Danes Furious After Immigration Minister Says Migrants “Cheat, Lie And Abuse”

In an editorial that has drawn the fury of progressives in Denmark, possibly the most conservative of the Nordic states, the country’s immigration minister said “a significant group” of refugees “cheats, lies and abuses our trust” to soak the Danish government for additional benefits – or to cheat on exams that allow them to receive asylum status.

Inger Stojberg

According to Inger Stojberg’s editorial, which was published in the Danish BT tabloid, thousands of migrants pose as adolescents to receive the additional benefits that the state of Denmark bestows on unaccompanied minors seeking asylum in the country. In fact, as many as two-thirds of the refugees admitted to Denmark have later been found to be older than the age they gave during their arrival. More from RT (translation theirs):

Another problem that Stojberg highlighted is the age of so-called minors among migrants, many of whom are believed to be grown men posing as adolescents. “We also see young people under the age of 18 who cheat their way into getting better treatment and more benefits,” she stated, stressing that an unaccompanied minor costs over 500,000 kroner ($80,000) per year for the state. “In fact, two thirds of those whom we later age-tested proved to be older than they originally stated,” she added.

Stojberg also cited Facebook Groups found online where refugees share answers to Danish language and culture tests that every migrant entering Denmark must take.

Denmark

However, rather than inciting popular demand to have these loopholes closed once and for all, Stojberg’s editorial, which she also posted on her Facebook page, has triggered a backlash, with Danish citizens accusing her of “cheating” the Danish people by spreading lies and hate.

Stojberg’s remarks, which she also posted on her Facebook page, have caused an online controversy, with people saying that it is the Danish immigration minister who “cheats and abuses the Danish people’s trust.”

“You are a sad example of Denmark’s idea and understanding of integration,” one person wrote, while another stated that Stojberg’s rhetoric criminalizes people “who happen to come from another country and are on the run.”

That said, the government’s immigration curbing policies are working: according to government data, more than 3,000 people applied for asylum in Denmark last year – a steep drop from the spring of 2016, when numbers were near their peak. Over the past three years, the country has taken in some 30,000 refugees, mostly Syrians, Eritreans and Afghans.

Here Are The “Missing” Strzok-Page Texts The DOJ Handed Over To Congress

The Justice department has finally produced 49 pages comprising around 300 previously “missing” text messages sent between two anti-Trump FBI employees in charge of investigating him. The messages, sent between FBI special agent Peter Strzok and FBI counsel Lisa Page, who were also having an extramarital affair together, span the period between December 16, 2016 and May 23, 2017.

As the Daily Caller reports, many of the messages are in shorthand and out of context. Congressional investigators will be sifting through them and piecing them together with previously released text messages to see if there is further evidence of political bias from two people acting in roles which required the utmost impartiality.

 

Interestingly, one of the text messages refers to opening “a case we’ve been waiting on” and doing it “now while Andy is acting.” 

Another text shows Strzok’s concern over former Director of National Intelligence (DNI) and FBI employee Sally Yates all playing into the “there should be an unmasking request/record” for incidental collection incorrect narrative.”

Independent investigator George Webb (Sweigert), who is notably suing Andrew McCabe, Hillary Clinton, Fusion GPS, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Huma Abedin, Anthony Weiner, the Awan family and John Podesta – notes that there are only two texts per day in today’s release, vs. 12 texts per day in prior releases – implying that the DOJ is withholding texts. 

Strzok notably spearheaded the Clinton email investigation with Page’s help, while the pair also headed up the FBI’s original counterintelligence investigation into Donald Trump’s alleged relationship with Russia surrounding the 2016 US election. 

Knowledge of the missing texts was revealed in a January letter from Ron Johnson (R-WI), Chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee (HSGAC) – after the Committee received an additional 384 pages of text messages between Strzok and Page, several of which contained anti-Trump / pro-Clinton bias. The new DOJ submission included a cover letter from the Assistant AG for Legislative Affairs, Stephen Boyd, claiming that the FBI was unable to preserve text messages between the two agents for a five month period between December 14, 2016 and May 17, 2017 – due to “misconfiguration issues” with FBI-issued Samsung 5 devices used by Strzok and Page (despite over 10,000 texts which were recovered from their devices without incident).

The original explanation by the DOJ for the missing texts was “misconfiguration issues related to rollouts, provisioning, and software upgrades that conflicted with the FBI’s collection capabilities.

A group of House GOP issued a criminal referral to the DOJ, writing a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Attorney John Huber, and FBI Director Christopher Wray – asking them to investigate Strzok and Page, along with former FBI Director James Comey, Hillary Clinton and others, for a laundry list of potential crimes surrounding the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

In regards to Strzok and Page, the referral reads: 

  • We raise concerns regarding their interference in the Hillary Clinton investigation regarding her use of a personal email server.” 
  • Referring to a Wall Street Journal article from January 22, 2018 – “The report provides the following alarming specifics, among others: “Mr. Strzok texts Ms. Page to tell her that, in fact, senior officials had decided to water down the reference to President Obama to ‘another senior government official.” By the time Mr. Comey gave his public statement on July 5, both references – to Mr. Obama and to “another senior government official” had disappeared.” 

 The pair are recommended for criminal charges of obstruction and corruption. 

 

“No Attacks, No Victims”: Syria Chemical Attack Video Participants Speak At OPCW Briefing

Russian officials brought fifteen people to The Hague from the city of Douma, Syria, said to have been present during the alleged April 7 chemical attack – including  11-year-old Hassan Diab, who was seen in a widely-distributed video taken by the controversian NGO organization known as the “White Helmets,” who filmed themselves giving Diab “emergency treatment” after the alleged incident. 

“We were at the basement and we heard people shouting that we needed to go to a hospital. We went through a tunnel. At the hospital they started pouring cold water on me,” said Diab, who was featured in the video which Russia’s ambassador to the Netherlands says was staged.

The boy and his family have spoken to various media outlets, who say there was no attack. 

Others present during the filming of Diab’s hospital “cleanup” by the White Helmets include hospital administrator Ahmad Kashoi, who runs the emergency ward. 

There were people unknown to us who were filming the emergency care, they were filming the chaos taking place inside, and were filming people being doused with water. The instruments they used to douse them with water were originally used to clean the floors actually,” Ahmad Kashoi, an administrator of the emergency ward, recalled. “That happened for about an hour, we provided help to them and sent them home. No one has died. No one suffered from chemical exposure.” –RT

Also speaking at The Hague was Halil al-Jaish, an emergency worker who treated people at the Douma hospital the day of the attack – who said that while some patients did come in for respiratory problems, they were attributed to heavy dust, present in the air after recent airstrikes, but that nobody showed signs of chemical warfare poisoning.

The hospital received people who suffered from smoke and dust asphyxiation on the day of the alleged attack, Muwaffak Nasrim, a paramedic who was working in emergency care, said. The panic seen in footage provided by the White Helmets was caused mainly by people shouting about the alleged use of chemical weapons, Nasrim, who witnessed the chaotic scenes, added. No patients, however, displayed symptoms of chemical weapons exposure, he said. –RT

Emergency paramedic Ahmad Saur who is with the Syrian Red Crescent, said that his hospital ward did not receive any patients exposed to chemical weapons the day of the alleged incident, and that all the patients either needed general medical care or help with injuries. 

That said, none of these people’s testimony will make it into the “official record” as it currently stands. Russia’s permanent representative to the OPCW, Aleksandr Shulgin, said that the OPCW has already interviewed six alleged Douma witnesses brought to The Hague , and they won’t interview any more. 

The others were ready too, but the experts are sticking to their own guidelines. They’ve picked six people, talked to them, and said they were ‘completely satisfied’ with their account and did not have any further questions”  -Aleksandr Shulgin

Shulgin also said that “certain Western countries” accusing Russia and Syria of trying to “hide” witnesses to the attack is not true. 

Meanwhile, the West – unhappy with this unexpected diversion to its narrative – has called the Russian press conference a “stunt” – with Britain and France both denouncing it as an “obscene masquerade.”

This obscene masquerade does not come as a surprise from the Syrian government, which has massacred and gassed its own people for the last seven years,” said France’s ambassador to the Netherlands, Philippe Lalliot.

“The OPCW is not a theatre,” Britain’s envoy to the agency, Peter Wilson, said in a statement. “Russia’s decision to misuse it is yet another Russian attempt to undermine the OPCW’s work, and in particular the work of its fact-finding mission investigating chemical weapons use in Syria.”

In other words, the West is happy to bomb a sovereign nation based on nothing more than non-public “evidence” suspected to have been staged and provided by the White Helmets, but when actual residents of Douma show up to tell their side of it, they are condemned as an “obscene masquerade” and denied an opportunity to submit their testimony on the record. Sounds about right for the military industrial complex which if nothing else scored a few extra billion in procurement contracts thanks to the latest farcical attack on Syria.

Amazon Admits Hackers Could Turn Echo Speakers Into Listening Devices

One month ago, a wide swath of the US population – most of which is a card-carrying member of the Amazon Prime collective – freaked out when news spread that that Alexa-enabled gadgets would utter an unprovoked “bone-chillingly creepy” cackle or “sinister laugh.”

Shortly after, Amazon confirmed that Alexa was indeed laughing out of the blue, and promptly fixed whatever glitch was plaguing the matrix at the time.

Yet while bizarre and sinister, the incidents were largely innocuous.

That however was not the case with the latest bug uncovered in Amazon’s Echo which allowed hackers to listen in to the speaker, a privilege which until recently, most speculated was only granted to Amazon… and the NSA of course.

Amazon Echo speakers

According to The Telegraph, researchers had found way to make the the Echo Speakers continue listening long after they should have been switched off. Amazon countered that this would not allow the recordings to be passed to hackers, but would have stayed with Amazon itself.

The way the Amazon Echo speakers work is they listen for the word “Alexa” before completing a command, like “Alexa, read tell me today’s news”. Any interaction with Alexa is recorded to improve the service, but once the command is finished, Alexa stops recording. At least on paper, because security researchers from Checkmarx developed an Alexa Skill that would keep Alexa listening long after it should have switched itself off and automatically transcribe what it hears for an attacker.

When an Alexa skill completes its task it is supposed to stop listening. However, sometimes Alexa doesn’t hear a command correctly, which will lead the Echo to ask for the user to repeat it. This “re-prompt” feature could be exploited, the researchers found, and be programmed to carry on listening, while muting Alexa’s responses.

“For the Echo… listening is key,” Checkmarx said. “However, with this device’s rise in popularity, one of today’s biggest fears in connection to such devices is privacy. Especially when it comes to a user’s fear of being unknowingly recorded.”

The good news: Amazon has since addressed the flaw to better detect Skills which appear to be built for listening to users and automatically detecting long listening sessions by an Echo. Manipulating the Echo didn’t actually require any attacks on the Echo itself, only a Skill coded to exploit its current features.

We have put mitigations in place for detecting this type of Skill behavior and reject or suppress those Skills when we do,” Amazon said.

The bad news: if others can do it, so can Amazon, and so can all other agencies, governmental or not, which Jeff Bezos is closely aligned with. And if Americans freaked out when they learned that Facebook collects all their private information – something that should have been obvious to 5-year-olds – we can’t wait for the Congressional hearings in 2-4 years when the Kangaroo Court will have Jeff Bezos in the hot seat explaining how and why he wired tens of millions of Americans with 24/7 surveillance, something not even the NSA has been able to do.

This Is The Military “Batmobile” That May Soon Be Protecting The US Border

It might look like a golf cart from a distance, but “nothing this light and agile ever offered so much protection for a 3-man crew.” At least, that’s how Israeli company Plasan is marketing its new Yagu “battle buggy”, which features lightweight armor that can withstand concentrated automatic-weapons fire without slowing down.

As the Drive reports, the company is pitching the design, called the Yagu, as a tool for border patrol or local law enforcement. But Plasan explains that the vehicle could also be used for military excursions and special operations, offering a better protected, lightweight vehicle.

Golfcart

The buggy, which Plasan is calling the Yagu, can also be outfitted with “optional” features that would essentially transform it into the world’s most lightweight tank.

But many of the Yagu’s other optional features point to its potential utility in military missions, as well. At its core, the buggy is a modified Arctic Cat Wildcat 4x 1000 all-terrain vehicle. It uses the same 95-horsepower engine and automatic transmission, which has the same ability to switch between two and four-wheel drive modes, as the Wildcat.

On top of that, though, Plasan, a specialized in vehicle armoring and composites, has added a new lightweight armored shell with bullet-resistant front and side windows. The company says this provides B6+ level protection on all sides for the crew of three, though an auxiliary power unit and air conditioning system are both exposed at the rear.

A European standard, B6 type armor can stop many high-powered rifle rounds, such as the NATO-standard 5.56x45mm and the ever popular Soviet-era 7.62x39mm. The “+” suggests that Plasan’s protective suite should be able to defeat more powerful cartridges, such as the NATO 7.62x51mm and the Soviet-designed 7.62x54mmR, but only if they don’t have special armor-piercing bullets.

In the past, achieving the level of protection available on the Yagu required installing ballistic steel at least a third of an inch in thickness. But by designing a special composite material, Plasan has achieved this level of protection with a curb weight of just over 3,300 pounds, making it lighter than the General Dynamics Flyer 72.

Further rounding out the “optional” features, Plasan is also offering a drone launching system and remote weapons system, which are both options that Plasan has heavily emphasized in the marketing literature.

Golf

The vehicle comes equipped with flashing lights for police enforcement activities, though electro-optical or infrared cameras and other sensors could be installed as well. The remote weapons system can accommodate either a 5.56x45mm Israel Weapon Industries Negev squad automatic weapon or a 7.62x51mm FN MAG-type light machine gun. Meanwhile, the unmanned aircraft, a small quad-copter type design, can fly for 30 minutes at a time.

The vehicle, according to Plasan’s marketing materials, is particularly well suited to patrol border territories threatened by increasingly well-armed and organized criminal gangs, conditions that exist both in Israel and the US.

Three

One reason Plasan pursued the development of the Yagu is that the US military had expressed displeasure with the MRZR, a glorified armored golf cart, which military leaders said offered too little protection and had “limited utility” for combat missions.

“I’m sure they use it a lot in noncombat advisory roles in Africa,” an anonymous Marine told Marine Corps Times. “[But] getting a foot outside the wire in Iraq took an act of God, so tactical golf carts wouldn’t cut it.”

Given this fact, it’s likely Plasan will find an eager customer in the US military – though the Yagu is still vulnerable to heavy weapons fire.

Plasan could easily pitch Yagu to the U.S. military, as well as other military and para-military organizations, as an alternative to MRZRs or similar unarmored all-terrain vehicles. Its new design could also provide a more practical option for missions requiring a more robust internally-transportable vehicle that is easier to load on and off helicopters and Ospreys than the Flyer 72. This could be even more of an issue if the added weight of new weapon mounts and armor weigh those vehicles down and make them harder to transport and less mobile over certain terrain.

Of course, Yagu still lacks the kind of protection necessary to survive against an enemy with heavy weapons, such as large-caliber machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades, and would almost certainly suffer badly at the hands of roadside bombs. Additional lightweight protective suites, such as high-tensile netting that can deflect or pre-detonate incoming anti-tank rockets, or small active protection systems, might help mitigate some of those issues, but at the cost of added weight and bulk.

With its “Batmobile”-like appearance, the Yagu’s science-fiction appeal could boost its sales. After all, the $1.3 trillion omnibus spending bill that President Trump just passed features an unprecedented increase in military spending.

So in terms of being a sales-slam dunk, well, Plasan probably couldn’t have picked a better time to introduce the vehicle.

The Crash Of 1929: “Can It Happen Again?”

Submitted by GnS Economics

In the 4th of February, we published a blog entry detailing the similarities of the current stock market environment with that before the stock market crash in 1987. On February 5th, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) experienced the worst daily point decline of its history. Since then, the stock market has recovered, but are we out of the woods?

At the aforementioned entry, we also warned that the situation in the global economy actually resembles more of the time before the Great Depression than that before of the Black Monday in 1987. Worryingly, the same holds for the US equity markets. In fact, almost all of the developments that led to the Great Crash of 1929 are already visible in the US. We may thus be heading towards the worst asset market crash in 90 years.

Prequisites: The ‘Roaring Twenties’

The 1929 crash marked the end of the ‘Roaring Twenties’. The era got its name from consumer and stock market booms driven by the automobile and building sectors. The gold standard and the neutralization of all gold purchases from abroad by the newly created central bank, Federal Reserve or Fed, controlled the consumer price inflation. Due to low inflation, Fed had only limited incentives to intervene on the speculation by increasing the short-term interest rates. The easy credit era was let to persist fueling the boom in the consumer durables, commercial property market, automobile industry and the stock markets.

The tide switched in January 1928. The Fed decided that the boom had gone far enough and started to raise its discount rate and sell its holdings of government securities in effort to stem the speculation. But, rising money market rates made the brokers’ loans viable options for the bank loans because the former were mostly funded by the large balance sheets of corporations. The call loan rates were also clearly higher than the Fed discount rate, which meant that banks were able to borrow cheaply from the Fed and earn a nice margin on loans to investors. The higher interest rates set by Fed thus increased both the bank and non-bank funds available for stock market speculation. Contrary to the aim of the Fed, the financial conditions eased further and the speculation increased. The twenties kept on roaring.

The Great Crash

In 4 December 1928, President Coolidge had given a reassuring State of the Union speech and 1929 started with positive expectations. The stock market kept rising and the consumer boom continued. It was a common belief that earnings and dividends are growing because of the systematic industrial application of the science together with the development of modern management technologies and business mergers. Still, the first half of 1929 was marked with increasing volatility.

By the summer a dubious mood started to creep. The dividend growth was solid but the economy started to look mature. The first hints about the approaching recession arrived in July 1929 as the index of the industrial production of the Fed diminished. Mixed news and rising interest rates in the US and abroad warned of a looming recession. In September, the stock market started to drift downwards. The fear of a recession started to set in.

On Thursday October 24, after a turbulent week, the prices hovered for all while at the start, but then fell rapidly and the stock ticker started to lag behind. The prices kept falling and the ticker fell further behind. The pace of the sell orders grew at an increasing rate and by eleven o’clock a ferocious selling had gripped the market. A few selected quotations given by the bond ticker showed that the that the current values were far below the now seriously lagging tape. Margin calls started to roll in and many investors were forced to liquidate their stock holdings. The increasing uncertainty made the investors even more scared and by eleven-thirty there was a sheer panic. The frenzy of selling could even be heard outside the New York Stock Exchange, where crowds gathered.

At noon, the reporters learned that several notable bankers had gathered at the office of the J.P. Morgan & Company. At one thirty, the vice-president of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), Richard Whitney, appeared on the trading floor and started to make large purchases of variety of stocks (starting from the Steel post). This had a clear message: the bankers had stepped in. The effect was imminent. The fear eased and the stocks rallied.

On Friday, the volume of trading was large, but the prices held up. During the weekend, there was a sense of relief. The disaster had been avoided and the actions of the bankers were celebrated. But then came Monday.

On Monday, October 28, the market opened to uneasy tranquility which was quickly broken. The selling started, then accelerated, and by noon the market was in a full panic mode. The bankers gathered again but the savior was never seen on the floor. Heavy selling continued throughout the day, and the market melted down, with the DJIA closing down by almost 13 percentage points for the day. After the close, there was not a word from the bankers or from anyone else, for that matter. During the night, a panic spread through the nation.

On Tuesday, October 29, the selling orders flooded the NYSE in the open. The prices plunged right from the start, feeding the panic. The sell orders from all over the country overwhelmed the ticker and sometimes even the traders. During the day, massive blocks of stocks were sold indicating that the ”big players” (banks, investment funds etc.) were liquidating. During the worst selling periods, there was a countless number of the selling orders but no buyers. This meant that, at times, the markets were in a complete free fall. There was a brief rally before the end of trading but despite this, the ”Black Tuesday” was one of the most brutal days at the NYSE with the DJIA falling by 11 % with heavy volumes.  Within a week, DJIA had lost 29 % of its value.

The daily closing values of Dow Jones Industrial Average during the year 1929. Source: GnS Economics, MacroTrends

Are we in a time loop?

The crash of 1929 marked the end of a long stock market boom fed by several years of easy credit. Because inflation was low for most of the 1920’s, Fed did not bother to curb the speculation by rising rates and when it did, the rise was too little too late. The signals for an upcoming recession broke the highly over-valued stock market in 1929. Actually, for example the dividends grew even in the last quarter of 1929 but the faith for the future of the market was broken and the investors panicked.

Currently, we are in a situation where, according to several metrics, the stock market is the most over-valued in the history of the NYSE. The central banks, with their orthodox and unorthodox monetary policies, have fed the asset market mania for nine years now but, currently, they are in a tightening cycle. Moreover, the global economy is in a risk of a dramatic slowdown.

This indicates that the main components of the crash of 1929: an over-valued stock market, a central bank tightening cycle (higher interest rates) and a slowing economy are almost all present in the US. We will thus soon know how well the history rhymes.

The historical accounts are based on the “The Great Crash 1929“ by John K. Galbraith, “The stock market boom and crash of 1929 revisited” by Eugene White and on “Lessons from the 1930’s Great Depression” by Nicholas Crafts and Peter Fearon.

Mainstream Media Duped By “Student Loan” Expert Who Never Existed

While searching for sources for their stories about America’s blossoming student-loan debt, CNBC, Fox News And the Washington Post all cited the work of a self-styled “journalist” and “student loan expert” who portrayed named David Cloud, the founder of an “independent” news outlet the Student Loan Report.

But as a report published this week by the Chronicle of Higher Education revealed, Cloud has a serious credibility problem: He doesn’t exist.

The Chronicle became suspicious after Cloud “authored” an article about a survey about students using financial aid money to fund cryptocurrency investments. According to Cloud, the “survey” revealed that an astonishing 21% of student loan borrowers had used the money they received to fund crypto investments.

Cloud

Several reporters immediately suspected that this sounded like a specious claim, and decided to do a little more digging into Cloud’s background…which is when they learned that he was a fabrication invented by several writers at the Student Loan Report.

After The Chronicle spent more than a week trying to verify Cloud’s existence, the company that owns The Student Loan Report confirmed that Cloud was fake. “Drew Cloud is a pseudonym that a diverse group of authors at Student Loan Report, LLC use to share experiences and information related to the challenges college students face with funding their education,” wrote Nate Matherson, CEO of LendEDU.

Before his true identity (or lack thereof) was discovered, Cloud’s work had been used in many salacious stories about the tremendous lengths that US students would supposedly go to live an existence free of debt.

He’s always got the new data, featuring irresistible twists:

One in five students use extra money from their student loans to buy digital currencies.

Nearly 8 percent of students would move to North Korea to free themselves of their debt.

Twenty-seven percent would contract the Zika virus to live debt-free.

All of those surveys came from Cloud’s website, The Student Loan Report.

And not only did Cloud’s name exist solely on the website – individuals claiming to be Cloud also corresponded with reporters, suggesting story topics and offering to participate in on-the-record interviews.

After The Chronicle spent more than a week trying to verify Cloud’s existence, the company that owns The Student Loan Report confirmed that Cloud was fake. “Drew Cloud is a pseudonym that a diverse group of authors at Student Loan Report, LLC use to share experiences and information related to the challenges college students face with funding their education,” wrote Nate Matherson, CEO of LendEDU.

Before that admission, however, Cloud had corresponded at length with many journalists, pitching them stories and offering email interviews, many of which were published. When The Chronicle attempted to contact him through the address last week, Cloud said he was traveling and had limited access to his account. He didn’t respond to additional inquiries.

And on Monday, as The Chronicle continued to seek comment, Cloud suddenly evaporated. His once-prominent placement on The Student Loan Report had been removed. His bylines were replaced with “SLR Editor.” Matherson confirmed on Tuesday that Cloud was an invention.

Pressed on whether he regretted deceiving news organizations with a fake source, Matherson said Cloud “was created as a way to connect with our readers (ex. people struggling to repay student debt) and give us the technical ability to post content to the WordPress website.”

Several news organizations, including WaPo and the Boston Globe have offered embarrassing editors’ notes on these stories.

Here’s Wapo…

Note

…And the Globe.

Note

In addition to the truth about Cloud, the Chronicle for the first time publicized the Student Loan Report’s connection with LendEDU. The company runs a student-loan refinancing business, and the Student Loan Report’s articles often included links to LendEDU and its services. When people reached out to Cloud to inquire about strategies for mitigating their debt payments, he’d often suggest refinancing their loan…through LendEDU.

Of course, in the modern media landscape, funding shortages and deteriorating editorial standards have allowed “Fake News” to flourish, even in such respectable and reputable media organizations as the Washington Post.