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Topics - Rudi Jan

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What's Hiding Under the Ice? The Deepest Point on Land Discovered in Breakthrough Antarctica Study

14:42 14.12.2019


For decades, radar instruments have crisscrossed Antarctica, sending down microwave pulses to peer through the ice and trace the underlying rock topography, yet there are still vast areas for which there is little or no data.

The deepest point on continental Earth has been discovered in East Antarctica, under Denman Glacier, by an international team of researchers led by glaciologists from the University of California, Irvine.

​The icy canyon reaches 3.5km (11,500ft) below sea level, with only ocean valleys boasting a greater depth. For comparison, the lowest exposed land on Earth, at the Dead Sea shore, is just 413m (1,355ft) below sea level.

"The trenches in the oceans are deeper, but this is the deepest canyon on land," explained Dr Morlighem, lead author of the study.

Secrets of Antarctica's Ice Sheet

Researchers made the remarkable discovery as part of a project to create the most detailed map of the land beneath Antarctica. The map, BedMachine, and findings related to it were published on 12 December in the journal Nature Geoscience.

BedMachine is a topography map of Antarctica that comprehensively shows its ridges, trenches and slopes, and was assembled using data from 19 research institutions going back over 40 years.

Scientists used radar and satellite images to work out the thickness of the ice and the land below.

"This is undoubtedly the most accurate portrait yet of what lies beneath Antarctica's ice sheet," said Dr Mathieu Morlighem.
Despite radar instruments intensively used over the decades to survey Antarctica, there remained vast gaps in airborne surveys of the continent.

For the project, Morlighem came up with a new technique to see the ground under the ice—relying on satellite data of changes to the surface, snow accumulation, and lines of radar data that can be applied to areas where radar is unavailable.

"The biggest challenge was that Antarctica is huge… so applying this method to the entire coast was very time-consuming: it took about five years to get to BedMachine," he said.
Once completed, however, the researchers were able to find previously unknown features below the ice.

Thus, the new map revealed ridges across troughs that feed the Ross ice shelf - the largest ice shelf in Antarctica. This area has been of concern to climate scientists, as research suggests it could be at risk of collapse under projected global warming.

The new finding shows previously unknown ridges that might impede the retreat of melting glaciers if the world were to grow significantly warmer, and some smooth, sloping terrains that could accelerate such processes.

© WIKIPEDIA / Sea ice in the Ross Sea, Antarctica

"If something happened to the Ross Sea Ice Shelf - and right now it's fine, but if something happened - it will most likely not trigger the collapse of East Antarctica through these 'gates'. If East Antarctica is threatened, it's not from the Ross Sea," Dr Morlighem said.

Data from BedMachine Antarctica will be fed into climate models that try to project how the continent might evolve in the future.

US threatens Iran over attacks on military bases in Iraq

Saturday, 14 December 2019 8:19 AM  [ Last Update: Saturday, 14 December 2019 9:56 AM ]

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats
before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC.
(AFP photo)

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has threatened Iran with "decisive" action over a series of attacks on American military bases in Iraq.

In a statement released on Friday, Pompeo claimed that Iran was providing "lethal aid and support to third parties in Iraq and throughout the region."

"We must... use this opportunity to remind Iran's leaders that any attacks by them, or their proxies of any identity, that harm Americans, our allies or our interests will be answered with a decisive US response," he said.

This came one day after two Katyusha rockets targeted a compound near Baghdad International Airport, which houses US troops. It was the 10th such assault since late October.

Another attack Monday on the same base wounded five members of Iraqi counter-terrorism forces, two of them critically.

The Iraqi army says two Katyusha rockets have landed near the "outside perimeter" of Baghdad International Airport.

Pompeo's remarks came in the wake of a report by The Wall Street Journal which said Saudi Arabia is quietly seeking to mend ties with Iran amid economic concerns and doubts about Washington's backing for Riyadh.

The fresh US threat against Iran can be viewed as a signal of support for Saudi Arabia to prevent a thaw in the kingdom's relations with the Islamic Republic.

Possible friendly ties between Riyadh and Tehran will put America's interests in danger as it can no longer milk Saudi Arabia to protect it against an alleged threat from Iran.

"Riyadh’s newfound interest in better relations with regional rivals comes as Saudi officials question how much backing it has from the US and other allies,” the WSJ report said.

The US, backed by the UK, invaded Iraq in 2003 under the pretext that the former regime of Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction. No such weapons, however, were ever found in the country.

The invasion plunged Iraq into chaos and led to the rise of terrorist groups.

The US and a coalition of its allies further launched a military campaign against purported Daesh targets in Iraq in 2014, but their operations in many instances have led to civilian deaths. 

Now, the US is weighing deploying up to 7,000 additional troops to the Middle East in the face of what it calls a renewed Iranian threat.

R ~ Look over there folks while the USG is using Iraq as a launching pad into Syria.

NY Post Editorial Board Names Eric Ciaramella As Whistleblower

by Tyler Durden
Fri, 12/13/2019 - 10:30

The New York Post Editorial Board has named CIA analyst Eric Ciaramella as the whistleblower at the heart of the Trump impeachment saga, confirming an October 30 report by RealClearInvestigation's Paul Sperry which has been widely cited in subsequent reports.

Eric Ciaramella poses for a photo with former President Barack Obama at the White House. (Via the Washington Examiner)

Whistleblower lawyers refuse to confirm or deny Ciaramella is their man. His identity is apparently the worst-kept secret of the Washington press corps. In a sign of how farcical this has become, Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) said his name as part of a series of names during a live hearing Wednesday night aired on television. He never called him the whistleblower, just said he was someone Republicans thought should testify, yet Democrats angrily denounced the “outing.” If you don’t know the man’s name, how do you know the man’s name? -New York Post

Ciaramella, a registered Democrat, is a CIA analyst who specializes in Russia and Ukraine, and ran the Ukraine desk at the National Security Council (NSC) in 2016. He previously worked for then-NSC adviser Susan Rice, as well as Joe Biden when the former VP was the Obama administration's point-man for Ukraine. He also worked for former CIA Director John Brennan, and was reportedly a highly valued employee according to RedState's Elizabeth Vaughn. He also became former National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster's personal aide in June 2017, was called out as a leaker by journalist Mike Cernovich that same month.

He also worked Alexandra Chalupa, a Ukrainian-American lawyer and Democratic operative involved in allegations that Ukraine meddled in the 2016 US election by releasing the so-called 'Black Ledger' that contained Paul Manafort's name.

In 2017, former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon wanted Ciaramella kicked off the National Security Council over concerns about leaks.

Earlier this year, Ciaramella ignited the Democratic impeachment efforts against President Trump when, using second-hand information, he anonymously complained that Trump abused his office when he asked Ukraine to investigate corruption allegations against Joe Biden and his son Hunter, as well as claims related to pro-Clinton election interference and DNC hacking in 2016.

Ciaramella notably contacted House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff's (D-CA) office before filing his complaint, on a form which was altered to allow for second-hand information, after going to a Democratic operative attorney who will neither confirm nor deny his status as the whistleblower.

R ~ This is news? I guess it is if you get the 'news'from the NYT, mouthpiece for the (((deep state))).

Syrian Army blocks US military convoy from passing Qamishli Airport

By News Desk -2019-12-12

Syrian Army Republican Guard troops near the town of Jisreen in East Ghouta (Source: Syrian Army Republican Guard).

BEIRUT, LEBANON (7:00 P.M.) – The Syrian Arab Army (SAA) recently blocked a U.S. military convoy from passing their posts at the Qamishli Airport in northern Al-Hasakah.

In a video that was captured on Thursday, the Syrian Army can be seen forcing the U.S. convoy to turn around, despite the possibility of a confrontation between the two forces.
video source

Since the Syrian Army took over the Al-Qamishli District, they have deployed their forces to several areas that were previously under the control of the U.S. Armed Forces.

While the U.S. military continues to carry out patrols in the Al-Hasakah Governorate, the Syrian Army has become more aggressive in their approach when dealing with American troops in the region.

Epstein Had Huge Naked Portrait of ‘Pimp’ Ghislaine Maxwell at His Ranch, Former Employee Claims

17:05 12.12.2019Get short URL5134

© AFP 2019 / Laura Cavanaugh

Ghislaine Maxwell, a central figure in the Jeffrey Epstein case, is accused of having procured girls for the late sex offender. A man who had worked for Epstein recalled seeing “modelling pictures of girls” on Maxwell’s computer.

Jeffrey Epstein had a naked portrait of his presumed “pimp”, Ghislaine Maxwell, with her legs wide open hung up at his New Mexico ranch, a former Epstein employee has alleged.

The employee, who worked in “internet, security and communications” for Epstein between 1999 and 2007, told The Sun that the portrait was placed in a huge bathing area.

“There was this huge painting of Ghislaine naked with her legs open, six foot by six foot. She was on a chair, leaning back, with her legs open. You could see everything. She would definitely have posed for that. It was in the basement by the pool,” he said.

“But he had so many photos, there were pictures everywhere. John Travolta, Bill Clinton, and there were a bunch of photos of Prince Andrew in the house, mostly in the common areas. He liked to brag about the people he knew.”

The employee said that the photos were removed in 2005, the year he was arrested on allegations of child sexual abuse and solicitation of prostitution.

Footage of a 2005 raid of another Epstein estate in Florida also appeared to show numerous photos of women and young girls on the walls, some of them naked.

More than a dozen women have come forward – most of them anonymously – with accusations of sexual abuse against Epstein. One woman, a 31-year-old Michigan native identified only as ‘Jane Doe 15’, last month filed a lawsuit alleging that Epstein raped her at the New Mexico ranch when she was 15.

Who is Ghislaine Maxwell?

Several women have claimed that Ghislaine Maxwell – the daughter of publishing tycoon Robert Maxwell and Epstein’s former girlfriend – had procured underage girls for the depraved financier. Maxwell has not been seen in public since his death; only one photo of the British socialite has emerged in recent months, showing her at a fast-food restaurant in Los Angeles. There has been no information on any charges brought against her.

The former employee told The Sun that Maxwell spent more time at the New Mexico ranch than Epstein did, preparing for his visits. “I’d see what was on her computers, modelling pictures of girls and that kind of thing, they looked professional some of them,” he recalled.

How did Epstein end up?

In 2008, Epstein pleaded guilty to two state charges of soliciting for prostitution, including with a minor, in a controversial deal with prosecutors that helped him avoid more serious federal charges of sex trafficking. He served 13 months in prison and registered as a sex offender. He was indicted this year again on charges of sexually exploiting and abusing dozens of minor girls, which he denied.

The multimillionaire financier – known for his connections with high-profile politicians – was found dead in his prison cell in Manhattan on 10 August, days after the first suspected suicide attempt. Authorities ruled his death a suicide, but multiple discrepancies in the story have stoked speculation that he was actually murdered by someone who didn’t want to get exposed in case he spoke out.

The FBI continues to investigate the child sexual abuse allegations in the Epstein case.

‘Prison confidante’ speaks out

Epstein’s ‘inmate companion’ – an inmate who help observe fellow prisoners on suicide watch – said he had little doubt that the disgraced sex predator hung himself because another inmate who was held next door to Epstein heard the sound of “ripping sheets” on the night he died.

The 69-year-old confidante, named Bill Mersey, allegedly spent two dozen hours talking to Epstein one-on-one in prison prior to his death. He told the Daily Mail that Epstein was mum about his alleged sex crimes or his victims; neither did he tell on any of his powerful friends.

Mersey recounted: “He was always asking about how to handle fellow inmates. He felt threatened. He asked me, ‘Do I need a shvar?’ [a derogatory Yiddish word for a black person].”

“He told me that when he grew up in Coney Island, he’d been bullied by black guys throughout his youth and he was just really scared of prison.”
Mersey added: “I think he was more afraid because he was a rich man. He was afraid for his physical safety, he thought he was going to get his ass kicked.”

“Mostly chomos - child molesters - hide their crime because that's the lowest thing in prison, along with being a snitch.”


BBC Persian partner in economic terrorism against Iran: UK envoy

Thursday, 12 December 2019 2:13 PM  [ Last Update: Thursday, 12 December 2019 2:52 PM ]

This photo is taken during the foreign-backed riots that broke out across Iran in November 2019, following a government decision to increase the fuel price. (Photo by IRNA)

Iran’s UK ambassador says BBC Persian news network is partaking in the US-led campaign of economic terrorism targeting the Islamic Republic by painting a black picture of conditions inside the country and instigating Iranians to take their assets out of banks.

Hamid Baeidinejad tweeted the remarks on Thursday, citing a Wednesday “interview” by the BBC News’ Persian service with a US-based “political activist” as an example of the attempted anti-Iran sabotage by the channel.

The envoy said during the “interview, which had been recorded and planned in advance,” BBC Persian’s presenter and the so-called activist “were, through painting a very mendacious picture of Iran’s economic situation, unequivocally called on Iranians to immediately take their assets out of Iranian banks.”

“And they [make so bold as to] call themselves journalists. No this is [not journalism, but] partnership in the economic terrorism project, against Iran” Baeidinejad protested.

Last month, UK-based anti-Iran television channels, namely BBC Persian, Manoto, and Saudi-funded Iran International, markedly cranked up their extensive anti-Iranian propaganda campaign by throwing their support behind foreign-backed rioters, who sought to take advantage of protests over a fuel price hike.

Tehran has sent an official protest note to Britain’s communications regulator Ofcom over the channels’ “malicious skewing” of Iran’s recent developments, and “their invitation of extensive violence against the country’s civil institutions.” Via the letter, Tehran has required that the media outlets be subjected to due process over their questionable performance.

On Wednesday, Baeidinejad noted that Ofcom had confirmed receiving the protest letter, and expressed its readiness to process it upon receiving the broadcast material containing the provocative content.

The Iranian embassy in London files a complaint against hostile UK-based Persian-language TV channels for inciting violence in Iran.

The Islamic Republic has also separately complained to the BBC over the Persian broadcaster’s conduct.

“Economic terrorism” is the name assigned by Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif to the United States’ frenetic efforts to bring Iran under economic pressure.

Leading the policy, the US left an international nuclear agreement with Iran last year, and returned the nuclear-related sanctions that had been lifted under the deal. Washington has also been trying to bend its allies into falling into line with the campaign.

The UK-based channels’ contribution to the US-led drive does not mark the first time they have been either trying to portray the Islamic Republic in a bad light or joining forces with anti-Iranian elements.

Last year, BBC Persian and Iran International interviewed a spokesman for al-Ahvaziyah terrorist group, which had staged a deadly attack during a military parade in southwestern Iran, killing 24 people, including children.

Back then, Tehran filed a relevant complaint with Ofcom.

Ofcom is probing a news program aired by a London-based TV which condoned a terrorist attack in Iran.

The media watch, however, did not find either channel to be in default of any regulations.

R ~ No surprise Ofcom denied the allegations. part and parcel of the (((deep state))).

Adversaries pursued plot for false-flag killings in Tehran riots: Iran top security official

Thursday, 12 December 2019 11:15 AM  [ Last Update: Thursday, 12 December 2019 11:34 AM ]

Secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council (SNSC) Ali Shamkhani

Iran’s top security official sheds light on an enemy plot to increase the number of fatalities during the recent riots in several cities, saying most of those
killed in Tehran Province were not even involved in any protest gatherings.

Secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council (SNSC) Ali Shamkhani made the remarks in a meeting with families of some of the victims of the riots in the western towns of the province on Thursday.

“More than 85 percent of the victims of the recent incidents in towns of Tehran Province had not taken part in any gathering and were killed with non-organizational firearms and cold weapons in a very suspicious manner,” said Shamkhani, adding there was certainly a plot hatched by “adversaries” to cause as many fatalities as possible and pin the blame on Iran’s security forces for the killings.

No official death toll has so far been released, but the victims reportedly include both security forces and civilians.

Commiserating with the bereaved families, Shamkhani said that government officials and authorities would make their utmost efforts to alleviate the suffering of the families.

He called on all governors general across the country to take necessary measures in order to investigate the deaths and compensate the damages incurred to the people.

In mid-November, the Iranian government raised gasoline prices in order to moderate the national consumption rate.

The move prompted protests in a number of cities that went largely peaceful but turned violent when armed riotous individuals took advantage of the situation to vandalize public and state property, and attack civilians and security forces alike.

Shortly after the riots broke out, Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei tasked the Supreme National Security Council with compiling a report detailing the reasons behind the riots and immediate attending of the families of the victims.

Iran says many of the rioters were found to have links to the notorious US-backed Mujahedin-e Khalq Organization (MKO) terror group, separatists besides members of organized groups trained towards staging acts of sabotage.

Last week, Gholam-Hossein Esmaili, Iran’s Judiciary’s spokesman, dismissed the unofficial casualty count provided by certain sources as inaccurate.

 “The numbers and figures that are being provided by hostile groups are utter fabrication and the actual figures are fewer than what these sources claim,” he said.

“They have released figures as well as certain names... The purported casualty count is not but a fabrication,” he said, in remarks aired on state television, adding that sources with hostile intentions have provided the names of people who lost their lives in circumstances unrelated to the recent violence, and of people who are even alive.

R ~ Of course none of this will be reported By the MSM but one only need ask if this is beyond the pale knowing as we do that false flags is a specialty of Iran's 'adversaries'.

The World Below / Turkish Proxies Seek To Capture Chunks Of M4 Highway
« on: December 11, 2019, 11:19:29 AM »
Turkish Proxies Seek To Capture Chunks Of M4 Highway

Syrian War Report – December 11, 2019

On December 10, the military situation escalated in northern Lattakia and the surrounding area. According  to pro-government sources, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham and allied militant groups conducted attacked and shelled several positions of the Syrian Army near the M4 highway and south of the town of Kbani.

In response, Syrian air forces and artillery units conducted strikes on militants’ positions near Jisr al-Shoughur, al-Janoudiya, and at a contact line near the M4 highway and Kbani. Pro-militant sources immediately described these strikes as an example of blatant aggression and ceasefire violations by the Assad regime.

Pro-Turkish sources reported that units affiliated with the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces shelled positions of Turkish-backed militant groups near the city of Afrin.

In the province of Raqqa, Turkish-led forces once again seized the Shirlrak silos located on the M4 highway, east of Ayn Issa. Earlier this month, Turkish proxies withdrew from the area under the agreement between Aknara and Moscow. The control over Shirlrak allows pro-Turkish groups to rob civilians that use the highway. If they remain there, the Shirlrak silos will likely become a new point of tensions soon.

Meanwhile, Russian President’s Special Envoy on Syria Alexander Lavrentiev said that Turkey and Russia had agreed to not expand the northeastern Syria safe zone. Therefore, attempts by Turkish-led forces to seize more areas along the M4 highway is an open violation of the ceasefire agreement.

Russia Worried As NATO Boosts Activity at Belarus-Russia Borders

Wed Dec 11, 2019 8:26

TEHRAN (FNA)- Moscow is worried about NATO's increased activity along the borders of Belarus and Russia, as well as the decision made at the alliance's summit to increase the military budgets of member countries, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Wednesday.

“We are worried about the increased military activity of NATO near the borders of Belarus and Russia, as well as the decisions made at the alliance’s summit in London to further increase the military budgets of its countries. These steps lead to the militarization of Europe and are carried out contrary to the obligations not to strengthen their own security at the expense of the security of others,” the minister's address reads, according to Sputnik.

Alexey Drobinin, deputy director of the Russian Foreign Ministry's Foreign Policy Planning Department (FPPD), read out the text of Lavrov's speech at the opening of a scientific conference at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO).

Lavrov's comment comes following NATO's announcement of its plans to boost its presence in Poland and the Baltic states to contain the so-called "Russian threat".

Moscow has repeatedly stressed that the NATO military buildup would undermine regional stability.

R ~ More Russian aggression.


"Undeniable Evidence": Explosive Classified Docs Reveal Afghan War Mass Deception

by Tyler Durden
Tue, 12/10/2019 - 04:25

In what's already being hailed as a defining and explosive "Pentagon papers" moment, a cache of previously classified documents obtained by The Washington Post show top Pentagon leaders continuously lied to the public about the "progress" of the now eighteen-year long Afghan war.

The some 2,000 pages of notes from interviews of senior officials who have shaped US strategy in Afghanistan confirm that “senior US officials failed to tell the truth about the war in Afghanistan throughout the 18-year campaign, making rosy pronouncements they knew to be false... hiding unmistakable evidence the war had become unwinnable," according to the bombshell Post report.

Pentagon file image: Getty.

The internal interviews and statements were unearthed via Freedom of Information Act request and span the Bush, Obama and Trump administrations. The trove further confirms that US leaders knew vast amounts of money was being wasted in a futile attempt to "Westernize the nation".

Watchdog groups commonly estimate total US spending on the war has hit $1 trillion by end of 2019. More importantly, America's 'endless war' has cost at least 2,351 American lives and over 20,000 wounded.

The internal Pentagon project conducted by the Office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) had sought to get as honest assessment as possible as to the status of America's longest running quagmire panning multiple administrations. It was to be a classified "Lessons Learned" assessment of sorts to prevent future missteps.

“What did we get for this $1tn effort? Was it worth $1 trillion?” one retired Navy SEAL who had advised the Bush and Obama administrations observed in one of the documents. “After the killing of Osama bin Laden, I said that Osama was probably laughing in his watery grave considering how much we have spent on Afghanistan.”

Another top official, former White House Afghan war czar Douglas Lute under Bush and Obama, confessed, “We were devoid of a fundamental understanding of Afghanistan – we didn’t know what we were doing.” He added that "we didn’t have the foggiest notion of what we were undertaking” after the 2001 invasion.

“If the American people knew the magnitude of this dysfunction … 2,400 lives lost,” he added.

Two major consistent themes from the documents are—

the manipulation on a mass scale of statistics fed to the public in order to hide the true disastrous nature of the war; and...
US leaders "turning a blind eye" to large scale theft of US tax payer dollars by corrupt Afghan officials.
US aid was looted "with impunity" according to the released documents, and provide undeniable evidence that top defense officials knew years of rosy public statements were a mountain of lies.

“Every data point was altered to present the best picture possible,” Bob Crowley, an Army colonel and senior counterinsurgency adviser to U.S. military commanders testified.

Over 400 people close to the decision-making process were interviewed as part of the internal DoD investigation; however among those 366 names were redacted, given that as more damning testimony was given, the Inspector General deemed they should be treated as 'whistleblowers' and informants.

But for all the hand-wringing and outrage Monday's WaPo bombshell will unleash this week, it must be remembered that the establishment in both parties have consistently pushed to stay at war, not to mention going to war in the first place.

As independent journalist David Mizner observes of the new 'Afghan Papers' it remains that "US politicians lie to stay at war, every time. The real crime was going to war in the first place — and almost no US politicians, pundits, and or journos with large platforms opposed the war."

Massive US military convoy arrives base in western Iraq: media

By News Desk -2019-12-09

BEIRUT, LEBANON (12:20 P.M.) – A massive U.S. military convoy reportedly arrived in western Iraq this week amid recent attacks carried out near their installations inside the country.

According to Al-Sumaria TV, the U.S. military convoy consisted of 500 vehicles that entered Iraq from neighboring Jordan.

The U.S. military convoy reportedly reached their final destination at the ‘Ayn Al-Assad Base in Iraq’s Al-Anbar province.

No further details were released regarding the alleged U.S. military convoy.

Last week, a rocket attack was reported near the ‘Ayn Al-Assad Base in the Heet District of Al-Anbar – no one claimed responsibility for the projectile fire.

Since then, at least two more attacks were reported near U.S. military installations in Iraq, with the most recent taking place around the Baghdad International Airport.

The ‘Ayn Al-Assad Base is the second largest installation under the U.S. military’s control in Iraq; it was previously under attack by the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL/IS/Daesh) terrorist organization for three years before their defeat in late 2017.

Unknown Assailants Attack US Military Base in Syria's Southeast - Reports

15:38 06.12.2019

© AP Photo / Hussein Malla

DAMASCUS (Sputnik) - A US military base at al-Omar oil field in the southeastern Syrian province of Deir Ez-Zor was attacked by unknown assailants on Friday, Al-Ikhbariya broadcaster reported.

The attack coincided with the arrival of trucks with military equipment at the base, according to the broadcaster. US soldiers reportedly responded with shelling and stun grenades.

US Defence Secretary Mark Esper said earlier in the week that US troops in northeastern Syria had finished re-manoeuvring as needed and that the total number of troops on the ground would remain at around 600.

The movement of US forces has been causing much uncertainty in Syria since US President Donald Trump abruptly announced a withdrawal of troops in early October. The pullout was never complete, however, with the troops eventually setting up a camp at Syrian oil fields controlled by allied Kurds, claiming to ensure that resources were not taken by Daesh*.

Trump, while at the NATO Summit this week, credited US forces with protecting the oil from falling back into the hands of terrorists.

*Daesh [ISIS, ISIL, Islamic State] - a terrorist group banned in Russia and a number of other countries

Here Is The Main Reason For Today's Blockbuster Jobs Report

by Tyler Durden
Fri, 12/06/2019 - 10:17

Following a disastrous ADP print just two days ago, which showed that the US economy added just the second fewest number of private payrolls since March 2010, and a sellside "whisper" number that was about half the consensus expectation of 183K, moments ago the BLS reported a blockbuster jobs report, according to which the US economy added 266K jobs (according to the establishment survey), the biggest monthly increase since January, and a near record divergence with what ADP indicated.

To be sure, peaking behind the headline data revealed some questionable data, like only an 83K increase in employment (according to the Household survey), a 7K drop in mining jobs, a 4K decline in wholesale trade, a stagnant construction sector, lot of seasonal hiring, a catch up in census worker hires, and so on.

Warts aside, many are confused what was behind the surprise upside print, and how the payrolls print came 29K jobs more than the highest forecast among 78 economists. The simple answer: a surge in manufacturing workers. As shown in the chart below, 54K manufacturing workers were added in November, the most in over two decades, or since 1998, as a result of about 41K GM striking workers returning to their jobs.  That said, the November surge was an offset to the 43K slide in October, so on net, the print was largely a wash between the two months.

So besides the one-time surge in manufacturing workers, where else did the jobs come from? Well, as the chart below shows, excluding a drop of 7K miners and 4.3K wholesale traders, every single job category was positive in November, as follows:

As has been the case for much of the past decade, in November the biggest job gains came from health care, which added 45,000 jobs, following little employment change in October (+12,000). The November job gains occurred in ambulatory health care services (+34,000) and in hospitals (+10,000).

Employment in professional and technical services increased by 31,000 in November; this included 4.8K new temp jobs.

As noted above, manufacturing employment rose by 54,000 in November, following a decline of 43,000 in the prior month.  Within manufacturing, employment in motor vehicles and parts was up by 41,000 in November, reflecting the return of GM workers who were on strike in October.
In November, employment in leisure and hospitality continued to trend up (+45,000).

Employment in transportation and warehousing continued on an upward trend in November (+16,000). Within the industry, job gains occurred in warehousing and storage (+8,000) and in couriers and messengers (+5,000).

Financial activities employment also continued to trend up in November (+13,000), with a gain of 7,000 in credit intermediation and related activities.

Mining lost jobs in November (-7,000), largely in support activities for mining (-6,000). Mining employment is down by 19,000 since a recent peak in May.

In November, employment in retail trade was about unchanged (+2,000). Within the industry, employment rose in general merchandise stores (+22,000) and in motor vehicle and parts dealers (+8,000), while clothing and clothing accessories stores lost jobs (-18,000).

Employment in other major industries--including construction, wholesale trade, information, and government--showed little change over the month.

And visually:

Yet for all the attention that manufacturing jobs are getting this month, expect this series to return to its boring monotone of hugging the flat line, if modestly declining. The one series that does matter? Education and Health, because as America gets older and more frail, the one job that will be most in need is for more people to take care of the country's wealthy baby boomers. Sure enough, if one excludes this category, US jobs have been declining in the past year as the following ECRI chart shows.

Finally, lets not forget the "food services and drinking places" jobs: the relentless dynamo driving the US jobs market. Since February 2010, there have been just 5 months in 116 in which the number of waiters and bartenders in the US has posted a monthly decline, and November was no different.

Speaker Pelosi Orders House Judiciary Panel to Draft Articles of Impeachment

17:11 05.12.2019(updated 17:47 05.12.2019)

© AP Photo / J. Scott Applewhite

The statement by Pelosi marks another step in the Democrats' efforts to remove Donald Trump prior to the November 2020 election. The party is considering multiple articles of impeachment, including charges of abuse of power, bribery, and obstruction of Congress and justice.

Nancy Pelosi announced that she has instructed the House Judiciary panel to draw up articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump.

"The President has engaged in abuse of power, undermining our national security and jeopardising the integrity of our country," the House Speaker said in a statement.

"Sadly, but with confidence and humility, with allegiance to our founders and a heart full of love for America, today I am asking our [Judiciary Committee] chairman [Jerry Nadler] to proceed with articles of impeachment."

White House spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham issued a rebuke to Pelosi and her party following the statement. She appeared to indicate that the Trump administration is quite realistic about the outcome of an imminent House vote on the articles of impeachment, saying that the Republicans "look forward to a fair trial in the Senate."

It comes the day after the first public hearing by the House Judiciary Committee. At the hearing, the three constitutional law experts picked by Democrats described Trump’s actions in the Ukraine scandal as an impeachable offence. The Republican witness made the case that the Democrats were rushing ahead with their charges and that they failed to provide evidence of Trump's wrongdoing.

The US president is accused of soliciting personal favours from Ukraine; the Democrats believe he abused his presidential power and engaged in bribery when he held back $400 million in congresionally-approved military aid to Ukraine over the summer to press Kiev for an investigation into Joe Biden, the 2020 Democratic candidate.

The Democrats also accuse him of stonewalling their efforts to investigate the affair, which they say amounts to an obstruction of justice.

Several US diplomats have testified in public and closed-door hearings over the past two months that Trump specifically wanted Ukraine to publicly announce an inquiry into Biden, rather than actually launch it — backing up the Democrats' claims that he sought to smear his potential rival in the 2020 election.

Trump insists that there was no criminal wrongdoing on his part, and that his decision to withhold the funds was due to his concerns over corruption in Ukraine, a key US ally in Eastern Europe.

After the Judiciary panel frames the articles of impeachment, the House of Representatives is to vote on whether to remove Trump from office. The vote is expected to take place before Christmas. The matter then goes on to the Senate, which would hold a trial next year.

Western France Runs Out Of Gas As "Massive Strikes" Set To Paralyze Entire Nation

by Tyler Durden
Wed, 12/04/2019 - 13:30

France is bracing for major transportation disruptions throughout the country starting Thursday, as trade unions launch a strike in response to changes President Emmanuel Macron wants to make to the country’s retirement system, while port blockades have resulted in widespread fuel shortages across the country. Much of the Paris Metro will be shut down, as will many national and international train lines, including certain Eurostar services. Flights will also be canceled, as air traffic controllers say they will join the protests through Saturday.

Hundreds of filling stations around western France have run out of gasoline and diesel as blockades of oil refineries enter their second week according to industry group UFIP. According to The Local, construction workers have been blockading refineries in Brittany since last week and a blockade at La Rochelle has resumed.

French media reported on Tuesday morning that 390 filling stations have no fuel at all, and another 389 have limited supplies. The areas affected include Brittany, the west of France, the south east coast area around Marseille and some parts of eastern France near the Swiss border.


Workers are staging blockages at depots in Brest, Lorient, Le Mans and Vern-sur-Seiche. Further south, in the region of La Rochelle, another blockade was cleared at 4.30pm on Friday, but resumed at midnight on Monday. The blockaders belong to the public construction group BTP, Bâtiments et Travaux Publics (“Buildings and Public Construction”). They are protesting a fuel tax hike planned for 2020, which they say will have a negative financial impact on their companies. Until now, the so-called gazole non routier (GNR), used mainly by construction workers and farmers, is subject to a tax benefit that is planned to be phased out in 2020.

According to the workers this will increase their fuel prices by 45%, adding an hourly cost of about €10 for an average mechanical excavator, which they fear will hurt especially the smaller construction businesses.

The government suspended the fuel tax hike last December to appease the "yellow vest" protesters, whose main demands included abolishing the fuel tax.

In a separate dispute about a different type of fuel tax, truck drivers from the group Organisation des Transporteurs Routiers Européens will also be staging protests including rolling road blocks across France from Saturday, December 7th onwards. The French truck drivers are angry about a two cent increase in diesel tax and say their protest will start on Saturday, and could go on for an unspecified number of days.

The group's press release says that: "Tired of not feeling defended and heard, road transport companies will express in the street the legitimate anger of the profession." The protests will be "from December 7th and the following days".

The strike action could also lead to some disruption on the roads as one of the hauliers unions is involved and 'yellow vest' protesters have said they will be staging a day of action. Nothing has been specified yet, but in the past motorway toll booths have been a frequent target for 'yellow vest' demonstrations.

Their protest is not linked to the unlimited strikes that are hitting France from December 5th - those are over plans to reform the pension system - but will coincide with what is expected to be a very difficult weekend for transport as rail employees, Metro drivers, bus drivers, airline ground crew and air traffic controllers all walk out.

The last time the French government seriously tried to overhaul its pension system, in 1995, protests also paralyzed the country for more than three weeks and forced then-President Jacques Chirac to back down and accept a stinging political defeat. And although French transport unions largely steered clear of the yellow vest demonstrations over the past year, they are expressing the same anger that certain segments of the population have been abandoned by their leaders.

Adding to the chaos, yellow vest protesters could join these demonstrations. Teachers unions, postal workers, hospital workers and the police may also support the strikes.

“It’s the coalition of all frustrations, and it demonstrates the isolation of the elite, the isolation of the president, even the personal rejection of Macron,” said Dominique Moïsi, a French political scientist and the author of a recent book on emotions in politics.

“There is a deep sense of injustice right now, that inequalities have exploded, that the state is much less protective than it was of the weak, and much more protective of the strong,” Moïsi said.

France uses forty-two different retirement schemes and under some of those schemes, such as those for train drivers and Paris Metro operators, certain employees can still retire as early as age 50 or 52. Paris Metro drivers are entitled to monthly pensions as high as $4,100, according to a government report in July. Many private-sector employees, by contrast, can retire only at 62, and the average government pension ranges from $1,400 to $1,600 a month. As we showed recently, France is the "winner" among all nations in the expected number of years a worker can expect to live in retirement.

Alas, such a generous arrangement is no longer sustainable, which is why Macron’s idea is to create a universal points-based system that would calculate pensions in the same way for everyone, regardless of their profession.

This has angered the powerful French labor unions, which have called for Thursday’s protest and who insist that Macron’s new calculation would harm lower-income workers and those who have been temporarily employed.
d list of must-read stories.

However, the resistance is not just about retirement income.

Laurent Berger, the head of the French Democratic Confederation of Labor, one of the country’s major unions, couched his movement’s actions in general terms in a recent interview with France’s LCI television. “The government is in the process of losing everyone,” he said. “It’s lost everyone."

According to an Ifop poll published Sunday by France’s Journal du Dimanche newspaper, 76 percent of the French are in favor of overhauling the retirement system. But 46 percent of those polled also expressed a positive view of those who plan to demonstrate.

Meanwhile, as the WaPo notes, it remains unclear how long the transport workers strike will last. Eurostar has said that because of expected disruptions, it will run a reduced timetable of its high-speed-train service at least through Dec. 10.

Union organizers have vowed to continue until the government responds sufficiently to their concerns. But the coming Christmas holidays may deflate the crowds they draw.

Some observers have noted that the tense atmosphere in France is the same kind of discontent with democratic systems that is on view across the West, but manifested in a French style. “In Great Britain, when you are dissatisfied, you get a new election, and we are about to see the third one” in four years, Moïsi said. “In France, when you get dissatisfied, you take to the streets. And you have the symbol of the barricade.”

"You don’t use the ballot box but the stone, which you are going to throw at the symbol of authority."

Trump cancels final NATO press conference after tense and troubled summit

4 Dec, 2019 14:29

© REUTERS/Peter Nicholls/Pool

US President Donald Trump has abruptly cancelled his final press conference at the NATO summit in London, following two days plagued by internal stresses and tensions between bloc members.

Trump tweeted that when his Wednesday meetings are over, he will head back to Washington and won’t do a planned press conference at the close of the summit, saying he had already done “so many over the past two days.”

There was immediate speculation, however, that Trump’s decision to head home early came in response to a video which appeared online Wednesday, apparently showing Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and French President Emmanuel Macron mocking the US leader, though they did not mention him by name. Asked by reporters earlier about the video, Trump called Trudeau “two-faced.”

Donald J. Trump
....Just finished meetings with Turkey and Germany. Heading to a meeting now with those countries that have met their 2% GOALS, followed by meetings with Denmark and Italy....

Donald J. Trump
....When today’s meetings are over, I will be heading back to Washington. We won’t be doing a press conference at the close of NATO because we did so many over the past two days. Safe travels to all!

The NATO summit has been beset with difficulties and strife between member states, as Trump continued to chide other leaders for not increasing their countries’ defense budgets to at least 2 percent of GDP.

In a press conference on Tuesday, Trump sarcastically praised Macron for “one of the greatest non-answers I have ever heard” after the US leader asked him if he’d like to take “some nice ISIS fighters” into France. The jibe came as the US announced plans to impose heavy tariffs on some French goods in response to Paris’ decision to tax big tech companies. Ahead of the London summit, Trump also berated Macron for his “nasty” statement about NATO being “brain-dead.”

“You just can’t go around making statements like that about NATO. It’s very disrespectful,” he told reporters.

In a sign of how tense relations became, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson was even forced to dismiss suggestions by a reporter that he does not take Trump seriously as “complete nonsense.”

The 70th anniversary summit also came at a time of mounting tensions between the US and NATO member Turkey. Concerned over Ankara’s recent incursion into northern Syria and arms deals with Russia, Washington has warned in recent weeks that Turkey may be drifting away from the alliance and expressed a desire to bring it “back into the fold.” For his part, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has demanded continued support from NATO and said membership of the bloc does not preclude Ankara from being friendly with Russia.

Despite recent difficulties, Trump offered some tepid praise for Turkey during the summit, saying that it was a “very good member” of the alliance “or will be” in the future.

‘He’s two-faced’: Trump strikes back at Trudeau after clip of NATO leaders mocking him

In strategic move, Syrian Army reinforcements deploy along important highway

By News Desk -2019-12-02

BEIRUT, LEBANON (5:00 P.M.) – The Syrian Arab Army (SAA) continued its mass deployment in the western countryside of Al-Hasakah, as their troops reinforced its points along the strategic Hasakah-Aleppo International Highway.

The Syrian Army expanded its deployment by entering new points and installing checkpoints and posts in a number of villages and towns in the western countryside of Al-Hasakah this week.

The entry of the army in several areas west of Tal Tamr comes a week after the Turkish-backed militants attempted to expand their presence inside this district south of the border.

The silos area they first took is an important point of entry and a strategic step for the army’s progress as it oversees large areas of the international road and thus allows the ability to protect them, which reflects positively on the ease of movement after completing the progress towards villages and areas on the international road and the opening of a range of roads parallel to the international road through Entry into the villages of Al-Kozleya, Tal Al-Laban and Umm Al-Khair to the silos area.

Army units have reinforced their presence in the vicinity of the silos, established a number of advanced points and established points in the village of Souissa in the southwest and east of the silos and in the village of Angudia in the west.

In statements to SANA, the members of the Syrian Army from the silos area asserted their determination to continue progress until all lands are restored and cleared to restore security and stability and help the people to return to their homes and villages which were displaced by the Turkish military’s operation.

The villagers welcomed the entry of army units to the area, as this is as seen as a protective gesture against the Turkish-backed militants that are on the opposite side of the front-lines.

How Inflation, Prudence, And Fundamentals Are Setting Up Gold To Soar

by Tyler Durden
Sun, 12/01/2019 - 20:30

Authored by Dave Forest via,

International Man: Governments around the world, including the United States, are printing trillions of currency units. This will continue to significantly devalue these paper currencies and create inflation.

Doug Casey recently said:

With all the money that’s been created by governments and central banks, the chances are excellent we’re going to have a gigantic bull market. Maybe the last one, since I expect the world is going back to using gold as money—at which point we’ll have a stable gold price.

In the meantime, I think mining stocks could go absolutely insane. The prices will have no relation to fundamentals, because everybody will want to own them.

How do you think the situation is going to play out for gold and precious metals?

Dave Forest: Inflation is a given. I see it every day in commodities, although many mainstream investors don’t recognize it. Yet.

In the 2000s, investors were over the moon when gold broke above $1,000 per ounce and copper passed $1.50 per pound. During the previous commodities bear market, those levels were unthinkable.

But now, $1,000 gold is peanuts. Hardcore bullion investors were distraught in 2016 when gold “plunged” close to $1,000. That’s seen as a depressed and unsustainable price.

Same with copper. That sector’s been in the doldrums, because the price fell below $2.50 per pound. If you’d told a copper miner in 1999 they’d have $2.50 copper, they would have popped the champagne! Today, it’s seen as scraping the bottom of the barrel.

The thing is, back in the “old” days, you could mine and process an ounce of gold for $100. Today, production costs are more like $600 per ounce. Closer to $1,000 per ounce if you add in sustaining and expansion capital.

That’s the real reason metals, including gold, have to go higher. The gold price isn’t arbitrary. The price must exceed production costs—or mines will shut down and supply will run out.

The massive inflation in production costs is driven by lots of things: rising fuel prices, increasing wages and benefits for workers, and higher steel prices. Barrick Gold, the world’s largest public gold miner, saw costs for one of its new mines, Pascua Lama, rise by billions of dollars within just a few months!

Politicians can’t sleight-of-hand those costs away—they’re real. So, the only conclusion is gold—and all metals—need higher prices in order to keep supply coming.

International Man: What other factors are affecting gold right now?

Dave Forest: We think of gold as a “safe haven”: Break glass and use when things really fall apart.

But many players in the financial sector are already using gold day-to-day, as a financial instrument.

In China, for example, many exporters don’t have access to currency hedging. They’re exposed to fluctuations in the exchange rate between the dollar and yuan while they’re waiting for dollar-denominated payments to come in.

If you can’t hedge currency rates through the banks, what do you do? Chinese firms found an alternative: Buy gold. The idea is, if the US dollar depreciates, the value of gold holdings will go up, because gold is globally sold in US currency.

In effect, these firms hold gold as a short-term hedging instrument. They could actually do the same thing with sheets of copper cathode or barrels of oil, but gold is the easiest major commodity to purchase, hold, and eventually sell once currency has been converted.

Of course, the root cause here is currency instability: people fearing a breakdown in the US dollar. So, it’s not far off the reasons doom-and-gloomers buy gold. Just that Chinese buyers are doing it in the short term, for purely commercial reasons.

International Man: The mining business is extremely volatile and risky. There are thousands of mining companies out there, and most of them are junk. What is your approach to separating the winners from the losers?

Dave Forest: First off, recognize that “junk,” in terms of mining stocks, comes in several forms.

There are of course, outright scams. That ranges from full-on fraud (not that common) to huckster promoters who legitimately take people’s money but then use it to pay themselves huge salaries while doing little or no technical work (much more common).

Looking at salaries is a good way to spot those latter cases. Public companies in Canada disclose their officers’ wages. It’s not uncommon to see CEOs of a company with $1 million in the bank making $400,000 per year. When 40% of your firm’s budget is going to pay one person, there’s not a chance the company is going to perform. Never mind that these people generally would be unemployable, even for $1 yearly, in any other industry.

A much more subtle form of junk is the “hobby farm” company. You know how people, often older, will buy a farm for the fun of being outdoors? They’ll putter around doing a little work here and there, but the whole thing is mainly for enjoyment rather than serious commercial endeavor.

A significant number of junior mining stocks are like this. Exploration companies, after all, are just a couple of guys with a pickup or maybe a helicopter walking around picking up rocks.

Older geologists will often do this for the fun of it. It’s nice to have shareholders pay for your summer fishing trip up north. While there, these “execs” might walk into the bush and grab a few samples, but they’re not pushing to run a real business. Those companies go absolutely nowhere, very slowly.

You have to really watch out for those, because the people will seem sincere and often credible. But their heart isn’t in it, so they never accomplish much.

Once you weed out those, you’re left with a small group of more-interesting stocks. These are the companies that have good ideas about where new mineral discoveries might be made. They’re motivated and hungry; they usually have their own money invested in the hunt.

They run the company like a business. That means they consider whether the cash they’re spending will add value to a project. It also means they know what value looks like in a mineral property!

International Man: As a geologist, you’re on the ground in obscure places like Colombia, Russia, Mongolia, etc., searching for new deposits and breakthroughs. What are some of the most interesting places on your radar right now and why?

Dave Forest: North America, minus Mexico. As you say, I’ve spent a lot of my career in obscure places. Ten years ago, you would go abroad, because it was tough to break into established spots like Ontario or Nevada.

But the recent downturn in exploration’s changed all that. I spend a lot of my time in Nevada now, and it’s astounding how little exploration work is going on, despite the state being ranked number one in the world for mining.

Today, you can get acreage and try new ideas. I’ve even seen companies stake out whole districts that were abandoned during the downturn.

Building a mine anywhere is tough these days. Environmental activism (or commercial interests masquerading as such) and “not in my backyard” (NIMBY) concerns are rising everywhere. Places like Nevada or northern Saskatchewan have the advantages of having established mining sectors, relatively stable governments, and—most importantly—very few people. No backyards, no NIMBY.

That said, I still love travel. And I do keep an eye out for emerging opportunities abroad—they just have to be big opportunities to make up for the increased political risk.

One spot I checked out recently was Uzbekistan. The country has the world’s largest gold mine, called Muruntau, which has something like 200 million ounces.

Uzbekistan’s dictator died in 2016, and the new prime minister seems very sincere in accelerating free-market reforms. That includes opening the mining sector to foreign exploration and development.

I visited last summer and couldn’t believe what’s happening. Government officials couldn’t meet until 10 PM, because they were too busy working at the office to get the prime minister’s orders done. There have been reported cases of government staff dying from overwork! These people are serious. It’s one to watch.

International Man: You recently came across a new technology that could change the way mining companies find gold deposits. What exactly is this and what is the potential?

Dave Forest: A few years ago, I was introduced to a PhD mathematician. He’d been an executive consultant for 25 years to one of the world’s largest mining companies. He had a corner office and a green light for three-hour, two-bottles-of-wine lunches whenever he wanted.


Because he could do something I’ve never seen before (and apparently this mega-mining firm never had either).

He could use satellite data to find gold, copper, or zinc.

Now, there are lots of geologists who try to use satellite data to pinpoint ore deposits. This “remote sensing” has been in use since the 1980s.

I’ve always been a skeptic. Most times, satellite geologists just torture the data until it fits their preconception of the target. I never saw a convincing case where satellite imaging revealed a new discovery.

But when I met this PhD, I was intrigued. It wasn’t just his impeccable credentials in the industry—his approach is elegantly simple in a mathematical sense. He didn’t torture the data with interpretations. He just ran his algorithm and let the results speak for themselves.

I wanted to find out more. So, I gave him a test. It was a gold project in dense jungle in eastern Myanmar. I knew the gold mines are there, only because I’d been on the ground, under the tree canopy. But from the satellite view, you couldn’t see anything. There was no way to cheat.

He used his techniques and sent me a “heat map” that pinpointed the mine locations almost exactly. I was floored.

Since then, we’ve used this “digital treasure map” in Mongolia, Colombia, Nevada, and eastern Canada. The results, when field checked, have been excellent.

We started thinking about how this could benefit investors. What if you knew about a big mineral find on a company’s property before the company did? That’s what we can do with this satellite system. We can scan anyone’s property, almost anywhere on Earth.

Using the system, we recommended three stocks to International Speculator readers. One stock was bought out by a larger gold company within months of our recommendation, for a 219% profit. Another stock has risen more than 200% since our recommendation, on excellent gold drill results.

The last stock is still moving toward drilling. I think we knew they had a potentially major discovery before they did!

This also shows why now’s the perfect time to invest in mineral exploration. Why was this PhD genius available and not squirreled away in the bowels of a major mining firm? Only because the company he was working for laid off their entire exploration department during the most recent industry downturn. Crisis = opportunity.

*  *  *

Dave Forest is a geologist who has worked professionally in mining and petroleum over a 20-year career. He has also bridged his technical expertise into the finance and investment sector, originally joining Doug Casey in 2004 when he founded an advisory dedicated to finding high-potential investment opportunities in oil, natural gas, uranium and renewables globally.

The World Below / Syria accuses US of sabotaging constitutional committee
« on: December 01, 2019, 09:21:15 AM »
Syria accuses US of sabotaging constitutional committee

By News Desk -2019-12-01

The Syrian Arab Republic has accused the United States of interfering in the constitutional committee’s work and attempting to impose its own agenda, the Foreign Ministry said in a statement, according to SANA news agency.

“The US State Department’s statement on the Geneva meetings of the constitutional committee definitely confirms Washington’s attempts to meddle in other states’ affairs and impose its own agenda on the constitutional committee,” the document reads.

The Syrian Foreign Ministry emphasizes that the dialogue in Geneva is “inter-Syrian and no one has any right to meddle in it or back any side under any pretext.” The role of the United Nations, which is represented by the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy Geir Pedersen is just to “facilitate discussion in the committee,” the document says.

According to the Syrian ministry, “any views or statements of the US or other countries don’t have value and neither influence the constitutional committee’s work nor the nature, form and content of its dialogues.”

The US State Department stated on November 30 that the Syrian government’s delegation, which attended the second round of the committee’s consultations, requested preconditions which, according to Washington, “clearly violate the constitutional committee’s rules of procedure, and are a blatant attempt to delay the work of an important effort that is supported by both the Small Group and Astana Group.”

The second meeting of the Syrian constitutional committee in Geneva, which ended this week, failed to yield any fruit. The representatives of the government and the opposition, who attended it, were unable to agree on its agenda and hold a general meeting.

Epstein Tapes? Sordid Case Takes A Bizarre Turn After Mystery 'Hacker' Emerges

by Tyler Durden
Sat, 11/30/2019 - 19:00

Shortly after Jeffrey Epstein's August death in a Manhattan detention facility, a shadowy figure claiming to have set up encrypted servers for the convicted sex offender told several attorneys and the New York Times he had a vast archive of incriminating evidence against powerful men stored on overseas servers, including several years worth of the financier's communications and financial records which allegedly showed he had vast amounts of Bitcoin and cash in the Middle East and Bangkok, and hundreds of millions of dollars' worth of gold, silver and diamonds.

Going by the pseudonym Patrick Kessler, self-described 'hacker' said he had "thousands of hours of footage from hidden cameras" from Epstein's multiple properties, which included former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, lawyer Alan Dershowitz, and Prince Andrew, along with three billionaires and a prominent CEO, according to the Times.

It has been long speculated that Epstein recorded his high-profile guests as part of an international blackmail operation.

Armed with nothing more than blurry photos of what he claimed were high-profile individuals in compromising situations, Kessler approached lawyers representing several Epstein accusers,  John Pottinger and David Boies - the former of whom suggested that billionaire Sheldon Adelson - an ally of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu - might pay for the alleged footage of Barak.

According to excerpts viewed by The Times, Mr. Pottinger and Kessler discussed a plan to disseminate some of the informant’s materials — starting with the supposed footage of Mr. Barak. The Israeli election was barely a week away, and Mr. Barak was challenging Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The purported images of Mr. Barak might be able to sway the election — and fetch a high price. -New York Times.

After several weeks, the attorneys invited the New York Times to speak with Kessler in mid-September. Then things got even more unbelievable. Following a mid-September meeting with The Times in the Boies Schiller offices, Kessler went rogue - contacting the paper and accusing Boies and Pottinger of an extortion plot against the subjects of said tapes.

Barely an hour after the session ended, the Times reporters received an email from Kessler: “Are you free?” He said he wanted to meet — alone. “Tell no one else.”


Kessler complained that Mr. Boies and Mr. Pottinger were more interested in making money than in exposing wrongdoers. He pulled out his phone, warned the reporters not to touch it, and showed more of what he had. There was a color photo of a bare-chested, gray-haired man with a slight smile. Kessler said it was a billionaire. He also showed blurry, black-and-white images of a dark-haired man receiving oral sex. He said it was a prominent C.E.O.

"At one point, he showed what he said were classified C.I.A. documents," writes the Times.

Weeks after the meeting, the lawyers struck a deal with the Times during the last Friday in September. They would send a team overseas to download Kessler's evidence from his servers (and had alerted the FBI and the US Attorney's Office in Manhattan of their intention to do so), and would then share all the evidence with the paper on the condition that they would have discretion over which men could be written about, and when.

Separately, Kessler had arranged to give the Times his evidence using a convoluted series of steps. On the day the data was to be transmitted, Kessler canceled at the 11th hour, claiming 'a fire was burning' and he had to flee to Ukraine.

In early October, Kessler said he was ready to produce the Epstein files. He told The Times that he had created duplicate versions of Mr. Epstein’s servers. He laid out detailed logistical plans for them to be shipped by boat to the United States and for one of his associates — a very short Icelandic man named Steven — to deliver them to The Times headquarters at 11 a.m. on Oct. 3.

Kessler warned that he was erecting a maze of security systems. First, a Times employee would need to use a special thumb drive to access a proprietary communications system. Then Kessler’s colleague would transmit a code to decrypt the files. If his instructions weren’t followed precisely, Kessler said, the information would self-destruct.

Specialists at The Times set up a number of “air-gapped” laptops — disconnected from the internet — in a windowless, padlocked meeting room. Reporters cleared their schedules to sift through thousands of hours of surveillance footage.

On the morning of the scheduled delivery, Kessler sent a series of frantic texts. Disaster had struck. A fire was burning. The duplicate servers were destroyed. One of his team members was missing. He was fleeing to Kyiv.

Except two hours later, Kessler contacted Pottinger and didn't mention any emergency. Instead, he asked Pottinger to formulate two schemes for prying up to $1 billion from potential targets with the footage which the Times suggested may have been a trap.

Pottinger obliged, describing two options for capitalizing on the evidence. The first, a "standard model" for legal settlements, would include splitting the money among Epstein's victims, a charitable foundation, Kessler, and the lawyers - who would get up to 40%.

In the second hypothetical, the lawyers would approached the high-profile men, convince them to hire them to ensure they wouldn't get sued, and then "make a contribution to a nonprofit as part of their retainer."

Pottinger would effectively represent a victim, settle their case, and then represent the victim's alleged abuser - a legal, yet morally questionable practice for an attorney to engage in.

Dershowitz and the weird recorded phone call

In late September, Dershowitz's secretary related a message that Kessler wanted to speak with him about Boies - with whom Dershowitz has a long-running feud. Dershowitz recorded the call, during which Kessler said he no longer trusted Boies and Pottinger.

"The problem is that they don’t want to move forward with any of these people legally," said Kessler, adding "They’re just interested in trying to settle and take a cut."

“Who are these people that you have on videotape?” Mr. Dershowitz asked.

“There’s a lot of people,” Kessler said, naming a few powerful men. He added, “There’s a long list of people that they want me to have that I don’t have.”

“Who?” Mr. Dershowitz asked. “Did they ask about me?”

“Of course they asked about you. You know that, sir.”

“And you don’t have anything on me, right?”

“I do not, no,” Kessler said.

“Because I never, I never had sex with anybody,” Mr. Dershowitz said. Later in the call, he added, “I am completely clean. I was at Jeffrey’s house. I stayed there. But I didn’t have any sex with anybody.”

As the Times asks, "what was the purpose of Kessler’s phone call? Why did he tell Mr. Dershowitz that he wasn’t on the supposed surveillance tapes, contradicting what he had said and showed to Mr. Boies, Mr. Pottinger and The Times? Did the call sound a little rehearsed?"

Dershowitz told the Times he has no idea why Kessler called him.

Holding out hope

In a November 7 email, Boies told the Times "I still believe he is what he purported to be," adding "I have to evaluate people for my day job, and he seemed too genuine to be a fake, and I very much want him to be real."

That said, he also noted "I am not unconscious of the danger of wanting to believe something too much."

Ten days later, Mr. Boies arrived at The Times for an on-camera interview. It was a bright, chilly Sunday, and Mr. Boies had just flown in from Ecuador, where he said he was doing work for the finance ministry. Reporters wanted to ask him plainly if his and Mr. Pottinger’s conduct with Kessler crossed ethical lines.

Would they have brokered secret settlements that buried evidence of wrongdoing? Did the notion of extracting huge sums from men in exchange for keeping sex tapes hidden meet the definition of extortion?

Mr. Boies said the answer to both questions was no. He said he and Mr. Pottinger operated well within the law. They only intended to pursue legal action on behalf of their clients — in other words, that they were a long way from extortion. In any case, he said, he and Mr. Pottinger had never authenticated any of the imagery or identified any of the supposed victims, much less contacted any of the men on the “hot list.”

When the Times showed Boies text exchanges between Kessler and Pottinger, he "showed a flash of anger and said it was the first time seeing them."

Eventually, Boies concluded that Kessler was probably a con man.

"I think that he was a fraudster who was just trying to set things up," adding that he had probably baited Pottinger into writing things that were more nefarious than they really were.

Pottinger, meanwhile, claims he was stringing Kessler along - "misleading him deliberately in order to get to the servers."

Despite Kessler's story falling apart, the Times asks if his claims are plausible.

Did America’s best-connected sexual predator accumulate incriminating videos of powerful men?

Two women who spent time in Mr. Epstein’s homes said the answer was yes. In an unpublished memoir, Virginia Giuffre, who accused Mr. Epstein of making her a “sex slave,” wrote that she discovered a room in his New York mansion where monitors displayed real-time surveillance footage. And Maria Farmer, an artist who accused Mr. Epstein of sexually assaulting her when she worked for him in the 1990s, said that Mr. Epstein once walked her through the mansion, pointing out pin-sized cameras that he said were in every room.

“I said, ‘Are you recording all this?’” Ms. Farmer said in an interview. “He said, ‘Yes. We keep it. We keep everything.’”

During a 2005 search of Mr. Epstein’s Palm Beach, Fla., estate, the police found two cameras hidden in clocks — one in the garage and the other next to his desk, according to police reports. But no other cameras were found.

So - it appears that Kessler was either a fraud or an operative, and the entire saga may have been designed to cast doubt over whether tapes actually exist. Or, Kessler is for real - and for some reason hasn't found a way to release the videos. That said, since he says he's not interested in extortion, what's the hold-up?

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