Tuesday February 20th, 2018

"It Is Not A Question of Who Is Right Or Wrong But What Is Right Or Wrong That Counts."
--Geoff Metctalf

rld & National

Probe into anti-Trump dossier expands to find out what Obama knew
                      President Barack Obama laughs with Vice President Joe Biden during a ceremony in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington, Thursday, Jan. 12, 2017.  (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)        
Rep. Devin Nunes is trying to determine the breadth and reach of the unverified Russia-Trump dossier inside the U.S. government, especially among senior leaders in the Barack Obama administration during the 2016 election.

The chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence released a letter on Tuesday that is being sent to as many as two dozen senior leaders in the Trump and Obama administrations.

The California Republican is asking 10 questions to gauge who received the dossier information and what they did with it.

The dossier, funded by Hilary Clinton Campaign and the Democratic Party and written by ex-British spy Christopher Steele, was circulated by pay master Fusion GPS during the 2016 campaign.

Mueller threatening new charges against Paul Manafort in bid to deplete 'resources'?
                 Trump Campaign Chairman Paul Manafort talks to reporters on the floor of the Republican National Convention at Quicken Loans Arena, Sunday, July 17, 2016, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Special counsel Robert Mueller is threatening to file more criminal charges in new jurisdictions against Paul Manafort, his attorney said in a court filing that suggests prosecutors are deliberately trying to deplete his client’s “resources.”

The Manafort investigation is headed by career prosecutor Andrew Weissmann, who is known for rough investigative tactics to squeeze targets and gain guilty pleas. Mr. Weissmann said in a court filing that Mr. Manafort has expressed doubts that he can “maintain the payments on all his mortgages.” His Trump Tower condominium is at risk of foreclosure, he said.

Mr. Manafort’s attorney, Kevin M. Downing, filed his argument Feb. 16 in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to support his lawsuit against the Justice Department. He is asking District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson to end the special counsel’s investigation of Mr. Manafort.

Mr. Downing charges that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein violated the Justice Department’s regulation for special counsels in May when he granted Mr. Mueller an open-ended mandate to investigate matters outside his appointed task: Russia election meddling and any Trump involvement.

Supreme Court declines to take up challenge to California's 10-day waiting period for gun buys

                   Sales associate Mike Conway (right) shows Paul Angulo guns at Bullseye Sport gun shop in Riverside, Calif., on Dec. 9, 2015. (Associated Press) **FILE**

The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday declined to take up a case challenging a California law requiring a 10-day waiting period for gun purchases.

The decision lets stand a ruling by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upholding the waiting period, after gun rights groups argued that it shouldn’t apply to people who already own a firearm or who have a concealed carry license.

In a 14-page dissent, Justice Clarence Thomas said the high court’s “continued inaction” in the area of gun rights indicates that it does not put the Second Amendment on equal footing with other amendments in the bill of rights.

Trump slams Obama adminisration for Russian weakness

President Trump slammed the Obama administration’s foreign policy failures in a tweet on Tuesday.

“Thank you to @foxandfriends for the great timeline on all of the failures the Obama Administration had against Russia, including Crimea, Syria and so much more. We are now starting to win again!” Mr. Trump tweeted.

The president was referring to the annexation of Crimea in 2014, which has been part of Ukraine since 1954. The Obama administration imposed new sanctions on Russia at the time, but the line of attack is a familiar one for Mr. Trump, who has accused the administration of being weak on this issue.

The Russians also intervened in the Syrian civil war in 2015 on behalf of the Assad regime, despite reports the government was using chemical weapons on its people. Former President Barack Obama promised in 2013 that use of chemical weapons would be a “red line” for the U.S., but he failed to follow through on his words.

Supreme Court to decide whether mandatory union dues violate First Amendment rights

When Mark Janus got his first paycheck working as a child support specialist for the state of Illinois in 2007, he was stunned to see a nearly $50 deduction for union dues.

He had worked for the state in the 1980s and didn’t remember anything like it.

“I’m going like, ‘I’m not a member of the union. What’s going on here?’ ” he said.

Worse yet was where he saw the union dues going, such as to efforts demanding wage increases at a time when Illinois was struggling with a crippling pension debt.

ABC flooded with 25,000 complaints after Joy Behar mocks Mike Pence's Christianity
                         FILE - In this April 1, 2013 file photo, TV personality Joy Behar arrives at the "Lucky Guy" Opening Night in New York. Behar is returning to “The View” as a co-host, part of an overhauled panel that also will include newcomers Candace Cameron Bure and Paula Faris. ABC News said Tuesday, Aug. 24, 2015, that the trio will join returning moderator Whoopi Goldberg and co-hosts Raven-Symoné and Michelle Collins on the daytime talk show. (Photo by Dario Cantatore/Invision/AP, File)

Joy Behar’s mocking of Christianity as a mental illness isn’t going away as an issue.

According to the Media Research Center watchdog group, more than 25,000 people had called ABC by early Monday morning to complain about a segment on “The View” in which the comedian specifically said Vice President Mike Pence suffers from the delusions of prayer.

The remarks prompted the MRC to demand an apology — and some pushback from the vice president himself.

US Show of Force in Black Sea a Message to Russia

A U.S. show of force in the Black Seas is meant to send Russia the message that the United States plans to have a presence in the area, with one unnamed American official suggesting the Russians were being overly sensitive.

The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Carney joined the USS Ross in the Black Sea on Saturday, CNN reported, and a U.S. official said the increased American presence there was part of a bid to counter Russia's increased deployment.

The unnamed official told CNN that the Pentagon wanted to "desensitize Russia" to the presence of U.S. military forces in the Black Sea, which sits between Eastern Europe, the Caucasus and Western Asia.

Poll: Most say Trump, Congress could do more to stop mass shootings?

Most Americans say Congress and President Trump are not doing enough to prevent mass shootings in the U.S., according to a Washington Post–ABC News poll out early Tuesday.

According to that survey, 62 percent of respondents said that Trump is not taking adequate action to crack down on the rash of mass shootings that has roiled the country. Even more — 77 percent — place blame on Congress.

But most Americans fault a failure to identify and treat mental illness as the primary driver for such shootings. Fifty-seven percent said so, compared to just 28 percent who blame inadequate gun control laws.

After Olympics, U.S. and South Korea Will Again Hold Military Drills Despite the North's Protests

The U.S. and South Korea will announce plans for a joint military exercise after the Winter Olympics, according to the latter's defense minister. North Korea later condemned the drill as “ruthlessly trampling” on “a small sprout of peace” after it had agreed to hold talks and send athletes to Pyeongchang when the exercise was called off earlier this year.

The announcement is expected between March 18—when the Paralympics end in the South—and the beginning of April. But the actual date of the military drill is unclear.

South Korean Defense Minister Song Young-moo said he and U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis would make the drill announcement, and added neither country ever promised to completely stop all drills.

Maduro Calls Out Trump on Twitter, Requesting 'Dialogue'

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has offered an overture to his U.S. counterpart on Twitter, using President Trump's preferred medium Monday to ask for talks between the two countries.

Trump "campaigned promoting non-interference in other countries' domestic affairs," Maduro tweeted, tagging the U.S. president's account. "The time has come to fulfill it and change your agenda of aggression for one of dialogue.
"Dialogue in Caracas or Washington DC?" he added. "Time and place and I'll be there."

The surprise olive branch comes less than a week after Maduro was told he would "no longer be welcome" at the Summit of the Americas, a policy meeting that brings together heads of state from throughout the Western Hemisphere. Peru, the host country for the April gathering, uninvited Maduro after his government called an early presidential election to be held just over a week after the summit, and his supporters on the country's Supreme Court barred Venezuela's principal opposition coalition from participating.

New Corruption Cases Entangle Netanyahu Aides

Israeli police alleged on Tuesday that Benjamin Netanyahu's former spokesman tried to bribe a judge to drop a fraud case against Netanyahu's wife, the latest corruption investigation encircling the long-serving prime minister.

The new bribery case was one of two revealed on Tuesday involving the same former spokesman, a close Netanyahu confidant. Police also named him as someone they had arrested two days earlier in a separate case involving allegations of corruption at Israel's biggest telecoms company.

The rightwing leader, in office for 12 years since 1996, has seen his dominance of Israeli politics threatened by corruption investigations since police recommended a week ago that he be indicted for bribery and fraud.

Albertsons, Rite Aid deal creates U.S. supermarket and healthcare giant

U.S. Supermarket giant Albertsons is expanding its drug store business through a deal to buy a portion of Rite Aid, the nation's third-largest drugstore chain.

Shares of Camp Hill, Pa.-based Rite Aid were up 14.2% at $2.22 in morning trading.

Everybody's playing the new game in town

Washington measures everything and everyone by politics, and dysfunction is the new game in town. Rant and rage has become the lingua franca of the nation’s capital. Taking the measure of Robert Mueller’s indictment of 13 Russian cybernauts for interfering on Vladimir Putin’s behalf in the 2016 presidential campaign is easy.

The indictments will never lead to a trial; they were not intended to do that. The bad guys are safely at home in Moscow, never to be seen again in the United States. But the indictments were a necessary career move for Mr. Mueller.

No one outside his circle of friends and associates knows what, if anything, Mr. Mueller has turned up to justify an investigation into whether Donald Trump colluded with Russians to cook the results of the election. There is a growing public opinion that despite an occasional grunt and expectant squeak from the Mueller inner sanctum, Mr. Mueller has hit a dead end. A dry hole, as the oil drillers would call it. Much was expected from Mr. Mueller, a man with a reputation for probity, ethics, honor, positive work habits and other good stuff, but so far, for all the grunting and squeaking, he has produced only a few mice. None of the mice speak Russian with dreadful tales to tell.

Conservatives convene mega-meet in red-swathed America

The greatest conservative show on earth is coming to town.

How appropriate for the once-sleepy southern metropolis of Washington, D.C.

The Conservative Political Action Conference, presented annually by the American Conservative Union, draws a larger paying audience than any other conservative conference in the world.

The Republican Party, which has the most conservative platform of any major party in any democracy on earth, rules the roost not just in Washington but in governors’ mansions and state legislatures across America.

"It is discouraging to think how many people are shocked by honesty and how few by deceit."
-- Noel Coward
     (1899-1973) British playwright

Medal of Honor

Army Medal of Honor

The Medal of Honor is the highest award for valor in action against an enemy force which can be bestowed upon an individual serving in the Armed Services of the United States.
GeneTrerally presented to its recipient by the President of the United States of America in the name of Congress.
The first award of the Medal of Honor was made March 25, 1863 to Private JACOB PARROTT.The last award of the Medal of Honor was made September 15, 2011 to Sergeant DAKOTA MEYER.

Since then there have been:  • 3458 recipients of the Medal of Honor.
    • Today there are 85 Living Recipients of the Medal of Honor. 

Captain Humbert R. Versace distinguished himself by extraordinary heroism during the period of 29 October 1963 to 26 September 1965, while serving as S-2 Advisor, Military Assistance Advisory Group, Detachment 52, Ca Mau, Republic of Vietnam. While accompanying a Civilian Irregular Defense Group patrol engaged in combat operations in Thoi Binh District, An Xuyen Province, Captain Versace and the patrol came under sudden and intense mortar, automatic weapons, and small arms fire from elements of a heavily armed enemy battalion. As the battle raged, Captain Versace, although severely wounded in the knee and back by hostile fire, fought valiantly and continued to engage enemy targets. Weakened by his wounds and fatigued by the fierce firefight, Captain Versace stubbornly resisted capture by the over-powering Viet Cong force with the last full measure of his strength and ammunition. Taken prisoner by the Viet Cong, he exemplified the tenets of the Code of Conduct from the time he entered into Prisoner of War status. Captain Versace assumed command of his fellow American soldiers, scorned the enemy's exhaustive interrogation and indoctrination efforts, and made three unsuccessful attempts to escape, despite his weakened condition which was brought about by his wounds and the extreme privation and hardships he was forced to endure. During his captivity, Captain Versace was segregated in an isolated prisoner of war cage, manacled in irons for prolonged periods of time, and placed on extremely reduced ration. The enemy was unable to break his indomitable will, his faith in God, and his trust in the United States of America. Captain Versace, an American fighting man who epitomized the principles of his country and the Code of Conduct, was executed by the Viet Cong on 26 September 1965. Captain Versace's gallant actions in close contact with an enemy force and unyielding courage and bravery while a prisoner of war are in the highest traditions of the military service and reflect the utmost credit upon himself and the United States Army.

From the Archives

We Have Met the Enemy…

Geoff Metcalf
“They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.
--Benjamin Franklin
“The American people must be willing to give up a degree of personal privacy in exchange for safety and security.”
--Louis Freeh
In the wake of the clamor over the most recent WikiLeaks data dump, ‘Vault 7’, ‘UMBRAGE’, et al, it should be noted this is not really anything new. What we are seeing here is simply the evolution of something that goes back to the late 50s (to the incomplete best knowledge I have).

It is kinda cool to finally see even the New York Times (www.nytimes.com/2017/03/09/opinion/the-truth-about-the-wikileaks-cia-cache.html?_r=0) acknowledging material I was writing about in 1998 (http://www.wnd.com/1998/04/6108/ ).

In April of 1998 I wrote “Privacy has become an anachronism.” I was commenting on “a massive system designed to intercept all your e-mail, fax traffic and more.” I was explaining ‘Echelon’, the illegitimate offspring of a UKUSA treaty (https://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/ukusa/ ) signed by the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Its purpose was, and is, to have a vast global intelligence monster, which allegedly shares common goals. The system was so “efficient” that reportedly National Security Agency folk from Fort Meade could work from Menwith Hill in England to intercept local communications without either nation having to burden themselves with the formality of seeking approval (a court order) or disclosing the operation. And this was all pre-9/11 and pre-the anti-constitutional ‘Patriot Act’.

It is illegal (without a Judge’s signed permission) for the United States to spy on its citizens … kinda. The laws have long been circumvented by a mutual pact among five nations. Under the terms of UKUSA agreement, Britain spies on Americans and America spies on British citizens, and then the two conspirators trade data. A classic technical finesse. It is legal, but the intent to evade the spirit is inescapable.

I often fictionalized the genesis of ‘Echelon’ as an informal meeting of a group of post war American and British intelligence types drinking in some remote rustic bar. An imagined CIA type complains to his MI6 buddy about the hassles of US laws preventing US intelligence from surveillance of bad guys, and the Brit echoes the same complaint.

“Hey wait a moment mate,” says Nigel, the make-believe MI6 guy, “I can spy on your guys and you can spy on our bad players…why don’t we just come up with a mechanism whereby we spy on your villains, you spy on our villains, and we just ‘share’ the intel?”

This system was called ECHELON, and has been kicking around in some form longer than most of you. The result of the UKUSA treaty signed by the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand was, and is, to have a vast global intelligence monster which allegedly shares common goals.

The London Telegraph reported in December of 1997 that the Civil liberties Committee of the European Parliament had officially confirmed the existence and purpose of ECHELON. “A global electronic spy network that can eavesdrop on every telephone, e-mail and telex communication around the world will be officially acknowledged for the first time in a European Commission report. …”

The report noted: “Within Europe all e-mail, telephone and fax communications are routinely intercepted by the United States National Security Agency, transferring all target information from the European mainland via the strategic hub of London, then by satellite to Fort Meade in Maryland via the crucial hub at Menwith Hill, in the North York moors in the UK.

“The ECHELON system forms part of the UKUSA system but unlike many of the electronic spy systems developed during the Cold War, ECHELON was designed primarily for non-military targets: governments, organizations and businesses in virtually every country.”

An interesting sidebar appeared in the International Herald Tribune under the headline, “Big Corporate Brother: It Knows More About You Than You Think.” The story details Acxiom Corp, which was a humongous information service hidden in the Ozark foothills. Twenty-four hours a day, Acxiom electronically gathered and sorts all kinds of data about 196 million Americans. Credit card transactions and magazine subscriptions, telephone numbers, real estate records, automotive data, hunting, business and fishing licenses, consumer surveys and demographic detail that would make a marketing department’s research manager salivate. This relatively new (legal) enterprise was known as “data warehousing” or “data-mining”, and it underscores the cruel reality that the fiction of personal privacy has become obsolete. Technology’s ability to collect and analyze data has made privacy a quaint albeit interesting dinosaur.

The Tribune reported that “Axciom can often determine whether an American owns a dog or cat, enjoys camping or gourmet cooking, reads the Bible or lots of other books. It can often pinpoint an American’s occupation, car and favorite vacations. By analyzing the equivalent of billions of pages of data, it often projects for its customers who should be offered a credit card or who is likely to buy a computer.”

Most of this information is from y 1998 piece.  Echelon has developed, matured, and morphed into a much more powerful hybrid. ‘Carnivore’ was software to help triage the cacophony of data. Vault 7 and ‘Umbrage’ are logical (some would argue “insidious”) growth.

    More to follow…