Oct 062015

Source: The Daily Sheeple 

The Medieval era is well-known for being littered with feudal societies, ruled by royalty and served by serfs who kept the system running with back-breaking labor. Contrary to popular opinion though, the serfs weren’t exactly what we would call ‘slaves.’ They definitely had more rights and opportunities than many of their ancestors from the Roman Empire, and they weren’t owned by other people.

Instead, they were merely ‘tied down.’ They often didn’t have the freedom to move about, not because there were walls and watch towers keeping them penned up, but because they were beholden to the land. They had to pay part of their income if they wanted to stay on that land, and if they wanted any kind of protection.

And because their world was far more dangerous than ours, they desperately needed the protection of the lords and their soldiers, which meant that they couldn’t risk leaving their land for better opportunities. In most feudal societies, it wasn’t politics that kept the people down, it was their financial situation.

In much the same way that feudalism kept its people tied to the land for multiple generations, our current financial system is also producing a perpetual serf class; mainly through the issuance of student loans. Unlike most debts (of which we have plenty) there is no escaping these loans. In most cases, you don’t have the option to declare bankruptcy and start anew with a clean slate. As a result, many of our citizens are not only carrying heavy debts, they’re laying the groundwork for having indebted children as well.

Data analyzed exclusively by the AP, along with surveys about families and rising student-debt loads, show that:

• School loans increasingly belong to Americans over 40. This group accounts for 35% of education debt, up from 25% in 2004, according to the New York Federal Reserve. Contributing to this surge are longer repayment schedules, more midcareer workers returning to school, and additional borrowing for children’s education.

• Generation X adults — those 35 to 50 — owe about as much as people fresh out of college do. Student-loan balances average $20,000 for Generation X. Millennials, 34 and younger, have roughly the same average debt, according to a report by Pew Charitable Trusts.

• Gen X parents who carry student debt and have teenage children have struggled to save for their children’s educations. The average they have in college savings plans is just $4,000, compared with a $20,000 average for teenagers’ parents who aren’t still repaying their own school loans, Pew found. A result is that many of their children will need to borrow heavily for college or pursue cheaper alternatives, thereby perpetuating a cycle of family debt.

• Student debt is surpassing groceries as a primary expense for many borrowers, with the gap widening most for younger families. The average college-educated head of the household under 40 owes $404 a month in student debt payments, according to an AP analysis of Fed data. That’s slightly more than what the government says the average college-educated family spends at the supermarket.

There are now two separate debt cycles at work here. Ever since the government started issuing these loans and made them nearly impossible to default on, it has given the colleges an incentive to raise prices. And since these loans allowed more people to go to college, the marketplace is saturated with college grads, and their education quality is often watered down. This means that the average person now needs a higher education to set themselves apart from their peers, which of course costs more money. And on and on it goes.

And these massive debts have spawned another horrible cycle between parents and their children. It’s already incredibly difficult to start a family when you owe tens of thousands of dollars, but for those who do, they now have less money to save for their children’s education. Surely, their progeny will also be burdened with debt if they decide to follow their parent’s footsteps. Considering that around half of America’s college graduates are stuck in jobs that don’t require a college degree, that would probably be an awful mistake to make.

Our society is already populated by millions of people working menial jobs while burdened with absurd debts that will keep them ‘tied down’ for the rest of their lives. So there really isn’t much distance left between us and our medieval ancestors. The only thing that was missing from this situation, was the passing of these debts to our children. However, we’re no longer robbing our future progeny with these debts. Now it’s happening to our children in the present. Feudal America has officially arrived for those who are trying to improve their lot in life with a college education. 

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Oct 062015

Colleagues are alleged to have said that reporting the crime would set back their struggle for a borderless world.

The ‘No Borders’ activist had dedicated a month of her life to helping migrants. Her group was stationed between Italy and France in Ponte San Ludovico in Ventimiglia when the atrocity occurred, according to reports from local papers La Stampa and Il Secolo XIX, and now reported in the major Italian national Corriere Della Serra.

One Saturday night, as loud music played at a nearby party, the woman was reportedly trapped in a shower block set up near the camp in a pine forest know as Red Leap.

A gang of African migrants allegedly raped her there, and her cries for help are said to have gone unheard because of the music.

Read more

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Oct 052015

“Shocked, angry … I was hysterical,” Walters told the Guardian. Barely able to speak, the 37-year-old called her friend Melissa Mays.

“I just couldn’t believe that we were paying to poison our kids,” Walters said.

A spate of kids are experiencing elevated blood-lead levels in Flint, and some drinking water lead levels are so high they are defined as hazardous waste, according to several local studies.

Residents also pay some of the highest water rates in the US, in the community known for its economic decline.

Read more 

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Oct 052015


State Department talking points on Syria for cable news anchors:

* Keep mentioning the barrel bombs. Do not mention how their use was pioneered by the Israeli Air Force in 1948, and how they were used by the U.S. Air Force in Vietnam in Operation Inferno in 1968. Keep repeating, “barrel bombs, barrel bombs” and stating with a straight face that the Syrian regime is using them “against its own people.” Against its own people. Against its own people. Against its own people.

* Keep mentioning “200,000.” (The UN estimates that 220,000 have been killed in the conflict since 2011.) Declare like you really believe it that this is the number of civilians the Syrian government of Bashar Assad has killed during the war. (Do not be concerned about any need to back the figure up. No one is ever going to call you on it publicly.)

Do NOT mention that around half of the war dead (estimates range from 84,000 to 133,000) are Syrian government forces waging war against an overwhelmingly Islamist opposition, and an additional 73,000 to 114,000 are anti-government combatants.

Do not discuss these figures because they would call into question the claim that the Syrian government is targeting and killing tens of thousands of civilians willy-nilly. (If feeling any qualms of conscience, recall Karl Rove’s immortal dictum that “We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality.”)

* Keep mentioning the “Arab Spring” and how in 2011 Syrians peacefully mobilized to challenge the regime were violently repressed. But don’t dwell on the Arab Spring too much. Realize that the State Department was actually shocked by it, particularly by its repercussions in Egypt, where democratization brought the Muslim Brotherhood to power before the U.S.-backed military drowned its opponents in blood.

And recall but do NOT mention how in Bahrain, peaceful demonstrations by the majority Shiites against the repressive Sunni monarchy were crushed by a Saudi-led invasion force tacitly supported by the U.S. And NEVER mention that the bulk of the peaceful protesters in the Syrian Arab Spring want nothing to do with the U.S.-supported armed opposition but are instead receptive to calls from Damascus, Moscow and Tehran for dialogue towards a power-sharing arrangement.

Do NOT explain that the pro-democracy student activists and their allies fear most is the radical Islamists who have burgeoned in large part due to foreign intervention since 2011.

* Keep mentioning the “Free Syrian Army” and the “moderate opposition” to give the impression that they actually exist in the real world.

Do NOT point out that the FSA organization is actually a joke; that its leaders live in Turkey; that its remaining units are headed by CIA officers; that U.S. efforts to train over 5000 FSA troops have been an utter failure; that the tiny group of 54 recently sent to the front were immediately captured by the al-Nusra Front and another 70 dispatched from Turkey immediately turned over their arms to that al-Qaeda-linked group; that their chief of staff has resigned protesting U.S. incompetence; that Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III, the top American commander in the Middle East, told Congress last month that only “four or five” Syrians had been trained by the U.S. to fight ISIL; and that the U.S.-trained forces have been accused of multiple human rights abuses.

Do NOT mention these things. They are so totally embarrassing that the State Department officials responsible just want to curl up into a ball and roll into a corner. Your mission is to put a bright face on this and continue to pretend there’s something in Syria, supported by the U.S., that falls between the terrorists and the Assad regime.

* Keep expressing consternation if not outrage that Russia is “interfering” in Syria. Scrunch up your face and act like you think it’s puzzling.

Do NOT mention that Syria is much closer to Russia than  to the U.S. and that Russia faces a much greater threat of Islamist terror than the U.S. (in places like Chechnya and Dagestan that your viewers can’t locate on a map).

Downplay the fact that Russia has had a military relationship with Syria since the 1950s no more nor less legitimate that the U.S. military relationship with Saudi Arabia. (And avoid any objective comparisons of the human rights records of Saudi Arabia and Syria since the former’s is manifestly so much worse than the latter’s!)

Do NOT imply any moral equivalence between Russia’s desire to prevent U.S.-backed regime change in Syria and the U.S.’s desire to inflict another Iraq or Libya-type regime change on that tragically war-torn country.

* Keep treating the Assad regime as an obvious pariah, whose leader has “lost legitimacy.” Say that with an air of authority, like you really believe that U.S. presidents—like Chinese emperors of the past or medieval popes— enjoy so much “legitimacy” that they can confer this on, or remove it from, anybody else.

Study CNN anchor Chris Cuomo’s facial expressions and body language when he announces—so matter-of-factly, as a self-evident fact, as a done deal—that (come on, everybody!) “Assad hast lost legitimacy.”

(Chris is your model. He’s the State Department’s pleasantly vapid headed scion-of-privilege poster boy, whose occasional dark flashes of indignation—especially those directed towards anyone questioning the official talking points on Russia—embody the attitude Foggy Bottom seeks to encourage in the corporate press.)

Do NOT remind viewers that the Syrian government is internationally recognized, holds a UN seat, retains cordial relations with most nations and is engaged in a life-and-death struggle against people who enslave, crucify, behead, bury alive and burn alive people and want to replace Syria’s modern secular government with a medieval religious one intolerant of any diversity.

* Keep insisting that the Assad regime somehow is responsible for, and even in league with, the al-Qaeda-linked al-Nusra Front and ISIL. Since this makes no logical sense, just have faith in the ignorance of the viewership and its disinclination to distinguish one Arab from another and to assume that they’re all linked in ways that aren’t worth even trying to sort out. Imply that by staying in power (and not complying with Obama’s demand that he step down) Assad has actually invited the presence of radical Islamists to his country, or provoked their emergence.

Do NOT mention that al-Qaeda offshoots have proliferated globally since the U.S. invaded and wrecked Iraq in 2003, in a war based entirely on lies, and that there was no al-Nusra Front or ISIL until the U.S. set out to effect regime change throughout the Middle East. Do NOT let on that State Department PR strategy is precisely to obfuscate the real causal relationship, and to impute to the beleaguered Assad phenomena actually generated by U.S. aggression in the region.

* Keep treating Russian President Vladimir Putin as America’s Enemy Number One, an ally of a Syrian government that U.S. has said must go, deploying force in Syria to bolster Assad rather than (as Moscow claims) to target ISIL.

Do NOT lend any credence to the Russian assertion that the Syrian Army is the force best placed to defeat ISIL. Do NOT point out the incongruity of the U.S. invading and attacking countries from Pakistan to Libya since 2001 while expressing alarm that Moscow is (after much hesitation) taking action against Islamist terrorists at Damascus’s invitation.

* Do not harp on the past, revisit history, or attempt to place the contemporary situation in Syria in perspective. Do NOT complicate the storyline by mentioning Damascus’s cooperation in the “War on Terror” and the U.S. use of Syrian torture chambers in its “special renditions” program after 2001. Do NOT mention Syria’s large Christian minority or its historical support for Assad’s Baath party, which was co-founded by a Syrian Christian.

Please keep everything simple, following the examples set by MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” Scarborough and CNN’s Cuomo, and inculcate in the mind of the viewer that Assad is the main problem and most horrible actor in the Syrian situation. Tell them that Putin, while striving to revive the tsarist empire, is backing Assad as a loyal ally and using his military to prolong his rule that Washington condemns rather than (as he states) taking action against ISIL.

If you do all this, you will demonstrate your loyalty to the State Department, the bipartisan foreign policy consensus, the military-industrial complex, the One Percent, your advertisers, your producers and editors, and the unsung heroes behind the scenes who arrange your teleprompter scripts.

You too could be an Andrea Mitchell, or Christiane Amanpour, posturing as an “expert” while trotting out our talking points. And even after they’re exposed as bullshit, you won’t have to say you’re sorry. People will soon forget anyway.

Those unconscionable barrel bombs! 200,000 civilians killed by the illegitimate regime! U.S. support for the moderate opposition! Russia up to no good, supporting Assad and not really targeting ISI!. Russian moves “worrisome” (whereas U.S. moves are not.)

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Oct 042015

By Robert Parry

The U.S. government is missing – or withholding – audit documents about the finances and possible accounting irregularities at a $150 million U.S.-taxpayer-financed investment fund when it was run by Ukraine’s Finance Minister Natalie Jaresko, who has become the face of “reform” for the U.S.-backed regime in Kiev and who now oversees billions of dollars in Western financial aid.

Before taking Ukrainian citizenship and becoming Finance Minister in December 2014, 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 with $150 million and placed under the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to help jumpstart an investment economy in Ukraine.

After Jaresko’s appointment as Finance Minister — and her resignation from WNISEF — I reviewed WNISEF’s available public records and detected a pattern of insider dealings and enrichment benefiting Jaresko and various colleagues. That prompted me in February to file a Freedom of Information Act request for USAID’s audits of the investment fund.

Though the relevant records were identified by June, USAID dragged its feet on releasing the 34 pages to me until Aug. 28 when the agency claimed nothing was being withheld, saying “all 34 pages are releasable in their entirety.”

However, when I examined the documents, it became clear that a number of pages were missing from the financial records, including a total of three years of “expense analysis” – in three-, six- and nine-month gaps – since 2007. Perhaps even more significant was a missing paragraph that apparently would have addressed an accounting irregularity found by KPMG auditors.

KPMG’s “Independent Auditors’ Report” for 2013 and 2014 states that “except as discussed in the third paragraph below, we conducted our audits in accordance with auditing standards generally accepted in the United States of America,” accountant-speak that suggests that “the third paragraph below” would reveal some WNISEF activity that did not comply with generally accepted accounting principles (or GAAP).

But three paragraphs below was only white space and there was no next page in what USAID released.

Based on the one page that was released for 2013-14, this most recent audit also lacked the approval language used in previous audits, in which KPMG wrote: “In our opinion, the consolidated financial statements … present fairly, in all material respects, the consolidated financial position of Western NIS Enterprise Fund and subsidiaries.” That language was not in the 2013-14 analysis, as released by USAID.

The KPMG report for 2013-14 does note that “The [audit] procedures selected depend on the auditors’ judgment, including the assessment of the risks of material misstatement of the financial statements, whether due to fraud or error. … An audit also includes evaluating the appropriateness of accounting policies used and the reasonableness of significant accounting estimates made by management, as well as evaluating the overall presentation of the financial statements.”

That page then ends, “We believe that the audit evidence we have obtained is sufficient and appropriate to provide a basis for our audit opinion.” But the opinion is not there.

After I brought these discrepancies to the attention of USAID on Aug. 31, I was told on Sept. 15 that “we are in the process of locating documents to address your concern. We expect a response from the bureau and/or mission by Monday, September 28, 2015.”

After the Sept. 28 deadline passed, I contacted USAID again and was told on Oct. 2 that officials were “still working with the respective mission to obtain the missing documents.”

Yet, whether USAID’s failure to include the missing documents was just a bureaucratic foul-up or a willful attempt to shield Jaresko from criticism, the curious gaps add to the impression that the management of WNISEF fell short of the highest standards for efficiency and ethics.

A previous effort by Jaresko’s ex-husband Ihor Figlus to blow the whistle on what he considered improper business practices related to WNISEF was met by disinterest inside USAID, according to Figlus, and then led to Jaresko suing him in a Delaware court in 2012, using a confidentiality clause to silence Figlus and getting a court order to redact references to the abuses he was trying to expose.

Feeding at the Taxpayer Trough

Other public documents indicate that Jaresko and fellow WNISEF insiders enriched themselves through their association with the U.S.-taxpayer-financed investment fund. For instance, though Jaresko was limited to making $150,000 a year at WNISEF under the USAID grant agreement, she 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 filing with the Internal Revenue Service.

Among the audit documents that I received under FOIA, the “Expense Analysis” for 2004 shows $1,282,782 being paid out as “Exit-based incentive expense-equity incentive plan” and another $478,195 being paid for “Exit-based incentive expense-financial participation rights.” That would suggest that Jaresko more than doubled her $150,000 salary by claiming bonuses from WNISEF’s investments (bought with U.S. taxpayers’ money) and sold during 2004.

Jaresko’s compensation for her work with WNISEF was removed from public disclosure altogether after she co-founded two related 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), a private entity 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.

According to the FOIA-released expense analyses for 2004-06, the taxpayer-financed WNISEF spent $1,049,987 to establish EEGF as a privately owned investment fund for Jaresko and her colleagues. USAID apparently found nothing suspicious about these tangled business relationships 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 USAID officials, nor during that time for KPMG auditors.

Bonuses, Bonuses

Regarding compensation, WNISEF’s 2013 filing with the IRS noted that the fund’s officers collected millions of dollars in more 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.-backed coup in February 2014.

But prior to the coup and the resulting civil war, Jaresko’s WNISEF was generously spreading money around to various insiders. 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 although Jaresko was one of the “current officers.”

WNISEF’s 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 bonus 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.

The KPMG auditors also took a narrow view of compensation only confirming that no “salary” exceeded $150,000, apparently not looking at bonuses and other forms of 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.

Gagging an Ex-Husband

In 2012, when Jaresko’s ex-husband Figlus began talking about 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, Jaresko’s 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 defendant’s filing argued: “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.”

A Redacted Narrative

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.”

In the court proceedings, 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.

The plaintiffs’ brief [see Part One and Part Two] traced Figlus’s contacts with the Ukrainian reporter whose name is also redacted: “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 continued to pursue the case against him though his lawyer has asserted that his client would make no further effort to expose these financial dealings and was 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.

A Face of Reform

By December 2014, 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.”

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 USAID 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 to Figlus’s whistle-blower complaint, 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.

USAID 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, but Jaresko did not respond.

Despite questions about whether Jaresko improperly enriched herself at the expense of U.S. taxpayers and then used a Delaware court to prevent disclosure of possible abuses, Jaresko has been hailed by the U.S. mainstream media as the face of reform in the U.S.-backed Ukrainian regime that seized power in February 2014 after a violent coup overthrew democratically elected President Viktor Yanukovych.

For instance, last January, New York Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman cited Jaresko 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, from the opaqueness of the WNISEF records and the gagging of her ex-husband, Jaresko has shown little regard for transparency or other democratic values. Similarly, USAID seems more intent on protecting Jaresko and the image of the Kiev regime than in protecting America tax dollars and ensuring that WNISEF’s investments were dedicated to improving the lot of Ukrainian citizens.

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).

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Oct 042015

  • Tens of thousands of people have been killed in China so their organs can be sold to ‘transplant tourists’, claims documentary
  • Those allegedly killed belonged to repressed Fulan Gong spiritual practice
  • Rumours surfaced in 2006 and investigators claim evidence is ‘very strong’
  • Film offers first full examination into why allegations aren’t taken seriously 

China harvested livers, kidneys, corneas and even hearts from tens of thousands religious prisoners while they were still alive and the world is paying no attention, according to a new documentary.

Rumours of the live organ trade in China first surfaced in 2006, and have been supported by human rights lawyers, witnesses and even surgeons who admit having performed the operations.

But claims that supporters of the Falun Gong faith are having their organs sold to wealthy transplant tourists from all over the world are still not taken seriously.

The documentary, Hard to Believe, offers the first sustained examination into why the world is so willing to turn a blind eye to ‘one of the most catastrophic human rights violations in our time’. 

Persecuted: Rumours of the slaughter of Falun Gong supporters so that their organs can be harvested first emerged in 2006, but despite what investigators insist is 'very strong evidence', the claims have never been officially investigated. Pictured, a group of protesters stage a performance

Persecuted: Rumours of the slaughter of Falun Gong supporters so that their organs can be harvested first emerged in 2006, but despite what investigators insist is ‘very strong evidence’, the claims have never been officially investigated. Pictured, a group of protesters stage a performance 

Thousands of organs are being harvested from Falun Gong followers in China, it is claimed. Members of the group are shown mocking up an operation as part of a 2014 protest

Thousands of organs are being harvested from Falun Gong followers in China, it is claimed. Members of the group are shown mocking up an operation as part of a 2014 protest

‘What drew me to the story was that the evidence was so strong and yet it’s hardly talked about,’ director Ken Stone told MailOnline. ‘What we did was explore why the reports and documentaries have gotten so little attention.

What drew me to the story was that the evidence was so strong and yet it’s hardly talked about.

‘A number of people have come up with such strong evidence, but they are consistently ignored.’

The spiritual Falun Gong sect began in the 1990s and within seven years an estimated 100million people had joined the practice.

But the Chinese regime launched an aggressive crackdown on the sect in 1999, fearful of such a large group of people unified in their faith.

On July 20 1999, security forces abducted and detained thousands of people who had been identified as Falun Gong leaders. It was the start of a brutal and systematic campaign to eradicate the sect through a combination of propaganda, imprisonment and thought reform that often resulted in the death of the prisoner.

Read More…

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Oct 032015

Disagreement is part of discourse, and pursuing differing views of the best way forward is the heart of democracy.Disagreement is abundant, democracy is scarce, despite claims to the contrary.

If you think you can surgically extract Empire from the American System, force the State to serve the working/middle classes, end the stripmining of financialization, limit crony capitalism/regulatory capture and get Big Money out of politics–go ahead and do so. I’m not standing in your way–go for it.

But while you pursue your good governance, populist, Left/ Right /Socialist/ Libertarian, etc. reforms, please understand the system is indivisible: the Deep State, the Imperial Project (hegemony and power projection), the State, finance in all its tenacled control mechanisms (greetings, debt-serfs and student-loan-serfs), crony capitalism /regulatory capture, money buying political influence, media propaganda passing as “news”, and the evisceration of democracy (something untoward could happen if the serfs could overthrow the Power Elite at the ballot box–can’t let that happen)–it’s all one system.

Should any one organ be ripped from the body, the entire body dies. The entire system defends each subsystem as integral as a matter of survival. As a result, the naive notion that big money can be excised with only positive consequences is false: restoring democracy places the entire system at risk of implosion.

No more bread and circuses, no more Social Security checks, no more state employee pensions–it all melts into air if any subsystem stops doing its job.

The system is interdependent. Each subsystem needs the others to function. I drew up a chart of the major components (but by no means all) of the system:

The system is a machine in which each gear serves the whole.So go ahead and try to “reform” the system by extracting whatever gear you don’t approve of: the Deep State components, the Security State organs, the Federal Reserve, cartels/monopolies enforced by the State, the suppression of democracy, crony capitalism, whatever.

The machine will resist your “reform” to the death because should you succeed, the machine will implode. Take out the financialization gear and the financial system collapses.

So go ahead and reform to your heart’s content. Go ahead and believe the system is reformable, if it makes you feel better. Vote for Bernie or The Donald or whomever. Go ahead and disagree with me. Prove me wrong. Prove the State really, really, really wants to serve the working/middle class rather than the Empire that it is. Pursue your Left/ Right/ Socialist/ Libertarian fantasies of righting the Imperial Project by ripping the gears out of the very center of the machine.

It doesn’t work that way. We can’t remove the gears we find distasteful. Either the machine grinds on and we get our share of the swag–bread and circuses, corporate welfare, State jobs and pensions, Medicaid and Medicare, and all the rest of the immense swag of hegemony and the Imperial Project–or the system implodes and all the swag melts into air.

The great irony is what’s unsustainable melts into thin air no matter how many people want it to keep going.

But go ahead and disagree. It’s your right, by golly. Go ahead and try to “reform” the system and see how far you get.

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Oct 032015

Michele Dunne served for nearly two decades as a specialist in Middle Eastern affairs at the State Department, including stints in Cairo and Jerusalem, and on the White House National Security Council. In 2011, she was a natural choice to become the founding director of the Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East, named after the former prime minister of Lebanon, who was assassinated in 2005.

But by the summer of 2013, when Egypt’s military forcibly removed the country’s democratically elected president, Mohamed Morsi, Ms. Dunne soon realized there were limits to her independence. After she signed a petition and testified before a Senate Foreign Relations Committee urging the United States to suspend military aid to Egypt, calling Mr. Morsi’s ouster a “military coup,” Bahaa Hariri called the Atlantic Council to complain, executives with direct knowledge of the events said.

Ms. Dunne declined to comment on the matter. But four months after the call, Ms. Dunne left the Atlantic Council.

Ms. Dunne was replaced by Francis J. Ricciardone Jr., who served as United States ambassador to Egypt during the rule of Hosni Mubarak, the longtime Egyptian military and political leader forced out of power at the beginning of the Arab Spring. Mr. Ricciardone, a career foreign service officer, had earlier been criticized by conservatives and human rights activists for being too deferential to the Mubarak government.

Scholars at other Washington think tanks, who were granted anonymity to detail confidential internal discussions, described similar experiences that had a chilling effect on their research and ability to make public statements that might offend current or future foreign sponsors. At Brookings, for example, a donor with apparent ties to the Turkish government suspended its support after a scholar there made critical statements about the country, sending a message, one scholar there said.

“It is the self-censorship that really affects us over time,” the scholar said. “But the fund-raising environment is very difficult at the moment, and Brookings keeps growing and it has to support itself.”

But in 2012, when a revised agreement was signed between Brookings and the Qatari government, the Qatar Ministry of Foreign Affairs itself praised the agreement on its website, announcing that “the center will assume its role in reflecting the bright image of Qatar in the international media, especially the American ones.” Brookings officials also acknowledged that they have regular meetings with Qatari government officials about the center’s activities and budget, and that the former Qatar prime minister sits on the center’s advisory board.

Mr. Ali, who served as one of the first visiting fellows at the Brookings Doha Center after it opened in 2009, said such a policy, though unwritten, was clear.

“There was a no-go zone when it came to criticizing the Qatari government,” said Mr. Ali, who is now a professor at the University of Queensland in Australia. “It was unsettling for the academics there. But it was the price we had to pay.”

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Oct 022015

Reports of alleged casualties among civilians caused by Russian airstrikes in Syria emerged even before Russian warplanes were launched for their first combat mission, President Vladimir Putin said, branding such reports ‘information attacks.’

“Other nations have been bombing Syrian territory for over a year,”

Putin told the Russian human rights council on Thursday, stressing that the US-led coalition invades the Syrian airspace with no UN mandate or invitation from Damascus.

“We have such an invitation and we intend to fight against terrorist organizations and them only,” Putin added.

The Russian leader also commented on the alleged civilian casualties caused by Russian warplanes in Syria.

“As for media reports claiming that the civilian population is suffering, we are prepared for such information attacks. The first reports about civilian casualties emerged even before our planes got in the air,” he said.

Dozens of videos allegedly showing the aftermath of Russian bombings of residential areas in Syria surfaced online on Wednesday, after Moscow announced a bombing campaign designed to help Syrian government forces fight the Islamic State terrorist group.

Russia believes them to be information warfare, and has called on the media and foreign officials to carefully verify information coming from Syria before judging it truthful.

Putin added that the US and Russia must establish a mechanism for sharing information about military action in Syria, which would allow the two nations to root out false reports.

“That’s why we are establishing contact between our special services and those of the US, between our military departments,” he said. I hope it will result in the establishing of some permanent mechanism.”

On Thursday, the Russian Defense Ministry reported hitting 12 targets belonging to the IS terrorist group since starting military action in Syria.

The tasks set for the Russian Air Force in Syria over the last 24 hours have been “fully completed,” said Igor Klimov, a Russian Air Force spokesman. 

“Recorders’ data showed that Russian airstrikes hit only the targets belonging to IS terrorist group infrastructure,” Klimov said as cited by TASS. 

The country’s forces neither planned nor carried out any attacks against civilian infrastructure, he added.

The Russian effort is designed to provide air support to the Syria army, which is struggling to contain the spread of jihadist militants in the war-torn country.

Syrian military provides intelligence on prospective targets for Russian forces in Syria, which is double-checked before clearance is given to deliver a strike, the Russian Defense Ministry reported.


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Oct 022015


Habersham County, GA — Sheriff Joey Terrell and one of his deputies were shot and injured while responding to a domestic violence complaint that involved another officer.

Terrell has been the subject of a number of reports at The Free Thought Project, because he is the law enforcement official who authorized the “no knock raid” that maimed and nearly killed a young toddler. Terrell then later broke a promise to pay the family’s medical bills when he left them to take care of it on their own.

On Sunday, Sheriff Terrell and Deputy William Zigan were dispatched to a domestic disturbance that involved former Gainesville city police officer Anthony Giaquinta. Giaquinta was recently fired from his job at the Gainesville Police Department, but as of now the reason for his termination is unknown.

When police arrived on the scene, they found Giaquinta’s ex-wife dead in the garage of the home.

The suspect then shot both Terrell and Zigan, then fled the scene and began a search that ended just before midnight, when police found the bodies of two men, including Anthony Giaquinta.

“As EMS and law enforcement arrived, he started shooting at Habersham County Sheriff’s deputies. Two have been wounded. At this point, it doesn’t appear serious,” Capt. Mark Perry with the Georgia State Patrol said in a statement.

It has not been revealed who the other person was, and no details about the circumstances of their deaths have been released to the public.

Sheriff Terrell and Deputy William Zigan are expected to make a full recovery from their injuries.

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