Cover for No Agenda Show 695: Democritate
February 12th, 2015 • 3h 1m

695: Democritate


Every new episode of No Agenda is accompanied by a comprehensive list of shownotes curated by Adam while preparing for the show. Clips played by the hosts during the show can also be found here.

NA CD Companiion Disk & Podcast Promo
In the morning!
This is a companion disc to the previous disc which was titled "International Update". This one is called, creatively, "Domestic Update".
Please remind people that the CDs are also available as a podcast. You can grab someone's phone and search the iTunes store for No Agenda CD or get the feed at This works great for people without CD players (weirdos).
Also, if I could trouble you for some 'other side' karma for my cousin Xavier Cain I would really appreciate it. He died last night and will be missed.
Keep it up (as it were),
Sir Ramsey Cain
Hotel Pennsylvannia
Police tape
Weed smaell
Bed (bugs)
Book of Mormon
NYC Meetup!
Evidence based solutions
Theodore Kasczinski "Industrial Society and Its Future"
Smith Mundt Act - A reminder that you are living in a Smith-Mudt Act repealed media landscape
NDAA and Overturning of Smith-Mundt Act
The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013 (NDAA) allows for materials produced by the State Department and the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) to be released within U.S. borders and strikes down a long-time ban on the dissemination of such material in the country.[14][15][16]
Propaganda in the United States - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Sun, 21 Sep 2014 15:00
Propaganda in the United States is propaganda spread by government and media entities within the United States. Propaganda is information, ideas, or rumors deliberately spread widely to influence opinions. Propaganda is not only in advertising; it is also in radio, newspaper, posters, books, and anything else that might be sent out to the widespread public.
Domestic[edit]World War I[edit]The first large-scale use of propaganda by the U.S. government came during World War I. The government enlisted the help of citizens and children to help promote war bonds and stamps to help stimulate the economy. To keep the prices of war supplies down, the U.S. government produced posters that encouraged people to reduce waste and grow their own vegetables in "victory gardens." The public skepticism that was generated by the heavy-handed tactics of the Committee on Public Information would lead the postwar government to officially abandon the use of propaganda.[1]
World War II[edit]During World War II the U.S. officially had no propaganda, but the Roosevelt government used means to circumvent this official line. One such propaganda tool was the publicly owned but government funded Writers' War Board (WWB). The activities of the WWB were so extensive that it has been called the "greatest propaganda machine in history".[1]Why We Fight is a famous series of US government propaganda films made to justify US involvement in World War II.
In 1944 (lasting until 1948) prominent US policy makers launched a domestic propaganda campaign aimed at convincing the U.S. public to agree to a harsh peace for the German people, for example by removing the common view of the German people and the Nazi party as separate entities.[2] The core in this campaign was the Writers' War Board which was closely associated with the Roosevelt administration.[2]
Another means was the United States Office of War Information that Roosevelt established in June 1942, whose mandate was to promote understanding of the war policies under the director Elmer Davies. It dealt with posters, press, movies, exhibitions, and produced often slanted material conforming to US wartime purposes. Other large and influential non-governmental organizations during the war and immediate post war period were the Society for the Prevention of World War III and the Council on Books in Wartime.
Cold War[edit]During the Cold War, the U.S. government produced vast amounts of propaganda against communism and the Soviet bloc. Much of this propaganda was directed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation under J. Edgar Hoover, who himself wrote the anti-communist tract Masters of Deceit. The FBI's COINTELPRO arm solicited journalists to produce fake news items discrediting communists and affiliated groups, such as H. Bruce Franklin and the Venceremos Organization.
War on Drugs[edit]The National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign, originally established by the National Narcotics Leadership Act of 1988,[3][4] but now conducted by the Office of National Drug Control Policy under the Drug-Free Media Campaign Act of 1998,[5] is a domestic propaganda campaign designed to "influence the attitudes of the public and the news media with respect to drug abuse" and for "reducing and preventing drug abuse among young people in the United States".[6][7] The Media Campaign cooperates with the Partnership for a Drug-Free America and other government and non-government organizations.[8]
Iraq War[edit]In early 2002, the U.S. Department of Defense launched an information operation, colloquially referred to as the Pentagon military analyst program.[9] The goal of the operation is "to spread the administrations's talking points on Iraq by briefing ... retired commanders for network and cable television appearances," where they have been presented as independent analysts.[10] On 22 May 2008, after this program was revealed in the New York Times, the House passed an amendment that would make permanent a domestic propaganda ban that until now has been enacted annually in the military authorization bill.[11]
The Shared values initiative was a public relations campaign that was intended to sell a "new" America to Muslims around the world by showing that American Muslims were living happily and freely, without persecution, in post-9/11 America.[12] Funded by the United States Department of State, the campaign created a public relations front group known as Council of American Muslims for Understanding (CAMU). The campaign was divided in phases; the first of which consisted of five mini-documentaries for television, radio, and print with shared values messages for key Muslim countries.[13]
NDAA and Overturning of Smith-Mundt Act[edit]The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013 (NDAA) allows for materials produced by the State Department and the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) to be released within U.S. borders and strikes down a long-time ban on the dissemination of such material in the country.[14][15][16]
Ad Council[edit]The Ad Council, an American non-profit organization that distributes public service announcements on behalf of various private and federal government agency sponsors, has been labeled as "little more than a domestic propaganda arm of the federal government" given the Ad Council's historically close collaboration with the President of the United States and the federal government.[17]
International[edit]Through several international broadcasting operations, the US disseminates American cultural information, official positions on international affairs, and daily summaries of international news. These operations fall under the International Broadcasting Bureau, the successor of the United States Information Agency, established in 1953. IBB's operations include Voice of America, Radio Liberty, Alhurra and other programs. They broadcast mainly to countries where the United States finds that information about international events is limited, either due to poor infrastructure or government censorship. The Smith-Mundt Act prohibits the Voice of America from disseminating information to US citizens that was produced specifically for a foreign audience.
During the Cold War the US ran covert propaganda campaigns in countries that appeared likely to become Soviet satellites, such as Italy, Afghanistan, and Chile.
Recently The Pentagon announced the creation of a new unit aimed at spreading propaganda about supposedly "inaccurate" stories being spread about the Iraq War. These "inaccuracies" have been blamed on the enemy trying to decrease support for the war. Donald Rumsfeld has been quoted as saying these stories are something that keeps him up at night.[18]
Psychological operations[edit]The US military defines psychological operations, or PSYOP, as:
planned operations to convey selected information and indicators to foreign audiences to influence the emotions, motives, objective reasoning, and ultimately the behavior of foreign governments, organizations, groups, and individuals.[19]
The Smith-Mundt Act, adopted in 1948, explicitly forbids information and psychological operations aimed at the US public.[20][21][22] Nevertheless, the current easy access to news and information from around the globe, makes it difficult to guarantee PSYOP programs do not reach the US public. Or, in the words of Army Col. James A. Treadwell, who commanded the U.S. military psyops unit in Iraq in 2003, in the Washington Post:
There's always going to be a certain amount of bleed-over with the global information environment.[23]
Agence France Presse reported on U.S. propaganda campaigns that:
The Pentagon acknowledged in a newly declassified document that the US public is increasingly exposed to propaganda disseminated overseas in psychological operations.[24]
Former US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld approved the document referred to, which is titled "Information Operations Roadmap." [22][24] The document acknowledges the Smith-Mundt Act, but fails to offer any way of limiting the effect PSYOP programs have on domestic audiences.[20][21][25]
Several incidents in 2003 were documented by Sam Gardiner, a retired Air Force colonel, which he saw as information-warfare campaigns that were intended for "foreign populations and the American public." Truth from These Podia,[26] as the treatise was called, reported that the way the Iraq war was fought resembled a political campaign, stressing the message instead of the truth.[22]
See also[edit]References[edit]^ abThomas Howell, The Writers' War Board: U.S. Domestic Propaganda in World War II, Historian, Volume 59 Issue 4, Pages 795 - 813^ abSteven Casey, (2005), The Campaign to sell a harsh peace for Germany to the American public, 1944 - 1948, [online]. London: LSE Research Online. [Available online at] Originally published in History, 90 (297). pp. 62-92 (2005) Blackwell Publishing^National Narcotics Leadership Act of 1988 of the Anti''Drug Abuse Act of 1988, Pub.L. 100''696, 102 Stat. 4181, enacted November 18, 1988^Gamboa, Anthony H. (January 4, 2005), B-303495, Office of National Drug Control Policy '-- Video News Release, Government Accountability Office, footnote 6, page 3 ^Drug-Free Media Campaign Act of 1998 (Omnibus Consolidated and Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act, 1999), Pub.L. 105''277, 112 Stat. 268, enacted October 21, 1998^Gamboa, Anthony H. (January 4, 2005), B-303495, Office of National Drug Control Policy '-- Video News Release, Government Accountability Office, pp. 9''10 ^Drug-Free Media Campaign Act of 1998 of the Omnibus Consolidated and Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act, 1999, Pub.L. 105''277, 112 Stat. 268, enacted October 21, 1998^Office of National Drug Control Policy Reauthorization Act of 2006, Pub.L. 109''469, 120 Stat. 3501, enacted December 29, 2006, codified at 21 U.S.C. § 1708^Barstow, David (2008-04-20). "Message Machine: Behind Analysts, the Pentagon's Hidden Hand". New York Times. ^Sessions, David (2008-04-20). "Onward T.V. Soldiers: The New York Times exposes a multi-armed Pentagon message machine". Slate. ^Barstow, David (2008-05-24). "2 Inquiries Set on Pentagon Publicity Effort". New York Times. ^Rampton, Sheldon (October 17, 2007). "Shared Values Revisited". Center for Media and Democracy. ^"U.S. Reaches Out to Muslim World with Shared Values Initiative". January 16, 2003.
Anthem: company says five employee's credentials phished and used
Thu, 12 Feb 2015 12:44
Anthem: company says five employee's credentials phished and usedFebruary 12, 2015 | Posted by Dan RaywoodHackers who raided health insurance records from Anthem may have been inside the system since December.
According toAssociated Press, although the breach was first detected on January 27thwhen an Anthem computer system administrator discovered outsiders were using his own security credentials to log into the company system and steal data, unauthorised data queries with similar hallmarks started as early as December 10th, and continued sporadically until the 27thof January.
Kristin Binns, a spokeswoman for Anthem said that attempts may also have been made earlier in 2014. She declined to be more specific, saying the matter is still under investigation.
Fred Touchette, senior security analyst of AppRiver, said: ''It is very hard to anticipate or predict a custom attack that has been specifically crafted for their targets. In the case of a phishing email, for example, these don't follow any previously used templates, they're often typed out by hand as a normal email would and any links used within them contain domains with clean reputations.
''These emails often look just like any other email in the eyes of automation. That is why it is so important for the recipient to be well trained and able to spot these scams if and when they arrive in the inbox (or any other route they may take).''
TK Keanini, CTO of Lancope, told IT Security Guru that this shows that the most advanced threats are in your network with valid credentials, meaning that they are not setting off the normal violation alarms that traditional security products provide.
''It is about turning the network in to a sensor and leveraging Netflow/IPFIX, which acts as a general ledger leaving the adversary nowhere to hide,'' he said. ''Having the operational visibility on network activity that notifies you when abnormalities happen is task one in this battle against advanced threat.''
Although details of the investigation were not fully disclosed, investigators now believe that the hackers compromised the credentials of five different tech workers, possibly through a phishing scheme.
Rohyt Belani, CEO of PhishMe, dismissed the ''five employee'' theory as speculation, as the attackers likely targeted more employees.
He said: ''Phishing is the #1 attack vector. It is important that organisations don't get distracted in training their users on other theoretical threats that have little to no impact as such an approach can result in employees getting desensitized to security training in general.
''We have found that the most successful security programs take a threat-oriented approach that provides two to three minutes of micro-education if and when employees are found susceptible during the course of immersive phishing exercises.''
Anthem's security consultants also said that the breach resulted from a ''sophisticated'' attack by hackers using techniques usually associated with organised financial crime rings or groups working for the government of some country.
Touchette said: ''It is not uncommon for more than one person to be a potential target for these phishing attacks. Also, even though one person was 'accredited' for the being the main 'in' in the RSA attacks, it's still possible that more than one person had been targeted and this one person was the one who fell for it.
Mike Spykerman, vice president of product marketing at OPSWAT, said: ''In the common attack scenario, the more targets '' the bigger chance of success. Though in a targeted attack such as this, the number of targets is kept much lower to avoid raising flags.
''It is very hard to anticipate or predict a custom attack that has been specifically crafted for their targets. In the case of a phishing email, for example, these don't follow any previously used templates, they're often typed out by hand as a normal email would and any links used within them contain domains with clean reputations.''
Keanini said: ''In many cases, a phishing campaign will 'cast a large net' across a specific community so those 5 that are being named are from a large set of targets that are in the hundreds, maybe thousands. The other entitlements these five had versus the others that have been compromised during this campaign. These five would likely have had access to something in the attack continuum.''
email on Anthem sys admins
I know someone who used to work at Blue Shield
and he said the company is very out of date
and is run on extremely old software and that the guys
in charge of system security spend most of their time
trolling on Linked-In for girls who work in the company to
ask them out for coffee. He wasn't shocked in the least
that their systems were heavily compromised but
was shocked that it hadn't happened sooner.
Sir Larry
New agency to sniff out threats in cyberspace - The Washington Post
Tue, 10 Feb 2015 15:33
The Obama administration is establishing a new agency to combat the deepening threat from cyberattacks, and its mission will be to fuse intelligence from around the government when a crisis occurs.
The agency is modeled after the National Counterterrorism Center, which was launched in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks amid criticism that the government failed to share intelligence that could have unraveled the al-Qaeda plot.
Over the past several years, a series of significant cyber-incidents has affected U.S. companies and government networks, increasing the profile of the threat for policymakers and industries. Disruptions, linked to Iran, of major bank Web sites, a Russian intrusion into the White House's unclassified computer network and the North Korean hack of Sony Pictures have raised the specter of devastating consequences if critical infrastructure were destroyed.
''The cyberthreat is one of the greatest threats we face, and policymakers and operators will benefit from having a rapid source of intelligence,'' Lisa Monaco, assistant to the president for homeland security and counterterrorism, said in an interview. ''It will help ensure that we have the same integrated, all-tools approach to the cyberthreat that we have developed to combat terrorism.''
Monaco will announce the creation of the Cyber Threat Intelligence Integration Center on Tuesday in a speech at the Wilson Center.
''It's a great idea,'' said Richard Clarke, a former White House counterterrorism official. ''It's overdue.''
Others question why a new agency is needed when the government already has several dedicated to monitoring and analyzing cyberthreat data. The Department of Homeland Security, the FBI and the National Security Agency all have cyber-operations centers, and the FBI and the NSA are able to integrate information, noted Melissa Hathaway, a former White House cybersecurity coordinator and president of Hathaway Global Strategies.
''We should not be creating more organizations and bureaucracy,'' she said. ''We need to be forcing the existing organizations to become more effective '-- hold them accountable.''
The idea of a central agency to analyze cyberthreats and coordinate strategy to counter them isn't new. But as the threat has grown, the idea has taken hold again.
Monaco, who has a decade of government experience in counterterrorism, has long thought that the lessons learned from fighting terrorism can be applied to cybersecurity. She saw that as a policymaker she could quickly receive an intelligence community assessment on the latest terrorism threat from NCTC, but that was not possible in the cyber realm.
''We need to build up the muscle memory for our cyber-response capabilities, as we have on the terrorism side,'' she said.
Last summer, Monaco directed White House cybersecurity coordinator Michael Daniel to see whether lessons learned from the counterterrorism world could be applied to cyberthreats. She also revived a cyber-response group for senior staff from agencies around the government, modeled after a similar group in the counterterrorism world, to meet weekly and during crises.
Daniel's staff concluded that the same defects that contributed to the 2001 terrorist attacks '-- intelligence agency stove-piping and a failure to combine analysis from across the government '-- existed in the cyber context.
They recommended the creation of an NCTC for cybersecurity, but some agencies initially resisted. Advocates argued that the new center would not conduct operations or supplant the work of others. Rather it would support their work, providing useful analysis so that the FBI can focus on investigations and DHS can focus on working with the private sector, officials said.
During Thanksgiving week, news broke of a major incident at Sony Pictures Entertainment. In the following days, it became clear the hack was significant: Computers were rendered useless, and massive amounts of e-mail and employee data were pilfered and made public.
President Obama wanted to know the details. What was the impact? Who was behind it? Monaco called meetings of the key agencies involved in the investigation, including the FBI, the NSA and the CIA.
''Okay, who do we think did this?'' she asked, according to one participant. ''She got back six views.'' All pointed to North Korea, but they differed in the degree of certainty. The key gap: No one was responsible for an analysis that integrated all the agency views.
In the end, Monaco asked the FBI to produce one, coordinating with the other agencies.
The Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which oversees the NCTC, might seem a natural place to provide that analysis. But its small cyber staff focuses on strategic long-term analysis, not a rapid merging of all sources of intelligence about a particular problem.
The Sony incident provided the final impetus for the new center. Monaco began making the rounds at the White House to build support for the center, officials said.
In his State of the Union speech on Jan. 20, Obama made a veiled reference to the center, saying the government would integrate intelligence to combat cyberthreats ''just as we have done to combat terrorism.''
Obama will issue a memorandum creating the center, which will be part of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. The new agency will begin with a staff of about 50 and a budget of $35 million, officials said.
Matthew Olsen, a former NCTC director, said the quality of the threat analysis will depend on a steady stream of data from the private sector, which operates the nation's energy, financial and other critical systems. ''One challenge will be identifying ways to work more closely with the private sector, where cyberthreats are the most prevalent,'' he said.
The government and industries need to invest more in technology, information-sharing and personnel training, as well as in deterring and punishing those who carry out cyberattacks, said Michael Leiter, another former NCTC director who is now executive vice president at Leidos, a national security contractor.
The new center ''is a good and important step,'' Leiter said. ''But it is far from a panacea.''
Ellen Nakashima is a national security reporter for The Washington Post. She focuses on issues relating to intelligence, technology and civil liberties.
US creates centralized cybersecurity agency following Sony attack | The Verge
Tue, 10 Feb 2015 15:31
The White House today will announce the creation of a new agency tasked with thwarting cyberattacks by sharing intelligence across other agencies in the event of a crisis, the Washington Post reports. The new Cyber Threat Intelligence Integration Center (CTIIC) will be formally unveiled at the Wilson Center in Washington, DC later today. The unit will be created as part of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, and will start off with a staff of about 50 people and a budget of $35 million, officials tell the Post.
The idea is to apply lessons learned after the September 11th terrorist attacks '-- which were blamed, in part, on intelligence failures '-- to the realm of cybersecurity. The new agency will be structured like the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC), created in the aftermath of September 11th, and will be charged with analyzing and coordinating responses to cyberthreats.
"The cyberthreat is one of the greatest threats we face."
"The cyberthreat is one of the greatest threats we face, and policymakers and operators will benefit from having a rapid source of intelligence," Lisa Monaco, President Obama's assistant for homeland security and counterterrorism, tells the Post. Monaco will announce the creation of the CTIIC in a speech at today's event. "It will help ensure that we have the same integrated, all-tools approach to the cyberthreat that we have developed to combat terrorism."
Monaco had been pushing for the creation of a new agency for several months, amid signs of the growing dangers that cyberattacks posed, but the initiative gained new momentum following last year's hack of Sony Pictures. The response to that attack, Monaco says, demonstrated the need for a centralized body to analyze intelligence gathered from various agencies '-- in this case, the FBI, NSA, and CIA '-- and the White House agreed. Earlier this month, Obama announced new measures to protect companies who share their data with federal intelligence agencies following cyberattacks, in the hope that doing so will help coordinate responses.
Experts say accessing data from private sector companies will be critical to the CTICC's effectiveness going forward, but others aren't convinced that creating another government agency is the answer. ''We should not be creating more organizations and bureaucracy," Melissa Hathaway, a former White House cybersecurity coordinator, tells the Post. ''We need to be forcing the existing organizations to become more effective '-- hold them accountable."
U.S. to establish new cybersecurity agency
Tue, 10 Feb 2015 17:28
Tue Feb 10, 2015 10:12am ESTBy Warren Strobel
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. government is creating a new agency to monitor cybersecurity threats, pooling and analyzing information on a spectrum of risks, a senior Obama administration official said on Tuesday.
The Cyber Threat Intelligence Integration Center (CTIIC) will be an "intelligence center that will 'connect the dots' between various cyber threats to the nation so that relevant departments and agencies are aware of these threats in as close to real time as possible," the official said on condition of anonymity.
Obama has moved cybersecurity to the top of his 2015 agenda after recent hacking attacks against Sony Pictures (6758.T)(SNE.N), Home Depot Inc (HD.N), Anthem Inc (ANTM.N) and Target Corp (TGT.N) and the federal government itself.
The Democratic president sees it as an area of cooperation with the Republican-led Congress.
Various federal agencies have cybersecurity components, including the National Security Agency, Department of Homeland Security, the FBI and the CIA.
The Obama administration is trying to connect the agencies "so that there's one belly button for the entire U.S. government," Shawn Henry, president of CrowdStrike cybersecurity agency, said on the CBS "This Morning" program.
"That's a good strategy. It's important because there's so many different pieces of intelligence coming in. You've got to collaborate and put it together," he said.
The CTIIC will aim for "seamless intelligence flows among centers, including those responsible for sharing with the private sector," the official said.
The White House counter terrorism coordinator, Lisa Monaco, will announce the new center in an address on Tuesday.
The Obama administration likens the new agency to the National Counterterrorism Center established after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, following criticism that U.S. intelligence agencies were not communicating with each other.
It will have a similar broad focus of providing "integrated, all-source analysis" of threats, the official said.
"No existing agency has the responsibility for performing these functions, so we need these gaps to be filled to help the federal government meet its responsibilities in cybersecurity," the official said.
Congress has tried for years to pass legislation to encourage companies to share data from cyberattacks with the government and each other, but efforts were stymied by liability issues and privacy concerns of citizens.
Last month, President Barack Obama proposed legislation to strike a balance, offering liability protection to companies that provide information in near real time to the government, while requiring them to strip it of personal data.
The Washington Post first reported the agency's creation.
(Reporting by Warren Strobel; Writing by Doina Chicau; Editing by Susan Heavey and Jeffrey Benkoe)
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Burning Man
VFX backgrounder from Nathan
What is this talk of "high end macs" and fire?
Consult a real visual effects artist, instead of these jabronis pasting google links at you.
You can take preshot elements and digitally composite them in the shot, CG fire takes very experienced artist and high end boxes to run it on.
Check the slow mo, you can see vector stretching. Its done by a program like Twixtor that draws frame between frames. It looks weird and wavy when its too heavy and the computer cant estimate whats going on between the frames it is stretching out. Its a dead give away it has been captured praticaly.
Remarks by President Obama and Chancellor Merkel in Joint Press Conference
Tue, 10 Feb 2015 23:06
The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release
February 09, 2015
East Room
12:04 P.M. EST
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Good morning, everybody. Please be seated. As always, it is a great pleasure to welcome my close friend and partner, Chancellor Angela Merkel, back to the White House. Angela, of course, has been here many times. But this visit is a chance for me to congratulate her on two achievements. Well into her third term, Angela is now one of Germany's longest-serving chancellors. Perhaps more importantly, this is my first opportunity to publicly congratulate Angela and Germany on their fourth World Cup title. As we all saw in Rio, Angela is one of her team's biggest fans. Our U.S. team, however, gets better each World Cup, so watch out in 2018. (Laughter.)
Germany is one of our strongest allies, so whenever we meet it's an opportunity to coordinate closely on a whole range of issues critical to our shared security and prosperity. As Angela and our German friends prepare to host the G7 this spring, it's also important for us to be able to coordinate on a set of shared goals.
And at our working lunch this afternoon, we'll focus on what we can do to keep the economy growing and creating jobs. As strong supporters of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, we agree that there needs to be meaningful progress this year toward an agreement that boosts our economies with strong protections for consumers and workers and the environment.
I look forward to hearing Angela's assessment of how Europe and the IMF can work with the new Greek government to find a way that returns Greece to sustainable growth within the Eurozone, where growth is critical to both the United States and the global economy. And we'll be discussing our work to get all major economies to take ambitious action on climate change, including our initiative to limit public financing for coal-fired power plants overseas and our global efforts to phase down some of the most dangerous greenhouse gases.
Our discussion this morning focused on global security issues. We reaffirmed our commitment to training Afghan security forces and supporting a sovereign, secure and united Afghanistan. We agree that the international community has to continue enforcing existing sanctions as part of our diplomatic effort to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, even as the P5-plus-1 works closely together to do everything we can to try to achieve a good, verifiable deal.
Two issues in particular that dominated our workday this morning -- Russia's aggression against Ukraine and the international fight against ISIL.
With regard to Russia and the separatists it supports in Ukraine, it's clear that they've violated just about every commitment they made in the Minsk agreement. Instead of withdrawing from eastern Ukraine, Russian forces continue to operate there, training separatists and helping to coordinate attacks. Instead of withdrawing its arms, Russia has sent in more tanks and armored personnel carriers and heavy artillery. With Russian support, the separatists have seized more territory and shelled civilian areas, destroyed villages and driven more Ukrainians from their homes. These are the facts.
But Russian aggression has only reinforced the unity of the United States and Germany and our allies and partners around the world. And I want to thank Angela for her strong leadership and partnership as we've met this challenge. Chancellor Merkel and Vice President Biden met with Ukrainian President Poroshenko in Munich over the weekend, and Angela also shared with me the results of her talks in Moscow. We continue to encourage a diplomatic resolution to this issue. And as diplomatic efforts continue this week, we are in absolute agreement that the 21st century cannot stand idle -- have us stand idle and simply allow the borders of Europe to be redrawn at the barrel of a gun.
So today we've agreed to move forward with our strategy. Along with our NATO allies, we'll keep bolstering our presence in central and Eastern Europe -- part of our unwavering Article 5 obligation to our collective defense. We will continue to work with the IMF and other partners to provide Ukraine with critical financial support as it pursues economic and anti-corruption reforms. We discussed the issue of how best to assist Ukraine as it defends itself, and we agreed that sanctions on Russia need to remain fully in force until Russia complies fully with its obligations.
Even as we continue to work for a diplomatic solution, we are making it clear again today that if Russia continues on its current course -- which is ruining the Russian economy and hurting the Russian people, as well as having such a terrible effect on Ukraine -- Russia's isolation will only worsen, both politically and economically.
With regard to ISIL, Germany and the United States remain united in our determination to destroy this barbaric organization. I thanked Angela for her strong support as a member of the international coalition that is working in Iraq. In a significant milestone in its foreign policy, Germany has taken the important step of equipping Kurdish forces in Iraq, and Germany is preparing to lead the training mission of local forces in Erbil. Germany is a close partner in combating the threat of foreign terrorist fighters, which was the focus of a special session of the U.N. Security Council that I chaired last fall. And under Angela's leadership, Germany is moving ahead with new legislation to prevent fighters from traveling to and from Syria and Iraq.
At the same time, both Angela and I recognize that young people in both our countries, especially in Muslim communities, are being threatened and targeted for recruitment by terrorists like al Qaeda and ISIL. And protecting our young people from this hateful ideology, so that they're not vulnerable to such recruitment, is, first and foremost, a task for local communities, families, neighbors, faith leaders who know their communities best. But we can help these communities, starting with the tone and the example that we set in our own countries.
So I want to commend Angela for her leadership, speaking out forcefully against xenophobia and prejudice and on behalf of pluralism and diversity. She's made it clear that all religious communities have a place in Germany, just as they do here in the United States. And we're grateful that our German friends will be joining us at our summit next week on countering violent extremism, because this is a challenge our countries have to meet together.
And let me end on an historic note. This year marks the 70th anniversary of the end of the Second World War. It marks the 25th anniversary of the reunification of Germany. So in a time when conflicts around the world sometimes seem intractable, when progress sometimes seems beyond grasp, Germany's story gives us hope. We can end wars. Countries can rebuild. Adversaries can become allies. Walls can come down. Divisions can be healed. Germany's story -- and the story of Angela's life -- remind us that when free people stand united, our interests and our values will ultimately prevail.
And as we look to the future, as I prepare to visit Bavaria in June, I'm grateful for my partnership with Angela, as Americans are grateful for their partnership with the people of Germany.
Chancellor Merkel.
CHANCELLOR MERKEL: (As interpreted.) Thank you, President, dear Barack. I'm delighted to be back in Washington. Nine months ago, we were here for the last time, and this visit here has a lot to do with, first and foremost, the fact that we have assumed the presidency of the G7 presidency this year, and that we coordinate on these matters very closely, as we do on others. And obviously, we'll address issues related to the global economy when we meet in Bavaria, in Schloss Elmau, in the summer.
From a European vantage point, I think we can say that we have made significant progress in a number of areas. We have countries who are now back on the growth path. Ireland comes to mind here in particular, but also Spain and Portugal. After a strong phase of structural reforms, they have now made significant progress. The new Commissioner that's come in office has launched a growth program in which Germany will participate.
We will pin our hopes basically on growth and infrastructure, but also on other growth projects. For example, the digital economy. If I think of the state of the digital economy in the United States, there is a lot of things to be done by the Europeans now.
I would say that a free trade agreement, the conclusion of a free trade agreement, for example, would also go a long way towards boosting growth. We know that you are very much engaged in the Asia Pacific area -- there are a lot of free trade agreements there as well. And Germany will come out very forcefully in seeing that the negotiations between the EU and the United States on free trade agreements are pursued in a vigorous manner. It's in our own vested interest -- in the interest of the United States but also in the German interest.
We are dealing basically in our G7 agenda with health issues. Let me just mention one -- what sort of lessons have we drawn, for example, from the terrible Ebola epidemic. I think the one thing that we've learned is that the international organizations, the international community has to be quicker in reacting to such epidemics. And the G7 can give a very important contribution to doing this.
And we're also interested, for example, in seeing Gavi be successful. We're delighted to be able to conclude the replenishment conference that has just been completed in Germany so successfully.
Then we dealt with security issues this morning. It is true Germany this year celebrates the 25th anniversary of its reunification. This would not have been possible, not have been achievable without our transatlantic partners, without the support of the United States of America. And we will always be grateful for this. And it is one case in point that it is well worth the effort to stand by one's values for decades to pursue long-term goals and not relent in those efforts.
After we thought in the '90s maybe that things would turn out somewhat more easily, somewhat less complicated, now we see ourselves confronted with a whole wealth of conflicts, and very complex ones. We worked together in Afghanistan -- we talked about this as well. Germany has decided, in its fight against IS, to give help to deliver training missions, to deliver also weapons, and, if necessary. We work together on the Iran nuclear program, where we also enter into a crucial phase of negotiations.
One particular priority was given to the conflict between Ukraine and Russia this morning. We stand up for the same principles of inviolability of territorial integrity. For somebody who comes from Europe, I can only say if we give up this principle of territorial integrity of countries, then we will not be able to maintain the peaceful order of Europe that we've been able to achieve. This is not just any old point, it's an essential, a crucial point, and we have to stand by it. And Russia has violated the territorial integrity of Ukraine in two respects: in Crimea, and also in Donetsk and Luhansk.
So we are called upon now to come up with solutions, but not in the sense of a mediator, but we also stand up for the interests of the European peaceful order. And this is what the French President and I have been trying to do over the past few days. We're going to continue those efforts.
And I'm very grateful that throughout the Ukraine crisis, we have been in very, very close contact with the United States of America and Europe on sanctions, on diplomatic initiatives. And this is going to be continued. And I think that's, indeed, one of the most important messages we can send to Russia, and need to send to Russia.
We continue to pursue a diplomatic solution, although we have suffered a lot of setbacks. These days we will see whether all sides are ready and willing to come to a negotiated settlement. I've always said I don't see a military solution to this conflict, but we have to put all our efforts in bringing about a diplomatic solution.
So there's a whole host of issues that we need to discuss. Over lunch, we will continue to talk about climate protection, about sustainable development and the sustainable development goals.
So yet again, thank you very much for the very close cooperation, very close coordination, and the possibility to have an exchange of views on all of these crucial issues. I think not only in hindsight can we safely say that the United States have always stood by us, have helped us to regain our unity in peace and freedom, but we can also say we continue to cooperate closely if it is about solving the conflicts of the world today. Unfortunately, there are many of them, and we will continue to do so in the future.
Thank you for your hospitality.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: First question, Steve Mufson, The Washington Post.
Q Thank you. You've said -- stressed that U.S. and Europe need to have cohesion on the issue of sanctions and on dealing with Ukraine, and yet the administration is discussing sending lethal weapons to Ukraine, which is very different from what the Chancellor has said over the weekend. So I was wondering whether this was a good cop-bad cop act, or is this a real reflection of difference of views in the situation on the ground.
And more broadly, if there's no agreement this week, what lies ahead? Are we looking at a broader set of sanctions? What makes us think those set of sanction will change the Russian President's mind any more than the current ones?
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, let me start with the broader point. I think both Angela and I have emphasized that the prospect for a military solution to this problem has always been low. Russia obviously has a extraordinarily powerful military. And given the length of the Russian border with Ukraine, given the history between Russia and Ukraine, expecting that if Russia is determined that Ukraine can fully rebuff a Russian army has always been unlikely.
But what we have said is that the international community, working together, can ratchet up the costs for the violation of the core principle of sovereignty and territorial integrity. And that's exactly what we've done.
And Russia has paid a significant cost for its actions -- first in Crimea and now in eastern Ukraine. It has not yet dissuaded Mr. Putin from following the course that he is on, but it has created a measurable negative impact on the Russian economy, and that will continue.
My hope is that through these diplomatic efforts, those costs have become high enough that Mr. Putin's preferred option is for a diplomatic resolution. And I won't prejudge whether or not they'll be successful. If they are successful, it will be in part because of the extraordinary patience and effort of Chancellor Merkel and her team. If they are not, then we will continue to raise those costs. And we will not relent in that. And one of the things I've very encouraged about is the degree to which we've been able to maintain U.S.-European unity on this issue.
Now, it is true that if, in fact, diplomacy fails, what I've asked my team to do is to look at all options -- what other means can we put in place to change Mr. Putin's calculus -- and the possibility of lethal defensive weapons is one of those options that's being examined. But I have not made a decision about that yet. I have consulted with not just Angela, but will be consulting with other allies about this issue. It's not based on the idea that Ukraine could defeat a Russian army that was determined. It is rather to see whether or not there are additional things we can do to help Ukraine bolster its defenses in the face of separatist aggression. But I want to emphasize that a decision has not yet been made.
One of the bigger issues that we're also concerned with, though, is making sure the Ukrainian economy is functioning and that President Poroshenko and Prime Minister Yatsenyuk can continue with the reform efforts that they've made. And I'm glad to see that because of our cooperation and our efforts, we're starting to see a package come together with the IMF, with the European Union and others that can help bolster the European economy so that they have the space to continue to execute some of the reforms and anti-corruption measures that they've made.
One of the most important things we can do for Ukraine is help them succeed economically, because that's how people on the ground feels this change, this transformation, inside of Ukraine. If that experiment fails, then the larger project of an independent Ukraine will fail. And so we're going to do everything we can to help bolster that.
But there is no doubt that if, in fact, diplomacy fails this week, there's going to continue to be a strong, unified response between the United States and Europe. That's not going to change. There may be some areas where there are tactical disagreements; there may not be. But the broad principle that we have to stand up for not just Ukraine, but the principle of territorial integrity and sovereignty, is one where we are completely unified.
CHANCELLOR MERKEL: (As interpreted.) The French President and I have decided to make one further attempt to make progress through diplomatic means. We have the Minsk agreement -- the Minsk agreement has never been implemented. Quite the contrary is true. The situation has actually worsened on the ground. So now there is a possibility to try and bring about a cease-fire and to also create conditions that are in place where you have not every day civilians dying, civilian victims that fall prey to this. And I'm absolutely confident that we will do this together.
I, myself, actually would not be able to live with not having made this attempt. So there is anything but an assured success in all of this -- I have to be very clear about this. But if at a certain point in time, one has to say that success is not possible even if one puts every effort into it, then the United States and Europe have to sit together and try and explore further possibilities of what one can do. Just let me point out here that foreign ministers of the European Union last week already tasked the Commission to think about further possible sanctions.
On the issue of what is effective and what not, I'm somewhat surprised sometimes. Just let me mention Iran. For a fairly long period of time we have had sanctions in place there; people don't seem to question them. And I think they have been fairly successful, if we look at the current state of affairs with the negotiations on the nuclear program. So I think, in parallel, I think it was a very good thing to put some costs onto the Russians through these sanctions that we agreed on because we see also that Russia seems to be influenced by this. And this is why I am a hundred percent behind these decisions.
As to the export of arms, I have given you my opinion. But you may rest assured that no matter what we decide, the alliance between the United States and Europe will continue to stand, will continue to be solid, even though on certain issues we may not always agree. But this partnership, be it Ukraine and Russia, be it on combating terrorism on the international state, be it on other issues, is a partnership that has stood the test of time and that is -- I mean, in Europe, we're very close. But this transatlantic partnership for Germany and for Europe is indispensable. And this will remain so. And I can say this also on behalf of my colleagues in the European Union.
Sorry, I have to call you myself. From DPA, the German Press Agency.
Q President, you said that you have not yet made a decision as to whether weapons ought to be delivered to Ukraine. What would be your red line? What would be the red line that needs to be crossed for you to decide an armament of the Ukrainian army? And what do you think -- will this hold by way of a promise? Because the Chancellor said it will make matters worse. And what can the Nobel Laureate Obama do more to defuse this conflict?
And, Madam Chancellor, President Putin today demanded yet again that the government in Kyiv negotiate directly with the separatists. When do you think the right moment has come to do this? And with looking at all of the big issues that you discussed, this breach of confidence due to the NSA affair, of the U.S.-German relations, has that played a role today?
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Do you want to go first on this?
CHANCELLOR MERKEL: (As interpreted.) I can gladly start.
The question as to how one assesses the effectiveness of certain measures has been actually dealt with. The President has not yet made a decision, as he said. What's important for me is that we stand very closely together on the question of a renewed diplomatic effort. We keep each other informed. We're in close touch. And nobody wishes more for a success than the two of us who stand here side by side.
But this would also mean not only having a cease-fire in place, but to also, over and above that, having certain rules in place. And you said the Russian President himself thinks there ought to be direct contacts. Let me just point out to you, these direct contacts already exist through the trilateral contact group with representatives from Donetsk and Luhansk. And the problem over the last few days, and the problem of the last meetings actually was rather more than that, there was not really that much of an end result -- if they matter at all, or if representatives from Donetsk and Luhansk were there at all. Sometimes they didn't even arrive.
And this was, after all, for me, the core of the Minsk agreement, that there are local elections in accordance with the Ukrainian constitution and that the outcome of that is that you have representatives, authorities that can speak for those regions. And the Ukrainian President has paved the way for this, to giving certain specific status to the oblasts of Luhansk and Donetsk. And these elections are an essential point that will then enable us to say, well, maybe now there can be contacts even without a trilateral group.
And this is actually on the agenda of the many talks that we need to make. But I can very well understand the Ukrainian side, that the territory they consider to be part of their territory and that anything else would violate their territorial integrity, that they want to actually see that elections take place there. And that has also been stated by President Putin that he wishes to see those elections happening there.
Now, on the NSA issue. I think there are still different assessments on individual issues there, but if we look at the sheer dimension of the terrorist threat, we are more than aware of the fact that we need to work together very closely. And I, as German Chancellor, want to state here very clearly that the institutions of the United States of America have provided us and still continue to provide us with a lot of very significant, very important information that also ensure our security. And we don't want to do without this. There are other possibilities, through the cyber dialogue, for example, to continue to talk about the sort of protection of privacy versus data protection and so on, and security. But this was basically -- combating terrorism was basically in the forefront today.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: On providing lethal weapons to Ukraine, it's important to point out that we have been providing assistance to the Ukrainian military generally. That's been part of a longstanding relationship between NATO and Ukraine. And our goal has not been for Ukraine to be equipped to carry on offensive operations, but to simply defend itself. And President Poroshenko has been very clear -- he's not interested in escalating violence, he is interested in having his country's boundaries respected by its neighbor.
So there's not going to be any specific point at which I say, ah, clearly lethal defensive weapons would be appropriate here. It is our ongoing analysis of what can we do to dissuade Russia from encroaching further and further on Ukrainian territory. Our hope is, is that that's done through diplomatic means.
And I just want to emphasize here once again for the benefit not just of the American people but for the German people, we are not looking for Russia to fail. We are not looking for Russia to be surrounded and contained and weakened. Our preference is for a strong, prosperous, vibrant, confident Russia that can be a partner with us on a whole host of global challenges. And that's how I operated throughout my first term in office.
Unfortunately, Russia has made a decision that I think is bad for them strategically, bad for Europe, bad for the world. And in the face of this aggression and these bad decisions, we can't simply try to talk them out of it. We have to show them that the world is unified in imposing a cost for this aggression. And that's what we're going to continue to do.
With respect to the NSA, I'll just make this point very briefly. There's no doubt that the Snowden revelations damaged impressions of Germans with respect to the U.S. government and our intelligence cooperation. And what I have done over the last year, year and a half, is to systematically work through some of these issues to create greater transparency and to restore confidence not just for Germans but for our partners around the world.
And we've taken some unprecedented measures, for example, to ensure that our intelligence agencies treat non-U.S. citizens in ways that are consistent with due process and their privacy concerns -- something that I put in a presidential order, and has not been ever done not only by our intelligence agencies but I think by most intelligence agencies around the world.
There are going to still be areas where we've got to work through these issues. We have to internally work through some of these issues, because they're complicated, they're difficult. If we are trying to track a network that is planning to carry out attacks in New York or Berlin or Paris, and they are communicating primarily in cyberspace, and we have the capacity to stop an attack like that, but that requires us then being able to operate within that cyberspace, how do we make sure that we're able to do that, carry out those functions, while still meeting our core principles of respecting the privacy of all our people?
And given Germany's history, I recognize the sensitivities around this issue. What I would ask would be that the German people recognize that the United States has always been on the forefront of trying to promote civil liberties, that we have traditions of due process that we respect, that we have been a consistent partner of yours in the course of the last 70 years, and certainly the last 25 years, in reinforcing the values that we share. And so occasionally I would like the German people to give us the benefit of the doubt, given our history, as opposed to assuming the worst -- assuming that we have been consistently your strong partners and that we share a common set of values.
And if we have that fundamental, underlying trust, there are going to be times where there are disagreements, and both sides may make mistakes, and there are going to be irritants like there are between friends, but the underlying foundation for the relationship remains sound.
Christi Parsons.
Q Thank you, Mr. President. The Iran nuclear negotiators have now missed two deadlines. Should the upcoming March deadline for talks be the final one? And what are the circumstances in which you think it would be wise to extend those talks? Also, sir, some have suggested that you are outraged by the Israeli Prime Minister's decision to address Congress. Is that so? And how would you advise Democrats who are considering a boycott?
PRESIDENT OBAMA: First of all, we understood I think from the start, when we set up the interim agreement with Iran, that it would take some time to work through incredibly complex issues and a huge trust deficit between the United States and Iran, and the world and Iran, when it comes to their nuclear program. So I think there was always the assumption that, although the interim agreement lasted a certain period of time, that we would probably need more time to move forward.
The good news is, is that there have been very serious discussions. That time has been well spent. During this period of time, issues have been clarified; gaps have been narrowed; the Iranians have abided by the agreement. So this is not a circumstance in which, by talking, they've been stalling and meanwhile advancing their program. To the contrary. What we know is the program has not only been frozen, but with respect to, for example, 20 percent enriched uranium, they've reversed it. And so we're in a better position than we were before the interim program was set up.
Having said all that, the issues now are sufficiently narrowed and sufficiently clarified where we're at point where they need to make a decision. We are presenting to them, in a unified fashion -- the P5-plus-1, supported by a coalition of countries around the world, are presenting to them a deal that allows them to have peaceful nuclear power but gives us the absolute assurance that is verifiable that they are not pursuing a nuclear weapon.
And if, in fact, what they claim in true -- which is they have no aspiration to get a nuclear weapon, that, in fact, according to their Supreme Leader, it would be contrary to their faith to obtain a nuclear weapon -- if that is true, there should be the possibility of getting a deal. They should be able to get to yes. But we don't know if that's going to happen. They have their hardliners; they have their politics.
And the point, I guess is, Christi, at this juncture, I don't see a further extension being useful if they have not agreed to the basic formulation and the bottom line that the world requires to have confidence that they're not pursuing a nuclear weapon.
Now, if a framework for a deal is done, if people have a clear sense of what is required and there's some drafting and t's to cross and i's to dot, that's a different issue. But my view -- and I've presented this to members of Congress -- is that we now know enough that the issues are no longer technical. The issues now are, does Iran have the political will and the desire to get a deal done?
And we could not be doing this were it not for the incredible cohesion and unity that's been shown by Germany, by the other members of the P5-plus-1 -- which, I should acknowledge, includes Russia. I mean, this is an area where they've actually served a constructive role. And China has served a constructive role. And there has been no cracks in this on the P5-plus-1 side of the table. And I think that's a testament to the degree to which we are acting reasonably in trying to actually solve a problem.
With respect to Prime Minister Netanyahu, as I've said before, I talk to him all the time, our teams constantly coordinate. We have a practice of not meeting with leaders right before their elections, two weeks before their elections. As much as I love Angela, if she was two weeks away from an election she probably would not have received an invitation to the White House -- (laughter) -- and I suspect she wouldn't have asked for one. (Laughter.)
So this is just -- some of this just has to do with how we do business. And I think it's important for us to maintain these protocols -- because the U.S.-Israeli relationship is not about a particular party. This isn't a relationship founded on affinity between the Labor Party and the Democratic Party, or Likud and the Republican Party. This is the U.S.-Israeli relationship that extends beyond parties, and has to do with that unbreakable bond that we feel and our commitment to Israel's security, and the shared values that we have.
And the way to preserve that is to make sure that it doesn't get clouded with what could be perceived as partisan politics. Whether that's accurate or not, that is a potential perception, and that's something that we have to guard against.
Now, I don't want to be coy. The Prime Minister and I have a very real difference around Iran, Iran sanctions. I have been very clear -- and Angela agrees with me, and David Cameron agrees with me, and the others who are a member of the negotiations agree -- that it does not make sense to sour the negotiations a month or two before they're about to be completed. And we should play that out. If, in fact, we can get a deal, then we should embrace that. If we can't get a deal, then we'll have to make a set of decisions, and, as I've said to Congress, I'll be the first one to work with them to apply even stronger measures against Iran.
But what's the rush -- unless your view is that it's not possible to get a deal with Iran and it shouldn't even be tested? And that I cannot agree with because, as the President of the United States, I'm looking at what the options are if we don't get a diplomatic resolution. And those options are narrow and they're not attractive. And from the perspective of U.S. interests -- and I believe from the perspective of Israel's interests, although I can't speak for, obviously, the Israeli government -- it is far better if we can get a diplomatic solution.
So there are real differences substantively, but that's separate and apart from the whole issue of Mr. Netanyahu coming to Washington. All right?
Q Ms. Merkel, you just said the question is what will be effective in the Ukrainian crisis. And diplomacy, as you said yourself, has not really made all that -- has not really brought about that much of a progress. Can you understand the impatience of the Americans when they say we ought to now deliver weapons? And what makes you feel confident that diplomacy will carry the day in the next few days and weeks?
And on Greece, obviously I also have to ask you, what is your comment on the most recent comments of the Greek Prime Minister who says let's end those programs, and I'm going to stand by the promises I made during the election campaign? How do you envisage the further cooperation with the Greek government?
And to you, Mr. President, I address the question, there is quite a lot of pressure by members of your government who say weapons should be delivered to the Ukrainians. Now, you yourself have said you want to ratchet up the cost that Putin has to bear and then make him relent and give in maybe. And you said all options have to be on the table, so apparently also weapons. So what makes you so sure that these weapons will not only go into the hands of the regular Ukraine army, but will then also perhaps get into the hands of separatists or militias on the Ukrainian side, who are accused by Amnesty International and other NGOs of having violated human rights?
Thank you.
CHANCELLOR MERKEL: (As interpreted.) Whenever you have political conflict, such as the one that we have now between Russia and Ukraine, but also in many other conflicts around the world, it has always proved to be right to try again and again to solve such a conflict. We've spoken at some length about the Iranian conflict. Here, too, we are expected to try time and again. And there's always a point where you say, well, all of the options are on the table, we've gone back and forth, but then one has to think again.
Looking just at the Middle East conflict, for example, how many people have tried to bring about a solution to this conflict? And I've welcomed it every time, and I'm going to participate and support it every time because I think every time it has been well worth the effort.
Now, when you have a situation now where every night you see people dying, you see civilian casualties, you see the dire conditions under which people live, it is incumbent upon us as politicians, we owe it to the people to explore every avenue until somebody gives in.
But we've grown up under conditions -- I have to point this again -- where we said nobody would have dreamt of German unity. The people who have said in West Germany, remember they said, well, should we keep citizenship of Germany for the GDR? They've been criticized by people as some who have revisionist ideas. And then think of President Reagan when he said, ''Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall,'' standing in front of the Brandenburg Gate. Many people said at the time, how can he possibly say that? But it was right.
We have no guarantee. I cannot give you a guarantee for the outcome of the Wednesday talks or for other talks. And maybe nothing will come out of it. But then we're called upon again to think about a new possibility. And since we thought about every step of the way, will this be affective or not, we will continue to do so.
A lot of things have to be thought about, and I'm very glad that with the American President, I have always been able to put all of the cards on the table and discuss the pros and cons. In my speech in Munich, I gave you clearly where I stand. But we'll continue to try it. I think that's why we are politicians, that's why we chose this profession. Others have to do other things -- researchers have to, all of the time, find new things to explore and we have to see that the well-being, the prosperity of our people is ensured. But we never have a guarantee that the policies we adopt will work, will have the effect -- oh, sorry, Greece. I almost forgot. Yes. On Wednesday, there's going to be a Eurogroup meeting. And I think what counts is what Greece will put on the table at that Eurogroup meeting or perhaps a few days later.
The German policy, ever since 2010, has been aimed at Greece staying a member of the Eurozone. I've said this time and again. The basic rules have always been the same. You put in your own efforts, and on the other side, you're being shown solidarity as a quid pro quo. The three institutions of the Troika -- the ECB, the European Union Commission, and the IMF -- have agreed on programs. These programs are the basis of any discussion we have. I've always said I will wait for Greece to come with a sustainable proposal and then we'll talk about this.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: The point Angela made I think is right, which is we never have guarantees that any particular course of action works. As I've said before, by the time a decision reaches my desk, by definition, it's a hard problem with no easy answers. Otherwise somebody else would have solved it and I would never even hear about it.
The issue that you raised about can we be certain that any lethal aid that we provide Ukraine is used properly, doesn't fall into the wrong hands, does not lead to overaggressive actions that can't be sustained by the Ukrainians, what kinds of reactions does it prompt not simply from the separatists but from the Russians -- those are all issues that have to be considered. The measure by which I make these decisions is, is it more likely to be effective than not? And that is what our deliberations will be about.
But what I do know is this -- that the United States and Europe have not stood idly by. We have made enormous efforts, enormous investments of dollars, of political capital, of diplomacy, in trying to resolve this situation. I think the Ukrainian people can feel confident that we have stood by them. People like Vice President Biden and Secretary of State Kerry have spent countless hours on this issue, as has Angela and her team on the German side. And just because we have not yet gotten the outcome that we want doesn't mean that this pressure is not, over time, making a difference.
I think it's fair to say that there are those inside of Russia who recognize this has been a disastrous course for the Russian economy. I think Mr. Putin is factoring that in. But, understandably, until the situation is entirely resolved, we're going to have to keep on trying different things to see if we can get a better outcome.
What I do know is, is that we will not be able to succeed unless we maintain the strong transatlantic solidarity that's been the hallmark of our national security throughout the last 70 years. And I'm confident that I've got a great partner in Angela in maintaining that.
Thank you very much, everybody.
12:53 P.M. EST
MH17-stukken openbaar? Kabinet maakt veel onleesbaar | RTL Nieuws
Tue, 10 Feb 2015 14:49
RTL Nieuws is ontevreden over de manier waarop het kabinet stukken over de afhandeling van de ramp met MH17 heeft aangeleverd. Daarom wordt bezwaar ingediend bij het ministerie van Veiligheid en Justitie.
Vandaag maakte het kabinet in het kader van de Wet Openbaarheid Bestuur informatie over de afwikkeling van de ramp openbaar. In totaal waren er 254 documenten beschikbaar, maar 89 daarvan werden in het geheel niet openbaar gemaakt.
19 documenten maakt het kabinet openbaar. Daar horen ook enkele Kamerstukken bij, die al voor iedereen op internet te vinden zijn.
Veel zwart gemaakt146 documenten zijn voor een deel openbaar gemaakt. Dat betekent dat in die stukken onderdelen onleesbaar zijn gemaakt. De meeste stukken zijn 'gezwart' omdat ze volgens het kabinet bedoeld zijn voor 'intern beraad'.
Volgens adjunct-hoofdredacteur Pieter Klein van RTL Nieuws gaat het om belangrijke passages. "Het weigeren en zwarten van zoveel documenten is een provocatie", zegt Klein. "Het is voor RTL Nieuws niet mogelijk het kabinet te controleren als zoveel geheim blijft. We willen ieder geval de relevante feiten, zodat een serieuze reconstructie mogelijk wordt van het optreden van het kabinet."
Dat RTL Nieuws bezwaar aantekent tegen de beslissing van het ministerie van Justitie, betekent dat die nog eens tegen het licht moet worden gehouden en een nieuw besluit kan worden genomen. "We gaan naar de rechter als er geen beter besluit komt", aldus Klein over die procedure.
RTL Nieuws
Cyprus to give access to its ports, airstrips to Russian military | EurActiv
Tue, 10 Feb 2015 15:29
President of Cyprus Nicos Anastasiades has said he is in talks with the Russian government to let its military ships and planes use Cypriot ports and airstrips in case of humanitarian operations or in emergency situations.
Anastasiades said this in an interview with the Russian agency TASS published yesterday (9 February). He added that the two sides were conducting ''a dialogue to explore the additional possibilities that could be offered to Russia in case of humanitarian operations or emergency situations''.
The Cypriot president is expected to travel to Russia later this month where trade, investments and the renewal of a military cooperation deal is expected to be on the agenda of talks in the Kremlin.
The press has reported that a draft agreement, approved by the Cyprus government last month, grants the permission to Russian planes to land at Andreas Papandreou Airbase, which was constructed by Cypriot government jointly with Greece.
Not bases
Several media reported that Cyprus, a member of EU and of the eurozone, but not of NATO, is offering Russia military bases. This was vehemently rejected by the country's foreign minister Ioannis Kasoulides.
Speaking before attending the EU Foreign Affairs Council (FAC) in Brussels on 9 February, Kasoulides explained that the offer of military facilities for emergency needs was in no way tantamount to offering bases.
''There has never been, and indeed there is no question of Russian air or naval military bases on the soil of Cyprus. Besides, there has never been any request from Russia about this,'' he was quoted by the state Cyprus News Agency as saying.
''What President Anastasiades referred to, in a recent interview, was the renewal of a military cooperation agreement with Russia consisting of maintenance of military equipment sold to Cyprus years ago, as well as the purchase of spare parts according to existing contracts. As regards the offering of facilities, these are of a purely non-military humanitarian nature such as the evacuation of Russian civilians from the Middle East if the need arises.''
However, Greek and Turkish media report that the UK, which uses two military bases in Cyprus under the terms of the 1960 treaty of independence of which London is part, was nervous at the news of Nicosia's offer to Moscow.
The UK High Commissioner (Ambassador) to Cyprus Damian Roberick Todd, is quoted as saying that the EU has a common stance on Russia with view to the recent developments in Ukraine, and that Nicosia had to abide by this position.
Anastasiades has reacted to these remarks, asking the UK envoy not to use ''baseless'' words.
''There is an old [defence] agreement, which should be renewed as is. At the same time, some additional services will be provided in the same way as we do with other countries, such as, for example, with France and Germany,'' Anastasiades reportedly said, adding: ''Cyprus and Russia have traditionally had good relations, and this is not subject to change.''
Asked to comment, Maja Kocijancic, Commission spokesperson for foreign affairs, said that at this stage, she would simply refer to the explanations given by the Cypriot authorities.
On a visit to Cyprus on 2 February, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras told Anastasiades, that the two countries could form a bridge between Europe and Russia, currently estranged over Ukraine.
>> Read:Tsipras says Greece and Cyprus could be 'EU bridge to Russia'
Press reports brand Cyprus as ''a favourite tax haven'' for rich Russians. Russian-related business is thought to make up about 10% of the Cypriot economy.
Both Greece and Cyprus are Orthodox countries with traditions of siding together on many occasions. Greek media quoted Cypriot government officials saying that Nicosia would support Athens' positions both at the Eurogroup meeting tomorrow (11 February) and at the EU summit the next day.
Russia To Get Military Base In E.U. Country '' Report
Tue, 10 Feb 2015 22:57
A Russian sailor watches amphibious vehicles move during a naval parade rehearsal in the far eastern port of Vladivostok, July 25, 2014.
Cyprus has offered Russia to have air and navy bases on its territory.
Cypriot president Nicos Anastasiades announced that the country is ready to host Russian aviation and naval bases. The official agreement on military cooperation between the two nations is expected be signed on February 25, 2015, according to
''There is an old [defence] agreement, which should be renewed as is. At the same time, some additional services will be provided in the same way as we do with other countries, such as, for example, with France and Germany,'' Nicos Anastasiades said. ''Cyprus and Russia have traditionally had good relations, and this is not subject to change.''
Cyprus' announcement comes after Russia expressed interest in having a military base in Cyprus in late January, according to the Global Post and Greek Reporter.
Notably, Cyprus is one of the 28-member states in the EU, which have been imposing sanctions on Russia over the past year in response to the actions in Ukraine.
And just like Greece has recently caused a stir by complicating the process of extending sanctions on Russia, Cyprus, too, just voiced some opposition to the additional sanctions on Russia, adding that many EU members share that opinion.
''We want to avoid further deterioration of relations between Russia and the European Union,'' the Cypriot president reportedly said.
So military cooperation between Cyprus and Russia is yet another red flag for the EU.
Presumably, the Russian Air Force will use the airbase ''Andreas Papandreou,'' along with the international airport of Paphos in the southwest of the island, approximately 50 kilometers from the air base of the British Royal Air Force ''Akrotiri.'' Additionally, the Russian navy will be able to permanently use the base of Limassol, according to Lenta.Ru.
''The Limassol port borders on the British air base of Akrotiri which serves NATO operations and is also an important hub in the electronic military surveillance system of the alliance,'' according to the Global Post.
Given Russia and Cyprus' shady economic relationship over the last two decades (ever since the fall of the USSR), perhaps this isn't all that surprising.
Russia Today reports that ''Russians have transferred over $US30 billion (around $US1 trillion roubles) to Cyprus over the past twenty years, according to a study published by a group of economists from Russia, Finland and Canada.''
In 2013, during the Cypriot financial crisis, analysts estimated that over a third of bank deposits in Cyprus may have had Russian origin, and reportedly, many Russian companies are registered on the island. Some reports even went as far as saying that Cyprus has become ''a major money laundering machine for Russian criminals'' back in 2013.
Even today, Russia's current economic problems are reportedly further dragging down Cyprus.
''Russia's presence in the economy has been a huge supporting factor. Its footprint is everywhere from tourism to real estate, so it is worth monitoring the impact,'' said Michael Florentiades, chief economist and head of investment research at, an online financial services company in Limassol.
Two Russian businessmen smoke from hookahs inside a restaurant in Limassol, a coastal town in southern Cyprus on February 20, 2013.
Naturally, Russia's heavy-duty financial involvement in a EU state ''raised concerns among the island country's Western allies'' over the past few years, according to Euractiv.
But the most alarming Russia-Cyprus dalliance came during the height of the Cypriot financial crisis when Cyprus was reportedly negotiating with Russia for a bailout in 2013. The EU was particularly nervous about this because there was speculation that Russia might ask for a naval port and access to the country's gas reserves in return.
Ultimately, however, Cyprus opted for a '''‚¬10 billion bailout agreed with the troika, in return for closing the country's second largest bank Laiki, and imposing a one-time levy on all uninsured deposits, including those held by foreign citizens.''
On top of all of that, it's notable that Russia made some major moves in the Mediterranean recently.
In mid-January, Russia announced that it will shift all its natural gas flows to Europe via Turkey, instead of Ukraine.
''Our European partners have been informed of this and now their task is to create the necessary gas transport infrastructure from the Greek and Turkish border,'' the head of Gazprom Alexei Miller said in a statement.
Additionally, Russia and Greece's new government have taken initiatives to explore their military and economic relationship (for example, here, here, and here).
In fact, the new Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras even stated in early February: ''Greece and Cyprus can become a bridge of peace and cooperation between the EU and Russia.''
So this part of the world could soon become very interesting '-- and a huge pain for Europe.
Gazprom hammers out Turkish Stream route | Oil and Gas Technology
Tue, 10 Feb 2015 23:01
A meeting in Turkey between Gaprom's head, Alexey Miller, and the Turkish minster for energy and natural resources, Taner Yildiz, has decided on the landfall location of the proposed new sub-Black Sea natural gas pipeline and on the pipeline's target capacity
The parties defined the key reference points of the route and technical solutions for the gas pipeline in Turkey. In particular, the meeting chose the landfall location '' near Kayakoy village, the gas delivery point for Turkish consumers in Luleburgaz and a border crossing between Turkey and Greece in Epsila. The gas pipeline length will total 180 kilometres.
In the near future a permit is to be obtained for conducting FEED operations for the new Turkish offshore section.
The growing demand for natural gas in the Istanbul district will be taken into account in the gas pipeline design; therefore, the volume of gas to be delivered to the border between Turkey and Greece was specified and estimated at 47 billion cubic metres.
The capacity of the offshore gas pipeline from Russia to Turkey will amount to 63 billion cubic metres a year, the first string is to be completed by December 2016.
On December 1, 2014 Gazprom and Turkish company Botas Petroleum Pipeline Corporation signed the Memorandum of Understanding on constructing an offshore gas pipeline from Russia to Turkey across the Black Sea.
The gas pipeline will have a capacity of 63 billion cubic metres, with nearly 50 billion cubic metres to be conveyed to a gas hub on the border between Turkey and Greece.
Gazprom Russkaya will be in charge of the gas pipeline construction.
Turkey is Gazprom's second largest sales market behind Germany. In 2014 Gazprom supplied Turkey with 27.4 billion cubic metres of natural gas. Turkey currently receives Russian natural gas via the Blue Stream and the Trans-Balkan gas pipelines.
South Korea To Launch Satellite With Ukraine Rocket From Russia
Thu, 12 Feb 2015 15:56
MOSCOW, February 10. /TASS/. The Russian government has allowed the Defense Ministry to use, on a contractual basis, military-oriented space systems, as well as involve the military to ensure the launch of a South Korean communications satellite, Kompsat-3A, with the help of a Dnepr RS-20B carrier rocket, according to a resolution posted on the official website of legal information.
Earlier, Russian Federal Space Agency Roscosmos said the launches of Dnepr rockets '' converted intercontinental ballistic missiles (NATO reporting name SS-18 Satan) '' as part of the international space program Kosmotras between Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan have been suspended.
But International Space Company (ISC) Kosmotras CEO Alexander Serkin told TASS the company will fulfill all its commitments on launches of Dnepr carrier rockets with foreign spacecraft under earlier signed contracts. In his words, Kompsat-3A is to be launched in March. Another two Dnepr launches are scheduled for 2015.
''Our international partners have nothing to worry about, we will fulfill all commitments wer undertook,'' he stressed then.
Roscosmos spokesman Igor Burenkov confirmed that all earlier reached agreements on the launch of Dnepr carrier rockets will be fulfilled.
The previous Dnepr launch occurred in November 2014.
Dnepr is a three-stage liquid-fueled rocket, whose first and second stages are regular stages of the RS-20 ballistic missile. RS-20B rockets developed in Dnepropetrovsk, Ukraine, are modernized by Kosmotras, and launches are made from the Baikonur space center Russia leases from Kazakhstan, as well as from the Orenburg Region in Russia's Volga Federal District.
Malacca Straigts
Statement by NSC Spokesperson Bernadette Meehan on Conviction of Malaysian Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim | The White House
Thu, 12 Feb 2015 15:06
The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release
February 10, 2015
The United States is deeply disappointed with Mr. Anwar's conviction following a government appeal of the original verdict finding him not guilty. The decision to prosecute Mr. Anwar and the conduct of his trial have raised a number of serious concerns about rule of law and the fairness of the judicial system in Malaysia. These concerns are compounded by the government's intent to expand its sedition law, which Prime Minister Najib had pledged to repeal, to prosecute government critics.
When National Security Advisor Susan Rice met with Malaysian opposition leaders in April 2014, she reiterated the President's message that countries who uphold the human rights of all their citizens -- regardless of their political affiliation, ethnicity, race, religion or sexual orientation -- are ultimately more prosperous and more stable. The United States and Malaysia have built a strong ''comprehensive partnership,'' and we remain committed to expanding our cooperation on shared economic and security challenges affecting our countries' interests in Asia and globally. In that context, we urge the Government of Malaysia to apply the rule of law fairly, transparently, and apolitically in order to promote confidence in Malaysia's democracy, judiciary, and economy.
Greece Lies to Shauble
I don't know if you noticed it: yesterday evening near midnight when meeting
of financial ministers was nearly over Varoufakis (financial minister of Greece)
told everybody that he will sign the agreement,
so German finanical minister Schäuble (pronunciation: shoy-bleh !!!)
left the meeting convinced that general agreement is signed.
Once Schäuble left, Varoufakis said he aint singing anything
and whole meeting ended without anything at all - 6 hours of fucking around.
fucktards from greece should leave Euro zone but no: they want to opress FREE money.
in other words: Greek government behaves like hooligans, other EU countries are not amused
because it can't be that lazy greeks go in retirement when 62 years old but hard working Germans
mus work till 70 years old before retirement and still Greece should get loads of cash.
Greece, Syriza and the EU Banking Union | European Public Affairs
Thu, 12 Feb 2015 16:13
A Shifting LandscapeIn October 2014, the European Central Bank concluded a year-long assessment of the balance sheets for Europe's 130 largest banks, known formally as the 'Comprehensive Assessment'. It revealed a cumulative capital shortfall of '‚¬24.6 billion euros among 25 of the euro areas' largest lenders under 'adverse' circumstances. Three out of four of Greece's largest banks failed to meet the capital requirements imposed by the ECB. While this did not come as a surprise considering the country's financial troubles, the outcome was in fact less alarming than it would at first seem. Taking capital accretion and projected future earnings into account, only one of the three failed Greek banks were actually expected to fall short in such a scenario '' and even then only by a small margin.
However, neither the banks nor the ECB could have anticipated the drastic shift in the political climate signalled by the rise to power of the anti-austerity Syriza party. Its uncompromising stance on the bailout programme coupled with the promise to halve Greece's debt has frightened many investors. Over 20 billion euros (12 percent of Greek GDP) has already left the country since December. In mid-January, Eurobank and Alpha Bank, Greece's third and fourth largest banks, sought access to emergency funds from the national central bank. This type of funding, known as emergency liquidity assistance (ELA), is made available to borrowers at a much higher interest rate: 1.55 percent compared to 0.05 percent for ordinary lending. As such, this type of financing is only meant to act as a short-term liquidity bridge, rather than address persistent structural problems such as those facing the Greek banking system.
After the Governing Council's decision on 4 February to no longer accept Greek bonds as collateral for normal loans, ELA is the last remaining avenue for banks that are in need of liquidity. This squeeze comes at a time when the Single Supervisory Mechanism, the ECB's banking watchdog, has begun requesting that banks maintain much higher capital buffers than other regulatory agencies have in the past. In some cases, these new requirements are nearly four times the level they were before the 2008 crisis. Furthermore, the Supervisory Review and Evaluation Process guidelines, recently released by the European Banking Authority, will require that supervisors (both national supervisors and the SSM) regard a lenders' business plan as an integral part of their overall assessment. Although the guidelines will only apply from 2016, this development is still unfortunate from the perspective of Greek banks. It will force them to account for poor market conditions in their planning, which will impact the course their business takes and almost certainly rule out certain money-making opportunities.
It remains unclear how exactly the SSM will react if banks are unable to maintain the mandated capital buffers, or otherwise comply with the prudential requirements it imposes. This has stoked investors' fears and makes Greece's banking system appear all the more vulnerable.
The Implications of Banking UnionThe Comprehensive Assessment was originally conducted to help the ECB prepare for the task of banking supervision. On November 4 2014, the ECB assumed responsibility for overseeing all euro area banks under the so-called Single Supervisory Mechanism (SSM). The SSM is part of an EU-led effort to increase and enhance financial sector cooperation amongst European countries. Known as the Banking Union, this initiative consists of two pillars: the SSM and the Single Resolution Mechanism (SRM). The purpose of the SSM is to provide a unified and consistent regulatory framework across the euro area, while the SRM will 'wind-down' (i.e. help to fail in orderly manner) any bank that is supervised by the ECB.
The mainstay of Syriza's campaign platform was that it would renegotiate the terms of the country's bailout agreement with international lenders in order to lessen the painful austerity measures, which have devastated the way of life of so many. However, even if Greece's new leaders decide to reject any further financing by the troika, there will still remain a measure of international oversight as long as the euro remains the national currency. Furthermore, because conditions under which ELA is provided are also largely determined by the ECB, a degree of international control will remain in this regard as well.
Although the SSM does not have the kind of leverage required to make demands as wide-reaching as those of the troika, its influence over the banking sector is far from negligible. There are estimates that more than 100 new regulatory requirements and guidelines will be implemented in the coming years as a direct result of the SSM. It goes on:
''[These new regulations] will induce changes in all aspects of banking, from the underlying business model, strategy and profit-and-loss statement to the balance sheet and governance structure.''
We have already seen these changes to a certain extent. Last December, the ECB sent out letters to many of the banks it supervises, requesting that they bolster their capital reserves. In January, further letters were published regarding matters such as dividend distribution policies and the SSM's approach vis- -vis existing supervisory practices.
However, it's important to realize that there are grounds for questioning the legitimacy of the SSM. One of the most cited concerns is the continued involvement of national staff in the supervision process. Most of the people who work at the SSM are in fact ex-employees of national supervisors who left their jobs in order to pursue a career at the European level. Furthermore, the supervision of the Euro area's largest banks is conducted by so-called Joint Supervisory Teams (JSTs), which combine officials from both the SSM and the ECB. On the one hand, it's not surprising that many SSM staff were recruited from Europe's existing supervisory bodies. But on the other hand, the people who are now tasked with oversight of the entire euro area banking system are largely the same ones who presided over it before, and during, the financial crisis. These are questions which Syriza might well raise if faced with unreasonable demands from the ECB in the context of bank supervision.
As pan-European supervision is still quite a novelty, it remains difficult to predict how it will affect the market. Investors might see the Banking Union both as either a last line of defence or as yet another regulatory hurdle which merely adds to the cost of doing business. And while it's reassuring to know that there will always be some measure of European oversight as long Greece keeps the Euro, the very same institution which protects also has the power to levy heavy fines and can significantly impact the business viability Greek banks in other ways too. One scenario worth contemplating is what might happen if the SSM bares its teeth and comes down hard banks which cannot play by its rules. Syriza promised that it would strive to remove Greece from beneath the troika's heel. If the ECB decides to play tough on supervision, might this be enough for Greece's new leaders to seriously consider the possibility of leaving the Euro?
Sebastian AndreiHaving spent the first part of my life growing up in the United States, I was relatively late to acquire my European identity. When I eventually received my Romanian passport, I had never really lived there despite having been born in Bucharest. In fact, at that point, I had spent the previous 7 years in Germany (our family moved there when I was 10) which is actually where I got my first taste of Europe.I can trace my appreciation for the EU to one particular moment: my first application for a German work permit as a Romanian citizen. I was able to apply with half the hassle it would have taken with non-EU documentation. This was the first time where I could attribute tangible benefits to a political process and I remember thinking: 'This actually made my life better'.
When I have the time, I like to ski, read, run and of course, travel as much as possible.
BRICS SDR to Bailout Eurozone
Thu, 12 Feb 2015 15:57
By JC Collins
The different angles of geopolitical and macroeconomic events are beginning to coalesce into the direct 90 degree turn which will shift the global financial system in the direction of the multilateral architecture. The apparent movement away from the USD unipolar structure towards the multilateral framework which is being implemented in stages is becoming more visible with each passing day.
This movement is taking the ''two steps away from the USD and one step back'' approach, and with each turn and shift the USD is being further removed as the primary reserve currency used in global trade. The much promoted death of the dollar in the alternative media is largely based on misinformation and unintended breaks in analytical rationalization as the full scope of the multilateral structure, and the global support from all countries of the world for such a system, has been cleverly hidden behind a script of geopolitical tension, as well as the dual crisis of growing sovereign debt and currency imbalances.
It should be stated that the USD will categorically remain as one of many reserve currencies with it's position secure in the SDR basket composition, alongside the Chinese renminbi, among others, potentially even the Russian ruble. The path of the Special Drawing Right is being drawn along the transition points of the multilateral structure. These transition points exist as both geopolitical and macro-prudential positions which have been carefully scattered across the global landscape.
Each point, like a connect-the-dots picture, is being absorbed into the whole as the scripted tension and policy initiatives are implemented under the guise of ideological and political mandates. The Ukrainian crisis in Eastern Europe is one such point where the existing USD order of the Eurozone is being transformed into the Eurasian mechanics of the multilateral.
We are now seeing how the Ukrainian geopolitical point is being connected to the macroeconomic point of the debt restructuring script which is presently unfolding in Greece. The newly elected government of Greece has threatened to accept the offered financial assistance of Russia and China, which more broadly represents the BRICS countries.
In turn, Greece, through Cypress, has geopolitically offered Russia access to military facilities on the Mediterranean island. This is the connectivity point between the geopolitical Ukrainian crisis and the Greece sovereign debt crisis, which will soon expand into the larger Eurozone monetary crisis.
The Greek contagion, as it is being called, is threatening to spread to Spain and Italy, and eventually across the whole of the continent. Ukraine, the seam between the old Eurozone and the new Eurasian zone, could also be economically salvaged by the BRICS countries when the USD interests eventually back away from the brink of a war that no one wants, especially the European countries who would have to bear the brunt of such a drastic geopolitical affront.
The latest free-trade agreement between Russia and Egypt is also very telling of the transition points of the multilateral shift. Egypt and Libya, both of whom recently evaded direct American control and influence in their countries, are positioned extremely well to capitalize on the growing mandates of the multilateral architecture, as currently represented by the BRICS institutions.
Returning to the Greek situation, the hardline stance of Germany on debt restructuring, or delaying, stands in stark contrast to the overt pivot towards Russia which is being established within the macro script. Germany and France are both beginning to show signs of shifting away from the traditional geopolitical alliance with the North American continent and standing with their ''common history'' partner Russia.
And yet, Russia is supporting Greece in their attempts to leverage, against Germany, the threat of a Eurozone banking failure. This oppositional positioning at first appears to be contradictory to the messages being sent by the leaders of each country, but the transitional scripting is smoothly directing our attention across the points which have been previously established., as discussed above.
Each geopolitical and economic point in the transition script will eventually consolidate into larger macro points of the multilateral framework.
But how does a large banking failure across the Eurozone shift the world closer to the multilateral structure?
The most probable strategy is likely to intentionally force the Eurozone banks into failure so that the European Stability Mechanism will have cause and pretext to take over control of the European banking infrastructure. The ESM would be the logical first shift towards a broader SDRM, or Sovereign Debt Restructuring Mechanism, which would be managed directly by the more macro FSB, Financial Stability Board, and the International Monetary Fund itself.
Whether the initial first debt consolidation, or restructured, offered by the BRICS Development Bank to the Eurozone is denominated in SDR or RMB is something of a mute point as the end consolidation will involve the more supra-sovereign SDRM, which will obviously be denominated in SDR.
Another contradictory segment of the transitional scripting can be found in the support of America's staged fight with ISIS in the Middle East. Russia, Iran, and China, are all supporting USD interests in the region. All sides are reading from the same script which is being promoted by Washington.
Much of this could have to do with the Middle East being divided into southern and northern monetary unions. It is hard to imagine the current borders of the Middle East being maintained after the multilateral transition has been completed. With China now moving into Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia shifting alliances, it's beginning to appear as if USD interests will remain entrenched within Iraq, as a strategic reserve of energy and petroleum products.
The two big energy resource regions, being the Middle East and the Caspian Basin, are being strategically divided amongst the largest economic members of the multilateral in order to facilitate a sense of balance in economic alliances. Once pro-American regimes are beginning to fall and be replaced by alternatives, such as in the nation of Yemen, the soft underbelly to Saudi Arabia and the petrodollar arrangement.
Canadian Finance Minister Joe Oliver has recently stated that the USD system, though carrying the world, is simply not sustainable. This is a clear reference to the systemic imbalances which China and other countries have discussed in the months and years after the financial crisis of 2008.
These imbalances, and what Joe Oliver was referencing, are best explained in something called the Triffin Paradox, which I will explain in further detail in the forthcoming ePublication titled Re-Engineering the Dollar.
The attempts of others to ignore the obvious connections between the SDR and the BRICS nations, as well as the multilateral mandates, all of which are discussed in the official white papers and publications of the nations treasuries and central banks, as well as other institutions, are of questionable intent.
As detailed in the post The SDR Purpose of BRICS, the New Development Bank will be the first issuer of SDR denominated bonds. This liquidity will facilitate the SDRM process and ensure that the multilateral architecture is established in staged intervals as the global deflation continues to expand.
The broad failure of the banking infrastructure in the Eurozone will lead into the transition point of a BRICS bailout with SDR bonds and SDRM restructuring. The micro transition points of the ESM, European Stability Mechanism, will shift into the macro transition points of the FSB, Financial Stability Board, as the larger mandates of the multilateral framework become more visible.
That is the real story, not secret sources and banking overthrows, though the current system is being ''cleared'' of witnesses and evildoers, to term a Bush phrase, as well as adjustments to tax laws and capital flows, all meant to fit the broader macro mechanics of the multilateral.
Now we continue to study and observe as the increasing number of BSA's, or Bilateral Swap Arrangements, between China and the rest of the world sets the stage for the RMB's inclusion into the SDR composition which will facilitate the Eurozone bailout.
Europeans are being lead directly into a systemic banking failure which will force the ESM to take direct control of the banking system and shift the whole framework upwards into the larger mandates of the FSB and IMF. This is why the alternative and mainstream scripts of BRICS resistance to the international banking order are so important. Any connection between the BRICS institutions and the SDR of the International Monetary Fund are to be avoided at all costs. A small army of alternative ''analysts'' have spread the ''overthrow'' storyline far and wide. And the mainstream media have been running the Greece far-right script on a regular basis. Nothing is promoted in the mainstream unless it serves a purpose. Think it through. '' JC
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AP News : Central Europeans feel crushed by Swiss franc loans
Tue, 10 Feb 2015 16:40
By VANESSA GERA and ALISON MUTLERPublished: TodayBUCHAREST, Romania (AP) - Elvis Constantin Cluci and his wife had planned a second child, their dreams set on a little brother for their 2 ½ year-old daughter. But due to a surge in the Swiss franc that caused the Romanian couple's mortgage payments to rise, not only is another child out of the question but they have had to send their daughter to live with grandparents 100 kilometers (60 miles) away.
Now they see her only once or twice a month. They simply cannot afford both day care and their mortgage on a small studio apartment in Bucharest. They can barely even scrape together the gas money to drive to see her.
"I can hardly smile anymore," said Cluci, 37. "My wife is completely destroyed. As the man I have to be strong and bear it."
On Jan. 15, the Swiss national bank ended a policy meant to limit the franc's value against the euro - causing the franc to surge. That move by one of Europe's richest countries is adding to the financial despair of hundreds of thousands of people across some of the poorest regions of the continent due to mortgages taken out years ago in Swiss francs.
Many of the borrowers were in their 20s and 30s who took out loans in the boom years before the crisis of 2008. They were supposed to be the first generation to benefit fully from the economic promise that came with the fall of communism and the entry into the European Union. Mortgages in foreign currencies were particularly popular because they came with lower interest rates.
Instead, these borrowers now find themselves stuck in a new kind of servitude, their fates tied to the ups and downs of a currency that many have never held in their hands.
The pain of the borrowers is turning into a key political issue in many countries, primarily Poland and Croatia, where elections are on the horizon. Many of the borrowers feel they were tricked by the banks into financial products that are now called "toxic" - and have been banned in many countries. They want governments to push banks to give them some relief.
It's a tricky position for leaders: do you force banks to take a financial hit to help people who willingly entered into risky contracts?
Responses by governments have varied.
The Hungarian government forced banks in November to convert Swiss franc loans to the local currency at the exchange rate of the time. In hindsight, the timing prevented financial disaster for many Hungarian borrowers come January.
The government of Croatia, where there are 60,000 such loans, froze the franc-kuna exchange rate at pre-Jan. 15 levels for one year to help borrowers.
Other countries, like Poland and Romania, are still debating what to do, but have ruled out a Hungarian-style solution. Polish authorities are urging banks to take voluntary steps to help borrowers.
Wiktor Nozycki, a 31-year-old Pole who has a mortgage on an apartment in Poznan, says what the Polish authorities have proposed primarily benefits the banks and that he considers the government and bankers to be acting like gangsters.
"No one warned the consumers about any risks," he said. "Banks here are above the law."
The anger is huge in Poland, where there are more than 550,000 outstanding loans, and class-action lawsuits against banks are in the works. In Slovenia an association of affected citizens is also threatening to sue the banks.
Economist Piotr Bujak with Bank PKO BP said many of the accusations against the banks are unfair and that customers were generally informed of the exchange rate risks.
"As long as the servicing of mortgages in Swiss francs was cheaper, customers were happy, while now they want others - banks, taxpayers - to cover the increased costs," Bujak said.
Many borrowers now owe more on their homes than they are worth and cannot sell without incurring significant loss, also because property prices have fallen since the boom years. The media have reported cases of people so desperate they have sought treatment in psychiatric hospitals. In Romania, the suicide of a borrower prompted a consumer protection agency to investigate whether the loans were fairly handled.
Dorota Smetek, a 30-year-old assistant professor of linguistics in Poznan, feels she was tricked by her bank and is considering joining one of the lawsuits.
In 2008, at 24, she took an 11-year mortgage to buy a small one-bedroom apartment for 250,000 zlotys ($68,500). The bank had predicted her installments would be around 2,500 zlotys ($685), but right after she signed the deal the financial crisis hit, and she immediately found herself paying 3,000 ($825) per month. Her most recent installment was 3,500 zlotys ($960), something she can't pay without her parents' help.
"There wasn't a single installment that was what the bank said it would be," she said. "I am starting to think someone is taking me for a fool. I feel I was cheated."
Now she feels stuck: She can't sell because she would lose too much. She can't rent because that income would only cover about half of her monthly mortgage payment. She has been forced to make sacrifices, like canceling plans for a winter vacation. Lately she has needed sleeping pills at night.
And like the Romanian couple, she and her husband would also love a second child - but not when money is so tight and they are stuck in an apartment of only 45 square meters (485 square feet).
"How can I have more children when I can't change my flat?" she asked.
The only hope for her and so many others lies hundreds of kilometers away in Switzerland. They simply want the franc to fall.
Associated Press writer Vanessa Gera reported from Warsaw, Poland. Jovana Gec in Belgrade, Serbia, and Pablo Gorondi in Budapest, Hungary, also contributed.
Follow Vanessa Gera on Twitter at
Commission fleshes out energy strategy for Southeast Europe | EurActiv
Tue, 10 Feb 2015 15:37
As energy ministers of eight countries from Southeast Europe meet in Sofia today (9 February) to discuss the countries' needs and ambitions, a leaked paper has shed light on the European Commission's plans to help the region overcome its various problems.
An internal paper discussed by the Commission on 4 February suggests that the EU executive may at last decide to tackle the issue of ''energy islands'', with the entire region of Southeastern Europe representing a particular challenge.
''Energy islands continue to exist and many markets, for instance in Southeast Europe, are not properly connected to their neighbours'', says the paper, which served as a basis for an ''orientation debate'' for the future Energy Union, led by Commission Vice President MaroŠŠefčovič. A leaked version of the paper was published on the blog of Alice Stollmeyer.
Indeed, the EU countries Greece, Bulgaria and Romania, as well as aspiring EU members Serbia, Macedonia, Albania, Kosovo, Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina could largely be seen as a vast energy island, poorly integrated with the rest of Europe. The wider region consists also of Hungary, Croatia, Slovenia, Slovakia and Austria.
The region is moderately interconnected as a historical legacy. Electricity supply companies in the region often act as monopolies and the regulators often fail to play an independent role. In Greece, the Public Power Corporation, a state company, distributes close to 100% of the electricity of the country. In Bulgaria, three utilities (CEZ, E.on and Energo Pro) have divided the country and each act as a monopoly on its territory.
In Romania, the Commission has opened inquiries into preferential tariffs granted by the state-controlled hydropower producer Hydroelectrica to several traders and electricity producers. Behind such practices the press suspects corruption and political brinkmanship.
The price of electricity in the region is not high, compared to older EU members. But because of the low living standards the entire region falls into the category of EU countries where an important percentage of the population (between 20% and 30%) are unable to heat their home adequately.
According to a recent study by E3G it requires significant investment to overcome key grid bottlenecks. The European Network of Transmission System Operators for Electricity (ENTSO-E) estimates at least '‚¬10.8 billion need to be invested in power transmission projects in the region by 2020. Moreover, the region has an ageing power plant fleet, with over 35% of the power capacity of Bulgaria and Romania expected to close by 2020.
In the context of the Ukraine crisis and the cancelled South Stream project to bring Russian gas to the EU via Bulgaria, the Commission advises that Southeastern Europe follows the example of Northern Europe and establishes liquid gas hubs with multiple suppliers.
It appears that Russia is following the same trend, as according to latest statements from Russian officials, Gazprom will deliver the gas intended for EU countries under the South Stream project at a planned gas hub at the Turkish-Greek border.
>> Read: Russia sheds light on Turkish Stream project
The Commission foresees that future intergovernmental agreements (IGA's) of member states, as well as ''other type of contracts'' with gas exporting countries would be subject to prior scrutiny to make sure EU internal market rules and security of supply criteria are observed.
In December 2013, the Commission disclosed that the bilateral agreements for the construction of the Gazprom-favoured South Stream gas pipeline '' concluded between Russia, Bulgaria, Serbia, Hungary, Greece, Slovenia, Croatia and Austria '' are all in breach of EU law and need to be renegotiated from scratch. Later, EurActiv saw a letter sent by the Commission to the Bulgarian authorities, dated 14 August 2013. The letter identified series of grievances, ranging from giving Gazprom a most favoured tax regime, to deciding which companies would be subcontracted for building the pipeline.
''The European networks of Transmission System Operators for Electricity and gas (ENTSO- E/G) will be upgraded and regional operational centres created, so that they can more effectively plan manage cross-border electricity and gas flow'', the paper reads.
The Commission also advocates for strengthening regulation.
In view of the ''particular vulnerability'' of the Central and Southeastern parts of Europe, the Commission envisions new cooperation formats, called in the paper ''a Southeastern and Central European Energy forum (SECEF or CESEC).
The ministers of eight EU countries (Bulgaria, Austria, Croatia, Greece, Hungary, Romania, Slovenia and Slovakia) are meeting today in Sofia in a meeting presided by Šefčovič. The gathering, held behind closed doors, is expected to requests of the respective capitals in terms of Commission support needed, but also to convey the views of Šefčovič's services for the need of future reform.
Agenda 21
The fiddling with temperature data is the biggest science scandal ever
Sun, 08 Feb 2015 20:53
Exposing the comprehensive UN plan to bring about an authoritarian world government via international regulations and treaties under the guise of environmentalism and social justice.
In order to meet the challenges of environment and development, States have decided to establish a new global partnership. This partnership commits all States to engage in a continuous and constructive dialogue, inspired by the need to achieve a more efficient and equitable world economy, keeping in view the increasing interdependence of the community of nations and that sustainable development should become a priority item on the agenda of the international community. It is recognized that, for the success of this new partnership, it is important to overcome confrontation and to foster a climate of genuine cooperation and solidarity. It is equally important to strengthen national and international policies and multinational cooperation to adapt to the new realities.
Remember, a lot of this is heavy doublespeak. I.E. "Commuter Friendly" = Commuter hell, at the mercy of public transportation, unfriendly-to-cars, no leaving the area etc., "Walkable" = car unfriendly, literally poverty infrastructure
New UrbanismTriple Bottom LineSustainability/Sustainable DevelopmentSocial EquityEconomic EmpowermentSocial Responsibility"Smart" i.e. Smart GrowthEconomic/Environmental JusticeCorporate Social Responsibility(CSR)Liveable/WalkableNew NormalComplete StreetsMixed-Use (property)"Green"Commuter Friendly"Well-Being"Community ActionResilience/Resilient CommunitiesTransition TownNext/New EconomyNo Racism
No Abusive/threatening language.
Any posts that attack the sub, the users or the mods can be removed. Breaking this rule more than once can earn a ban.
We are all different here, and you may find that have different beliefs, but please be respectful of each other.
Yahoo News Digest '-- Fed report: Time to examine idea of purposely...
Tue, 10 Feb 2015 23:24
ScienceIt's time to study and maybe even test the idea of cooling the Earth by injecting sulfur pollution high in the air to reflect the sun's heat, a first-of-its-kind federal science report said Tuesday. The idea was once considered fringe '-- to purposely re-engineer the planet's climate as a last-ditch effort to battle global warming with an artificial cloud. No longer. In a nuanced, two-volume report, the National Academy of Sciences said that the concept should not be acted upon immediately because it is too risky, but it should be studied and perhaps tested outdoors in small projects.
You're talking about potentially changing weather and climate. You don't want to do that without as good an understanding as you can possibly have.
Waleed Abdalati, a University of Colorado ice scientist and former NASA chief scientist who co-authored the report
This is the first time a government-associated science panel has openly discussed the controlled small-scale outdoor tests of the artificial cloud concept, called solar radiation management, or SRM. But even then, panelists downplayed the idea and said it would require some kind of government or other oversight before it is carried out. Some scientists worry that research will make this type of planet hacking more likely to occur.
Save the Planet Kill Yourself! Environmentalists Want Humans to Live Shorter Lives |
Mon, 09 Feb 2015 19:12
Humans are the enemy! A new study published in Ecology and Society claims that longer life expectancy for us is bad news for the planet. From the study by Aaron Lotz and Craig R. Allen:
We found a positive relationship between life expectancy and the percentage of endangered and invasive species in a country'...The overall trend in high-income countries with improvements to the Human Development Index, which includes human life expectancy as one of its variables, is toward a disproportionately larger negative impact on a country's ecological footprint. However, some lower-income countries have a high level of development without a high impact on ecosystem services (Moran et al. 2008).
Increased life expectancy means that people live longer and affect the planet longer; each year is another year of carbon footprint, ecological footprint, use of natural resources, etc. The magnitude of this impact is increased as more people live longer.
Bad humans! Bad, bad humans.
The answer is supposedly''it's becoming a clich(C)''that we see ourselves as just part of nature:
Fischer et al. (2012) propose a ''transformation strategy'' that assumes that direct links between people and nature are better than indirect links. This paradigm shift would recouple the social-ecological system.
Wrong. We are the exceptional species. The environment benefits most when we see that it is our duty to manage the environment responsibly because we are human. If we redefine ourselves as just another animal in the forest, that's just how we will act.
The authors don't say whether we should try and live shorter lives. But that certainly seems an implication. Note: Wesley J. Smith, J.D., is a special consultant to the Center for Bioethics and Culture and a bioethics attorney who blogs at Human Exeptionalism.
FACT SHEET: Obama Administration Announces Initiative to Scale Up Investment in Clean Energy Innovation
Thu, 12 Feb 2015 15:07
The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release
February 10, 2015
President Obama is committed to addressing the impacts of climate change to protect future generations. As part of that effort, today, the Administration is launching a Clean Energy Investment Initiative and announcing a goal to catalyze $2 billion of expanded private sector investment in solutions to climate change, including innovative technologies with breakthrough potential to reduce carbon pollution.
Further clean energy innovation to improve the cost, performance, and scalability of low-carbon energy technologies will be critical to taking action against climate change. Substantial technological progress has been made in recent years in solar photovoltaics, wind power, advanced batteries, energy-efficient lighting, and fuel cells. For example, the cost of solar energy systems has decreased 50 percent since 2010 alone. But additional investment is needed.
Mission-driven investors '' such as foundations, university endowments, and institutional investors '' can play a catalytic role in accelerating the transition to a low-carbon economy. A growing number of such organizations have committed to investing in clean energy innovation and solutions to climate change, in pursuit of both financial returns and mission-aligned impact. Today's announcements will help clean energy investors reduce transaction costs, spread promising investment models, and increase their climate mitigation impact.
That is why the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is announcing that it will help catalyze philanthropic activity through the Clean Energy Investment Initiative by leading an effort to identify opportunities to leverage its world-class technical expertise, technologies, and programs to assist in understanding opportunities and needs that drive clean energy innovation '' with a focus on mission-oriented investors seeking climate and environmental impact. DOE will work to mobilize a broad range of philanthropists and impact investors to scale up investments throughout the energy innovation pipeline, from laboratory R&D to startup funding to growth-stage financing '' supporting the kind of technology innovation that the ARPA-E Summit, where this initiative was announced, is all about.
To kick off this call to action, the White House will host a Clean Energy Investment Summit later this spring, as a forum for foundations, family offices, and institutional investors to scale up private sector investment in clean energy innovation.
Further, today philanthropic and private sector leaders are making initial announcements toward scaling up investment in clean energy innovation, including:
The University of California Board of Regents will build on its commitment to allocate at least $1 billion of its endowment and pension over five years for investments in solutions to climate change by developing an innovative vehicle that combines three complementary objectives: First, to partner with philanthropists interested in de-risking early-stage technologies with high climate related impact potential. Second, to target, through the independently managed vehicle, for-profit investments in technologies with the potential to deliver both significant climate change mitigation and high investment returns. Third, to partner with the world's largest institutional investors in a follow-on facility that will offer proven technologies and companies an "on ramp" to commercial scale. The Office of the Chief Investment Officer will engage with foundations, family offices, and institutional investors to strengthen this long-term innovation pipeline.
The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation will work to connect investors with early-stage clean energy companies, so that a growing number of foundations and other mission-driven organizations can efficiently and effectively finance innovative technologies with high impact potential. The Foundation has developed deep experience in building and sustaining multi-foundation alliances to limit the risks of climate change and advance clean energy.
The Schmidt Family Foundation has allocated a significant portion of its assets to impact investing, with the aim of filling market gaps to finance solutions that mitigate climate change. To help grow the community of practice alongside other institutions, the Foundation will share its expertise and ongoing findings in sourcing, vetting, and structuring impact investments, especially for pre-market technologies.
Wells Fargo will build on its commitment of $100 million in environmental grants by 2020 to accelerate the transition to a greener economy, which includes the $10 million Innovation Incubator (IN2) program to foster the development of early-stage energy efficiency technologies for commercial buildings. Co-administered by DOE's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), this first-of-its-kind program will provide startups with grant funding, mentorship, research and testing support at NREL, and real-world field testing in Wells Fargo buildings to de-risk these technologies and accelerate their commercial adoption. Having developed this unique expertise in collaborating with a National Laboratory and deploying foundation dollars to support energy startups, Wells Fargo will work to expand investment partnerships for these field-tested technologies and to rally other major companies to build complementary programs that support clean energy innovation.
Under the Obama Administration, the Department of Energy has already helped put in place many successful initiatives to develop or deploy advanced energy technologies.
ARPA-E has invested approximately $1.1 billion across more than 400 potentially transformational energy technology projects. The President's FY16 Budget also called for $325 million for DOE'S ARPA-E to further support potentially transformative applied energy research.DOE's Solar Access to Public Capital working group has assembled over 300 leading organizations working together to increase public capital markets' financing of solar energy projects.DOE's Loan Programs Office continues to support clean energy deployment and has made use of co-lending to bring new commercial lenders into the market to gain experience financing innovative projects.The Institute for Advanced Composites Manufacturing Innovation, a new public-private consortium of 122 leading U.S. manufacturers, universities, and non-profits focused on advanced composites, is providing open access to a network of shared research, development and demonstration facilities at national laboratories and premier universities.
Shut Up Slave!
France can now block suspected terrorism websites without a court order | The Verge
Mon, 09 Feb 2015 16:09
A new decree that went into effect today allows the French government to block websites accused of promoting terrorism and publishing child pornography, without seeking a court order. Under the new rules, published last week by France's Ministry of the Interior, internet service providers (ISPs) must take down offending websites within 24 hours of receiving a government order. French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve says the decree is critical to combatting terrorism, but civil rights groups say it gives the government dangerously broad powers to suppress free speech.
The regulations have been under consideration since 2011, but gained new momentum following last month's terrorist attacks at the Paris office of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. The French government has launched a massive anti-terror campaign in the wake of the attacks, countering radical online propaganda with its own anti-jihad website and arresting dozens of suspected terrorism supporters. Last week, French President Fran§ois Hollande announced plans to hold major internet companies accountable for sites hosting extremist content, saying the new law would make companies like Facebook and Google "accomplices" to terrorism.
"France's government needs to seriously think about whether this law will stop terrorists, or merely chill speech."
The decree implements two provisions from two laws '-- an anti-child pornography law passed in 2011 and an anti-terror law passed late last year. A department of the French national police will be responsible for identifying the sites to be blocked, with the suspected terror-related sites subject to review by an anti-terrorism branch. An administrator from the CNIL, France's independent data protection organization, will be charged with overseeing the process. Once a site is blocked, its page will be replaced with an explanation of why the government took it down. In the case of child pornography pages, the text will also include a recommendation to seek medical help.
Supporters of the measure say it's critical to preventing future attacks, pointing to the growing number of young French nationals who have joined jihadist movements in Iraq and Syria, as well as aggressive online propaganda campaigns from terrorist groups like ISIS.
"Today, 90 percent of those who swing toward terrorist activities within the European Union do so after visiting the internet," Cazneuves told reporters last week, after presenting the decree to French ministers. "We do not combat terrorism if we do not take measures to regulate the internet."
"The measure only gives the illusion that the State is acting for our safety."
But detractors have criticized the decree for circumventing France's judicial branch, giving the government broader powers to suppress free speech at a time of heightened security concerns.
"In light of the recent arrests that have followed the Charlie Hebdo attacks '-- many of which are clearly overboard '-- I would say that France's government needs to seriously think about whether this law will stop terrorists, or merely chill speech," Jillian York, of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), said in an email to The Verge.
Others question the effectiveness of the measure. Felix Tr(C)guer, of the French online rights group La Quadrature du Net, says the decree risks "over-blocking perfectly legal content," adding that the domain name system (DNS) blocking that it calls for can be easily circumvented.
"The measure only gives the illusion that the State is acting for our safety," Tr(C)guer said in a statement published today, "while going one step further in undermining fundamental rights online."
Public university spends $16K on campaign to warn students to watch what they say
Mon, 09 Feb 2015 21:01
Tweet'Inclusive Language Campaign' debuts at University of Michigan
Dozens of posters plastered across the University of Michigan caution students not to say things that might hurt others' feelings, part of a new ''Inclusive Language Campaign'' at the state's flagship public university that cost $16,000 to implement.
Words declared unacceptable through the campaign include ''crazy,'' ''insane,'' ''retarded,'' ''gay,'' ''tranny,'' ''gypped,'' ''illegal alien,'' ''fag,'' ''ghetto'' and ''raghead.'' Phrases such as ''I want to die'' and ''that test raped me'' are also verboten.
University spokesman Rick Fitzgerald told The College Fix in an email the campaign aims to ''address campus climate by helping individuals understand that their words can impact someone and to encourage individuals to commit to creating a positive campus community.''
Students have been asked to sign a pledge to ''use inclusive language'' and to help their peers ''understand the importance of using inclusive language,'' according to campaign materials.
Though only in existence for one semester, the Inclusive Language Campaign has maintained a strong presence throughout the university. Students roaming the campus frequently encounter posters of all sizes reminding them: ''YOUR WORDS MATTER,'' and asking questions such as: ''If you knew that I grew up in poverty, would you still call things 'ghetto' and 'ratchet'?''
Representatives of the Inclusive Language Campaign did not respond to repeated requests for comment from The College Fix.
Junior Kidada Malloy, who helps promote the program on campus, told the Michigan Daily the campaign ''is a great program because it will improve the day-to-day language of students on campus by providing education around words that are offensive.''
Fitzgerald told The College Fix the university budgeted $16,000 for the campaign. The program comes at a time when the university has raised tuition and fees for the last two consecutive years.
''This program is intended to be educational, not regulatory,'' Fitzgerald said of the campaign. ''We hope there is only the understanding that we all participate in, and have the power to influence campus culture.''
ILC's Facebook page includes a variety of inclusion-based material, inspirational quotes, personal stories, and even a video that details how to address a person by the correct pronouns. It operates in conjunction with two other campuswide initiatives, Expect Respect and Change It Up!, both of which emphasize inclusive words in and out of the classroom.
Students living in university housing are urged to take part in a Change It Up! workshop, which ''brings bystander intervention skills to first-year housing residents for the purpose of building safe, inclusive, and respectful communities.''
Before and after completing these workshops, students fill out surveys in which they reflect on internal biases that may pose a threat to an ''inclusive campus.''
As the Inclusive Language Campaign has enlarged its influence on campus through various kick-off events, interactive programming and provoking visuals, some students have called into question how it reconciles with the university's policy on free speech, which ''encourages open and vigorous discussion and strives to maintain an environment where the free exchange of ideas and opinions can flourish.''
Asked if the campaign stifles free speech, Fitzgerald said ''we believe this program has just the opposite effect.''
''We believe it will make discourse more constructive by respecting the views and perspectives of others,'' he said. ''A campus conversation about the impact of words is good for everyone.''
The University of Maryland launched a similar campaign three years ago that cost $15,000.
College Fix reporter Samantha Audia is a student at the University of Michigan.
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Federal Election Commission to Consider Regulating Online Political Speech | CNS News
Wed, 11 Feb 2015 17:12
( -- The Federal Election Commission (FEC) is holding a hearing today to receive public feedback on whether it should create new rules regulating political speech, including political speech on the Internet that one commissioner warned could affect blogs, YouTube videos and even websites like the Drudge Report.
The hearing is a response to the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in McCutcheon v. FEC last year, which struck down the FEC's previous cap on aggregate campaign contributions from a single donor in an election cycle.
Before the decision, individuals were limited to a combined total of $46,200 in contributions to all federal candidates, and $70,800 to federal political action committees and parties.
Individuals are no longer restricted by aggregate limits, which Chief Justice John Roberts said "intrude without justification on a citizen's ability to exercise 'the most fundamental First Amendment activities'."
They may now "contribute up to $2,600 per election to a federal candidate, $10,000 per calendar year to a state party committee, $32,400 per calendar year to a national party committee, and $5,000 per calendar year to a PAC [political action committee]," according to the FEC.
The commission, which consists of three Republican and three Democratic members, last considered such regulations in 2005. However, intense opposition from First Amendment groups resulted in rules that were limited to paid advertisements from political campaigns, parties, and PACs.
This time around, organizations like the Electronic Frontier Foundation have warned that some Democrats on the commission would like to impose much more burdensome regulations that could serve as the equivalent of spending caps in restricting political speech.
Ann Ravel, chair of the Federal Election Commission. (FEC)
Last October, FEC Chairwoman Ann Ravel issued a statement in which she complained that the agency was not doing enough to monitor activity on the Internet.
''Some of my colleagues seem to believe that the same political message that would require disclosure if run on television should be categorically exempt from the same requirements when placed on the Internet alone. As a matter of policy, this simply does not make sense,'' Ravel said.
However, the commission's three Republican members '' Lee Goodman, Caroline Hunter, and Matthew Petersen '' responded to Ravel's comments in a joint statement.
''Despite the Internet's growing importance as a tool for all citizens to engage in political debate, and notwithstanding this Commission's promise to take a 'restrained regulatory approach' with respect to online political activity, [Ravel] apparently believes the time has come to impose greater regulation on political speech over the Internet,'' the group wrote.
According to Commissioner Goodman, who served as chairman of the FEC last year, regulation of content placed on the Internet is a very real possibility.
FEC Commissioner Lee Goodman. (FEC)
''The commission has seen proposals to regulate even issue advocacy referencing federal candidates that is disseminated on the Internet," Goodman told
"That could reach YouTube videos, blogs, and websites like [the] Drudge Report,'' he warned.
Among those testifying at Wednesday's hearing, three former Republican commissioners '' Donald McGahn, David Mason, and Hans Von Spakovsky '' are scheduled to speak against further controls from the FEC.
The Brennan Center for Justice, Campaign Legal Center, League of Women Voters, Public Citizen, and U.S. PIRG are among those expected to testify in favor of more government regulations.
Zephyr Teachout, a Fordham University professor who will also be testifying at Wednesday's hearing, disputed the idea that the agency would follow Ravel's dictate.
''This seems to me to be a major and silly political distraction, because this hearing is about what the FEC should be doing around McCutcheon. With the decision, along with the Citizens United decision, there are all these new opportunities for patronage politics... I'm calling hogwash [about the idea that regulations will be imposed on online content],'' Teachout told
Democrats have long supported regulating political content on the Internet, but have generally sought to do so using the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
In 2009, a staff member for former Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) spoke about the possibility of the FCC passing regulations that would affect sites like Drudge.
''Does one heavily trafficked Internet site present one side of an issue and not link to sites that present alternative views?'' the staff member asked. ''These are some of the questions [Waxman] is thinking about right now, and we are going to have an FCC that will finally have the people in place to answer them."
However, with the FCC set to vote on February 26 on ''net neutrality'' rules under the auspices of preventing private Internet operators from imposing controls, the political focus behind the push to regulate online political speech has shifted largely to the FEC.
The political affiliation of the FEC chairman works on a rotating basis, with the two major political parties trading off each year. Since each party retains an equal share of members on the commission, any new rules adopted by the commission would require bipartisan support.
Drone Nation
Why the US Government Is Terrified of Hobbyist Drones | WIRED
Mon, 09 Feb 2015 09:40
If you want to understand why the government freaked out when a $400 remote-controlled quadcopter landed on the White House grounds last week, you need to look four miles away, to a small briefing room in Arlington, Virginia. There, just 10 days earlier, officials from the US military, the Department of Homeland Security, and the FAA gathered for a DHS ''summit'' on a danger that had been consuming them privately for years: the potential use of hobbyist drones as weapons of terror or assassination.
The conference was open to civilians, but explicitly closed to the press. One attendee described it as an eye-opener. The officials played videos of low-cost drones firing semi-automatic weapons, revealed that Syrian rebels are importing consumer-grade drones to launch attacks, and flashed photos from an exercise that pitted $5,000 worth of drones against a convoy of armored vehicles. (The drones won.) But the most striking visual aid was on an exhibit table outside the auditorium, where a buffet of low-cost drones had been converted into simulated flying bombs. One quadcopter, strapped to 3 pounds of inert explosive, was a DJI Phantom 2, a newer version of the very drone that would land at the White House the next week.
Attendee Daniel Herbert snapped a photo and posted it to his website along with detailed notes from the conference. The day after the White House incident, he says, DHS phoned him and politely asked him to remove the entire post. He complied. ''I'm not going to be the one to challenge Homeland Security and cause more contention,'' says Herbert, who runs a small drone shop in Delaware called Skygear Solutions.
The White House drone, of course, wasn't packing an explosive and wasn't piloted by a terrorist'--just a Washingtonian who lost control of the device while playing around in the wee hours. But the gentle censorship directed at Herbert illustrates how serious the issue is to counterterrorism officials.
A Drone Maker Takes Decisive ActionThe Phantom line of consumer drones made by China-based DJI figures prominently in the government's attack scenarios. That's not because there's anything sinister about DJI or the Phantom'--in fact, just the opposite. The Phantom is the iPod of drones, cheap, easy to use, and as popular with casual and first-time fliers as with experienced radio control enthusiasts.
With all the attention surrounding the White House landing, DJI felt it had to take action. So last Thursday it pushed a ''mandatory firmware update'' for its Phantom 2 that would prevent the drone from flying in a 15.5 mile radius of the White House. So far it's the only drone-maker installing what's known as GPS geofencing
The technique is not new to DJI. The company first added no-fly zones to its firmware in April of last year to deter newbie pilots from zipping into the restricted airspace over airports, where they might interfere with departing and arriving aircraft. If a Phantom 2 pilot flies within five miles of a major airport's no fly zone, the drone's maximum altitude begins to taper. At 1.5 miles away, it lands and refuses to take off again. Municipal airports are protected by smaller zones, also programmed into the drones' firmware.
For DJI, airport no-fly zones were a response to the growing popularity of the Phantom 2 and perhaps a hedge against the constant threat of increased regulation. ''We started seeing the community of pilots grow,'' says spokesman Michael Perry, and many users have no idea where they can and can't legally fly the drone. ''The guy in the White House incident, I'm pretty sure he didn't know that flying in downtown DC is illegal.'' Rather than put the onus on every user to learn local air traffic zoning rules, DJI translated them into code, and added a little buffer zone of its own for added safety.
The White House geofence is only the second one that isn't centered on an airport, according to Perry'--the first was Tiananmen Square. It won't be the last. Now that the company has perfected the ability to erect geofences at will, the sky's the limit'--or, more accurately, the skies are limited. DJI is preparing an update that will increase the number of airport no fly zones from 710 to 10,000, and prevent users from flying across some national borders'--a reaction to the recent discovery that drug smugglers are trying to use drones to fly small loads of meth from Mexico into the US.
'I Want to Fly Wherever the Heck I Want'This geofencing has critics, including hobbyists chagrined to find their favorite flying spot suddenly encompassed by a DJI no-fly zones. ''I live just inside a red zone and find it quite offensive that a company would attempt to restrict any potential usage in/around my own house,'' one user wrote in response to the first geofencing update last April.
''One could theorize that every zone anywhere could be a restricted zone,'' wrote another. ''Thank you but no thank you. If I spend thousands of dollars then I want to fly wherever the heck I want as long as it is under 400ft and 500ft away from airports.''
''This is NOT something users want,'' another critic added. ''I have a good relationship with my local airports and have worked with every local tower or control center. I get clearance to fly and they have been great, but this 'update' takes away my control.''
Ryan Calo, a University of Washingtonlaw professor who studies robots and the law, traces the resistance to two sources. ''One is a complaint about restricting innovation. The second one says you should own your own stuff, and it's a liberty issue: corporate verses individual control and autonomy,'' Calo says. ''When I purchase something I own it, and when someone else controls what I own, it will be serving someone else's interest, not mine.''
DJI, in other words, has flown into one a core discontent of the Internet age. Technology's no-fly zones already are everywhere. Lexmark printers and Keurig coffee makers have been programmed to reject third-party ink cartridges and coffee pods. Auto dealers are beginning to install remote-control immobilizers in cars sold to sub-prime borrowers, so they can shut down a driver who's delinquent with an auto payment (the technology already has resulted in a 100-vehicle automotive hack attack.) In 2009, some Kindle owners discovered Amazon has the power to remotely delete the book they're reading, after the company purged George Orwell's 1984 and Animal Farm from e-book readers, an action Jeff Bezos later apologized for .
''The fate of small drone flights over DC may seem like a little thing'--a spat worked out among private players,'' wrote EFF's Parker Higgins in a blog post Monday. ''But these small battles shape the notion of what it means to own something and illustrate the growing control of manufacturers over user conduct.''
Geofencing Won't Prevent TerrorismWhile alarming to some, DJI's paternal interference in its customers' flight plans probably will reduce unintentional incidents like last week's White House landing. But it certainly won't prevent the scenario feared by official Washington: an attacker looking to weaponize a drone. For one thing, hardcore drone hobbyists tend to be tinkerers, and sooner or later their rumbling will translate into published firmware hacks and workarounds anyone can use.
''Right now there doesn't exist any hacks to remove the geofencing or downgrade the firmware,'' says Herbert. ''I'm sure they're coming. People will figure it out eventually.''
But, he notes, drone fliers who don't want geofencing have many options. DJI's mandatory update only affects the Phantom 2 line'--ironically, the older Phantom 1 that landed at the White House isn't included. And Phantom 2 owners will receive the mandatory update only when they link their drone to their Internet-connected PC or Mac. And if you really want to exercise your own judgment when flying, DJI says you can simply buy from a competitor.
''We do provide different layers of security to make it difficult to hack and get around,'' says DJI's Perry. But for those determined to avoid geofencing, ''there's an easy way to do that, which is to buy another quad-copter.''
That may be true for now, but it's easy to see lawmakers and regulators jumping on DJI's mandatory update as an easy cure, and mandating geofencing industrywide. When that happens, you can expect that circumventing drone firmware, for any reason, will become illegal, the same way hacking your car's programming is illegal. One thing is for certain: Nobody willing to strap a bomb to a toy drone will be deterred.
Banking Giant HSBC Sheltered Murky Cash Linked to Dictators and Arms Dealers | International Consortium of Investigative Journalists
Sun, 08 Feb 2015 22:13
Team of journalists from 45 countries unearths secret bank accounts maintained for criminals, traffickers, tax dodgers, politicians and celebrities
Secret documents reveal that global banking giant HSBC profited from doing business with arms dealers who channeled mortar bombs to child soldiers in Africa, bag men for Third World dictators, traffickers in blood diamonds and other international outlaws.
The leaked files, based on the inner workings of HSBC's Swiss private banking arm, relate to accounts holding more than $100 billion. They provide a rare glimpse inside the super-secret Swiss banking system '-- one the public has never seen before.
The documents, obtained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists via the French newspaper Le Monde, show the bank's dealings with clients engaged in a spectrum of illegal behavior, especially in hiding hundreds of millions of dollars from tax authorities. They also show private records of famed soccer and tennis players, cyclists, rock stars, Hollywood actors, royalty, politicians, corporate executives and old-wealth families.
These disclosures shine a light on the intersection of international crime and legitimate business, and they dramatically expand what's known about potentially illegal or unethical behavior in recent years at HSBC, one of the world's largest banks.
The leaked account records show some clients making trips to Geneva to withdraw large wads of cash, sometimes in used notes. The files also document huge sums of money controlled by dealers in diamonds who are known to have operated in war zones and sold gemstones to finance insurgencies that caused untold deaths.
HSBC, which is headquartered in London and has offices in 74 nations and territories on six continents, at first insisted that ICIJ destroy the data.
Late last month, after being informed of the full extent of the reporting team's findings, HSBC gave a final response that was more conciliatory, telling ICIJ: ''We acknowledge that the compliance culture and standards of due diligence in HSBC's Swiss private bank, as well as the industry in general, were significantly lower than they are today.''
The written statement said the bank had ''taken significant steps over the past several years to implement reforms and exit clients who did not meet strict new HSBC standards, including those where we had concerns in relation to tax compliance.''
The bank added that it had refocused this part of its business. ''As a result of this repositioning, HSBC's Swiss private bank has reduced its client base by almost 70% since 2007.''
How the offshore banking industry shelters money and hides secrets has enormous implications for societies across the globe. Academics conservatively estimate that $7.6 trillion is held in overseas tax havens, costing government treasuries at least $200 billion a year.
''The offshore industry is a major threat for our democratic institutions and our basic social contract,'' French economist Thomas Piketty, author of Capital in the Twenty-First Century told ICIJ. ''Financial opacity is one of the key drivers of rising global inequality. It allows a large fraction of top income and top wealth groups to pay negligible tax rates, while the rest of us pay large taxes in order to finance the public goods and services (education, health, infrastructures) that are indispensable for the development process.''
HSBC's questionable tax tacticsThe secret files obtained by ICIJ '-- covering accounts up to 2007 associated with more than 100,000 individuals and legal entities from more than 200 nations '-- are a version of the ones the French government obtained and shared with other governments in 2010, leading to prosecutions or settlements with individuals for tax evasion in several countries. Nations whose tax authorities received the French files include the U.S., Spain, Italy, Greece, Germany, Britain, Ireland, India, Belgium and Argentina.
It's not illegal in most countries to maintain offshore bank accounts, and being identified as holding an HSBC Private Bank account is of itself no indication of any wrongdoing. Some who are named in the files may have had some connection to a Swiss bank account, such as a power of attorney, while not owning the money in the account, or owning only a share of it. Others in the files may not even have had a Swiss bank account.
Hollywood actor John Malkovich, for instance, said through a representative that he knows nothing about an account listing his name and conjectured that it might have to do with Bernard Madoff, the former stockbroker convicted of fraud who handled some of his finances. A representative for the British actress Joan Collins told ICIJ: ''In 1993 my client deposited funds into a bank account in London and subsequently discovered that, without her instructions, the money had been transferred to the Swiss account referred to in your letter.'' The representative added that no tax was avoided.
The rock star David Bowie responded to ICIJ media partner The Guardian that he has been a legal resident of Switzerland since 1976. Tina Turner, though seen by many as a quintessentially American singer, has lived in Switzerland for nearly two decades and gave up her U.S. citizenship in 2013.
In many instances the records do describe questionable behavior, such as bankers advising clients on how to take a range of measures to avoid paying taxes in their home countries '-- and customers telling bankers that their accounts are not declared to their governments.
The reporting by ICIJ and a team of media organizations from 45 countries go deeper into the dark corners of HSBC than a 2012 U.S. Senate investigation, which found that the bank had lax controls that allowed Latin American drug cartels to launder hundreds of millions of ill-gotten dollars through its U.S. operations, rendering the dirty money usable.
The Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations' extensive report on HSBC also said some bank affiliates skirted U.S. government bans against financial transactions with Iran and other countries. And HSBC's U.S. division provided money and banking services to banks in Saudi Arabia and Bangladesh believed to have helped fund Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups, the report said.
Later in 2012, HSBC agreed to pay more than $1.9 billion to settle U.S. criminal and civil investigations and entered into a five-year deferred-prosecution agreement.
A subcommittee staff source said Senate investigators had requested the HSBC Private Bank account records obtained by ICIJ and been refused by the bank's management. The new documents show the bank's activity in many other parts of the world and reveal a new range of questionable clients and actions by the bank.
The ICIJ revelations also come after The Wall Street Journal reported in January that a progress report by the independent monitor appointed to the bank, a synopsis of which is expected to be made public in April, will show HSBC is failing in its attempts to reform.
An international cast of clientsThe documents obtained by ICIJ are based on data originally smuggled away by a former HSBC employee-turned-whistleblower, Herv(C) Falciani, and handed to French authorities in 2008. Le Monde obtained material from the French tax authority investigation into the files and then shared the French tax authority's material with ICIJ with the agreement that ICIJ would pull together a team of journalists from multiple countries that could sift through the data from all angles.
ICIJ enlisted more than 140 journalists from 45 countries, including reporters from Le Monde, the BBC, The Guardian, 60 Minutes, S¼ddeutsche Zeitung and more than 45 other media organizations.
The reporters found the names of current and former politicians from Britain, Russia, Ukraine, Georgia, Kenya, Romania, India, Liechtenstein, Mexico, Tunisia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Zimbabwe, Rwanda, Paraguay, Djibouti, Senegal, the Philippines and Algeria, among others. They found several people on the current U.S. sanctions list, such as Selim Alguadis, a Turkish businessman alleged to have supplied sophisticated electrical goods to Libya's secret nuclear weapons project, and Gennady Timchenko, a billionaire associate of Russian President Vladimir Putin and one of the main targets of sanctions imposed on Russian individuals and businesses in response to the annexation of Crimea and the crisis in eastern Ukraine.
The files do not state either Alguadis' or Timchenko's exact roles in relation to the Swiss accounts. A spokesman for Timchenko said the reasons for the sanctions were ''far-fetched and deeply flawed'' and that his client has ''always been fully compliant with all tax related matters.''
Alguadis told ICIJ, ''I have had many bank accounts at Turkish and international banks during my life for my personal reasons. At times I felt it prudent to keep some of my savings off-shore.'' Alguadis called the U.S. accusations ''ridiculous.''
''All our exports were properly declared at Turkish customs and completely legal,'' said Alguadis, who denied all links to Libya.
Some clients linked to millions and sometimes tens of millions of dollars in their accounts are politically-connected figures such as Rachid Mohamed Rachid, the former Egyptian trade minister who fled Cairo in February 2011 amid the uprising against Hosni Mubarak. Rachid, who is listed as having power of attorney over an account worth $31 million, was convicted in absentia for alleged profiteering and squandering public funds. Other names in the files include the late Frantz Merceron, the alleged bagman for the late former Haitian President Jean Claude ''Baby Doc'' Duvalier, who was accused of having looted up to $900 million before fleeing his country, and Rami Makhlouf, whose cousin and close associate, Syrian President Bashar al Assad, over the past three years has helped cause the deaths of tens of thousands of his citizens in the country's civil war. Merceron is listed as an attorney on a $1.3 million account belonging to his wife. Makhlouf is listed as a beneficial owner on multiple accounts.
The files feature people who figure in legal proceedings, such as Vladimir Antonov, the former owner of an English soccer club, Portsmouth FC, who faces trial in Lithuania over an alleged '‚¬500 million bank fraud; Margulan Seisembayev, a Kazakh banker accused by the Alliance Bank of looting its assets and Tancred Tabone, the former head of the Malta state oil company Enemalta, who is facing prosecution for allegedly demanding bribes.
In a statement, Tabone's lawyer said his client denies all charges and added that he ''has formally authorised the Swiss authorities to provide all that information. '... His fiscal affairs in that respect are in order.'' Antonov is listed as a beneficial owner on an account worth $65 million. Seisembayev is listed as beneficial owner of multiple accounts.
A representative told ICIJ reporting partner The Guardian, ''Mr.Antonov is not and was never a tax resident in the UK. He opened the Swiss accounts you refer to in 2008 for business reasons and because Swiss banks provide a better level of client care and are much more flexible than any UK banks.''
In a reflection of the sheer variety of names in the data, others who appear are Li Xiaolin, the daughter of former Chinese Premier Li Peng, famous for his role in the Tiananmen Square massacre; Joseph Fok, a judge on Hong Kong's highest court, and Prince and Princess Michael of Kent, the beloved cousin of Queen Elizabeth II of England and his wife.
The account that can be linked to the prince and princess was held in the name of their company, Cantium Services Limited. A representative for the couple said the account ''never received nor held any funds'' and was closed in 2009. Li Xiaolin is listed, along with her husband, as a beneficial owner of an account that held $2.5 million. Fok is listed as the holder of an account that was closed in 2002. They did not respond to requests for comment.
The files reflect a spectrum of royalty, from King Mohammed VI of Morocco to the Crown prince of Bahrain, Prince Salman bin Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, to dozens of members of Saudi Arabia's ruling family. Many were partial or full beneficial owners of accounts. The role of the King of Morocco was not specified.
A spokesman for the Crown Prince said, ''The Crown Prince invested in a regional hedge fund over which he exercised no control and obtained no tax advantage.''
Business figures and political donors from the U.S. include the financier and philanthropist S. Donald Sussman, whose account predated his marriage to Democratic Congresswoman Chellie Pingree of Maine; the billionaire owner of the Victoria's Secret lingerie chain, Les Wexner, who in 2012 donated $250,000 to a super PAC supporting former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney; and the Israeli diamond-dealing Steinmetz family. The Wall Street Journal reported in 2007 that the Steinmetz family's venture capital firm Sage Capital Growth paid generous allowances for speeches and other services to Rudy Giuliani, the former New York mayor lauded as an organized crime and corruption fighter who later unsuccessfully pursued the Republican presidential nomination.
A representative of Sussman said the account was not his, adding that he had made a passive investment in a technology venture fund. The representative said it was this fund that had the account, the existence of which he learned for the first time when questioned by ICIJ. ''Mr. Sussman's investments were minority interests,'' the spokesman said, ''and he had no involvement in the funds' management, investment decisions, or other activities.'' Neither Wexner nor the Steinmetz family responded to requests for comment.
An analysis of the files by ICIJ shows that many individuals linked to accounts took extra precautions to protect their identities, even though HSBC staff repeatedly assured customers they were already bound by tight Swiss banking secrecy.
Many of the accounts were held by companies in offshore tax havens such as the British Virgin Islands, Panama or in the remote Pacific island of Niue, rather than by the individuals who owned the money. Thousands more used de-identified, numbered accounts.
In the documents an HSBC employee refers to one of Australia's most prominent corporate figures, Charles Barrington Goode, by his initials.
''Acct holder Mr. Ch.B.G. would like to be called Mr. Shaw (acct heading). So the entire discussion we were speaking about Mr. Shaw,'' the staff member wrote in one document. Goode's account was held under the name ''SHAW99.''
At the time of the note, Goode was the chairman of ANZ bank, one of Australia's biggest. In his other role in politics, Goode was called by a senator during debate in the Australian Parliament in 2001 ''a man who is the bag carrier, the fundraiser, for the Liberal party,'' the current ruling party of the Australian Prime Minister, Tony Abbott.
Two foundations that Goode has been publicly associated with in Australia '-- The Cormack Foundation and Valpold Pty Ltd '-- gave more than Aus$30 million to the Victoria branch of the Liberal Party between 1998 and 2013, according to filings with the Australian Electoral Commission.
Goode told ICIJ that he opened his account 30 years ago and the bank insisted he use a pseudonym. ''The bank officer told me that, for security purposes, I needed a name, other than my own name, or a number, to identify the account and which I should use in communicating with the bank. I chose the name 'Shaw.' '' Goode said ''the account was dormant for about 25 years'' and that before he closed the account five years ago he had declared it to Australian tax authorities and paid tax on any income he derived.
Breaking the bank's own policyThe documents raise new questions about past public statements by HSBC that staff did not help customers engage in tax evasion. In July 2008, for example, Chris Meares, the then head of private banking for HSBC, told a British parliamentary hearing: ''We prohibit our bankers from encouraging or being involved in tax evasion.''
Three years earlier one wealthy British client, Keith Humphreys, a director of the English Premier League soccer club Stoke City FC, is described telling his HSBC manager that one of his family's Swiss accounts was ''not declared'' to the U.K. tax authorities. The files state it held more than $450,000 at the time.
Humphreys told ICIJ media partner, The Guardian, that the Swiss account was held not by him but by his father and that it was later voluntarily disclosed to authorities. The account, he said, ''was established in line with financial advice that he was given at the time'' and disclosed to British tax authorities in 2011, with a settlement of £147,165.
''This client is somwhat [sic] paranoid, e.g. whenever he was coming to ZH [Zurich], he flew to Paris and hired a car to drive to ZH"
In another instance, an HSBC employee wrote this note in the file of Irish businessman John Cashell, who would later to be convicted of a tax fraud in his native country: ''His pre-occupation is with the risk of disclosure to the Irish authorities. Once again I endeavoured to reassure him that there is no risk of that happening.'' Cashell did not respond to requests for comment.
The bank itself became uneasy over a '‚¬20 million transaction by a Serbian businessman. But the bank employees merely asked him to act less conspicuously: ''Explained that as per today the bank did not interfered [sic] in his money transfer transactions,'' the relevant document says, ''but would have preferred to reduce those activities on a lower scale. [He] understands our concerns and will use smaller amounts.''
HSBC staff also appeared to show little concern at the description they received of a Canadian doctor, Irwin Rodier. ''This client is somwhat [sic] paranoid, e.g. whenever he was coming to ZH [Zurich], he flew to Paris and hired a car to drive to ZH, in order not to re-enact his final destination etc.''
Rodier told ICIJ media partner CBC/Radio-Canada that he had since settled his taxes with Canadian authorities.
In its statement to ICIJ, HSBC said: ''In the past, the Swiss private banking industry operated very differently to the way it does today. Private banks, including HSBC's Swiss private bank, assumed that responsibility for payment of taxes rested with individual clients, rather than the institutions that banked them.''
Getting around a new lawThe files show that some European customers were given advice on how to avoid a withholding tax on bank savings that came into effect in European Union countries in 2005. Switzerland had agreed to implement the tax '-- called the European Savings Directive, or ESD.
But the ESD pertained only to individuals, not to corporations. The files show HSBC Private Bank seized on this loophole to market products that transformed individuals into corporations for tax-reporting purposes.
The documents record that day by day throughout 2005, clients arrived in Switzerland to make cash withdrawals in British pounds, Euros, Swiss francs, U.S. dollars, even Danish krone '-- sometimes asking for small used notes.
One of those being provided with cash supplies of dollars and euros was Arturo del Tiempo Marques, a property developer sentenced in 2013 to a seven-year jail sentence in Spain for smuggling cocaine. He controlled up to 19 HSBC accounts containing more than $3 million. He did not respond to requests for comment.
In one transaction, the British business tycoon Richard Caring, accompanied by security, was depicted in September 2005 collecting more than five million Swiss francs in cash.
HSBC staff explained handing Caring the huge sum of cash by quoting a statement by him that he planned to deposit the cash with another Swiss bank, and did not want either bank to be aware of the other. They wrote: ''RC goes to great lengths to maintain discretion.''
A representative of Caring told The Guardian that he did not avoid taxes and that his ''use of offshore funds was conducted under widely used and accepted tax principles.''
The files show Caring, a major donor to British politics, transferring $1 million to the Clinton Foundation, a nonprofit set up by the former U.S. President Bill Clinton with the stated mission to ''strengthen the capacity of people in the United States and throughout the world to meet the challenges of global interdependence.''
The donation to the Clinton Foundation was requested in December 2005. The previous month, Caring funded a champagne and caviar extravaganza at Catherine the Great's Winter Palace in St Petersburg, Russia, flying in 450 guests to be entertained by Sir Elton John and Tina Turner and addressed by Bill Clinton. The event raised more than £11 million for a children's charity.
More Clinton donors A number of other prominent donors to the Clinton Foundation appear in the files, including the Canadian businessman Frank Giustra and German motor racing superstar Michael Schumacher, a seven-time Formula One champion. A representative of Schumacher, who is listed as a beneficial owner of an account closed in 2002, told ICIJ that he is a long-term resident of Switzerland.
The records show Giustra is the only person listed in an HSBC account holding more than $10 million in 2006/2007, although his role in the account is not specified
The New York Times reported in 2008 that Giustra donated to the Clinton Foundation shortly after Bill Clinton accompanied Giustra on a trip to Kazakhstan in 2005. When they landed, Nursultan A. Nazarbayev, who has served for decades as Kazakhstan's president, met his two visitors over a sumptuous midnight banquet.
The Times reported that Clinton made a public declaration of support for Nazarbayev that was at odds with the stance of the U.S. government and of Clinton's wife, then-Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, who had criticized Kazakhstan's record on human rights. Two days later, corporate records showed, Giustra's company won the right to buy into three state-owned uranium projects in Kazakhstan.
Both Clinton and Giustra told the Times that Giustra traveled with Clinton to Kazakhstan to see first-hand the foundation's philanthropic work. A spokesman for Clinton told the newspaper that the former president was generally aware of Giustra's mining interests in Kazakhstan but did nothing to help those interests.
A representative for Giustra disputed the New York Times story and said that Giustra is ''in full compliance and disclosure regarding any and all bank accounts.'' A spokesman for the Clinton Foundation told The Guardian it ''has strong donor integrity and transparency practices that go well beyond what is required of U.S. charities, including the full disclosure of all of our donors."
Data disappears in GreeceThe data shared by French authorities with other governments is now the basis of formal investigations in several countries. French magistrates are examining whether the bank helped some clients avoid paying 2006 and 2007 taxes. French authorities have required HSBC to deposit a bail bond of '‚¬50 million. Belgian prosecutors late last year also accused the bank of tax fraud.
In August 2014, Argentine tax agents raided HSBC's offices in Buenos Aires. The Buenos Aires Herald has reported that Argentine tax chief Ricardo Echegaray has accused HSBC of ''rolling out a fraud-enabling platform'' as ''a maneuver to hide bank account information from tax collectors.''
HSBC said in its statement to ICIJ that it was ''fully committed to the exchange of information with relevant authorities'' and was ''actively pursuing measures that ensure clients are tax transparent, even in advance of a regulatory or legal requirement to do so. We are also cooperating with relevant authorities investigating these matters.''
The documents raise questions about why there were investigations in some countries and not in others '-- and whether some investigations were less than painstaking.
For instance, some of the most extensive material relates to the bank's U.K. clients. Initial investigations by French tax authorities identified more than 5,000 British clients linked to $61 billion in HSBC deposits '-- more clients and more money than from any other country.
Though the French investigators likely initially over-estimated the true amounts held by clients, the British tax office concluded that 3,600 of the 5,000 names it received from the French in 2010 were ''potentially non-compliant.'' A report to a House of Commons committee in September 2014 said the tax office had recovered just £135 million in back taxes from individuals on the list, compared to £220 million collected by Spain and £188 million collected by France. Lord Stephen Green, the head of HSBC during the period the records cover, later became trade minister in the Cameron government in Britain, a position he held until 2013.
Apart from isolated court cases in U.S. federal courts, it appears that the U.S. Internal Revenue Service has also gone about its work quietly despite French tax investigators having identified 1,400 people with U.S. connections, holding some $16 billion. Again, that figure was higher than the amounts identified by ICIJ.
In a statement to ICIJ media partner 60 Minutes, the IRS said that since U.S. taxpayers were first encouraged to voluntarily come forward with details of their offshore holdings in 2009, ''there have been more than 50,000 disclosures and we have collected more than $7 billion from this initiative alone.'' The agency declined to disclose how many, if any, of those who came forward had accounts with HSBC.
What happened after France sent Greece the names of more than 2,000 Greek HSBC clients touched off a furor that now has Greece's former finance minister facing trial.
Greece received the names in 2010, but nothing happened until October 2012, when a Greek magazine, Hot Doc, published the names and noted the lack of an investigation into whether rich Greeks were evading taxes while the country was undergoing austerity measures, including pay cuts and tax increases for those who paid.
In contrast to the reluctance with which they had gone after possible tax evasion, Greek authorities were quick to arrest Hot Doc editor Kostas Vaxevanis and charge him with violating privacy laws. He was quickly acquitted, and his trial provoked anger when two former heads of the financial police testified that neither the former finance minister Giorgos Papakonstantinou nor his successor had ordered an investigation into the list. Papakonstantinou said it had been lost.
When the list finally surfaced, it was missing the names of three relatives of Papakonstantinou. He now faces criminal charges alleging breach of trust, doctoring an official document and dereliction of duty growing out of the removal of his relatives' names and out of his failure to act on the list when he received it.
Doing business with arms dealersLinks to arms dealing emerge repeatedly in the files obtained by ICIJ.
HSBC kept Aziza Kulsum and her family as clients even after Kulsum was named by the United Nations as financing the bloody Burundian civil war in the 1990s.
The 2001 United Nations report also said that Kulsum was a key player in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in the illicit trade in coltan, a strategically important mineral used in electronic devices. A big part of the world's supply of coltan comes from conflict zones in Central Africa, where armed factions control many mines, extort miners and profit from the sale of illegal ore.
While two of Kulsum's accounts were closed before 2001, a third account worth $3.2 million was frozen (though not closed) for unspecified ''compliance reasons'' at an unknown date. Kulsum's husband had an unspecified connection to a further account that was not closed and held an additional $1.6 million at one point in 2006/2007. HSBC referred to Kulsum as a ''businesswoman (stone and noble metals)'' and the owner of a cigarette factory.
Another questionable account appears under the name of Katex Mines Guinee. According to a 2003 report by the United Nations, Katex Mines was a front company used by Guinea's Ministry of Defense to traffic arms to rebel soldiers in Liberia during fighting in 2003. Inexperienced child soldiers were fighting on both sides; hundreds of people were killed and more than 2,000 were injured. The account is shown with $7.14 million in it three years after UN reports about Katex Mines were made public.
Other notes show HSBC staff meeting a customer, Shailesh Vithlani, in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, in 2005, to advise him how best to invest his money. The Guardian reported in 2007 that Vithlani, who is listed as a beneficial owner of one account, was an alleged middleman who arranged for the British arms company BAE to secretly pay $12 million into an unspecified Swiss bank account in return for the Tanzanian government buying an overpriced military radar system. Vithlani, who could not be reached for comment, told The Guardian in 2007 that he did not pay money from Switzerland to officials in Tanzania.
Another HSBC customer linked to BAE was Fana Hlongwane, a South African political adviser and businessman. The U.K. Serious Fraud Office said in statements submitted to South African prosecutors in 2008 that Hlongwane received money from BAE through a disguised chain of offshore intermediaries in order to promote arms deals.
Hlongwane's lawyers did not respond to repeated requests for comment.
In a 2014 affidavit made to an ongoing inquiry into the arms contracts, Hlongwane denied ''any evidence implicating myself and/or my Companies in any corruption or wrongdoing.''
Hlongwane is listed as the beneficial owner of an account, Leynier Finance SA, that contained $888,000. Two other accounts that held $12 million at one point in 2006/2007 do not specify his exact role.
Another account holder appears to be linked to the so-called Angolagate scandal.
In 2008, French prosecutors began proceedings against more than 40 people implicated in corrupted arms sales to Angola in the 1990s. The scandal, which was alleged to have involved more than $50 million in bribes exchanged for contracts worth nearly $800 million, named high-profile French figures, including the son of former French President Francois Mitterrand.
The account likely linked to Angolagate, under the name Micheline Arlette Manuel, was dubbed Corday and was open from 1994 to 1999. Manuel's exact role with the account was not specified.
Corday is the name on a series of accounts at HSBC and other banks that have been publicly linked to Micheline Arlette Manuel's husband, Yves, who also held an account with HSBC and who died following a conviction for his role in the scandal. A French court ruling in October 2011 said Yves Manuel received and concealed $2.59 million that he knew had come from the company that disbursed bribes to French and Angolan officials. She did not respond to requests for comment.
Yet another account can be found under the name Wang Chia-Hsing, the son of the alleged middleman in an infamous Taiwan arms deal, Andrew Wang Chuan-pu.
Wang Chuan-pu is a fugitive wanted in Taiwan over his alleged role in the murder of Taiwanese Navy Capt. Yin Ching-feng and a series of kickback and corruption scandals implicating Taiwan, France and China.
The South China Morning Post reported that Wang Chuan-pu left Taiwan shortly after the body of Yin '' who was about to blow the whistle on alleged kickbacks and corruption in the navy's purchase of six French frigates '' was found floating off the island's north coast in December 1993. Despite Chuan-pu's death earlier this year, announced by his Swiss lawyers on 30 Jan., court cases continue in Switzerland and Taiwan.
The HSBC documents show conversations between Wang Chia-Hsing, who is described as an interior decorator and shown with an upmarket London address, and HSBC staff even during a period when the account with more than $38 million was under a court blocking order. The files do not make clear what Wang Chia-Hsing's exact role in the account was. However, the files record that he asked the bank to recognize his non-domicile residency status in the U.K., a reference to a foreign national living in the U.K. who doesn't pay income tax or capital gains tax on earnings abroad. It is generally regarded as a form of legal tax avoidance. The bank's notes further indicate that a HSBC staff member was willing to backdate a form.
A representative for Wang Chia-Hsing said he has ''paid all proper taxes due and has not acted in any way improperly or unlawfully.''
Diamond TradersAn analysis by ICIJ shows that almost 2,000 of HSBC clients who appear in the files are associated with the diamond industry. Among them is Emmanuel Shallop, who was subsequently convicted of dealing in blood diamonds.
Blood diamonds, or conflict diamonds, are terms used for gems mined in war zones that are later sold to finance further war. Diamonds mined during the recent civil wars in Angola, Cote d'Ivoire, Sierra Leone and other nations have been given the label.
''Diamonds have a long history of being linked to conflict and violence,'' said Michael Gibb of the international human rights group Global Witness. ''The ease with which diamonds can be converted into tools of war, when not sourced responsibly, is astonishing.''
The documents show that HSBC was aware that Shallop was under investigation by Belgian authorities at the time it was helping him. ''We have opened a company account for him based in Dubai. '... The client is very cautious currently because he is under pressure from the Belgian tax authorities, who are investigating his activities in the area of diamond fiscal fraud.''
Shallop's lawyer told ICIJ, ''We dot [sic] not want to give any comment on this issue. My client does not want his name to be mentioned in any article because of reasons of privacy.''
Other HSBC account holders can be linked to Omega Diamonds, which in 2013settleda tax dispute in Belgium for $195 million, without admitting liability. Belgian authorities alleged in their civil suit that Omega shifted profits into Dubai by trading falsely valued diamonds from mines in Congo and Angola. During the period of these alleged transactions, the firm's two principals, Ehud Arye Laniado and Sylvain Goldberg, each had HSBC accounts. A third Omega shareholder, Robert Liling, appears in the files as the owner of several accounts.
An attorney for the three men said none were prosecuted for tax offences. ''The tax dispute between Omega Diamonds and the Belgian tax authorities involved Omega Diamonds only, neither Mr Laniado, Mr Goldberg or Mr Liling were involved in this. The Omega Diamonds tax dispute has been settled in an amicable settlement.''
Links to Al Qaeda? HSBC's clients' links to Al Qaeda were first publicly raised in the July 2012 U.S. Senate report, which cited an alleged internal Al Qaeda list of financial benefactors. The Senate report said the list came to light after a search of the Bosnian offices of the Benevolence International Foundation, a Saudi-based nonprofit organization that the U.S. Treasury Department has designated as a terrorist organization.
Osama bin Laden, the mastermind behind the 9/11 attacks, referred to the handwritten list of the 20 names as the ''Golden Chain.''
From the moment the names on the Golden Chain list were made public in news reports in the spring of 2003, the Senate subcommittee stated that HSBC should have been ''on notice'' and aware these powerful business figures were high risk clients.
Though the significance of the Golden Chain list has since been questioned, the ICIJ found what appear to be three Golden Chain names with HSBC Swiss accounts that existed after that date.
Documents also reveal irony The documents reveal so many grim stories, but at least one is ironic.
People on the Most Wanted list of Interpol, the international police agency, such as the diamond dealers Mozes Victor Konig and Kenneth Lee Akselrod, are among the HSBC account holders '-- and so is Elias Murr, who is president of the board of Interpol's Foundation for a Safer World, an organization aimed at fighting terrorism and organized crime. Murr, who was a prominent businessman before entering politics, was interior minister of Lebanon in 2004 when an HSBC account owned by him was held through a company called Callorford Investments Limited. By 2006-2007, the account would contain $42 million.
A spokesman for Murr said his client's wealth and that of his family is public knowledge, and his family has held accounts in Switzerland since before he was born. The account was not connected to his political role. ''It is not illegal and it is not suspicious that a Lebanese national opens and holds accounts anywhere.''
U.S. Banks Say Soaring Dollar Puts Them at Disadvantage - WSJ
Mon, 09 Feb 2015 19:17
Feb. 8, 2015 7:37 p.m. ET WASHINGTON'--The strengthening U.S. dollar is rippling through the financial system in unexpected ways, revealing what bankers say is a hidden flaw in a Federal Reserve proposal to increase capital cushions at the nation's largest banks.
Big U.S. banks say that, under the rule proposed in December, the recent steep rise in the dollar's value would force some U.S. firms to hold billions of dollars more in capital than foreign competitors, including weaker European banks, because of how the Fed plans to calculate a so-called surcharge levied on the eight most systemically important U.S. banks.
The Fed rule is aimed at forcing big banks to add extra layers of financing to protect against losses. The banks believe it would wind up penalizing U.S. banks if the dollar remains strong against the euro, as many economists expect, because the high exchange rate makes their dollar-denominated assets and operations look larger relative to their European peers.
Officials from banks including Citigroup Inc., Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Bank of America Corp. and Morgan Stanley met privately with Fed officials in January to discuss the threat and other concerns about the rule, according to people who attended. The banks plan to file an official comment letter later this month detailing those concerns and seeking changes to how the proposal calculates the extra capital required.
The currency's potential impact on big U.S. banks is the latest example of how a strengthening dollar is affecting the U.S. economy. The strong dollar is hitting the profits and sales of a wide swath of corporate America, including firms that expanded overseas aggressively, like consumer-products giant Procter & Gamble Co. and pharmaceuticals company Pfizer Inc., but are now finding that sales abroad are suffering or not keeping up with dollar-based costs. The impact has weighed on U.S. stocks and raised worries about the health of the U.S. economy.
U.S. banks say the currency volatility exposes underlying problems with the Fed's proposal, which is aimed at forcing banks to shrink by putting a price on bigness but ties their capital requirements in part to forces beyond their control. Banks have already expressed concern that the Fed's surcharge proposal is tougher than what European regulators are expected to require.
''It was curious that the Fed, in proposing a new surcharge for U.S. banks, that they would choose to in effect double down on an arguably flawed methodology, especially one that would cause a U.S. bank's surcharge to increase merely because of the dollar strengthening,'' said John Gerspach, chief financial officer of Citigroup, on a Jan. 23 conference call with investors. He said the dollar's rise against the euro likely meant the bank would face a higher surcharge than many expected when the Fed released its proposal.
In a speech on Jan. 30, Fed governor Daniel Tarullo defended the rule, saying it ''should provide substantial net economic benefits by reducing the risks of destabilizing failures of very large banking organizations.''
Fed officials have asked banks and others to detail how the rule should be changed during the comment period, which ends Feb. 28. The proposed rule would phase in starting in 2016 and take full effect in 2019.
The surcharge levies an extra capital charge scaled to a firm's size, complexity, share of the banking market and how heavily it relies on volatile short-term funding, such as overnight loans. Each bank's score is based on how the firm stacks up against a pool of 74 other global banks in these categories. Banks must meet the requirement by funding themselves with less borrowed money and more common equity, which tends to reduce a firm's return on equity, an important profitability measure.
The Fed proposal goes beyond an international standard agreed to by global regulators, roughly doubling the surcharge for the big U.S. banks. Banks would fall into capital ''buckets'' ranging from 1% and 4.5% of risk-weighted assets'--though the top of the range could move higher. That comes on top of a base 7% common-equity capital requirement most banks already face.
Steven Chubak, an analyst with Nomura Holdings Inc., said banks like J.P. Morgan Chase & Co., Citigroup and Bank of America Corp. face the biggest impact and might be pushed to hold hundreds of millions of dollars more in capital each because of the currency fluctuations. The greater amounts of capital relative to their earnings would potentially decrease the banks' value by about 3% each, he said.
''It could result in some unintended consequences,'' Mr. Chubak said. ''Twelve months ago, I don't think anybody anticipated this particular issue arising.''
Big bank financial chiefs raised concerns about the rule during a Jan. 7 meeting with Mr. Tarullo and two Fed staffers, according to people familiar with the gathering and a disclosure on the Fed's website, posted after inquiries from The Wall Street Journal. Mr. Tarullo meets with the bankers two or three times a year to discuss a variety of issues, these people said, and at this meeting the bankers aired their concerns.
Mr. Tarullo excused himself from that part of the discussion ''because the discussion was turning to a pending rule making,'' a Fed spokesman said. But the Fed staffers who heard the complaints suggested that the banks include the concerns in an official comment letter, which will be public, people involved in the session said.
At the meeting were Citigroup's Mr. Gerspach as well as Goldman Sachs's Harvey Schwartz, Morgan Stanley's Ruth Porat, Bank of America's Bruce Thompson and State Street Corp.'s Michael Bell. All are CFOs at their firms. Representatives for the banks either declined to comment or didn't respond to requests for comment.
As they analyzed the details of the Fed proposal, bankers realized the unexpected role of currency rates. The Fed rule relies on financial data compiled by the Basel Committee that is expressed in euros, which enables regulators to compare U.S. banks with their foreign competitors using just one currency. Under the Fed rule, the data are converted to dollars using a spot exchange rate provided by Basel.
The problem is that the dollar's rise made the asset bases and operations of the U.S. banks look larger relative to their European and Asian peers.
''I think we'd probably all sit around the table and say, 'It seems like a slightly strange outcome that financial institutions in the slower growth part of the world would end up with lower capital and those in the faster growing part of the world would end up with more capital,''' Mr. Schwartz of Goldman Sachs said during a Jan. 29 investor call.
''I think there's probably a lot of ways this issue could be thoughtfully addressed,'' Mr. Schwartz said of the currency problem.
Write to Victoria McGrane at, James Sterngold at and Ryan Tracy at
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Air Force Data on Friendly Fire, Civilian Casualties Was Manipulated Against A-10
Tue, 10 Feb 2015 23:05
Air Force Data on Friendly Fire, Civilian Casualties Was Manipulated Against A-10February 9, 2015
The Air Force manipulated data and omitted key stats in order to skew a comparison of civilian casualties and friendly fire deaths caused by close air support aircraft in Afghanistan, according to an analysis released today by the Project On Government Oversight (POGO).
The stats, which were recently reported by USA Today, were intended to bolster the Air Force's campaign to retire the A-10 Warthog in favor of the much costlier and unproven F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.
However, POGO's analysis found that the A-10 is significantly safer than most of the other planes in the comparison. The POGO analysis notes that the Air Force manipulated the data to either exclude or include information that worked against the A-10.
For example, the data looking at civilian casualties excluded an event in 2009 in which a B-1 killed up to 147 civilians and wounded many more. Most importantly, the Air Force did not provide ''kinetic'' sortie information'--those missions in which weapons were employed'--that would put these statistics into important context.
''The Air Force cherry picked and doctored the data that it released in an attempt to build a false narrative against the A-10,'' said Mandy Smithberger, director of the Straus Military Reform Project at POGO. ''The Air Force is resorting to dirty tricks because it can't make a valid argument against the A-10, proven to be reliable, effective, and a favorite of troops on the ground.''
POGO is calling for Congress to ask the Government Accountability Office to conduct a review of all available data and report to the House and Senate Armed Services committees before the committees mark up the new defense policy bill.
The release of the manipulated data follows comments by an Air Force general who said that any service member providing Congress with information about the A-10 would be committing treason. POGO has called on the Air Force Secretary to remove Maj. Gen. James Post from his command for those comments.
Read the full analysis here.
Image from the U.S. Air Force.
Joe Newman is the Director of Communications for the Project On Government Oversight.
Topics:National Security
Related Content:Straus, A-10
Authors:Joe Newman
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Latest PodcastPodcast; Social Media, Internet Provides Opportunities, Challenges for LawmakersThe Congressional Management Foundation offers the Gold Mouse Awards annually to members of Congress who make the most of the opportunity the digital world offers them. POGO spoke with members of Rep. Mike Honda's communications team about their award.
US Navy's 6th Generation Fighter Jets Will Be Slow and Unstealthy | The National Interest Blog
Mon, 09 Feb 2015 19:39
The U.S. Navy's next generation air superiority fighter will not be ''super-duper fast'' or employ much in the way of stealth, a senior navy official announced on Wednesday.
Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan Greenert, the Navy's top officer, divulged some details about the Navy's so-called Next Generation Air Dominance F/A-XX fighter jet during a speech at an industry conference.
''I don't see that it's going to be super-duper fast, because you can't outrun missiles.'' Greenert said, the Washington Examiner reported. ''And you can't become so stealthy that you become invisible '-- you are going to generate a signature of some sort,'' he also noted, adding ''You know that stealth may be overrated'.... If something moves fast through the air and disrupts molecules in the air and puts out heat '' I don't care how cool the engine can be '' it's going to be detectable.''
(Recommended: 5 Ways to Replace the F-35)
In lieu of stealth and speed, Greenert said that the F/A-XX would gain access by deploying ''a spectrum of weapons'' that could suppress enemy air defenses.
Greenert made the remarks while speaking at the Naval Future Force Science and Technology Expo in Washington, DC.
(Recommended: Will the F-35 Dominate the Skies?)
His concerns about speed and stealth appear to be valid. As USNI News notes, the proliferation of high-speed anti-air weapons to America's potential adversaries greatly reduces the value of speed. Stealth also is a wasting asset, as Dave Majumdar recently explained onThe National Interest:
''Russia and China are already working on new networked air defenses coupled with new radars operating in the UHF and VHF-bands that threaten to neutralize America's massive investment in fifth-generation fighters. Fighter-sized stealth aircraft are only optimized to perform against high-frequency fire control band radars operating in the Ku, X, C and portions of the S-band.''
That the next generation fighter will gain access primarily by suppressing enemy air defenses also isn't entirely surprising. After all, the Navy already employs the Boeing EA-18G Growler, an electronic warfare variant of the the F/A-18F Super Hornet, one of the planes that the F/A-XX will eventually replace.
(Recommended: How to Start A Proxy War With Russia)
Still, Greenert's claims about the declining value of stealth and speed pose some stark questions for the armed forces and American taxpayers. The U.S. has spent decades and hundreds of billions of dollars developing and fielding the ''super-duper fast'' F-22 Raptor and the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, both of which rely on stealth to be effective. These fifth generation aircraft are expected to be the foundation of the U.S. fighter fleet for years to come. If their capabilities quickly become inadequate to meet America's security needs, the U.S. could find itself facing a glaring fighter gap.
(Recommended: 5 Russian Weapons of War NATO Should Fear)
It's little wonder then that the military is already fast at work trying to develop the next generation X-plane even though the F-35 JSF is not even operational yet. Unfortunately, these sixth generation fighters might not operational until 2035.
Image: Wikimedia/Boeing
Recent Italian Court Decisions on Vaccines and Autism - AGE OF AUTISM
Tue, 10 Feb 2015 22:38
By Mary S. Holland
Milan: 2014
On September 23, 2014, an Italian court in Milan award compensation to a boy for vaccine-induced autism. (See the Italian document here.) A childhood vaccine against six childhood diseases caused the boy's permanent autism and brain damage. While the Italian press has devoted considerable attention to this decision and its public health implications, the U.S. press has been silent.
Like the U.S., Italy has a national vaccine injury compensation program to give some financial support to those people who are injured by compulsory and recommended vaccinations. The Italian infant plaintiff received three doses of GlaxoSmithKline's Infanrix Hexa, a hexavalent vaccine administered in the first year of life. These doses occurred from March to October 2006. The vaccine is to protect children from polio, diphtheria, tetanus, hepatitis B, pertussis and Haemophilus influenza type B. In addition to these antigens, however, the vaccine then contained thimerosal, the mercury-containing preservative, aluminum, an adjuvant, as well as other toxic ingredients. The child regressed into autism shortly after receiving the three doses. When the parents presented their claim for compensation first to the Ministry of Health, as they were required to do, the Ministry rejected it. Therefore, the family sued the Ministry in a court of general jurisdiction, an option which does not exist in the same form in the U.S.
Based on expert medical testimony, the court concluded that the child more likely than not suffered autism and brain damage because of the neurotoxic mercury, aluminum and his particular susceptibility from a genetic mutation. The Court also noted that Infanrix Hexa contained thimerosal, now banned in Italy because of its neurotoxicity, ''in concentrations greatly exceeding the maximum recommended levels for infants weighing only a few kilograms.''
Presiding Judge Nicola Di Leo considered another piece of damning evidence: a 1271-page confidential GlaxoSmithKline report (now available on the Internet). This industry document provided ample evidence of adverse events from the vaccine, including five known cases of autism resulting from the vaccine's administration during its clinical trials (see table at page 626, excerpt below).
As in many other developed countries, government, not industry, compensates families in the event of vaccine injury. Thus GSK's apparent lack of concern for the vaccine's adverse effects is notable and perhaps not surprising. In the final assessment, the report states that ''[t]he benefit/risk profile of Infanrix hexa continues to be favourable,'' despite GSK's acknowledgement that the vaccine causes side effects including ''anaemia haemolytic autoimmune,thrombocytopenia, thrombocytopenic purpura, autoimmune thrombocytopenia, idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura, haemolytic anemia, cyanosis, injection site nodule, abcess and injection site abscess, Kawasaki's disease, important neurological events (including encephalitis and encephalopathy), Henoch-Schonlein purpura, petechiae, purpura, haematochezia, allergic reactions (including anaphylactic and anaphylactoid reactions),'' and death (see page 9).
The Milan decision is sober, informed and well-reasoned. The Ministry of Health has stated that it has appealed the Court's decision, but that appeal will likely take several years, and its outcome is uncertain.
Rimini: 2012
Two years earlier, on May 23, 2012, Judge Lucio Ardigo of an Italian court in Rimini presided over a similar judgment, finding that a different vaccine, the Measles-Mumps-Rubella vaccine (MMR), had caused a child's autism. (See: Italian MMR Remini decision 2012) As in the Milan case, the Ministry of Health's compensation program had denied compensation to the family, yet after a presentation of medical evidence, a court granted compensation. There, too, the Italian press covered the story; the U.S. press did not.
In that case, a 15-month old boy received his MMR vaccine on March 26, 2004. He then immediately developed bowel and eating problems and received an autism diagnosis with cognitive delay within a year. The court found that the boy had ''been damaged by irreversible complications due to vaccination (with trivalent MMR).'' The decision flew in the face of the conventional mainstream medical wisdom that an MMR-autism link has been ''debunked.''
Both these Italian court decisions break new ground in the roiling debate over vaccines and autism. These courts, like all courts, are intended to function as impartial, unbiased decision makers. The courts' decisions are striking because they not only find a vaccine-autism causal link, but they also overrule the decisions of Italy's Ministry of Health. And taken together, the court decisions found that both the MMR and a hexavalent thimerosal- and aluminum-containing vaccine can trigger autism.
These court decisions flatly contradict the decisions from the so-called U.S. vaccine court, the Court of Federal Claim's Vaccine Injury Compensation Program. There, from 2007 to 2010, in the Omnibus Autism Proceeding, three decision makers, called Special Masters, found that vaccines did not cause autism in any of the six test cases, and one Special Master even went so far as to compare the theory of vaccine-induced autism to Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland. The Italian court decisions contrast starkly with these U.S. cases based on similar claims.
How do we reconcile the difference between the U.S. and Italian decisions in similar cases? What's different about Italy? Well, there may be many differences, but a critical one is that in the U.S., if someone loses in the government vaccine injury compensation program, she cannot sue the government in civil court; she can sue only the manufacturer. In the U.S., her family would have to shoulder legal fees in a David and Goliath mismatch, pitting a global pharmaceutical behemoth against a family likely already suffering financially from serious health costs.
Furthermore, since 2011, the U.S. Supreme Court has foreclosed potential cases and class action lawsuits to contest unreasonably dangerous vaccine designs, such as the use of thimerosal as a preservative or the simultaneous administration of multiple live viruses, such as the MMR. Since the Supreme Court's 2011 Bruesewitz v. Wyeth decision, no court in the U.S. can entertain vaccine design defect claims, the most likely legal actions to aggregate plaintiffs in similar circumstances against large, pharmaceutical defendants.
Unlike American victims of vaccine injury, the Italian plaintiffs didn't have to sue GSK; they sued the Ministry of Health. In both the Milan and Rimini decisions, the plaintiffs won compensation based on findings that vaccines caused autism. One might say that these cases achieved nothing more than a small payout for injured children. But arguably the families, lawyers and medical experts behind these cases achieved far more. They took the issue of vaccine-induced autism to impartial courts, and they got clear a clear judicial answer based on the evidence: vaccines cause autism.
Are court decisions science? Of course not. There is a desperate need for more science on autism and the role that vaccines play, flimsy industry, medical and government retorts to the contrary notwithstanding. But in the current absence of the necessary science on vaccines and autism, decisions of impartial judicial tribunals, based on extensive evidence and testimony, may be some of the best sources of information and insight we have.
Mary S. Holland is a Research Scholar at the NYU School of Law and chairs the advisory board of the non-profit organization Health Choice.
BOMBSHELL: CDC Whistleblower Who Admitted Covering Up MMR Vaccine Links to Autism Granted Immunity, Will Testify -
Tue, 10 Feb 2015 23:25
Flashback to late August 2014:
Shocking revelations about alleged CDC misconduct in a study investigating the link between autism and vaccines have been made even worse by an active campaign to censor and silence the issue in the media.
That CDC whistleblower is back in the news (in the alternative, independent news, anyway).
We'll get to why in a minute.
First, here's some background:
In 2004, Dr. William S. Thompson worked on a report for the CDC's National Immunization Program. That report, which ran in the ''Pediatrics'' medical journal, came to the conclusion that there's no link between vaccines and autism and that no racial group is more likely to be damaged by vaccines.
But Thompson said that he and other CDC scientists intentionally fudged the results, manipulating the pool of children they analyzed and limiting the proper number of African-American children from participating. The authors limited black children from showing up in the results by excluding babies without a state of Georgia birth certificate.
Dr. Thompson came clean during the course of several conversations with Dr. Brian Hooker, who is a researcher (PhD in Bioengineering) and the father of a vaccine-injured child.
From Health Impact News:
Dr. Hooker has fought against the CDC for more than 12 years, using the Freedom of Information Act to try and gather as much data as he could from the studies that the CDC has published that claim there is no link between vaccines and autism. He has submitted much of the results of his own internal investigation of the CDC data on vaccines and autism to Congress. Congressman Bill Posey has assisted him in forcing the CDC to comply with many of these requests.
After almost 12 years, his tireless pursuit of finding the truth that the CDC was hiding paid off, as the CDC finally handed over documents so that Dr. Hooker could look at the raw data that the CDC used to claim that there was no link between vaccines and autism. It took some Congressional pressure from Congressman Bill Posey to get this information.
The mainstream media scrambled to discredit Dr. Thompson. The few reports that made it to mainstream news sites were quickly pulled (two of which were on CNN). Most mainstream sites didn't touch the story (surprise, surprise), but an article that was posted on Yahoo! Finance received quite a bit of attention.
Now, here's why this story is back in the news: it is being reported that the Obama administration has granted Dr. Thompson official whistleblower status and immunity. This will allow him to testify before Congress about CDC fraud regarding vaccine safety and to explain the thousands of documents that have been turned over to congressional representatives, reports
So, now, we wait for that hearing.
What will come of it? It's hard to say at this point, but take a look at the updated study (this is the study the whistleblower is affiliated with):
Study published on PubMed on August 8, 2014:
Measles-mumps-rubella vaccination timing and autism among young African American boys: a reanalysis of CDC data.
RESULTS: When comparing cases and controls receiving their first MMR vaccine before and after 36 months of age, there was a statistically significant increase in autism cases specifically among African American males who received the first MMR prior to 36 months of age. Relative risks for males in general and African American males were 1.69 (p=0.0138) and 3.36 (p=0.0019), respectively. Additionally, African American males showed an odds ratio of 1.73 (p=0.0200) for autism cases in children receiving their first MMR vaccine prior to 24 months of age versus 24 months of age and thereafter.
CONCLUSIONS: The present study provides new epidemiologic evidence showing that African American males receiving the MMR vaccine prior to 24 months of age or 36 months of age are more likely to receive an autism diagnosis.
The CDC continues to insist that a link between vaccines and autism doesn't exist, but'...last month, they quietly launched a robo-call AND Twitter campaign to ask people for their input on the health impacts of vaccines.
Patrick Howley of The Daily Caller reported on the campaign:
The Centers For Disease Control and Prevention is making recorded calls to private cell phone users for research on the health effects of vaccines.
CDC gets people's phone numbers from the Department of Motor Vehicles and other government agencies.
CDC is using the information for a government study on the matter as the social media campaign#CDCWhistleblower explodes on Twitter with stories and accusations from whistleblowers alleging that childhood Hepatitis vaccines have harmed children. The campaign has received no national media attention until now.
Childhood Hepatitis vaccines have been blamed by many for the preponderance of autism and other neurological disorders in children, despite no official government-recognized study confirming the longstanding suspicion by parents and advocates. All 50 states require some vaccinations for young children. The CDC childhood vaccine schedule dates back to 1983 and grew consistently through the mid-'90s.
Mr. Howley asked a CDC employee about the autism issue and was told:
''As far as autism goes, [the government] does not find associations between vaccines and autism.'' The CDC employee said the study was not specifically about autism.
The #CDCWhistleblower Twitter campaign began nearly a month ago, and is still being flooded with Tweets. They are coming in so fast that I couldn't keep up with them at the time of this writing.
Will there actually be a CDC whistleblower hearing before Congress? If so, what will Dr. Thompson reveal?
Lily Dane is a staff writer for The Daily Sheeple. Her goal is to help people to ''Wake the Flock Up!''
Don't forget to follow the D.C. Clothesline on Facebook and Twitter. PLEASE help spread the word by sharing our articles on your favorite social networks.
Netflix to Offer Service in Cuba - Bloomberg Business
Mon, 09 Feb 2015 21:34
(Bloomberg) -- Netflix Inc., the online video-subscription service, said it will offer movies and TV shows in Cuba, becoming one of the first U.S. companies to operate there after President Barack Obama moved to restore diplomatic ties.
Starting today, Cubans with broadband service and access to international payment methods will be able to stream shows including ''House of Cards'' and ''Orange Is the New Black,'' Los Gatos, California-based Netflix said today in a statement.
The government owns and controls all broadcast media in Cuba, with private ownership of electronic media barred, according to the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. The country had 5,360 fixed broadband subscribers in 2013 out of a population of about 11.3 million, according to the International Telecommunications Union.
''Cuba has great filmmakers and a robust arts culture, and one day we hope to be able to bring their work to our global audience,'' Reed Hastings, the company's co-founder and chief executive officer, said in the statement.
The Cuban government won't play a role the service's content library, according to Cliff Edwards, a Netflix spokesman
Netflix will offer a curated selection of movies and TV shows in Cuba starting at $7.99 a month. Cubans earn a monthly salary that averages about $20, according to the country's National Office of Statistics and Information.
Limited Access''The average Cuban has very limited access to the Internet, particularly to fast service,'' said Sanja Kelly, Freedom House's project director for Internet freedom, in a telephone interview from Virginia. ''Very few Cubans will be able to subscribe and watch movies.''
Markets outside the U.S. are the company's fastest-growing source of new subscribers, which hit 57.4 million at year-end. Netflix raised $1.5 billion in a bond sale this month to support its expansion, including the development of new shows.
Netflix fell 0.2 percent to $443.62 at 1:42 p.m. in New York. The stock had gained 30 percent this year as of Feb. 6, second best in the Standard & Poor's 500 index.
American Express Co., the biggest U.S. credit-card issuer by customer purchases, said in January it was making preparations for its cards to be accepted in Cuba.
The lender planned to work with Cuban merchants, and requires approval from the U.S. Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control, Marina Norville, a spokeswoman for New York-based AmEx, said at the time.
MasterCard Inc. said in January it will lift a block on U.S. bank-card transactions in Cuba beginning March 1 after receiving guidance from OFAC.
Latin AmericaNetflix began offering its service in Latin America in 2011 and now counts more than 5 million subscribers.
The company has said it plans to enter Japan by fall. Netflix said on its earnings call last month that it would offer its monthly service to almost every territory with high-speed Internet service by the end of 2016.
Cuba has the best-educated workforce in Latin America, Bloomberg Business reported last month. Eighty percent of college-age Cubans were enrolled in postsecondary education in 2011, compared with 75 percent in Argentina, 71 percent in Chile, and 29 percent in Mexico, according to the United Nations.
New rules outlined by Obama in December will make it easier for people to travel to Cuba under 12 exceptions, including family visits, education, research, journalism and professional meetings. Those who get to Cuba will be able to use credit and debit cards there.
U.S. companies will be permitted to export to Cuba telecommunications equipment, agricultural commodities, construction supplies and materials for small businesses. U.S. financial institutions will be allowed to open accounts with Cuban banks, under rules announced in January.
To contact the reporters on this story: Rob Golum in Los Angeles at; Ezra Fieser in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic at
To contact the editors responsible for this story: Anthony Palazzo at Bruce Rule, Andrew Pollack
Strauss-Kahn claims he didn't know women in orgies were prostitutes
Tue, 10 Feb 2015 15:00
What's This?
Dominique Strauss-Kahn arrives at the Lille courthouse in Lille, northern France Tuesday, Feb. 10, 2015 to testify in a trial involving orgies and an alleged prostitution ring.Image: Michel Spingler/Associated Press
By The Associated Press2015-02-10 11:33:42 UTC
Disgraced former International Monetary Fund boss Dominique Strauss-Kahn told a French court Tuesday that he was unaware that women who participated in orgies at luxury hotels in Paris and Washington D.C. were prostitutes.
65-year-old Strauss-Kahn and 13 co-defendants are on trial in this northern French city, accused of aggravated pimping in connection with a sex ring centered on the Hotel Carlton in Lille.
In his first testimony since the trial began Feb. 2, Strauss-Kahn reaffirmed his long-standing defense that he ignored the "prostitutional character" of the women who took part in his orgies.
Strauss-Kahn's arrival at the courthouse was disrupted by three topless protesters from the provocative group Femen, who were detained by police.
Strauss-Kahn's chances of becoming French president were ruined over an unrelated sex scandal in New York.
The economist, known widely as DSK, faces up to 10 years in prison and a 1.5 million-euro ($1.7 million) fine if convicted.
Strauss-Kahn is on trial with 13 other defendants accused of operating a prostitution ring out of luxury hotels in Paris, Washington D.C., Lille and Brussels.
The trial began Feb. 2. The court has so far heard testimony from some of Strauss-Kahn's fellow defendants, who include a Belgian brothel owner, local businessmen, a police officer and hotel staff accused of organizing sex parties for Strauss-Kahn's benefit.
Investigators have compiled hundreds of pages of testimony from prostitutes describing the orgies.
It's not illegal to pay for sex in France, but it's against the law to solicit or to run a prostitution business.
Prostitutes questioned in the case said that between 2009 and 2011 '-- when the IMF chief was dealing with a global financial crisis '-- Strauss-Kahn was organizing orgies at luxury hotels in Paris, at a restaurant in the French capital and also in Washington.
Hundreds of reporters are covering the trial.
Have something to add to this story? Share it in the comments.
Topics: dominique strauss-kahn, france, US & World
Dominique Strauss-Kahn: All Those Women Had Orgies With Me For Love
Thu, 12 Feb 2015 13:50
Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the former IMF chief currently employed as an old French pervert, is on trial for pimping and facilitating a global prostitution ring. His testimony so far has been incredible, in that he has said it all with a straight face.
For years, Strauss-Kahn has been fighting the criminal charges, which include aiding and abetting the prostition of seven women, claiming he had no idea money was involved. ("I dare you to distinguish between a prostitute and a naked socialite," his lawyer said in 2011.)
And according to theTimes, the once-dignified politician took the stand this week, testifying that the claims concerning his regularly-scheduled orgies have been greatly exaggerated.
"When you read the criminal complaint, you get the impression it was this unbridled activity," Mr. Strauss-Kahn said, "but it was four times a year."
In addition to the twelve orgies spread out over three years, Strauss-Kahn also admitted to referring to women as "equipment" in text messages'--lending credence to the rumors that Air France was once forced to staff all-male crews on his flights.
According to theTimes, Strauss-Kahn faces up to 10 years in prison and almost $2 million in fines.
[image via AP]
VIDEO-ABC, CBS Ignore Keystone Pipeline Passing Congress; NBC Only Gives News 11 Seconds | MRCTV
Thu, 12 Feb 2015 14:03
See more in the cross-post on the NewsBusters blog.
On Wednesday afternoon, the U.S. House of Representatives successfully passed the Senate's version of a bill to approve the construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline that would stretch from the Canadian tar sands to oil refineries along the U.S. Gulf Coast. With that vote, the pipeline had secured full approval of Congress and will be sent to President Obama's desk.
When it came to the major broadcast networks covering this story on their Wednesday night newscasts, however, ABC's World News Tonight with David Muir and the CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley chose to ignore the story completely and left their viewers in the dark on this issue.
VIDEO-Scarborough Warns Media and Pols: I Know A Lot About You So Don't Cast First Stone at Brian Williams | MRCTV
Thu, 12 Feb 2015 13:58
On Morning Joe, Scarborough ominously says: "in over a decade in this news business, it is fair to say looking straight in the camera, I've seen a lot, I know a lot, and I know that there are very few people in this industry or in politics that could live by the standard of perfection. Cast the first stone, I would be careful."
VIDEO-Sen. Murray Wants to 'Encourage Broader Use of Vaccines' | MRCTV
Thu, 12 Feb 2015 13:45
By escheiner | February 10, 2015 11:17am ET 22 viewsIf the player does not load, please check that you are running the latest version of Adobe Flash Player.
Sen. Murray Wants to 'Encourage Broader Use of Vaccines,' Including HPV Shot See More at:
VIDEO-CNN Apologizes For Misleading 'Pro-U.S. Troops' Graphic on Ukraine | MRCTV
Thu, 12 Feb 2015 13:41
[More in the cross-post on the MRC's NewsBusters blog.]
Carol Costello gave an on-air correction on the 20 February 2015 edition of CNN Newsroom concerning an on-screen graphic that aired on the Monday edition of her program: "Yesterday, we ran a story about the debate among Western leaders about whether to send arms to Ukraine. During that segment, our banner mistakenly said, 'Obama considers arming pro-U.S. troops.'"
Costello added that "the debate in Western capitals is actually about whether the United States and other NATO countries should send arms to the Ukrainian military, which is trying to protect its territory from separatists the government in Kiev says are backed by Russia. The recipients of any military equipment and aid would be the national military of Ukraine '' certainly not 'pro-U.S. troops.' I regret that error."
VIDEO-Pentagon: U.S. Kills Former Gitmo Inmate, Recent ISIS Convert, in Afghanistan | MRCTV
Thu, 12 Feb 2015 13:17
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DOD: U.S. Kills Former Gitmo Inmate, Recent ISIS Convert, in Afghanistan See More at:
VIDEO-FBI Assistant Director: Controlling Foreign Fighter Travel 'Continues to be a Challenge' | MRCTV
Thu, 12 Feb 2015 07:19
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FBI Official on Travel of Foreign Fighters: 'Not Even Close to Being Under Control' See More at:
VIDEO-NBC Colleagues React to Williams Suspension: 'You Cannot Mislead...Truth And Transparency '' It's Our Trade' | MRCTV
Thu, 12 Feb 2015 07:13
More in the cross-post on the MRC's NewsBusters blog.
Reacting to the decision by NBC News to suspend NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams for six months following his Iraq war lies, Today 9 a.m. hour co-host Willie Geist acknowledged it was "kind of a difficult and strange morning." Fellow co-host Natalie Morales added: " is a difficult day here and we are certainly sharing our best wishes with Brian. It's a tough time for him and his family, so we hope and pray for the best."
After statements were read from NBC executives addressing the ongoing scandal, Geist observed: "We all agree with, I think, the decision on the professional angle. You cannot mislead, this is what we do. Truth and transparency is '' it's our trade."
VIDEO-NBC Nightly News Drops Brian Williams From Opening Graphics; Lester Holt Addresses Suspension | MRCTV
Thu, 12 Feb 2015 06:49
See more in the cross-post on the NewsBusters blog.
On its first broadcast since the announcement of anchor Brian Williams's suspension, NBC Nightly News took the step of dropping both Williams's name from the program's opening graphics, recorded introduction, and masthead on the show's website.
Following four teasers from now-interim anchor Lester Holt, the opening theme of the program was played as normal, but instead of a recorded announcement from actor Michael Douglas, a separate recording by another voice was used that told viewers that ''[t]his is NBC Nightly News'' and ''[r]eporting tonight, Lester Holt.''
VIDEO-Anonymous does 'what no government could do' and destroys ISIS' social media strategy
Wed, 11 Feb 2015 22:08
The online ''hacktivist'' group Anonymous has taken down over 100 Twitter and Facebook accounts that are ''openly used by ISIS to expand their influence and recruit new members.''
Although the majority of the accounts were suspended, the ones that weren't had their tweets deleted and passwords changed. Anonymous said in a video that the attacks were coordinated by ''Muslims, Christians and Jews'' working together.
This latest Anon assault comes after the group promised to retaliate after the attack on the offices of satirical rag Charlie Hebdo in Paris by Islamic extremists.
The video goes on to say that the group behind these attacks consists of ''hackers, crackers, hacktivists, phishers, agents, spies, or just the guy next door. Students, administrators, workers, clerks, unemployed, rich, poor. Young, or old, gay or straight. from all races, countries, religions, and ethnicity. United as one, divided by zero.''
''Isis, we will hunt you, take down your sites, accounts, emails, and expose you from now on. No safe place for you online. You will be treated like a virus, and we are the cure.''
As always, the video concluded with their famous sign-off: ''We are Anonymous; we are Legion; we do not forgive, we do not forget, expect us.''
The following are some Twitter handles that have been brought down by Anonymous in #OpISIS:
The Twitter profiles that were not erased completely were simply hijacked by Anon, with the profile pictures changed and the bio section now stating that the ''purification'' of the account ''has been completed.''
(Click the image below to enlarge)
Watch the video released by Anonymous below:
VIDEO-AP Reporter Calls Out State Dept For Lack Of Transparency On Keystone - YouTube
Tue, 10 Feb 2015 18:56
VIDEO-CNN Slammed For Calling Ukrainian Army 'Pro-US Troops' / Sputnik International
Tue, 10 Feb 2015 16:43
World09:57 10.02.2015(updated 16:12 10.02.2015)
The channel was reporting about the talks between President Obama and Chancellor Merkel.
The two leaders have been considering the possibility of supplying lethal weapons to the Ukrainian government.
The channel's captions team headlined it as ''Obama considers arming pro-US troops'', implying that Ukraine's soldiers, currently embroiled in a civil conflict with breakaway regions in the east of the country, were in fact pursuing US foreign policy.
The text was kept on for several minutes before and during CNN's Carol Costello interview with Lt. Col. James Reese on Monday morning.
This has long been the assertion of many Russian onlookers who see the current government in Kiev as the product of a Washington-engineered coup.
CNN's blunder was immediately spotted by viewers '' and went viral on Twitter; it was hailed as a ''Freudian slip'' and one commented, "the mask slips.''
VIDEO- Exclusive: Leigh Sales interviews PM Tony Abbott on 7.30 - YouTube
Tue, 10 Feb 2015 15:35
VIDEO-BBC News - Not in front of the telly: Warning over 'listening' TV
Mon, 09 Feb 2015 21:00
9 February 2015Last updated at 06:20 ET Samsung is warning customers about discussing personal information in front of their smart television set.
The warning applies to TV viewers who control their Samsung Smart TV using its voice activation feature.
Such TV sets "listen" to some of what is said in front of them and may share details they hear with Samsung or third parties, it said.
Privacy campaigners said the technology smacked of the telescreens, in George Orwell's 1984, which spied on citizens.
Data sharingThe warning came to light via a story in online news magazine the Daily Beast which published an excerpt of a section of Samsung's privacy policy for its net-connected Smart TV sets.
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Smart TV owner Peter Kent: "It makes me think twice"
The policy explains that the TV set will be listening to people in the same room to try to spot when commands or queries are issued via the remote. It goes on to say: "If your spoken words include personal or other sensitive information, that information will be among the data captured and transmitted to a third party."
Corynne McSherry, an intellectual property lawyer for the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) which campaigns on digital rights issues, told the Daily Beast that the third party was probably the company providing speech-to-text conversion for Samsung.
She added: "If I were the customer, I might like to know who that third party was, and I'd definitely like to know whether my words were being transmitted in a secure form."
Soon after, an activist for the EFF circulated the policy statement on Twitter comparing it to George Orwell's description of the telescreens in his novel 1984 that listen to what people say in their homes.
In response to the widespread sharing of its policy statement, Samsung has issued a statement to clarify how voice activation works. It emphasised that the voice recognition feature is activated using the TV's remote control.
It said the privacy policy was an attempt to be transparent with owners in order to help them make informed choices about whether to use some features on its Smart TV sets, adding that it took consumer privacy "very seriously".
Samsung said: "If a consumer consents and uses the voice recognition feature, voice data is provided to a third party during a requested voice command search. At that time, the voice data is sent to a server, which searches for the requested content then returns the desired content to the TV."
It added that it did not retain voice data or sell the audio being captured. Smart-TV owners would always know if voice activation was turned on because a microphone icon would be visible on the screen, it said.
The third party handling the translation from speech to text is a firm called Nuance, which specialises in voice recognition, Samsung has confirmed to the BBC.
Samsung is not the first maker of a smart, net-connected TV to run into problems with the data the set collects. In late 2013, a UK IT consultant found his LG TV was gathering information about his viewing habits.
Publicity about the issue led LG to create a software update which ensured data collection was turned off for those who did not want to share information.
VIDEO/Anonymous ''Hacktivists'' Strike a Blow Against ISIS AnonHQ
Sun, 08 Feb 2015 22:43
February 8th, 2015 | by CoNNAnonymous
Anonymous has just struck a massive blow against ISIS recruiting efforts. Hacktivists recently took control of dozens of Twitter and Facebook accounts that had been openly used by ISIS to expand their influence and recruit new members.
The above video explains the attack was coordinated by ''Muslims, Christians, Jews'' alike. They are ''hackers, crackers, Hacktivist, phishers, agents, spies, or just the guy next door'... students, administrators, workers, clerks, unemployed, rich, poor.'' They are also ''young, or old, gay or straight'... from all races, countries, religions, and ethnicity. United as one, divided by zero.''
An important point made by the video is that ''the terrorists that are calling themselves [the] Islamic State (ISIS) are not Muslims.'' Anonymous further directs a threat to ISIS itself:
We will hunt you, take down your sites, accounts, emails, and expose you'...From now on, no safe place for you online'...You will be treated like a virus, and we are the cure'...We own the internet'...We are Anonymous; we are Legion; we do not forgive, we do not forget, Expect us.
The following are some of the Twitter handles that had been brought down by Anonymous and RedCult team in #OpISIS are listed below: > Rachid Abou Houdeyfa
Anonymous states that the Facebook accounts listed below appear to be in close contact with ISIS. We are advised to ''keep a close eye'' on them. ====> This are Junaid Hussain AkA TriCk. ====> (Recruiter) This woman she to brainwash young people to go to Syria to fight alongside Terrorists of the Islamic State.
This is just the beginning it seems. Anonymous warns that there will be ''more to come.'' In fact, even as this article is being typed, more accounts are being taken offline.
VIDEO-Ban racists from social media, anti-Semitism report says - BBC News
Mon, 09 Feb 2015 16:44
Social media users who spread racial hatred should be banned from sites such as Twitter and Facebook, MPs say.
The All-Party Parliamentary Inquiry into anti-Semitism wants prosecutors to examine whether prevention orders like those used to restrict sex offenders' internet access could be used.
The cross-party group also highlighted the use of anti-Semitic terms online.
Last week, a Community Security Trust report said UK anti-Semitic incidents more than doubled to 1,168 in 2014.
The trust - which monitors anti-Semitism in Britain - says this was its highest figure recorded since it began work in 1984.
'Hate crimes'The Parliamentary inquiry was set up following a rise in incidents in July and August last year during fighting between Gaza and Israel.
Although the primary focus of the inquiry was anti-Semitism, one recommendation it made was that those who carry out any kind of hate crime should be prevented from using social media.
Hate crimes are defined in England and Wales as offences carried against someone because of their disability, gender identity, race, religion or belief or sexual orientation and can include harassment.
The MPs said social media platforms had "increasingly been used for the spread of anti-Semitism".
Their report said the terms "Hitler" and "Holocaust" were among the top 35 phrases relating to Jews during the conflict.
The hashtags "Hitler" and "genocide" featured with "high frequency", it added. The "Hitler Was Right" hashtag trended worldwide in July 2014.
AnalysisBy Caroline Wyatt, religious affairs correspondent, BBC NewsThe rise in violent anti-Semitic attacks last year in the UK was clearly linked to the conflict in Gaza, with some using criticism of Israel's actions as a pretext for hate speech.
Although the Jewish community is deeply integrated into British society, many British Jews say there has always been a low level of underlying anti-Semitism - such as casual, thoughtless remarks - but the rise of hate speech online is new and risks normalizing such sentiments.
Extremist or hate speech against one minority creates an environment in which such sentiments can easily spread to others. So today's call may also be welcomed by Muslim communities, facing what they say is a rise in Islamophobia following the Paris attacks.
Despite all that, the UK is still seen as one of the most tolerant places in the world to live. MPs, peers and others are keen to ensure that remains the case.
The report said: "There is an allowance in the law for banning or blocking individuals from certain aspects of internet communication in relation to sexual offences.
"Informal feedback we have received from policy experts indicates that this is a potential area of exploration for prosecutors in relation to hate crime.
"If it can be proven in a detailed way that someone has made a considered and determined view to exploit various online networks to harm and perpetrate hate crimes against others then the accepted principles, rules and restrictions that are relevant to sex offences must surely apply."
Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis said the report was timely following the recent attacks in Paris The report also said there was an "unacceptable rise in anti-Semitic incidents" in July and August last year.
It added: "It is for non-Jews to speak out and lead the fight against anti-Semitism with strong action."
It also called for:
A government fund to be set up to cover the costs of security at synagoguesFresh research on identifying and explaining anti-Semitic language Guidance for teachers on how to handle the Middle East conflict in the classroom The report also comes weeks after four people were killed at a Jewish supermarket in Paris.
'Zero-tolerance approach' Prime Minister David Cameron called the report "hugely important", adding that tackling anti-Semitism went "right to the heart of what we stand for as a country".
Community Secretary Eric Pickles added: "We remain staunchly committed to tackling anti-Semitism wherever it occurs and will continue to take a zero-tolerance approach."
And Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis welcomed the timing of the report, which he said came when the "threat against the Jewish community is real and anxiety remains high following recent events".
Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe said the force had taken steps to provide "additional reassurance" to Jewish communities in recent weeks.
The best way of helping police was to report hate crime, but a wider response was also needed, he said.
"We need society to become as vocally intolerant of faith-hatred as it is of other forms of discrimination, and a clearer understanding of where freedom of speech oversteps the mark."
Meanwhile, a Populus poll accompanying the report also suggested a third of Britons - 37% - believed the problem of anti-Semitism had got worse in the last decade.
In comparison, 16% thought it had got better.
On a scale of 1 to 10, where one means anti-Semitism is not a problem at all and 10 means it is a serious issue, participants rated it at 4.66.
That figure was largely unchanged from when a similar survey was carried out in 2005.

Clips & Documents

Anonymous takes down twitter accounts.mp3
Kirby on frmr Gitmo ISIL in Afghanistan kill.mp3
Rand Paul Blames Hillary Clinton for ISIS.mp3
Rand Paul not yet on board with AUMF.mp3
Steinbach FBI CT AD-broken travel schengen.mp3
CNN propaganda Por-US Troops in Ukraine.mp3
JCD Clips
ebola update.mp3
greece wrap.mp3
houthis amy goodman.mp3
ISIS and the foreign fighters meme.mp3
mccain and cluster bombs.mp3
mccain promoting weapons to ukraine.mp3
rache maddow on williams bite NBC.mp3
use emoticon go to jail.mp3
Ministry of Truth
Lester Holt does NBC new mea culpa.mp3
NBC Colleagues-Truth And Transparency – It's Our Trade.mp3
Scarborough warns on attacks on him?-I know stuff.mp3
Moon Landing
armstrong moon recordings.mp3
Obama Nation
Matt slams Psaki on transparency.mp3
HOuse passes pipeline bill-veto expected.mp3
Shut Up Slave
BBC-Ban hate speech from Social Media-Rabbi Goldsmith.mp3
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