Guthrie told The Epoch Times that the family shelter is providing standard baby formula for the young children, but one baby is intolerant to it. This infant requires a specialty brand that is hard to get—a fact that is upsetting to the mother and her child. The Maine Immigrant Rights Coalition (MIRC) is providing asylum seekers residing in hotels and motels with some culturally appropriate foods such as fufu (an African staple), goat meat, greens, chicken, and rice, he said. A lot of the accommodations do not have kitchens. According to Guthrie, the cost per motel room is between $250 and $350 dollars per night and rising as the tourist season begins. MIRC is part of a network of 85 statewide organizations involved in the care of the thousands of asylum seekers already here and those that are arriving daily. Guthrie said the state is footing 70 percent of the family shelter’s expenses, with the city making up the remaining 30 percent. But Guthrie says that getting the children into school is among the best assistance that can be provided. “The schools offer all kinds of different programs. They have community resource officers. They keep the kids busy while giving them two meals a day,” he said. More than 60 different foreign languages are spoken by students at Portland area schools, further complicating every task associated with education. When asked about the overall health condition of the asylum seekers, Guthrie replied, “They are exhausted and scared. They haven’t travelled a safe route. Though clearly traumatized, very few will talk about the details of their experience. Counselling is available if requested.” Teams of health care workers are performing what Guthrie calls “health outreach.” They have set up clinics at some of the motels to perform triage and make any necessary medical referrals. The city of Portland has a busy public health clinic helping to provide treatment, but some people with more serious conditions end up in emergency rooms. To overcome the language barrier, the city provides interpreters, and health care workers make use of cell phone translation apps. On the whole, Guthrie said most of the people under his supervision are physically “very healthy.” “Pregnancy is the families’ most urgent medical concern, and their most pressing medical need is OBGYN (obstetrics and gynecology) care,” he said. He also said there is some sickle cell disease among them. A young Angolan mother and child outside the family shelter in Portland, Maine, on May 25, 2022. (Steven Kovac/Epoch Times) City Hall allowed The Epoch Times access to several families being warehoused outdoors and a number of parents were eager to talk about their current plight. Speaking through an interpreter provided by the shelter, and in the presence of shelter director Guthrie, Samantha, a young Angolan woman with a 10-month-old baby on her hip and a toddler in tow, was not shy about sharing her dissatisfaction. When asked if her family’s basic needs were being met, Samantha replied, “We just need a place to sleep. We stay outside in the sun and the elements because there is not enough space for us indoors. There are not enough clothes for my family. “Being outside all day is not good for my baby. Some of us have caught colds. Some had fevers. Some were so sick they went to the hospital. “My son eats a special baby formula. I have to ration his feeding. “What we are fed is very different than what we are used to. We are receiving no culturally appropriate food. There was no way for us to take a shower for five days. “We endured a seven-month journey to come to this! We are not happy. Conditions are not good! We really need help.” When asked if she felt welcome, Samantha said with a look of disbelief, “No! I do not feel welcome. Look at us. We are outside.” A Congolese family seeking asylum in Portland, Maine, on May 25, 2022. (Steven Kovac/Epoch Times) Landry, a housepainter and electrician’s helper, brought his wife Sylvie, two-year-old daughter, and 12-month-old son to Portland from the Congo. When asked why he risked the journey, Landry answered, “I left my country because of political issues and insecurity. There we could be sure of nothing. Here, it’s different.” Sylvie said, “We came from Texas unprepared for this Maine weather. I am not happy for how I am living here. I don’t feel welcome!” Tyler Durden Sun, 06/05/2022 - 20:30.....»»

Category: personnelSource: nytJun 5th, 2022

Biden says that America cannot fail to "act" on gun control after mass shootings: "This time we must actually do something"

Biden renewed his call for a federal assault weapons ban and to require someone to be 21 to buy an AR-15. President Joe BidenAP Photo/Evan Vucci Biden's address comes as America confronts yet another mass shooting, this time in Oklahoma. Senators are engaged in bipartisan talks about some limited legislation. But Washington has failed to act after repeated mass shootings, including after Sandy Hook. President Joe Biden on Thursday evening urged federal action to curb gun violence while outlining a list of policies he supports, a plea that comes as the nation confronts a series of mass shootings."After Columbine, after Sandy Hook, after Charleston, after Las Vegas, after Parkland, nothing has been done," Biden said during a rare prime-time address. "This time that can't be true. This time we must actually do something."Biden drilled into the specifics on policies that he would support. He listed several ideas he said should become law, including expanded background checks, requiring gun owners to safely store their firearms, a federal "red flag" law, and repealing the liability protections for gun manufacturers.Biden also renewed his call for a federal assault weapons ban that would include a limit on high-capacity magazines. He conceded that a renewed ban might fail, so he also re-upped his push for raising the age that anyone can legally purchase an AR-15 or similar style gun.The US has seen a devastating spurt of mass shootings in recent weeks. Ten Black people were targeted during a racist massacre at Buffalo supermarket on May 14. Just days later, 19 elementary school students and two teachers were gunned down in Uvalde, Texas. And then on Wednesday evening, at least four people were killed when a gunman opened fire on a Tulsa, Oklahoma, medical center.Democrats responded to the Buffalo and Uvalde shootings by pushing for federal action. Top Democrats have expressed cautious optimism about bipartisan talks while conceding that previous tragedies have failed to spur Congress to act.Until Thursday night, Biden had largely left it to lawmakers to figure out a path forward. Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut, who has made passing gun legislation one of the focuses of his career, has led his party's talks with Republican senators such as John Cornyn of Texas and Susan Collins of Maine.Biden himself has experienced this frustration firsthand. While he was vice president, President Barack Obama made him the point person on the federal response to the 2012 Sandy Hook shooting. But a bill to expand background checks failed on the Senate floor months later, a stinging defeat that Obama called a "pretty shameful day" after the vote. Their struggles were only exacerbated by the fact that four Democrats opposed the legislation.During the 2020 primary season, Biden repeatedly bragged about beating the National Rifle Association, a reference to his role in passing a sweeping 1994 crime bill that included a federal assault weapons ban. The ban expired during George W. Bush's administration and there is little chance that Congress could pass it again.Biden outlined that lawmakers are mostly focused on more limited measures like red flag laws, which generally allow for authorities to temporarily confiscate a person's firearms if they pose an immediate threat to themselves or others. Some Republicans Insider previously spoke to at the Capitol expressed openness to such legislation, but they stressed that it should be mainly left to individual states to act. Conservatives and gun rights groups have previously opposed some state red flag laws over concerns that there were not enough due process protections for gun owners.Any new law would effectively need 60 votes in the Senate to pass due to the chamber's filibuster. This means that Democrats must find at least 10 Republicans to back any measure.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderJun 2nd, 2022

US investigators are helping Chinese authorities investigate crash of Boeing jetliner that killed 132 people on board

China Eastern Airlines flight MU5735, a Boeing 737-800 crashed in Guangxi, southern China on March 21. US investigators are helping because the plane was made in the US. Rescuers stand in a silent tribute for victims at the site of the China Eastern Airlines plane crash in Tengxian county, Wuzhou city, in China's southern Guangxi region on March 27, 2022.CNS/AFP via Getty Images Seven US investigators arrived in China to help figure out what cause a Boeing jetliner to crash.  China Eastern Airlines flight MU5735 crashed on March 21, killing 132 people on board.  Since the plane was manufactured in the US, investigators are able to assist China, The AP reported. A team of seven US investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board arrived in China this weekend to help officials there figure out what caused a Boeing jetliner to crash last month, CAAC News, a part of the Civil Aviation Administration of China, said on SaturdayNTSB announced on Friday that the team had departed for China to assist in the investigation. The plane crash killed all 132 people on board. —NTSB Newsroom (@NTSB_Newsroom) April 1, 2022"Investigators will limit interactions with those outside of investigation similar to safety protocols at Beijing Olympics, which will allow them to begin work immediately without a quarantine," NTSB said in a tweet. China Eastern Airlines flight MU5735 crashed in Guangxi, southern China. on March 21. The Boeing 737-800 was carrying 132 people, including nine crew members. Insider previously reported that flight data showed that the plane started a rapid descent from 29,000 feet in the air before hitting the ground minutes later. The Associated Press reported that US investigators are assisting because the plane was manufactured in the US.The plane's cockpit voice recorder has also been sent to an NTSB facility in Washington D.C., The Washington Post reported.The voice recorder, which was discovered at the crash site, could give investigators information about the communications between the flight's three pilots, Reuters reported. According to Reuters, Chinese state media said the cause of the crash needs to be released in a timely manner following a Standing Committee of the Communist Party's politburo meeting. The committee is China's highest decision-making group, Reuters reported.      Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: personnelSource: nytApr 2nd, 2022

China"s Belt-And-Road Comes To America"s Heartland, Part 2: This Is Not The End

China's Belt-And-Road Comes To America's Heartland, Part 2: This Is Not The End Authored by Fortis Analysis via Human Terrain, Earlier this year, Fortis Analysis released details on the proposal by Fufeng Group, a CCP-connected company, to build a wet corn mill and amino acid production facility in Grand Forks, ND. In conducting further research, interviewing local residents, and working with recognized experts in national security and United States trade law, it is more and more clear that the Grand Forks city council and mayor Brandon Bochenski are both economically and constitutionally illiterate. Pictured: Fufeng USA Chief Operating Officer Eric Chutorash, speaking to Grand Forks City Council A single line of inquiry into this project is impossible, so we will work to highlight a range of domains where this project falls short of both good sense and the law of the land. To that end, let’s first explore the FAQ on this project released by the Grand Forks Regional Economic Development Council. There are numerous claims so easily rebutted that making them is either knowingly spreading false information, or an inexcusable lack of attention (or ability) to performing due diligence. A selection: CLAIM: ”Fufeng USA is a global leading bio-fermentation company manufacturing products that serve fast-growing animal nutrition. Their headquarters is in Chicago, Ill. Fufeng USA has chosen to invest in Grand Forks to establish a wet corn mill processing plant in the United States.” FACT: Fufeng USA Incorporated was established in the United States at the address of a private residence in Wheaton, IL. As of this writing, Fufeng USA Incorporated imports to the United States using the same Wheaton location as its official consignee address registered with US Customs and Border Protection. Another Fufeng USA corporate address noted on the Chicago Chinatown Chamber of Commerce website (under the “Manufacturers” section) is located inside a multi-tenant office building in Oak Brook, IL. This entity is wholly-owned by Fufeng USA Holdings Limited, which is domiciled in Hong Kong, and is itself wholly-owned by Trans-Asia Capital Resources Ltd., also domiciled in Hong Kong. Trans-Asia Capital Resources Ltd. is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Fufeng Group, which has its principal place of business in Junan in the Shandong Province of China. It is beyond a stretch to say that Fufeng USA is anything more than a shell company to facilitate Fufeng Group’s ability to do business in the United States. This information comes directly from Fufeng Group’s annual report for 2020, published in 2021. CLAIM: “The North Dakota Trade Office has done a search for illegal import/export activity for Fufeng USA and its principles. No red flags or areas of concern were found. NDTO resources include access to 30 federal databases. Fufeng USA has been operating in the United States since 2020. Also, First Biotech, Inc., a Fufeng USA subsidiary, has been doing business in the US for over 10 years. Both have filed federal taxes in the US and have established international banking accounts with large financial institutions that have significant federal oversight. The company will be subject to all the same US laws, regulations, and oversight and any US company. Fufeng USA Group is publicly traded on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange. The US Securities and Exchange Commission has a supervisory oversight relationship with the Exchange. Fufeng USA Group has many US and European institutional investors including TreeTop Management, Vanguard, Fidelity, Mellon, and Blackrock, all heavily regulated.” FACT: This is, quite simply, a word salad intended to obscure the real issue at stake here - the absence of correct and proper due diligence. The United States has multiple layers of regulatory oversight beyond basic financial oversight, few if any of which have been notified by GFREDC, the city, or Fufeng, let alone conducted formal inquiries. One other point that must be noted is that “Fufeng USA Group” is not a real entity, nor is any Fufeng USA entity “publicly traded on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange”. The publicly-traded entity is the ultimate parent company, Fufeng Group Limited. More detailed explorations of these points follow further in this analysis. In short, the absurd and incorrect statement that a cursory review of trade databases and some correctly-filed taxes is sufficient proof of Fufeng’s safety to national security should embarrass all involved in this process. CLAIM: “The development of the Fufeng USA plant will create a local market for corn and improve pricing. Regional farmers will have the option to sell to elevators or Fufeng USA. The North Dakota Corn Growers Association, a farmer led membership organization focused on policy that impacts North Dakota corn producers, were pleased with the announcement that Fufeng USA will establish a wet corn mill in Grand Forks. They issued a press release indicating the project will have tremendous value to regional farmers.” FACT: The claim made elsewhere by the city about the economic impact to farmers betrays a startling ignorance about the mechanisms of grain production and sales. The estimate of $.20 to $.40 per bushel of corn in premium versus current market conditions was not derived from careful analysis conducted by third-party experts. When pressed on the matter by Shaun Beauclair, himself a farmer and former board member of a regional corn processing facility, the GFREDC admitted that the premium assumption was given by a single farmer. In a February interview with AgWeek about the Fufeng project, Dr. Frayne Olson of North Dakota State University said that he believes the $.40 per bushel claim is only realistic for the first year or two to incentivize sales to the corn mill. Once the market settles back in future years, the realistic premium is closer to $.10 to $.20 per bushel. In practice, the grain elevators in the area who do not have direct interest in a value-added market for their purchased corn will quickly be faced with the choice of becoming a de facto origination and storage facility for Fufeng, or closing their doors. As one can see from this selection of “facts”, the Grand Forks Regional Economic Development Council has not done its best work to provide complete or accurate information to its stakeholders. Now, if this was the only vector of misinformation and all others involved were honest brokers, one might understand how an economic development group would choose to shade the truth a bit in order to bring a splashy, high-revenue project to town. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Multiple other individuals in positions of city leadership have also willingly promoted dishonest talking points, or chosen unscrupulous partners for the city, all in the interest of pushing the project forward. Let’s examine a few of these. Fufeng Group Has No Financial Connection to the Chinese Government On November 17, 2021, in a publicly-posted comment on his official Facebook account, Grand Forks mayor Brandon Bochenski stated that: “…the company is an American subsidiary of a publicly traded company that has zero govt. ownership. They are investing in an American facility built by American contractors, using American corn stock to produce products sold in America and manufactured by American workers. The company is more American than Apple, Nike and Amazon quite frankly in the global economy of today.” Members of the city council have used similar talking points in publicly-available council discussions. Now, this particular formulation of the zero-affiliation claim is intended to reassure listeners that as Fufeng Group Limited is a publicly-traded company on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange (a subsidiary of HKEx, or Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing), it is not reasonable to believe that the firm or any of its subsidiaries would choose (or be forced) to act in any way outside the direct fiduciary interests of its global shareholders. A complete overview of the complicated (and compromised) relationship between the HKEx and the Chinese Communist Party is beyond the scope of this piece, but for now, the following data will more than suffice to rebut this talking point. HKEx’s largest single shareholder is the Hong Kong Government, which also has the right to appoint six of thirteen directors to HKEx’s board. This matters for a number of reasons, but perhaps the most important is the Hong Kong national security law unanimously passed by China’s Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress on 30 June 2020 in the wake of widespread pro-democracy protests throughout Hong Kong. Among the various deeply anti-democratic provisions of the law are the requirement that companies listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange act in accordance with the security directives of a secret body called the Committee for Safeguarding National Security. This entity has the ability to at any time investigate, indict, prosecute, or ruin any non-compliant company who has any business interest in Hong Kong - and extend these enforcement protocols anywhere in the world in violation of sovereign law and international norms. It is impossible to believe that HKEx will push back in any way if the Chinese Communist Party directs Fufeng Group to perform certain actions or disclose confidential business, community, or employee information in any of its subsidiaries - including Fufeng USA Incorporated. In simplified form, if the secret national security entity in mainland China or Hong Kong creates any pretext whatsoever, it will be able to force Fufeng USA to reveal all personal details of any employee, contractor, or even guests of the corn mill, regardless of the laws of the United States. This is an extremely important detail that as of yet, has not been properly addressed by Fufeng or city officials. Moreover, it is not even accurate to say that Fufeng Group does not have a financial connection to the Chinese government. In the same annual report referenced earlier, Fufeng Group Limited lists an interesting disclosure: a 30% ownership stake in Jilin COFCO Biomaterial Co Ltd. This joint venture between Fufeng Group and China Oil and Foodstuffs Corporation (COFCO) is notable because COFCO is the largest agribusiness in China, and is a 100% state-owned enterprise under the management of the hyperpowerful State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission of the State Council (SASAC). Note that SASAC manages numerous entities that are currently sanctioned by the United States for espionage activities, use of forced labor in Xinjiang and elsewhere, and violation of international treaties or laws. Though COFCO has as yet not been similarly sanctioned, it is important to note that its sister companies under SASAC were penalized for carrying out the will of the Chinese Communist Party, and that COFCO can at any time be similarly leveraged by the CCP to perform illegal activities against the United States. As with numerous other claims made by the North Dakota Trade Office, Mayor Bochenski, GFREDC, and the Grand Forks city council, one cannot help but wonder how much due diligence has actually been put into this project. The City Is Taking All Appropriate Steps to Examine the Impact on U.S. National Security Interests This omnibus talking point, used repeatedly by city officials, is also completely inaccurate. There are numerous checks and balances that exist at the federal level concerning real estate acquisitions and foreign investments into the U.S. economy. The most well-known of these, the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), is a multi-agency group under the Executive Branch that has the mandate of reviewing transactions by foreign entities into companies or technologies designated as “critical” to national security, and/or real estate transactions located within 100 miles of designated military installations. An examination of the facts shows that the Fufeng project may fall into the category of a “covered real estate transaction”, which means CFIUS expects voluntary disclosure of the project’s details. The risk is that if stakeholders do not disclose and CFIUS chooses to open an inquiry at some point, then an adverse finding from CFIUS will result in significant penalties for all involved, up to and including the forced sale of the property and assets to an approved third party. That the city and county have been courting Fufeng Group since mid-2020 and as of yet have not sought out independent legal review for compliance with FIRRMA (the law governing CFIUS’ activities), or submitted for a free voluntary review with CFIUS since the public reveal of this project in November 2021, does not argue well for the city council’s competence or motives in continuing to ignore public outcry and push the process forward at a breakneck pace. Another talking point used by the city and GFREDC is that the county and city’s “base retention” consultant, retired USAF General David Deptula, has reviewed the proposal and discussed it with the leadership at Grand Forks Air Force Base. The claim is that no one has issued an objection to the Fufeng proposal. There are a few things about this, however, that raise red flags. First, Deptula was the subject of a multi-year investigation by Department of Defense into illicit contracting activities and fraud while he was in uniform. In February 2015, Deptula agreed with the Department of Justice to pay a fine of $125,000, and was barred by the Air Force from conducting business with the federal government from November 2014 to February 2016. Despite this, the Grand Forks city council continues to authorize a $5,000 per month direct payment to The Deptula Group (Deptula’s lobbying and consulting firm) for base retention activities. When questioned about this, city council president Dana Sande initially insisted that Grand Forks County employs Deptula, not the city. After being reminded of the monthly expense approved by Sande and the rest of the city council, Sande admitted that the city pays a portion of the funding for base retention activities, but the county is in charge of selecting and coordinating with Deptula. However, a review of the county’s 2021 budget does not show a request or approval for funding to be allocated under the Base Retention line item, nor do county minutes throughout 2021 show approvals to remit any funds to Deptula, his company, or for base retention activities. It is possible that the county has allocated funding under a different line item to pay for Deptula’s services, but such is not noted. However, if the county is indeed not contributing to paying Deptula, then the city of Grand Forks appears to be willingly carrying the cost of Mr. Deptula for “base retention” activities, even as the Air Force already publicly committed in 2021 to expanding the base’s role and increasing its footprint in Grand Forks. Regardless, the ongoing payment of Deptula for at least $5,000 per month from city funds reflects the council’s comfort with employing fixers who have a questionable at best code of ethics when it comes to personal enrichment at the expense of taxpayers. Moreover, it is not for the leadership of the local military installation to make a determination on if a particular project is compliant with national security regulations. Thus, the constant talking points by city officials that Grand Forks Air Force Base has reviewed the project and not issued a complaint is misleading and wholly incorrect. The base leadership cannot review and rule on the Fufeng project, or any other potential commercial investment by foreign entities in the area of the base. The fact that city officials have continuously asserted that the Grand Forks Air Force Base commander has done so is incorrect, and jeopardizes the careers of both the commanding officer and any active duty personnel so connected to the claim. It also opens the door to civilian law enforcement involvement, as active duty military personnel allegedly issuing inappropriate and unauthorized statements in support of foreign investment may also entangle the civilians making such claims into criminal or civil charges. This is a tightrope for city officials to publicly walk, and it would seem from the outside that they have created a fiasco in the making in their haste to justify a lack of responsible and legal due diligence. There Are No Other Conflicts of Interest on the City Council with This Project Before each City Council vote on this project, the council brings up councilmember Jeannie Mock’s conflict of interest in the project and votes to force her to abstain. Mock’s company, AE2S, was involved in the preparation of land-use and infrastructure data before the project was publicly revealed, as can be seen on Slide 12 of the city’s pitch deck for the project. It is not known for certain how Mock would vote on the project, but it is proper for her to abstain on the basis of conflicts of interests and good ethics. However, there are other potential future conflicts of interest on the council not discussed or considered as exclusionary by the council. Kyle Kvamme is employed by ICON Architectural Group, a regional commercial project design firm headquartered in Grand Forks. Kvamme is the Director of Community Engagement and Project Development. He also recently became an owner in the firm. ICON is an obvious potential beneficiary of such a massive development as Fufeng’s, being a prominent local firm specializing in the design of buildings and layouts for large-scope projects. Bret Weber, who has been one of the most supportive voices on the council for the Fufeng project, is employed by the University of North Dakota as Department Chair and Professor of Social Work. Also employed by UND is Danny Weigel, who is the Investigations Commander and Public Information Officer for the UND Police force. Both have disclaimed any conflicts of interest. However, neither has disclosed that Fufeng USA is a tenant of the UND Center for Innovation, the university’s on-campus “entrepreneurial incubator”. Nor has Weigel shared if he has conducted any background checks on Fufeng Group or its representatives prior to them establishing occupancy in campus facilities. It is currently unknown if Fufeng USA is simply paying rent for part of the Center’s co-working office space in order to have a local presence, or if the company is a more integrated user of Center resources, such as the wet lab. The Center touts the wet lab as such: “High tech, bioscience, and scientific companies are all welcome at the UND Center for Innovation. Our state of the art wet lab makes innovations happen.” Given that Fufeng USA is, fundamentally, a biotech company that must cultivate and maintain various strains of bacteria to manufacture amino acids, it is not unreasonable to assume that the company has been, or will be, a major stakeholder in the Center. As the university already financially benefits from Fufeng’s presence in Grand Forks, the full scope of UND’s interest in current and future projects involving Fufeng should be disclosed. So, too, should it be considered a potential conflict of interest for university employees to vote as city council members on favorable considerations for a company that is an active revenue stream for the entity that cuts their paychecks. The obvious rebuttal of “it’s a drop in the bucket in the university’s overall revenue stream” is beside the point, and frankly, is an inappropriate attitude for a public official to hold. Just as with the city utilizing a disgraced former general to help gain Department of Defense approval for the project, or Weber indicating in the March 7th city council meeting that he feels public concerns about the project’s impact to national security are overblown, it seems that a number of city officials involved with this project are willing to excuse impropriety and ethical lapses as the cost of doing business with Chinese companies. Fufeng USA and Its Parent Companies Have No Known Connection to Forced Labor or Human Rights Crimes In China This is the murkiest and most troubling of all the accusations Fortis Analysis and other groups have leveled against Fufeng, yet has been hand-waived away by project proponents as unfounded innuendo because the firm has not been sanctioned specifically by U.S. authorities. But like most of the complex issues involved with this project, such casual dismissals betray a malignant ignorance of how and why sanctions law functions as it does in our nation. Fortunately for the Grand Forks city officials, we are here to provide accurate and detailed information that can help those officials make informed decisions in line with their sworn duty to their offices. The United States takes very seriously the issue of China’s human rights abuses, particularly in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of western China. In fact, the devastating suppression of non-Han ethnic groups in Xinjiang has been so intense that on 13 July 2021, the U.S. State Department issued its “Xinjiang Supply Chain Business Advisory”, with the summary reading as such: The People’s Republic of China (PRC) government continues to carry out genocide and crimes against humanity against Uyghurs and members of other ethnic and religious minority groups in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (Xinjiang), China. The PRC’s crimes against humanity include imprisonment, torture, rape, forced sterilization, and persecution, including through forced labor and the imposition of draconian restrictions on freedom of religion or belief, freedom of expression, and freedom of movement. Businesses, individuals, and other persons, including but not limited to investors, consultants, labor brokers, academic institutions, and research service providers (hereafter “businesses and individuals”) with potential exposure to or connection with operations, supply chains, or laborers from the Xinjiang-region, should be aware of the significant reputational, economic, and legal risks of involvement with entities or individuals in or linked to Xinjiang that engage in human rights abuses, including but not limited to forced labor and intrusive surveillance. Given the severity and extent of these abuses, including widespread, state-sponsored forced labor and intrusive surveillance taking place amid ongoing genocide and crimes against humanity in Xinjiang, businesses and individuals that do not exit supply chains, ventures, and/or investments connected to Xinjiang could run a high risk of violating U.S. law. Potential legal risks include: violation of statutes criminalizing forced labor including knowingly benefitting from participation in a venture, while knowing or in reckless disregard of the fact that the venture has engaged in forced labor; sanctions violations if dealing with designated persons; export control violations; and violation of the prohibition of importations of goods produced in whole or in part with forced labor or convict labor. Now, given how adept Chinese companies are at masking their participation in, or benefit derived in part from, these evil activities, the U.S. will utilize a standard called “rebuttable presumption” when investigating abuses and issuing sanctions under the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act and future similar laws. What this means is that a company accused of connection to human rights abuses in Xinjiang (or other provinces) in China are treated by U.S. authorities as essentially being guilty until proven innocent. Importantly, this does not just mean that the company in question is directly employing forced laborers. Any company that uses raw materials, goods, or labor at any point in its supply chain where forced labor is involved is considered just as guilty of the abuse - a presumption of illegal benefit that extends to every single subsidiary, wherever it may be located. As just one example of the new risk to American stakeholders from this expanded enforcement against China’s human rights abuse, Fufeng Group lists in its annual report that coal is the primary energy feedstock for its corn mills in China. Coal is one of the sectors most heavily targeted for enforcement and sanctions due to Chinese coal mining companies making extensive use of forced labor to keep production costs low. Fufeng Group specifically notes that it strategically locates its facilities close to coal-fired power plants, and that such practice is “instrumental in strengthening the Group’s pricing power.” Even more so than coal, Fufeng consumes corn at enormous rates. Thus, it makes sense that Fufeng tends to locate its operations not only close to coal power production, but also major agriculture regions. Here, too, Fufeng should be assumed to benefit substantially from lower raw material prices derived from the involvement of forced labor. In Heilongjiang province, Fufeng’s subsidiary Qiqihar Fufeng is located less than 50 miles from the sprawling Liusan Prison farm, managed by the Communist Party Committee Deputy Secretary of Liusan. Only a few miles further southwest from Liusan inside Inner Mongolia, there are numerous other farms at Wutaqi, Ulan, and the notorious Bao’anzhao Prison. Hulunbeier Northeast Fufeng Biotechnologies is located approximately 200 miles from the large prison farm at “Genghis Kahn Ranch” in Zalantun City. One of Fufeng’s largest plants, Neimenggu Fufeng Biotechnologies, is located in Hohhot City in Inner Mongolia. The entire administrative apparatus for the corporation that sells forced prison labor goods to Chinese and international consumers is called Inner Mongolia Hengzheng Industrial Group Co., Ltd., and also happens to be located in Hohhot City. As of October 2019, the company was run by Xu Hongguang, a CCP member and the Deputy Director of the Ministry of Justice of the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region. Among the company’s primary goods produced in the prisons and sold to companies in China are grains, processed agriculture commodities, and food ingredients. Notably, the company was sanctioned by the United States in October of 2020 for use of forced labor in manufacturing stevia sweetener, which like Fufeng’s products, are a derivative of biological processing. [Edit, 21 March 2022 - The original comment that stevia sweetener is a derivative of corn processing is not correct. The author has corrected the article.] It would require an absurd leap of faith to state that Fufeng has no plausible connections to, or benefit from, the expansive use of forced labor in agriculture production so logistically close to Fufeng’s major corn- and coal-consuming plants in Xingang, Heilongjiang, and Inner Mongolia. Should an investigation be raised by Commerce, State, or Treasury into the activities of any Fufeng Group subsidiary in connection to forced labor, it is highly likely that Fufeng would be unable to satisfy the rebuttable presumption of participation in the forced labor and abusive regimes in place in China. This would trigger automatic sanctions not only against Fufeng Group in China, but also their international subsidiaries such as First Biotech and Fufeng USA. Such sanctions would make it impossible for banks to lend to any of the affected entities in the United States or conduct normal business operations, shutting down the entire project in Grand Forks and invalidating the letter of credit the city proclaims as providing a no-risk guarantee to local taxpayers the city has not wasted money chasing a pot of gold at the end of the CCP’s genocidal rainbow. This Is Not the End As one can see, there is not much more that needs to be said about the Fufeng Group’s bid to purchase 370 acres of land in Grand Forks and build its wet corn mill. Nearly every single major talking point used by city officials and Fufeng USA is provably false or shaded with just enough truth to pass scrutiny of low-information voters. This is how it works when one chooses to do business with CCP-aligned entities who deliberately target local and state officials to circumvent the United States’ federal national security countermeasures. The officials, craving a big win to build their next campaign on, or perhaps finding some compelling self-interest in the economic aspects of the project, suspend all good sense and dive headfirst into extreme legal and moral hazard at the expense of their communities, their state, and their nation. Grand Forks Mayor Brandon Bochenski, City Council president Dana Sande, and their grasping enablers have (to this point) made the choice to do just that. And at least for now, we know that the most powerful weapon in the CCP’s gray zone war against the United States is not hypersonic missiles, cyberespionage, or theft of intellectual property. It’s 30 pieces of silver wrapped in a box of false promises to our elected officials. Addendum A number of Grand Forks residents and concerned stakeholders around the nation have expressed to this author their alarm and despair at the ease with which the Chinese Communist Party continues to corrupt and undermine the United States. That it all feels hopeless, and that our collapse as a nation is both certain and imminent. I will share this, then - Winston Churchill’s words to the Harrow School on 29 October 1941, in the midst of the darkest hours of Great Britain’s seemingly hopeless defense against the mighty Nazi war machine. “…Never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never - in nothing, great or small, large or petty - never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy… Do not let us speak of darker days: let us speak rather of sterner days. These are not dark days; these are great days - the greatest days our country has ever lived; and we must all thank God that we have been allowed, each of us according to our stations, to play a part in making these days memorable in the history of our race.” Dum spiro spero. Subscribe to Human Terrain Tyler Durden Fri, 03/25/2022 - 23:00.....»»

Category: dealsSource: nytMar 25th, 2022

Sperry: Ukraine Worked With Democrats Against Trump In 2016 To Stop Putin -- And It Backfired Badly

Sperry: Ukraine Worked With Democrats Against Trump In 2016 To Stop Putin -- And It Backfired Badly Authored by Paul Sperry via RealClearInvestigations, Six years ago, before Russia’s full-scale invasion of their country, the Ukrainians bet that a Hillary Clinton presidency would offer better protection from Russian President Vladimir Putin, even though he had invaded Crimea during the Obama-Biden administration, whose Russian policies Clinton vowed to continue. Working with both the Obama administration and the Clinton campaign, Ukrainian government officials intervened in the 2016 race to help Clinton and hurt  Donald Trump in a sweeping and systematic foreign influence operation that's been largely ignored by the press. The improper, if not illegal, operation was run chiefly out of the Ukrainian Embassy in Washington, where officials worked hand-in-glove with a Ukrainian-American activist and Clinton campaign operative to attack the Trump campaign. The Obama White House was also deeply involved in an effort to groom their own favored leader in Ukraine and then work with his government to dig up dirt on – and even investigate -- their political rival. Ukrainian and Democratic operatives also huddled with American journalists to spread damaging information on Trump and his advisers – including allegations of illicit Russian-tied payments that, though later proved false, forced the resignation of his campaign manager Paul Manafort. The embassy actually weighed a plan to get Congress to investigate Manafort and Trump and stage hearings in the run-up to the election. As it worked behind the scenes to undermine Trump, Ukraine also tried to kneecap him publicly. Ukraine's ambassador took the extraordinary step of attacking Trump in an Op-Ed article published in The Hill, an influential U.S. Capitol newspaper, while other top Ukrainian officials slammed the GOP candidate on social media. Ukraine's ambassador to the U.S. attacked Trump in an Op-Ed weeks before the 2016 election. At first glance, it was a bad bet as Trump upset Clinton. But by the end of his first year in office, Trump had supplied Ukrainians what the Obama administration refused to give them: tank-busting Javelin missiles and other lethal weapons to defend themselves against Russian incursions. Putin never invaded on Trump's watch. Instead, he launched an all-out invasion during another Democratic administration – one now led by President Biden, Barack Obama's former Vice President, whose Secretary of State last year alarmed Putin by testifying, “We support Ukraine's membership in NATO.” Biden boasted he’d go “toe to toe” with Putin, but that didn't happen as the autocrat amassed tanks along Ukraine’s border in response to the NATO overtures. The Ukrainian mischief is part of Special Counsel John Durham’s broader inquiry – now a full-blown criminal investigation with grand jury indictments – into efforts to falsely target Trump as a Kremlin conspirator in 2016 and beyond. Sources say Durham has interviewed several Ukrainians, but it’s not likely the public will find out exactly what he's learned about the extent of Ukraine’s meddling in the election until he releases his final report, which sources say could be several months away. In the meantime, a comprehensive account of documented Ukrainian collusion – including efforts to assist the FBI in its 2016 probe of Manafort – is pieced together here for the first time. It draws from an archive of previously unreported records generated from a secret Federal Election Commission investigation of the Democratic National Committee that includes never-before-reviewed sworn affidavits, depositions, contracts, emails, text messages, legal findings and other documents from the case. RealClearInvestigations also examined diplomatic call transcripts, White House visitor logs, lobbying disclosure forms, congressional reports and closed-door congressional testimony, as well as information revealed by Ukrainian and Democratic officials in social media postings, podcasts and books. 2014: Prelude to Collusion U.S. envoys Victoria Nuland and Geoffrey Pyatt helped bring to power Ukraine's Petro Poroshenko, right. (AP) The coordination between Ukrainian and Democratic officials can be traced back at least to January 2014. It was then when top Obama diplomats – many of whom now hold top posts in the Biden administration – began engineering regime change in Kiev, eventually installing a Ukrainian leader they could control. On Jan. 27, U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt phoned Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland at her home in Washington to discuss picking opposition leaders to check the power of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, whom they believed was too cozy with Putin. “We’ve got to do something to make it stick together,” Pyatt said of a planned coalition government, adding that they needed “somebody with an international personality to come out here and help to midwife this thing.” Nuland responded that Biden’s security adviser Jake Sullivan had just told her that the vice president – who was acting as Obama’s point man in Ukraine – would give his blessing to the deal. “Biden’s willing,” she said. But they agreed they had to “move fast” and bypass the European Union. “Fuck the EU,” Nuland told the ambassador, according to a leaked transcript of their call. Hunter Biden: His father helped engineer the rise of an amenable Ukrainian leader who would later fire a prosecutor investigating the son.   Nuland’s role in the political maneuvering was not limited to phone calls. She traveled to Kiev and helped organize street demonstrations against Yanukovych, even handing out sandwiches to protesters. In effect, Obama officials greased a revolution. Within months, Yanukovych was exiled and replaced by Petro Poroshenko, who would later do Biden’s bidding – including firing a prosecutor investigating his son Hunter. Poroshenko would also later support Clinton's White House bid after Biden decided not to run, citing the death of his older son Beau. The U.S. meddling resulted in the installation of an anti-Putin government next door to Russia. A furious Putin viewed the interference as an attempted coup and soon marched into Crimea. Nuland is now Biden’s undersecretary of state and Sullivan serves as his national security adviser. Whispering in their ear at the time was a fiery pro-Ukraine activist and old Clinton hand, Alexandra “Ali” Chalupa. A daughter of Ukrainian immigrants, Chalupa informally advised the State Department and White House in early 2014. She organized multiple meetings between Ukraine experts and the National Security Council to push for Yanukovych’s ouster and economic sanctions against Putin. In the NSC briefings, Chalupa also agitated against longtime attorney-lobbyist Manafort, who at the time was an American consultant for Yanukovych's Party of Regions, which she viewed as a cat’s paw of Putin. She warned that Manafort worked for Putin’s interests and posed a national security threat. At the same time, Chalupa worked closely with then-Vice President Biden’s team, setting up conference calls with his staff and Ukrainians. Another influential adviser at the time was former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele, who provided Nuland with written reports on the Ukrainian crisis and Russia that echoed Chalupa’s warnings. Nuland treated them as classified intelligence, and between the spring of 2014 and early 2016, she received some 120 reports on Ukraine and Russia from Steele. 2015: The Move Against Manafort Commences Paul Manafort: Targeted by Chalupa over work for the ousted Ukrainian president and ties to Trump. (AP) In April 2015, the DNC hired Chalupa as a $5,000-a-month consultant, according to a copy of her contract, which ran through the 2016 election cycle. (Years earlier, Chalupa had worked full-time for the DNC as part of the senior leadership team advising Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz.) After Trump threw his hat in the ring in June 2015, Chalupa grew concerned that Manafort was or would be involved with his campaign since Manafort had known Trump for decades and lived in Trump Tower. She expressed her concerns to top DNC officials and “the DNC asked me to do a hit on Trump,” according to a transcript of a 2019 interview on her sister’s podcast. (Andrea Chalupa, who describes herself as a journalist, boasted in a November 2016 tweet: “My sister led Trump/Russia research at DNC.”) Chalupa began encouraging journalists both in America and Ukraine to dig into Manafort’s dealings in Ukraine and expose his alleged Russian connections. She fed unsubstantiated rumors, tips and leads to the Washington Post and New York Times, as well as CNN, speaking to reporters on background so a DNC operative wouldn’t be sourced. “I spent many, many hours working with reporters on background, directing them to contacts and sources, and giving them information,” Chalupa said. But no reporter worked closer with her than Yahoo News correspondent Michael Isikoff. He even accompanied her to the Ukrainian Embassy, where they brainstormed attacks on Manafort and Trump, according to FEC case files. Chalupa was also sounding alarm bells in the White House. In November 2015, for example, she set up a White House meeting between a Ukrainian delegation including Ukraine Ambassador Valeriy Chaly and NSC advisers – among them Eric Ciaramella, a young CIA analyst on loan to the White House who later would play a significant role as anonymous "whistleblower" in Trump’s first impeachment. In addition to Putin’s aggression, the group discussed the alleged security threat from Manafort. Chalupa was back in the White House in December. All told, she would visit the Obama White House at least 27 times, Secret Service logs show, including attending at least one event with the president in 2016. Eric Ciaramella (middle right) across from Ukrainians in a June 2015 meeting at the White House, flanked by Biden security adviser Michael Carpenter and Ciaramella's NSC colleague Liz Zentos. (unknownukraine.com) January 2016: High-Level Meetings With Ukrainians in the White House On Jan. 12, 2016 – almost a month before the first GOP primary – Chalupa told top DNC official Lindsey Reynolds she was seeing strong indications that Putin was trying to steal the 2016 election for Trump. Emails also show that she promised to lead an effort to expose Manafort – whom Trump would not officially hire as his campaign chairman until May – and link him and Trump to the Russian government. That same day, Chalupa visited the White House. A week later, Obama officials gathered with Ukrainian officials traveling from Kiev in the White House for a series of senior-level meetings to, among other things, discuss reviving a long-closed investigation into payments to American consultants working for the Party of Regions, according to Senate documents. The FBI had investigated Manafort in 2014 but no charges resulted. One of the attendees, Ukrainian Embassy political officer Andrii Telizhenko, recalled Justice Department officials asking investigators with Ukraine’s National Anti-Corruption Bureau, or NABU, if they could help find fresh evidence of party payments to such U.S. figures. (Three years later, Democrats would impeach Trump for allegedly asking Ukraine to dig up dirt on a political rival, Joe Biden.) The Obama administration’s enforcement agencies leaned on their Ukrainian counterparts to investigate Manafort, shifting resources from an investigation of a corrupt Ukrainian energy oligarch who paid Biden’s son hundreds of thousands of dollars through his gas company, Burisma. “Obama’s NSC hosted Ukrainian officials and told them to stop investigating Hunter Biden and start investigating Paul Manafort,” said a former senior NSC official who has seen notes and emails generated from the meetings and spoke on the condition of anonymity. Suddenly, the FBI reopened its Manafort investigation. “In January 2016, the FBI initiated a money laundering and tax evasion investigation of Manafort predicated on his activities as a political consultant to members of the Ukrainian government and Ukrainian politicians,” according to a report by the Justice Department’s watchdog. The White House summit with Ukrainian officials ran for three days, ending on Jan. 21, according to a copy of the agenda stamped with the Justice Department logo. It was organized and hosted by Ciaramella and his colleague Liz Zentos from the NSC. Other U.S. officials included Justice prosecutors and FBI agents, as well as State Department diplomats. The Ukrainian delegation included Artem Sytnyk, the head of NABU, and other Ukrainian prosecutors. Ciaramella was a CIA detailee to the White House occupying the NSC’s Ukraine desk in 2015 and 2016. In that role, Ciaramella met face-to-face with top Ukrainian officials and provided policy advice to Biden through the then-vice president's security adviser Michael Carpenter. He also worked with Nuland and Chalupa.Ciaramella was carried over to the Trump White House. As RealClearInvestigations first reported, he would later anonymously blow the whistle on Trump asking Ukraine’s new president, Volodymyr Zelensky, to help “get to the bottom of” Ukrainian meddling in the 2016 election, a phone call that triggered Trump’s first impeachment by a Democrat-controlled House. Ciaramella’s former NSC colleague Alexander Vindman leaked the call to him. Vindman, a Ukrainian-American, is also aligned with Chalupa. (Vindman is now back in the news for his demands that the United States provide more active military support to Ukraine and his insistence that Trump shares great blame for the war.) As Manafort drew closer to Trump, Obama officials zeroed in, and the FBI reopened a closed 2014 probe. (Justice Department Office of the Inspector General) February 2016: Obama White House-Ukraine Coordination Intensifies On Feb. 2, two weeks after the White House meetings, Secret Service logs reveal that Ciaramella met in the White House with officials from the U.S. Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, known as FinCEN, which would later provide the FBI highly sensitive bank records on Manafort. (In addition, a senior FinCEN adviser illegally leaked thousands of the confidential Manafort records to the media.) On Feb. 9, less than a month after the White House summit, Telizhenko, who worked for the Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, met with Zentos of the NSC at a Cosi sandwich shop in Washington, according to emails obtained by the Senate. It's not known what they discussed. In addition, on Feb. 23, the two emailed about setting up another meeting the following day. “OK if I bring my colleague Eric, who works on Ukraine with me?” Zentos asked Telizhenko, apparently referring to Ciaramella. In the emails, they discussed the U.S. primary elections, among other things. NSC's Zentos and Ukraine's Telizhenko would meet and correspond numerous times during 2016. (HSGAC-Finance Committee Hunter Biden Report) Telizhenko would later testify that Ambassador Chaly had ordered him then to “start an investigation [into the Trump campaign] within the embassy just on my own to find out with my contacts if there’s any Russian connection that we can report back.” He suspects the Ambassador delivered that report to Chalupa and the DNC. Chalupa visited the White House on Feb. 22, entrance records show, just days before the second meeting Telizhenko had planned with Zentos. March 2016: Chalupa Engineers Manafort Messaging Assault With Ukrainians After Manafort was named Trump campaign chair, the campaign against him went into overdrive. New York Times On March 3, Zentos and Telizhenko planned to meet again, this time at a Washington bar called The Exchange. According to their email, Zentos wrote, “I’ll see if my colleague Eric is up for joining.” The pair also met the next day at Swing’s coffee house in Washington. After the meeting, Telizhenko emailed Zentos seeking a meeting with senior Obama NSC official Charlie Kupchan, an old Clinton hand who was Ciaramella’s boss on the Russia/Ukraine desk. Kupchan is an outspoken critic of Trump who has made remarks suggesting what countries “can do to stop him” and “protect the international institutions we’ve built .” Zentos and Telizhenko also met on March 10, patronizing the Cosi coffee shop again. On March 24, 2016, four days before the Trump campaign announced that it had hired Manafort, Chalupa met at the Ukrainian Embassy with Ambassador Chaly and his political counselor Oksana Shulyar, where they shared their concerns about Manafort, according to Politico. When news broke on March 28 that Manafort was joining the Trump campaign, Chalupa could hardly contain herself. “This is huge,” she texted senior DNC officials. “This is everything to take out Trump.” She immediately began circulating anti-Manafort memos, warning the DNC of the “threat” he posed of Russian influence. The next day, March 29, she briefed the DNC communications team about Manafort. They, in turn, hatched a plan to reach out to the Ukrainian Embassy to get President Porochenko to make an on-camera denouncement of Manafort and feed the footage to ABC News, where former Clinton aide George Stephanopoulos works as a top anchor. On March 30, Chalupa fired off an email to Shulyar, her contact at the Ukrainian Embassy: "There is a very good chance that President Poroshenko may receive a question from the press during his visit about the recent New York Times article saying that Donald Trump hired Paul Manafort as an adviser to his campaign and whether President Poroshenko is concerned about this considering Trump is the likely Republican nominee and given Paul Manafort’s meddling in Ukraine over the past couple of decades,” Chalupa wrote. "It is important President Poroshenko is prepared to address this question should it come up. In a manner that exposes Paul Manafort for the problems he continues to cause Ukraine." Within minutes of sending the email, Chalupa wrote the DNC’s communications director Luis Miranda, “The ambassador has the messaging.” Then she reached out to a friend in Congress, Democratic Rep. Marcy Kaptur of Ohio, about holding hearings to paint Manafort as a pro-Kremlin villain. April 2016: Chalupa Solicits Ukrainian Dirt on Trump, His Campaign, and Manafort Though accounts differ, Chalupa discussed Trump dirt with Ukrainian representatives. Federal Election Commission American presidential campaigns aren't supposed to work with foreign governments to dig up dirt on their political opponents. Geneva Convention rules bar diplomats from becoming entangled in their host country’s political affairs, particularly elections. There are also federal laws banning foreign nationals from engaging in operations to influence or interfere with U.S. political and electoral processes. In 2018, Special Counsel Robert Mueller indicted 13 Russian nationals on charges of conspiring to defraud the U.S. government for that purpose. But just weeks after Manafort was hired by the Trump campaign, the Ukrainian Embassy appeared to be working with the Clinton campaign to torpedo him and the campaign. Emails reveal that Chalupa and Shulyar, a top aide to Ambassador Chaly, agreed to meet for coffee on April 7, 2016, at Kafe Leopold, a restaurant near the Ukrainian Embassy in Washington. (Chalupa had paid a visit to the White House just three days earlier.) One of the purposes of the meeting, according to FEC case files, was to discuss Manafort and the danger he allegedly posed. They were joined at the café by Telizhenko, who said he was working on a “big story” on Manafort and Trump with the Wall Street Journal. In a sworn 2019 deposition taken by the FEC, Telizhenko alleged that Chalupa solicited “dirt” on Trump, Manafort, and the Trump campaign during the meeting. Telizhenko also testified that Chalupa told him that her goal was “basically [to] use this information and have a committee hearing under Marcy Kaptur, congresswoman from Ohio, in Congress in September and take him off the elections." Telizhenko later approached Ambassador Chaly about the DNC representative's overtures and he responded: “Yes. And I know that this is happening. You should work with her." After speaking with Chaly, Telizhenko claims that he went back to Shulyar who instructed him to help Chalupa. “I went to Oksana and said, ‘Like what are we doing?’” he testified. " And she told me, ‘You have to work with Chalupa. And any information you have, you give it to me, I’ll give it to her, then we’ll pass it on later to anybody else we are coordinating with.’” Less than a week later, on April 13, Telizhenko met again with White House official Zentos, email records reveal. Telizhenko said he resigned the next month because of concerns regarding his embassy’s work with Chalupa and the Clinton team. In her sworn account of the meeting, Chalupa acknowledged discussing Manafort and the “national security problem” he allegedly presented, but denied asking the embassy for help researching him. She allowed that she “could have mentioned the congressional investigation … that I had talked to Marcy Kaptur,” but maintained she couldn't recall trying to enlist the embassy in the effort. Shulyar, however, clearly recalls that Chalupa sought the embassy’s help warning the public about Manafort – including pitching stories to the press and lobbying Congress, according to a 2020 written statement to the FEC. An “idea floated by Alexandra Chalupa was that we approach a co-chair of the Congressional Ukraine Caucus to initiate a congressional hearing on Paul Manafort,” Shulyar said, though she denied the embassy acted on the idea. Around the same time, two Ukrainian lawmakers – Olga Bielkova and Pavlo Rizanenko – visited the U.S. and met with journalists, as well as a former State Department official with close ties to Sen. John McCain – David Kramer of the McCain Institute. Kramer would later leak the entire Steele dossier to the media. The meeting was arranged by major Clinton Foundation donor Victor Pinchuk, a Ukrainian oligarch who lobbied Clinton when she was Obama’s secretary of state. Bielkova was also connected to the Clinton Foundation, having once managed a Clinton Global Initiative program for Ukrainian college students. While Clinton was at Foggy Bottom from 2009 to 2013, Ukrainians gave more money – at least $10 million, including more than $8 million from Pinchuk – to the Clinton Foundation than any other nationality including Saudi Arabians. Pinchuk's donation was a down payment on an astounding $29 million pledge. On April 12, 2016, Bielkova also attended a meeting with Ciaramella and his NSC colleague Zentos, head of the Eastern Europe desk, according to lobbying disclosure records. In late April, Chalupa helped organize a Ukrainian-American protest against Manafort in his Connecticut hometown. Activists shouted for Trump to fire Manafort, whom they called “Putin’s Trojan Horse,” while holding signs that read: “Shame on Putin, Shame on Manafort, Shame on Trump” and “Putin, Hands Off the U.S. Election.” Chalupa also organized social media campaigns against Manafort and Trump, including one that encouraged activists to share the Twitter hashtags: “#TrumpPutin” and "#Treasonous Trump." Also that month, Chalupa reached out to Yahoo News reporter Isikoff to pitch a hit piece on Manafort. She connected him with a delegation of Ukrainian journalists visiting D.C. Isikoff would later be used by Steele to spread falsehoods from his dossier. May-June 2016: Manafort Dirt Spreads In a May 3 email, Chalupa alerted DNC communications director Luis Miranda and DNC opposition research director Lauren Dillion that there was “a lot more [dirt on Manafort] coming down the pipe[sic].” Chalupa told them the dirt has “a big Trump component” and would “hit in the next few weeks.” It’s not clear if she was referring to the notorious "black ledger” smear against Manafort, who was promoted to campaign chairman on May 19, but a story about it was brewing at the time. On May 30, Nellie Ohr, an opposition researcher for the Clinton-retained firm Fusion GPS, emailed her husband, Bruce Ohr, a top official at the Justice Department who would become a prime disseminator of the Steele dossier within the government, and two federal prosecutors to alert them to an article indicating NABU had suddenly discovered documents allegedly showing Manafort receiving illicit payments. Amid the flurry of anti-Manafort activity, Zentos met again with Telizhenko on May 4, records show. And Chalupa visited the White House for a meeting on May 13. Chalupa paid another visit to the White House on June 14, Secret Service logs show. On June 17, Ciaramella held a White House meeting with Nuland and Pyatt of the State Department to discuss undisclosed Ukrainian matters. In late June, the FBI signed an evidence-sharing agreement with NABU, less than two months before the Ukrainian anti-corruption agency released what it claimed was explosive new evidence on Manafort. July 2016: Ukrainian Officials Attack Trump Publicly Chalupa continued to pow-wow with the Ukrainian Embassy and got so cozy with officials there that they offered her a position, which she declined, as an “embedded consultant” in the country’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. That same month, high-ranking Ukrainian officials openly insulted Trump on social media in an unusual departure from normal diplomacy. For instance, Ukraine Minister of Internal Affairs Arsen Avakov tweeted that Trump was a “clown” who was “an even bigger danger to the U.S. than terrorism.” In another July post, he called Trump “dangerous for Ukraine.” And on Facebook, Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk warned that Trump had “challenged the very values of the free world." (After Trump upset Clinton, Avakov and other officials tried to delete their statements from their social network accounts, saying that they had been wrong and had rushed to conclusions.) “It was clear that they were supporting Hillary Clinton’s candidacy,” Ukrainian lawmaker Andriy Artemenko told Politico. “They did everything from organizing meetings with the Clinton team to publicly supporting her to criticizing Trump." While attending the Democratic convention in Philadelphia, Chalupa spread the scurrilous rumor that Manafort was the mastermind behind the alleged Russian hacking of the DNC and that he “stole" her and other Democrats’ emails. She later told her sister’s podcast that she had reported her conspiracy theory to the FBI, eventually sitting down and meeting with agents in September to spin her tale of supposed espionage (the Senate has asked the FBI for copies of her interview summaries, known as FD-302s). Chalupa also prepared a report for the FBI, as well as members of Congress, detailing her Russiagate conspiracy theories, which Mueller later found no evidence to support. In addition, Chalupa helped spread a false narrative that Trump removed a reference to providing arms to Kiev from the Republican platform at the party's convention earlier that month. Internal platform committee documents show the Ukraine plank could not have been weakened as claimed, because the “lethal” weapons language had never been part of the GOP platform. The final language actually strengthened the platform by pledging direct assistance not just to the country of Ukraine, but to its military in its struggle against Russian-backed forces. August-September 2016: The Phony Manafort Ledger Leaks  A page released by Ukrainian authorities from the fake Manafort ledger. New York Times/NABU In another attempt to influence the 2016 election, Ukrainian lawmaker Serhiy Leshchenko leaked to the U.S. media what he claimed was evidence of a secret handwritten ledger showing Manafort had received millions in cash from Yanukovych’s party under the table. He claimed that 22 pages of the alleged ledger, which contained line items written by hand, had mysteriously appeared in his parliament mailbox earlier that year. Leshchenko would not identify the sender. A fuller copy of the same document showed up later on the doorstep of a Ukrainian intelligence official who passed it to NABU, which shared it with FBI agents stationed in Kiev. Leshchenko and NABU officials held press conferences declaring the document was “proof" of Manafort corruption and demanding he be “interrogated.” The Clinton campaign seized on the story. In an Aug. 14 statement, campaign manager Robby Mook stated: “We have learned of more troubling connections between Donald Trump's team and pro-Kremlin elements in Ukraine.” He demanded Trump "disclose campaign chair Paul Manafort's and all other campaign employees' and advisers' ties to Russian or pro-Kremlin entities." But there was a big hole in the story. Though Manafort was a consultant to Yanukovych's party, he was paid by wire, not in cash, casting serious doubt on the ledger’s authenticity. Another problem: the ledger was alleged to have been kept at party headquarters, but rioters had destroyed the building in a 2014 fire. Leshchenko admitted that he had a political agenda. He told The Financial Times at the time that he went public with the ledger because “a Trump presidency would change the pro-Ukrainian agenda in American foreign policy.” He added that most of Ukraine’s politicians are “on Hillary Clinton’s side." Leshchenko also happened to be "a source for Fusion GPS,” as Nellie Ohr confirmed under questioning during a 2019 closed-door House hearing, according to a declassified transcript. Fusion was a paid agent of the Clinton campaign, which gave the private opposition-research firm more than $1 million to gin up connections between Trump and Russia. Fusion hired Steele to compile a series of “intelligence” memos known as the dossier. As a former MI6 operative, Steele gave the allegations a sheen of credibility. FBI counterintelligence veteran Mark Wauck said the dossier and the black ledger both appear to have originated with Fusion GPS, which laundered it through foreigners who hated Trump – Steele and Leshchenko. "The ledger and the dossier are both Fusion hit jobs,” Wauck said. “The two items shared a common origin: the Hillary campaign’s oppo research shop." In an August 2016 memo written for Fusion GPS, “The Demise of Trump’s Campaign Manager Paul Manafort,” Steele claimed he had corroborated Leshchenko’s charges through his anonymous Kremlin sources, who turned out to be nothing more than beer buddies of his primary source collector, Igor Danchenko, a Russian immigrant with a string of arrests in the U.S. for public intoxication, as RealClearInvestigations first reported. Danchenko had worked for the Brookings Institution, a Democratic think tank in Washington that Durham has subpoenaed in connection to its own role in Russiagate. Danchenko was indicted last year by Special Counsel Durham for lying about his sources, including one he completely made up, as RCI reported. “YANUKOVYCH had confided in PUTIN that he did authorize and order substantial kick-back payments to MANAFORT as alleged,” Steele claimed in the unsubstantiated report, citing “a well-placed Russian figure” with knowledge of a "meeting between PUTIN and YANUKOVYCH” allegedly “held in secret” on Aug. 15. As a paid informant, Steele had long reported to the FBI about alleged corruption involving Yanukovych. The FBI used his Clinton-funded dossier as a basis to obtain warrants to spy on former Trump adviser Carter Page, including the false claim that Page acted as an intermediary between Russian leadership and Manafort in a “well-developed conspiracy of cooperation” that included sidelining Russian intervention in Ukraine as a campaign issue. Steele also falsely claimed that Page had helped draft the RNC platform statement to be more sympathetic to Russia’s interests by eliminating language about providing weapons to Ukraine, according to a report by the Department of Justice's watchdog. In fact, Page was not involved in the GOP platform. The misinformation came from Danchenko’s fictional source. Fusion co-founder Glenn Simpson worked closely with the New York Times on the Manafort ledger story. In his book, “Crime in Progress,” Simpson boasts of introducing Leshchenko to the Times as a source, who ended up providing the paper some of the dubious ledger records. On Aug. 19, Manafort stepped down from the Trump campaign the day after the Times reported what it had been fed by the anti-Trump operatives. In effect, Ukrainian government officials tried to help Clinton and undermine Trump by disseminating documents implicating a top Trump aide in corruption and telling the American media they were investigating the matter. In 2018, a Ukrainian court ruled that Leshchenko and NABU’s Sytnyk illegally interfered in the 2016 U.S. election by publicizing the black ledger. Among the evidence was a recording of Sytnyk saying the agency released the ledger to help Clinton’s campaign – “I helped her,” Sytnyk is recorded boasting. But the damage was done. The Ukrainians, along with Chalupa and the Clinton camp, achieved their goal of undermining the Trump campaign by prompting Manafort’s ouster though they never proved he was colluding with the Russians. Neither did Special Counsel Mueller. In fact, Mueller did not use the ledger to prosecute Manafort after a key witness for the prosecution told him it was fabricated. “Mueller ended up dropping it like a hot potato,” Wauck said.  Ukraine’s neutrality in the election was also called into further question that September, when Porochenko met with Clinton during a stop in New York. He never met with Trump, who appeared to get the cold shoulder from the Ukrainian leader. In statements following Trump’s surprise victory over Clinton in November, Ukraine’s embassy has denied interfering in the election and insisted that Chalupa was acting on her own. Epilogue After Trump won the election in spite of her efforts to sabotage him, Chalupa predicted: “Under President Trump, the Kremlin could likely invade U.S. allies in Europe without U.S. opposition.” Not only did Russia not invade Europe “under Trump,” it didn’t even invade Ukraine. Rather, the invasion came under Biden, whose campaign Chalupa supported. Yet she continues to blame Trump. Recent tweets show a still-obsessed Chalupa has not dialed back her extremist views about Trump or Manafort, whom she believes should be prosecuted for “treason." In a Feb. 28 post on Twitter, for example, Chalupa claimed that Putin installed “a puppet regime in the U.S. with the help of Paul Manafort.” The previous day, she tweeted, “We had a Putin installed Trump presidency.” A day before that, she wrote: “Now would be a good time to release the Putin-Trump treason calls.” And on Feb. 25, Chalupa tweeted another wild conspiracy theory: "It’s important to note that Putin’s imperial aspirations are of a global criminal empire, as we saw when he installed Donald J. Trump president and tried to turn the U.S. into a Russian satellite state." Tyler Durden Fri, 03/11/2022 - 19:00.....»»

Category: dealsSource: nytMar 11th, 2022

Insiders say RAINN, the nation"s foremost organization for victims of sexual assault, is in crisis over allegations of racism and sexism

22 current and former staffers said that RAINN, which has deep ties to Hollywood and corporate America, is facing an internal reckoning. Scott Berkowitz, RAINN's co-founder and CEO, began his career in politics, advising former Sen. Gary Hart's 1984 presidential campaign at just 14 years old.RAINN; Kris Connor/Getty Images; Alyssa Powell/Insider22 current and former staffers say the organization favored by Hollywood and corporate America is in crisis. 'How can RAINN be helping survivors externally, when they're traumatizing survivors and their own employees internally?'April Cisneros says the first time she was sexually assaulted at her private Christian college was in 2015, while she was playing piano in the school's conservatory. A music tutor came into the small practice room and began to touch her. The second time, one year later, she remembers waking up in a hotel room near campus after drinks with classmates. One man was forcing his hand into her pants while another ejaculated on top of her. The incidents were devastating, and further compounded by a conservative religious community that lacked empathy for her pain or a framework to understand it. "Maybe it's demons attached to you that attracted this fate," she recalls one pastor telling her. Others placed the blame on her, wondering if she set the right boundaries with men. While studying abroad at Oxford University in 2016, in an effort to get far away from what she suffered back home, Cisneros attempted to take her own life.Soon after, she Googled for help, and the website for the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network, or RAINN, flashed across her computer screen. RAINN, which was founded in 1994 as a nonprofit, bills itself as the nation's largest anti-sexual-violence organization, operating a 24-hour hotline for victims and pushing for state and federal policies to punish sex offenders and support survivors. It has deep ties to corporate America and Hollywood, partnering with Google and TikTok and media like "I May Destroy You" and "Promising Young Woman," both of which center on sexual assault. (Insider itself utilizes RAINN's hotline; our publishing system automatically appends a referral link to RAINN at the bottom of every story about sexual assault.) In 2019, it reported nearly $16 million in revenue. It says its programs have helped 3.8 million people, and 301,455 people called its hotlines last year.The organization was a beacon in a difficult time, and Cisneros soon threw herself into supporting it. She cycled 1,500 miles across the country for a fundraising drive; later, after the Trump administration rolled back Title IX protections for campus-sexual-assault victims, she decided to get involved more directly. April Cisneros biked across the US to raise money for RAINN.April Cisneros"I was so angry," Cisneros told Insider. "I just remember thinking, 'Well, why don't I just, like, go try to be a part of the solution?'" She began working for RAINN in 2018 as a communications associate.But she soon discovered that it looked very different from the inside. Instead of the supportive, inclusive victims' advocacy organization that offered her hope in the depths of her depression, Cisneros found herself in a demoralizing workplace overrun by what she described as racism and sexism. She recalled that during the filming of a video about survivors' stories, her boss asked a participant to smile while recounting a sexual assault. "If you don't," Cisneros remembered her boss saying, "it'll look like you have a bitch face."Cisneros is among 22 current and former RAINN staffers who spoke to Insider and described a roiling crisis over race and gender in the over-200-person-strong nonprofit. These people described a culture in which a routine training was beset by racist caricaturing, executives ignored employees' requests for change, and people who were deemed political risks — including sexual-assault survivors — were silenced. According to these accounts, in one instance, a supervisor badgered an employee during the time she took off to recover from an abortion. In another, an Asian staffer was replaced on a project with a white man after their boss deemed him a better fit because of his race and gender. One staffer sent a resignation letter, obtained by Insider, in which she bemoaned "toxic managerial behavioral patterns" and worried that "young employees like myself, many of them survivors themselves, are currently being treated like their rights at work do not matter, like their comfort and security and health at work doesn't matter, like the skills they bring to work are worthless."RAINN declined to make its founder and president, Scott Berkowitz, available for an interview. In a statement, the group said it had made great strides in diversifying its workplace and addressing the concerns of its employees of color. It accused the current and former staffers who came forward to Insider of providing "incomplete, misleading, and defamatory" information about "a handful of long-outdated and disproven allegations.""RAINN is proud of the work our committed staff do, day in and day out, to support survivors of sexual violence," the statement read. "As an organization, we owe it to our committed staff to provide a work environment where they feel safe, appreciated, and heard … Over the last several years, like most organizations, RAINN has worked to expand and implement comprehensive Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion policies and goals. We regularly update staff on our progress toward achieving those goals, and solicit feedback on potential areas of improvement. While there is always room to build on our efforts, we are continually working to foster an open dialogue between employees and leadership to ensure ideas and concerns can be heard and addressed."RAINN hired Clare Locke LLP, a boutique libel law firm that has gained a reputation for representing clients facing #MeToo allegations, including Matt Lauer and the former CBS News executive Jeffrey Fager, to respond to Insider's inquiries. During Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation hearing, the firm's cofounder Libby Locke came to his defense, writing: "No wonder Judge Kavanaugh is angry. Any man falsely accused of sexual assault would be."When Insider asked RAINN whether Clare Locke's work was consistent with the organization's mission and values, the firm's partner Thomas Clare emailed a statement attributed to RAINN: "Given your questions contained outright lies about RAINN and our staff, and publication of those claims is potentially defamatory, we hired defamation counsel. We recognize we have a right to legal representation, and our attorneys have helped us disprove your ridiculous and libelous allegations."Some RAINN employees fear that the corporate dysfunction has poisoned the work of the largest sexual-violence organization in the country, which they continue to view as crucial, despite their own experiences. "How can RAINN be helping survivors externally when they're traumatizing survivors and their own employees internally?" Cisneros said.How RAINN became Hollywood and corporate America's go-to partner Through savvy marketing and hard work, RAINN has become to sexual assault what Planned Parenthood is to reproductive health: the premier, full-service resource for people struggling with a crisis and the ultimate destination for donations to help people who have been victimized.The global embrace of the #MeToo movement, and the contemporary focus on the depth and pervasiveness of sexual assault, has further aided RAINN's ascension. Companies in crisis often turn to the organization to telegraph their commitment to social responsibility. After dozens of women sued Lyft, claiming they were assaulted by its drivers, the company worked with RAINN to roll out extensive safety initiatives and contributed $1.5 million to its coffers.Hollywood has also embraced the organization. RAINN was cofounded by the Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter Tori Amos, who promoted the organization's hotline at her concerts and sat on its advisory board. In 2018, Timotheé Chalamet pledged his earnings from Woody Allen's "A Rainy Day in New York" to groups including RAINN, as did Ben Affleck from productions affiliated with Harvey Weinstein. Christina Ricci, a star of Showtime's breakout hit "Yellowjackets," has served as an official spokesperson since 2007, and the platinum-selling pop artist Taylor Swift has donated to the organization, something it publicized from its social-media accounts.—RAINN (@RAINN) April 8, 2021 But Berkowitz has largely stayed out of the public eye. He began his career as a political wunderkind, advising Sen. Gary Hart's 1984 presidential campaign at just 14 years old. A profile in his grandparents' hometown newspaper in Pennsylvania said he was personally responsible for collecting $100,000 in donations for Hart — a feat achieved in between classes at American University, where he was already a sophomore. After graduation, Berkowitz continued to work in and around politics. His experience in the field, he said in a 2019 interview with RAINN, taught him about the "extent of the problem" of sexual violence in the United States and the opportunity to fill this "service gap.""I knew next to nothing about the issue," Berkowitz said. "It just seemed like a good idea." Christina Ricci has been a RAINN spokeswoman since 2007.Michael Kovac/WireImage/Getty ImagesEarly on, Berkowitz ran the day-to-day operations, and his early fundraising prowess served him well. After a series of sexual assaults at the infamous Woodstock '99 festival, promoters and record labels did damage control by giving RAINN 1% of the proceeds from the festival's CD and video releases. "In raw self-interest, the money and attention that would come from it would allow RAINN to promote the hotline better, provide more counseling, print more brochures," Berkowitz told the Village Voice. RAINN's budget swelled in tandem with its brand. Total revenue rocketed from more than $1.2 million in 2009 to nearly $16 million in 2019. Berkowitz's compensation grew from $168,000 to over $481,000 over the same period. Even though RAINN's tax returns list Berkowitz as its president and indicate that he was paid nearly a half a million dollars in the year ending in May 2020, RAINN says that he is not in fact an employee and does not receive a salary. Instead, for reasons that RAINN did not explain, he is paid through A&I Publishing, a company solely owned by Berkowitz that contracts with RAINN. "Scott Berkowitz is paid solely as an independent contractor through A&I Publishing and does not receive any salary or benefits," it said. "He has never received any employee compensation from RAINN."RAINN's tax records tell a slightly different story. The group has reported paying a total of $561,500 in consulting fees for "strategic and financial oversight" to A&I Publishing from 2001 to 2006, during which time Berkowitz drew no salary from RAINN. Since 2007, though, RAINN has reported directly paying Berkowitz a total of $3,529,000. (RAINN says he "is recused from all board consideration of his compensation.")Over the same period, RAINN also began reporting payments to A&I to service $288,000 in debt that it owed the consultancy at 5% interest. RAINN's tax records don't reflect that the organization ever received any cash from A&I; instead, the loan is described in its 2006 tax return as "issuance of debt for prior year services." RAINN says the loan, which has been repaid, stems from "deferred payment for fees" that RAINN owed A&I "for a number of years."'How does an organization like RAINN make such an egregious mistake?'With the Woodstock '99 deal, Berkowitz struck on a highly successful strategy — corporate penance — and he would often return to it. But he also looked to the public sector for funding opportunities.One of RAINN's largest sources of revenue — $2 million a year — is its contract to run the Department of Defense's Safe Helpline, which offers confidential, anonymous counseling to members of the military who have been affected by sexual violence. Multiple staffers who spoke with Insider said Berkowitz was exceedingly sensitive about maintaining the contract. They said that he had gone to great lengths to stay in the Department of Defense's good graces and that they believe RAINN has at times been overly deferential to its interests. Michael Wiedenhoeft-Wilder in February 2022.Evan Jenkins for InsiderMichael Wiedenhoeft-Wilder, a former flight attendant and roller-rink operator who previously served in the Navy as a medic, said that in 1982, just months after he enlisted, a Navy physician raped him. The doctor, who outranked Wiedenhoeft-Wilder, threatened him with prison time if he came forward. Wiedenhoeft-Wilder said it was the first of multiple sexual assaults he suffered, all of which resulted in a diagnosis of complex post-traumatic stress disorder.Wiedenhoeft-Wilder stayed silent about the assault for nearly 30 years. He became depressed and experienced paranoid suspicions that the government was spying on him, ready to silence him if he ever told the truth about his assault.But decades of therapy empowered Wiedenhoeft-Wilder to eventually come forward. He discovered the Safe Helpline, which then led him to RAINN's Speakers Bureau, a roster of more than 4,000 volunteer survivors who share their stories with the media, student groups, and other organizations. When Wiedenhoeft-Wilder signed up with the bureau, his story was selected for publication on RAINN's website. In October 2019, he worked with April Cisneros, who helped manage the Speakers Bureau, to prepare the story.But the story was abruptly killed. Cisneros said Berkowitz decided to pull Wiedenhoeft-Wilder's account once he realized that it involved an officer assaulting an enlisted man."Once we actually wrote up his story, Scott was like, 'No, we're not even getting into this,'" Cisneros told Insider, adding that Berkowitz refused to send the story to the Department of Defense for review, as it routinely did with accounts of military sexual assault. Cisneros said Berkowitz told members of the communications team that promoting the testimony of a man who had been assaulted by one of his superiors could harm the military's reputation and upset the Department of Defense. Cisneros told Insider she believed that Berkowitz did not want to risk losing the government's funding.Wiedenhoeft-Wilder was shocked. He had spent time with Cisneros revisiting the details of an assault that haunted him for 30 years, all for nothing."I've spent the last several days trying to deal with the devastating news that the article about my military sexual trauma being canceled for someone else," he told Cisneros in an email on October 31 that Insider reviewed. "How does an organization like RAINN make such an egregious mistake? Do you have any idea how this mistake has affected me? It's absolutely devastating. Just one more failure for me.""I feel victimized all over again," he wrote. "What did I ever do to you people to deserve this!"Cisneros, worried about Wiedenhoeft-Wilder's mental health, forwarded the exchange to Berkowitz and Keeli Sorensen, then the vice president of victim services, she said. "Maybe you just tell him you made a mistake," Cisneros recalled Sorensen telling her. She felt Sorensen's suggestion was, in effect, to "[fall] on my sword for RAINN."Cisneros told Insider that she told Wiedenhoeft-Wilder a lie about a scheduling conflict and blamed the mix-up entirely on herself. Wiedenhoeft-Wilder didn't believe her. "I know she wasn't telling me the truth," he told Insider. "I knew it wasn't her fault. It was a really weird, very strange thing to do to someone."Cisneros was heartbroken. She felt that she'd betrayed Wiedenhoeft-Wilder's trust and was distressed because she felt an anti-sexual-violence organization had asked her to deceive a rape victim. "What's so sad is people treat him like he's so paranoid about being silenced by the military, but that paranoia is at least … legitimate," Cisneros said. "And it happened again at RAINN."Sorensen denied having any involvement in the incident and said she was "not authorized in any way to instruct Ms. Cisneros in this matter," adding that Berkowitz had "total authority" with respect to the publication of Wiedenhoeft-Wilder's story. She said she did not know why Berkowitz pulled the testimony."I had no part in the matter," Sorensen said, "but it's my recollection, based on my conversation with Ms. Cisneros, that she had promised Mr. Wiedenhoeft-Wilder that she would publish their story before having secured final approval from Mr. Berkowitz."RAINN also said that if Cisneros had promised Wiedenhoeft-Wilder a spot on its website, it had "no knowledge of that and she was not authorized to make that commitment."Cisneros disputed that. She said that she provided Berkowitz with details of Wiedenhoeft-Wilder's story before reaching out and that he approved. "Scott gave me the greenlight to move ahead with the process if [Wiedenhoeft-Wilder] expressed interest," Cisneros said."We have no recollection as to why this survivor's story did not run in the fall of 2019," RAINN said, adding that some isolated quotes from Wiedenhoeft-Wilder's interview — stripped of their military context — were shared on RAINN's social-media accounts. The statement pointed to other stories from survivors of sexual assault in the military that RAINN had published; none of those featured scenarios in which an attacker outranked their victim.Evan Jenkins for Insider"We are not aware of the Department of Defense expressing concern over RAINN's coverage of military survivors," RAINN said, "nor is it standard practice for RAINN to consult with [the department] regarding the material and resources it publishes unless they directly mention Safe Helpline. RAINN frequently publishes the stories of military survivors and will continue to do so as it works to carry out the organization's mission to eradicate sexual violence from every corner of society."Anxiety around RAINN's relationship with the Department of Defense came up again in 2019. Six former staffers said one RAINN employee felt compelled to frantically retract public comments she had made in support of Black trans victims of violence amid the Trump administration's efforts to expel trans people from the military. The woman suddenly and mysteriously departed the organization on the day her remarks were published.(The woman's identity is known to Insider, which is not naming her because doing so may expose her to professional harm. The woman declined to comment for the record.) On March 7, 2019, to mark International Women's Day, the employee was one of "8 everyday women" featured by The Lily, a women-focused website published by The Washington Post. The Lily post listed the woman's age, background, position at RAINN, and responses to a questionnaire about her favorite fast-food chains and movies. But she came to fear that her seemingly uncontroversial answer to one question could become a professional liability.InsiderThe answer came a few months after the Trump-era transgender military ban went into effect, reanimating debates over trans rights. Two sources told Insider that the woman told them that RAINN's leadership expressed alarm over her contribution to the article and was frustrated that the woman had spoken to the media without getting consent from leadership.One source told Insider that Jodi Omear, then RAINN's vice president of communications, said minutes after reading the article that it was "too controversial" and that she worried it "could jeopardize our contract with the Department of Defense." The source said Omear escalated the article to Berkowitz and the human-resources director, Claudia Kolmer, because she was confident they would feel the same.Omear told Insider that because the former staffer had been under her supervision, it would be "inappropriate" to comment on her exit from the organization.On the day the questionnaire was published, the woman called the reporter at The Lily who'd conducted the interview and asked her to remove the reference to RAINN, as well as her comments about trans people, according to four sources familiar with the situation. The writer agreed. Insider viewed an original version of the interview that contained the employee's affiliation and comments about trans rights; the version currently published online does not.Two former employees said the woman was escorted out of the office by human resources the day the story was published. RAINN said that "it is standard practice that an employee separating from the organization is accompanied by a RAINN human resources representative when leaving the premises in order to collect their office keys, security fob and other credentials," adding that it "reached a separation agreement" with the woman a week after the story was published.One staffer who sat near her described the woman as a "fabulous" employee who was heavily invested in the projects they were set to work on together."It was one of the reasons why it was so shocking," the staffer said. "Like, where'd she go?"In its statement, RAINN claimed that the woman's remarks were an unauthorized attempt to speak on behalf of the Pentagon. "[The RAINN staffer] spoke with a Washington Post reporter on-the-record, on behalf of RAINN and the Department of Defense Safe Helpline, which she was not authorized to do," the statement said. "Contractually RAINN is barred from speaking on behalf of the Department of Defense or Safe Helpline." The Lily billed the interview as an opportunity to "step inside the lives of 8 everyday women." Aside from identifying her employer and job description — a format applied to other women featured in the post — the woman's interview did not touch on RAINN or the Department of Defense. Instead, she answered questions about her favorite body part and what she would change about her upbringing if she could.Still, RAINN said, the woman broke the rules: "The issue at hand centered around a clear violation of RAINN policy. RAINN supports all transgender survivors and has worked to remove the barriers to reporting sexual violence in LGBTQ communities, and to elevate the stories of transgender survivors, particularly for transgender persons of color for whom sexual violence is all too prevalent."Asked why, if that were the case, the woman would ask The Lily specifically to remove her comments about trans victims, RAINN said it was "unaware of any evidence indicating [the woman] was pressured to retract or remove" the comments. "RAINN is always mindful of honoring its contractual obligations not to speak on behalf of the DoD and the Safe Helpline," it said. "The fact someone commented on other subject matter or issues was irrelevant."A white male staffer was deemed a better fitJackii Wang joined RAINN's public-policy team in 2019, hopeful that she could use her experience working in national congressional offices to advance legislation that would help sexual-assault survivors. But she said her boss, RAINN's vice president of public policy, Camille Cooper, instead saddled her with administrative responsibilities like writing greeting cards. Wang said Cooper regularly discounted her ideas and "berated" her when they disagreed on issues the younger staffer considered minor. It became "psychologically terrifying," Wang said. Wang didn't immediately view that as discriminatory — multiple staffers said many of Cooper's employees complained of similar treatment. But during a performance review in December 2019, Wang said, Cooper attempted to explain her perception of Wang as defiant by rattling off stereotypes that Wang felt were "very targeted towards my Asian identity.""Camille asked me questions like, you know, 'Is your family very strict?' 'Do they expect perfectionism from you?' ... 'What was your childhood like?' Do I have problems with authority because of my family background?" Wang told Insider. What started as an implication became explicit, Wang said, when Cooper announced she would pull Wang off a lobbying assignment.Jackii WangDaniel Diasgranados for InsiderAt the time, RAINN was working on a Florida bill that would close a loophole in the state's statute of limitations for teen survivors. Cooper called Wang and another staffer into her office and told the two women she had decided to send a white male colleague in Wang's place, Wang said. Wang asked why."And she was like, 'Well, you know, because he's a white male,'" Wang recalled.Wang was mortified. While she had experience working with Florida legislators, her male colleague wasn't even registered to lobby in the state. Wang and the other staffer said Cooper argued that he would connect better with white conservatives in the state."He can talk about baseball. He can really, like, connect with these men," Cooper said, according to Wang and the other staffer present. "And these men really hate women.""Her reasoning for picking a white man over me for the project is that he'll be received better," Wang said. "But if that's the logic that she's following, then, like, I guess I shouldn't work anywhere because white men are received better everywhere."Neither Cooper nor the man responded to requests for comment.Wang said she reported the incident to Kolmer, the human-resources director, and Berkowitz in March 2020, along with a detailed recounting of other complaints about Cooper's leadership. But Wang said Kolmer never took serious action. When Wang quit that June, she sent Berkowitz a blistering resignation letter. "As you know, she has harassed and bullied every single person on our team, including an intern, and has blatantly discriminated against me," Wang wrote.Berkowitz thanked Wang for her time and for informing him, and asked Kolmer to discuss the issues Wang raised. Cooper continues to serve as a vice president, the face of RAINN's policy arm.RAINN said that Wang was too junior a staffer to lead a statewide lobbying effort and called her claims of discrimination "false and defamatory.""RAINN took Wang's allegations seriously and investigated the matter thoroughly," the statement said. "Ultimately it was determined that the basis of Wang's claims of discrimination were unfounded."RAINN did not deny Wang's claim that Cooper told her a white man would connect better with conservative legislators.Cooper wasn't the only executive to receive complaints. One current staffer and one former staffer described a meeting in which Jessica Leslie, the vice president of victim services, defended Berkowitz's unwillingness to address the concerns of staffers of color."You have to understand where he's coming from," they remember Leslie saying. "I mean, he's a white man, and you're all people of color — like, he's really nervous around you."One of the staffers was furious. "We just wanted to have a conversation. We're not about to berate the man," she told Insider. "This is not true," RAINN said. Its statement said that at a Safe Helpline shift managers meeting, a group of managers asked Leslie if Berkowitz would meet with them. When Leslie asked them to craft an agenda first, RAINN said, the shift managers asked Leslie if Berkowitz wanted an agenda because he was "uncomfortable talking to women of color." "The shift managers created this narrative," RAINN said, "not Leslie."Through an attorney, Leslie said she agreed with RAINN's responses and called the allegations against her "demonstrably baseless."A racist training, a pay disparity, and an email uprisingStaffers of color told Insider that they were often underpaid compared with their white counterparts; one, a nonwhite Latina woman who asked to remain anonymous, said she made $35,000 a year and lived in public housing to keep her head above water. After she quit for a higher-paying opportunity, RAINN filled her job with a white staffer who earned roughly $20,000 more, Cisneros said, adding that the white staffer disclosed her salary. (Three additional sources with knowledge of her salary corroborated Cisneros' account.) RAINN said the salary discrepancy was a result of both the role being "restructured" to include "significantly more responsibility" and the fact that the white staffer had an advanced degree.Four current and former RAINN staffers recalled that after RAINN's white office manager left for a new job, her replacement, a Black woman named Valinshia Walker, was asked to perform janitorial tasks that were not in her predecessor's job description — including scrubbing floors on her hands and knees, washing dishes, and disinfecting conference rooms. "Let me be very clear: [Walker's predecessor] never washed dishes from the sink. Ever," one former staffer said. "Val? You would come in, and Ms. Walker was cleaning the conference room. Like, wiping down all the tables. Spraying down the chairs. Doing the kitchen, she's washing dishes from the sink … You would see her walking around with the mask on and gloves because she literally cleaned. Like a cleaning lady."Walker declined to comment for the record. "The beliefs of your sources are simply not true," RAINN said, adding that Walker was hired as the "office coordinator," which had a different set of responsibilities than the "office manager" she replaced. "Maintaining a clean office has always fallen under the responsibilities of the HR and admin staff as a whole, this includes the office manager and office coordinator," the statement said. "We are not aware of any instances where Walker was asked to handle cleaning responsibilities beyond those that were part of the office coordinator's regular duties."Staffers also recalled what became a notorious and hamfisted mandatory sexual-harassment training in early 2020 led by an outside employment attorney hired by RAINN. According to more than a dozen employees, the attorney used a series of racist stereotypes to illustrate examples during the training."So let's just say, you know, there's Nicki [Minaj] and Cardi B are employees, and they're at their desks, and they start twerking," Cisneros recalled the lawyer saying. "Is that inappropriate workplace behavior?"At one point, Cisneros said, the lawyer proposed a hypothetical scenario in which a Latino-coded man — participants recalled his name was "Jorgé" or "José"—  kissed a coworker. The lawyer asked if the behavior could be appropriate "because this is Latino culture." "Your information regarding this training is inaccurate," RAINN said. "The examples in this legal training were all past legal cases using fictitious names." It added that staff concerns "were immediately addressed and the training was subsequently modified based on their feedback."Sarcia Adkins, a shift manager for the Department of Defense Safe Helpline who attended the training, was furious. She wrote an email to multiple executives, including Sorensen, Kolmer, and Berkowitz, on March 5 demanding action from the organization. "I wanted to get up and walk out at various points and it was one of the more traumatic experiences I've had at RAINN as a woman of color," she wrote. Kolmer acknowledged her complaints and promised to meet with Adkins alongside Berkowitz and Sorensen to discuss changes to the training and her issues with the nonprofit's culture.Adkins said that Kolmer didn't follow up that March but that Sorensen did reach out to schedule a one-on-one meeting. RAINN said Adkins agreed to meet Sorensen but "did not show up, without notification or explanation," and "did not follow up after she skipped the meeting." Several months later, after a former colleague intervened, Adkins did meet with Berkowitz and Sorensen. Adkins told Insider she was underwhelmed. "They pick what they want you to talk about," she said.The dysfunction came to a head during the summer of 2020, after the murder of George Floyd sparked a series of bitter internal conversations about RAINN's track record on race. In June 2020, Berkowitz sent an email with the subject line "A Note to the RAINN Family" to the entire staff. In it, he acknowledged the unrest and pledged to support the company's Black staffers.Sarcia Adkins replied to the email with a list of demands and copied the entire organization. She asked for mandatory cultural-competency training and a commitment to hiring Black employees for leadership positions. (RAINN says that 43% of its top seven staffers are people of color.) Adkins — who has been with RAINN since 2014 — asked Berkowitz why he hadn't reached out following the deaths of Freddie Gray, Sandra Bland, Philando Castile, and dozens of other victims of police violence."RAINN has never been a place [that] acknowledges or uplifts their black staff, not just people of color, and the injustices we face in the world and within the structure of RAINN," Adkins wrote.Following the police killing of George Floyd in 2020, Scott Berkowitz sent an email to staffers acknowledging the resulting unrest and pledging to support the company's Black staffers. But employees at RAINN began responding en masse, including one person who asked why a similar message was not sent after other police killings of Black people.Provided to InsiderIn 2021, in response to the outrage over the George Floyd email, the organization began internally releasing draft proposals on diversity, equity, and inclusion with goals the organization planned to achieve or had already accomplished. The laundry list of objectives, which Insider reviewed, included a plan to "develop new relationships to ensure a diverse pool of internal and external candidates for all open positions" and "collect more data to identify the causes of turnover."But people working in the organization say little has been achieved, or even attempted."Hiring practices are not getting better," said a current RAINN staffer, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation. "There's been no management training. Turnover is horrendous." In its statement, RAINN recounted the diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts it began implementing in 2021, including "expanded recruiting," "revised exit interviews," and "researched training on DEI-related issues.""The summer of 2020 sparked important cultural conversations in companies and organizations across the United States, RAINN among them," the statement said. "As we've seen nationwide, there is more work to be done. Over the past two years, RAINN worked with experts and garnered input from staff to develop and implement Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion policies and goals … Changes implemented to date include increasing diversity within senior management to better reflect our staff diversity and the people we serve, implementing an anonymous third-party ethics hotline where employees can voice concerns without fear of reprisal, offering expanded professional development and internal promotion opportunities, and increasing health and mental health benefits for employees, the four top priorities identified by staff."As evidence of its success in addressing the concerns of its employees of color, RAINN provided Insider an email that Aniyah Carter, a staffer on the Department of Defense Safe Helpline, wrote to the vice president of communications, Heather Drevna, in June 2020. Carter, who is Black, had been one of the most outspoken staffers demanding change at RAINN after Berkowitz's George Floyd email fiasco. When Drevna sent a follow-up email to staff announcing an employee survey and more personal and sick days, Carter replied with a note of thanks."I just want to personally thank you and the senior team for this," she wrote. "It's one thing to listen to and hear us. It's another thing to take action. I am proud of the responses of my colleagues and I am grateful for the swift action from leadership. It is my sincere hope that we continue to make a necessary shift in the right direction. Please let me know if there is any way I can be of assistance."Scott Berkowitz at the "Tina The Tina Turner Musical" Cocktail Reception, co-hosted by Anna Wintour in support of RAINN, on January 31, 2020.Tiffany Sage/BFA/ReutersWhen Insider asked Carter about the email, she said any movement in the right direction quickly stalled."They sent an email and that was it," Carter told Insider. "So my 'sincere hope' was crushed. It's so insulting for me. When this first happened and you were optimistic and gave us the benefit of the doubt, you say it here," she said, mocking RAINN's use of her email. "And it's like, OK, but two years later here we still are. And I've mentioned how I'm frustrated, but you're going to take words from two years ago feeling optimistic about the future and spin it as if that applies to today? Seriously? That was very upsetting because it makes me feel like this is more about optics than, like, how your staff really feels."'OK, well, who's gonna do the press clips?'When April Cisneros arrived at RAINN, she began working for Jodi Omear. Cisneros said she quickly ran up against Omear's domineering management style, which often seemed dismissive of and belittling to other women. Besides the "bitch face" comment, Cisneros said, Omear joked about how office dress codes could reduce the risk of sexual assault by preventing people from wearing provacative outfits. "I understand we're not supposed to blame the victim," Cisneros recalled Omear saying, "but, like, what do you expect to happen if you're in a dimly lit room and people of the opposite sex [are] wearing pants with holes in them?" Omear did not deny making either comment but told Insider that when training people who lacked experience with on-camera work, she directed them to "over-exaggerate facial expressions." She also said she "advocated for casual professional attire across the organization."Cisneros' low point at RAINN occurred in January 2019, when she unexpectedly became pregnant. She decided to take a sick day to visit a doctor. She told Insider she informed Omear the day before and outlined when her unfinished work would be completed.Omear became angry, Cisneros said, demanding to know why she didn't give more notice and insisting on further details. Omear called Cisneros at 9 p.m. demanding answers. Cisneros broke down and told her boss about the surprise pregnancy. According to Cisneros, Omear replied, "OK, well, who's gonna do the press clips?"The next day, as Cisneros met with her doctor, her phone buzzed with calls and texts from Omear. Between the stress of an unplanned pregnancy and Omear's incessant check-ins, Cisneros said, she "started bawling" under the stress.  A day later, Cisneros received a prescription for a two-day medical abortion. She requested an extra day off to recover, but Omear continued to pester her, texting and calling Cisneros for updates on RAINN's monthly marketing report. Cisneros said she finished the report from home while waiting for the bleeding to die down. (A RAINN staffer who was familiar with the incident corroborated Cisneros' version of events.)Omear told Insider that it would be "inappropriate" to comment on Cisneros specifically and did not directly answer a series of questions about Cisneros' allegations. "In general, when working with communications staff, especially in a fast-paced environment on such an important issue, it is/was important to ensure that other team members were able to cover assignments to meet any potential deadlines and organizational needs," she said in an emailed statement.RAINN said that it "was not aware of this incident happening in real time" and that it "supports employees taking time off and does not support managers encroaching on sick time."Omear's conduct was the final straw for Cisneros, and she wrote to human resources to complain. Cisneros said Claudia Kolmer told her in a meeting that the conflict "was a big misunderstanding" and that she should have come clean about her pregnancy sooner. (RAINN said that Kolmer told Cisneros that different managers have different preferences about how they should be notified of sick time and that "Cisneros was never asked to share sensitive personal or medical information.")Dissatisfied, Cisneros unloaded on Omear to Kolmer, accusing her boss of making inappropriate complaints about the loud breathing of a colleague who used a wheelchair and the habit of another colleague, who was blind, of walking into Omear's office by mistake, Cisneros said. (Another former RAINN employee corroborated the complaints to Insider.) Cisneros also said she told Kolmer that Omear made lewd remarks about the attractiveness of a sexual-assault victim set to make a public-service announcement. Omear denied making the lewd comments. She also denied complaining about disabled colleagues but said that she did recall "thanking one of my staff for helping" a blind colleague "when she couldn't find her way around the office."Cisneros rallied the entire RAINN communications department to put together a detailed list of other allegations of inappropriate behavior by Omear, which she collected in a memo for Kolmer and Berkowitz.Omear left RAINN that July, ostensibly to launch her own communications consulting firm. But Cisneros said Berkowitz told her that he had pushed Omear out in response to Cisneros' efforts. "We want you to know we're letting her spin her own story," Cisneros said Berkowitz told her. "But this is a direct result of the conversation you all have with us."The experience nonetheless angered staffers. Cisneros left RAINN the next year.Another colleague, Martha Durkee-Neuman, wrote a scathing resignation letter shortly after Omear announced her exit, addressing it to Omear, Berkowitz, and Kolmer."Jodi leaving of her own accord with no accountability is not justice," Durkee-Neuman wrote, according to a copy of the letter obtained by Insider. "It is not justice for the countless people that she has fired or driven from RAINN. It is not justice to pretend that nothing has happened, that staff were not forced to go to HR over and over and over until something was finally done." "I do not believe any of this work of justice or restoration will happen at RAINN, so unfortunately, this is no longer the right organization for me," she added."After the communications team raised concerns [about Omear] with Claudia Kolmer," RAINN said, "RAINN worked swiftly and diligently to investigate the staff's complaints. RAINN took appropriate action to address the findings of that investigation and Omear separated with RAINN shortly thereafter."Martha Durkee-Neuman's resignation letter.Martha Durkee-Neuman'What is left?' On November 19, 2021, Kyle Rittenhouse was acquitted of charges related to the shooting deaths of two people at a civil-rights rally in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Some time later, Leslie, then the interim vice president of RAINN's victim-services department, addressed the organization's Black staffers. "I am deeply saddened by the pain and violence that has continued to plague our Black neighbors and communities," she wrote. "I want to recognize how this may be affecting you, as you navigate your day and the work you do at RAINN." She then touted the racial diversity of the victim-services department.Nearly 18 months had passed since the organization sent around its email about the death of George Floyd. Despite various promises and initiatives, in the eyes of many staffers, little had changed. But here it was again, another email promising to listen to staffers of color. Employees were enraged.Aniyah Carter, the Safe Helpline worker whose email RAINN provided to Insider, reminded her boss that nearly two weeks had passed since the verdict. "By now, we have already had to check in with ourselves so that we can continue our day-to-day lives," she wrote. "And while the opportunity to check in with managers is still absolutely available (and encouraged), the reminder to do so would have been more beneficial if it occurred when this took place." Carter also highlighted the gap she saw between leadership's stated commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion and its on-the-ground support of its employees of color, a sentiment echoed by other staffers who spoke to Insider.Daniel Diasgranados for InsiderFor Cisneros, the repeated failure of the organization to address the concerns of its staff speaks to something darker, and she is worried about how the culture at RAINN is affecting its ability to help abuse survivors."If church can't help, if school can't help, if the police can't help, if the hospital can't help, if my family can't help, my friends can't help — and now this nonprofit that is specifically saying that it's here to help people like me can't help?" she said."Like, what is left?"Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderFeb 25th, 2022

Republicans in 7 states submitted documents falsely certifying the election for Trump. Most State Attorneys General are investigating if it constitutes fraud.

American Oversight found that groups in Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin sent in false documents to Congress. Salwan Georges/The Washington Post via Getty Images, Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images A watchdog group found Republicans in 7 states tried to falsely certify the election in favor of Donald Trump. Groups in Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin forged documents.  Attorneys General in three of those states told Insider how they're dealing with it.  Some Attorneys General in states where illegitimate electors tried to falsify documents saying Donald Trump won the majority of votes are investigating and considering charges. Republican supporters of Trump in Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin submitted documents to Congress falsely claiming Trump won the states after the majority of votes actually went to Joe Biden, according to documents obtained by the watchdog group American Oversight in March 2021. American Oversight requested all 2020 certificates of electoral votes that weren't already published in the 2020 Electoral College Results."The coordinated, multi-state effort to cast doubt on the 2020 election and undermine the electoral vote process tragically led to the violent Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol in which a pro-Trump mob stormed the building and sought to physically block the congressional certification of each state's real Electoral College votes," American Oversight said of its findings. Insider reached out to Attorneys General in each of the states seeking comment on the findings. In Nevada, Attorney General Aaron Ford said his office can't "confirm or deny the existence of an investigation," but said the report is on "our radar, and we take seriously any efforts to rob Nevadans of their votes.""There has been a sustained effort to invalidate the 2020 election and to downplay the shocking actions that took place afterward. My office cannot and will not accept any efforts to overturn a free and fair election. Voting rights are fundamental to our democratic republic, and we will continue to protect them," Ford said in a statement. New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas told Insider the incident is being reviewed. "Election laws are the foundation of our democracy and must be respected. While review under state law is ongoing, we have referred this matter to the appropriate federal law enforcement authorities and will provide any assistance they deem necessary," Balderas said. In a statement to Insider, Pennsylvania Attorney General Joshua Shapiro's office said while the "rhetoric and policy were intentionally misleading and purposefully damaging to our democracy" after review, they don't "believe the incident meets  the legal standards for forgery.""Pennsylvania Republicans made no secret during the 2020 election certification process that they planned to nominate their own slate of electors and submit their own ballots to perpetuate the Big Lie," the office said. "These "fake ballots" included a conditional clause that they were only to be used if a court overturned the results in Pennsylvania — which did not happen." Attorneys General in Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, and Wisconsin did not respond to Insider's request for comment. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that Assistant District Attorney Matthew Westphal said he'd consulted Attorney General Josh Kaul over whether or not to investigate the 10 Republicans who illegitimately certified the vote for Trump. Westphal said Kaul's office or federal prosecutors should handle an investigation. The Journal reported that Kaul previously said the matter should be investigated at the federal level. In Michigan, Attorney General Dana Nessel told MSNBC: "Under state law, I think clearly you have forgery of a public record, which is a 14-year offense, and election law forgery, which is a five-year offense." American Oversight's findings come before reports in September 2021 that attorney John Eastman had written a six-page memo that was presented to Trump's legal team just days before the Capitol riot detailing a plan for overturning the 2020 election. That memo included reference to the forged certificates. On Thursday, CNN and The Washington Post reported members of Trump's inner circle, including Rudy Giuliani, coordinated the illegitimate elector scheme.Giuliani has already been subpoenaed by the select House committee investigating the January 6 riot. The select committee is also looking deeper into the illegitimate elector scheme and the role Trump and his affiliates played in it, Politico reported. "We want to look at the fraudulent activity that was contained in the preparation of these fake Electoral College certificates," Rep. Jamie Raskin told Politico. "And then we want to look to see to what extent this was part of a comprehensive plan to overthrow the 2020 election."Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderJan 22nd, 2022

Cop Who Killed Ashli Babbitt Was Cleared Of Criminal Wrongdoing Without Interview

Cop Who Killed Ashli Babbitt Was Cleared Of Criminal Wrongdoing Without Interview Authored by Paul Sperry via RealClearInvestigations, When U.S. Capitol Police Lt. Michael Byrd went on “NBC Nightly News” to tell his side of shooting and killing unarmed Jan. 6 rioter Ashli Babbitt, he made a point to note he’d been investigated by several agencies and exonerated for his actions that day. “There’s an investigative process [and] I was cleared by the DOJ [Department of Justice], and FBI and [the D.C.] Metropolitan Police,” he told NBC News anchor Lester Holt in August, adding that the Capitol Police also cleared him of wrongdoing and decided not to discipline or demote him for the shooting. Above, Lt. Michael Byrd, the officer who shot Ashli Babbitt, told NBC News he gave fair warning, but under penalty of perjury he refused to say anything to investigators. Byrd then answered a series of questions by Holt about the shooting, but what he told the friendly journalist, he likely never told investigators. That’s because he refused to answer their questions, according to several sources and documents reviewed by RealClearInvestigations. Ashli Babbitt: Her family calls the rushed Byrd investigation a “whitewash" and a "coverup" of misconduct by the officer.  Maryland MVA/Calvert County Sheriff's Office/AP In fact, investigators cleared Byrd of wrongdoing in the shooting without actually interviewing him about the shooting or threatening him with punishment if he did not cooperate with their criminal investigation. “He didn’t provide any statement to [criminal] investigators and they didn’t push him to make a statement,” Babbitt family attorney Terry Roberts said in an RCI interview. “It’s astonishing how skimpy his investigative file is." Roberts, who has spoken with the D.C. MPD detective assigned to the case, said the kid-glove treatment of Byrd raises suspicions the investigation was a “whitewash.” The lawyer's account appears to be backed up by a January 2021 internal affairs report, which notes Byrd "declined to provide a statement,” D.C. MPD documents show. Terry Roberts, Babbitt family attorney:  “It’s astonishing how skimpy his investigative file is." Roberts & Wood Asked about it, a D.C. MPD spokeswoman confirmed that Byrd did not cooperate with internal affairs agents or FBI agents, who jointly investigated what was one of the most high-profile officer-involved shooting cases in U.S. history. “MPD did not formally interview Lt. Byrd,” deputy D.C. MPD communications director Kristen Metzger said. And, “He didn’t give a statement while under the U.S. Attorney’s Office investigation.” Lt. Michael Byrd: Pistol drawn in the House chamber just before the Babbitt shooting. Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg News After Byrd declined to cooperate with D.C MPD Internal Affairs Division’s investigation, which was led by Det. John Hendrick, his case eventually was turned over to the USCP for a final administrative review of whether or not his actions conformed with department policies and training. Still, USCP concluded in August that “the officer’s conduct was lawful and within department policy.” The agency launched its administrative investigation after the criminal investigation was closed. In April, within four months of the shooting, Byrd was cleared of criminal wrongdoing by the Justice Department, which declined to impanel a grand jury to hear evidence in a departure from other lethal police-shooting cases involving unarmed citizens. Taking deadly aim: Byrd was cleared after refusing to answer investigators' questions. nbcsandiego.com Justice ruled there “was not enough evidence” to conclude Byrd violated Babbitt’s civil rights or willfully acted recklessly in shooting her.  Byrd remains the commander in charge of security for the House of Representatives. Neither the FBI nor the Justice Department would comment on whether they pressed Byrd after he insisted on remaining silent. The D.C. police force, which shares some jurisdiction with the Capitol Police, takes the lead in internal affairs probes like this one. Roberts questioned how investigators could find that Byrd acted in self-defense and properly followed his training procedures, including issuing warnings before shooting Babbitt, since he refused to talk about it while the investigation was open -- and his statements, unlike those made to NBC, would have been taken under penalty of perjury. “How would they know if they never interviewed him?” he said, adding that it’s not enough to say an officer did nothing wrong without showing how it reached such a finding. Troy Nehls, Texas Republican and former sheriff: “Many officers in the USCP I have spoken to believe the investigations of Lt. Boyd were dropped because of his position and other political considerations." nehls.house.gov By avoiding an interrogation, he said Byrd avoided saying anything that could have been used to incriminate him, including making false statements to federal agents, which would be a felony. Remarkably, he did not formally invoke his Fifth Amendment right to remain silent, according to people familiar with his case, which makes the reluctance of authorities to lean on him or sanction him for not cooperating all the more puzzling. By law, federal agencies can use leverage short of termination, such as an unwelcome duty reassignment, to persuade employees to cooperate with investigators. Byrd was put on paid administrative leave during the investigative process. Byrd waited to speak publicly until after his statements could no longer be used against him in a criminal probe. The heavily promoted NBC “exclusive” told only his account of what happened with no opposing viewpoints. “I believe I showed the utmost courage on Jan. 6,” Byrd said. In defending his actions, Byrd told Holt things he evidently wouldn’t tell investigators, including his claim that he shot as “a last resort” and only after warning Babbitt to stop. However, documents uncovered by Judicial Watch reveal that eyewitnesses — including three police officers at the scene — told investigators they did not hear Byrd give Babbitt any verbal warnings prior to firing, contradicting what Byrd told NBC. The Babbitt family has maintained that the rushed investigation amounted to a "coverup" of misconduct by the officer. It says the federal probe was conducted under political pressure, arguing that Byrd was not put through the normal rigors of a police shooting investigation to avoid making a martyr of Babbitt, an avid Donald Trump supporter. An Air Force veteran from California, Babbitt died while wearing a Trump flag as a cape. The former president has demanded the Justice Department reinvestigate her death. Rep. Troy Nehls of Texas, a former sheriff, argued Babbitt’s shooting should have been presented to a federal grand jury. “This case was mishandled from the very beginning,” the Republican lawmaker told the U.S. attorney who led the probe for the Justice Department in a recent letter. In a separate letter to the Capitol Police chief, Nehls wrote: “Many officers in the USCP I have spoken to believe the investigations of Lt. Boyd were dropped because of his position and other political considerations." Use-of-Force Experts Skeptical Some use-of-force experts are skeptical Byrd did the right thing, even after watching his largely sympathetic NBC interview. “The limited public information that exists raises serious questions about the propriety of Byrd’s decision to shoot, especially with regard to the assessment that Babbitt was an imminent threat,” said police consultants and criminologists Geoffrey Alpert, Jeff Noble and Seth Stoughton in a recent Lawfare article.“We have serious reservations about the propriety of the shooting,” they wrote. They said they doubted Byrd’s claims that he reasonably believed Babbitt “was posing a threat” and had the ability and intention to kill or seriously injure Byrd or other officers or lawmakers and therefore had to be stopped with lethal force. They noted that he admitted to Holt that he never actually saw Babbitt, who stood 5-foot-2 and weighed 110 pounds, brandish a weapon. Babbitt was shot by Byrd a year ago when she and other pro-Trump rioters breached the Capitol amid efforts to stop Congress from certifying the state results of the 2020 election of Joe Biden. They sought to pressure then-Vice President Mike Pence to reject electors from Arizona and other states, where narrow results were challenged by Trump and his lawyers over allegations of voter fraud and other election irregularities.Roberts and the Babbitt family are preparing to sue Byrd and the Capitol Police in a wrongful-death claim seeking at least $10 million in damages. Asked why his client chose not to go on the record and cooperate with investigators, Byrd’s attorney, Mark Schamel, declined comment. In an earlier interview, Schamel maintained the shooting was justified and that there is no basis for a civil case against his client. The federal investigation of the lethal shooting was marked by secrecy and other irregularities. Unlike other officers involved in fatal shootings of unarmed civilians, Byrd was long shielded from public scrutiny after shooting Babbitt as she tried to climb through a broken window of a barricaded door at the Capitol. For eight months D.C. police officials withheld Byrd’s identity, first revealed by RealClearInvestigations, and they have not released a formal review of the shooting, or the 28-year veteran's disciplinary records. Nor did the Capitol Police hold a briefing on Babbitt's death. Records uncovered by Judicial Watch reveal authorities ordered her body cremated two days after the shooting, without her husband's permission. No Babbitt probe yet: Chairman Bennie Thompson, left, with Republicans Liz Cheney, Adam Kinzinger. AP/Scott Applewhite Meanwhile, the feds have thrown the book at suspected Jan. 6 rioters — publicly identifying them on a Justice Department website — and are still engaged in a national manhunt for suspects. More than 725 defendants have been charged mostly for relatively minor offenses ranging from trespassing to disorderly conduct.So far, the select House committee set up to investigate the Jan. 6 siege at the Capitol has not explored the most lethal violence that occurred that day. Byrd was responsible for the only shot fired during the riot – all other armed officers showed restraint, including 140 who were injured confronting rioters -- and Babbitt was the only person directly killed on that day. Like the other rioters, she carried no firearm — no guns were recovered from the Capitol. Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., has pledged to “investigate fully the facts and circumstances of these events.” Asked if the police shooting is on the agenda for public hearings planned for this winter, or whether it will be addressed in a final report scheduled for release before November’s congressional elections, a committee spokesman declined comment. Trump and GOP leaders have accused the panel, which is composed of seven Democrats and two Republicans, of trying to damage pro-Trump Republicans ahead of the midterms by claiming they helped orchestrate an “insurrection” and continue to pose "a threat to democracy." ‘Point-Blank Range’ Unlike in a criminal investigation, there is no right to remain silent in a civil case. Wrongful-death litigation claiming negligence may hinge on whether Byrd warned Babbitt before opening fire on her. Roberts said Babbitt, a former military police officer who served tours in both Iraq and Afghanistan, would have complied with commands to stop and peacefully surrendered had Byrd or other Capitol officers attempted to arrest her. But he said additional eyewitnesses he’s interviewed say Byrd never gave her such verbal commands. He said Babbitt wasn’t even aware that the officer was nearby because he was positioned in a doorway of a room off to the side of the Speaker’s Lobby doors. Byrd, whose mouth was covered with a surgical mask, took aim outside her field of vision and fired as her head emerged through the window. Roberts compared her shooting to an “execution.” “Killing her by shooting her at point-blank range was completely unnecessary,” he said. “This alone renders the shooting legally unjustified.” Roberts pointed out that Byrd had mishandled his firearm in the past. He was the subject of a previous internal investigation for leaving his loaded service pistol in a Capitol restroom. It’s not clear if he was disciplined. At the time, the lieutenant reportedly told officers he would not be punished due to his high rank, which he kept despite the incident. But in the NBC interview, he said he was “penalized” for the 2019 misstep, without elaborating. A USCP spokeswoman declined to respond to repeated requests for information about any discipline administered for his misconduct. Byrd could not be reached for comment, but in the NBC interview he denied receiving special treatment. “Of course not,” he said. “No way." Before filing a lawsuit naming a federal agency, Roberts has to send a formal complaint for a claim for “damage, injury or death” — known as a federal form SF-95 — to USCP and wait for a response. He sent the notice in May and is still waiting for the Capitol Police to reply. “We have received the SF-95 from Ms. Babbitt’s family attorney,” USCP General Counsel Tad DiBiase confirmed to RCI in an email. He declined to say how the department plans to respond: “I cannot comment on that." In the meantime, Roberts said he is interviewing witnesses and also building a case from documents acquired through the Freedom of Information Act.“I am still reviewing records obtained in FOIA action and there are more coming,” he said. “I am in no rush." Tyler Durden Wed, 01/12/2022 - 22:20.....»»

Category: blogSource: zerohedgeJan 13th, 2022

Greenwald: The Histrionics & Melodrama Around 1/6 Are Laughable, But They Serve Several Key Purposes

Greenwald: The Histrionics & Melodrama Around 1/6 Are Laughable, But They Serve Several Key Purposes Authored by Glenn Greenwald, As Kamala Harris compares 1/6 to 9/11 and Nancy Pelosi introduces the cast of Hamilton to sing about democracy, today's inanity should not obscure its dangers... A pro-Trump protester carries the lectern of U.S. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi through the Roturnda of the U.S. Capitol Building (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images) The number of people killed by pro-Trump supporters at the January 6 Capitol riot is equal to the number of pro-Trump supporters who brandished guns or knives inside the Capitol. That is the same number as the total of Americans who — after a full year of a Democrat-led DOJ conducting what is heralded as “the most expansive federal law enforcement investigation in US history” — have been charged with inciting insurrection, sedition, treason or conspiracy to overthrow the government as a result of that riot one year ago. Coincidentally, it is the same number as Americans who ended up being criminally charged by the Mueller probe of conspiring with Russia over the 2016 election, and the number of wounds — grave or light — which AOC, who finally emerged at night to assure an on-edge nation that she was “okay" while waiting in an office building away from the riot at the rotunda, sustained on that solemn day. That number is zero. But just as these rather crucial facts do not prevent the dominant wing of the U.S. corporate media and Democratic Party leaders from continuing to insist that Donald Trump's 2016 election victory was illegitimate due to his collusion with the Kremlin, it also does not prevent January 6 from being widely described in those same circles as an Insurrection, an attempted coup, an event as traumatizing as Pearl Harbor (2,403 dead) or the 9/11 attack (2,977 dead), and as the gravest attack on American democracy since the mid-19th Century Civil War (750,000 dead). The Huffington Post's White House reporter S.V. Date said that it was wrong to compare 1/6 to 9/11, because the former — the three-hour riot at the Capitol — was “1,000 percent worse.” Indeed, when it comes to melodrama, histrionics, and exploitation of fear levels from the 1/6 riot, there has never been any apparent limit. And today — the one-year anniversary of that three-hour riot — there is no apparent end in sight. Too many political and media elites are far too vested in this maximalist narrative for them to relinquish it voluntarily. The orgy of psychodrama today was so much worse and more pathetic than I expected — and I expected it to be extremely bad and pathetic. “House Democrats [waited] their turn on the House floor to talk to Dick Cheney as a beacon for American democracy,” reported CNN's Edward-Isaac Dovere. Nancy Pelosi gravely introduced Lin-Manuel Miranda and the cast of Hamilton to sermonize and sing about the importance of American democracy. The Huffington Post's senior politics reporter Igor Bobic unironically expressed gratitude for “the four legged emotional support professionals roaming the Capitol this week, helping officers, staffers, and reporters alike.” Yesterday, CNN's Kaise Hunt announced: "Tomorrow is going to be a tough one for those of us who were there or had loved ones in the building. Thinking of all of you and finding strength knowing I’m not alone in this." Unsurprisingly but still repellently: Kamala Harris today compared 1/6 to 9/11. That the January 6 riot was some sort of serious attempted insurrection or "coup” was laughable from the start, and has become even more preposterous with the passage of time and the emergence of more facts. The United States is the most armed, militarized and powerful regime in the history of humanity. The idea that a thousand or so Trump supporters, largely composed of Gen X and Boomers, who had been locked in their homes during a pandemic — three of whom were so physically infirm that they dropped dead from the stress — posed anything approaching a serious threat to “overthrow” the federal government of the United States of America is such a self-evidently ludicrous assertion that any healthy political culture would instantly expel someone suggesting it with a straight face. Putting the events of January 6 into their proper perspective is not to dismiss the fact that it was a lamentable event — any more than opposing the exploitation of 9/11 and exaggeration of the domestic threat of Muslim extremism, which I spent a full decade doing, meant that one was denying the heinousness of that attack. The day after the 1/6 riot, I wrote in this space that “the introduction of physical force into political protest is always lamentable, usually dangerous, and, except in the rarest of circumstances that are plainly inapplicable here, unjustifiable.” I still believe that to be the case. There was nothing virtuous about the 1/6 riot. But it is typically the case that fear-mongering and deliberate exaggeration of threats has an element of truth to them. Al Qaeda and ISIS really did want to carry out mass-casualty events on U.S. soil. COVID is a fatal virus that can kill people and has done so around the world. There are right-wing extremists in the U.S. bent on using violence to advance their political agenda, just as there are left-wing extremists and anarchist insurrectionary movements and many other types eager to do the same (more destruction was caused by the latter than the former over the last two years, to say nothing of the dozens of journalists physically assaulted by individuals participating in Antifa protests). Far too many centers of political and economic power benefit from an exaggerated and even false narrative about January 6 to expect it ever to end. The Democratic Party, eager to cling to their majoritarian control of the White House and both houses of Congress, knows it has no political program that is appealing and thus hopes that this concocted drama will help them win — just as they foolishly believed about Russiagate. With the threat of Al Qaeda and ISIS faded if not gone, and the attempt to scare Americans over Putin a failure, the U.S. security state, always in need of a scary enemy, has settled on the claim that right-wing “domestic extremists" are the greatest threat to U.S national security; though they claimed this before 1/6, casting 1/6 as an insurrection allows them to classify an entire domestic political movement as an insurrectionary criminal group and thus justify greater spying powers and budgetary authorities. CNN proudly announced that the most-watched day in the history of their network was 1/6. The dirty little secret of the liberal wing of the corporate media is that nobody benefited more from the Trump campaign, his presidency and its aftermath than they, and they are desperate to rejuvenate it and re-discover that glory. Meanwhile, coddled journalists who have never broken meaningful stories have finally found a way to claim that they stared down dangerous and risky situations — as if they spent years in the middle of an active war zone or were persecuted and prosecuted by a corrupt and authoritarian state for their intrepid reporting — and have converted Brian Stelter's CNN show into a virtual therapists's couch where they all get to go and talk about how they are still coping with the deep trauma of spending a few hours in the Capitol last year. The pettiness and absurdity of this Democrat/media narrative, laughable as it often is, does not mean it is free of danger. Asserting that the U.S. suffered an attempted coup by a still-vibrant armed faction of insurrectionists is a self-evidently inflammatory claim. It has been used to allocate billions more to the Capitol Police and to radically expand their powers; justify the increased domestic use of FBI tactics including monitoring and infiltration; and agitate for the mass imprisonment of political adversaries, including elected members of Congress. Hapless defendants who are not even accused of using violence have been held in harsh solitary confinement for close to a year, then sentenced to years in prison — while self-styled criminal justice reform advocates say nothing or, even worse, cheer. If one genuinely believes that the U.S. came close to a violent overthrow of American democracy and still faces the risk of an insurrection, then it is rational to sanction radical acts by the U.S. security state that, in more peaceful and normal times, would be unthinkable. Where is this “insurrection"? What happened to it? Where did it go? The January 6 protest barely lasted four hours until it was easily subdued. Copying the Bush/Cheney model of keeping fear levels high by constantly issuing vague warnings of looming violence and doom, the Department of Homeland Security issued at least six separate "heightened threat” warnings last year, not a single one of which materialized. There were no violent protests in Washington, D.C. or in state capitols on Inauguration Day; no violent protests materialized the week after Biden's inauguration; no violent protest erupted once COVID lockdowns were eased due to social media provocations; none happened on the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attack; there was no right-wing violence perpetrated in connection with the commemoration of the 100th year anniversary of the Tulsa massacre. Each time such a warning was issued, cable outlets and liberal newspapers breathlessly reported them, ensuring fear levels remained high. What is really going on here is as tawdry as it is obvious. Democrats have no governing program on which they can run and win. The complete collapse of the party was temporarily obscured by the once-in-a-generation talent in Barack Obama and the very narrow win in 2020 of a banal, empty septuagenarian, thanks to the incumbent-killing double crisis of a devastating pandemic and economic shutdown. But the edifice of this party collapsed under Obama — “the Whole Democratic Party is Now a Smoking Pile of Rubble,” warned supreme Democratic partisan Matt Yglesias at Vox in 2016 — and it is collapsing once again under Biden. Its only ideologies — neoliberalism, corporatism, militarism — are widely despised failures, but they are imprisoned by their donor base from offering anything else. A party that does not believe it can win politically often tries to criminalize its adversaries. That is what Democrats did during the Trump years: focused not on defeating his legislative agenda but obsessing on the fantasy that FBI Superman Robert Mueller was going to come and round up Trump and his family members and associates and haul them off to prison. The Democrats’ beloved former CIA Director, NBC News star John Brennan, all but promised that was going to happen two weeks before Robert Mueller closed his investigation by announcing he found no evidence to establish the core crime of conspiring with Russia. When that four-year-long prison fantasy collapsed, they quickly switched to a new one: Merrick Garland was going to come and round up Trump and his allies in Congress like Josh Hawley and Matt Gaetz and haul them off to prison as traitors and seditionists. After a full year of producing nothing but banal trespassing and assault charges — no sexy allegations of insurrection or sedition let alone the arrest of Trump and his relatives — Democrats, who spent four years pretending to revere an apolitical DOJ, are now intensifying their political pressure on Garland to deliver. In a press conference on Wednesday, the beleaguered Attorney General addressed those political attacks directly and urged Democrats to have patience, implying that people not present at the Capitol on 1/6 could and would be criminally charged. Fantasies of Trump in handcuffs once again danced in the heads of Adam Schiff, Laurence Tribe, and Eric Swalwell. As demonstrated by the glee universally expressed by Democrats over Twitter's banning this week of Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (D-GA), it is not an exaggeration to say the top priority for Democrats is to turn their opponents into criminals who are silenced, censored, rounded up by prosecutors and then imprisoned. That is why they are so content to see Julian Assange (an actually persecuted and traumatized journalist) rotting in prison: to them, his real crime is that he helped elect Donald Trump and, for that, he deserves prison. That is why this Insurrection narrative surrounding 1/6 is so vital to Democrats: it ensures that they are not facing a different ideological camp but rather a band of criminals and domestic terrorists who deserve not a defeat at the ballot box but censorship by a union of state and corporate power, followed by a prison cell. Democrats’ media allies — the axis of the The New York Times, NBC News, CNN, The Atlantic, The New Yorker, and the undifferentiated and rapidly disappearing mass of Brooklyn-based digital outlets (HuffPostGizmodoBuzzFeedDailyBeastIntercept MotherJonesViceVultureVox, who churn out the same content with just a few more curse words and radical poses) — now speak only to and for one another when they are not failing completely. Keeping Americans hooked on fear — of Putin's takeover of the U.S., of COVID, of an imminent fascist coup — is their only hope for relevance, profit, and purpose. They can shower themselves with as many Pulitzers as they want for fake Russiagate stories and spend all day applauding one another on social media, but they know they are widely despised and distrusted. Posturing as the bulwark against Fascism and Defenders of Democracy — which in turn depends on the existence of an insurrectionary movement — is their only hope for finding meaning. But cowards and propagandists who weep and engage in public therapy when confronting the slightest discomfort do not make for convincing super heroes. Nobody is inspired, but merely irritated, by the Princess whining about the pea buried under her seventeenth mattress. As usual, the prime beneficiaries of all of this, and the most dangerous one, is the U.S. security state. They need, above all else, an existential threat to justify their endless growth and unchecked power. All of the old villains are largely vanquished and stale (Communism, Al Qaeda, ISIS), while the proposed stand-ins never really panned out (Americans never woke up thinking about Putin). That is when they began claiming that the most serious threat was a domestic one: fellow American citizens who harbor “extremist” ideologies. Though they claim that it is right-wing extremists who pose the greatest threat — white supremacist extremists to be exact — the lists they disseminate of who falls under this rubric encompasses essentially anyone — left, right or in between — who sees the world differently than Wolf Blitzer, Joe Scarborough and Chris Hayes see it: meaning dissidents, those who distrust the decrees of authority and wish to subvert rather than submit to establishment power. Claiming that the U.S. is facing an Insurrection and barely survived a "coup” is a script that could not be better suited to their interests. There are genuine unresolved questions surrounding the 1/6 riot that are genuinely important and merit scrutiny. It is proven that the FBI had at least two informants on the ground with whom it was communicating as the protest unfolded, but the full extent of the FBI's role — whether it replicated what it repeatedly did during the first War on Terror and then again in engineering the attempted kidnapping of Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer — remains unknown. That is because the only bodies capable of discovering the answers — the DOJ and the Congressional 1/6 Committee — have no interest in finding out. The contrary is true: they have a strong interest in suppressing those facts because it undermines rather than advances their fear narrative. Fear is a powerful human drive — arguably the most powerful one. Humans need it to survive; without it, they would have died off thousands of years ago. It is embedded in our psyches. And any demagogue worth their salt knows how to stimulate it and manipulate it. Fear — as we have seen throughout the last two years of the COVID pandemic — breeds acquiescence, subservience and conformity. It fosters not just a willingness, but an eagerness to submit to any authority promising to keep you safe from the threat and to banish and silence anyone dissenting from their decrees, on the ground that dissent is not just wrong but dangerous. What happened on January 6 was ugly and disturbing. But it was nowhere near an insurrection, a coup, or anything threatening in a fundamental or sustained way. That core truth — that it was a protest that turned into a three-hour riot killing nobody except four of the protesters — destroys its value. Only the false narrative that has been constructed over the last year and consecrated by today's inane festivities can convert this banal episode into some world-historic event that at once makes heroes out of those who were there to oppose it and justifies everything and anything done in the name of preventing its repetition. To support the independent journalism we are doing here, please subscribe, obtain a gift subscription for others and/or share the article Tyler Durden Thu, 01/06/2022 - 20:20.....»»

Category: smallbizSource: nytJan 6th, 2022

January 6: A Legacy Of Troubling Questions

January 6: A Legacy Of Troubling Questions Authored by Joseph Hannemann via The Epoch Times, The hardened-steel baton made the most disturbing sound as it bounced off Victoria White’s skull. It varied between a hollow click and a deeper snap, depending on where on her head the metal weapon made contact. “Please don’t beat her!” a man in the crowd yelled. It was chaos in the West Terrace tunnel entrance of the U.S. Capitol on the afternoon of Jan. 6, 2021. Outside, thousands who had attended President Donald Trump’s “Save America” rally milled about the terrace, while groups of rioters battled police near the tunnel. An almost demonic cacophony emanated from under the tunnel arch. “I didn’t even touch you,” a woman cried. “I need help! I need help,” a man shouted. “Stand up, dammit!” intoned a police officer in riot gear. “Get out!” boomed another. Then a blood-curdling scream, followed by the ear-splitting sound of an emergency siren. Victoria White appears prone or near-collapse in several parts of a five-minute video. (Screen Captures/Joseph McBride) After repeatedly striking White in the head, the officer in white holstered his baton. Then he made a fist with his bare left hand and punched White in the face. “Oh, no-no-no! Please! Please don’t beat her!” someone shouted, to no effect. After three full-force knuckle shots to White’s head, the officer in white paused. Then he went in for two more blows. He grabbed the hair at the back of her head and pulled it hard. White looked dazed and confused. She wore a blank stare. Another officer reached in with his baton in an apparent attempt to prevent more blows. The officer in white grabbed his colleague’s arm and shoved it back at him. The almost unbelievable violence meted out on the unarmed, 5-foot-4-inch White provides a stark contrast to the often-preached narrative that Jan. 6 was strictly an insurrection carried out by mobs of Trump supporters wanting to overthrow the government. White was a victim of brutality. Her lawyer is preparing a civil suit. Hers is one of the hidden stories of Jan. 6, exposed only after a federal judge ordered that three hours of surveillance video held by the U.S. Department of Justice be released to White’s attorney. Political Divide Widens The voluminous media coverage in the weeks leading up to the one-year anniversary of Jan. 6 demonstrates the substantial and growing divide between Americans of differing political stripes. The prevailing narrative is that supporters of Trump, whipped into a frenzy by his Jan. 6 speech at the Ellipse, descended on the U.S. Capitol in a violent attempt to upend democracy. A large crowd of Trump supporters—estimates ranged from 30,000 on the low end to 2 million on the high end—crowded the Ellipse to hear the president rail against the 2020 presidential election. Trump contended, along with millions of supporters, that widespread election fraud in key states like Pennsylvania, Michigan, Georgia, Arizona, and Wisconsin had robbed him of a second term and placed Democrat Joe Biden in an illegitimate presidency. The speech started approximately an hour later than scheduled. Well before Trump concluded his remarks, a group of protesters breached a lightly guarded barrier on the Capitol’s pedestrian walkway. They quickly headed for the Capitol building. By the time the throngs of rally-goers made the long walk to the Capitol grounds, the perimeter fencing and security signs indicating the site was restricted had been methodically removed. As tens of thousands of protesters surrounded the Capitol, pockets of violence broke out. Windows were broken, and protesters climbed inside, just after 2 p.m. At other entrances, protesters found doors propped open and proceeded inside like tourists. The circumstances of the worst violence are hotly contested, but the results were real. Trump supporter Ashli Babbitt, 35, was shot and killed by a Capitol Police officer as she attempted to enter the Speaker’s Lobby. White and others were beaten by police in or near the West Terrace tunnel, attorneys say. Aaron Babbitt with his wife, Ashli, who was killed at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. “She loved life,” he said. (Courtesy of Aaron Babbitt) Some 140 police were injured during battles with rioters. Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick died on Jan. 7, 2021, although his death was eventually determined to be from natural causes. Capitol Police Officer Howard Liebengood and Washington Metropolitan Police Officer Jeffrey Smith—both of whom were on duty at the Capitol—took their own lives in the weeks after Jan. 6. President Joe Biden described Jan. 6 as the “worst attack on our democracy since the Civil War.” The Associated Press asserted it was “the most sustained attack on the seat of American democracy since the War of 1812.” Steven Sund, former U.S. Capitol Police chief, called it “a coordinated violent attack on the United States Capitol by thousands of well-equipped armed insurrectionists.” Many Americans don’t see those words as hyperbole, insisting Trump-fueled mobs fully intended to disrupt the U.S. Congress and overthrow the federal government. Across the political chasm are those who reject that dominant narrative, and assert that while Jan. 6 was many things, it was no insurrection. They view that characterization as a convenient way to suppress the truth. The real Jan. 6 story, they believe, remains hidden on some 14,000 hours of surveillance video from around the Capitol grounds. Portions of that video will undoubtedly be unsealed as some of the more than 725 people arrested for alleged Jan. 6-related crimes go on trial. Whatever the chaos of that infamous day is called, one thing seems clear. The full Jan. 6 story hasn’t been told. One year later, the legacy of Jan. 6 is a trail of troubling questions—the answers to which could rock American politics and deepen the divide between its citizens. Is There Evidence of Treason or Sedition? In response to the violence at the Capitol, the FBI launched one of the most sweeping investigations in its history. Agents pored over cell phone video, social media postings, surveillance video, and police bodycam footage to identify those who were at the Capitol that day. The FBI opened a national tip line and posted videos and photographs of protesters. Tips came from many sources, including neighbors and family members who turned in their relatives. Of the more than 725 people arrested over the past year, no one was charged with treason or sedition. At least 225 defendants were charged with assaulting, resisting, or impeding police, including 75 who allegedly used a deadly or dangerous weapon, or caused serious bodily injury to an officer. Two men climb over other protesters and lunge at police officers guarding the entrance to the West Terrace tunnel at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. (Screen Capture via The Epoch Times) The most common charge issued by federal prosecutors—involving 640 individuals—was for entering or remaining in a restricted federal building or grounds. About 40 percent of all those arrested were charged with impeding or attempting to impede an official proceeding—the certification of the Electoral College votes from the 2020 presidential election. Of the 165 people who have pleaded guilty to date, nearly 90 percent of the cases involved misdemeanors. The rest were felonies. Are There Any Investigative Conclusions? House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) appointed a select committee to investigate the Jan. 6 breach and subsequent violence. That group’s work is ongoing. Preliminary findings could be made public by summer. Republican House members are conducting their own probe, but complain that Democrats refuse to cooperate or share records with their GOP colleagues. The Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, and the Committee on Rules and Administration, issued a report on the Capitol breach that cited a range of intelligence and law enforcement failures that enabled the violence. Among the findings in the Senate report was that neither the FBI nor the Department of Homeland Security issued formal intelligence bulletins about the potential for violence at the Capitol on Jan. 6. The FBI’s Norfolk field office sent out a situational information report late on Jan. 5, warning of individuals traveling to Washington for “war” at the Capitol, but the agency overall didn’t view as credible online posts calling for violence. Capitol Police didn’t have a department-wide operational plan or staffing plan for the Jan. 6 joint session of Congress, the report said. It faulted a lack of training in civil disturbances and a failure to provide basic protective equipment to rank-and-file officers. Who Incited the Capitol Breach and Violence? Independent media and online sleuths sounded alarms about the presence of unindicted individuals among those who first breached the Capitol at about 12:50 p.m. These men played a central role in the breach, encouraged protesters to go to the Capitol, and directed people into the building. Yet they haven’t been arrested, indicted, or identified by the FBI as among the wanted. Who were they? A man—now known to be Ray Epps of Queen Creek, Arizona—was captured on video on Jan. 5, 2021, attempting to recruit Trump supporters to assault the Capitol the next day. “Tomorrow, we need to go into the Capitol,” Epps says, as seen in a video clip. “Into the Capitol!” A man near him says, “What?” and others are heard shouting, “No!” Then the crowd breaks into a chant: “Fed! Fed! Fed! Fed!”—accusing Epps of being a federal agent. Ray Epps seen on Jan. 5, 2021, trying to recruit men to attack the Capitol. They accuse him of being a federal agent. (CapitolPunishmentTheMovie.com/Bark at the Hole Productions) Epps gets into verbal sparring with some of the Trump supporters. “You’re counterproductive to our cause,” one young man shouts. Epps shouts back, staying on message: “It doesn’t matter. … That’s not what we’re here for. … You’re getting off the subject. … We’re here for another reason.” Another video shows Epps saying, “Tomorrow—I don’t even like to say it because I’ll be arrested,” prompting a man nearby to reply, “Then let’s not say it.” Epps responds: “I’ll say it. We need to go into the Capitol!” A young man in the crowd, wearing an American flag neck gaiter, replies, “I didn’t see that coming!” On Jan. 6, as crowds milled about the Washington Monument in long lines to get in to watch Trump’s speech, Epps could be heard shouting through a megaphone: “As soon as our president is done speaking, we are going to the Capitol, where our problems are. It’s that direction. Please spread the word!” Epps is seen again in video footage taken at the metal barricades outside the Capitol at 12:50 p.m., as a small crowd chants, “USA! USA!” He whispers something in the ear of a man wearing a backward Make America Great Again cap. A few seconds later, the young man helps push over the barricade as Epps steps back to watch. This first breach of the security perimeter was 20 minutes before Trump finished his speech. Epps is then seen sprinting with the crowd up the steps toward the Capitol. A few days after the Jan. 6 violence, the FBI placed a photo of Epps on a “Seeking Information” poster, asking for the public’s help in identifying those who breached the Capitol. He could be seen in Photograph No. 16. That photo has since been scrubbed from the FBI website. Ray Epps is shown at lower left on an early FBI wanted poster, but his photo has since been scrubbed from the FBI website. (FBI.gov/Wayback Machine) On the current list of 1,559 photographs of people the FBI wants to identify, there is no longer a No. 16. The list skips from Photograph No. 15 to Photograph No. 17. Epps hasn’t been arrested or charged. John Guandolo, a former FBI agent and counter-terrorism expert who was on the Capitol grounds on Jan. 6, said he saw FBI agents dressed as protesters. “For a good portion of the day, I was with law enforcement, FBI, etcetera,” Guandolo said in an interview for the documentary “Capitol Punishment.” “Guys would walk by, and we’d look at each other and be like, ‘Two more right there. Here comes another. There’s another one.’ They were everywhere.” Revolver, an alternative news outlet, identified others around the Capitol grounds who were active participants in the breach but whose photos weren’t included on the FBI’s wanted list. One man, wearing a grey Bulwark jacket, knit cap, and sunglasses, is seen on video rolling up the green plastic fencing around the security perimeter. He pulls up the stakes and removes the “Area Closed” signs. A man in a blue cap with a blue bullhorn is seen in multiple videos atop the media tower erected for the inauguration. Dubbed “Scaffold Commander” by online researchers, he barks out directives and encouragement for 90 minutes. “Don’t just stand there! Keep moving!” “Move forward! Help somebody over the wall!” Once the crowd filled in around the Capitol, Scaffold Commander switched gears. “We’re in! Come on! We gotta fill up the Capitol! Come now, we need help!” Revolver’s video investigation said that whether or not Epps and Scaffold Commander knew each other, their words and actions worked well together. “So we have Scaffold Commander directing the body of the crowd from the tower above, and Ray Epps directing the vanguard front-liners at the police line below,” the Dec. 18 story read. “Yet neither one of them has been prosecuted, nor is either presently ‘wanted’ by the FBI.” Revolver founder Darren Beattie took to Twitter to ask Epps to expose who his handlers were. “But now, it is time to think for yourself, Ray. Forget about your boat and your ranch and your grill. If you make the right move and tell the truth, you change everything,” Beattie wrote on Dec. 29. Neither Epps, the FBI, nor federal prosecutors have commented on Epps’s actions that day, on whether he worked for the FBI, or on why he hasn’t been indicted. Epps told an Arizona Republic reporter on Jan. 12, 2021, “I didn’t do anything wrong.” Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) asked Attorney General Merrick Garland on Oct. 21 to dispel concerns about the Epps videos, but Garland wouldn’t comment. I just played this video for AG Merrick Garland. He refused to comment on how many agents or assets of the federal government were present in the crowd on Jan 5th and 6th and how many entered the Capitol. pic.twitter.com/lvd9n4mMHK — Thomas Massie (@RepThomasMassie) October 21, 2021 “You’ve said this was one of the most sweeping investigations in history,” Massie said during a public hearing. “Have you seen that video, those frames from that video?” Garland began talking about a standing practice of not commenting on investigative specifics, before Massie interrupted him: “How many agents or assets of the federal government were present on January 6th, whether they agitated to go into the Capitol, and if any of them did?” Garland’s reply: “I’m not going to comment on an investigation that’s ongoing.” What Is the Significance of Unindicted Actors? Attorneys who represent Jan. 6 defendants say if Epps or other participants were FBI informants or agents, then it blows a hole in the idea that Trump supporters were solely responsible for violence at the Capitol. Participation by government actors could legally invalidate conspiracy charges, they say. Attorney Jonathon Moseley, who represents Jan. 6 defendant Kelly Meggs of Dunnellon, Florida, a member of the Oath Keepers, issued subpoenas to Epps, Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes, and other men who played visible roles on Jan. 6. As Meggs’s April trial on conspiracy charges approaches, Moseley wants to know why Epps was at the Trump rally and Capitol, and whether he was working for the government. Moseley said Epps was seen at the first breach of a police line at the pedestrian walkway, about 200 yards from the Capitol building. Video shows Epps as he appears to rush the makeshift barricade erected by police, “then stops short,” Moseley said. Ray Epps at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, shortly before pepper gas is shot into the crowd. “Been a long time,” he says after coughing. “Aah, I love it!” (Screen Capture/Rumble) “It’s like he’s head-faking people to rush with him, but then he never touches it,” he said. “A police officer falls—I think it may be a woman—and his immediate instinct is to go help her, and he thinks better of it and steps back. It really looks like he’s undercover.” Moseley said the involvement of government-paid actors in facilitating or inciting the breach of the Capitol complex would create reasonable doubt in just about any of the Jan. 6 cases. “There are legal consultants who keep emphasizing that, legally, you can’t conspire with the government. So if he’s working directly or indirectly for the government, then people are innocent of the conspiracy,” Moseley said. “It’s a legal rule. If there are 10 people conspiring and one of them is with the government, not only could it be entrapment, but it also may invalidate a conspiracy.” That type of legal issue has been raised in a Michigan case in which a group of men stand accused in federal court of a plot to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat. Defense attorneys recently filed a motion to dismiss the case, contending that government agents and informants concocted the kidnapping plan and pushed to convince the defendants to participate. Are Jan. 6 Detainees Political Prisoners? Third-world banana republics are notorious for terrible prison conditions and brutal treatment of the accused and convicted alike. Some lawyers, family members, and defendants believe the District of Columbia operates a jail that would be at home in any of those countries. The jail is sometimes called “DC-GITMO,” after the U.S.-run terrorist detention camp in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. The poor accommodations at the D.C. jail have long been the subject of discussion in the nation’s capital. The Washington Post said conditions there were “deplorable,” an ironic descriptor, considering who the jail’s primary occupants are these days. The issue got national attention in 2021 because of repeated allegations of brutal, abusive treatment of men accused of Jan. 6 crimes. A 28-page report issued in late 2021 by Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) said treatment of Jan. 6 detainees was “inhumane.” (Document Cover/Marjorie Taylor Greene) “American citizens are being tortured right now within five miles of the White House,” said Joseph McBride, a New York attorney who represents a half-dozen Jan. 6 defendants. “America does not punish its citizens pre-trial,” McBride wrote on Twitter. “Authoritarian regimes do.” McBride said his clients have suffered treatment that should never happen in America, all because they supported Trump by being at the U.S. Capitol on that fateful day. During incarceration, they’ve suffered—among other things—severe beatings by guards; the denial of medical attention, including medications for chemotherapy; and refusal of food, McBride said. Christopher Quaglin, charged with assaulting police officers during the riot, suffers from celiac disease, but the jail feeds him only food with gluten, McBride said. He has been refused medical treatment. “Yes, we are extremely concerned that he will die,” McBride wrote on Twitter on Dec. 27. Ted Hull, the superintendent of Northern Neck Regional Jail, where Quaglin is housed, said McBride’s assertions are wrong. Christopher Quaglin with his wife, Moria, who fears her husband could die without medical attention in federal custody. (Courtesy Quaglin Family) “Regardless of Mr. McBride’s fictitious assertions,” Hull told The Epoch Times, “inmate Quaglin is and has been receiving the appropriate dietitian-designed diet consistent with his specific dietary requirements and the appropriate level of medical services consistent with his diagnosis.” Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) toured the D.C. jail with Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) in November, then issued a 28-page report titled “Unusually Cruel.” The report said the conditions for the Jan. 6 detainees were “inhumane.” Couy Griffin, the founder of Cowboys for Trump who attended the Jan. 6 Trump rally and was on the Capitol grounds, never went inside the Capitol building. He was charged with entering and remaining in a restricted building, and disorderly and disruptive conduct in a restricted building. He was arrested and jailed, but eventually released while awaiting trial. “I spent the next nine days in that cell in total solitary confinement. No shower, no phone, no attorney,” Griffin said in the film “Capitol Punishment.” The guards, he said, often chanted “F Trump! F Trump!” and called him an “[expletive] white cracker.” He complained about his treatment to the deputy warden, who he said told him, “The only job these guards have is to keep your chest moving up and down.” Richard Barnett of Gravette, Arkansas, faced seven charges for his alleged actions on Jan. 6, including sitting in the office chair of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, captured in a now-iconic news photograph. One day during his four-month detention, Barnett experienced tightness in his chest and arm pain. He called for help, but the guard who responded only mocked and laughed at him. Barnett then called out to a female staff member, who said she would get help. “Richard [lay] there for a significant period of time—certainly enough for him to die,” read McBride’s report on jail conditions, which he sent to Amnesty International. After being given a medical checkup and returned to his cell, Barnett fell asleep. A guard began pounding on the glass door to his cell, jolting him awake so quickly he stood up and then fainted, hitting his head on the sink. Now bleeding from a head wound, Barnett screamed for an hour before help came, the report said. One day, Barnett’s cell door opened, and some nine officers entered, cuffing his wrists and shackling his legs. Guards violently shook him back and forth, lifted him off his feet by the shackles, and slammed him headfirst into the concrete floor, according to McBride’s report, a copy of which was also sent to the American Civil Liberties Union. The U.S. Marshals Service conducted a surprise inspection of the D.C. jail facilities in October and interviewed 300 detainees. Conditions at the jail “do not meet the minimum standards of confinement,” the Marshals report said. As a result, the Marshals Service removed all of its detainees and transferred them to facilities in the federal Bureau of Prisons. This didn’t include the Jan. 6 detainees. Emery Nelson, spokesperson for the Bureau of Prisons, said the agency doesn’t comment on “anecdotal allegations” or provide information about individual inmates. “The Bureau of Prisons (BOP) is committed to accommodating the needs of federal offenders and ensuring the safety and security of all inmates in our population, our staff, and the public,” Nelson said. “The BOP takes seriously our duty to protect the individuals entrusted in our care.” Who Died at the Capitol on Jan. 6? One person was killed at the hands of U.S. Capitol Police, and police action might have contributed to the death of two others, but the four other deaths related to Jan. 6 were either from natural causes or suicides. Ashli Babbitt was shot in the left shoulder and killed as she crawled through a broken window at the entry to the Speaker’s Lobby. Ashli’s husband, Aaron Babbitt, said a careful examination of video footage from the hallway indicates Ashli was upset with rioters who smashed glass in the double doors. He thinks she panicked and sought escape through the window, only to be shot by Lt. Michael Byrd as a result. She was unarmed and presented no threat to anyone, Aaron Babbitt said. Capitol Police Lt. Michael Byrd aims his Glock 22 at the window where Ashli Babbitt was about to appear. (CapitolPunishmentTheMovie/Bark at the Hole Productions) Rosanne Boyland, 34, of Georgia, died in or near the West Terrace tunnel at the Capitol. McBride says surveillance video shows Boyland was beaten by a police officer as she lay on the ground. The D.C. medical examiner ruled the death accidental: intoxication from a prescription medication. Kevin Greeson, 51, of Georgia, died on the Capitol grounds of a heart attack brought on by cardiovascular disease, the medical examiner ruled. Benjamin Phillips, 50, of Pennsylvania, died of atherosclerosis, heart disease characterized by fatty plaques that build up in the arteries, the medical examiner ruled. Of the three police officers who died in the weeks following Jan. 6, Sicknick died from natural causes, and Liebengood and Smith died from suicide. Did Democrats Weaponize Jan. 6? Rep. Rodney Davis (R-Ill.), ranking member of the Committee on House Administration, accused House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and House Democrats of “weaponizing events of January 6th against their political adversaries.” Davis sent a letter to Pelosi on Jan. 3, 2022, complaining that House Democrats repeatedly obstructed attempts by Republican lawmakers to investigate security vulnerabilities at the U.S. Capitol before and during Jan. 6 violence. The obstruction came through denial of House records and ignoring repeated requests for documents, Davis wrote. “Unfortunately, over the past twelve months, House Democrats have been more interested in exploiting the events of January 6th for political purposes than in conducting basic oversight of the security vulnerabilities exposed that day,” Davis wrote. Specifically, lawmakers want to know about a request that former U.S. Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund said he made to then-House Sergeant-at-Arms Paul Irving prior to Jan. 6 for “the assistance of the National Guard,” Davis wrote. Sund reported that Irving was “concerned about the ‘optics’ of a National Guard presence at the Capitol.” During violence on Jan. 6, when Sund asked about getting authorization for the National Guard, Irving responded that he “needed to run it up the chain of command,” the letter said. Former U.S. Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund testifies at a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs and Senate Rules and Administration committees joint hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington on Feb. 23, 2021. (Erin Scott/Pool/AFP via Getty Images) In February 2021 testimony before the U.S. Senate, Irving denied Sund’s claims. Republican lawmakers then requested access to Irving’s communications to substantiate that denial. Davis said he wrote to House General Counsel Douglas Letter to request those records, but Letter never replied. “Both the Sergeant at Arms and the chief administration officer failed to produce any documents to Republicans pursuant to our requests,” Davis wrote, “suggesting that these House officers may be providing documents only to Democrats on a partisan basis.” Davis said Republicans want to know why Sund’s Jan. 4, 2021, request for National Guard support on Jan. 6 was denied, and whether Pelosi or her staff ordered the refusal. They also want to know what conversations occurred during Capitol violence on Jan. 6, when Sund again asked for National Guard help. Finally, they want to know why the select committee on Jan. 6, appointed by Pelosi, won’t examine the speaker’s role “in ensuring the proper House security preparations,” the letter said. When asked whether the speaker had responded to Davis, Henry Connelly, Pelosi’s communications director, referred The Epoch Times to a statement issued by House Administration Committee Chair Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.). “The Ranking Member’s letter is pure revisionist fiction. The Chief Administrative Officer and House Sergeant at Arms have already notified Ranking Member Davis they are complying with preservation requests and will fully cooperate with various law enforcement investigations and bonafide congressional inquiries,” Lofgren said in the statement. From the inception of the Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol, Republican leadership discounted its work because Pelosi rejected two of the five Republicans chosen by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) for the probe. McCarthy then withdrew his picks. Pelosi appointed Reps. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) and Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) to serve on the nine-member panel. The select committee could issue at least an interim report by mid-2022 and a final report in the fall, committee sources told several media outlets. Committee chairman Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) said in December that there was no set schedule for public hearings to release the group’s findings. The Epoch Times asked the Department of Justice for comment on the presence of federal agents on Jan. 6, but didn’t receive a reply by press time. The Epoch Times contacted Epps through his business for comment, but didn’t receive a reply by press time. Tyler Durden Thu, 01/06/2022 - 16:20.....»»

Category: blogSource: zerohedgeJan 6th, 2022

2021 Greatest Hits: The Most Popular Articles Of The Past Year And A Look Ahead

2021 Greatest Hits: The Most Popular Articles Of The Past Year And A Look Ahead One year ago, when looking at the 20 most popular stories of 2020, we said that the year would be a very tough act to follow as there "could not have been more regime shifts, volatility moments, and memes than 2020." And yet despite the exceedingly high bar for 2021, the year did not disappoint and proved to be a successful contender, and if judging by the sheer breadth of narratives, stories, surprises, plot twists and unexpected developments, 2021 was even more memorable and event-filled than 2020. Where does one start? While covid was the story of 2020, the pandemic that emerged out of a (Fauci-funded) genetic lab team in Wuhan, China dominated newsflow, politics and capital markets for the second year in a row. And while the biggest plot twist of 2020 was Biden's victory over Trump in the presidential election (it took the pandemic lockdowns and mail-in ballots to hand the outcome to Biden), largely thanks to Covid, Biden failed to hold to his biggest presidential promise of defeating covid, and not only did he admit in late 2021 that there is "no Federal solution" to covid waving a white flag of surrender less than a year into his presidency, but following the recent emergence of the Xi, pardon Omicron variant, the number of covid cases in the US has just shattered all records. The silver lining is not only that deaths and hospitalizations have failed to follow the number of cases, but that the scaremongering narrative itself is starting to melt in response to growing grassroots discontent with vaccine after vaccine and booster after booster, which by now it is clear, do nothing to contain the pandemic. And now that it is clear that omicron is about as mild as a moderate case of the flu, the hope has finally emerged that this latest strain will finally kill off the pandemic as it becomes the dominant, rapidly-spreading variant, leading to worldwide herd immunity thanks to the immune system's natural response. Yes, it may mean billions less in revenue for Pfizer and Moderna, but it will be a colossal victory for the entire world. The second biggest story of 2021 was undoubtedly the scourge of soaring inflation, which contrary to macrotourist predictions that it would prove "transitory", refused to do so and kept rising, and rising, and rising, until it hit levels not seen since the Volcker galloping inflation days of the 1980s. The only difference of course is that back then, the Fed Funds rate hit 20%. Now it is at 0%, and any attempts to hike aggressively will lead to a horrific market crash, something the Fed knows very well. Whether this was due to supply-chain blockages and a lack of goods and services pushing prices higher, or due to massive stimulus pushing demand for goods - and also prices - higher, or simply the result of a record injection of central bank liquidity into the system, is irrelevant but what does matter is that it got so bad that even Biden, facing a mauling for his Democratic party in next year's midterm elections, freaked out about soaring prices and pushed hard to lower the price of gasoline, ordering releases from the US Strategic Petroleum Reserve and vowing to punish energy companies that dare to make a profit, while ordering Powell to contain the surge in prices even if means the market is hit. Unfortunately for Biden, the market will be hit even as inflation still remain red hot for much of the coming year. And speaking of markets, while 2022 may be a year when the piper finally gets paid, 2021 was yet another blockbuster year for risk assets, largely on the back of the continued global response to the 2020 covid pandemic, when as we wrote last year, we saw "the official arrival of global Helicopter Money, tens of trillions in fiscal and monetary stimulus, an overhaul of the global economy punctuated by an unprecedented explosion in world debt, an Orwellian crackdown on civil liberties by governments everywhere, and ultimately set the scene for what even the World Economic Forum called simply "The Great Reset." Yes, the staggering liquidity injections that started in 2020, continued throughout 2021 and the final tally is that after $3 trillion in emergency liquidity injections in the immediate aftermath of the pandemic to stabilize the world, the Fed injected almost $2 trillion in the subsequent period, of which $1.5 trillion in 2021, a year where economists were "puzzled" why inflation was soaring. This, of course, excludes the tens of trillions of monetary stimulus injected by other central banks as well as the boundless fiscal stimulus that was greenlighted with the launch of helicopter money (i.e., MMT) in 2020. It's also why with inflation running red hot and real rates the lowest they have ever been, everyone was forced to rush into the "safety" of stocks (or stonks as they came to be known among GenZ), and why after last year's torrid stock market returns, the S&P rose another 27% in 2021 and up a staggering 114% from the March 2020 lows, in the process trouncing all previous mega-rallies (including those in 1929, 1938, 1974 and 2009)... ... making this the third consecutive year of double-digit returns. This reminds us of something we said last year: "it's almost as if the world's richest asset owners requested the covid pandemic." A year later, we got confirmation for this rhetorical statement, when we calculated that in the 18 months since the covid pandemic, the richest 1% of US society have seen their net worth increase by over $30 trillion. As a result, the US is now officially a banana republic where the middle 60% of US households by income - a measure economists use as a definition of the middle class - saw their combined assets drop from 26.7% to 26.6% of national wealth as of June, the lowest in Federal Reserve data, while for the first time the super rich had a bigger share, at 27%. Yes, the 1% now own more wealth than the entire US middle class, a definition traditionally reserve for kleptocracies and despotic African banana republics. It wasn't just the rich, however: politicians the world over would benefit from the transition from QE to outright helicopter money and MMT which made the over monetization of deficits widely accepted in the blink of an eye. The common theme here is simple: no matter what happens, capital markets can never again be allowed to drop, regardless of the cost or how much more debt has to be incurred. Indeed, as we look back at the news barrage over the past year, and past decade for that matter, the one thing that becomes especially clear amid the constant din of markets, of politics, of social upheaval and geopolitical strife - and now pandemics -  in fact a world that is so flooded with constant conflicting newsflow and changing storylines that many now say it has become virtually impossible to even try to predict the future, is that despite the people's desire for change, for something original and untried, the world's established forces will not allow it and will fight to preserve the broken status quo at any price - even global coordinated shutdowns - which is perhaps why it always boils down to one thing - capital markets, that bedrock of Western capitalism and the "modern way of life", where control, even if it means central planning the likes of which have not been seen since the days of the USSR, and an upward trajectory must be preserved at all costs, as the alternative is a global, socio-economic collapse. And since it is the daily gyrations of stocks that sway popular moods the interplay between capital markets and politics has never been more profound or more consequential. The more powerful message here is the implicit realization and admission by politicians, not just Trump who had a penchant of tweeting about the S&P every time it rose, but also his peers on both sides of the aisle, that the stock market is now seen as the consummate barometer of one's political achievements and approval. Which is also why capital markets are now, more than ever, a political tool whose purpose is no longer to distribute capital efficiently and discount the future, but to manipulate voter sentiments far more efficiently than any fake Russian election interference attempt ever could. Which brings us back to 2021 and the past decade, which was best summarized by a recent Bill Blain article who said that "the last 10-years has been a story of massive central banking distortion to address the 2008 crisis. Now central banks face the consequences and are trapped. The distortion can’t go uncorrected indefinitely." He is right: the distortion will eventually collapse especially if the Fed follows through with its attempt rate hikes some time in mid-2020, but so far the establishment and the "top 1%" have been successful - perhaps the correct word is lucky - in preserving the value of risk assets: on the back of the Fed's firehose of liquidity the S&P500 returned an impressive 27% in 2021, following a 15.5% return in 2020 and 28.50% in 2019. It did so by staging the greatest rally off all time from the March lows, surpassing all of the 4 greatest rallies off the lows of the past century (1929,1938, 1974, and 2009). Yet this continued can-kicking by the establishment - all of which was made possible by the covid pandemic and lockdowns which served as an all too convenient scapegoat for the unprecedented response that served to propel risk assets (and fiat alternatives such as gold and bitcoin) to all time highs - has come with a price... and an increasingly higher price in fact. As even Bank of America CIO Michael Hartnett admits, Fed's response to the the pandemic "worsened inequality" as the value of financial assets - Wall Street -  relative to economy - Main Street - hit all-time high of 6.3x. And while the Fed was the dynamo that has propelled markets higher ever since the Lehman collapse, last year certainly had its share of breakout moments. Here is a sampling. Gamestop and the emergence of meme stonks and the daytrading apes: In January markets were hypnotized by the massive trading volumes, rolling short squeezes and surging share prices of unremarkable established companies such as consoles retailer GameStop and cinema chain AMC and various other micro and midcap names. What began as a discussion on untapped value at GameStop on Reddit months earlier by Keith Gill, better known as Roaring Kitty, morphed into a hedge fund-orchestrated, crowdsourced effort to squeeze out the short position held by a hedge fund, Melvin Capital. The momentum flooded through the retail market, where daytraders shunned stocks and bought massive out of the money calls, sparking rampant "gamma squeezes" in the process forcing some brokers to curb trading. Robinhood, a popular broker for day traders and Citadel's most lucrative "subsidiary", required a cash injection to withstand the demands placed on it by its clearing house. The company IPOed later in the year only to see its shares collapse as it emerged its business model was disappointing hollow absent constant retail euphoria. Ultimately, the market received a crash course in the power of retail investors on a mission. Ultimately, "retail favorite" stocks ended the year on a subdued note as the trading frenzy from earlier in the year petered out, but despite underperforming the S&P500, retail traders still outperformed hedge funds by more than 100%. Failed seven-year Treasury auction:  Whereas auctions of seven-year US government debt generally spark interest only among specialists, on on February 25 2021, one such typically boring event sparked shockwaves across financial markets, as the weakest demand on record hit prices across the whole spectrum of Treasury bonds. The five-, seven- and 10-year notes all fell sharply in price. Researchers at the Federal Reserve called it a “flash event”; we called it a "catastrophic, tailing" auction, the closest thing the US has had to a failed Trasury auction. The flare-up, as the FT put it, reflects one of the most pressing investor concerns of the year: inflation. At the time, fund managers were just starting to realize that consumer price rises were back with a vengeance — a huge threat to the bond market which still remembers the dire days of the Volcker Fed when inflation was about as high as it is today but the 30Y was trading around 15%. The February auaction also illustrated that the world’s most important market was far less liquid and not as structurally robust as investors had hoped. It was an extreme example of a long-running issue: since the financial crisis the traditional providers of liquidity, a group of 24 Wall Street banks, have pulled back because of higher costs associated with post-2008 capital requirements, while leaving liquidity provision to the Fed. Those banks, in their reduced role, as well as the hedge funds and high-frequency traders that have stepped into their place, have tended to withdraw in moments of market volatility. Needless to say, with the Fed now tapering its record QE, we expect many more such "flash" episodes in the bond market in the year ahead. The arch ego of Archegos: In March 2021 several banks received a brutal reminder that some of family offices, which manage some $6 trillion in wealth of successful billionaires and entrepreneurs and which have minimal reporting requirements, take risks that would make the most serrated hedge fund manager wince, when Bill Hwang’s Archegos Capital Management imploded in spectacular style. As we learned in late March when several high-flying stocks suddenly collapsed, Hwang - a former protege of fabled hedge fund group Tiger Management - had built up a vast pile of leverage using opaque Total Return Swaps with a handful of banks to boost bets on a small number of stocks (the same banks were quite happy to help despite Hwang’s having been barred from US markets in 2013 over allegations of an insider-trading scheme, as he paid generously for the privilege of borrowing the banks' balance sheet). When one of Archegos more recent bets, ViacomCBS, suddenly tumbled it set off a liquidation cascade that left banks including Credit Suisse and Nomura with billions of dollars in losses. Conveniently, as the FT noted, the damage was contained to the banks rather than leaking across financial markets, but the episode sparked a rethink among banks over how to treat these clients and how much leverage to extend. The second coming of cryptos: After hitting an all time high in late 2017 and subsequently slumping into a "crypto winter", cryptocurrencies enjoyed a huge rebound in early 2021 which sent their prices soaring amid fears of galloping inflation (as shown below, and contrary to some financial speculation, the crypto space has traditionally been a hedge either to too much liquidity or a hedge to too much inflation). As a result, Bitcoin rose to a series of new record highs that culminated at just below $62,000, nearly three times higher than their previous all time high. But the smooth ride came to a halt in May when China’s crackdown on the cryptocurrency and its production, or “mining”, sparked the first serious crash of 2021. The price of bitcoin then collapsed as much as 30% on May 19, hitting a low of $30,000 amid a liquidation of levered positions in chaotic trading conditions following a warning from Chinese authorities of tighter curbs ahead. A public acceptance by Tesla chief and crypto cheerleader Elon Musk of the industry’s environmental impact added to the declines. However, as with all previous crypto crashes, this one too proved transitory, and prices resumed their upward trajectory in late September when investors started to price in the launch of futures-based bitcoin exchange traded funds in the US. The launch of these contracts subsequently pushed bitcoin to a new all-time high in early November before prices stumbled again in early December, this time due to a rise in institutional ownership when an overall drop in the market dragged down cryptos as well. That demonstrated the growing linkage between Wall Street and cryptocurrencies, due to the growing sway of large investors in digital markets. China's common prosperity crash: China’s education and tech sectors were one of the perennial Wall Street darlings. Companies such as New Oriental, TAL Education as well as Alibaba and Didi had come to be worth billions of dollars after highly publicized US stock market flotations. So when Beijing effectively outlawed swaths of the country’s for-profit education industry in July 2021, followed by draconian anti-trust regulations on the country's fintech names (where Xi Jinping also meant to teach the country's billionaire class a lesson who is truly in charge), the short-term market impact was brutal. Beijing’s initial measures emerged as part of a wider effort to make education more affordable as part of president Xi Jinping’s drive for "common prosperity" but that quickly raised questions over whether growth prospects across corporate China are countered by the capacity of the government to overhaul entire business models overnight. Sure enough, volatility stemming from the education sector was soon overshadowed by another set of government reforms related to common prosperity, a crackdown on leverage across the real estate sector where the biggest casualty was Evergrande, the world’s most indebted developer. The company, whose boss was not long ago China's 2nd richest man, was engulfed by a liquidity crisis in the summer that eventually resulted in a default in early December. Still, as the FT notes, China continues to draw in huge amounts of foreign capital, pushing the Chinese yuan to end 2021 at the strongest level since May 2018, a major hurdle to China's attempts to kickstart its slowing economy, and surely a precursor to even more monetary easing. Natgas hyperinflation: Natural gas supplanted crude oil as the world’s most important commodity in October and December as prices exploded to unprecedented levels and the world scrambled for scarce supplies amid the developed world's catastrophic transition to "green" energy. The crunch was particularly acute in Europe, which has become increasingly reliant on imports. Futures linked to TTF, the region’s wholesale gas price, hit a record €137 per megawatt hour in early October, rising more than 75%. In Asia, spot liquefied natural gas prices briefly passed the equivalent of more than $320 a barrel of oil in October. (At the time, Brent crude was trading at $80). A number of factors contributed, including rising demand as pandemic restrictions eased, supply disruptions in the LNG market and weather-induced shortfalls in renewable energy. In Europe, this was aggravated by plunging export volumes from Gazprom, Russia’s state-backed monopoly pipeline supplier, amid a bitter political fight over the launch of the Nordstream 2 pipeline. And with delays to the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline from Russia to Germany, analysts say the European gas market - where storage is only 66% full - a cold snap or supply disruption away from another price spike Turkey's (latest) currency crisis:  As the FT's Jonathan Wheatley writes, Recep Tayyip Erdogan was once a source of strength for the Turkish lira, and in his first five years in power from 2003, the currency rallied from TL1.6 per US dollar to near parity at TL1.2. But those days are long gone, as Erdogan's bizarre fascination with unorthodox economics, namely the theory that lower rates lead to lower inflation also known as "Erdoganomics", has sparked a historic collapse in the: having traded at about TL7 to the dollar in February, it has since fallen beyond TL17, making it the worst performing currency of 2021. The lira’s defining moment in 2021 came on November 18 when the central bank, in spite of soaring inflation, cut its policy rate for the third time since September, at Erdogan’s behest (any central banker in Turkey who disagrees with "Erdoganomics" is promptly fired and replaced with an ideological puppet). The lira recovered some of its losses in late December when Erdogan came up with the "brilliant" idea of erecting the infamous "doom loop" which ties Turkey's balance sheet to its currency. It has worked for now (the lira surged from TL18 against the dollar to TL12, but this particular band aid solution will only last so long). The lira’s problems are not only Erdogan’s doing. A strengthening dollar, rising oil prices, the relentless covid pandemic and weak growth in developing economies have been bad for other emerging market currencies, too, but as long as Erdogan is in charge, shorting the lira remains the best trade entering 2022. While these, and many more, stories provided a diversion from the boring existence of centrally-planned markets, we are confident that the trends observed in recent years will continue: coming years will be marked by even bigger government (because only more government can "fix" problems created by government), higher stock prices and dollar debasement (because only more Fed intervention can "fix" the problems created by the Fed), and a policy flip from monetary and QE to fiscal & MMT, all of which will keep inflation at scorching levels, much to the persistent confusion of economists everywhere. Of course, we said much of this last year as well, but while we got most trends right, we were wrong about one thing: we were confident that China's aggressive roll out of the digital yuan would be a bang - or as we put it "it is very likely that while 2020 was an insane year, it may prove to be just an appetizer to the shockwaves that will be unleashed in 2021 when we see the first stage of the most historic overhaul of the fiat payment system in history" - however it turned out to be a whimper. A big reason for that was that the initial reception of the "revolutionary" currency was nothing short of disastrous, with Chinese admitting they were "not at all excited" about the prospect of yet one more surveillance mechanism for Beijing, because that's really what digital currencies are: a way for central banks everywhere to micromanage and scrutinize every single transaction, allowing the powers that be to demonetize any one person - or whole groups - with the flick of a switch. Then again, while digital money may not have made its triumphant arrival in 2021, we are confident that the launch date has merely been pushed back to 2022 when the rollout of the next monetary revolution is expected to begin in earnest. Here we should again note one thing: in a world undergoing historic transformations, any free press must be throttled and controlled, and over the past year we have seen unprecedented efforts by legacy media and its corporate owners, as well as the new "social media" overlords do everything in their power to stifle independent thought. For us it had been especially "personal" on more than one occasions. Last January, Twitter suspended our account because we dared to challenge the conventional narrative about the source of the Wuhan virus. It was only six months later that Twitter apologized, and set us free, admitting it had made a mistake. Yet barely had twitter readmitted us, when something even more unprecedented happened: for the first time ever (to our knowledge) Google - the world's largest online ad provider and monopoly - demonetized our website not because of any complaints about our writing but because of the contents of our comment section. It then held us hostage until we agreed to implement some prerequisite screening and moderation of the comments section. Google's action was followed by the likes of PayPal, Amazon, and many other financial and ad platforms, who rushed to demonetize and suspend us simply because they disagreed with what we had to say. This was a stark lesson in how quickly an ad-funded business can disintegrate in this world which resembles the dystopia of 1984 more and more each day, and we have since taken measures. One year ago, for the first time in our 13 year history, we launched a paid version of our website, which is entirely ad and moderation free, and offers readers a variety of premium content. It wasn't our intention to make this transformation but unfortunately we know which way the wind is blowing and it is only a matter of time before the gatekeepers of online ad spending block us again. As such, if we are to have any hope in continuing it will come directly from you, our readers. We will keep the free website running for as long as possible, but we are certain that it is only a matter of time before the hammer falls as the censorship bandwagon rolls out much more aggressively in the coming year. That said, whether the story of 2022, and the next decade for that matter, is one of helicopter or digital money, of (hyper)inflation or deflation: what is key, and what we learned in the past decade, is that the status quo will throw anything at the problem to kick the can, it will certainly not let any crisis go to waste... even the deadliest pandemic in over a century. And while many already knew that, the events of 2021 made it clear to a fault that not even a modest market correction can be tolerated going forward. After all, if central banks aim to punish all selling, then the logical outcome is to buy everything, and investors, traders and speculators did just that armed with the clearest backstop guarantee from the Fed, which in the deapths of the covid crash crossed the Rubicon when it formally nationalized the bond market as it started buying both investment grade bonds and junk bond ETFs in the open market. As such it is no longer even a debatable issue if the Fed will buy stocks after the next crash - the only question is when. Meanwhile, for all those lamenting the relentless coverage of politics in a financial blog, why finance appears to have taken a secondary role, and why the political "narrative" has taken a dominant role for financial analysts, the past year showed vividly why that is the case: in a world where markets gyrated, and "rotated" from value stocks to growth and vice versa, purely on speculation of how big the next stimulus out of Washington will be, the narrative over Biden's trillions proved to be one of the biggest market moving events for much of the year. And with the Biden stimulus plan off the table for now, the Fed will find it very difficult to tighten financial conditions, especially if it does so just as the economy is slowing. Here we like to remind readers of one of our favorite charts: every financial crisis is the result of Fed tightening. As for predictions about the future, as the past two years so vividly showed, when it comes to actual surprises and all true "black swans", it won't be what anyone had expected. And so while many themes, both in the political and financial realm, did get some accelerated closure courtesy of China's covid pandemic, dramatic changes in 2021 persisted, and will continue to manifest themselves in often violent and unexpected ways - from the ongoing record polarization in the US political arena, to "populist" upheavals around the developed world, to the gradual transition to a global Universal Basic (i.e., socialized) Income regime, to China's ongoing fight with preserving stability in its gargantuan financial system which is now two and a half times the size of the US. As always, we thank all of our readers for making this website - which has never seen one dollar of outside funding (and despite amusing recurring allegations, has certainly never seen a ruble from the KGB either, although now that the entire Russian hysteria episode is over, those allegations have finally quieted down), and has never spent one dollar on marketing - a small (or not so small) part of your daily routine. Which also brings us to another critical topic: that of fake news, and something we - and others who do not comply with the established narrative - have been accused of. While we find the narrative of fake news laughable, after all every single article in this website is backed by facts and links to outside sources, it is clearly a dangerous development, and a very slippery slope that the entire developed world is pushing for what is, when stripped of fancy jargon, internet censorship under the guise of protecting the average person from "dangerous, fake information." It's also why we are preparing for the next onslaught against independent thought and why we had no choice but to roll out a premium version of this website. In addition to the other themes noted above, we expect the crackdown on free speech to accelerate in the coming year when key midterm elections will be held, especially as the following list of Top 20 articles for 2021 reveals, many of the most popular articles in the past year were precisely those which the conventional media would not touch out of fear of repercussions, which in turn allowed the alternative media to continue to flourish in an orchestrated information vacuum and take significant market share from the established outlets by covering topics which the public relations arm of established media outlets refused to do, in the process earning itself the derogatory "fake news" condemnation. We are grateful that our readers - who hit a new record high in 2021 - have realized it is incumbent upon them to decide what is, and isn't "fake news." * * * And so, before we get into the details of what has now become an annual tradition for the last day of the year, those who wish to jog down memory lane, can refresh our most popular articles for every year during our no longer that brief, almost 11-year existence, starting with 2009 and continuing with 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020. So without further ado, here are the articles that you, our readers, found to be the most engaging, interesting and popular based on the number of hits, during the past year. In 20th spot with 600,000 reads, was an article that touched on one of the most defining features of the market: the reflation theme the sparked a massive rally at the start of the year courtesy of the surprise outcome in the Georgia Senate race, where Democrats ended up wining both seats up for grabs, effectively giving the Dems a majority in both the House and the Senate, where despite the even, 50-seat split, Kamala Harris would cast the winning tie-breaker vote to pursue a historic fiscal stimulus. And sure enough, as we described in "Bitcoin Surges To Record High, Stocks & Bonds Battered As Dems Look Set To Take Both Georgia Senate Seats", with trillions in "stimmies" flooding both the economy and the market, not only did retail traders enjoy unprecedented returns when trading meme "stonks" and forcing short squeezes that crippled numerous hedge funds, but expectations of sharply higher inflation also helped push bitcoin and the entire crypto sector to new all time highs, which in turn legitimized the product across institutional investors and helped it reach a market cap north of $3 trillion.  In 19th spot, over 613,000 readers were thrilled to read at the start of September that "Biden Unveils Most Severe COVID Actions Yet: Mandates Vax For All Federal Workers, Contractors, & Large Private Companies." Of course, just a few weeks later much of Biden's mandate would be struck down in courts, where it is now headed to a decision by SCOTUS, while the constantly shifting "scientific" goal posts mean that just a few months later the latest set of CDC regulations have seen regulators and officials reverse the constant drone of fearmongering and are now even seeking to cut back on the duration of quarantine and other lockdown measures amid a public mood that is growing increasingly hostile to the government response. One of the defining political events of 2021 was the so-called "Jan 6 Insurrection", which the for America's conservatives was blown wildly out of proportion yet which the leftist media and Democrats in Congress have been periodically trying to push to the front pages in hopes of distracting from the growing list of failures of the Obama admin. Yet as we asked back in January, "Why Was Founder Of Far-Left BLM Group Filming Inside Capitol As Police Shot Protester?" No less than 614,000 readers found this question worthy of a response. Since then many more questions have emerged surrounding this event, many of which focus on what role the FBI had in organizing and encouraging this event, including the use of various informants and instigators. For now, a response will have to wait at least until the mid-term elections of 2022 when Republicans are expected to sweep one if not both chambers. Linked to the above, the 17th most read article of 2021 with 617,000 views, was an article we published on the very same day, which detailed that "Armed Protesters Begin To Arrive At State Capitols Around The Nation." At the end of the day, it was much ado about nothing and all protests concluded peacefully and without incident: perhaps the FBI was simply spread too thin? 2021 was a year defined by various waves of the covid pandemic which hammered poor Americans forced to hunker down at home and missing on pay, and crippled countless small mom and pop businesses. And yet, it was also a bonanza for a handful of pharma companies such as Pfizer and Moderna which made billions from the sale of "vaccines" which we now know do little if anything to halt the spread of the virus, and are instead now being pitched as palliatives, preventing a far worse clinical outcome. The same pharma companies also benefited from an unconditional indemnity, which surely would come in useful when the full side-effects of their mRNA-based therapies became apparent. One such condition to emerge was myocarditis among a subset of the vaxxed. And while the vaccines continue to be broadly rolled out across most developed nations, one place that said enough was Sweden. As over 620,000 readers found out in "Sweden Suspends Moderna Shot Indefinitely After Vaxxed Patients Develop Crippling Heart Condition", not every country was willing to use its citizens as experimental guniea pigs. This was enough to make the article the 16th most read on these pages, but perhaps in light of the (lack of) debate over the pros and cons of the covid vaccines, this should have been the most read article this year? Moving on to the 15th most popular article, 628,000 readers were shocked to learn that "Chase Bank Cancels General Mike Flynn's Credit Cards." The action, which was taken by the largest US bank due to "reputational risk" echoed a broad push by tech giants to deplatform and silence dissenting voices by literally freezing them out of the financial system. In the end, following widespread blowback from millions of Americans, JPMorgan reversed, and reactivated Flynn's cards saying the action was made in error, but unfortunately this is just one example of how those in power can lock out any dissenters with the flick of a switch. And while democrats cheer such deplatforming today, the political winds are fickle, and we doubt they will be as excited once they find themselves on the receiving end of such actions. And speaking of censorship and media blackouts, few terms sparked greater response from those in power than the term Ivermectin. Viewed by millions as a cheap, effective alternative to offerings from the pharmaceutical complex, social networks did everything in their power to silence any mention of a drug which the Journal of Antibiotics said in 2017 was an "enigmatic multifaceted ‘wonder’ drug which continues to surprise and exceed expectations." Nowhere was this more obvious than in the discussion of how widespread use of Ivermectin beat Covid in India, the topic of the 14th most popular article of 2021 "India's Ivermectin Blackout" which was read by over 653,000 readers. Unfortunately, while vaccines continue to fail upward and now some countries are now pushing with a 4th, 5th and even 6th vaccine, Ivermectin remains a dirty word. There was more covid coverage in the 13th most popular article of 2021, "Surprise Surprise - Fauci Lied Again": Rand Paul Reacts To Wuhan Bombshell" which was viewed no less than 725,000 times. Paul's reaction came following a report which revealed that Anthony Fauci's NIAID and its parent, the NIH, funded Gain-of-Function research in Wuhan, China, strongly hinting that the emergence of covid was the result of illicit US funding. Not that long ago, Fauci had called Paul a 'liar' for accusing him of funding the risky research, in which viruses are genetically modified or otherwise altered to make them more transmissible to humans. And while we could say that Paul got the last laugh, Fauci still remains Biden's top covid advisor, which may explain why one year after Biden vowed he would shut down the pandemic, the number of new cases just hit a new all time high. One hope we have for 2022 is that people will finally open their eyes... 2021 was not just about covid - soaring prices and relentless inflation were one of the most poignant topics. It got so bad that Biden's approval rating - and that of Democrats in general - tumbled toward the end of the year, putting their mid-term ambitions in jeopardy, as the public mood soured dramatically in response to the explosion in prices. And while one can debate whether it was due to supply-issues, such as the collapse in trans-pacific supply chains and the chronic lack of labor to grow the US infrastructure, or due to roaring demand sparked by trillions in fiscal stimulus, but when the "Big Short" Michael Burry warned that hyperinflation is coming, the people listened, and with over 731,000 reads, the 12th most popular article of 2021 was "Michael Burry Warns Weimar Hyperinflation Is Coming."  Of course, Burry did not say anything we haven't warned about for the past 12 years, but at least he got the people's attention, and even mainstream names such as Twitter founder Jack Dorsey agreed with him, predicting that bitcoin will be what is left after the dollar has collapsed. While hyperinflation may will be the endgame, the question remains: when. For the 11th most read article of 2021, we go back to a topic touched upon moments ago when we addressed the full-blown media campaign seeking to discredit Ivermectin, in this case via the D-grade liberal tabloid Rolling Stone (whose modern incarnation is sadly a pale shadow of the legend that house Hunter S. Thompson's unforgettable dispatches) which published the very definition of fake news when it called Ivermectin a "horse dewormer" and claimed that, according to a hospital employee, people were overdosing on it. Just a few hours later, the article was retracted as we explained in "Rolling Stone Issues 'Update' After Horse Dewormer Hit-Piece Debunked" and over 812,000 readers found out that pretty much everything had been a fabrication. But of course, by then it was too late, and the reputation of Ivermectin as a potential covid cure had been further tarnished, much to the relief of the pharma giants who had a carte blanche to sell their experimental wares. The 10th most popular article of 2021 brings us to another issue that had split America down the middle, namely the story surrounding Kyle Rittenhouse and the full-blown media campaign that declared the teenager guilty, even when eventually proven innocent. Just days before the dramatic acquittal, we learned that "FBI Sat On Bombshell Footage From Kyle Rittenhouse Shooting", which was read by over 822,000 readers. It was unfortunate to learn that once again the scandal-plagued FBI stood at the center of yet another attempt at mass misinformation, and we can only hope that one day this "deep state" agency will be overhauled from its core, or better yet, shut down completely. As for Kyle, he will have the last laugh: according to unconfirmed rumors, his numerous legal settlements with various media outlets will be in the tens if not hundreds of millions of dollars.  And from the great US social schism, we again go back to Covid for the 9th most popular article of 2021, which described the terrifying details of one of the most draconian responses to covid in the entire world: that of Australia. Over 900,000 readers were stunned to read that the "Australian Army Begins Transferring COVID-Positive Cases, Contacts To Quarantine Camps." Alas, the latest surge in Australian cases to nosebleed, record highs merely confirms that this unprecedented government lockdown - including masks and vaccines - is nothing more than an exercise in how far government can treat its population as a herd of sheep without provoking a violent response.  The 8th most popular article of 2021 looks at the market insanity of early 2021 when, at the end of January, we saw some of the most-shorted, "meme" stocks explode higher as the Reddit daytrading horde fixed their sights on a handful of hedge funds and spent billions in stimmies in an attempt to force unprecedented ramps. That was the case with "GME Soars 75% After-Hours, Erases Losses After Liquidity-Constrained Robinhood Lifts Trading Ban", which profiled the daytrading craze that gave an entire generation the feeling that it too could win in these manipulated capital markets. Then again, judging by the waning retail interest, it is possible that the excitement of the daytrading army is fading as rapidly as it first emerged, and that absent more "stimmies" markets will remain the playground of the rich and central banks. Kyle Rittenhouse may soon be a very rich man after the ordeal he went through, but the media's mission of further polarizing US society succeeded, and millions of Americans will never accept that the teenager was innocent. It's also why with just over 1 million reads, the 7th most read article on Zero Hedge this year was that "Portland Rittenhouse Protest Escalates Into Riot." Luckily, this is not a mid-term election year and there were no moneyed interests seeking to prolong this particular riot, unlike what happened in the summer of 2020... and what we are very much afraid will again happen next year when very critical elections are on deck.  With just over 1.03 million views, the 6th most popular post focused on a viral Twitter thread on Friday from Dr Robert Laone, which laid out a disturbing trend; the most-vaccinated countries in the world are experiencing  a surge in COVID-19 cases, while the least-vaccinated countries were not. As we originally discussed in ""This Is Worrying Me Quite A Bit": mRNA Vaccine Inventor Shares Viral Thread Showing COVID Surge In Most-Vaxxed Countries", this trend has only accelerated in recent weeks with the emergence of the Omicron strain. Unfortunately, instead of engaging in a constructive discussion to see why the science keeps failing again and again, Twitter's response was chilling: with just days left in 2021, it suspended the account of Dr. Malone, one of the inventors of mRNA technology. Which brings to mind something Aaron Rogers said: "If science can't be questioned it's not science anymore it's propaganda & that's the truth." In a year that was marked a flurry of domestic fiascoes by the Biden administration, it is easy to forget that the aged president was also responsible for the biggest US foreign policy disaster since Vietnam, when the botched evacuation of Afghanistan made the US laughing stock of the world after 12 US servicemembers were killed. So it's probably not surprising that over 1.1 million readers were stunned to watch what happened next, which we profiled in the 5th most popular post of 2021, where in response to the Afghan trajedy, "Biden Delivers Surreal Press Conference, Vows To Hunt Down Isis, Blames Trump." One person watching the Biden presser was Xi Jinping, who may have once harbored doubts about reclaiming Taiwan but certainly does not any more. The 4th most popular article of 2021 again has to do with with covid, and specifically the increasingly bizarre clinical response to the disease. As we detailed in "Something Really Strange Is Happening At Hospitals All Over America" while emergency rooms were overflowing, it certainly wasn't from covid cases. Even more curiously, one of the primary ailments leading to an onslaught on ERs across the nation was heart-related issues, whether arrhytmia, cardiac incidents or general heart conditions. We hope that one day there will be a candid discussion on this topic, but until then it remains one of the topics seen as taboo by the mainstream media and the deplatforming overlords, so we'll just leave it at that. We previously discussed the anti-Ivermectin narrative that dominated the mainstream press throughout 2021 and the 3rd most popular article of the year may hold clues as to why: in late September, pharma giant Pfizer and one of the two companies to peddle an mRNA based vaccine, announced that it's launching an accelerated Phase 2/3 trial for a COVID prophylactic pill designed to ward off COVID in those may have come in contact with the disease. And, as we described in "Pfizer Launches Final Study For COVID Drug That's Suspiciously Similar To 'Horse Paste'," 1.75 million readers learned that Pfizer's drug shared at least one mechanism of action as Ivermectin - an anti-parasitic used in humans for decades, which functions as a protease inhibitor against Covid-19, which researchers speculate "could be the biophysical basis behind its antiviral efficiency." Surely, this too was just another huge coincidence. In the second most popular article of 2021, almost 2 million readers discovered (to their "shock") that Fauci and the rest of Biden's COVID advisors were proven wrong about "the science" of COVID vaccines yet again. After telling Americans that vaccines offer better protection than natural infection, a new study out of Israel suggested the opposite is true: natural infection offers a much better shield against the delta variant than vaccines, something we profiled in "This Ends The Debate' - Israeli Study Shows Natural Immunity 13x More Effective Than Vaccines At Stopping Delta." We were right about one thing: anyone who dared to suggest that natural immunity was indeed more effective than vaccines was promptly canceled and censored, and all debate almost instantly ended. Since then we have had tens of millions of "breakout" cases where vaccinated people catch covid again, while any discussion why those with natural immunity do much better remains under lock and key. It may come as a surprise to many that the most read article of 2021 was not about covid, or Biden, or inflation, or China, or even the extremely polarized US congress (and/or society), but was about one of the most long-suffering topics on these pages: precious metals and their prices. Yes, back in February the retail mania briefly targeted silver and as millions of reddit daytraders piled in in hopes of squeezing the precious metal higher, the price of silver surged higher only to tumble just as quickly as it has risen as the seller(s) once again proved more powerful than the buyers. We described this in "Silver Futures Soar 8%, Rise Above $29 As Reddit Hordes Pile In", an article which some 2.4 million gold and silver bugs read with hope, only to see their favorite precious metals slump for much of the rest of the year. And yes, the fact that both gold and silver ended the year sharply lower than where they started even though inflation hit the highest level in 40 years, remains one of the great mysteries of 2021. With all that behind us, and as we wave goodbye to another bizarre, exciting, surreal year, what lies in store for 2022, and the next decade? We don't know: as frequent and not so frequent readers are aware, we do not pretend to be able to predict the future and we don't try despite endless allegations that we constantly predict the collapse of civilization: we leave the predicting to the "smartest people in the room" who year after year have been consistently wrong about everything, and never more so than in 2021 (even the Fed admitted it is clueless when Powell said it was time to retire the term "transitory"), which destroyed the reputation of central banks, of economists, of conventional media and the professional "polling" and "strategist" class forever, not to mention all those "scientists" who made a mockery of the "expertise class" with their bungled response to the covid pandemic. We merely observe, find what is unexpected, entertaining, amusing, surprising or grotesque in an increasingly bizarre, sad, and increasingly crazy world, and then just write about it. We do know, however, that after a record $30 trillion in stimulus was conjured out of thin air by the world's central banks and politicians in the past two years, the attempt to reverse this monetary and fiscal firehose in a world addicted to trillions in newly created liquidity now that central banks are freaking out after finally getting ot the inflation they were hoping to create for so long, will end in tears. We are confident, however, that in the end it will be the very final backstoppers of the status quo regime, the central banking emperors of the New Normal, who will eventually be revealed as fully naked. When that happens and what happens after is anyone's guess. But, as we have promised - and delivered - every year for the past 13, we will be there to document every aspect of it. Finally, and as always, we wish all our readers the best of luck in 2022, with much success in trading and every other avenue of life. We bid farewell to 2021 with our traditional and unwavering year-end promise: Zero Hedge will be there each and every day - usually with a cynical smile - helping readers expose, unravel and comprehend the fallacy, fiction, fraud and farce that defines every aspect of our increasingly broken system. Tyler Durden Sun, 01/02/2022 - 03:44.....»»

Category: personnelSource: nytJan 2nd, 2022

The Christmas Baby Born In A Police State: Then & Now

The Christmas Baby Born In A Police State: Then & Now Authored by John W. Whitehead & Nisha Whitehead via The Rutherford Institute, “When the song of the angels is stilled, when the star in the sky is gone, when the kings and princes are home, when the shepherds are back with their flocks, the work of Christmas begins: to find the lost, to heal the broken, to feed the hungry, to release the prisoner, to rebuild the nations, to bring peace among the people, to make music in the heart.” ― Howard Thurman The Christmas story of a baby born in a manger is a familiar one. The Roman Empire, a police state in its own right, had ordered that a census be conducted. Joseph and his pregnant wife Mary traveled to the little town of Bethlehem so that they could be counted. There being no room for the couple at any of the inns, they stayed in a stable (a barn), where Mary gave birth to a baby boy, Jesus. Warned that the government planned to kill the baby, Jesus’ family fled with him to Egypt until it was safe to return to their native land. Yet what if Jesus had been born 2,000 years later? What if, instead of being born into the Roman police state, Jesus had been born at this moment in time? What kind of reception would Jesus and his family be given? Would we recognize the Christ child’s humanity, let alone his divinity? Would we treat him any differently than he was treated by the Roman Empire? If his family were forced to flee violence in their native country and sought refuge and asylum within our borders, what sanctuary would we offer them? A singular number of churches across the country have asked those very questions in recent years, and their conclusions were depicted with unnerving accuracy by nativity scenes in which Jesus and his family are separated, segregated and caged in individual chain-link pens, topped by barbed wire fencing. Those nativity scenes were a pointed attempt to remind the modern world that the narrative about the birth of Jesus is one that speaks on multiple fronts to a world that has allowed the life, teachings and crucifixion of Jesus to be drowned out by partisan politics, secularism, materialism and war, all driven by a manipulative shadow government called the Deep State. The modern-day church has largely shied away from applying Jesus’ teachings to modern problems such as war, poverty, immigration, etc., but thankfully there have been individuals throughout history who ask themselves and the world: what would Jesus do? What would Jesus—the baby born in Bethlehem who grew into an itinerant preacher and revolutionary activist, who not only died challenging the police state of his day (namely, the Roman Empire) but spent his adult life speaking truth to power, challenging the status quo of his day, and pushing back against the abuses of the Roman Empire—do about the injustices of our  modern age? Dietrich Bonhoeffer asked himself what Jesus would have done about the horrors perpetrated by Hitler and his assassins. The answer: Bonhoeffer was executed by Hitler for attempting to undermine the tyranny at the heart of Nazi Germany. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn asked himself what Jesus would have done about the soul-destroying gulags and labor camps of the Soviet Union. The answer: Solzhenitsyn found his voice and used it to speak out about government oppression and brutality. Martin Luther King Jr. asked himself what Jesus would have done about America’s warmongering. The answer: declaring “my conscience leaves me no other choice,” King risked widespread condemnation as well as his life when he publicly opposed the Vietnam War on moral and economic grounds. Even now, despite the popularity of the phrase “What Would Jesus Do?” (WWJD) in Christian circles, there remains a disconnect in the modern church between the teachings of Christ and the suffering of what Jesus in Matthew 25 refers to as the “least of these.” Yet this is not a theological gray area: Jesus was unequivocal about his views on many things, not the least of which was charity, compassion, war, tyranny and love. After all, Jesus—the revered preacher, teacher, radical and prophet—was born into a police state not unlike the growing menace of the American police state. When he grew up, he had powerful, profound things to say, things that would change how we view people, alter government policies and change the world. “Blessed are the merciful,” “Blessed are the peacemakers,” and “Love your enemies” are just a few examples of his most profound and revolutionary teachings. When confronted by those in authority, Jesus did not shy away from speaking truth to power. Indeed, his teachings undermined the political and religious establishment of his day. It cost him his life. He was eventually crucified as a warning to others not to challenge the powers-that-be. Can you imagine what Jesus’ life would have been like if, instead of being born into the Roman police state, he had been born and raised in the American police state? Consider the following if you will. Had Jesus been born in the era of the America police state, rather than traveling to Bethlehem for a census, Jesus’ parents would have been mailed a 28-page American Community Survey, a mandatory government questionnaire documenting their habits, household inhabitants, work schedule, how many toilets are in your home, etc. The penalty for not responding to this invasive survey can go as high as $5,000. Instead of being born in a manger, Jesus might have been born at home. Rather than wise men and shepherds bringing gifts, however, the baby’s parents might have been forced to ward off visits from state social workers intent on prosecuting them for the home birth. One couple in Washington had all three of their children removed after social services objected to the two youngest being birthed in an unassisted home delivery. Had Jesus been born in a hospital, his blood and DNA would have been taken without his parents’ knowledge or consent and entered into a government biobank. While most states require newborn screening, a growing number are holding onto that genetic material long-term for research, analysis and purposes yet to be disclosed. Then again, had Jesus’ parents been undocumented immigrants, they and the newborn baby might have been shuffled to a profit-driven, private prison for illegals where they first would have been separated from each other, the children detained in make-shift cages, and the parents eventually turned into cheap, forced laborers for corporations such as Starbucks, Microsoft, Walmart, and Victoria’s Secret. There’s quite a lot of money to be made from imprisoning immigrants, especially when taxpayers are footing the bill. From the time he was old enough to attend school, Jesus would have been drilled in lessons of compliance and obedience to government authorities, while learning little about his own rights. Had he been daring enough to speak out against injustice while still in school, he might have found himself tasered or beaten by a school resource officer, or at the very least suspended under a school zero tolerance policy that punishes minor infractions as harshly as more serious offenses. Had Jesus disappeared for a few hours let alone days as a 12-year-old, his parents would have been handcuffed, arrested and jailed for parental negligence. Parents across the country have been arrested for far less “offenses” such as allowing their children to walk to the park unaccompanied and play in their front yard alone. Rather than disappearing from the history books from his early teenaged years to adulthood, Jesus’ movements and personal data—including his biometrics—would have been documented, tracked, monitored and filed by governmental agencies and corporations such as Google and Microsoft. Incredibly, 95 percent of school districts share their student records with outside companies that are contracted to manage data, which they then use to market products to us. From the moment Jesus made contact with an “extremist” such as John the Baptist, he would have been flagged for surveillance because of his association with a prominent activist, peaceful or otherwise. Since 9/11, the FBI has actively carried out surveillance and intelligence-gathering operations on a broad range of activist groups, from animal rights groups to poverty relief, anti-war groups and other such “extremist” organizations. Jesus’ anti-government views would certainly have resulted in him being labeled a domestic extremist. Law enforcement agencies are being trained to recognize signs of anti-government extremism during interactions with potential extremists who share a “belief in the approaching collapse of government and the economy.” While traveling from community to community, Jesus might have been reported to government officials as “suspicious” under the Department of Homeland Security’s “See Something, Say Something” programs. Many states, including New York, are providing individuals with phone apps that allow them to take photos of suspicious activity and report them to their state Intelligence Center, where they are reviewed and forwarded to law-enforcement agencies. Rather than being permitted to live as an itinerant preacher, Jesus might have found himself threatened with arrest for daring to live off the grid or sleeping outside. In fact, the number of cities that have resorted to criminalizing homelessness by enacting bans on camping, sleeping in vehicles, loitering and begging in public has doubled. Viewed by the government as a dissident and a potential threat to its power, Jesus might have had government spies planted among his followers to monitor his activities, report on his movements, and entrap him into breaking the law. Such Judases today—called informants—often receive hefty paychecks from the government for their treachery. Had Jesus used the internet to spread his radical message of peace and love, he might have found his blog posts infiltrated by government spies attempting to undermine his integrity, discredit him or plant incriminating information online about him. At the very least, he would have had his website hacked and his email monitored. Had Jesus attempted to feed large crowds of people, he would have been threatened with arrest for violating various ordinances prohibiting the distribution of food without a permit. Florida officials arrested a 90-year-old man for feeding the homeless on a public beach. Had Jesus spoken publicly about his 40 days in the desert and his conversations with the devil, he might have been labeled mentally ill and detained in a psych ward against his will for a mandatory involuntary psychiatric hold with no access to family or friends. One Virginia man was arrested, strip searched, handcuffed to a table, diagnosed as having “mental health issues,” and locked up for five days in a mental health facility against his will apparently because of his slurred speech and unsteady gait. Without a doubt, had Jesus attempted to overturn tables in a Jewish temple and rage against the materialism of religious institutions, he would have been charged with a hate crime. Currently, 45 states and the federal government have hate crime laws on the books. Had anyone reported Jesus to the police as being potentially dangerous, he might have found himself confronted—and killed—by police officers for whom any perceived act of non-compliance (a twitch, a question, a frown) can result in them shooting first and asking questions later. Rather than having armed guards capture Jesus in a public place, government officials would have ordered that a SWAT team carry out a raid on Jesus and his followers, complete with flash-bang grenades and military equipment. There are upwards of 80,000 such SWAT team raids carried out every year, many on unsuspecting Americans who have no defense against such government invaders, even when such raids are done in error. Instead of being detained by Roman guards, Jesus might have been made to “disappear” into a secret government detention center where he would have been interrogated, tortured and subjected to all manner of abuses. Chicago police have “disappeared” more than 7,000 people into a secret, off-the-books interrogation warehouse at Homan Square. Charged with treason and labeled a domestic terrorist, Jesus might have been sentenced to a life-term in a private prison where he would have been forced to provide slave labor for corporations or put to death by way of the electric chair or a lethal mixture of drugs. Indeed, as I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People and in its fictional counterpart The Erik Blair Diaries, given the nature of government then and now, it is painfully evident that whether Jesus had been born in our modern age or his own, he still would have died at the hands of a police state. Thus, as we draw near to Christmas with its celebration of miracles and promise of salvation, we would do well to remember that what happened in that manger on that starry night in Bethlehem is only the beginning of the story. That baby born in a police state grew up to be a man who did not turn away from the evils of his age but rather spoke out against it. We must do no less. Tyler Durden Sat, 12/25/2021 - 06:30.....»»

Category: dealsSource: nytDec 25th, 2021

A Tale Of Two Cities: Kenosha Vs. Waukesha

A Tale Of Two Cities: Kenosha Vs. Waukesha Authored by Victor Davis Hanson via AmGreatness.com, Both Wisconsin towns, Kenosha, and Waukesha, about 50 miles apart by car, were the recent sites of multiple deaths. The violence in both made national news. Yet in contradictory ways both reflected the common themes of America’s current legal, media, and societal corruption.   The relevant public prosecutors in both were in the news for alleged ideological bias. Specifically, they habitually calibrated the charging, indicting, and trying (or not) of defendants through ideological lenses and community pressure rather than on the basis of the facts and the law.   Kyle Rittenhouse was a 17-year-old armed youth who volunteered to protect business properties at the height of the August 2020 arson, riots, and looting in Kenosha. He was pursued and attacked by three members from a larger group who chased the armed youth, presumably either to disarm, injure, or kill him—or perhaps all three.  Rittenhouse variously was assaulted, kicked, and had a firearm pointed at him. In reaction, he fatally shot two of his pursuing attackers and wounded a third. Kenosha prosecutors reviewed videos of the altercations. They saw clearly that Rittenhouse was running away from his assailants. He was variously rushed by one assailant, kicked by another, and struck with a skateboard by still another. Again, a final pursuer pointed a gun at him at close range.   No matter. The Kenosha district attorney’s office charged Rittenhouse with several felonies including two first-degree homicide charges. All four whom Rittenhouse fired at—whether he missed, wounded, or fatally shot—had lengthy arrest records. Three were convicted felons; the fourth had a long arrest record.  Given the lengthy and quite horrific rap sheet of Rittenhouse’s first attacker Joseph Rosenbaum (including multiple counts of pedophiliac rape), it is difficult to understand why the latter was not in jail (he had been released earlier that day from a mental facility to which he had been committed after a failed suicide attempt). The common denominator to the various prior convictions of his other three assailants was that they should have led to consequences far worse, given that many of their arrest charges were dropped, or bail was sometimes waived, or plea bargaining turned serious charges into merely bothersome ones. The release of violent offenders on little or no bail seems now thematic in Wisconsin.  Shortly after the August 2020 shootings, the media, Joe Biden, and most of the left-wing commentariat had claimed Rittenhouse was a “white supremacist,” even though there was no evidence of such a libel, then or now. Remember, the Kenosha shootings took place just nine weeks before the November presidential elections, at a time when the Left was framing the incumbent Trump as a “white supremacist” and Joe Biden a “healer.”   The Racist Construct  The shootings were immediately declared to be “racial.” Yet both the shooter Rittenhouse and all of his attackers who were wounded or killed were white (a fourth assailant, an African-American who kicked Rittenhouse while he was on the ground escaped without injury).   What followed in the media was the most egregious example of concocted fictions since the Russian collusion hoax. Rittenhouse was falsely accused of crossing “state lines” (plural), while unlawfully armed with an “illegal automatic weapon.”   In truth, he did not buy the Smith & Wesson semi-automatic rifle, much less bring it into nearby Kenosha, Wisconsin from nearby Antioch, Illinois. It was legal for Rittenhouse to possess and use the firearm. The gun itself was not unlawful. He did not purchase it but had been given it by a friend. And Kenosha was his alternate home in that it was where his father and other relatives lived. Rittenhouse, then, was constructed as the proverbial white supremacist of the sort warned about by the likes of Joe Biden, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Joint Chiefs Chairman General Mark Milley.  At various times during the trial, the prosecuting attorneys called Rittenhouse a coward. They claimed he should have faced the pursuing mob of at least a dozen and willingly taking a beating from them face-to-face, in at least one case at gunpoint. The jury inter alia was told that the ongoing arson and other violent acts were not serious crimes, and that the three who attacked Rittenhouse were near-heroic victims.   Protestors outside the courthouse tried to intimidate the defense and jurors. A journalist sought to follow the jury bus, ostensibly to divulge their identities or to intimidate them (MSNBC was subsequently banned from the courtroom).   The piece de resistance was the lead DA’s pointing an empty semi-automatic weapon at the jury, with his finger on the trigger—all in the aftermath of Alec Baldwin’s accidental shooting with an “empty” loaded gun of two bystanders on a film set.   The DA apparently wished to scare the jury into a guilty verdict through the sensation of having a rifle pointed at them. Given the jury appears post facto to have been made up of reasonable people, that puerile gambit probably backfired. All that the imbecilic DA confirmed by his actions was the same recklessness as those in state and city government who had permitted parts of Kenosha to burn in the first place.        There were lots of suicidal prosecutorial stunts such as these in what turned out to be a circus of sorts. The DAs also sought to deprecate the constitutionally protected Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. They bizarrely saw their key witness admitting under cross examination that he had first pointed a handgun at Kyle Rittenhouse who then understandably fired at him. And they deliberately released an inferior version of the video record of the shooting to the defense while keeping the superior one to their perceived advantage.  So, the state’s madness raised strange questions. Were the incompetent DAs simply a window into a dysfunctional Kenosha County district attorney’s office where bumbling was an institutionalized force-multiplier to bias? Were the state prosecutors deliberately inept in order to prompt a mistrial and thus a retrial/second chance of their botched case? Or were they lazily going through the motions to satisfy the mob, but did not really believe Rittenhouse was guilty? Or were they just mediocre camera-hungry wannabe celebrities, who wished to win cheap media attention for as long as the bewildered judge would put up with their bizarre antics?  The Message of Acquittal A jury unanimously cleared Rittenhouse of all charges. It apparently concluded correctly that if law enforcement and the state either could not or would not protect lives and property in Kenosha, and if because of that dereliction of duty some citizens stepped up to take up the role that the police had utterly abandoned, then as citizens they had a right to defend themselves if attacked by those committing violence.   For some time, media demand has exceeded the available supply of clear-cut cases of white oppressors and black victims, at least if the Jussie Smollett hoax, the “hands up don’t shoot” lie, and the photoshopped pictures and edited tapes of George Zimmerman are any indication.   Yet the real reason the Left strained to gin up the theme of white-on-white violence as an example of racism was their larger agenda of sending a message to middle America: no American, in times of riot, arson, and looting, should have the right to use firearms to protect property. And under no circumstances could a citizen use a gun to ward off those intending to maim or kill him. Had Rittenhouse been found guilty, there no longer would be recourse for citizens living in cities where criminals were freely given the streets.  In other words, had such a clear-cut case of self-defense morphed into a successful murder conviction, then the most powerful figure in the nation would become the local district attorney. De facto, a DA could empower a mob to loot, burn, steal, and injure by refusing to indict those arrested—even if an increasingly politicized mayor and police chief chose to allow their officers to keep the public safe. We would then assume that in this state of nature anyone protecting property during a riot would be fair game for the mob, given the target would know he could become a convicted felon by defending himself from attack.  So, the Left understood well the messaging of attacking the open city and undefended town of Kenosha and the conviction of a “murderer” Rittenhouse: accept our political agendas and premises or otherwise your culpable community will be torn apart with impunity, and any who chose to combat the violence with violence will be charged with capital crimes.  Those Criminal SUVs  Not long after one Rittenhouse was acquitted, one Darrell Brooks, Jr., an African-American with a 20-year record of serious felonies, allegedly drove his car deliberately into a Christmas parade in Waukesha, killing 6 innocents and injuring over 60.  Unlike the dishonest media reaction lying about Rittenhouse, who had no criminal record, there was initial careful restraint not to identify the career criminal Brooks as the murderous driver who weaponized his vehicle against parade-goers. Despite first-hand accounts from bystanders that the lethal driver was an African-American with dreadlocks, the media, feigning unaccustomed professionalism in this instance, withheld rush-to-judgment identification and culpability. Joe Biden—for a moment—was commendably quiet in editorializing about the racial motivations or ideology of a suspect.  For a while the media ran with its own concocted rumor that Brooks merely was fleeing from an “altercation” and apparently had mistakenly turned the wrong way into a crowd—despite videos showing the driver deliberately ramming through street barriers repeatedly to seek out targets. Intent likely explains why he killed and injured so many innocents.   Finally, the news settled into the present narrative of a “car crash,”—as if a driverless vehicle on autopilot had simply bumped into various people in the street—before burying the murders altogether on their back pages and dropping the crime from the evening news. Or as the Washington Post put it, “Here’s what we know so far on the sequence of events that led to the Waukesha tragedy caused by a SUV.”  That media-generated ruse continued even when details of Brooks’ lengthy felony record were finally released. At the time he was mowing down strangers, he had five open arrest charges, including two felonies. Brooks had been released on $1,000 bail just two days earlier, in another eerie “coincidence” after being arrested for attempting to run over a woman and her child—the same modus operandi reified at the Waukesha Christmas slaughter.   An alien from Mars who examined Brooks’s life of crime, his recent violence, and the ease with which he was serially let loose upon the public might have concluded some sort of “privilege” as the cause of exemption.  Brooks posed on social media as an incompetent but narcissistic rapper. He left a video trail not just of his mediocre recordings, but of clear evidence of virulent anti-Semitism and anti-white racism, “So when we start bakk knokkin white people TF out ion wanna hear it…the old white ppl 2, KNOKK DEM TF OUT!! PERIOD.”   As pundits strained to deny any connection between the climate of BLM anger over the Rittenhouse verdict and Brooks’ murders, Brooks’ own testimonies point to a connection, at least in the sense of hating people on the basis of their race. Indeed, regional Milwaukee BLM activist Vaun Mayes quickly alleged that the Rittenhouse acquittal had earned the homicidal payback.   A low-level Democratic functionary tweeted that the dead children of Waukesha were proper karma for Rittenhouse walking free: “I’m sad anytime anyone dies. I just believe in Karma and this came around quick on the citizens of Wisconsin.” Or as Mayes further elaborated: Brooks was an insurrectionist whose violence had jumpstarted a supposed “revolution,” his apparent euphemism for mass murder. “But it sounds possible that the revolution has started in Wisconsin. It started with this Christmas parade.” Brooks is, for a while, in jail. Yet for some crazy reason he can be freed on a $5 million bond. He awaits charges of mass homicide—although one never quite knows. The Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisolm is a controversial “reformer” DA, whose campaigns have been funded in part by the George Soros conglomerate.  Creepier still, in the past a prescient Chisolm had boasted about his own future to the Milwaukee Sentinel, namely that his prosecutorial and bail policies would eventually release career criminals onto the street who would “inevitably” kill some innocents. Yet he riffed that such carnage was acceptable collateral damage from his decriminalization agendas: “Is there going to be an individual I divert, or I put into [a] treatment program, who’s going to go out and kill somebody? You bet. Guaranteed. It’s guaranteed to happen. It does not invalidate the overall approach.”  One wonders whether Chisolm will take that argument to the families of the Waukesha deceased—that the loss of their loved ones was a reasonable sacrifice to ensure that misunderstood 20-year criminals like Darrell Brooks, Jr. were not kept behind bars.  So, what are we left with from these horrors of two cities?  In Kenosha the media and the Left ginned up race when there was no such component in the trial. But in Waukesha they perpetuated racial arson and smothered the truth. That is, they kept largely silent when there clearly was racial hatred—given Brooks’ own record of anti-white and anti-Semitic venom. Again, the media can turn from creation to suppression on a dime, given the common theme of ginning up racial strife and hatred.  An amoral media and Left, so far, have kept an inconvenient Waukesha “car crash” out of the mainstream news—reversing their wild sensational obsessions with Kenosha. After all, in their unhinged racialized worldview, the demonization of a 17-year-old white male, who shot three other white males, still could be squeezed for racial juice, given the larger contextual landscape of a riot over a police wounding of an African-American male.   The shooting of Jacob Blake that set off the Kenosha riots was later determined to be justified, given the armed suspect was heading toward his car, after fighting with police, who were called to the residence to protect a woman who had a restraining order against the career violent felon.  In sum, Rittenhouse had no criminal record; all four of his assailants had lengthy arrest records. Three of them were ex-felons. He had no record of the racial hatred of which he was accused.   In contrast, Brooks was an abject violent racist whom the media sought to shield. And he was a career felon, who both long ago and quite recently should have been kept behind bars so that he would not murder innocents.   How a Wisconsin ex-felon received a $1,000 bail bond and freedom to mow down innocents, after trying to run down two with his car, while another juvenile without an arrest record, with good grounds to claim self-defense, was required to post a $2 million bond (and so stayed incarcerated pending charges without running water in his cell) is a commentary on the abject implosion of the American justice system.   Rittenhouse should have never been charged; Brooks should not have been out of jail. The effort to make the former a beneficiary of white supremacy and the latter a victim of it required a level of amoral media deceit that finally was unsustainable even in this bankrupt age.  Tyler Durden Mon, 11/29/2021 - 23:40.....»»

Category: blogSource: zerohedgeNov 30th, 2021

FBI And Other Agencies Paid Informants $548 Million In Recent Years With Many Committing Authorized Crimes

FBI And Other Agencies Paid Informants $548 Million In Recent Years With Many Committing Authorized Crimes By Adam Andrzejewski, CEO/Founder of OpenTheBooks.com; originally posted in Forbes Federal agencies paid out at least $548 million to informants working for the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), in recent years, according to government audits. Our auditors at OpenTheBooks.com compiled this information by reviewing federal reports. While some of the data is several-years old; it’s apparently the most recent available. The FBI spent an average of $42 million a year on confidential human sources between fiscal years 2012 and 2018. “Long term” informants comprised 20 percent of its intelligence relationships (source: DOJ IG 2019 report). The ATF employed 1,855 informants who were paid $4.3 million annually (FY2012-2015). Therefore, on average, each informant made $2,318 for the year. (source: DOJ IG report 2017). “One federal agency, the DEA, had over 18,000 active confidential sources assigned to its domestic offices, with over 9,000 of those sources receiving approximately $237 million in payments for information or services they provided to the DEA” (between Oct. 1, 2010 and Sept. 30, 2015, source: 2016 DOJ IG report). High-earning informants included an “airline employee who received more than $600,000 in less than four-years, and a parcel employee who received over $1 million in five-years.” The Inspector General at Justice who scrutinized DEA informants reported the findings. “During this audit, we found that, between FYs 2011 and 2015, the DEA actually used at least 33 Amtrak employees and eight TSA employees as sources, paying the Amtrak employees over $1.5 million and the TSA employees over $94,000.” One Amtrak employee was paid $962,615 between 2010 and 2015 to be a confidential source, which the IG called “a substantial waste of government funds.” The information provided “could have been obtained by DEA at no cost through a joint task force with the Amtrak Police.” While certain informants were becoming federally-minted millionaires, the  average DEA informant made much less – approximately $26,333 over a recent five-year period. And it appears there may be corruption, in addition to crime, in the system. In 2017, during a Congressional Oversight Committee hearing on confidential informants, then-Chairman Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) noted: “a court released the testimony of one confidential informant in Atlanta who received $212,000 from the DEA from 2011 to 2013. She testified she wasn’t sure why she was paid. That was her testimony. She also testified to a sexual relationship with the DEA group supervisor, who allegedly convinced the subordinates to falsify reports to justify the payments. That case is currently under review by the inspector general.” Authorizing “Crimes” by Informants— The DOJ Guidelines Federal informants often commit crimes, and often do it with the permission of their federal handlers, according to a 2015 audit by the General Accountability Office (GAO). In fact, the GAO reports:  “Since 1980, the Guidelines have permitted agencies to authorize informants to engage in activities that would otherwise constitute crimes under federal, state, or local law if someone without such authorization engaged in these same activities. For example, in the appropriate circumstance, an agency could authorize an informant to purchase illegal drugs from someone who is the target of a drug-trafficking investigation. Such conduct is termed “otherwise illegal activity.” “The Guidelines include certain requirements when authorizing otherwise illegal activity and restrictions on the types of activities an agency can authorize. In particular, the Guidelines prohibit agencies from authorizing an informant to participate in an act of violence, obstruction of justice, and other enumerated unlawful activities.” According to Freedom of Information Act documents obtained by the Daily Dot, “In total, records obtained by reporters confirm the FBI authorized at least 22,823 crimes between 2011 and 2014.” Here are two examples of where the FBI has employed confidential human sources in controversial roles: Governor Whitmer Kidnapping Plot Case Clouded by Informants’ Roles In court proceedings, the feds have shared the identification numbers of 12 confidential informants involved in Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s kidnapping plot, but refused to provide recruitments methods, payments, locations, and names for all but one. In October 2020, Justice announced the arrest of six men who were said to be conspiring over a six-month period to kidnap Governor Whitmer. Eight others were charged under Michigan’s anti-terrorism statutes for providing material support to the plotters. However, as BuzzFeed News reported, “some of those informants, acting under the direction of the FBI, played a far larger role than has previously been reported. Working in secret, they did more than just passively observe and report on the actions of the suspects. Instead, they had a hand in nearly every aspect of the alleged plot, starting with its inception. The extent of their involvement raises questions as to whether there would have even been a conspiracy without them.” In September, a federal judge delayed the case of the five defendants who have pled not-guilty, after their defense lawyers asked for more time to investigate the informant aspect of the case. January 6th Capitol Riot Had At Least Two Embedded FBI Informants In September, the New York Times reported a bit of a bombshell: at least two informants embedded with the U.S. Capitol crowd were in close contact with their FBI handlers on January 6th. As reporter Julie Kelly at American Greatness details it, an “informant, according to ‘confidential documents’ furnished to the paper, started working with the FBI in July 2020 and was in close contact with his FBI handler before, during, and after the Capitol protest.” In recent Congressional testimony, Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY) played a video montage of a man encouraging election protestors to go into the Capitol on January 6th. Rep. Massie asked Attorney General Merrick Garland if the man was an FBI agent-provocateur. Garland refused to comment on an ongoing investigation. Many suspect the man was working with federal authorities before, during, and after the events of January 6th at the U.S. Capitol Building. He, apparently, has not been arrested or charged. Further Reading “Redacted for Public Use” “Audit of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Management of its Confidential Human Source Validation Processes, November 2019, Department of Justice. “Audit of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ Management and Oversight of Confidential Informants,” DOJ IG, March 2017. “CONFIDENTIAL INFORMANTS Updates to Policy and Additional Guidance Would Improve Oversight by DOJ and DHS Agencies,” GAO, September 2015. “Informing on Law Enforcement Agencies and Their Confidential Informants,” GAO WatchBlog, September 22, 2015,  “Audit of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Management and Oversight of its Confidential Source Program,” DOJ IG, September 2016. “Confidential Informants: Status of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s Efforts to Address a GAO Recommendation,” November 30, 2016, GAO. “Use of Confidential Informants at ATF and DEA,” April 4, 2017, Hearing House of Representatives, Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, GovInfo. FBI budget, “The FBI Allegedly Used At Least 12 Informants In The Michigan Kidnapping Case,” BuzzFeed News, July 12, 2021. “Unreleased September 2015 document, Detailed rules for how the FBI handles informants,” The Intercept, January 31, 2017. The Intercept’s FBI reports. The Marshall Project, Informants: a Curated Collection of Links. “Where Are the Neon-Hatted Proud Boys? American Greatness, Julie Kelly, November 8, 2021, “Times Reveals FBI Role in January 6: One thing is certain; the Times’ damage-control article is just the tip of the FBI iceberg. And more proof January 6 was an inside job,” American Greatness, Julie Kelly, September 25, 2021.  “FBI authorized informants to break the law 22,800 times in 4 years,” Daily Dot, August 23, 2016, Updated May 26, 2021 Tyler Durden Sat, 11/27/2021 - 18:45.....»»

Category: blogSource: zerohedgeNov 27th, 2021

Inside Frances Haugen’s Decision to Take on Facebook

Blowing the whistle against a multibillion-dollar tech company is no small feat Frances Haugen is in the back of a Paris taxi, waving a piece of sushi in the air. The cab is on the way to a Hilton hotel, where this November afternoon she is due to meet with the French digital economy minister. The Eiffel Tower appears briefly through the window, piercing a late-fall haze. Haugen is wolfing down lunch on the go, while recalling an episode from her childhood. The teacher of her gifted and talented class used to play a game where she would read to the other children the first letter of a word from the dictionary and its definition. Haugen and her classmates would compete, in teams, to guess the word. “At some point, my classmates convinced the teacher that it was unfair to put me on either team, because whichever team had me was going to win and so I should have to compete against the whole class,” she says. [time-brightcove not-tgx=”true”] Did she win? “I did win,” she says with a level of satisfaction that quickly fades to indignation. “And so imagine! That makes kids hate you!” She pops an edamame into her mouth with a flourish. “I look back and I’m like, That was a bad idea.” She tells the story not to draw attention to her precociousness—although it does do that—but to share the lesson it taught her. “This shows you how badly some educators understand psychology,” she says. While some have described the Facebook whistle-blower as an activist, Haugen says she sees herself as an educator. To her mind, an important part of her mission is driving home a message in a way that resonates with people, a skill she has spent years honing. Photograph by Christopher Anderson—Magnum Photos for TIME It is the penultimate day of a grueling three-week tour of Europe, during which Haugen has cast herself in the role of educator in front of the U.K. and E.U. Parliaments, regulators and one tech conference crowd. Haugen says she wanted to cross the Atlantic to offer her advice to lawmakers putting the final touches on new regulations that take aim at the outsize influence of large social media companies. The new U.K. and E.U. laws have the potential to force Facebook and its competitors to open up their algorithms to public scrutiny, and face large fines if they fail to address problematic impacts of their platforms. European lawmakers and regulators “have been on this journey a little longer” than their U.S. counterparts, Haugen says diplomatically. “My goal was to support lawmakers as they think through these issues.” Beginning in late summer, Haugen, 37, disclosed tens of thousands of pages of internal Facebook documents to Congress and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). The documents were the basis of a series of articles in the Wall Street Journal that sparked a reckoning in September over what the company knew about how it contributed to harms ranging from its impact on teens’ mental health and the extent of misinformation on its platforms, to human traffickers’ open use of its services. The documents paint a picture of a company that is often aware of the harms to which it contributes—but is either unwilling or unable to act against them. Haugen’s disclosures set Facebook stock on a downward trajectory, formed the basis for eight new whistle-blower complaints to the SEC and have prompted lawmakers around the world to intensify their calls for regulation of the company. Facundo Arrizabalaga—EPA/EFE/ShutterstockHaugen leaves the Houses of Parliament in London on Oct. 25 after giving evidence to U.K. lawmakers. Facebook has rejected Haugen’s claims that it puts profits before safety, and says it spends $5 billion per year on keeping its platforms safe. “As a company, we have every commercial and moral incentive to give the maximum number of people as much of a positive experience as possible on our apps,” a spokesperson said in a statement. Although many insiders have blown the whistle on Facebook before, nobody has left the company with the breadth of material that Haugen shared. And among legions of critics in politics, academia and media, no single person has been as effective as Haugen in bringing public attention to Facebook’s negative impacts. When Haugen decided to blow the whistle against Facebook late last year, the company employed more than 58,000 people. Many had access to the documents that she would eventually pass to authorities. Why did it take so long for somebody to do what she did? Read More: How Facebook Forced a Reckoning by Shutting Down the Team That Put People Ahead of Profits One answer is that blowing the whistle against a multibillion-dollar tech company requires a particular combination of skills, personality traits and circumstances. In Haugen’s case, it took one near-death experience, a lost friend, several crushed hopes, a cryptocurrency bet that came good and months in counsel with a priest who also happens to be her mother. Haugen’s atypical personality, glittering academic background, strong moral convictions, robust support networks and self-confidence also helped. Hers is the story of how all these factors came together—some by chance, some by design—to create a watershed moment in corporate responsibility, human communication and democracy. When debate coach Scott Wunn first met a 16-year-old Haugen at Iowa City West High School, she had already been on the team for two years, after finishing junior high a year early. He was an English teacher who had been headhunted to be the debate team’s new coach. The school took this kind of extracurricular activity seriously, and so did the young girl with the blond hair. In their first exchange, Wunn remembers Haugen grilling him about whether he would take coaching as seriously as his other duties. “I could tell from that moment she was very serious about debate,” says Wunn, who is now the executive director of the National Speech and Debate Association. “When we ran tournaments, she was the student who stayed the latest, who made sure that all of the students on the team were organized. Everything that you can imagine, Frances would do.” Haugen specialized in a form of debate that specifically asked students to weigh the morality of every issue, and by her senior year, she had become one of the top 25 debaters in the country in her field. “Frances was a math whiz, and she loved political science,” Wunn says. In competitive debate, you don’t get to decide which side of the issue you argue for. But Haugen had a strong moral compass, and when she was put in a position where she had to argue for something she disagreed with, she didn’t lean back on “flash in the pan” theatrics, her former coach remembers. Instead, she would dig deeper to find evidence for an argument she could make that wouldn’t compromise her values. “Her moral convictions were strong enough, even at that age, that she wouldn’t try to manipulate the evidence such that it would go against her morality,” Wunn says. When Haugen got to college, she realized she needed to master another form of communication. “Because my parents were both professors, I was used to having dinner-table conversations where, like, someone would have read an interesting article that day, and would basically do a five-minute presentation,” she says. “And so I got to college, and I had no idea how to make small talk.” Today, Haugen is talkative and relaxed. She’s in a good mood because she got to “sleep in” until 8:30 a.m.—later than most other days on her European tour, she says. At one point, she asks if I’ve seen the TV series Archer and momentarily breaks into a song from the animated sitcom. After graduating from Olin College of Engineering—where, beyond the art of conversation, she studied the science of computer engineering—Haugen moved to Silicon Valley. During a stint at Google, she helped write the code for Secret Agent Cupid, the precursor to popular dating app Hinge. She took time off to undertake an M.B.A. at Harvard, a rarity for software engineers in Silicon Valley and something she would later credit with helping her diagnose some of the organizational flaws within Facebook. But in 2014, while back at Google, Haugen’s trajectory was knocked off course. Haugen has celiac disease, a condition that means her immune system attacks her own tissues if she eats gluten. (Hence the sushi.) She “did not take it seriously enough” in her 20s, she says. After repeated trips to the hospital, doctors eventually realized she had a blood clot in her leg that had been there for anywhere between 18 months and two years. Her leg turned purple, and she ended up in the hospital for over a month. There she had an allergic reaction to a drug and nearly bled to death. She suffered nerve damage in her hands and feet, a condition known as neuropathy, from which she still suffers today. “I think it really changes your priorities when you’ve almost died,” Haugen says. “Everything that I had defined myself [by] before, I basically lost.” She was used to being the wunderkind who could achieve anything. Now, she needed help cooking her meals. “My recovery made me feel much more powerful, because I rebuilt my body,” she says. “I think the part that informed my journey was: You have to accept when you whistle-blow like this that you could lose everything. You could lose your money, you could lose your freedom, you could alienate everyone who cares about you. There’s all these things that could happen to you. Once you overcome your fear of death, anything is possible. I think it gave me the freedom to say: Do I want to follow my conscience?” Once Haugen was out of the hospital, she moved back into her apartment but struggled with daily tasks. She hired a friend to assist her part time. “I became really close friends with him because he was so committed to my getting better,” she says. But over the course of six months, in the run-up to the 2016 U.S. presidential election, she says, “I just lost him” to online misinformation. He seemed to believe conspiracy theories, like the idea that George Soros runs the world economy. “At some point, I realized I couldn’t reach him,” she says. Soon Haugen was physically recovering, and she began to consider re-entering the workforce. She spent stints at Yelp and Pinterest as a successful product manager working on algorithms. Then, in 2018, a Facebook recruiter contacted her. She told him that she would take the job only if she could work on tackling misinformation in Facebook’s “integrity” operation, the arm of the company focused on keeping the platform and its users safe. “I took that job because losing my friend was just incredibly painful, and I didn’t want anyone else to feel that pain,” she says. Her optimism that she could make a change from inside lasted about two months. Haugen’s first assignment involved helping manage a project to tackle misinformation in places where the company didn’t have any third-party fact-checkers. Everybody on her team was a new hire, and she didn’t have the data scientists she needed. “I went to the engineering manager, and I said, ‘This is the inappropriate team to work on this,’” she recalls. “He said, ‘You shouldn’t be so negative.’” The pattern repeated itself, she says. “I raised a lot of concerns in the first three months, and my concerns were always discounted by my manager and other people who had been at the company for longer.” Before long, her entire team was shifted away from working on international misinformation in some of Facebook’s most vulnerable markets to working on the 2020 U.S. election, she says. The documents Haugen would later disclose to authorities showed that in 2020, Facebook spent 3.2 million hours tackling misinformation, although just 13% of that time was spent on content from outside the U.S., the Journal reported. Facebook’s spokesperson said in a statement that the company has “dedicated teams with expertise in human rights, hate speech and misinformation” working in at-risk countries. “We dedicate resources to these countries, including those without fact-checking programs, and have been since before, during and after the 2020 U.S. elections, and this work continues today.” Read More: Why Some People See More Disturbing Content on Facebook Than Others, According to Leaked Documents Haugen said that her time working on misinformation in foreign countries made her deeply concerned about the impact of Facebook abroad. “I became concerned with India even in the first two weeks I was in the company,” she says. Many people who were accessing the Internet for the first time in places like India, Haugen realized after reading research on the topic, did not even consider the possibility that something they had read online might be false or misleading. “From that moment on, I was like, Oh, there is a huge sleeping dragon at Facebook,” she says. “We are advancing the Internet to other countries far faster than it happened in, say, the U.S.,” she says, noting that people in the U.S. have had time to build up a “cultural muscle” of skepticism toward online content. “And I worry about the gap [until] that information immune system forms.” In February 2020, Haugen sent a text message to her parents asking if she could come and live with them in Iowa when the pandemic hit. Her mother Alice Haugen recalls wondering what pandemic she was talking about, but agreed. “She had made a spreadsheet with a simple exponential growth model that tried to guess when San Francisco would be shut down,” Alice says. A little later, Frances asked if she could send some food ahead of her. Soon, large Costco boxes started arriving at the house. “She was trying to bring in six months of food for five people, because she was afraid that the supply lines might break down,” Alice says. “Our living room became a small grocery store.” After quarantining for 10 days upon arrival, the younger Haugen settled into lockdown life with her parents, continuing her work for Facebook remotely. “We shared meals, and every day we would have conversations,” Alice says. She recalled her daughter voicing specific concerns about Facebook’s impact in Ethiopia, where ethnic violence was playing out on—and in some cases being amplified by—Facebook’s platforms. On Nov. 9, Facebook said it had been investing in safety measures in Ethiopia for more than two years, including activating algorithms to down-rank potentially inflammatory content in several languages in response to escalating violence there. Haugen acknowledges the work, saying she wants to give “credit where credit is due,” but claims the social network was too late to intervene with safety measures in Ethiopia and other parts of the world. “The idea that they don’t even turn those knobs on until people are getting shot is completely unacceptable,” she says. “The reality right now is that Facebook is not willing to invest the level of resources that would allow it to intervene sooner.” A Facebook spokesperson defended the prioritization system in its statement, saying that the company has long-term strategies to “mitigate the impacts of harmful offline events in the countries we deem most at risk … while still protecting freedom of expression and other human rights principles.” What Haugen saw was happening in nations like Ethiopia and India would clarify her opinions about “engagement-based ranking”—the system within Facebook more commonly known as “the algorithm”—that chooses which posts, out of thousands of options, to rank at the top of users’ feeds. Haugen’s central argument is that human nature means this system is doomed to amplify the worst in us. “One of the things that has been well documented in psychology research is that the more times a human is exposed to something, the more they like it, and the more they believe it’s true,” she says. “One of the most dangerous things about engagement-based ranking is that it is much easier to inspire someone to hate than it is to compassion or empathy. Given that you have a system that hyperamplifies the most extreme content, you’re going to see people who get exposed over and over again to the idea that [for example] it’s O.K. to be violent to Muslims. And that destabilizes societies.” In the run-up to the 2020 U.S. election, according to media reports, some initiatives proposed by Facebook’s integrity teams to tackle misinformation and other problems were killed or watered down by executives on the policy side of the company, who are responsible both for setting the platform’s rules and lobbying governments on Facebook’s behalf. Facebook spokespeople have said in response that the interventions were part of the company’s commitment to nuanced policymaking that balanced freedom of speech with safety. Haugen’s time at business school taught her to view the problem differently: Facebook was a company that prioritized growth over the safety of its users. “Organizational structure is a wonky topic, but it matters,” Haugen says. Inside the company, she says, she observed the effect of these repeated interventions on the integrity team. “People make decisions on what projects to work on, or advance, or give more resources to, based on what they believe is the chance for success,” she says. “I think there were many projects that could be content-neutral—that didn’t involve us choosing what are good or bad ideas, but instead are about making the platform safe—that never got greenlit, because if you’ve seen other things like that fail, you don’t even try them.” Being with her parents, particularly her mother, who left a career as a professor to become an Episcopal priest, helped Haugen become comfortable with the idea she might one day have to go public. “I was learning all these horrific things about Facebook, and it was really tearing me up inside,” she says. “The thing that really hurts most whistle-blowers is: whistle-blowers live with secrets that impact the lives of other people. And they feel like they have no way of resolving them. And so instead of being destroyed by learning these things, I got to talk to my mother … If you’re having a crisis of conscience, where you’re trying to figure out a path that you can live with, having someone you can agonize to, over and over again, is the ultimate amenity.” Haugen didn’t decide to blow the whistle until December 2020, by which point she was back in San Francisco. The final straw came when Facebook dissolved Haugen’s former team, civic integrity, whose leader had asked employees to take an oath to put the public good before Facebook’s private interest. (Facebook denies that it dissolved the team, saying instead that members were spread out across the company to amplify its influence.) Haugen and many of her former colleagues felt betrayed. But her mother’s counsel had mentally prepared her. “It meant that when that moment happened, I was actually in a pretty good place,” Haugen says. “I wasn’t in a place of crisis like many whistle-blowers are.” Read More: Why Facebook Employees ‘Deprioritized’ a Misinformation Fix In March, Haugen moved to Puerto Rico, in part for the warm weather, which she says helps with her neuropathy pain. Another factor was the island’s cryptocurrency community, which has burgeoned because of the U.S. territory’s lack of capital gains taxes. In October, she told the New York Times that she had bought into crypto “at the right time,” implying that she had a financial buffer that allowed her to whistle-blow comfortably. Haugen’s detractors have pointed to the irony of her calling for tech companies to do their social duty, while living in a U.S. territory with a high rate of poverty that is increasingly being used as a tax haven. Some have also pointed out that Haugen is not entirely independent: she has received support from Luminate, a philanthropic organization pushing for progressive Big Tech reform in Europe and the U.S., and which is backed by the billionaire founder of eBay, Pierre Omidyar. Luminate paid Haugen’s expenses on her trip to Europe and helped organize meetings with senior officials. Omidyar has also donated to Whistleblower Aid, the nonprofit legal organization that is now representing Haugen pro bono. Luminate says it entered into a relationship with Haugen only after she went public with her disclosures. Haugen resigned from Facebook in May this year, after being told by the human-resources team that she could not work remotely from a U.S. territory. The news accelerated the secret project that she had decided to begin after seeing her old team disbanded. To collect the documents she would later disclose, Haugen trawled Facebook’s internal employee forum, Workplace. She traced the careers of integrity colleagues she admired—many of whom had left the company in frustration—gathering slide decks, research briefs and policy proposals they had worked on, as well as other documents she came across. Read more: Facebook Will Not Fix Itself While collecting the documents, she had flashbacks to her teenage years preparing folders of evidence for debates. “I was like, Wow, this is just like debate camp!” she recalls. “When I was 16 and doing that, I had no idea that it would be useful in this way in the future.” Jabin Botsford—Getty ImagesHaugen testifies on Oct. 5 before the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. In her Senate testimony in early October, Haugen suggested a federal agency should be set up to oversee social media algorithms so that “someone like me could do a tour of duty” after working at a company like Facebook. But moving to Washington, D.C., to serve at such an agency has no appeal, she says. “I am happy to be one of the people consulted by that agency,” she says. “But I have a life I really like in Puerto Rico.” Now that her tour of Europe is over, Haugen has had a chance to think about what comes next. Over an encrypted phone call from Puerto Rico a few days after we met in Paris, she says she would like to help build a grassroots movement to help young people push back against the harms caused by social media companies. In this new task, as seems to be the case with everything in Haugen’s life, she wants to try to leverage the power of education. “I am fully aware that a 19-year-old talking to a 16-year-old will be more effective than me talking to that 16-year-old,” she tells me. “There is a real opportunity for young people to flex their political muscles and demand accountability.” I ask if she has a message to send to young people reading this. “Hmm,” she says, followed by a long pause. “In every era, humans invent technologies that run away from themselves,” she says. “It’s very easy to look at some of these tech platforms and feel like they are too big, too abstract and too amorphous to influence in any way. But the reality is there are lots of things we can do. And the reason they haven’t done them is because it makes the companies less profitable. Not unprofitable, just less profitable. And no company has the right to subsidize their profits with your health. Ironically, Haugen gives partial credit to one of her managers at Facebook for inspiring her thought process around blowing the whistle. After struggling with a problem for a week without asking for help, she missed a deadline. When she explained why, the manager told her he was disappointed that she had hidden that she was having difficulty, she says. “He said, ‘We solve problems together; we don’t solve them alone,’” she says. Never one to miss a teaching opportunity, she continues, “Part of why I came forward is I believe Facebook has been struggling alone. They’ve been hiding how much they’re struggling. And the reality is, we solve problems together, we don’t solve them alone.” ShutterstockFacebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg recently announced the company was rebranding as Meta. It’s a philosophy that Haugen sees as the basis for how social media platforms should deal with societal issues going forward. In late October, Facebook Inc. (which owns Facebook, Whats App and Instagram) changed its name to Meta, a nod to its ambition to build the next generation of online experiences. In a late-October speech, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said he believed the “Metaverse”—its new proposal to build a virtual universe—would fundamentally reshape how humans interact with technology. Haugen says she is concerned the Metaverse will isolate people rather than bring them together: “I believe any tech with that much influence deserves public oversight.” But hers is also a belief system that allows for a path toward redemption. That friend she lost to misinformation? His story has a happy ending. “I learned later that he met a nice girl and he had gone back to church,” Haugen says, adding that he no longer believes in conspiracy theories. “It gives me a lot of hope that we can recover as individuals and as a society. But it involves us connecting with people.” —With reporting by Leslie Dickstein and Nik Popli.....»»

Category: topSource: timeNov 22nd, 2021