Powerful Global Spy Alliance You Never Knew Existed
This article is by Ryan Gallagher on The Intercept. It
starts as follows:
It is one of the
world’s most powerful alliances. And yet most people have probably
never heard of it, because its existence is a closely guarded
The “SIGINT Seniors” is a
spy agency coalition that meets annually to collaborate on global
security issues. It has two divisions, each focusing on different parts
of the world: SIGINT Seniors Europe and SIGINT Seniors Pacific. Both
are led by the U.S. National Security Agency, and together they include
representatives from at least 17 other countries. Members of the group
are from spy agencies that eavesdrop on communications – a practice
known as “signals intelligence,” or SIGINT.
Details about the meetings
of the SIGINT Seniors are disclosed in a batch of classified documents
from the NSA’s internal newsletter SIDToday, provided by whistleblower
Edward Snowden and published today by The Intercept. The documents
shine light on the secret history of the coalition, the issues that the
participating agencies have focused on in recent years, and the systems
that allow allied countries to share sensitive surveillance data with
The SIGINT Seniors Europe
was formed in 1982, amid the Cold War. Back then, the alliance had nine
members, whose primary focus was on uncovering information about the
Soviet Union’s military. Following the attacks on the U.S. in September
2001, the group grew to 14 and began focusing its efforts on
The core participants of
the Seniors Europe are the surveillance agencies from the so-called
Five Eyes: the NSA and its counterparts from the U.K., Australia,
Canada, and New Zealand. As of April 2013, the other members were
intelligence agencies from Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy,
the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, and Sweden.
As I said in the
previous item, this is one of the many consequences derived from
Snowden's materials. I think it is quite important, and indeed
think that these 14 countries (that include Holland) are far
more likely to turn authoritarian,
before, for the simple reason that their very
few spies have
tenthousands of times more powers than
did the KGB in the former Soviet
There is considerably
more in this article than was reviewed here, and it is recommended.
Kushner Flames Out
This article is by The Editorial Board on The New York Times. It starts
For a Middle
East negotiator, President Trump could have chosen a seasoned envoy
trusted by all stakeholders and fluent in the region’s nuance. Instead
he appointed the heir to an opaque Manhattan real estate empire with
deep ties to Israel who boasts that, as a businessman, “I don’t care
about the past.”
To lead his
initiative on government innovation, Mr. Trump could have named a
dynamic authority on technology and entrepreneurship. Instead he chose
someone who failed in an expensive effort to bring a New York newspaper
into the digital age.
his closest adviser, Mr. Trump could have chosen from among seasoned
and wise strategists. Instead, he picked a political novice with no
experience in government.
For all of these crucial roles, Mr. Trump turned to his
son-in-law, Jared Kushner. Though Mr. Trump voices high praise for Mr.
Kushner’s talent, the fact that he’s family is qualification enough for
a president obsessed with close-lipped loyalty and uninterested in
policy unless it benefits himself.
Yes, I think all of this is fair criticism of both
Trump and Kushner. And in fact I think both are thoroughly
to play their present roles.
And as for Kushner: He did get in Harvard, but
it seems he got there not because
of his talents, which are not
big enough to be admitted to Harvard, but because his mega-rich father
paid some millions to Harvard in order to make them accept him. Or that
that is the story.
Apart from that, Kushner has had a year of experience
as Trump's main man. Here is what Kushner accomplished in a year:
So one year in, what has Mr. Kushner accomplished? The
answers point to why, from the nation’s founding to the present day,
the architects of American democracy have tried so mightily to restrict
the hiring of presidential relatives. Mr. Kushner’s achievements have
not only been paltry, but he is directly implicated in some of the
president’s most destructive — and self-destructive — decisions, as
well as in some of the most serious accusations of self-dealing that
have been made against the administration.
For more than
two centuries, the principle that federal officials would be selected
on the basis of merit, not heredity, has been protected as much by
tradition, cultural norms and a desire to avoid the appearance of
impropriety as it has been by law. That has proved an insufficient
bulwark against an insecure, ignorant president, and his
administration, and the American people are now paying the price.
agree - although I should add that it would have been very
easy to forbid
a president to make nepotistic assignments. In any case, they did not,
and Kushner's appointment is one consequence.
more on Kushner's talents:
liability Mr. Kushner has proved to be. American officials have
intercepted conversations in which at least four countries, including
China and the United Arab Emirates, discussed
ways to take advantage of Mr. Kushner’s indebtedness, na´vetÚ and
ignorance of foreign policy to further their interests, according to
The Washington Post. This week, The Times reported that Kushner
hundreds of millions of dollars in loans through American
companies, including Citigroup and the private equity firm Apollo
Global Management, after their top executives met with Mr. Kushner in
the White House. The Qatari government’s investment fund was a major
investor in Apollo’s real estate trust.
This was all
occurring while Mr. Kushner had access to top-secret intelligence,
despite having failed to secure a permanent security clearance. His
faulty disclosures of his financial interests and foreign contacts and
his indebtedness have most likely held up his clearance for more than a
year. His access was downgraded
this week from top secret to secret, hardly reassuring.
This seems all
true, although I think it shows Kushner has one talent, that probably
depends for the most part on his father in law: He can get
millions of dollars of loans to his own companies from various states.
Here is the ending of this article:
Americans deserve better from their public servants, but the law
doesn’t provide sufficient protection from a president who doesn’t get
that. Firming up the anti-nepotism law to cover White House advisers
has been criticized as an infringement on a president’s right to seek
private personal counsel. But Congress could require that presidential
appointees across the federal government possess relevant credentials
and experience, that they meet enforceable performance metrics, and —
do we really need to say this? — that they can pass a background check.
If Mr. Kushner’s performance inspires such reforms, it could prove his
only real achievement.
I do have one argument about "the anti-nepotism law" - that either completely
failed or wasn't there at
all (I don't know which is the case): There are over 300
million inhabitants in the USA, and quite a few of them are
intelligent (certainly much more so than Kushner, for one example) and
also quite heavily trained (again much more so than Kushner).
say nepotism is so dangerous as to be
completely forbidden for American
presidents on the two simple grounds that (i) nepotism is known to be
dangerous for several thousands of years, while (ii) it is extremely
unlikely that any family member of the
president would be better
qualified or more intelligent than any of the many men or women the
president may nominate without the least
danger of nepotism.
This is a
strongly recommended article, of which you will probably see the second
Big Pharma Is Corrupting the Truth About the Drugs It Sells Us
This article is by Kate Harveston on AlterNet. It starts as
appalled we felt as a society when we discovered that, for so long, we
had been mistakenly taking Big
Tobacco’s word that cigarettes are harmless? Rinse and repeat
for Big Alcohol fear-mongering about legal weed. And again and
again with a panoply of consumer-level commodities and goods.
Nowadays we have
all these familiar worries, but about our drugs and medications
instead. It’s become so bad that there's now reason to believe Big
Pharma is also colluding to poison the well of scientific inquiry.
Yes indeed -
I quite believe this, and I also think it is very
serious. Then again, I am also pretty certain that I take the above
and the rest of this article more serious than you do, for at least
three good personal reasons:
(1) I am ill nearly 40 years now, and have seen some 30 medical
doctors and specialists
(2) According to 9 out 10 of these "medical people" have said to me
that I am not ill but
have "psychosomatosis" (or
whatever they call it), while
(3) in these 40 years I got an M.A. in psychology with only
straight A's, which means
that I know much
more about "the human mind" than any of the medical doctors I
although I am
still treated by each as if I am an ignorant
idiot whose knowledge
could not possibly reach the exalted height on which all Dutch medical
doctors function, in their own opinions.
I could give more reasons (such as that I had in 1978 an IQ
above 150, which is the reason I could finish three studies while being
ill), or that I have earned less than any
over the last 50 years (except those who were as long in prison) in
which I was ill for forty years - except that all Dutch
bureaucrats, all Dutch politicians, and 9 out of 10 Dutch
medics insisted that I am not ill but insane (although
they usually covered this up by saying "psychosomatic").
For that is what I have been told the
last 40 years. In fact, I have M.E.
(Myalgic Encephalo- myelitis)
that has meanwhile been ascertained by Ron Davis and his team (Davis
is one of the most prominent biochemists in the whole world, whose son
has serious M.E.) that it is a real and serious and
disease, but the Dutch medics almost all don't know this; don't care to
know this; and still routinely "diagnose" people with M.E. as if the
patients are insane, whereas under the present circumstances I
the Dutch medical doctors are in vast majority denying
all the science they should have
known, but probably did not learn
because the medical
education, like all university
educations, have been halved in Holland
since the early 1980ies.
having been dismissed as an insane person by 9 out of 10 of the Dutch
medics I have seen, my own conclusions are these: (i) 9 out
of 10 of
the Dutch medical doctors are incompetent (ii) 10 out 10 of the
Dutch medical doctors earn too much, and (iii)
apart from fairly obvious complaints I can probably diagnose myself
with the help of Wikipedia, there is neither sense nor practical
possibility for me to see any Dutch doctor: Nine of ten are
incompetent, and 10 out 10 work 5 or 10 miles beyond where I live, and cannot
be reached by me
because I am genuinely ill, which 9 out of 10 dismiss out of hand (and
usually without knowing the least of me).
there are more serious problems with most medical doctors
in the USA:
common knowledge that the pharmaceutical industry is one of the most
corrupt out there. This is a serious affront to justice that has gone
on for far too long. The fight for consumer protections of all kinds
can and must begin with health care, medicines, prescription drugs and
and I have also known about this from 2012 onwards (at least),
thanks to one of the few very good doctors (and psychiatrists) who
lived in the USA, but who unfortunately died last year: Dr. Mickey Nardo, who published as 1
Boring Old Man, and whom I have followed daily since 2012.
Here is more
on the - truly astounding -
dishonesty of the pharmaceutical
corporations (who are not at all interested in your health,
although they are very much interested in
In fact, there are many
more reports like above and like the following:
GlaxoSmithKline—the esoteric name for a ubiquitous diabetes treatment
brand—took a victory lap after a lengthy report in
the New England Journal of Medicine declared its Avandia medication
to be the most effective of the three diabetes drugs tested.
Unfortunately for readers
and patients, the extent of the report’s bias was not as
attention-grabbing as the headline and ensuing celebratory press
releases. In fact, with the help of the FDA and renowned heart
specialist Steven Nissen, the Washington Post found that
GlaxoSmithKline directly funded the research itself. All 11 of the
paper's authors had
received consultation fees, grants or another form of monetary
There may be no clearer
example of conflicts of interest in the halls of science. Given the
degree to which private money may have influenced the result of this
scientific endeavor, we have little choice but to assume it did.
Even worse? The drug didn’t
merely fail to help patients cope with their illnesses, it actually
raised their risk of heart attack.
Between 2011 and
2012, the New England Journal of Medicine published more than 70
“original studies” of newly FDA-approved and experimental drugs. Of
these 70-plus reports:
- Sixty received direct
pharmaceutical company funding.
- Fifty were written or
co-written by a current employee of a pharmaceutical company.
- Thirty-seven had lead
writers who had, at some point, received speaking fees or other
compensation from the subject of the study.
Up until about the 1980s,
the federal government was the primary financier of scientific research
in the world of medicine. In the '60s and '70s, the federal government
had a 70 percent share of scientific research. In 2013, that
dropped below the 50 percent mark.
And here is the last
bit that I quote from this article:
Again, I think that is all
quite correct (but I agree I very probably know a lot more
and psychology than you do). And for me it seems as if medicine
USA has moved in fifty years from a fairly reliable and honest service
into an extremely unreliable and clearly quite dishonest attempt to
the patients from as much money as possible, while providing them
medicines that may not work, but that are
the most expensive available.
In addition to protecting
the personal information of trial participants (patients), the FDA also
maintains that no
drug may reach the investigation phase until its effects—and its
lack of harm—have both been documented in a lab setting. As you can
likely tell, these protections no longer appear adequate.
It has become an
open secret that most of the drugs the FDA concerns itself with cannot
be relied upon to greatly outperform placebos, or existing treatments,
in a vast majority of cases. Moreover, the wholesale regulatory
capture of the FDA has resulted in a situation where this vital public
office serves as a
glorified rubber patent stamp for protecting medicines as privately
owned, profit-generating pieces of intellectual property.
As for me, I also extend these conclusions to the Dutch medics, for it
seems one can now - unlike forty or more years in the past -
medical doctor" with an IQ not much higher than 105 and in six years of
studying (which I grant are now very much more expensive
than 40 or
more years ago). And this explains to me why 9 out of 10 Dutch
are gross incompetents - for which I am very sorry, but see no
other rational alternative.
Going Down in China is Very Dangerous – Part 1
This article is by Michael Krieger on Washington's Blog. It starts as
I’m sure all of you are
aware of the dramatic power play pulled off
over the weekend by China’s Communist Party to eliminate term
limits for both the president and vice president. Prior to the move,
Chinese leaders have stuck to two five-year terms since the presidency
of Jiang Zemin (1993-2003), but that’s about to change as wannabe
emperor Xi Jinping positions himself as indefinite ruler of the
increasingly totalitarian superstate.
While the weekend
announcement was illuminating enough, I found the panicked reactions by
Chinese authorities in the immediate aftermath far more telling. The
country’s propagandists took censorship to such an embarrassing level
in attempts to portray the decision as widely popular amongst the
masses, it merely served to betray that opposite might be true.
In fact, the article
gives a fairly long list with many Chinese titles that indicates to
what extent the "country’s
propagandists took censorship".
Here is a shortening
of the - I agree: both very ridiculous
and very dangerous - list of terms
one may no longer use in China and indeed also may not use
in searches in China. Also
there are more terms in the article:
"The emperor's dream"
"Brave New World"
"N" (the letter N)
"Winnie the Pooh"
"long live the emperor"
Note that there are three
booktitles by George
Orwell on the list, and the list indicates what Chinese can
no longer as much as write about:
Personality cults; the present ruler's totalitarian
tendencies; that they may oppose things; that they may disagree with
certain things (!!); or that they might consider to emigrate from China.
All of that is
now forbidden in China, even as words - and China has
more than 1 in 7 of all people alive in this world as inhabitants, all
of whom are now forbidden to use the above terms.
Here is more by Michael
I fully agree with a recent observation made
by Charlie Smith, co-founder
Smith said he
believed Beijing had underestimated the outrage its decision would
cause. “The response from Chinese netizens indicates that Xi may have
miscalculated how this would be received by the general public. Hence,
he has asked the censors to put in overtime and things like the letter
‘N’ end up as collateral damage.”
The internet response to
the Communist Party’s move to abolish term limits was not what
leadership expected or desired, which prompted a panicky and desperate
attempt to immediately clean up internet discourse.
It’s pretty sad when a
government in charge of the lives of over a billion people is terrified
of Winnie the Pooh memes.
Possibly so, but I
should add that Xi Jinping is the most powerful man in China
2013. I have no idea about what he knows and doesn't know about China
and the Chinese, but I do know that he has the intelligence to
understand he has grown very many times more authoritarian and
totalitarian than he was so far.
Here is more by Michael
Not only did he dash the
enthusiasm, drive and talent of some of his country’s smartest
technologists and entrepreneurs, but he also made it clear to the world
that the Chinese model will continue to be one of command and control,
rigid hierarchy and centralization. This is a tragic and historic
mistake, and I think the coming brain drain out of China could be
massive. This provides an opportunity for more open nations to scoop up
some serious talent as they look to leave. As noted previously, Chinese
authorities banned the word “emigrate” earlier this week, which should
certainly tell you something.
As someone who’s watched
his own government turn increasingly opaque, corrupt, authoritarian and
unconstitutional, I feel empathy for the tens, if not hundreds of
millions, of Chinese horrified that their hopes of a more free society
appear dashed for the foreseeable future. Making matters worse, the
surveillance state that’s been installed across the country is science
fiction level scary.
Yes indeed, although I wonder
how - for example - the top Chinese scientists could
emigrate to safer
countries when they are not even allowed to use the term
indeed the terms "I oppose" or "I disagree".
This article ends as follows:
Let this be a lesson to
U.S. citizens, as well as citizens across the world. Never, ever allow
a massive, unaccountable surveillance system to be constructed and
implemented in your society for any reason. It will always
ultimately be abused by a power hungry despot to seize and then
Finally, one major reason
I’m so concerned about what’s happening in China is because it adds a
huge element of geopolitical risk to the global equation and greatly
increases the likelihood of worldwide conflict.
Tomorrow’s piece will focus
on this angle.
Yes I quite agree,
have to add that the whole world seems to be now under the
and authoritarian aegis of anonymous men and women who are spies that
are allowed by nearly all governments to spy on anyone and everyone
they can reach by the internet.
And to extend my own
criticism some: This is pure totalitarian
ten years - if these are peaceful - may be extended to virtually
everyone living anywhere: Absolutely all
men and women alive risk being
spied upon absolutely everything they do, and all also risk
disappearance once it is known they oppose their own government or
indeed a government their own government supports.
The internet and the
computer as they have been designed have been designed since the late
Sixties to introduce this kind of complete fascistic, authoritarian and
totalitarian control over absolutely everyone by a handful of totally
anonymous spies, and this has been going on as a very strongly
sustaiend project from 9/11/2001 onwards.
And I am glad I was
1950 and lived the first fifty years of my life in comparative freedom.
If the few handfuls of spies from anywhere may be trusted, I belonged
to the last human beings with free opinions who lived in comparative
freedom and who could say what he thought without the risk to disappear
This is a strongly