The company announced today that it’s pausing all account verifications after receiving heat for giving a blue check to Jason Kessler – the organizer of the Charlottesville rally (who used to be a rabid Obama supporter).
Twitter today announced it’s pausing all account verifications – the process that gives public figures on Twitter a blue checkmark next to their names – while it tries to resolve “confusion” around what it means to be verified, the company says. The move comes shortly after a waveofcriticismdirectedagainstthesocialnetwork for verifying the account belonging to Jason Kessler, the organizer of the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia in August that left one person dead.
The Daily Beast discovered that Kessler’s Twitter account had been given the preferred status indicated by the blue badge on Tuesday. When reached for comment, Twitter pointedreporters to its policies around account verification which explain the badge is awarded if an account is “of public interest.”
But the coveted blue checkmark is still hard to achieve for many noteworthy figures, and critics claimed that verifying a known white supremacist isn’t something that’s in the public interest.
Even Twitter doesn’t seem to understand its own rules on the matter, as it has withheld the checkmark before for controversial but influential accounts, including Julian Assange. It also has punished Twitter users by stripping them of verification, as it did with right-winger Milo Yiannopoulos last year, ahead of permanently banning him.
Kessler had previously deleted his Twitter account after insulting the slain protester at the Charlottesville, Heather Heyer, in crude terms and linking to the neo-Nazi website Daily Stormer’s coverage of her death.
He later returned to the network and received account verification only 26 days after Twitter’s promise it would crack down on the online abuse, harassment, and hate taking place on its platform, noted The Daily Caller’s report on Wednesday. Those promises included one recent commitment to create new rules around how it will handle hateful imagery and hate symbols, as well as violent groups using its service.
According to Twitter, its verification process is meant to “authenticate identify and voice” but is today interpreted as ” an endorsement or an indicator of importance.”
It says it’s pausing all general verifications while the company tries to resolve the matter and will update when it has something new to report.
The announcement, delivered via tweet from the @TwitterSupport account, is below:
Verification was meant to authenticate identity & voice but it is interpreted as an endorsement or an indicator of importance. We recognize that we have created this confusion and need to resolve it. We have paused all general verifications while we work and will report back soon
Related tweets from Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and Ed Ho, GM of Twitter’s consumer product, add that Twitter has known account verification is broken because people believe it’s related to endorsement.
We should’ve communicated faster on this (yesterday): our agents have been following our verification policy correctly, but we realized some time ago the system is broken and needs to be reconsidered. And we failed by not doing anything about it. Working now to fix faster. https://t.co/wVbfYJntHj
Ho also admitted the current process should have been stopped at the beginning of the year.
We should have stopped the current process at the beginning of the year. We knew it was busted as people confuse ID verification with endorsement. Have to fix the system, pausing until we do. https://t.co/HSLbJOG2AN
A better way to distinguish between real and parody accounts:
Distinguishing between real and parody accounts is important, but it need not be a fancy blue checkmark. Twitter has known for years that its users interpreted that as a form of endorsement. Yet it still verified actual Nazis.
Decouple identify verification from status. Validating the person is who they say they are needs only a subtle indicator. Calling attention to a profile that it is of high quality / interest warrants an obvious distinguishing mark. The checkmark does both and therefore neither.
Reviewing accounts for verification through a democratic peer-to-peer review process:
Verification is like getting Twitter Tenure when an applicant is required to justify their prominence in their field. If the review process was actually a democratic peer-review committee process as in academia it could be a lot more workable for all.
In order to calm down concerned residents, officials caution that “the public should not be alarmed or concerned if they notice an increased law enforcement presence and military personnel, as well as vehicles and equipment, including non-military unmanned aerial vehicles”
The exercise will be staged in conjunction with a national exercise called GridEx – which tests local, county and state emergency management officials as well as the national guard from threats to the power grid.
“November’s exercise will involve local, county and state law enforcement and first responders, Soldiers and Airmen from the Wisconsin National Guard and Alliant Energy partners who graciously offered the use of their Columbia County facility as a training site,” the Press release states.
“GridEx is a great opportunity for our emergency management officials, the National Guard, local first responders and our private industry partners to train together so we are ready to respond if a threat impacted our power grid,” Maj. Gen. Don Dunbar, Wisconsin’s adjutant general said. “While we simply can’t train for every possible scenario, building relationships now makes us all better prepared if we had to respond to a real-world situation.”
“GridEx will help all participants continue to build and refine processes to better prepare for the Dark Sky exercise as well as real-world scenarios.”
Participants in the exercise include:
State Emergency Operations Center
Business Emergency Operations Center
Utilities and transmission providers
65 Soldiers from the National Guard Reaction Force
FEMA Region V
other Federal agencies
And as ZeroHedge reports:
In July, we warned about the US government quietly preparing for a total grid collapse with the passage of an Executive Order – “Coordinating Efforts to Prepare the Nation for Space Weather Events”.
Here is snippet of section 1 of the executive order:
Space weather events, in the form of solar flares, solar energetic particles, and geomagnetic disturbances, occur regularly, some with measurable effects on critical infrastructure systems and technologies, such as the Global Positioning System (GPS), satellite operations and communication, aviation, and the electrical power grid.
Extreme space weather events — those that could significantly degrade critical infrastructure — could disable large portions of the electrical power grid, resulting in cascading failures that would affect key services such as water supply, healthcare, and transportation. Space weather has the potential to simultaneously affect and disrupt health and safety across entire continents. Successfully preparing for space weather events is an all-of-nation endeavor that requires partnerships across governments, emergency managers, academia, the media, the insurance industry, non-profits, and the private sector.
Just days ago, the Department of Defense wrapped up a national drill from November 04-06 simulating a total grid collapse across the United States.
The bottom line: The United States government is quietly preparing for a major power grid collapse. At this point there are many conflicting sources of what could cause such of an event, such as aging infrastructure, cyber or physical attack, EMP, and or a geomagnetic storm. As a citizen, you’re not allowed to know this knowledge and frankly you will not be prepared- only the government will be. The writing is on the wall, as the government continues to drill for the big day, coined in the report: “Dark Sky”.
U.S. equities are being hammered right now – with the Dow down over 200 points and the other indices following suit. There isn’t a lot of green on the map right now outside of select names such as AT&T, Disney, Comcast, Medtronic – and of course, Roku – which crushed estimates.
Meanwhile, the VIX is spiking – up around 10%.
The Washington Post reported today that a senate Republican plan could delay tax reform until 2019.
“That’s what gave us this new leg down,” said Art Cashin, director of floor operations at UBS, on CNBC’s “Squawk Alley.” “There’s also some speculation in Washington circles that when the president finishes his trip and comes back, there may be some more legal troubles for members of the cabinet.”
Of course, the yield curve tightening – as Fly reported at 4AM because he’s potentially not human, is also a factor.
Tech is the best performing sector YTD – up 37 percent in 2017, while all indices are up at least 15 percent on the year.
“The market is digesting its recent gains,” said Mark Luschini, chief investment strategist at Janney Montgomery Scott. “After a prolonged rally, everyone gets worried that they will be caught off-guard when the music stops.”
Also giving investors pause was a decline in risky high-yield bonds. The iShares iBoxx High Yield Corporate Bond exchange-traded fund (HYG) fell 0.5 percent Wednesday and has pulled back 1.6 percent over the past month. Wall Street looks at high-yield bonds as a leading indicator for stocks.
“People are wondering if that’s a canary in the coal mine” for stocks, said Janney’s Luschini.
Stocks around the world also declined Thursday. The Stoxx 600 — which tracks a broad swath of European equities — fell 1.1 percent. In Asia, the Japanese Nikkei 225 finished 0.2 percent lower; it briefly rose more than 2 percent to hit its highest level since 1991.
Global equities have risen alongside their U.S. counterparts this year as economic conditions around the world have improved.
On the data front, weekly U.S. jobless claims totaled 239,000 last week, above the expected 232,000. Wholesale trade numbers are slated for release at 10 a.m. in New York.
Later on Thursday, Disney, Nvidia, and News Corp. will release their quarterly results. Media stocks have been in the spotlight recently as talks about dealmaking pick up. Earlier this week, CNBC reported that 21st Century Fox has been in talks to sell most of its company to Disney. As for chip maker Nvidia, its stock has been on fire this year, rising 95 percent.
Earnings have been mostly strong this season. According to FactSet, 73 percent of S&P 500 companies that have reported have surpassed earnings expectations.
Despite the Dow being hammered to the tune of 120 points, shares in streaming tech company Roku ($ROKU) spiked over 56% in morning trade after the company crushed earnings estimates in its first post-IPO earnings. The stock is currently trading right around $27.50, up 46 percent.
Expectations vs. results
Adjusted EPS: 10 cents loss, excluding items, vs. loss of $1.37 expected by a Thomson Reuters consensus estimate.
Revenue: $124.8 million vs. estimate of $110.5 million by Thomson Reuters’ consensus.
The company went public in late September, raising $252 million in an IPO before falling nearly 20 percent over the next 5 weeks. The company is focused on a subscription model – offering content from various providers such as HBO, Netflix, Hulu, Starz and others directly on their Roku branded televisions and streaming set top boxes.
“Our business really is about building active accounts,” CEO Anthony Wood told CNBC’s “Squawk on the Street” Thursday. “For us, selling players is just a great way to build up active accounts and we optimize that business around volume of players.”
The company saw a 58 percent annual increase in streaming hours, and a 48 percent increase in active accounts – adding DirecTV Now and Hulu Live to the platform. Wood says that a potential deal with Disney and 21st Century Fox is also in the works.
“We are the leading OTT distribution company in the U.S. and so those companies naturally come to Roku for distribution of their content, and we’re just a great partner for them,” Wood said. “Those companies, as they shift to OTT, that is what’s driving our business.”
Roku is also ramping up its advertising model to better monetize viewers – which they’re already doing a great job of, growing revenue per user to around $12.68 per year, up 37 percent year-over-year.
“Everyone over time is going to shift to streaming, and I think importantly, the entire ad business — television ad business, which today is still predominantly on traditional linear TV — is moving to streaming as they follow their viewers to streaming,” Wood said.
Roku predicted it may break even next quarter before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization.
Boeing ($BA) announced that China Aviation Supplies Holiding Co. has agreed to buy 300 aircraft in a deal worth approximately $37 billion as the nation’s airlines scale capacity to meet rising demand.
The deal includes 260 narrowbody planes and 40 widebody aircraft, the Chinese company reported after President Trump met with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Tuesday in Beijing. Boeing has yet to comment on the details of the agreement.
Chinese airlines have been on a plane-buying spree amid a projection for the country to overtake the U.S. as the largest air-travel market possibly in as soon as in five years. The state has previously placed large orders through a centralized buyer before dividing them up among its airlines and leasing companies, including a $22 billion deal with China Aviation Supplies that was announced in July.
During a visit by Xi to Berlin in July, Airbus SE said it won a $22 billion order to supply 140 planes to China, including 40 widebody A350s and 100 of its narrowbody A320-series jets. China Aviation Supplies would allocate the planes to individual airline operators over the next five to six years, Airbus said at the time. Talks were also underway for the planemaker to sell more A380 superjumbo jets to China.
In September, Boeing raised it’s 20 year forecast for Chinese aircraft demand based on growth for the travel habits of China’s growing middle class. The planemaker thinks China needs 7,240 new planes over the next two decades, at a value of around $1.1 trillion – vs. previous estimates of 6,810 planes.
The contract is one of several in a cumulative $250 billion worth of deals President Trump can claim from his maiden trip to Beijing – though it is important to note that most of the quarter-trillion in agreements are MOU’s (Memorandum of Understanding) – which isn’t the same as a contract.
“To me this is an old-style visit when you pile up all the deals so you can to get a big number,” said James McGregor, China chairman of the consultancy APCO Worldwide. “This was normal when the U.S. and China were just building ties, but now China is a global business power and has very damaging industrial policies and this seems naive. This is all for show for President Trump to demonstrate his deal-making prowess.”
Both Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping hailed the deals on Thursday, calling them examples of “win-win” cooperation between the world’s biggest economies. At the same time, Xi said that China would open its market according to its own “timetable and roadmap” while calling to respect each other’s “differences” — showing that Trump will find it harder to press him for substantive policy changes. –Bloomberg
A former money manager for New York’s largest pension fund plead guilty Wednesday to directing billions of dollars of trades to various brokers who showered him with cocaine, strippers, hookers and luxury vacations.
Navnoor Kang, 37, wuz engaged in the sordid bribery scheme while managing $50 billion of fixed income funds for the state Common Retirement Fund – the third largest pension in the nation. He copped to two of the six counts against him under a deal struck with Manhattan federal prosecutors just weeks before his Dec. 4 trial was set to begin.
Kang faces up to 25 years in prison at his February 23, 2018 sentencing.
Two brokers primarily involved in Kang’s scheme were Greg Schonhorn of FTN Financial and Deborah Kelley of Sterne Agee & Leach, who doled out lavish bribes in exchange for funds under management.
Kelley, 59, plead guilty in May to a single count of conspiracy for spending more than $19K to entertain Kang. Schonhorn, who pled guilty in December and agreed to cooperate with authorities, was accused of bribing Kang with cocaine, hookers, vacations, and a Panarai watch worth over $17,000.
“Schonhorn, for example, gave Kang “thousands of dollars” for strip clubs, dinners at upscale New York City restaurants, US Open tickets, Broadway shows and cocaine, the feds have said. Kelley, meanwhile, treated Kang to a ski weekend and a trip to New Orleans, as well as Paul McCartney tickets and meals, the feds have said.”
From the very beginning, there was something off about Sunday’s unprecedented countercoup purge unleashed by Mohammad bin Salman on alleged political enemies, including some of Saudi Arabia’s richest and most powerful royals and government officials: it was just too brazen to be a simple “power consolidation” move; in fact most commentators were shocked by the sheer audacity, with one question outstanding: why take such a huge gamble? After all, there was little chatter of an imminent coup threat against either the senile Saudi King or the crown prince, MbS, and a crackdown of such proportions would only boost animosity against the current ruling royals further.
One day later, a Reuters source reported that in a just as dramatic expansion of the original crackdown, bank accounts of over 1,200 individuals had been frozen, a number which was growing by the minute. Commenting on this land cashgrab, we rhetorically asked “So when could the confiscatory process end? As we jokingly suggested yesterday, the ruling Saudi royal family has realized that not only can it crush any potential dissent by arresting dozens of potential coup-plotters, it can also replenish the country’s foreign reserves, which in the past 3 years have declined by over $250 billion, by confiscating some or all of their generous wealth, which is in the tens if not hundreds of billions. If MbS continues going down the list, he just may recoup a substantial enough amount to what it makes a difference on the sovereign account.”
Then an article overnight from the WSJ confirmed that fundamentally, the purge may be nothing more than a forced extortion scheme, as the Saudi government – already suffering from soaring budget deficits, sliding oil revenues and plunging reserves – was “aiming to confiscate cash and other assets worth as much as $800 billion in its broadening crackdown on alleged corruption among the kingdom’s elite.”
As we reported yesterday, the WSJ writes that the country’s central bank, the Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority, said late Tuesday that it has frozen the bank accounts of “persons of interest” and said the move is “in response to the Attorney General’s request pending the legal cases against them.” But what is more notable, is that while we first suggested – jokingly – on Monday that the ulterior Saudi motive would be to simply “nationalize” the net worth of some of Saudi Arabia’s wealthiest individuals, now the WSJ confirms that this is precisely the case, and what’s more notably is that the amount in question is absolutely staggering: nearly 2x Saudi Arabia’s total foreign reserves!
As the WSJ alleges, “the crackdown could also help replenish state coffers. The government has said that assets accumulated through corruption will become state property, and people familiar with the matter say the government estimates the value of assets it can reclaim at up to 3 trillion Saudi riyal, or $800 billion.”
While much of that money remains abroad – and invested in various assets from bonds to stocks to precious metals and real estate – which will complicate efforts to reclaim it, even a portion of that amount would help shore up Saudi Arabia’s finances.
A prolonged period of low oil prices forced the government to borrow money on the international bond market and to draw extensively from the country’s foreign reserves, which dropped from $730 billion at their peak in 2014 to $487.6 billion in August, the latest available government data.
Confirming our speculation was advisory firm Eurasia Group, which in a note said that the crown prince “needs cash to fund the government’s investment plans” adding that “It was becoming increasingly clear that additional revenue is needed to improve the economy’s performance. The government will also strike deals with businessmen and royals to avoid arrest, but only as part of a greater commitment to the local economy.”
Of course, there is a major danger that such a draconian cash grab would result in a violent blowback by everyone who has funds parked in the Kingdom. To assuage fears, Saudi Arabia’s minister of commerce, Majid al Qasabi, on Tuesday sought to reassure the private sector that the corruption investigation wouldn’t interfere with normal business operations. The procedures and investigations undertaken by the anticorruption agency won’t affect ongoing business or projects, he said. Furthermore, the Saudi central bank said that individual accounts had been frozen, not corporate accounts. “It is business as usual for both banks and corporates,” the central bank said.
However, this is problematic: first, not only is the list of names of detained and “frozen” accounts growing by the day…
The government earlier this week vowed that it would arrest more people as part of the corruption investigation, which began around three years ago. As a precautionary measure, authorities have banned a large number of people from traveling outside the country, among them hundreds of royals and people connected to those arrested, according to people familiar with the matter. The government hasn’t officially named the people who were detained.
… but the mere shock of a move that would be more appropriate for the 1950s USSR has prompted crushed any faith and confidence the international community may have had in Saudi governance and business practices.
The biggest irony would be if from this flagrant attmept to shore up the Kingdom’s deteriorating finances, a domestic and international bank run emerged, with locals and foreign individuals and companies quietly, or not so quietly, pulling their assets and capital from confiscation ground zero, in the process precipitating the very economic collapse that the move was meant to avoid.
Judging by the market reaction, which has sent Riyal forward tumbling on rising bets of either a recession, or devaluation, or both, this unorthodox attempt to inject up to $800 billion in assets into the struggling local economy, could soon backfire spectacularly.
Meanwhile, for those still confused about the current political scene in Saudi Arabia, here is an infographic courtesy of the WSJ which explains “Who Has Been Promoted, Who Has Been Detained in Saudi Arabia”
Shares of Time Warner ($TWX) were hammered to the tune of nearly 7 percent today after AT&T’s CFO John Stephens said the timing of its anticipated merger is “now uncertain.”
Hours later, the Financial Times reported that the Justice Dept. salted up their deal, telling AT&T that CNN – owned by Time warner, would have to be sold in order for the acquisition to go through.
Stephens responded to the news, saying:
“We are in active discussions with the [Department of Justice]. Those are continuing on. I can’t comment on those discussions, but with those discussions, I can now say that the timing of the closing of the deal is now uncertain,” he said, according to a FactSet transcript. “With regards to the transaction, everything continues as we’ve expressed in the past.”
Stephens had previously said the deal was slated to close by the end of the years, noting that the acquisition was a “vertical integration” merger across industries – and that the government has not blocked a “vertical” deal in over 40 years.
Revenge is a dish best served well done and covered in catsup.
I am extremely pleased to see that @CNN has finally been exposed as #FakeNews and garbage journalism. It's about time!
Disgraced movie mogul Harvey Weinstein – who sources tell Page Six is about to be indicted for rape by the Manhattan DA – used a network of attorneys, private detectives and a firm run by former Israeli Mossad agents in a failed attempt to silence his accusers and prevent The New York Times and The New Yorker from publishing allegations of sexual harassment, assault and rape – according to an explosive New Yorker article by journalist Ronan Farrow.
One of the firms employed by Weinstein, referred to him by Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, was UK based Black Cube – which promotes itself as “a select group of veterans from the Israeli elite intelligence units,” set up a fake London wealth management firm and sent a female ex-Mossad agent posing as women’s rights advocate “Diana Filip” to befriend and spy on actress Rose McGowan.
“I took her to the Venice boardwalk and we had ice cream while we strolled,” McGowan told Farrow, adding that Filip was “very kind.
Ronan Farrow writes in The New Yorker:
When I sent McGowan photos of the Black Cube agent, she recognized her instantly. “Oh my God,” she wrote back. “Reuben Capital. Diana Filip. No fucking way.”
The same female agent from Black Cube posed as a different woman with a possible allegation against Weinstein in an attempt to trick various journalists working on unflattering Weinstein reports into revealing information about other accusers, according to Farrow’s report.
Black Cube, founded in 2010 by former Mossad agents, operates out of London, Paris and Tel Aviv. Their international advisory board was headed by Meir Dagan [deceased, 2012] – former head of Mossad. Other advisory board members include Major General Giora Eiland – former head of the Israeli National Security Council who headed the IDF’s Operation Branch and IDF’s Planning Branch, Itiel Maayan – member of Microsoft’s Customer Advisory Board (?), Professor Asher Tishler – President of the College of Management Academic Studies, Paul Reyniers – former partner at Price Waterhouse, Colonel Ephy Yerushalmy – former head of Unit 504, IDF Humint Division, and Doron Arbelli – former director of the Israeli Tax Authority.
Weinstein’s contract with Black Cube lists primary objectives of “providing intelligence which will help the Client’s efforts to completely stop the publication of a new negative article in a leading NY newspaper,” as well as “Obtain additional content of a book which currently being written and includes harmful negative information on and about the Client.”
To execute the contract, Black Cube provided “a dedicated team of expert intelligence officers that will operate in the USA and any other necessary country,” including a project manager in charge of researching accusers, intelligence analysts, a full time agent “by the name of “Anna” who will be based in New York and Los Angeles, an investigative journalist, “Avatar Operators” – experts in social media, and “operations experts with extensive experience in social engineering.”
Other firms employed by Weinstein performed deep dives into the social and sexual histories of accusers thought to be working with journalists, digging for embarrassing or otherwise contradictory evidence that could be used to silence the actresses.
Weinstein’s Attorney And NYT Conflict of Interest
In order to attempt to cloak his spying activities with Attorney-client privilege, Weinstein used lawyer David Boies of the firm Boies Schiller Flexner L.L.P. to act as an intermediary, executing the Black Cube contract and possibly others.
In what appears to be an obvious conflict of interest, Mr Boies’s firm also provided The New York Times with outside legal counsel in three cases over the past decade – including one libel case. Upon hearing that Boies was representing Weinstein in an effort to halt the Times from publishing accusations against him, while at the same time representing the newspaper, The Times’s issued a stern statement Monday night:
“We learned today that the law firm of Boies Schiller and Flexner secretly worked to stop our reporting on Harvey Weinstein at the same time as the firm’s lawyers were representing us in other matters,” the statement read. “We consider this intolerable conduct, a grave betrayal of trust, and a breach of the basic professional standards that all lawyers are required to observe. It is inexcusable and we will be pursuing appropriate remedies.”
NYT deputy general counsel declined to elaborate on what those remedies might be, however he did say “I think that what they owe us is an explanation of what actually happened,” adding, “We need to know much more.”
Mr. Boies responded, telling The New Yorker that while he oversaw Weinstein’s contract, he did not select Black Cube or direct its agents, adding that while he said he did not believe his work for Mr. Weinstein was a conflict of interest, “We should not have been contracting and paying investigators that we did not select and direct.”
Ronan vs. NBC
During his months-long investigation into Weinstein, Farrow said that NBC – which employs him has a freelance correspondent, spiked his story before he took it to The New Yorker who agreed to publiss the report. Appearing on MSNBC’s The Rachel Maddow Show, Farrow claimed that NBC News executives caved to pressure from Weinstein and his attorneys, including Lisa Bloom and David Boies. Maddow went on to tell Farrow “NBC says that the story wasn’t publishable, that it wasn’t ready to go at the time that you brought it to them.”
Farrow retorted, “I walked into the door at The New Yorker with an explosively reportable piece that should have been public earlier. And immediately, obviously, The New Yorker recognized that. And it is not accurate to say that it was not reportable. In fact, there were multiple determinations that it was reportable at NBC.”
On Tuesday, Farrow unleashed a Twitter storm accusing NBC of shutting down his story and even threatening his NBC producer’s job.
“My reporting is only possible because of a group of brave journalists who fought for the story,” Farrow began a 10-tweet thread.
My reporting is only possible because of a group of brave journalists who fought for the story & put up with this v tired reporter. (Thread)
As Fox reports: To add insult to injury, Farrow, whose Twitter bio currently describes him as an NBC reporter and “Today” show correspondent, appeared Tuesday morning on “Good Morning America,” arch-rival of the “Today” show, during the crucial November “sweeps” period. “GMA” described Farrow as a New Yorker contributor and mentioned NBC only when co-host George Stephanopoulos asked Farrow if Weinstein “got to” NBC when it decided to spike the original story.
“I think the story makes it clear [Weinstein and his team] were focusing on everyone trying to get word out about this,” Farrow said carefully.
Despite using the best spies money could buy to accomplish this task – including former agents of Israel’s Mossad, Weinstein was outed as a sexual predator by numerous accusers and may be in cuffs as early as next week.
Award winning journalist and UN correspondent of 25 years, Joe Lauria, penned an outstanding article on the origins of “Russiagate” which he published to the liberal Huffington Post this week.
24 hours later, HuffPo yanked the article – leaving a dead link and a sad message in its place.
Perhaps the insights offered in the article didn’t quite conform to HuffPo’s approved narratives, or maybe it has something to do with Lauria’s new book “How I Lost By Hillary Clinton,” with a forward written by Julian Assange.
Considering Joe Lauria’s tenure as the Wall St. Journal’s UN correspondent of nearly seven years, as well as the Boston Globe’s for six – covering just about every major world crisis over the past quarter century, his unique perspective on the matter merits a read.
Reproduced below for your edification:
The Democratic Money Behind Russia-gate
As Russia-gate continues to buffet the Trump administration, we now know that the “scandal” started with Democrats funding the original dubious allegations of Russian interference, notes Joe Lauria.
By Joe Lauria
The two sources that originated the allegations claiming that Russia meddled in the 2016 election — without providing convincing evidence — were both paid for by the Democratic National Committee, and in one instance also by the Clinton campaign: the Steele dossier and the CrowdStrike analysis of the DNC servers. Think about that for a minute.
We have long known that the DNC did not allow the FBI to examine its computer server for clues about who may have hacked it – or even if it was hacked – and instead turned to CrowdStrike, a private company co-founded by a virulently anti-Putin Russian. Within a day, CrowdStrike blamed Russia on dubious evidence.
And, it has now been disclosed that the Clinton campaign and the DNC paid for opposition research memos written by former British MI6 intelligence agent Christopher Steele using hearsay accusations from anonymous Russian sources to claim that the Russian government was blackmailing and bribing Donald Trump in a scheme that presupposed that Russian President Vladimir Putin foresaw Trump’s presidency years ago when no one else did.
Since then, the U.S. intelligence community has struggled to corroborate Steele’s allegations, but those suspicions still colored the thinking of President Obama’s intelligence chiefs who, according to Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, “hand-picked” the analysts who produced the Jan. 6 “assessment” claiming that Russia interfered in the U.S. election.
In other words, possibly all of the Russia-gate allegations, which have been taken on faith by Democratic partisans and members of the anti-Trump Resistance, trace back to claims paid for or generated by Democrats.
If for a moment one could remove the sometimes justified hatred that many people feel toward Trump, it would be impossible to avoid the impression that the scandal may have been cooked up by the DNC and the Clinton camp in league with Obama’s intelligence chiefs to serve political and geopolitical aims.
Absent new evidence based on forensic or documentary proof, we could be looking at a partisan concoction devised in the midst of a bitter general election campaign, a manufactured “scandal” that also has fueled a dangerous New Cold War against Russia; a case of a dirty political “oppo” serving American ruling interests in reestablishing the dominance over Russia that they enjoyed in the 1990s, as well as feeding the voracious budgetary appetite of the Military-Industrial Complex.
Based on what is now known, Wall Street buccaneer Paul Singer paid for GPS Fusion, a Washington-based research firm, to do opposition research on Trump during the Republican primaries, but dropped the effort in May 2016 when it became clear Trump would be the GOP nominee. GPS Fusion has strongly denied that it hired Steele for this work or that the research had anything to do with Russia.
Then, in April 2016 the DNC and the Clinton campaign paid its Washington lawyer Marc Elias to hire Fusion GPS to unearth dirt connecting Trump to Russia. This was three months before the DNC blamed Russia for hacking its computers and supposedly giving its stolen emails to WikiLeaks to help Trump win the election.
“The Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee retained Fusion GPS to research any possible connections between Mr. Trump, his businesses, his campaign team and Russia, court filings revealed this week,” The New York Times reported on Friday night.
So, linking Trump to Moscow as a way to bring Russia into the election story was the Democrats’ aim from the start.
Fusion GPS then hired ex-MI6 intelligence agent Steele, it says for the first time, to dig up that dirt in Russia for the Democrats. Steele produced classic opposition research, not an intelligence assessment or conclusion, although it was written in a style and formatted to look like one.
It’s important to realize that Steele was no longer working for an official intelligence agency, which would have imposed strict standards on his work and possibly disciplined him for injecting false information into the government’s decision-making. Instead, he was working for a political party and a presidential candidate looking for dirt that would hurt their opponent, what the Clintons used to call “cash for trash” when they were the targets.
Had Steele been doing legitimate intelligence work for his government, he would have taken a far different approach. Intelligence professionals are not supposed to just give their bosses what their bosses want to hear. So, Steele would have verified his information. And it would have gone through a process of further verification by other intelligence analysts in his and perhaps other intelligence agencies. For instance, in the U.S., a National Intelligence Estimate requires vetting by all 17 intelligence agencies and incorporates dissenting opinions.
Instead Steele was producing a piece of purely political research and had different motivations. The first might well have been money, as he was being paid specifically for this project, not as part of his work on a government salary presumably serving all of society. Secondly, to continue being paid for each subsequent memo that he produced he would have been incentivized to please his clients or at least give them enough so they would come back for more.
Opposition research is about getting dirt to be used in a mud-slinging political campaign, in which wild charges against candidates are the norm. This “oppo” is full of unvetted rumor and innuendo with enough facts mixed in to make it seem credible. There was so much dubious stuff in Steele’s memos that the FBI was unable to confirm its most salacious allegations and apparently refuted several key points.
Perhaps more significantly, the corporate news media, which was largely partial to Clinton, did not report the fantastic allegations after people close to the Clinton campaign began circulating the lurid stories before the election with the hope that the material would pop up in the news. To their credit, established media outlets recognized this as ammunition against a political opponent, not a serious document.
Despite this circumspection, the Steele dossier was shared with the FBI at some point in the summer of 2016 and apparently became the basis for the FBI to seek Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrants against members of Trump’s campaign. More alarmingly, it may have formed the basis for much of the Jan. 6 intelligence “assessment” by those “hand-picked” analysts from three U.S. intelligence agencies – the CIA, the FBI and the NSA – not all 17 agencies that Hillary Clinton continues to insist were involved. (Obama’s intelligence chiefs, DNI Clapper and CIA Director John Brennan, publicly admitted that only three agencies took part and The New York Times printed a correction saying so.)
If in fact the Steele memos were a primary basis for the Russia collusion allegations against Trump, then there may be no credible evidence at all. It could be that because the three agencies knew the dossier was dodgy that there was no substantive proof in the Jan. 6 “assessment.” Even so, a summary of the Steele allegations were included in a secret appendix that then-FBI Director James Comey described to then-President-elect Trump just two weeks before his inauguration.
Five days later, after the fact of Comey’s briefing was leaked to the press, the Steele dossier was published in fullby the sensationalist website BuzzFeed behind the excuse that the allegations’ inclusion in the classified annex of a U.S. intelligence report justified the dossier’s publication regardless of doubts about its accuracy.
The other source of blame about Russian meddling came from the private company CrowdStrike because the DNC blocked the FBI from examining its server after a suspected hack. Within a day, CrowdStrike claimed to find Russian “fingerprints” in the metadata of a DNC opposition research document, which had been revealed by an Internet site called DCLeaks, showing Cyrillic letters and the name of the first Soviet intelligence chief. That supposedly implicated Russia.
CrowdStrike also claimed that the alleged Russian intelligence operation was extremely sophisticated and skilled in concealing its external penetration of the server. But CrowdStrike’s conclusion about Russian “fingerprints” resulted from clues that would have been left behind by extremely sloppy hackers or inserted intentionally to implicate the Russians.
CrowdStrike’s credibility was further undermined when Voice of America reported on March 23, 2017, that the same software the company says it used to blame Russia for the hack wrongly concluded that Moscow also had hacked Ukrainian government howitzers on the battlefield in eastern Ukraine.
“An influential British think tank and Ukraine’s military are disputing a report that the U.S. cyber-security firm CrowdStrike has used to buttress its claims of Russian hacking in the presidential election,” VOA reported. Dimitri Alperovitch, a CrowdStrike co-founder, is also a senior fellow at the anti-Russian Atlantic Council think tank in Washington.
More speculation about the alleged election hack was raised with WikiLeaks’ Vault 7 release, which revealed that the CIA is not beyond covering up its own hacks by leaving clues implicating others. Plus, there’s the fact that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has declared again and again that WikiLeaks did not get the Democratic emails from the Russians. Buttressing Assange’s denials of a Russian role, WikiLeaks associate Craig Murray, a former British ambassador to Uzbekistan, said he met a person connected to the leak during a trip to Washington last year.
And, William Binney, maybe the best mathematician to ever work at the National Security Agency, and former CIA analyst Ray McGovern have published a technical analysis of one set of Democratic email metadata showing that a transatlantic “hack” would have been impossible and that the evidence points to a likely leak by a disgruntled Democratic insider. Binney has further stated that if it were a “hack,” the NSA would have been able to detect it and make the evidence known.
Despite these doubts, which the U.S. mainstream media has largely ignored, Russia-gate has grown into something much more than an election story. It has unleashed a neo-McCarthyite attack on Americans who are accused of being dupes of Russia if they dare question the evidence of the Kremlin’s guilt.
Just weeks after last November’s election, The Washington Post published a front-page story touting a blacklist from an anonymous group, called PropOrNot, that alleged that 200 news sites, including Consortiumnews.com and other leading independent news sources, were either willful Russian propagandists or “useful idiots.”
Last week, a new list emerged with the names of over 2,000 people, mostly Westerners, who have appeared on RT, the Russian government-financed English-language news channel. The list was part of a report entitled, “The Kremlin’s Platform for ‘Useful Idiots’ in the West,” put out by an outfit called European Values, with a long list of European funders.
Included on the list of “useful idiots” absurdly are CIA-friendly Washington Post columnist David Ignatius; David Brock, Hillary Clinton’s opposition research chief; and U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres.
The report stated: “Many people in Europe and the US, including politicians and other persons of influence, continue to exhibit troubling naïveté about RT’s political agenda, buying into the network’s marketing ploy that it is simply an outlet for independent voices marginalised by the mainstream Western press. These ‘useful idiots’ remain oblivious to RT’s intentions and boost its legitimacy by granting interviews on its shows and newscasts.”
The intent of these lists is clear: to shut down dissenting voices who question Western foreign policy and who are usually excluded from Western corporate media. RT is often willing to provide a platform for a wider range of viewpoints, both from the left and right. American ruling interests fend off critical viewpoints by first suppressing them in corporate media and now condemning them as propaganda when they emerge on RT.
More ominously, the anti-Russia mania has increased chances of direct conflict between the two nuclear superpowers. The Russia-bashing rhetoric not only served the Clinton campaign, though ultimately to ill effect, but it has pushed a longstanding U.S.-led geopolitical agenda to regain control over Russia, an advantage that the U.S. enjoyed during the Yeltsin years in the 1990s.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Wall Street rushed in behind Boris Yeltsin and Russian oligarchs to asset strip virtually the entire country, impoverishing the population. Amid widespread accounts of this grotesque corruption, Washington intervened in Russian politics to help get Yeltsin re-elected in 1996. The political rise of Vladimir Putin after Yeltsin resigned on New Year’s Eve 1999 reversed this course, restoring Russian sovereignty over its economy and politics.
That inflamed Hillary Clinton and other American hawks whose desire was to install another Yeltsin-like figure and resume U.S. exploitation of Russia’s vast natural and financial resources. To advance that cause, U.S. presidents have supported the eastward expansion of NATO and have deployed 30,000 troops on Russia’s border.
In 2014, the Obama administration helped orchestrate a coup that toppled the elected government of Ukraine and installed a fiercely anti-Russian regime. The U.S. also undertook the risky policy of aiding jihadists to overthrow a secular Russian ally in Syria. The consequences have brought the world closer to nuclear annihilation than at any time since the Cuban missile crisis in 1962.
In this context, the Democratic Party-led Russia-gate offensive was intended not only to explain away Clinton’s defeat but to stop Trump — possibly via impeachment or by inflicting severe political damage — because he had talked, insincerely it is turning out, about detente with Russia. That did not fit in well with the plan at all.
Joe Lauria is a veteran foreign-affairs journalist. He has written for the Boston Globe, the Sunday Times of London and the Wall Street Journal among other newspapers. He is the author of How I Lost By Hillary Clinton published by OR Books in June 2017. He can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter at @unjoe.