The Cairo Criminal Court overturned prison sentences which had been issued against the Mubarak-era Petroleum Minister Sameh Fahmy and other petroleum officials on Saturday, clearing them of any criminal charges pertaining to the massive losses incurred in the course of Egypt’s natural gas exports to Israel.
Fahmy had been sentenced to 15 years imprisonment in 2012 on charges of misappropriation and squandering public funds. The court had also ruled that he should be dismissed from all his professional duties. Mubarak’s associate, the fugitive business tycoon Hussein Salem, had also been sentenced to 15 years in absentia on the same charges. Three of their co-defendants had also been issued prison sentences ranging from three years to 15 years imprisonment.
According to state-owned media outlets and news agencies, Saturday’s court-ordered acquittals did not include Hussein Salem.
Fahmy had served as Mubarak’s petroleum minister from 1999 to 2011. He was also a member of Mubarak’s then-ruling National Democratic Party (NDP), as well as a member of the NDP’s policy secretariat.
During his tenure as petroleum minister, Fahmy had overseen the sale and export of natural gas to Israel since 2005. The sale of its natural gas to Israel for well below its market value meant that Egypt was incurring hefty losses, along with dwindling national supplies, in the course of this gas export deal.
While the exact extent of losses through this deal are not known, it is estimated that Egypt accumulated several hundred million dollars worth of losses in the six years that it exported its gas to Israel, and perhaps several billions more in light of other sub-market priced deals with Spain and Jordan.
Following dwindling national supplies, and repeated attacks on its natural gas pipeline to Israel, Egypt halted its gas exports to Israel in 2012.
With its subsequent chronic shortage of natural gas supplies, Egypt has recently been considering and discussing the import of natural gas from Algeria, Russia, Cyprus, and potentially even Israel.
Ukraine’s new Finance Minister Natalie Jaresko, who has become the face of reform for the U.S.-backed regime in Kiev and will be a key figure handling billions of dollars in Western financial aid, was at the center of insider deals and other questionable activities when she ran a $150 million U.S.-taxpayer-financed investment fund.
Prior to taking Ukrainian citizenship and becoming Finance Minister last December, Jaresko was a former U.S. diplomat who served as chief executive officer of the Western NIS Enterprise Fund (WNISEF), which was created by Congress in the 1990s and overseen by the U.S. Agency for International Development (U.S. AID) to help jumpstart an investment economy in Ukraine.
But Jaresko, who was limited to making $150,000 a year at WNISEF under the U.S. AID grant agreement, managed to earn more than that amount, reporting in 2004 that she was paid $383,259 along with $67,415 in expenses, according to WNISEF’s public filing with the Internal Revenue Service.
Later, Jaresko’s compensation was removed from public disclosure altogether after she co-founded two entities in 2006: Horizon Capital Associates (HCA) to manage WNISEF’s investments (and collect around $1 million a year in fees) and Emerging Europe Growth Fund (EEGF) to collaborate with WNISEF on investment deals.
Jaresko formed HCA and EEGF with two other WNISEF officers, Mark Iwashko and Lenna Koszarny. They also started a third firm, Horizon Capital Advisors, which “serves as a sub-advisor to the Investment Manager, HCA,” according to WNISEF’s IRS filing for 2006.
U.S. AID apparently found nothing suspicious about these tangled business relationships – and even allowed WNISEF to spend millions of dollars helping EEGF become a follow-on private investment firm – despite the potential conflicts of interest involving Jaresko, the other WNISEF officers and their affiliated companies.
For instance, WNISEF’s 2012 annual report devoted two pages to “related party transactions,” including the management fees to Jaresko’s Horizon Capital ($1,037,603 in 2011 and $1,023,689 in 2012) and WNISEF’s co-investments in projects with the EEGF, where Jaresko was founding partner and chief executive officer. Jaresko’s Horizon Capital managed the investments of both WNISEF and EEGF.
From 2007 to 2011, WNISEF co-invested $4.25 million with EEGF in Kerameya LLC, a Ukrainian brick manufacturer, and WNISEF sold EEGF 15.63 percent of Moldova’s Fincombank for $5 million, the report said. It also listed extensive exchanges of personnel and equipment between WNISEF and Horizon Capital. But it’s difficult for an outsider to ascertain the relative merits of these insider deals and the transactions apparently raised no red flags for U.S. AID officials.
Bonuses for Officers
Regarding compensation, WNISEF’s 2013 filing with the IRS noted that the fund’s officers collected millions of dollars in bonuses for closing out some investments at a profit even as the overall fund was losing money. According to the filing, WNISEF’s $150 million nest egg had shrunk by more than one-third to $94.5 million and likely has declined much more during the economic chaos that followed the U.S.-back coup in February 2014.
But prior to the coup and the resulting civil war, Jaresko’s WNISEF was generously spreading money around. For instance, the 2013 IRS filing reported that the taxpayer-financed fund paid out as “expenses” $7.7 million under a bonus program, including $4.6 million to “current officers,” without identifying who received the money.
The filing made the point that the “long-term equity incentive plan” was “not compensation from Government Grant funds but a separately USAID-approved incentive plan funded from investment sales proceeds” – although those proceeds presumably would have gone into the depleted WNISEF pool if they had not been paid out as bonuses.
The filing also said the bonuses were paid regardless of whether the overall fund was making money, noting that this “compensation was not contingent on revenues or net earnings, but rather on a profitable exit of a portfolio company that exceeds the baseline value set by the board of directors and approved by USAID” – with Jaresko also serving as a director on the board responsible for setting those baseline values.
Another WNISEF director was Jeffrey C. Neal, former chairman of Merrill Lynch’s global investment banking and a co-founder of Horizon Capital, further suggesting how potentially incestuous these relationships may have become.
Though compensation for Jaresko and other officers was shifted outside public view after 2006 – as their pay was moved to the affiliated entities – the 2006 IRS filing says: “It should be noted that as long as HCA earns a management fee from WNISEF, HCA and HCAD [the two Horizon Capital entities] must ensure that a salary cap of $150,000 is adhered to for the proportion of salary attributable to WNISEF funds managed relative to aggregate funds under management.”
But that language would seem to permit compensation well above $150,000 if it could be tied to other managed funds, including EEGF, or come from the incentive program. Such compensation for Jaresko and the other top officers was not reported on later IRS forms despite a line for earnings from “related organizations.” Apparently, Horizon Capital and EEGF were regarded as “unrelated organizations” for the purposes of reporting compensation.
Neither AID officials nor Jaresko responded to specific questions about WNISEF’s possible conflicts of interest, how much money Jaresko made from her involvement with WNISEF and its connected companies, and whether she had fully complied with IRS reporting requirements.
Despite such ethical questions, Jaresko was cited by New York Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman as an exemplar of the new Ukrainian leaders who “share our values” and deserve unqualified American support. Friedman uncritically quoted Jaresko’s speech to international financial leaders at Davos, Switzerland, in which she castigated Russian President Vladimir Putin:
“Putin fears a Ukraine that demands to live and wants to live and insists on living on European values — with a robust civil society and freedom of speech and religion [and] with a system of values the Ukrainian people have chosen and laid down their lives for.”
However, Jaresko has shown little regard for transparency or other democratic values, such as the right of free speech when it comes to someone questioning her financial dealings. For instance, she has gone to great lengths to block her ex-husband Ihor Figlus from exposing what he regards as her questionable business ethics.
In 2012, when Figlus tried to blow the whistle on what he saw as improper loans that Jaresko had taken from Horizon Capital Associates to buy and expand her stake in EEGF, the privately held follow-on fund to WNISEF, Jaresko sent her lawyers to court to silence him and, according to his lawyer, bankrupt him.
The filings in Delaware’s Chancery Court are remarkable not only because Jaresko succeeded in getting the Court to gag her ex-husband through enforcement of a non-disclosure agreement but the Court agreed to redact nearly all the business details, even the confidentiality language at the center of the case.
Since Figlus had given some of his information to a Ukrainian journalist, the court complaint also had the look of a leak investigation, tracking down Figlus’s contacts with the journalist and then using that evidence to secure the restraining order, which Figlus said not only prevented him from discussing business secrets but even talking about his more general concerns about Jaresko’s insider dealings.
The heavy redactions make it hard to fully understand Figlus’s concerns or to assess the size of Jaresko’s borrowing as she expanded her holdings in EEGF, but Figlus did assert that he saw his role as whistle-blowing about improper actions by Jaresko.
In a Oct. 31, 2012, filing, Figlus’s attorney wrote that “At all relevant times, Defendant [Figlus] acted in good faith and with justification, on matters of public interest, and particularly the inequitable conduct set forth herein where such inequitable conduct adversely affects … at least one other limited partner which is REDACTED, and specifically the inequitable conduct included, in addition to the other conduct cited herein, REDACTED.”
The filing added: “The Plaintiffs’ [Jaresko’s and her EEGF partners’] claims are barred, in whole or in part, by public policy, and particularly that a court in equity should not enjoin ‘whistle-blowing’ activities on matters of public interest, and particularly the inequitable conduct set forth herein.” But the details of that conduct were all redacted.
In a defense brief dated Dec. 17, 2012 [see Part One and Part Two], Figlus expanded on his argument that Jaresko’s attempts to have the court gag him amounted to a violation of his constitutional right of free speech:
“The obvious problem with the scope of their Motion is that Plaintiffs are asking the Court to enter an Order that prohibits Defendant Figlus from exercising his freedom of speech without even attempting to provide the Court with any Constitutional support or underpinning for such impairment of Figlus’ rights.
“Plaintiffs cannot do so, because such silencing of speech is Constitutionally impermissible, and would constitute a denial of basic principles of the Bill of Rights in both the United States and Delaware Constitutions. There can be no question that Plaintiffs are seeking a temporary injunction, which constitutes a prior restraint on speech. …
“The Court cannot, consistent with the Federal and State Constitutional guarantees of free speech, enjoin speech except in the most exceptional circumstances, and certainly not when Plaintiffs are seeking to prevent speech that is not even covered by the very contractual provision upon which they are relying.
“Moreover, the Court cannot prevent speech where the matter has at least some public interest REDACTED, except as limited to the very specific and exact language of the speaker’s contractual obligation.”
Figlus also provided a narrative of events as he saw them as a limited partner in EEGF, saying he initially “believed everything she [Jaresko] was doing, you know, was proper.” Later, however, Figlus “learned that Jaresko began borrowing money from HCA REDACTED, but again relied on his spouse, and did not pay attention to the actual financial transactions…
“In early 2010, after Jaresko separated from Figlus, she presented Figlus with, and requested that he execute, a ‘Security Agreement,’ pledging the couple’s partnership interest to the repayment of the loans from HCA. This was Figlus first realization of the amount of loans that Jaresko had taken, and that the partnership interest was being funded through this means. … By late 2011, Jaresko had borrowed approximately REDACTED from HCA to both fund the partnership interest REDACTED. The loans were collateralized only by the EEFG partnership interest. …
“Figlus became increasingly concerned about the partnership and the loans that had been and continued to be given to the insiders to pay for their partnership interests, while excluding other limited partners. Although Figlus was not sophisticated in these matters, he considered that it was inappropriate that HCA was giving loans to insiders to fund their partnership interests, but to no other partners. …
“He talked to an individual at U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) in Washington D.C., because the agency was effectively involved as a limited partner because of the agency’s funding and supervision over WNISEF, but the agency employee did not appear interested in pursuing the question.”
A Spousal Dispute
Meanwhile, Jaresko’s lawyers mocked Figlus’s claims that he was acting as a whistle-blower, claiming that he was actually motivated by a desire “to harm his ex-wife” and had violated the terms of his non-disclosure agreement, which the lawyers convinced the court to exclude from the public record.
“Figlus, having previously received an audit from the General Partner, provided it to REDACTED [the Ukrainian reporter] with full knowledge that the audit was non-public. Also on or about October 2, 2012, REDACTED [the reporter] contacted multiple Limited Partners, informed them that he possessed ‘documented proof’ of alleged impropriety by the General Partner and requested interviews concerning that alleged impropriety.”
The filing noted that on Oct. 3, 2012, the reporter told Figlus that Jaresko “called two REDACTED [his newspaper’s] editors last night crying, not me, for some reason.” (The Ukrainian story was never published.)
After the competing filings, Jaresko’s lawyers successfully secured a restraining order against Figlus from the Delaware Chancery Court and are continuing to pursue the case against him though his lawyer has asserted that his client will make no further effort to expose these financial dealings and is essentially broke.
On May 14, 2014, Figlus filed a complaint with the court claiming that he was being denied distributions from his joint interest in EEGF and saying he was told that it was because the holding was pledged as security against the loans taken out by Jaresko.
But, on the same day, Jaresko’s lawyer, Richard P. Rollo, contradicted that assertion, saying information about Figlus’s distributions was being withheld because EEGF and Horizon Capital “faced significant business interruptions and difficulties given the political crisis in Ukraine.”
The filing suggested that the interlocking investments between EEGF and the U.S.-taxpayer-funded WNISEF were experiencing further trouble from the political instability and civil war sweeping across Ukraine. By last December, Jaresko had resigned from her WNISEF-related positions, taken Ukrainian citizenship and started her new job as Ukraine’s Finance Minister.
In an article about Jaresko’s appointment, John Helmer, a longtime foreign correspondent in Russia, disclosed the outlines of the court dispute with Figlus and identified the Ukrainian reporter as Mark Rachkevych of the Kyiv Post.
“It hasn’t been rare for American spouses to go into the asset management business in the former Soviet Union, and make profits underwritten by the US Government with information supplied from their US Government positions or contacts,” Helmer wrote. “It is exceptional for them to fall out over the loot.”
Earlier this month, when I contacted George Pazuniak, Figlus’s lawyer, about Jaresko’s aggressive enforcement of the non-disclosure agreement, he told me that “at this point, it’s very difficult for me to say very much without having a detrimental effect on my client.” Pazuniak did say, however, that all the redactions were demanded by Jaresko’s lawyers.
I also sent detailed questions to U.S. AID and to Jaresko via several of her associates. Those questions included how much of the $150 million in U.S. taxpayers’ money remained, why Jaresko reported no compensation from “related organizations,” whether she received any of the $4.6 million to WNISEF’s officers in bonuses in 2013, how much money she made in total from her association with WNISEF, what AID officials did in response Figlus’s complaint about possible wrongdoing, and whether Jaresko’s legal campaign to silence her ex-husband was appropriate given her current position and Ukraine’s history of secretive financial dealings.
U.S. AID press officer Annette Y. Aulton got back to me with a response that was unresponsive to my specific questions. Rather than answering about the performance of WNISEF and Jaresko’s compensation, the response commented on the relative success of 10 “Enterprise Funds” that AID has sponsored in Eastern Europe and added:
“There is a twenty year history of oversight of WNISEF operations. Enterprise funds must undergo an annual independent financial audit, submit annual reports to USAID and the IRS, and USAID staff conduct field visits and semi-annual reviews. At the time Horizon Capital assumed management of WNISEF, USAID received disclosures from Natalie Jaresko regarding the change in management structure and at the time USAID found no impropriety during its review.”
One Jaresko associate, Tanya Bega, Horizon Capital’s investor relations manager, said she forwarded my questions to Jaresko last week, but Jaresko did not respond.
Further showing how much Jaresko’s network is penetrating the new Ukrainian government, another associate, Estonian Jaanika Merilo, has been brought on to handle Ukraine’s foreign investments. Merilo’s Ukrainian Venture Capital and Private Equity Association (UVCA), which is committed to “representing interests of private equity investors to policymakers and improving the investment and business climate in Ukraine,” included Jaresko’s Horizon Capital as a founder.
In a way, given Jaresko’s background of parlaying U.S. taxpayer’s money into various insider investment deals, perhaps she does have the experience to handle the incoming $17.5 billion in aid from the International Monetary Fund.
But the question remains whether Jaresko’s is the right kind of experience – and whether the money will go to help the impoverished people of Ukraine or simply wind up lining the pockets of the well-heeled and the well-connected.
–With research by Chelsea Gilmour
Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his latest book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com).
ABC Australia Investigative Report on Statin Scam Pulled from YouTube
Dr. MaryAnne Demasi’s documentary on the criminal activity of the pharmaceutical industry regarding cholesterol-lowering statin drugs sent shock waves through the mainstream media in Australia at the end of 2013. Published in two parts on the popular news show The Catalyst, the pharmaceutical industry complained loudly after the first show, and requested the network not air the second episode, “Heart of the Matter Part 2 – Cholesterol Drug War.”
ABC Australia aired it anyway, but the pharmaceutical influence was apparently too strong, as they later announced that the network would remove the videos from their website because “they breached its impartiality standards.” All copies found on YouTube were also removed.
Dr. Michael Eades has published them on his Vimeo channel, however, and you can watch them below.
Heart of the Matter – Part 1
Heart of the Matter Part 2 – Cholesterol Drug War
I started a PhD program in Environmental Engineering because I worried about climate change. It didn’t take long for me to become a skeptic.
My first paper, a study about precipitation intensity over the U.S., was rejected by reviewers because it contradicted the climate model projections. Though they could find nothing wrong with the methodology, they decided observational data must be flawed because climate models couldn’t possibly be wrong and wrote that the paper could not be published.
I then started reading the atmospheric science literature about precipitation trends. It was clear to me that the theory about changes in precipitation intensity were designed to explain climate model results that didn’t mesh with observations. When I found that changes in observed precipitation were largest in autumn, and did not find the same patterns of precipitation in climate models outputs, I really became skeptical about the use of climate models. When I started working with climate models and saw how poorly they reproduce precipitation patterns, I was forced into the realization that the “science” was being fit to the models and that the models were not very realistic. From my perspective, this runs contrary to the scientific method.
After finishing my PhD in Environmental Engineering, I earned a M.S. in Atmospheric Science and started working on a PhD. As I learned more about meteorology and atmospheric dynamics, I started to see the contradictions in the climate change discussion.
I had another paper refused by a high profile journal because it showed that cold air is required to produce the conditions that cause storm surges in the western Canadian arctic. That suggestion really seemed to upset the editor (an engineer) who wouldn’t even send it out for review. My later research has shown the importance of strong jets and cold air in building the blocking ridges that cause the extreme weather we’ve seen over the last two autumns/winters. The claims that are being made that a warming of the arctic will lead to warmer conditions in the mid-latitudes because it will cause more blocking are preposterous because strong jets are needed to support the blocking ridges. I received dozens of letters saying my published paper must be wrong because I suggest that strong jets, not weak jets, cause blocking. Most of the claims being made by climate change advocates appear to run contrary to basic meteorology.
As I’ve been attacked personally and professionally for offering contrary views, I decided to leave the field. I will defend my Atmospheric Science PhD thesis and walk away. It’s become clear to me that it is not possible to undertake independent research in any area that touches upon climate change if you have to make your living as a professional scientist on government grant money or have to rely on getting tenure at a university. The massive group think that I have encountered on this topic has cost me my career, many colleagues and has damaged my reputation among the few people I know in the field.
I’m leaving to work in the financial industry. It’s a sad day when you feel that you have to leave a field that you are passionately interested in because you fear that you won’t be able to find a job once your views become widely known. Until free thought is allowed in the climate sciences, I will consider myself a skeptic of catastrophic human induced global warming.
Arms manufacturers currently have dozens of employees seconded to the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and other British government agencies, an investigation has discovered.
The revelations highlight the close relationship between business and government, especially in highly lucrative industries such as the arms trade.
Employees from BAE Systems (manufacturers of the Eurofighter Typhoon), MBDA (makers of missiles), Babcock (defense contractor working on Trident nuclear submarine replacement), and MSI (gunnery systems producer) have all taken senior level roles within the MoD.
BAE systems, the second largest arms company in the world, has had more than 10 executives seconded to the MoD and the arms sales unit of UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) in the last year.
The MoD’s Equipment and Support Branch, which has a £14 billion annual budget to buy equipment for the armed forces, hosted nine BAE executives in senior positions, the investigation by the Guardian found.
UKTI Defence and Security Organisation, another government department, had four secondments from BAE, two from MBDA, and two from Detica, a cyber-security specialist acquired by BAE in 2010.
While on secondment, salaries are paid by the company and not by the government department they join.
Personnel exchange between business and government works in the opposite direction as well, with 13 civil servants having been seconded from the MoD to outside organizations, including cyber-security company Templar Executives, Lloyds Banking group, arms firm QinetiQ, defense think tank the Institute for Security and Resilience Studies (ISRS) and the BBC.
The Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) described the arrangement as “totally inappropriate.”
Speaking to the Guardian, Andrew Smith of CAAT said, “Arms companies already enjoy a significant and totally disproportionate level of government support, and these kinds of secondments only make it more so.
“It is totally inappropriate for arms companies that will be lobbying for extra military spending to be working for departments that buy their wares.”
Natalie Bennett, the leader of the Green Party, said the British government’s relationship with arms manufacturers was “uncomfortably close.”
“All too often we’ve seen the government’s actions aligned with the interests of big business, which is particularly concerning when the businesses involved produce weapons,” she told the Guardian.
“For many years, the British government has had an uncomfortably close relationship with arms manufacturers and a shady record of arming dictatorships to match.”
“Secondments like these cast a shadow of doubt over the integrity over the actions of both the MoD and UKTI when it comes to their dealings with arms manufacturers. Our policies should serve the common good and must be free from the influence of vested interests like arms companies.”
The Guardian’s revelations come in the wake of the HSBC tax avoidance scandal in which the revolving door between financial institutions and government has also faced scrutiny.
Lord Green, the former head of HSBC, came under the spotlight for having taken the role of Minister of State for Trade and Investment immediately after leaving the bank.
Leaked documents allege that during Green’s tenure as Chairman of HSBC from 2006 to 2010, he oversaw the orchestration of industrial scale tax evasion for drug dealers, international criminals, dictators and terrorists.
Lord Green stood down from a senior position in the banking lobby group The City UK on Saturday.
Science has been misused for political purposes many times in history. However, the most glaring example of politically motivated pseudoscience—that employed by U.S. government scientists to explain the destruction of the World Trade Center (WTC)—continues to be ignored by many scientists. As we pass the 10th anniversary of the introduction of that account, it is useful to review historic examples of fake science used for political purposes and the pattern that defines that abuse.
An early example of pseudoscience used to promote a political agenda was the concerted Soviet effort to contradict evolutionary theory and Mendelian inheritance. For nearly 45 years, the Soviet government used propaganda to foster unproven theories of agriculture promoted by its minister of agriculture, Trofim Lysenko. Scientists seeking favor with the Soviet hierarchy produced fake experimental data in support of Lysenko’s false claims. Scientific evidence from the fields of biology and genetics was banned in favor of educational programs that taught only Lysenkoism and many biologists and geneticists were executed or sent to labor camps. This propaganda-fueled program of anti-science continued for over forty years, until 1964, and spread to other countries including China.
In the 2010 book Merchants of Doubt, authors Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway describe several other examples of the misuse of science, spanning from the 1950s to the present. They show how widely respected scientists participated in clearly non-scientific efforts to promote the agendas of big business and big government. Examples include the tobacco industry’s misuse of science to obfuscate the links between smoking and cancer, the military industrial complex’s use of scientists to support the scientifically indefensible Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), and several abuses of environmental science.
As Oreskes and Conway made clear, science is about evidence. “It is about claims that can be, and have been, tested through scientific research—experiment, experience, and observation—research that is then subject to critical review by a jury of scientific peers.” In science, if experiments performed do not support a hypothesis, that hypothesis must be rejected. If conclusions fail to pass peer-review due to a lack of supportive evidence or the discovery of evidence that directly contradicts them, those conclusions must be rejected.
From Lysenkoism through the examples given by Oreskes and Conway, politically motivated pseudoscience demonstrates a pattern of characteristics as follows.
- There is a lack of experiments.
- The results of experiments are ignored or contradicted in the conclusions.
- There is either no peer-review or peer-reviewer concerns are ignored.
- The findings cannot be replicated or falsified due to the withholding of data.
- False conclusions are supported by marketing or media propaganda.
- Hypotheses that are supported by the evidence are ignored.
All six of these characteristics of pseudo-science are exhibited by the U.S. government investigation into what happened at the WTC on September 11th, 2001. That investigation was conducted by the National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST) and it had much in common with the examples given by Oreskes and Conway. As with the false science that supported tobacco use, millions of lives were lost as a result—in this case through the “War on Terror.” Like support for the Strategic Defense Initiative, the abuses were focused on supporting the military-industrial complex. And as with the environmental examples, NIST’s manipulations affect everyone on the planet because they prop up a never-ending war.
In terms of historical experience, the destruction of the three WTC skyscrapers was unprecedented. No tall building had ever experienced global collapse for any reason other than explosive demolition and none ever has since that time. In terms of observation, nearly everyone who examines the videos from the day recognizes the many similarities to explosive demolition. Perhaps the most compelling evidence in favor of the demolition theory is that the NIST WTC Reports, which took up to seven years to produce, exhibit all six of the characteristics of politically motivated pseudoscience.
The lack of experiment:
NIST performed no physical experiments to support its conclusions on WTC Building 7. Its primary conclusion, that a few steel floor beams experienced linear thermal expansion thereby shearing many structural connections, could have easily been confirmed through physical testing but no such testing was performed. Moreover, other scientists had performed such tests in the past but since the results did not support NIST’s conclusions, those results were ignored (see peer-review comments below).
The results of experiments were ignored or contradicted in the conclusions:
- For the Twin Towers, steel temperature tests performed on the few steel samples saved suggested that the steel reached only about 500 degrees Fahrenheit. This is more than one thousand degrees below the temperature needed to soften steel and make it malleable—a key requirement of NIST’s hypothesis. NIST responded by exaggerating temperatures in its computer model.
- Another key requirement of NIST’s explanation for the Twin Towers was that floor assemblies had sagged severely under thermal stress. Floor model tests conducted by my former company Underwriters Laboratories showed that the floor assemblies would sag only 3 to 4 inches, even after removal of all fireproofing and exposure to much higher temperatures than existed in the buildings. NIST responded by exaggerating the results—claiming up to 42-inches worth of floor assembly sagging in its computer model.
- After criticism of its draft report in April 2005, NIST quietly inserted a short description of shotgun tests conducted to evaluate fireproofing loss in the towers. These results also failed to support NIST’s conclusions because the shotgun blasts were not reflective of the distribution or trajectories of the aircraft debris. Additionally, the tests suggested that the energy required to “widely dislodge” fireproofing over five acre-wide floors—required by NIST’s findings—was simply not available.
There was no peer review and public comments from peers were ignored:
NIST published its own WTC reports and therefore its work was not subject to peer-review as is the case for all legitimate science. The people and companies involved in the NIST investigation were either government employees or contractors dependent on government work and were therefore not objective participants.
In terms of indirect peer-review, the international building construction community has made no changes to building construction standards in response to NIST’s officially cited root causes for the WTC destruction. Furthermore, no existing buildings have been retrofitted to ensure that they do not fail from those alleged causes.
NIST provided a period for public comment on its draft reports but the comments provided by those not beholden to government were not supportive of NIST’s findings. In some cases, as with NIST’s linear expansion claim for WTC 7, independent scientists submitted comments about physical tests they had performed (which NIST had not) that directly contradicted NIST’s findings.
There was one important exception to NIST’s ignoring of public comments. After a physics teacher’s well-publicized comments, NIST was forced to admit that WTC 7 was in free-fall for a vertical distance equivalent to at least eight stories of the building. Structural engineers have since noted that many hundreds of high-strength steel bolts and steel welds would have had to vanish instantaneously for an 8-story section of the building to fall without any resistance.
The findings cannot be replicated or falsified due to the withholding of data:
NIST will not share it computer models with the public. A NIST spokesman declared, in response to a Freedom of Information Act request, that revealing the computer models would “jeopardize public safety.” Because NIST’s conclusions depend entirely on those computer models, they cannot be verified or falsified by independent scientists.
False conclusions are supported by media or marketing propaganda:
As with the Soviet propaganda machine that supported Lysenkoism and the tobacco industry’s marketing propaganda, NIST’s pseudoscience was fully and uncritically supported by the mainstream media. Hearst Publications, the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), and Skeptic magazine are examples of media that went to great lengths to stifle any questioning of the official account and divert attention from the glaring discrepancies.
NIST depended on that media support as indicated by the timing of its release of reports. NIST’s final report appeared to be scheduled for dual political purposes, to coincide with the seventh anniversary of 9/11 and to give the appearance of finished business at the end of the Bush Administration. The timing of NIST’s other reports coincided with political events as well. These included the draft report on the towers in October 2004—just before the election, the final report on the towers—just before the fourth anniversary of 9/11, and NIST’s first “responses to FAQs”—just before the fifth anniversary. All of them appeared to involve politically motivated release dates.
The report release dates allowed time for the media to quickly present the official story while public interest was high, but did not allow time for critical review. With the report on WTC 7, the public was given just three weeks prior to September 11th, 2008 to comment on a report that was nearly seven years in the making.
Hypotheses that are supported by the evidence were ignored:
Throughout its seven-year investigation, NIST ignored the obvious hypothesis for the destruction of the WTC buildings—demolition. That evidence includes:
- Free-fall or near-free fall acceleration of all three buildings (now acknowledged by NIST for WTC 7)
- Photographic and video evidence demonstrating the characteristics of demolition for both the Twin Towers and WTC 7
- Eyewitness testimony from many people at the scene who witnessed explosions or were warned that a demolition was proceeding
- The expert testimony of thousands of licensed engineers and architects who are calling for a new investigation
- The peer-reviewed science that supports the demolition theory including fourteen points of agreement between NIST and independent researchers, environmental anomalies that indicate the use of thermitic materials, and analytical results confirming the presence of nanothermite in the WTC dust
The WTC reports produced by NIST represent the most obvious example of politically motivated pseudoscience in history. The physical experiments NIST performed did not support its conclusions. The reports were not peer-reviewed and public comments that challenged the findings were ignored. NIST will not share its computer models—the last supposed evidence that supports its conclusions—with the public and therefore its conclusions are not verifiable.
These glaring facts should be readily recognizable by any scientist and, given the unprecedented impact of the resulting War on Terror, this abuse of science should be the basis for a global outcry from the scientific community. The fact that it is not—with even Oreskes and Conway ignoring this most obvious example—indicates that many scientists today still cannot recognize false science or cannot speak out about it for fear of social stigma. It’s possible that our society has not suffered enough to compel scientists to move out of their comfort zones and challenge such exploitation of their profession. If so, the abuse of science for political and commercial purposes will only get worse.
The government of Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto has proposed changing a key transparency law that would allow the state to keep key information secret over controversial energy reform plans.
According to a document presented before the Congress by the ruling party PRI and its ally the Ecological Green Party of Mexico (PVEM), there would be 82 changes to the Federal Law of Transparency and Access to Public Government Information.
The recommendations made by the legal adviser to the Presidency of the Republic propose removing the requirement to disclose contracts, permits, alliances and partnerships that the State signed with national and foreign companies on oil exploration.
Last year President Enrique Peña Nieto signed a package of so-called secondary laws to the country’s controversial energy reform approved in 2013. The reform opens Mexico’s public energy sector to private competition for the first time in 76 years after the former populist president, Lazaro Cardenas, nationalized the sector in 1938.
Opposition senators Dolores Padierna and Alejandro Encinas, from the Revolutionary Democratic Party (PRD), rejected the proposal saying Mexicans deserve to know what will happen with hydrocarbons, a key economic sector, especially as the reforms will see profits going to foreign oil companies.
Padierna added that the energy sector should be forced to provide information about its operation and activity, and that decisions taken during the process of liberalization and privatization should respond to the transparency law.
Nearly a decade ago, a keen observer of Honduras produced a damning analysis of the country. “In a very real sense, Honduras is a captured state,” he began. “Elite manipulation of the public sector, particularly the weak legal system, has turned it into a tool to protect the powerful,” and “voters choose mainly between the two major entrenched political parties, both beholden to the interests of individuals from the same economic elite.” The situation required a “strategy that will give people the means to influence public policy,” the report concluded.
Its author was James Williard, the U.S. chargé d’affaires in Honduras in 2005. In the following years, Manuel Zelaya, the Honduran president from 2006-2009, formulated a strategy like the one Williard mentioned. The country’s rulers reacted by toppling Zelaya in June 2009, manipulating the feeble legal system to justify his overthrow. Washington feigned outrage, but then recognized the marred November 2009 national election, its 2013 follow-up—and heaped supplies on the military. About “half of all U.S. arms exports for the entire Western Hemisphere” went to Honduras in 2011, Martha Mendoza disclosed, referring to the $1.3 billion in military electronics that “neither the State Department nor the Pentagon” would explain.
Zelaya had planned to conduct a poll the day of the coup, to see whether the public desired a referendum on constitutional reform that November. “Critics said it was part of an illegal attempt by Mr. Zelaya to defy the Constitution’s limit of a single four-year term for the president,” New York Times reporter Elisabeth Malkin wrote immediately after the ouster.
That was the official line. But U.S. Ambassador Hugo Llorens had a different take. “The fact is we have no hard intelligence suggesting any consideration”—let alone effort—“by Zelaya or any members of his government to usurp democracy and suspend constitutional rule,” he wrote five days before the coup. Zelaya’s “public support” then was somewhere “in the 55 percent range,” with the poll’s as high as 75%. These figures signaled the nightmare. “Zelaya and his allies advocate radical reform of the political system and replacement of ‘representative democracy’ with a ‘participatory’ version modeled on President Correa’s model in Ecuador,” Llorens panicked.
He need not have. Repression crushed the hope of reform, and today’s Honduras recalls its 1980s death-squad heyday. The Constitution Zelaya allegedly violated dates from that era, and “contained perverse elements such as military autonomy from civilian control,” Michelle M. Taylor-Robinson explains, adding that “during the 1980s the military chief negotiated defense policy directly with the U.S. government and then informed the Honduran president of what was decided.”
General Gustavo Álvarez Martínez helmed the army until 1984. “Trained in Argentina, as he rose to power he openly declared to U.S. Ambassador Binns that he admired the Argentine methods used during the murderous Dirty Wars there and planned to use the same techniques in Honduras,” Jennifer Harbury notes. Álvarez wasn’t kidding. He proceeded to form Battalion 316, whose members the CIA and other U.S. intelligence agencies trained. One of its targets was union leader German Pérez Alemán. Battalion hit men forced him into a car on a busy street near Tegucigalpa’s airport, then killed him with torture. Journalist Oscar Reyes was another victim. “He was strung up naked and beaten ‘like a piñata,’” Harbury writes, while his wife, Gloria, “was given electrical shocks to the genitals that damaged her internal organs.”
Reagan dealt with Álvarez by awarding him the Legion of Merit in 1983. Now a new generation continues the Battalion’s work. “In the ’80s we had armed forces that were excessively empowered. Today Honduras is extremely similar,” activist Bertha Oliva stated, emphasizing that “the presence of the U.S. in the country was extremely significant” then, and is now. “Military personnel now control state institutions that in the 1990s were taken from them,” added Héctor Becerra, Director of the Honduran Committee for Free Expression.
One example is the Public Order Military Police (PMOP, in Spanish), first deployed weeks before the 2013 election. That October 10, it “raided the home of Marco Antonio Rodriguez, Vice President of SITRAPANI (National Child Welfare Agency Workers’ Union),” then “broke down the doors” of seasoned activist Edwin Robelo Espinal’s home a few weeks later, human rights group PROAH reported. Several legislators opposed the law creating the PMOP. A top Honduran human rights official declared it unconstitutional. But not only was its champion, ex-Congressman Juan Orlando Hernández, allowed to retain his position—he’s now president.
And “since taking office in January 2014 [he] has presided over several deployments of soldiers and expanded the PMOP,” the Security Assistance Monitor points out. PROAH reviews some case studies in citizen security, like one “where the police have been complicit in the kidnapping and torture of two fishermen, and another where soldiers were directly responsible for the torture of two miners.” A former police agent, in a sworn statement, described other experiments in sadism “that implicate top level commanders of the national security forces,” according to TeleSUR. A “woman was taken to a security house in the exclusive Trejo neighborhood, interrogated for 48 hours, hanged and disappeared,” for example. The agent also recounted how his team had abducted three gang members, who “were tortured and killed. They were then decapitated and their bodies appeared in different parts of the city. A different head was placed on each body to make it more difficult to identify the person killed.”
International policy expert Alexander Main writes that U.S. support for Honduran militarization has been not only “tacit”—seen in “the steady increase of U.S. assistance to national armed forces” since the coup—but also “direct.” A DEA Foreign-deployed Advisory Support Team (FAST), for example, “set up camp in Honduras to train a local counternarcotics police unit” from 2011-2012. U.S. and Colombian Special Forces later instructed “a new ‘elite’ police unit called the Intelligence Troop and Special Security Group” (TIGRES, in Spanish). When $1.3 million vanished in a drug raid last year, evidence emerged implicating dozens of TIGRES members. It seems the training paid off.
We can say the same of U.S. efforts to shape Honduran society. The “military simply did not exist in any institutionalized form” there for much of the 20th century, Kirk Bowman observes. This situation changed after the U.S. and Honduran governments signed a Bilateral Treaty of Military Assistance in May 1954. We see the outcomes today. The journalists gunned down by passing assassins, the poor farmers stalked and murdered for defending their land—this is as much a part of Obama’s Latin America legacy as his celebrated Cuba thaw.
Nick Alexandrov lives in Washington, DC. He can be reached at: email@example.com.
Arvind Kejriwal, the leader of the Aam Aadmi Party (Common Man Party), has taken the oath as the chief minister of India’s capital city of New Delhi.
The swearing-in ceremony took place at Delhi’s Ramlila Maidan on Saturday in front of thousands of supporters of the Aam Aadmi Party, which won 67 out of the 70 seats in the February 7 elections of the city’s state assembly.
During the open-air ceremony, Manish Sisodia, Kejriwal’s associate, was also sworn in as deputy chief minister along with five other ministers.
In an address to the crowd, Kejriwal vowed to tackle graft in Delhi and end its “VIP culture”.
“I will make Delhi corruption-free within five years. If somebody asks for a bribe, don’t say no. Just take your mobile out of your pocket and record it on your phone. You then come and give it to me. We will take the toughest action against the offenders,” he said.
In 2013, the 46-year-old former civil servant was also sworn in as Delhi’s chief minister, but he resigned after 49 days in a row over an anti-corruption bill.
An estimated 67-percent turnout was recorded at Delhi’s 70-seat legislative assembly elections, which was widely considered as a test of the popularity of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came second in the polls with only three seats.
In May 2014, the BJP won 274 seats in the 543-seat lower house of parliament, the Lok Sabha. However, the ruling party lacks a majority in the Asian country’s upper house.
The Indian premier needs to win most of the state elections over the next four years in order to gain control of both houses of parliament, where he is attempting to push through reforms to revive the country’s economy.
British public health experts issuing guidance on obesity receive hundreds of thousands of pounds from the sugar industry, an investigation has found.
Funding from companies including Coca-Cola, PepsiCo and Nestlé has flowed into scientific research bodies such as the UK’s Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) and the Medical Research Council (MRC) for over a decade.
Scientists whose work was at least partly funded and sometimes fully funded by the sugar industry include Professor Susan Jebb, the government’s obesity tsar.
Leading scientists blamed the government’s funding cuts for forcing researchers into the arms of Big Sugar, while one doctor told RT the findings were “disturbing.”
The report comes at a time when medical experts say daily guidelines on sugar intake are misleading, with the average Briton consuming two to three times the World Health Organization’s (WHO) recommended limit.
According to the BMJ’s investigation, one government-funded organization, the MRC’s Human Nutrition Research unit in Cambridge, received an average of £250,000 a year for the past decade from Big Sugar.
Other scientists received consultancy fees from Boots, Coca-Cola, Mars, Cereal Partners UK and Unilever. They have also sat on advisory boards for Coca-Cola, the Food and Drink Federation and the Institute of Grocery Distributors, the report claims.
Nutrition scientist Susan Jebb, who is the UK government’s adviser on obesity, received £1.37 million in industry funding between 2004 and 2015, according to the investigation.
This money came from food and retail companies including Cereal Partners UK, which operates under the Nestlé brand, Rank Hovis McDougal, Sainsbury’s, Coca-Cola’s Beverage Institute for Health and Wellbeing and Unilever.
In a statement published via the Science Media Centre, Jebb rejected the BMJ’s investigation.
“It refers to a series of studies in which I was involved which included funding from industry. None of these involve research into the effects of sugar on health,” she said.
“I have received no personal remuneration from any of these projects. All have been conducted according to all the MRC governance arrangements for working with industry and the industry involvement has been declared.”
Dr Aseem Malholtra, a cardiologist and Science Director at the medically led Action on Sugar, told RT the findings were “disturbing.”
“I think it’s quite disturbing. I think the public would be appalled that the people advising them on what they eat are receiving money from the food industry.”
“We know that biased funding for research is one of the root causes of problems within healthcare at the moment. Whether it’s food industry funding or pharmaceutical funding.”
Malholtra said the average UK citizen consumes 2-3 times the WHO’s recommended sugar intake.
“The labeling of sugar remains extremely misleading. The guidelines’ daily amount doesn’t distinguish between added sugars and what’s intrinsic to the product,” he said.
“The current sugar labeling suggests one could consume 22 teaspoons of sugar a day as part of your daily amount. The WHO advice is for 6 teaspoons per day.”
“My question is: what are the scientists doing turning a blind eye?”
Former SACN chair Alan Jackson blamed the government’s research funding cuts for pushing scientist towards industry money.
Universities are estimated to have lost over £460 million in government research funding between 2009-10 and 2012-13, a financial burden which has seen them turn to business for over £2 billion over the past decade.
Jackson said scientists were encouraged by the government to develop a “mixed portfolio of support” for their research which explicitly included help from industry.
“So most, if not all, researchers will have some form of industry support and funding and hence have potential conflicts of interest,” he told the BMJ.
“By the very nature of its complex roots and wide interdisciplinary engagement nutrition has particular vulnerabilities in this regard, but it is by no means unique to nutrition.”
An important aspect of the Age of Obama will soon come to a close with the departure of Eric Holder, the first Black U.S. attorney general. Holder’s record in office makes up a great part of the Obama legacy – which, after six years turns out to be scarcely any different than what could have been expected from any center-right white corporate Democrat. Like former president Bill Clinton, whose Wall Street dominated administration deregulated the banks and set the stage for the economic meltdown, eight years later. Obama’s first act in office was to bring back Bill Clinton’s Wall Street wrecking crew. So, in a sense, Obama is actually a protégé of Bill Clinton, and will likely be succeeded in office by Hillary Clinton.
Obama’s and Eric Holder’s most singular contribution to American political economy is having articulated the concept of banks being Too Big to Fail, or to jail. Back in the late Eighties and early Nineties, one-third of the nation’s savings and loan institutions did fail, and over a thousand individual executives were prosecuted, with a large proportion of them sent to prison. But, Eric Holder’s Justice Department has specialized in protecting big banks and defending the Lords of Capital.
At this late date, with his exit probably only weeks away, Eric Holder is trying to put a final spin on his legacy by demanding that some of the world’s biggest banks, including JP Morgan Chase and Citigroup, plead guilty to a felony for manipulating foreign currency prices. Of course, not a single living, breathing banking executive would be branded a felon. Rather, the banks, as institutions would bear the shame. But, institutions have no shame, and cannot be jailed, and the banks will not be prevented from continuing to deal in foreign currency trading and all the other money streams they have manipulated, with impunity. However, Eric Holder will ride off into the sunset of a multi-million dollar corporate law practice claiming that he finally busted a bank for felonious conduct.
The Pavlovian Black Caucus
Meanwhile, the ridiculously ineffectual Congressional Black Caucus is circling its wagons around Holder’s replacement, Black New York federal prosecutor Loretta Lynch. Lynch last month told a Senate committee that she fully supports the practice of civil forfeiture, which allows police to confiscate people’s money and property on mere suspicion of involvement in illegal activity. Even Eric Holder has advanced some very limited reforms to civil forfeiture, but Loretta Lynch appeared gung ho about the seizures. The Black Caucus, in an uproar, denounced Republican libertarian Senator Rand Paul for saying he’d vote against confirming Lynch because of her position on civil forfeiture, and he sniped that Lynch ought to be a little more concerned about poor people, who are more likely to have their cash seized by the cops. Black Caucus chairman G.K. Butterfield, one of the most pro-corporate members of the Caucus, fumed that Rand Paul was using civil forfeiture as an excuse to “keep an African American legal scholar” from heading the Justice Department. But, of course, the Congressional Black Caucus has adopted no position at all on the pros and cons of civil forfeiture. They have no opinion. All they care about is that a Black Democrat get the attorney general’s job – and that they get to hold on to theirs.
By Bruce A. Dixon
In private practice Loretta Lynch was a “white collar crime specialist” keeping banksters, tax evaders and money launderers out of jail. She did exactly that at Obama’s Justice Department, passing get out of jail cards in the biggest money laundering cases in history. She’s pro-death penalty, against legalizing weed or demilitarizing cops, sees no evil in drone murder, war crimes or runaway surveillance. And she’s the next Attorney General.
Samsung has come under fire from privacy campaigners after it emerged the company’s new smart TVs are capable of listening to your conversations.
Viewers hoping to take advantage of the voice activation feature have been warned by Samsung not to disclose personal information because voice recordings can be captured and transmitted to unidentified third parties.
Samsung insists it takes consumer privacy seriously, but did not name the third party which translates speech to text.
The issue was first highlighted by the Daily Beast, which warned readers not to talk about incriminating matters such as “tax evasion” and “drug use” in front their TV sets.
The technology is designed to enable viewers to control their TV by using only their voice.
Even viewers who do not activate the voice recognition feature are still at risk of being snooped on, as the machine continues to collect data through its microphones. The only way to stop a Samsung smart TV from eavesdropping on your conversation is to disable voice recognition data collection in the settings menu.
Samsung claims it collects transcribed voice data in order to improve the technology’s features.
An investigation last year by consumer magazine Which? found that smart TVs made by LG, Samsung, Sony, Panasonic, and Toshiba track people’s viewing habits – something consumers agree to when they accept the TV’s terms and conditions.
Users who choose not to accept their TV’s terms and conditions may end up reverting to a not-so-smart television. While Toshiba and LG block internet access and apps, Samsung reportedly stops customers from using the TV at all.
Sony is the only manufacturer which blocks the tracking of television usage without restricting other functions.
“If a consumer consents and uses the voice recognition feature, voice data is provided to a third party during a requested voice command search. At that time, the voice data is sent to a server, which searches for the requested content then returns the desired content to the TV,” the company said.