01/20/20

Connecting with Heaven

By: T.F. Stern | Self-Educated American

In the October 2019 General Conference Stephen W. Owen of the Young Men General Presidency gave a talk, Be Faithful, Not Faithless, which began with, “We must deliberately take time each day to disconnect from the world and connect with Heaven”. There are so many opportunities to be distracted from the basics which connect us with Heaven; too many to list and most of them we’d consider as time well spent were it not for them keeping us from reading our scriptures, studying the talks given by our church leaders and our time talking to Father in Heaven in personal prayer.

It boils down to priorities; now doesn’t it? How many of us wake up first thing in the morning, lean over to turn off the alarm on our cell phone and then click on the weather app to see what kind of clothing to put on; that is, instead of thanking our Father in Heaven for letting us wake up to begin with? Have we made it a habit to study our scriptures prior to turning on the news or is that one of next year’s resolutions?

Jeffery R. Holland pointed out, “We wouldn’t expect our physical bodies to survive long on one meal a week – even if it is a very good meal. Similarly, if a one-hour Church class, even an excellent Church class, is the main setting for our “feasting upon the word of Christ,” then we are in danger of spiritual malnourishment”.

Getting back to the talk by Elder Owen, he explained how he got sidetracked; checking his messages, email, news items, and social media posts prior to his original intention of reading his scriptures. He’d spent so much time on the unimportant items that he’d run out of time and left for work that day without being nourished spiritually.

The scriptures teach that we’re made in the image of God, that we’re children of our Father in Heaven. In the Temple, we hear the blessings promised each of us as we stay on the covenant path. We begin to understand more and more that the Lord has his hand in our lives and desires our successful return while we travel through mortality.

Are we reaching up to Heaven daily and do our actions match our beliefs? That’s the key to appreciating all that has been done to prepare our hearts and minds to receive all the blessings of the gospel.

C.S. Lewis once said, “If we could recognize who we were, we would realize that we were walking with possible gods and goddesses, whom if we could see them in all their eternal dignity and glory, we would be tempted to fall and worship.”

While talking with Don Mangum, Patriarch in the Houston North Stake, several years ago, he shared how amazed and humbled he was each time he laid his hands upon an individual’s head to give them their Patriarchal Blessing. He was given the opportunity to see the nobility of the individual similar, as he put it, to the way the Lord sees each of us.

Once we’ve decided that we want to reach and partake of the Tree of Life, having entered the path, holding onto the iron rod, the iron rod being the Word of God, we have connected ourselves with Heaven.

As a side note, was it a coincidence that Joseph Smith reached out in prayer to the Heavens while in the middle of a grove of trees, what we now call the Sacred Grove? Just a thought…

Having begun our way toward the Tree of Life isn’t enough, is it? So many fall away down forbidden paths, going through the motions of spirituality; and as Elder Owen pointed out, “They were fed but not nourished”.

We all face challenges; so what works to our benefit, what is required of us? Scripture study, not simply reading the material and be done with it so you can visit your friends on Facebook.

Ezra Taft Benson made an important statement regarding the Book of Mormon, important enough that a friend of mine kept it on a small piece of paper tucked into his wallet so he could read it each morning.

“It is not just that the Book of Mormon teaches us truth, though it indeed does that. It is not just that the Book of Mormon bears testimony of Christ, though it indeed does that, too. But there is something more. There is a power in the book which will begin to flow into your lives the moment you begin a serious study of the book. You will find greater power to resist temptation. You will find the power to avoid deception. You will find the power to stay on the strait and narrow path. The scriptures are called “the words of life” (D & C 84:85), and nowhere is that more true than it is of the Book of Mormon. When you begin to hunger and thirst after those words, you will find life in greater and greater abundance.”

This year you have a little help in the form of the, Come Follow Me, home study course as it guides individuals through the Book of Mormon. The first week’s lesson directs your attention to the introductory pages and the statements from the Witnesses.

I should mention that I enjoy a hands-on approach to history. We visited several historic church sites one year, to include the Sacred Grove and Smith family farmhouse, rebuilt on the spot where it actually stood. Why is that important?

We made our way to the second floor, where, in the dark of night the angel Moroni visited with Joseph and explained how the restoration of the gospel would take place. Closing my eyes while standing in that room, imagining that moment in time was as real as if I’d witnessed the event.

In my library, there are a couple of ‘museum books’, for lack of a better term. Within the pages of each book are replications of original documents, carefully displayed in such a way as to be able to remove them and handle them. This permits my brain to time travel, to see things from a different perspective.

This would explain why we purchased a copy of the 1830 version of the Book of Mormon when we visited Palmyra, New York a couple of years ago. We found it challenging to read it from cover to cover, but did so while comparing it word for word with the newer edition.

We left this collector’s edition on the table after completing our reading for the evening. When we awoke the next morning we found that our puppy had chewed up the first ten pages completely and so we ordered another copy; it’s kept on the bookshelf and is there pretty much just for show.

As a matter of interest, Martin Harris lost 116 pages of the translated Book of Mormon that he’d been entrusted with. I guess my puppy wanted me to feel more a part of history by destroying those 10 pages.

While I’m thinking about it, with all the technology available, most of us have the scriptures available via the LDS App on our cell phone. It’s so easy looking up a specific scripture during Sunday School and lightning-fast.

That said, I find if more satisfying to pick up my old copy of the Book of Mormon or Bible when studying on my own. There are notes in the margins, verses highlighted and then marked again with dates from when someone gave a talk. These small things make impressions on my mind as I glean what the Spirit intends for me to learn on that particular reading.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a member of a family that came across the prairie as a member of a hand-cart company or whether you’re the first and possibly the only member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. What matters is that you recognize the importance of your relationship with our Father in Heaven and Jesus Christ as you find your way back to their presence.

Are you willing to put your scripture studies to the test?

“I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them.” (1 Nephi 3:7)

We watched a movie the other night, Field of Dreams, in which the owner of a cornfield hears a voice saying, “If you build it he will come”. Somehow he managed to figure out that he’s supposed to build a baseball field on his property by plowing under the crop that pays his mortgage payments.

If you’re familiar with the movie’s ending, he’s playing catch with his father, who’s been permitted to visit the Field of Dreams through the miracle of following the promptings of the Spirit. His father asks, “Is this Heaven?”

His son, looking about, taking in the setting sun, the baseball field set inside his crop of corn and then back towards his house; see his family sitting on the porch at the end of the day, all this while contemplating the question a little more deeply he replies, “Maybe it is.”

While going through this portion of our existence, the time we call mortality, we need to recognize that we are spiritual beings learning to cope with the frailties of our human bodies. We have to look beyond our current circumstances and reach out to Heaven since that’s really our home.

You must make a concerted effort, regularly connecting with Heaven as Elder Owen pointed out. While doing this you will find life to be brighter and the joy you’re seeking will present itself in the simple tasks of each day.

In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

01/18/20

The Left Embraces Terrorists

By: Renee Nal | RAIR

There is a loud silence from the establishment media and their Democrat allies regarding the Bernie Sanders staffer and self-described “anarcho-communist” Kyle Jurek, who was exposed by James O’Keefe of Project Veritas as reported at RAIR Foundation USA. There is a reason for this.

The Left Embraces Terrorists.

On May 29, 2019, the “free thought” publication Quillette published an article by German author Eoin Lenihan titled: “It’s Not Your Imagination: The Journalists Writing About Antifa Are Often Their Cheerleaders.” Lenihan observed that Antifa “often receives media coverage that is neutral or even favorable, with its members’ violence either being ignored by reporters or vaguely explained away as a product of right-wing provocation.”

Lenihan conducted non-scientific, but compelling research consisting of “a mix of network mapping and linguistic analysis” that some national journalists indeed were connected, at least online, to the “most influential and widely followed Antifa figures.” The article, as one could imagine, was not very well received by the left, who blew a collective gasket and claimed that the article resulted in the persecution of journalists, while at the same time continuing to apologize for Antifa!

“While we would not view being connected to antifascist organizations as discrediting, in general,” Antifa apologists Shane Burley and Alexander Reid Ross wrote indignantly at the Independent, “…for the right, those groups represent a threat to them, so they try to paint ‘Antifa’ as violent extremists.”

Newsflash, guys, Antifa are violent extremists.

Antifa at Berkeley

Antifa attacks

Yes, Antifa is Violent

Antifa threatens

Lenihan was smeared in every way possible but stood by his research. He was predictably banned on Twitter, and later wrote about his experience in an article at the Post Millennial titled: “How they ruin you: inside a smear campaign by activists and journalists.”

Of course, the left covers for Antifa and, as Lenihan observed in his initial piece, “many of the mainstream reporters who are most active in covering Antifa also tend to enthusiastically amplify Antifa’s claims on social media.” It is just the truth: The left embraces terrorists.

CASE STUDY: Willem Van Spronsen

Willem Van Spronsen was a 69-year-old anarchist and former member of the militant left-wing organization Puget Sound John Brown Gun Club who was shot and killed by police as he tried to firebomb an ICE facility in Tacoma, Washington, using the “concentration camp” rhetoric of Alexandria Ocasio Cortez and friends.

In his “manifesto,” Willem Van Spronsen, who was not allowed to own firearms, said “I am Antifa”, claimed he used a “home built unregistered ‘ghost’ ar15” and encouraged his comrades to “arm themselves.” The left did not hide their admiration for the domestic terrorist (see here and here), whose ex-wife “obtained four domestic-violence protection orders” against him since 2013.

File:Antifa mourns Willem.JPG

Antifa mourns Willem

CNN’s W. Kamau Bell highlighted the Puget Sound John Brown Gun Club in May 2019 on his show “United Shades of America.” On Facebook, Bell gushed that the group is “actively working to end white supremacy” and encouraged readers to “She [sic] some support for the PSJBC.”

Shaun King referred to the aging anarchist’s manifesto as “beautiful, painful, devastating.” He later deleted the Tweet.

Image

Keean Bexte of TheRebel.media confronted Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, and Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, asking for a comment on Willem Van Spronsen.

Not one condemned the attack.

Watch:

Whether it is Rasmea Odeh, the Black Panthers, Bill Ayers, and Bernadine Dohrn, Kathleen Soliah, FARC or HAMAS, the left bends over backward to support domestic terrorists.

Whether it is the butcher Che Guevara or the “great strategist of the class war”, Vladimir Lenin, the left romanticizes murderous communist revolutionaries and those who serve as their “muscle”, such as the Black Bloc during the communist-led Occupy movement or Antifa today.

Even former President Obama expressed “more than a hint of admiration” for terrorist Qassem Soleimani, who was later the recipient of a well-deserved strike authorized by President Trump.

Hana Center Honors Terrorist Rasmea Odeh

HAMAS works openly in America through CAIR

Antifa Professor Injures Innocent People, Gets Probation

Linda Sarsour with terrorist supporter Abbas Hamideh

Rashida Tlaib with terrorist supporter Abbas Hamideh

Americans of goodwill have difficulty understanding the truly insidious nature of the left. As Americans are distanced by time and leftist indoctrination to the true horrors of the gulags and their apologists, the bad guys are slowly but steadily tightening their chokehold on the disintegrating traditions and institutions of America.

01/18/20

A Narco-Nation of Potheads, Courtesy of George Soros

By: Cliff Kincaid

Billionaire George Soros was named “Philanthropist of the Year” by Inside Philanthropy magazine for his “…fight for academic freedom in Central Europe, and his resistance to the rising tide of authoritarianism worldwide.”  The former is a reference to gender studies programs and the latter concerns his ongoing campaign to undermine existing governments, causing chaos that makes more money for hedge fund currency manipulators and short-sellers like himself.

In the United States, he is best known for almost single-handedly creating a narco-nation through the legalization of marijuana, causing human suffering and environmental devastation on a scale most people do not yet comprehend.

With the nation focused on the opioid danger, and President Trump accusing China of pumping fentanyl into the veins of American victims through Mexico, the marijuana problem has gotten less attention. Indeed, liberal politicians and prosecutors, some of them getting Soros money, are treating the dope as a harmless substance and even a money-maker for local and state governments.

For one of the most sensational examples of a notorious pothead, consider Aaron Hernandez, the former NFL star who became a convicted killer and then killed himself in prison. The subject of a new Netflix series, “Killer Inside: The Mind of Aaron Hernandez,” he was a chronic marijuana user throughout college and his NFL career who experienced brain damage from the drug. The case proves a direct link between marijuana, mental illness, and violence.

In California, legal dope was supposed to displace illegal dope. But illicit cannabis cultivation sites are proliferating, offering a cheaper product than the government-approved variety. The Siskiyou County (California) Board of Supervisors voted on a new Declaration of Local Emergency that refers to illegal growers being responsible for “hundreds of pervasive fire hazards, insecticides, pesticides, rodenticides, fertilizers, trash, and unsanitary conditions which severely impact health, safety, and quality of life for countless county residents…”

It’s in Barack Hussein Obama’s state of Illinois that we see some of the recent damage being done.

Illinois last year became the first state to legalize the marijuana business through legislation rather than by referendum and placing excise and sales taxes on the “product.” We can already see the predictable result — marijuana-related emergency room visits are on the rise. The local ABC-TV station in Chicago quotes doctors as saying the most common symptoms of the new potheads in Illinois are restlessness, heart palpitations and anxiety, but that “In some cases, we are seeing full-on psychosis, agitation, hallucinations.”

Incredibly, Illinois Lieutenant Governor Juliana Stratton was one of the first in line to purchase the dope. She bought clementine-flavored marijuana edible gummies and paid with cash. The scene was captured by CNN as she was pictured among hundreds of early-morning customers at a Chicago marijuana dispensary.  She probably went to the front of the line, but some people waited hours in order to buy their “recreational marijuana” and get “high.”

David E. Smith of the Illinois Family Institute comments, “Not only have lawmakers failed to do their due diligence before passing this marijuana law, but they also failed to heed the compelling research that indicates how regular use of marijuana affects young people, including an increased risk of psychiatric illnesses and a permanent loss of IQ points.”

In fact, this is the plan – dumb people down so they ruin their lives and then have to be dependent on the state for the rest of their lives. The potheads are fast becoming an important new constituency for the socialist-minded.

Before they actually navigate their way to the polls, they can relieve their pain by employing another “hemp” product – CBD or cannabidiol.  CBD is being hawked all over, even on the Rush Limbaugh Show, and is being advertised as a treatment for “muscle soreness” and “everyday discomfort.” But many complaints have been filed with the FDA over the false medical claims made about CBD.

Dr. Kenneth Finn comments, “These products are everywhere, but there is little scientific evidence to support the hype that surrounds them.” He says unregulated CBD products hitting the market might be contaminated with heavy metals, pesticides, fungicides, rodenticides, insecticides, molds, E. coli, or fungus.

Official dope distribution is supposed to fill a financial gap. In Illinois, the sixth-biggest state, by population, Politico reporter Theodoric Meyer reports that it has seen its credit rating cut to near-junk status in the decade since the financial crisis. “Its bonds are now considered as risky as those of Russia and Romania,” he notes. “Its pension system is in worse shape than that of almost any other state.”

Writers Ted Dabrowski and John Klingner note that the population of Illinois dropped by 100,000 people between 2010 and 2018 and few of the state’s counties have been spared. “That means that 93 of the state’s 102 counties have shrunk since 2010,” they note. Adam Schuster, Director of Budget and Tax Research at the group, Illinois Policy, reports that 36 percent of the money the state allocates to education will be diverted away from teachers and students to meet required pension payments for retirees.

Former Illinois pension chief Marc Levine is quoted as saying a federal bailout may be required, making this a matter affecting all taxpayers, not just the saps remaining in Illinois.

The “progressive” politicians have virtually bankrupted the state, forcing thousands to flee, and have turned to the cruel exploitation of potheads as a sure-fire money-maker to stave off the final countdown to fiscal oblivion. But legalized dope means more wards of the state who need government help.

Now, this is going national. “Once a politically dangerous subject,” notes Trevor Hughes of USA Today, “legal marijuana has become something of a de facto platform plank for the 2020 Democratic candidates: All support either legalizing or decriminalizing its use, and the differences lie in how far the candidates are willing to take it.”

Since 22.2 million people have used marijuana in the past month, this is fertile ground for votes. In a bid for votes, candidate Pete Buttigieg actually toured a “cannabis dispensary” in Las Vegas while commenting that he smoked dope a “handful of times a long time ago.”

President Trump, on the other hand, can just say no. He lost his brother to alcoholism and should consider speaking out against the Soros-funded marijuana craze before more lives are ruined and lost. His Surgeon General, Vice Adm. Jerome M. Adams, is already speaking out about the health risks of marijuana use. He needs the backing of his president.

Roger Morgan, author of Soros: The Drug Lord. Pricking the Bubble of American Supremacy notes the elevated levels of mental illness, addiction, suicides, traffic deaths and the unseen mental and physical defects to babies and future generations from the use of marijuana and other mind-altering drugs.  He adds, “America can never be great again if a major percentage of its young people are brain-damaged, mentally ill, addicted or dead.”​

*Cliff Kincaid is president of America’s Survival, Inc. www.usasurvival.org

01/18/20

The Not so Pure Comey Being Investigated AGAIN

By: Denise Simon | Founders Code

Voters would all be rich if we had a dollar for every leak, lie and scandal coming out of Washington, DC.

So, Comey is back in the news… he did a no, no.

Department of Justice prosecutors are reportedly investigating the possibility that former FBI director James Comey leaked a classified Russian intelligence document to the media during the Hillary Clinton email investigation, according to a Thursday report from the New York Times.

Per the Times, the investigation is centered around two 2017 articles from the Times and the Washington Post describing the Russian document, which played a key role in Comey’s unilateral decision to announce the FBI would not pursue charges against Clinton for using a private email server to conduct official business during her time as secretary of state.

The document, which was shared with the U.S. by Dutch intelligence, includes an analysis of an email exchange between Representative Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (D., Fla.), who was then chairing the Democratic National Committee, and Leonard Bernardo, an official with the Soros-backed non-profit Open Society Foundations. Wasserman-Schultz assures Bernardo in the email that then-attorney general Loretta Lynch will make sure Clinton wasn’t charged in the email probe.

Comey has long taken criticism for his handling of the Clinton investigation from Republicans and President Trump, who suggested in December that Comey could get jail time.

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Image result for comey leaks

Well now, the plot thickens with new names in the equation:

We cannot forget this little item either. Former FBI Director James Comey violated official policy in the way he handled his memos describing his exchanges with President Trump, an investigation concluded — but Comey won’t be charged. Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz conducted the investigation into Comey’s actions and then referred his results to prosecutors.

“After reviewing the matter, the DOJ declined prosecution.”

Investigators concluded that Comey broke several rules.

One involved the former director’s decision to arrange for a friend to disclose the contents of a memo to a New York Times reporter. Another involved Comey’s decision to keep memos at home and discuss them with his lawyers but not reveal to the FBI their contents or what he was doing.

***

In part from RedState: Now this new investigation involves leaks relating to two articles including one in the Washington Post and another in the NY Times (now we see why the spinning) about a Russian intelligence document, which the Times says was highly classified.

Now, this part is fascinating:

The document played a key role in Mr. Comey’s decision to sideline the Justice Department and announce in July 2016 that the F.B.I. would not recommend that Hillary Clinton face charges in her use of a private email server to conduct government business while secretary of state.

Wait, what? What would a Russian intelligence document have to do with Comey stepping in and taking the power away from the DOJ, which he could not properly do anyway? At the time, Comey implied in his reasoning that there was classified information with regard to Attorney General Loretta Lynch.

The document is mentioned in a book published last fall, “Deep State: Trump, the F.B.I., and the Rule of Law” by James B. Stewart, a Times reporter.

Here’s the money paragraph, hidden down in the story.

The latest investigation involves material that Dutch intelligence operatives siphoned off Russian computers and provided to the United States government. The information included a Russian analysis of what appeared to be an email exchange during the 2016 presidential campaign between Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Democrat of Florida who was also the chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee at the time, and Leonard Benardo, an official with the Open Society Foundations, a democracy-promoting organization whose founder, George Soros, has long been a target of the far right.

In the email, Ms. Wasserman Schultz suggested that then-Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch would make sure that Mrs. Clinton would not be prosecuted in the email case. Both Ms. Wasserman Schultz and Mr. Benardo have denied being in contact, suggesting the document was meant to be Russian disinformation.

That document was one of the key factors that drove Mr. Comey to hold a news conference in July 2016 announcing that investigators would recommend no charges against Mrs. Clinton. Typically, senior Justice Department officials would decide how to proceed in such a high-profile case, but Mr. Comey was concerned that if Ms. Lynch played a central role in deciding whether to charge Mrs. Clinton, Russia could leak the email.

Whoa, so strip everything away and what the document says is that Debbie Wasserman Schultz was guaranteeing that Lynch would get Hillary Clinton off.

So where is the investigation of this?

The Times does the best it can, suggesting it’s disinformation. They literally accuse Trump of trying to pressure the DOJ to investigate his enemies despite no such thing ever occurring.

But American officials at the time did not believe that Ms. Lynch would hinder the Clinton email investigation, and neither Ms. Wasserman Schultz nor Mr. Benardo had any inside information about it. Still, if the Russians had released the information after the inquiry was closed, it could have tainted the outcome, hurt public confidence in the Justice Department and sowed discord.

Prosecutors are also looking at whether Mr. Richman might have played a role in providing the information to reporters about the Russia document and how it figured into Mr. Comey’s rationale about the news conference, according to the people familiar with the investigation. Mr. Comey hired Mr. Richman at one point to consult for the F.B.I. about encryption and other complex legal issues, and investigators have expressed interest in how he operated.

Mr. Richman was quoted in the April 2017 article in The Times that revealed the document’s existence. A month later, The Post named Ms. Wasserman Schultz and Mr. Benardo as subjects of the document in a detailed article. A lawyer for Mr. Richman declined to comment.

This is going to be interesting to see it when the information ultimately comes out without the New York Times spin on it. But this is pretty huge.

01/16/20

Daily Gas Pump Prices are Based on the Strait of Hormuz

By: Denise Simon | Founders Code

Experts said Iranian officials are trying to demonstrate to the U.S. and its allies that the Islamic Republic is able to push back and gain leverage against the Trump administration’s “maximum pressure” policy, which intensified after President Trump pulled the U.S. out of the landmark nuclear deal in May 2018 and reimposed crippling sanctions, making it difficult for Iran to export oil, the foundation of the country’s economy.

China, Russia and leading Western European countries have sought ways around the U.S. sanctions, but it has been difficult to bypass them.

“The message that Iran is sending is that it is capable of making international waters unsafe not just for the U.S., but for international trade,” said Reza H. Akbari, a program manager and Iran expert at the Institute for War and Peace Reporting.

These are the reasons for oil tanker seizures and attacks by Iranian limpet mines.

Tensions between the West and Iran bubbled to a historic height in recent days after the assassination of top Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani and Tehran bombed two Iraqi bases that housed US troops.

They have sparked fears of wider US-Iran attacks in the greater region, which could take place in and around the Strait of Hormuz, a narrow body of water linking the Persian Gulf to the Gulf of Oman, which feeds into the Arabian Sea and the rest of the world.

strait of hormuz jan 2020

A satellite image of marine traffic passing through the Strait of Hormuz as on January 9, 2020. MarineTraffic.com

While Iran’s leaders claim to have “concluded” their revenge for Soleimani’s death — and President Donald Trump appears to believe them — many regional experts and diplomatic sources say Iran could unleash other modes of attack, which include unleashing allied militias to disrupt the Middle East.

One strategy could include Iran closing the Strait of Hormuz, which would stop oil tanker traffic, disrupt global oil supply, and send prices shooting up.

Here’s what you need to know about this valuable strait.

Some 21 million barrels of crude and refined oil pass through the strait every day, the EIA said, citing 2018 statistics.

That’s about one-third of the world’s sea-traded oil, or $1.2 billion worth of oil a day, at current oil prices. The majority of Saudi Arabia’s crude exports pass through the Strait of Hormuz, meaning much of the oil-dependent economy’s wealth is situated there. Saudi state-backed oil tanker Bahri temporarily suspended its shipments through the strait after Iran’s missile strikes in Iran, the Financial Times reported.

Last June Iran shot down a US drone flying near the strait, and a month later a US warship — USS Boxer — also shot down an Iranian drone in the same area.

Shortly after Iran’s drone attack, President Donald Trump questioned the US’ presence in the region, and called on China, Japan, and other countries to protect their own ships passing through the Strait of Hormuz.

Trump noted that much of China and Japan’s oil flow through the strait, and added: “So why are we protecting the shipping lanes for other countries (many years) for zero compensation.”

While a large proportion — 76% — of oil flowing through the chokepoint does end up in Asian countries, the US still imports more than 30 million barrels of oil a month from countries in the Middle East, Business Insider has reported, citing the EIA.

That’s about $1.7 billion worth of oil, and 10% of the US’s total oil imports per month.

Iranian leaders, who have also vowed retaliation for the death of Soleimani, have threatened to close down the strait multiple times in the past.

If Iran followed through with these threats, it would likely cause a huge disruption to the global oil trade. As the strait is so narrow, any sort of interference in tanker traffic could decrease the world’s oil supply, and send prices shooting up.

Global oil prices have proven vulnerable to tensions between Iran and the West before. After the Trump administration said in April 2019 it would stop providing sanctions waivers to countries who purchase Iranian oil, prices rose to their highest level since November the year before, Axios reported.

How likely is Iran to shut down the strait?

Iran is more likely to disrupt traffic in the Strait of Hormuz than to engage in an all-out conventional war with the US, which is much stronger militarily.

But doing so comes with high costs to Iran.

To close down the entire strait, Iran would have to place at least 1,000 mines with submarines and surface craft along the chokepoint, security researcher Caitlin Talmadge posited in a 2009 MIT study. Such an effort could take weeks, the study added. (taken in part from here)

01/16/20

U.S. Killed AQ Leader in a Taliban Stronghold

By: Denise Simon | Founders Code

Asim Umar (1974/1976 – 23 September 2019) was an Indian militant and the leader of alQaeda in the Indian Subcontinent. AlQaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri announced the creation of AQIS and introduced Asim Umar as its leader in a video posted online in September 2014.

Though the Taliban or al-Qaeda has not given an official confirmation of their own, the Afghan government has released pictures and confirmed his death alongside six other AQIS operatives in a joint U.S.-Afghan operation (Al Jazeera, October 8).

Umar was killed in an Afghan Taliban hideout in Musa Qila district, a known Taliban stronghold in Helmand province. The circumstances are indicative of long-running Afghan Taliban and al-Qaeda ties and their collaboration in the Afghan insurgency. The idea that the Taliban would deny a safe haven to foreign fighters in Afghanistan after reaching a peace deal with the United States, as was suggested during negotiations, has been proven unlikely following Umar’s discovery in Taliban-held territory. More details here.

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The U.S. Department of Defense suppressed a press release that would have announced the death of Asim Umar, the emir of Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent, because it “would complicate future negotiations with the Taliban,” military officials have told FDD’s Long War Journal.

The U.S. military killed Umar in the Taliban stronghold of Musa Qala in Helmand province, Afghanistan on Sept. 23, 2019. Umar was killed just two weeks after President Donald Trump canceled a possible deal between the U.S. and the Taliban. As part of that accord, the U.S. was willing to accept the Taliban’s supposed counterterrorism assurances.

The Sept. 23 raid exposed the ongoing ties between the Taliban and al Qaeda’s branch in South Asia. Among the 17 people killed was Haji Mahmood, the Taliban’s military commander for the neighboring district of Naw Zad, which is also controlled by the Taliban.

Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation, has claimed throughout “peace” negotiations that the Taliban would sever ties with al Qaeda. But Umar’s presence with the Taliban cast further doubt Khalilzad’s claim that the Taliban is truly willing to split with its longtime battlefield allies.

Umar was not the only al Qaeda operative killed in the raid. Raihan, Umar’s courier to Zawahiri; Faizani, the AQIS chief for Helmand and an ‘explosives expert;’ and Madani, Faizani’s deputy, also perished during the raid, which including intense airstrikes that killed more than a dozen civilians.

Umar’s wife was identified as one of six Pakistani women detained during the operation. Fourteen other “terrorists” were also captured, according to Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security.

The NDS confirmed Umar’s death on Oct. 8, 2019, and released photographs of Umar, both dead and alive. AQIS itself had previously obscured images of Umar, likely due to its concerns over operational security.

Al Qaeda and AQIS have not released a martyrdom statement confirming his death, but have not denied that he was killed. The Taliban, which has a vested interest in hiding its ties with al Qaeda (although it occasionally slips up) called the reports of his death “a part of enemy fabricated propaganda.”

Umar’s presence with the Taliban was “inconvenient”

The U.S. military was aware of Umar’s death and the Department of Defense was prepared to announce it a week after the statement by the NDS, military officials and officers who are familiar with the events told FDD’s Long War Journal on condition of anonymity.

A press release announcing Umar’s death was drafted and currently resides at the Office of the Secretary of Defense, military officials have confirmed. Yet, three months after OSD drafted the press release, it remains hidden from the public.

FDD’s Long War Journal has contacted the OSD several times over the past three months requesting comment on the press release, but has not received a response.

The U.S. military has suppressed the report of Umar’s death as “his presence with the Taliban during the late stage of talks would complicate future negotiations with the Taliban,” one defense official said.

“Asim Umar, his staff, his courier to [Al Qaeda emir Ayman] Zawahiri, and even his wife, were embedded with the Taliban, in the Taliban’s heartland,” a military officer said. “When you want to sell a split between the Taliban and Al Qaeda, these facts become inconvenient.”

01/16/20

Putin to Lead Russia for Life?

By: Denise Simon | Founders Code

In his annual state-of-the-nation speech on Wednesday, President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia shook up the country and its political class by calling for constitutional changes that would give him a new path to holding onto power after his current — and, in theory, last — term ends in 2024.

With that, the entire cabinet, led by a long-serving Putin ally, Prime Minister Dmitri A. Medvedev, abruptly resigned. The head of the Federal Tax Service, Mikhail V. Mishustin — a little-known but skilled technocrat — will become the next prime minister.

The spate of moves offers some clues about Mr. Putin’s plans and priorities, but also raises questions about what may lie ahead for the Russian president. Here are the answers to some of them.

Mr. Putin with Prime Minister Dmitry A. Medvedev last year.

Mr. Putin with Prime Minister Dmitry A. Medvedev last year. Credit…Yuri Kochetkov/EPA, via Shutterstock.

What is Putin doing?

Mr. Putin’s hold on power in Russia is unrivaled, built up over the last 20 years in his posts as president and prime minister.

But Russia’s Constitution bars a president from serving more than two consecutive terms. To maintain his grip on power, as he has hinted he intends to do, Mr. Putin needs to find a way to engineer a leadership transition that will allow that to happen.

To that end, it appears, he has proposed changes to the Constitution that would weaken the presidency while increasing the sway of the Parliament and the prime minister.

He said, for example, that the president should in the future be required to accept the prime minister’s cabinet appointments. This and other changes could give Mr. Putin more leeway to find a position in which he can maintain power without violating the Constitution.

What position will he hold?

That’s not entirely clear.

Mr. Putin could become prime minister again, taking advantage of the position’s expanded influence. Alternatively, some analysts have pointed to a leadership maneuver engineered by Nursultan Nazarbayev, the longtime president of Kazakhstan, another former Soviet republic.

In 2018, Mr. Nazarbayev increased the power of Kazakhstan’s Security Council and made himself its chairman for life. When he resigned from the presidency last year in favor of a handpicked successor, his position at the helm of the Security Council allowed him to hold on to key levers of power.

On Wednesday, offering few details, Mr. Putin dangled the possibility of a similar move in Russia. The State Council — currently an advisory body made up of the governors of Russia’s regions — should have its “status and role” fixed in the Constitution, he said.

That quickly raised speculation among Russian political analysts that a revamped State Council could become a vehicle for Mr. Putin to maintain power if he relinquishes the presidency, particularly over the military and foreign policy.

Why doesn’t he just seize power?

Despite Mr. Putin’s immense sway, he’d be taking a risk if he simply declared himself president for life.

Mr. Putin served two consecutive presidential terms from 2000 to 2008 and then became prime minister. His announcement in 2011 that he would seek the presidency again, followed by parliamentary elections widely seen as rigged, helped trigger Russia’s biggest street protests since the 1990s.

This time around, Mr. Putin looks determined to orchestrate his next move in a slow-motion fashion that’s less likely to produce a backlash. The changes to the Constitution he called for give him several options to hold on to power — while affording him as much as four years’ time to set his course.

Is he really worried about public opinion?

“Our society is clearly calling for change,” Mr. Putin said at the beginning of his speech on Wednesday.

Indeed, over the last year, Russia has seen its most vigorous street protests since the anti-Putin rallies of 2011 and 2012.

Polls show that Russians increasingly distrust pro-Kremlin TV channels and are getting their news on the Internet, which remains largely uncensored.

And the Kremlin’s appeal to patriotism — so effective after Mr. Putin’s annexation of the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea in 2014 — has lost its visceral power, overshadowed by Russia’s economic problems.

All of this means that the Kremlin is likely to portray the resignation on Wednesday of Mr. Medvedev and every cabinet minister as a sign that Mr. Putin has heard Russians’ demand for change.

While Russians do increasingly blame Mr. Putin for their ills, many more blame the bureaucrats below him. Mr. Putin’s approval rating has fallen to 68 percent from 82 percent in April 2018, an independent pollster, Levada, says. But Mr. Medvedev is in far worse shape, with an approval rating of 38 percent.

What about his new prime minister?

Mr. Putin’s choice of Mr. Mishustin seems to reflect his concerns about Russia’s declining standard of living, which has contributed to the spasms of unrest over the last year.

Mr. Mishustin is widely seen as one of Russia’s most effective technocrats. He has headed Russia’s Federal Tax Service since 2010, modernizing a notoriously ineffective and corrupt tax-collecting system. The Financial Times dubbed the computerized, real-time approach to taxation he developed as “the taxman of the future.”

In his early years as president, Mr. Putin built his popularity on soaring living standards, which coincided with a period of rising oil prices. But with lower oil prices and Western sanctions, those steady improvements are now a thing of the past. Disposable incomes are still effectively below what they were in 2013.

Mr. Putin also used his state-of-the-nation speech to make a raft of pledges to improve Russians’ daily lives. For example: free hot meals for all elementary school students from grades one through four.

Unlike Russia’s more prominent economic reformers, the 53-year-old Mr. Mishustin has no political base of his own, reducing the likelihood that he might use the powers of his new office to chip away at Mr. Putin’s authority.

Could he be loosening his grip?

Not at all.

In theory, at least, Russia’s system of governance echoes that of France — a powerful presidency checked by an independent judiciary, by parliament and by a cabinet of ministers headed by a prime minister with his own locus of authority.

But Mr. Putin has steadily subsumed the authority of all those institutions, often justifying crackdowns on political pluralism as necessary in the face of external threats. He reprised that language in his speech on Wednesday, signaling that no political thaw is in the offing.

“Russia can be and can remain Russia only as a sovereign state,” he said.

That was an allusion to Mr. Putin’s frequent charge the West is fomenting political opposition to undermine Russian sovereignty.

To drive home the point, Mr. Putin proposed a constitutional amendment that offered the day’s clearest statement of how he views his successor: Russia’s future president, Mr. Putin said, may not ever have had citizenship or permanent residency in another country.

01/16/20

Trump Signs the Caesar Act into Law

By: Denise Simon | Founders Code

America has a short memory yet war atrocities continue in Syria. For those that were very skeptical about the use of chemical weapons used in Syria by the Assad regime, here is the truth. Meanwhile. the Assad regime remains in power due to assistance from Russia and Qassim Soleimani was the wartime, military advisor to Assad.

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He was once a military photographer in Syria. For two years, he took pictures of the emaciated and mangled corpses left behind by Bashar al Assad’s interrogators. Then he fled to Europe with 55,000 digital images on flash drives hidden in his shoes.

Even members of Congress know him only as Caesar. When he spoke to them for the first time in 2014, he wore sunglasses and a bright blue windbreaker with the hood pulled over his head. No one recorded his voice or took pictures of his face. The Assad regime would assassinate him if it could.

Image result for caesar's photos of syria

Two days after Christmas, President Trump signed into law the Caesar Act, a tribute to the man whose photographs have proven the war crimes of the Assad regime beyond the shadow of a doubt. When the FBI’s Digital Evidence Laboratory examined Caesar’s work, it found no signs of manipulation.

The bodies in Caesar’s images bear a striking resemblance to the ones in photographs of concentration camps liberated from the Nazis. Fittingly, the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum has had a selection of Caesar’s images on display since 2015.

The purpose of the Caesar Act is to put unprecedented economic pressure on the Assad regime. The United States and European Union put some tough sanctions on Mr. Assad and his henchmen in the early days of the war in Syria, but enforcement has been partial.

Whereas existing U.S. sanctions prohibit Americans from doing business with the Assad regime, the Caesar Act authorizes sanctions on the citizens of any country who work with Mr. Assad. The act specifically targets the Iranian militias and Russian mercenaries that have kept the Syrian dictator in power.

Although Moscow and Tehran have secured Mr. Assad’s grip on Damascus and other major cities, the war in Syria is far from over. An estimated 3 million Syrians are now crowded into the northwestern province of Idlib, which remains under the control of a variety of rebel forces, including extremists with ties to al Qaeda. As usual, Mr. Assad and his allies are targeting civilians, not terrorists. Hospitals are especially popular targets.

Thus, the Caesar Act still serves a pressing need. Economic pressure is one of the few means of holding war criminals to account for their actions. Sanctions alone will not bring down the Assad regime, but in concert with diplomatic and military pressure they should be part of any sound strategy.

On Twitter, Mr. Trump has made very clear that his administration is on the side of the Iranian people against their tyrannical regime. He should be equally clear in his support for the people of Syria. One can certainly object that Mr. Trump’s concern for human rights is selective, yet when the president of the United States speaks, the world pays attention. When the world is watching, war criminals hesitate.

The United States is not at war with Mr. Assad, but a U.S.-led coalition now controls about a fourth of Syria, which was formerly part of the ISIS caliphate. Twice now, Mr. Trump has ordered the withdrawal of U.S. troops only to reverse himself under intense pressure from Republicans in Congress. This wavering only emboldens Mr. Assad, who wants to take back the resource-rich areas under the coalition’s control.

In terms of economic pressure, aggressive enforcement of the Caesar Act should be the first priority. Syria remains dependent on illicit shipments of Iranian oil. The Treasury Department has become more aggressive in its pursuit of sanctions evaders, but tankers of Iranian oil are still getting through.

With Russian help, Syria is also trying to revive its phosphate industry, which generated more than $100 million per year of export revenue before the war. Reportedly, Lebanese companies are buying the phosphates before reselling them abroad, likely after processing the raw material into crop fertilizer.

One entity beyond the reach of the Caesar Act is the United Nations, whose humanitarian agencies have been so deferential to the Assad regime that their aid has effectively become a subsidy for Mr. Assad’s war effort. Independent human rights organizations have produced lengthy reports on this travesty year after year, but donor states have not demanded accountability.

This is one area where further congressional action could make a difference. If there is a second Caesar Act, it should condition U.S. funding for U.N. humanitarian work on verifiable reforms. European governments should impose similar conditions.

Caesar demonstrated extraordinary courage by patiently collecting evidence of Mr. Assad’s war crimes. He saw his friends and neighbors among the dead, but he could say nothing. Had his superiors discovered his plans, his corpse would have been the next one in a photograph.

What Caesar deserves is not just a law, but a sustained American commitment to human rights in Syria.

*** From Human Rights Watch: The 86-page report, “If the Dead Could Speak: Mass Deaths and Torture in Syria’s Detention Facilities,” lays out new evidence regarding the authenticity of what is known as the Caesar photographs, which identify a number of the victims and highlights some of the key causes of death.

01/16/20

Can Hedge Funds Topple Trump?

By: Cliff Kincaid

President Donald J. Trump has a good conservative record, especially in regard to the courts, and he has strengthened the Armed Forces. His rallies are packed with supporters. But as we enter 2020, even some conservative Republicans in Congress seem scared to death. Debt is piling up and the Federal Reserve is propping up the economy through emergency loans. Some are asking: can hedge funds crash the economy?

George Soros isn’t the only donor to the Democratic Party who ran a hedge fund. A Democratic presidential candidate, San Francisco billionaire Tom Steyer, is a hedge fund manager who reportedly ran an offshore company advertised as a tax shelter.  One of the Democratic Party’s top donors, his fund invested in fossil fuel projects but he is now running on the dangers of “climate change” caused by fossil fuels.

Hedge funds can cause an economic downturn by targeting companies, countries, and currencies with short selling strategies.

With the debt and deficits high, such a threat is real. Conservative Republican Rep. Chip Roy refused to vote for the new $1.4 trillion spending bill, a “compromise” with House Speaker Pelosi and the Democrats, saying, “This bill borrows, and it borrows at a time when we can’t afford to borrow another penny. Our nation is $23 trillion in debt, now racking up more than $100 million of debt per hour.”

As part of the deal with the Democrats, Trump agreed to demands for paid maternity and family leave for 2.1 million federal workers, and his daughter Ivanka is pushing a similar nanny-state program for the nation as a whole, which could cost hundreds of billions of dollars. The Eagle Forum group founded by the late Phyllis Schlafly, a Trump supporter, called these plans a form of federal baby-sitting.

Always eager to up the ante, we can expect liberal politicians to propose legislation to guarantee paid vacations and holidays, in addition to debt relief and student loan forgiveness.

“In many ways,” says Frank Lasée, President of the Heartland Institute, “America is at a crossroads. Will our nation embrace a European-style welfare state, complete with cradle-to-grave entitlements and the taxes that go with them? Or will Americans demand more freedom in the form of fewer taxes, more school choice, and less oversight from Washington, D.C. bureaucrats? I am hopeful the latter will triumph.”

He cites the dangers in the Green New Deal and the Medicare for All plans. Another danger was documented in the book Wizards of Wall Street by businessman Zubi Diamond. An African immigrant who came to America and became a successful businessman, Diamond says that George Soros and other hedge fund short sellers can undermine nations, their economies and currencies, and the global financial system as a whole.

While Trump recognizes the socialist menace, the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget estimates that since his inauguration in January of 2017, Trump has signed legislation into law that will ultimately add $4.1 trillion to the national debt from 2017 to 2029. Setting a record, the Department of the Treasury reports that the federal government spent a record $1,163,090,000,000 in the first three months of fiscal 2020.

Meanwhile, the Federal Reserve is intervening with tens of billions of dollars in bailouts in an “interbank lending liquidity crisis.” Is this traceable to hedge fund speculators and currency manipulators betting behind-the-scenes on the decline of the U.S. economy?

To stave off this possibility, Trump has signed a “phase-one” trade deal with Communist China, promising relief for America’s farmers and manufacturers. In addition, the Trump Administration is preparing a new tax cut proposal.

In another move, Trump bowed to Pelosi and Big Labor in securing passage of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement on trade by inserting pro-United Nations elements into the pact. As a result, the USMCA establishes a regional North American bureaucracy, under the auspices of the U.N.’s International Labor Organization, to manipulate and enforce labor standards between the three countries.  The deal undermines Trump’s proclaimed opposition to globalism and enables the Democrats to claim they improved the agreement to benefit workers.

The good news is that Congressman Mike Rogers (R-Ala.) has reintroduced his bill, H.R. 204, the American Sovereignty Restoration Act, to halt all involvement of the United States with the United Nations. Trump could endorse the bill and rally conservatives behind it.

While the economy is strong, Trump’s social and cultural agenda has achieved mixed results.

On abortion, Trump has pleased conservative Christians. During the campaign Trump posted an eloquent 600-word statement that notes that he did not always hold the pro-life position, “but I had a significant personal experience that brought the precious gift of life into perspective for me.” He previously had said that “what happened is friends of mine years ago were going to have a child, and it was going to be aborted. And it wasn’t aborted. And that child today is a total superstar, a great, great child.”

This kind of conversion is desperately needed on homosexual rights. Trump Ambassador Richard Grenell led an embarrassing effort at the U.N. to force Christian nations into accepting homosexual rights.  It’s only a matter of time before conservative Christians take note of what Grenell is doing in the name of Trump. They won’t be happy.

At the same time, many members of the old “Just Say No” anti-drug Reagan coalition are increasingly frustrated by the Trump Administration’s failure to take action against Big Marijuana and the phony claims from the related “hemp” industry about the supposed medical benefits of CBD.

A petition asks Senator Mike Crapo, chairman of the U.S. Senate Banking Committee, to continue his valiant effort to stop the marijuana industry from getting access to the national banking system in order to launder its profits.

With the “progressives” taking advantage of every opportunity to broaden their anti-Trump coalition, including through an orchestrated impeachment campaign, the Trump Administration has some golden opportunities to reassemble powerful elements of the old Reagan Coalition.

From the perspective of the Trump campaign, a possible economic downturn, brought on by hedge fund short-sellers, should make expanding the base a matter of utmost urgency.

*Cliff Kincaid is president of America’s Survival, Inc. www.usasurvival.org