Dalai Lama Warns ‘Europe Has Taken Too Many Migrants

February 22, 2017 Leave a comment

The Dalai Lama claims Europe has taken too many refugees and is at risk of losing its culture and values, and warned that Germany is becoming an Arab country.

The Dalai Lama claims Europe has taken too many refugees and is at risk of losing its culture and values, and warned that Germany is becoming an Arab country.

According to the Dalai Lama, the “moral solution to the problem” involves sending migrants home. “The goal should be to return and help rebuild their own countries”.

When we look at the face of each refugee, but especially those of the children and women, we feel their suffering, and a human being who has a better situation in life has the responsibility to help them.

“But on the other hand, there are too many at the moment… Europe, Germany in particular, cannot become an Arab country, Germany is Germany”.

“There are so many that in practice it becomes difficult.”

The Dalai Lama added that “from a moral point of view too, I think that the refugees should only be admitted temporarily”.

Speaking to Germany’s Frankfurter Allegemier Zeitung newspaper, the Buddhist leader said, “The goal should be to return and help rebuild their own countries”.

The Dalai Lama’s ideas closely match President Trump’s stance on immigration, yet while Trump receives criticism and pushback for his policies, the Dalai Lama was recently named the most popular world leader, with over three-quarters of adults (78%) on average having a good opinion of him.

Smaller, manageable intake

The Dalai Lama has also previously commended the intake of smaller numbers of migrants by European nations, implying that he believes that asylum policies can be a good thing if done in manageable numbers to preserve European culture, as his comments imply.

You have to consider many factors, whether you can take care of these people,” he said during a visit to the U.K. in September. “You have to be practical… It’s impossible for everyone to come to Europe,” he added.

“‘Taking in a few thousand refugees is wonderful but in the meantime you have to think about a long term solution too – through development and education in these Muslim countries.

Spain Prosecutes Top Central Bankers For Crimes Against The People

February 22, 2017 Leave a comment

Spain is the latest country to follow Iceland’s example in allowing bankers to be prosecuted as criminals rather than be treated as a protected species.

Spain's top central bankers have been hauled into court and are facing jail sentences after being charged with a lengthy rap sheet of criminal offenses against the people of their country.

Spain’s top central bankers have been hauled into court and are facing jail sentences after being charged with a lengthy rap sheet of criminal offenses against the people of their country.

Spanish authorities allege the central bankers encouraged the Spanish people to buy shares in a new bank they knew was guaranteed to fail – but which they also knew would be bailed out by the government and taxpayers.

This scheme made the central bankers a fortune twice over – while leaving the Spanish people out of pocket twice.

While central bankers around the world are generally considered to be above the law, Spanish authorities have unraveled this criminal enterprise and are determined to prosecute every banker involved, from the bottom right to the top.

Rodrigo Rato, former head of the International Monetary Fund, during Bankia's launch.

At least 65 members of Bankia’s management team are facing jail time including its former President and ex-chief of the IMF, Rodrigo Rato, who personally faces charges of money laundering, tax fraud, and embezzlement.

By demanding that bankers be subject to the same laws as the rest of society, Spain is opting for a very different strategy in the wake of the financial crisis to rest of Europe and the US, where banks were fined nominal amounts, and directors and chief executives escaped punishment altogether.

WolfStreet report: As part of the epic, multi-year criminal investigation into the doomed IPO of Spain’s frankenbank Bankia – which had been assembled from the festering corpses of seven already defunct saving banks – Spain’s national court called to testify six current and former directors of the Bank of Spain, including its former governor, Miguel Ángel Fernández Ordóñez, and its former deputy governor (and current head of the Bank of International Settlements’ Financial Stability Institute), Fernando Restoy.

It also summoned for questioning Julio Segura, the former president of Spain’s financial markets regulator, the CNMV (the Spanish equivalent of the SEC in the US).

The six central bankers and one financial regulator stand accused of authorizing the public launch of Bankia in 2011 despite repeated warnings from the Bank of Spain’s own team of inspectors that the banking group was “unviable.”

Though they have so far only been called to testify, the evidence against the seven former public “servants” looks pretty conclusive. Testifying against them are two of Banco de España’s own inspectors who have spent the last two years investigating Bankia’s collapse on behalf of the trial’s presiding judge, Fernando Andreu.

There are also four emails from the Bank of Spain’s inspector in charge of overseeing Bankia’s IPO, José Antonio Casaus, to the assistant director general of supervision at the Bank of Spain, Pedro Comín, that very clearly express concerns about the bank’s “serious and growing” profitability, liquidity, and solvency issues.

Here are four brief excerpts:

[April 8, 2011] “Bankia is unviable, both economically and financially. In the end, the FROB [Spain’s state-owned Fund for Orderly Bank Restructuring] will have to convert its debt into shares for the BFA [Spain’s state-owned banking group] and refund holders of Bankia’s subordinate bonds and “preferentes” shares. […] Find a buyer for the group.”

[April 14,2011] “This is not working, it’s getting worse. […] Bankia’s capacity to generate resources is deteriorating.”

[May 10, 2011, uppercase used by Causus for emphasis] “The endogenous solution put forward by Bankia — a public listing with a double banking structure without the necessary structural changes — WILL NOT WORK AND WILL HAVE A DEVASTATING IMPACT ON TAXPAYERS.”

[May 16, 2011, 2 months before the IPO] “The (bank’s) board is highly politicized and unprofessional. It still has the same directors that led the former entities to need public assistance: [they are] discredited in the eyes of the markets.”
As the court’s edict reads, the contents of the emails unequivocally demonstrate that the Bank of Spain’s management was perfectly aware of the “inviability of the group” as well as “the fabricated financial results it had presented.” Yet, together with the CNMV, it lent its blessing to those results, knowing full well they bore no relation to reality .

Featured in the IPO prospectus, those results were crucial in luring 360,000 credulous investors into buying shares in the soon-to-be-bankrupt bank, not to mention the 238,000 people who bought “preferentes” shares or other forms of high-risk subordinate debt instruments being peddled by Bankia’s sales teams as “perfectly safe investments.” Most have since been refunded by Spanish taxpayers.

The IPO prospectus was also signed off on by Bankia’s auditor, Deloitte, whose Spanish representatives are also warming the defendants’ bench. Deloitte was not just the bank’s auditor, it was also the consultant responsible for formulating its accounts. As El Mundo put it, first Deloitte built Bankia’s balances, then it audited them, in complete contravention of the basic concept of auditor independence [read: Deloitte About to Pay for its Spanish Sins?].

Given this deeply compromising, not to say illegal, set-up, it’s hardly any surprise that Deloitte was happy to confirm in Bankia’s IPO prospectus that the newly born frankenbank was in sound financial health, having made a handsome profit of €300 million just before its public launch. It was a blatant lie: in reality Bankia was bleeding losses from every orifice.

Now, just about everybody who played a role in this momentous deception, with the exception of the government itself, is standing trial. That includes 65 former members of Bankia’s management team including its former President and ex-chief of the IMF, Rodrigo Rato, who faces charges of money laundering, tax fraud, and embezzlement.

In his testimony to the court almost exactly two years ago, Rato argued (quite rightly) that the blame for Bankia’s collapse should be much more evenly spread out. Bankia’s public launch “was not a whimsical decision” taken by its chief executives, he said, but was the inevitable result of regulatory changes at the beginning of 2011. According to Rato, the CNMV even played an active role in drawing up the bank’s lie-infested IPO brochure.

Now, two years later, some of the most senior central bankers in Spain find themselves in the rare position of having to explain and defend the actions and decisions they took that helped pave the way to the biggest bank bailout in Spanish history. It will be one of the first times that senior members of the global central banking complex have had to face trial for the consequences of their actions.

Has NASA Found Evidence Of Life Beyond Our Solar System?

February 22, 2017 Leave a comment

NASA announced that it is about to reveal a “major discovery about life outside of our solar system” this week.

Some of the world’s leading voices on life beyond Earth will gather for a NASA press conference on Wednesday where a major announcement about life on exoplanets, planets that orbit stars other than our sun, will be made.

Exoplanets are the major hope for life elsewhere in the universe, as many have been found that resemble our own planet and could have the building blocks of life.  Exoplanets are widely believed to be the best hope of finding life elsewhere in the universe.

Yahoo News reports:

NASA vowed to broadcast the announcement featuring astronomers and planetary scientists from across the world on NASA Television and the agency’s website. The space agency was encouraging the public to ask questions during the briefing on Twitter using the hashtag #askNASA.

The announcement comes as NASA has also been working to send a lander to Europa, Jupiter’s ice moon, to explore the potential for extraterrestrial life. The project includes determining whether life can thrive on Europa.

The full press release about Wednesday’s major announcement titled “NASA to Host News Conference on Discovery Beyond Our Solar System” can be found below:

“NASA will hold a news conference at 1 p.m. EST Wednesday, Feb. 22, to present new findings on planets that orbit stars other than our sun, known as exoplanets. The event will air live on NASA Television and the agency’s website.

Details of these findings are embargoed by the journal Nature until 1 p.m.

Limited seating is available in the NASA TV studio for media who would like to attend in person at the agency’s Headquarters at 300 E Street SW in Washington. Media unable to attend in person may ask questions by telephone. To attend in person or participate by phone, media must send an email with their name, affiliation and telephone number to Dwayne Brown at dwayne.c.brown@nasa.gov by noon Feb. 22.

Media and the public also may ask questions during the briefing on Twitter using the hashtag #askNASA.

UNICEF-Funded Water Pipeline Destroyed By Israeli Forces In West Bank

February 22, 2017 1 comment

Israeli forces destroyed a UNICEF funded water pipeline in the occupied West Bank on Monday.

The Ma’an news agency reported that Israeli bulldozers demolished a pipeline in the Jordan Valley region, which provided water for at least 47 Palestinian families.

Sputnik news reports:

The pipeline was funded by the United Nations Children’s Funds (UNICEF) with a construction cost worth 12,500 euros ($13,270), the news agency specified.

Earlier in February, Israeli forces demolished structures owned by Palestinians in the village of Kardala in the northeastern part of the West Bank, according to media reports.

About 500,000 Israeli settlers are estimated to be living in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, which Israel partially captured during the the Six-Day War in 1967. The settlements are considered illegal by the United Nations.

Time to Restore the U.S. Information Agency

February 22, 2017 Leave a comment

Rendering of TV studio camera. Flickr/Creative Commons/Rem Vandermeer

“As other actors are cultivating information-manipulation outfits, the United States cannot afford to be left behind; it has a duty to safeguard itself and confront threats.”

When former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper spoke to a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing in early January, he did not mince words. He said the allegations that Russian cyberattacks sought to influence the 2016 presidential election were “a multifaceted campaign,” and that “the hacking was only one part of it, and it also entailed classic propaganda, disinformation, fake news.” To respond to this campaign, he suggested bringing back the United States Information Agency. “I do think that we could do with having a USIA on steroids … [We could use] the United States Information Agency to fight this information war a lot more aggressively than I think we’re doing right now,” Clapper said.

The United States is embroiled in a continuous information/cyber war with a wide array of actors, both state and nonstate. To confront these threats, a new sort of entity is needed: one that engages foreign audiences on behalf of the United States while countering misinformation, disinformation and influence campaigns. A renewed and revitalized U.S. Information Agency, as proposed by Clapper, is the best fit for this role.

Contemporary Influence Campaigns

Following the recent American presidential election, once again Russia has come to occupy the spotlight as the most notable cyber/information threat confronting the United States. This is not a new situation. During the Cold War, the Soviet Union engaged in what were called “aktivnye meropriyatiya” or “active measures.” A June 1992 report, released by USIA, explains the basic concept behind the strategy:

Active measures is a Soviet term that refers to the manipulative use of slogans, arguments, disinformation, and carefully selected true information, which the Soviets used to try to influence the attitudes and actions of foreign publics and governments. […] manipulative actions by foreign governments do not have to be overtly anti-American in order to be inimical to U.S. interests. Conciliatory and alarmist themes can be very damaging to the United States, if they cause the U.S. government to take actions that work to its detriment and which it would not otherwise have taken if it had not been the target of distorted or false messages systematically propagated by a foreign government for a political, economic, military or related purpose.

Putin’s Russia employs similar techniques, though updated to account for modern information technology. A 2015 New York Times story illustrates this, describing a Russian troll farm that engages heavily in spreading propaganda through social media efforts and fake profiles.

Yet states are not the only ones engaged in information campaigns. Nonstate actors have also developed formidable influence capabilities.

The most well-known case is the Islamic State, which possesses a slick and aggressive information division that specializes in self-promotion and recruitment. Lisa Blaker, in a 2015 article for Cyber Military Affairs, noted, “Clearly, social media has proven to be an extremely valuable tool for the terrorist organization and is perfectly suited for the very audience it’s intending to target. … Platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, and even YouTube, allow ISIS propaganda to reach [young adults it wishes to recruit] across the globe in real time.”

Elsewhere, some influence campaigns are being formed without the clear backing of any particular nation-state or independent organization. In late January, for example, an article from BuzzFeed News detailed an ongoing operation dubbed “The Great Liberation of France.” In order to affect the course of the upcoming French presidential election, supporters of National Front candidate Marine Le Pen recruited ideologically sympathetic English-speaking individuals (generally Americans) via chat rooms and message boards, provided them with detailed instructions to create realistic-seeming profiles on French-speaking social media, and directed them to engage in actions to produce “as much chaos on social media as possible to make … Marine Le Pen and her supporters … seem like the most legitimate voice in French politics.”

Lastly, some efforts are born purely out of the pursuit of financial gain. Consider the town of Veles in Macedonia. Teenagers in the town discovered that fake news articles about the U.S. election that confirmed readers’ biases could attract millions of clicks—and thus substantial ad revenue. In a country where the average monthly salary is €350, the opportunity to make thousands was far too tempting to pass up. Concerningly, there is the legitimate concern that this model could work elsewhere. Marius Dragomir, a media expert at Budapest’s Central European University, is quoted in the Financial Times as saying, “I believe it will happen. Many will try as experiences elsewhere show that fake news can be monetised and that is going to prompt many to repeat the success [in Veles].”

How should the United States respond to challenges such as these?

This is a matter of ongoing debate. Dan Goure has presented some ideas in the National Interest, ranging from rapid-reaction information cells that counter state-sponsored disinformation campaigns to legislation that increases the penalties for knowingly providing false or misleading information. A resolution passed in the EU Parliament last year recommends that EU authorities “closely monitor the sources of financing of anti-European propaganda.”

Yet such measures are not enough: there are too many vectors of attack, and the reactions from U.S. agencies so far demonstrate a lack of coordination, as seen in the incoherent attempts to build a counternarrative against ISIS. The State Department, for one, assembled a special unit with the goal of countering ISIS propaganda. As laid out in a 2015 Washington Post story, “experts denounced the group’s efforts as ‘embarrassing’ and even helpful to the enemy. Critics at the State Department and White House saw the use of graphic images [in their counter propaganda] as a disturbing embrace of the adversary’s playbook.” The military isn’t any more effective. After conducting an extensive investigation, a recently released Associated Press article describes “WebOps”—a counter-propaganda program created to counter ISIS’s recruiting over social media—as astonishingly ineffective and incompetent. The report details how civilian Arabic specialists working for the program lack a fluent understanding of the language and basic cultural knowledge, while the private contractors who run the program appear to be more focused on enriching themselves rather than actually diminishing ISIS’s online presence.

These failures raise questions regarding the United States’ approach to information warfare. Who should have overall authority when it comes to counteracting these sorts of information and influence campaigns? The NSA is generally responsible for most cyber-related operations, but should it also handle fake news stories? Is the Defense Department responsible for responding to ISIS on Twitter as well as the battlefield, or should this be a civilian-oriented matter? Does the United States even have a coherent information strategy?

Recently sworn into office, President Donald Trump has an opportunity to do something about this. According to the Washington Post, he is set to sign an executive order calling for a review of cyber capabilities and vulnerabilities. He should take this opportunity to act upon Clapper’s advice and reconstitute the USIA.

The USIA, in the past, was an independent agency chiefly responsible for U.S. public diplomacy throughout most of the Cold War, with a mission to “understand, inform and influence foreign publics in the promotion of the national interest.” Throughout its history, the agency oversaw media broadcasts (Voice of America, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty), the Fulbright scholarship program, participation in World’s Fairs, numerous publications (magazines, newspapers, periodicals) in foreign languages, libraries in several cities and more. With an annual budget in the billions, it had the power to engage the entire world. To an extent though, its mission and capabilities also meant that it was responsible for a great deal of U.S. propaganda efforts during the period, disseminating both truth-based reporting and disinformation. The propaganda often spun certain political developments in a negative light, intending to destabilize adversarial regimes. Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, for example, highly publicized anti-Soviet protests and nationalist movements, fomenting dissent in the Warsaw Pact. Romanian president Nicolae Ceauşescu considered the organization such a high threat that he directed his intelligence agencies to wage war upon it.

With the end of the Cold War and the loss of its core raison d’ȇtre, Congress decided to shutter the agency in 1999, with its assets either being folded into the State Department or becoming independent entities. Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, for instance, are still active to this day. Though they state that their reporting is objective, various regimes perceive them as still-existent propaganda outfits. Nonetheless, without strategic direction from a managing agency like the USIA, they are weakened and rudderless, lacking in a greater sense of purpose.

A New Information Agency for a New Age

The USIA could be brought back with new purpose: to not only continue its old mission of influencing foreign publics, but also to engage in operations to counter ongoing information warfare directed against the United States and its allies. This will be a difficult task to accomplish, one best described in the words of Andrés Sepúlveda, a Colombian hacker who has allegedly influenced politics throughout Latin America for the past decade. Sharing his story with Bloomberg, Sepúlveda explains that:

Voters trusted what they thought were spontaneous expressions of real people on social media more than they did experts on television and in newspapers. [Sepúlveda] knew that accounts could be faked and social media trends fabricated, all relatively cheaply. …  Eventually, he discovered, he could manipulate the public debate as easily as moving pieces on a chessboard—or, as he puts it, “When I realized that people believe what the Internet says more than reality, I discovered that I had the power to make people believe almost anything.”

A recreated USIA faces an arduous task: to figure out how to engage a modern global audience, protect the nation from—and counter—influence campaigns, and dissuade foreign actors from interfering in the business of U.S. institutions.

Likewise, how should it be structured, given the complexity of its task and its need for a diverse set of experts? The new age of informational warfare is not just the domain of reporters and propagandists, but also of a variety of other specialists, including intelligence analysts, social media gurus, psychologists, linguists and more.

One possible and particularly interesting model originates from a 2005 paper by Maj. (now Lt. Col.) Michael B. Prosser, where he argues for the weaponization and deployment of memes. Memes, as defined by Prosser, are “bits of cultural information transmitted and replicated throughout populations and/or societies.” In Prosser’s words:

Memes are metaphysical, express ideas and replicate for any number of reasons. A suggested logic progression is as follows: Memes influence ideas, ideas influence and form beliefs. Beliefs generate and influence political positions combined with feelings and emotions, eventually producing actions, which inform and influence behavior. Using this logic procession, any attack upon an ideology must consider an assault on a central or transcendent ‘idea’ or group of ideas as means of achieving success. Memes as ideas are then ‘in play’ as tools (or means) to attack ideologies.

To maximize the usage of memes, Prosser proposes the creation of a specialized organization—the Meme Warfare Center, or MWC—designed to advise and provide memetic warfare options to engage enemies in the informational battlefield. He describes this hypothetical organization as “at first an amalgamation of all elements of U.S. national power, essentially a joint interagency formation with either a senior military or civilian leader.” This MWC would possess subdivisions charged with meme (information) generation, targeting, inoculation, analysis and assessment, and more. What sets this proposed organization apart from existing Information Operations, writes Prosser, is that the latter focuses on enemy “forces and formations,” while the MWC would “intentionally [target] noncombatants and seeks to provide a nonlinear method of cultivating or supplanting ideas favoring the Joint Force.” In other words, the MWC focuses on winning over a broader audience by directly challenging information and ideological bases. Overall, this sounds like a solid starting point for the realization of a recreated USIA.

Finally, the new USIA must resolve the most difficult problem of the Information Age: in an environment filled with propaganda, gossip, conspiracies and falsehoods, how can the United States maintain a consistent narrative regarding itself? To this, perhaps the answer lies less in attempting to force a narrative and more in creating context, one in which the American message can exist.

Like it or not, the uncomfortable truth is that partaking in information warfare is an absolute necessity in the present world. Inevitably, this means engaging in not only defensive actions, such as countering disinformation, but also in responding in kind. An adherence to the truth is indeed of the highest of aspirational ideals, but in the modern context such a moral stance is not necessarily the wisest means of protecting lives and national interests. As other actors are cultivating information-manipulation outfits, the United States cannot afford to be left behind; it has a duty to safeguard itself and confront threats. Ultimately, the new USIA should not compete with other levers of American power and policy—it should complement them.

Carlos Roa is an Analyst at the Center for International Relations and Sustainable Development and associate editor of Horizons: Journal of International Relations and Sustainable Development.

Image: Rendering of TV studio camera. Flickr/Creative Commons/Rem Vandermeer

Is James O’Keefe About To Smoke CNN? Tells Hannity He’s Set To Release “Hundreds of Hours” Of Newsroom Footage “Wikileaks Style”

February 22, 2017 Leave a comment

James O’Keefe of Project Veritas is set to unleash holy hell Thursday on #FakeNews network CNN. Well, he didn’t exactly say it was CNN, but it was heavily implied. Apparently the network has a mole…

O’Keefe is known for undercover sting operations which have led to such bombshells as the DNC’s paid agitator network, the outing of “DisruptJ20” / Antifa organizers which took place at comet ping pong – and netted three arrests (including a suspected pedophile), and most recently New Hampshire election fraud.

Yesterday, O’Keefe was interviewed on Sean Hannity’s radio show where he revealed that a major network has been “stung”

O’Keefe: In the next 48 hours, Project Veritas, like Wikileaks, will be releasing hundreds of hours of tape from within the establishment media. Our next target is in fact, the media.

 

Hannity: How long have you been working on this?

 

O’Keefe: We’ve had people on the inside come to us. Just like Julian Assange has people come to him, we’ve had people, sources come to us and give us information, and we’re going to be releasing it “Wikileaks Style” this week.

Moments later:

Hannity: Can you give us a hint what organizations are going to be impacted by this?

 

O’Keefe: It’s one that Trump has really been talking about, you can probably use your imagination.

 

Hannity: So, it’s CNN…

Listen here:

In other words, a closeted Trump supporter working deep inside hyper-liberal CNN just gave O’Keefe a ton of behind the scenes footage of “The Most Trusted Name In News.” My guess is we’re about to hear a bunch of establishment media puppets revealing their extreme hatred for the sitting President of the United States.

Remember that time CNN employees were laughing about Trump’s plane crashing? If O’Keefe’s release is anything along these lines, popcorn sales are about to go through the roof…

Hidalgo Co. Deputies Notice Less Activity in Illegal Immigration Hot Spots

February 22, 2017 1 comment

NEAR MISSION – Local law enforcement said the number of people crossing the border illegally is on the decline.

We met with Hidalgo County Precinct 3 deputy constable Joel Contreras for a ride along in Anzalduas Park on Tuesday. They patrol the area on their overtime shifts.

During the trip, we found a mother and daughter from Honduras and a Chinese national had been detained by another officer, deputy constable Reynaldo Trevino.

Contreras said it isn’t unusual to find Chinese nationals crossing with Central Americans. He said many of them don’t stay in the Rio Grande Valley, let alone Texas.

“Mostly the southern states, and a lot of them (go to) California,” he said.

The deputy said mostly everyone is trying to reach family members already in the country.

Contreras said the area is commonly used for human trafficking. He said it’s been years since the last time drugs were found on the trek of land.

He added the area is not what it used to be. Deputies noticed a decrease in people crossing towards the end of January. He said the drop in numbers won’t take their boots off the ground.

The deputy constable’s patrol along the river is on top of their regular civic duties. Their overtime is funded through state and government grants.

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