North Korea – Tillerson Showdown?

“The policy of strategic patience has ended,” Mr. Tillerson said, a reference to the term used by the Obama administration to describe a policy of waiting out the North Koreans, while gradually ratcheting up sanctions and covert action.

“We are exploring a new range of security and diplomatic measures. All options are on the table,” Tillerson told a news conference.

He said any North Korean actions that threatened U.S. or South Korean forces would be met with “an appropriate response,” turning up the volume of the tough language that has marked President Donald Trump’s approach to North Korea.

“Certainly, we do not want for things to get to a military conflict,. If they elevate the threat of their weapons programs to a level that we believe requires action, that option is on the table,” Tillerson told reporters on Friday on a trip to South Korea when asked about the possibility of a military strike. He ruled out talks with North Korea until it commits to giving up its nuclear weapons.

China is likely to express its anger at being told to rein in nuclear-armed North Korea when U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson arrives in Beijing on Saturday, his first visit to the country since taking office last month.

Beijing is expected to call on Washington to share responsibility in lessening tensions in the region, while strongly opposing this month’s deployment of a sophisticated U.S. missile defense system in South Korea.

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Wikileaks CIA Files – What this means for Internet security and encryption

from blogger  at https://protonmail.com/blog/cia-wikileaks-encryption/
Posted on March 8, 2017 by Andy Yen
wikileaks cia vault7
Earlier today, Wikileaks dumped a large database of secret documents from the CIA in a released dubbed #Vault7. Here we do a deeper analysis of the leak and the broader implications on online security and encrypted services.
Our in-depth analysis of the leaked CIA files is found at the bottom of this post. First, we will discuss the main question on everybody’s mind – how are encrypted services like ProtonMail impacted, and what insights did we gain into the strategies of state-backed attackers.
No, Encryption Is Not Dead
Immediately after the news broke, stories began circulating, along the lines of “Signal/Whatsapp encryption broken!”, fueled in part by Tweets put out by Wikileaks. This was followed predictably by online chatter speculating into whether or not ProtonMail had been cracked.
Wikileaks – CIA bypasses Signal, Telegram, Whatsapp

We can state unequivocally that there is nothing in the leaked CIA files which indicates any sort of crack of ProtonMail’s encryption. And despite claims to the contrary, there is also no evidence that Signal/Whatsapp end-to-end encryption has been breached. Here’s what we do know:
Over the past three years, the CIA has put together a formidable arsenal of cyberweapons specially designed to gain surveillance capabilities over end-user devices such as mobile phones and laptop/desktop computers. These advanced malwares enable the CIA to record actions such as keystrokes on a mobile device, allowing them to conduct surveillance without breaking encryption. Through this technique, US intelligence agencies can gain access to data before they have been encrypted. This is in fact the only way to achieve data access, because cracking the cryptography used in advanced secure communication services such as ProtonMail and Signal is still impractical with current technology.
In other words, the core cryptographic algorithms and techniques used by ProtonMail and other encrypted services remain secure. The exploitation of user endpoints (mobile phones, personal computers, etc) is actually not a new technique, but one that has existed since the first malware was created. This unfortunately is not something that cryptography is designed to defend against, as encryption by itself cannot guarantee the security of end-user devices. What the CIA files dumped by Wikileaks do reveal however, is a significant shift in strategy since the last disclosure of this kind was made by Edward Snowden in 2013.
State-backed Cyberattack Strategy is Changing
ProtonMail is tool that is used by millions of people around the world to ensure email communications security. In addition to ordinary people and businesses, ProtonMail is also used by journalists, activists, and dissidents, who often require protection from government surveillance for their personal safety. Because of these factors, we make it our business to carefully study and understand state adversaries in order to better protect our userbase.
The Wikileaks CIA files is therefore, a comprehensive update into state cyberwarfare strategies since Snowden gave us the first edition. In fact, the trends that the files reveal are arguably global, since it is highly probable that other major players in this space (Russia, China, UK, Israel, etc) will have independently reached the same conclusions regarding overall strategy.
Some of the most interesting revelations from the Snowden leaks was the extent in which the NSA actively sought out information from the US tech giants, either with consent, or even without consent. This made a lot of sense, because the biggest global databases of sensitive personal data do not belong to the NSA, but actually to companies like Google and Facebook, who have already shown ample willingness to exploit such data for profit, sometimes via unscrupulous means.
Since 2013 however, the world has changed. Consumer and business awareness of online privacy and security is at an all time high, and more and more people around the world are increasingly choosing more secure services which respect privacy. Today, end-to-end encryption has gone mainstream, and services such as ProtonMail and Whatsapp boast millions of regular people as users. The use of end-to-end encryption means services such as ProtonMail are not actually able to decrypt user data. Even if we wanted to compromise user data, we do not have the technical means to decrypt the user emails. Furthermore, even if an attacker breached ProtonMail servers, all the emails stored on our servers are encrypted, so an attacker also would not be able to read user emails.
It’s clear from the leaked CIA documents that as the world has changed, stated-backed cyberattackers have also evolved. As we describe below, the varied leaked files are tied together by a common thread – an almost singular focus on producing malware to attack end-user devices. This is a logical response to the rise of end-to-end encrypted services such as ProtonMail. Services such as ProtonMail have significantly raised the barrier for obtaining data directly from the service provider, and many services are now based outside of the United States, beyond the reach of legal coercion. As such, it has now become easier, and more productive to directly hack individual users.
This opens up a terrifying new narrative where government spies are actively deploying viruses and trojans against their own citizens, joining the ranks of common cybercriminals. While this is by no means good news for privacy rights worldwide, it is in some ways, a win for privacy tech, because governments are having to shift away from mass surveillance and towards more targeted surveillance. In short, services such as ProtonMail are doing exactly what they were designed to do, which is raising barriers to large scale mass surveillance.
Our initial analysis into the Wikileaks CIA documents can be found below. Questions can be directed to media@protonmail.ch. If you would like to start benefiting from secure email, you can get a free ProtonMail account here.
Best Regards,
The ProtonMail Team
ProtonMail Analysis of Wikileaks CIA Documents

#Vault7 in a sentence: It is a leak about the CIA’s hacking arsenal used against foreign governments and citizens both domestically and abroad.
Name of the database: Vault7. It is the first part in a series of leaks titled Year Zero.
Origin: Allegedly from the CIA’s Center for Cyber Intelligence unit in Langley, Virginia USA
Volume: 7,818 web pages with 943 attachments. According to Wikileaks, the entire archive of CIA material consists of several hundred million lines of computer code. Estimated to be bigger than the Snowden leaks (unconfirmed).
Dates of documents: from the time Snowden left the intelligence community till 2016. 2013-2016.

Intention: the source of the information told WikiLeaks in a statement that they wish to initiate a public debate about the “security, creation, use, proliferation and democratic control of cyber weapons.”

How is it different from the Snowden leaks: Snowden leaks exposed the NSA and its techniques of blanket surveillance on citizens and governments around the world. Vault7, on the other hand, exposes the CIA and what technologies it uses in cyber warfare against foreign governments as well as against targeted individuals.

What did we learn so far?

As we are examining the documents, we have identified that the leak concerns the CIA and what cyber weapons it uses. Over the next weeks we will continue to verify and update the information. Below is what we know so far about the programs used by the CIA, legality of the operations, and what this means for your privacy and security.
Germany is the CIA’s European Spybase
It was disclosed that the American consulate in Frankfurt is the main base for CIA hackers in Europe. This certainly raises some interesting questions, because it is highly unlikely that the CIA could run a major spy operation out of Frankfurt without German authorities being aware of it. Although it is not confirmed (and likely never will be), it is most probable that German authorities were in on it, and perhaps even actively participating as part of the Fourteen-Eyes program. It does call in question whether it is appropriate for a EU member state to authorize spying of EU citizens by a foreign power.
Programs used by the CIA

Weeping Angel – It is a program that transforms the microphones of smart TVs into surveillance tools. By manipulating the hardware, CIA hackers are able to turn on people’s smart TVs and listen to users’ conversations. In effect, Weeping Angel transforms smart TVs into bugs.
Our team quickly drew parallels between Weeping Angel and other surveillance tools described by Snowden. Weeping Angel is a technique that bears close resemblance to

Nosey Smurf, a tool used by UK’s GCHQ to turn on a phone’s microphone and use it for audio surveillance. While Tracker Smurf – is a geo-location tool that offers a more accurate method of locating a phone and its carrier than using triangulation.

Zero day – Refers to a general type of vulnerability used by the CIA against any adversary’s device. WikiLeaks reports that Zero Day have been primarily used against companies in industrial espionage. In 2013, Snowden, also, revealed that the NSA was committing industrial espionage against Brazilian, Russian and European oil companies, banks, airlines and trade delegations. According to Vault7, the program produced over “a thousand hacking systems, trojans, viruses, and other “weaponized” malware.”

Hive is a multi-platform CIA malware suite that can be specifically utilized against states. “The project provides customizable implants for Windows, Solaris, MikroTik (used in internet routers) and Linux platforms and a Listening Post (LP)/Command and Control (C2) infrastructure to communicate with these implants.”

There are many parallels between Hive and Zero Day and the 2010 Stuxnet virus that attacked and infected the Iranian Nuclear program. Although no state took responsibility for the attack in 2010, Stuxnet has been linked by political pundits to American and Israeli surveillance and intelligence agencies due to its degree of sophistication.
Hacking mobiles

Vault7 also reveals that the CIA has developed advanced capabilities for hacking mobile phones. The leaks show that the agency developed and used its tool to primarily control mobile phones and then extract data from them.
CIA’s Mobile Development Branch produces malware to pull data from iPhones and other Apple products running iOS, such as iPads. MDB also targets Android OS which is a much popular system than iOS and is the default operating system for the majority of smartphones including Sony, Samsung and Google Pixel. “Year Zero” shows that as of 2016 the CIA had 24 “weaponized” Android “zero days” which it has developed itself and obtained from GCHQ, NSA and cyber arms contractors.

Framing other governments

We were alarmed by the discovery of a tool that allows the CIA to potentially frame foreign governments for its cyber warfare acts. It works as follows. Imagine that each government or a hacking group has its own signature move or malicious software or a combination of both that it uses to attack its targets. After a while, whenever an attack occurs, it can be linked to to group based on that fingerprint.

WikiLeaks reports that a program ran by its Remote Devices Branch called UMBRAGE “collects and stores an extensive library of attack techniques”. According to Vault7, amassed techniques include those that are frequently used by Russia.
Some of the techniques currently at CIA’s disposal via UMBRAGE include: keyloggers, password collection, webcam capture, data destruction, persistence, privilege escalation, stealth, anti-virus (PSP) avoidance and survey techniques.
Vault7 reveals that the CIA has also produced rules on how its malware should be hidden when deployed to avoid any fingerprints leading back to the US or the agency.
Was this legal?

Preliminary findings reveal that the CIA had known about and enhanced the dissemination of these tools. In fact, according to WikiLeaks, the agency wanted the programs to be legal so that agents or CIA sponsored hackers can operate with full impunity.

According to Vault7, if ‘CIA software was classified then officers could be prosecuted or dismissed for violating rules that prohibit placing classified information onto the Internet. As a result- “the CIA has secretly made most of its cyber spying/war code unclassified”. The U.S. government is not able to assert copyright either, due to restrictions in the U.S. Constitution. This means that cyber ‘arms’ manufacturers and computer hackers can freely “pirate” these ‘weapons’ if they are obtained. The CIA has primarily had to rely on obfuscation to protect its malware secret.

Why is this critical?

While we are still mapping the dangers of such findings and capabilities, some conclusions are clear.

The CIA can frame other governments

By using Hive and zero days, the US can wage a cyber attack against a nation state while purposefully leaving behind a trace that leads to another state. As governments around the world migrate their infrastructure control to cyber space – any cyber attack can have a devastating effect if targeted against hospitals, power plants or telecommunications providers.

CIA backdoors can be exploited by others

When the CIA undermines a service or a device, it creates the backdoor that can be abused by other parties. With the agency’s newly revealed tools, everything people do or say around their phones and TV’s can create a very revealing and intimate picture of people’s lives.

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Semion Mogilevich

A 5’6″ and a portly chain smoker, Mogilevich is known as “boss of bosses” in one of the biggest mafia states in the world. Born in June 30 1946 in Kiev, Ukraine, Mogilevich once acted as the key money laundering contact for the Solntsevskaya Bratva, a super-gang based in Moscow. He has since held over 100 front companies and bank accounts in 27 different countries, all to keep the cash flowing. Authorities say Mogilevich, who has an economics degree from Ukraine, is known for his ruthless nature but also for his business acumen, which led to his nickname “the Brainy Don.”

1973 convicted for violation of currency regulations

1975 convicted for buying up gold from the emigrants

1977 convicted for fraud

Mid 1980s founder of Arbat-International firm which operated sea shipping vessels leased from state-run Black sea steams line, founder of Vnukovo co-operative society which run a chain of paid public toilets at Moscow’s railway terminals.

Mogilevich earned his first million as a jewellery agent who was buying up works of art and jewellery from Jews, emigrating from Kiev in the 80s. He promised to pay money for the objects in Israel, but in most cases money went into his pockets.

1990 He emigrated to Israel, then to Hungary

In 1991, Mogilevich started meddling in the energy sector with Arbat International. For the next five years, the company served as his primary import-export petroleum company

According to the CIA, at the beginning of the 90s he sold several surface-to-air missiles and 12 armoured personnel carrier to Iran for $20m.

Between 1993 and 1998, however, Mogilevich caught the FBI’s attention when he allegedly participated in a $150 million scheme to defraud thousands of investors in a Canadian company, YBM Magnex, based just outside Philadelphia, which supposedly made magnets. With his economics degree and clever lies, Mogilevich forged documents for the Securities and Exchange Commission that raised the company’s stock price nearly 2,000%. Though shares in the company sold for up to $20 on the Toronto Stock Exchange, an investigation revealed that YBM did not actually make magnets, and that the company “was created for the sole purpose of committing securities fraud.

1994 He represented Russia and former USSR republics at the meeting of world’s criminal dons in Italy.

In 1994–96, under the infamous “loans-for-shares” program, Russia privatized 150 state-owned companies for just $12 billion, most of which was loaned to a handful of well-connected buyers by the state … initially just 25 or so budding oligarchs with the insider connections to buy these properties and the muscle to hold them.

A 1996 classified FBI report (since made public) noted that the Mogilevich organization was involved in everything from major league market manipulation to prostitution, Afghan heroin, and trafficking in nuclear weapons materials. This is why Semion Mogilevich sits high on the FBI’s list of “Ten Most Wanted” criminals. But, of course, Mogilevich has a good lobbyist (i.e. a former director of the FBI, the outfit that publishes that “Most Wanted” list), and few, if any, members of the Mogilevich organization are presently in jail. Many of them are residents of the United States, and we will see that many of them, including Sater, remain active in the U.S. markets.

In 1998, the FBI released a report naming Mogilevich as the leader of an organization with about 250 members. Only in operation only four years, the group’s main activities included arms dealing, trading nuclear material, prostitution, drug trafficking, oil deals, and money laundering.

In August 1999 the FBR gave details of $10b Russian mafia money laundering scheme, led by Mogilevich. The money were funneled through the Bank of New York, through the company called Benex Worldwide Ltd, founded by Mogilevich. According to Russian Customs, the Bank of New York was involved in the laundering of the proceeds from the imported goods. The Federal Customs Service (FCS) filed an appeal against the bank. The trial began on January 14, 2008 at a Moscow’s Arbitration Court. The Bank of New York officials demanded the trial, iniciated by the FCS, to be stopped, because they claimed American lawyers of the Russian Customs had no right to appeal in a Russian Court.  In the late 1990s, Mogilevich’s bank, the well-named Inkombank, pulled off a $10 billion money-laundering plot via the Bank of New York, according to the Moscow Telegraph, something he led up to with one of his more audacious grabs a few years earlier. The scam involved the selling of untaxed heating oil in place of the much more highly taxed auto fuel. Before it was uncovered, it ended up costing the Czech Republic, just one of the Central European countries conned, 100 billion Czech korunas, about $5 billion. Not only that, but on its way to being shut down there was mayhem galore, including the near hit of the reporter following the story.

In autumn 2001 it emerged that Mogilevich had met Bin Laden’s representatives in a view of selling terrorists enriched uranium stolen somewhere in the former USSR.

Then, in 2002, an Israeli lawyer named Zeev Gordon, who represented Mogilevich for more than 20 years, created Eural Trans Gas (ETG), the main intermediary between Turkmenistan and Ukraine. Some reports show that Gordon registered the company in Ukrainian oligarch Dmitry Firtash’s name. After that, Russia’s energy giant Gazprom and Ukraine’s Centragas Holding AG teamed up to establish Swiss-registered RosUkrEnergo (RUE) to replace ETG. Firtash and Gazprom reportedly roughly split the ownership of RUE. According to Russian customs documents detailing the trades, Gazprom sold more than 20 billion cubic meters of gas well below market prices to Firtash over the past four years — about four times more than the Russian government has publicly acknowledged. The price Firtash paid was so low, Reuters calculates, that companies he controlled made more than $3 billion on the arrangement.

In Ukraine 2006,  Poroshenko was suspected of participating in a plot to arrest Ukrainian former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko’s associate Aleksandr Turchynov, who preceded Poroshenko as acting president. According to documents posted online by Wikileaks, Tymoshenko, former head of the natural gas trading company Unified Energy Systems of Ukraine, may have cooperated with organized crime boss Semion Mogilevich, believed. Mogilevich was a participant of the agreements signed between National Joint-Stock Company Naftogaz of Ukraine, Gazprom and RUE in January 2006.

In 2007, Mogelivich told BBC that his business was selling wheat and grain.to be a primary Russian Mafia figure.

In autumn 2007- winter 2008 Mogilevich used to hold private talks with Vladimir Nekrasov, owner of Arbat-Prestige perfume and cosmetics distribution chain. The chain was set up in 1989 as a result of restructuring Mogilevich’s cooperative enterprise called Arbat. At the beginning Arbat-Prestige distributed perfume, smuggled by Mogilevich and Miroshnik from the warehouses of the Western Group of Forces. In fact Arbat-Prestige was part of major perfume and cosmetics smuggling scheme. Arbat-Prestige, nominally, was owned by Nekrasov, but in fact Seva Kievsky and his people run it. 40% stake in Arbat-Prestige was owned by Rinvei firm, established by Olga Zhunzhurova (Fisherman’s wife) and Galina Telesh (former wife of Mogilevich).

Manafort was working on the unsuccessful presidential campaign of Sen. John McCain (R., Ariz.) in late 2008. He was also on the payroll of Yanukovych’s Party of Regions. Manafort is widely credited with rehabilitating Yanukovych’s image in Ukraine and helping to engineer his victory in the country’s 2010 presidential election. At the same time, Manafort was arranging financial ventures with Firtash’s backing, emails show. Manafort met with Firtash in Kiev in December 2008 to discuss the arrangement. One of his partners reported his success: Firtash’s holding company, Group DF, would invest $100 million in a global real estate fund, pay an initial fee of $1.5 million to CMZ to manage the fund, and set up offices for the firm in Kiev. On August 25, 2008, he emailed two other individuals who would be involved in some of these ventures. One of them, Brad Zackson, was a former manager of the Trump Organization under Fred Trump, Donald’s father. However, documents revealed during court proceedings offer a glimpse of Manafort’s financial ties to Firtash, who is currently wanted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation over bribery allegations. The documents show how Manafort set up investment vehicles at Firtash’s behest in order to funnel his considerable fortune into real estate ventures in the United States and elsewhere.That same year, Firtash acknowledged to the U.S. ambassador in Ukraine that he got his start in business with the permission of a notorious Russian crime lord, according to a classified State Department cable. Other cables say Firtash made part of his fortune through sweetheart natural gas deals between Russia and the Ukraine. Around the same time, companies controlled by another Russian billionaire, Oleg Deripaska, paid $7.35 million toward management fees for Manafort and his partners in connection with an investment fund, according to a court filing in the Cayman Islands. Deripaska once was denied entry to the United States because of alleged mafia ties, current and former officials told NBC News. Deripaska is considered by U.S. officials to be among Putin’s inner circle. According to the cable, Firtash told the U.S. ambassador at a meeting in 2008 that he had been forced to deal with suspected criminals because at that time it was impossible to do business in Ukraine cleanly. He said he had needed and received permission from a man named Semion Mogilevich to establish various businesses.

In 2008, however, Russian police arrested Mogelivich, using one of his many pseudonyms, Sergei Schneider, in connection with tax evasion for a cosmetics company, Arbat Prestige. Mogilevich ran that company with his partner, Vladimir Nekrosov. Three years later, the charges were dropped

In 2010, however, then prime minister of Ukraine, Yulia Tymoshenko, said she had “documented proof that some powerful criminal structures are behind the RosUkrEnergo (RUE) company,” according to WikiLeaks. Even before, the press had widely speculated about Mogilevich’s ties to RUE.

In the 2014 tape, made exactly one year before the former KGB officer, Alexander Litvinenko, was allegedly poisoned in 2014 with a radioactive isotope, the dissident apparently claims the Russian president had links with a mobster who was most wanted by the FBI. Mr Litvinenko says Putin had a “good relationship” with Ukrainian crime boss Semion Mogilevich, whom he accused of selling weapons to al-Qaeda. Separately, documents seen by the Telegraph reveal the transcript of an apparent conversation between two high-ranking Ukrainian officials in which they discuss the fact that Mogilevich had bought a house in Moscow and had received a passport “under another name”.Mogilevich may even have a working relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin, according to a published conversation between Leonid Derkach, the former chief of the Ukrainian security service, and former Ukrainian president Leonid Kuchma. “He’s [Mogilevich] on good terms with Putin,” Derkach reportedly said. “He and Putin have been in contact since Putin was still in Leningrad.”

The 2016 lawsuit, brought by former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, accused U.S. political consultant Paul Manafort of complicity in a complex scheme of retaliation against Tymoshenko and her political allies for impeding the business interests of Ukrainian gas tycoon Dmitry Firtash. Manafort, a veteran GOP consultant and former adviser to recently-ousted Ukrainian president and Firtash ally Viktor Yanukovych, is now leading the Trump presidential campaign’s efforts to secure delegates at the Republican National Convention in July.

 

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David Bogatin, considered a key figure in Semion Mogilevich’s Russian organized crime family, has “a long string of convictions for big-ticket Mogilevich-type offenses like financial fraud and tax dodging,” Henry explains. Allegedly, Bogatin once owned five separate condos in Trump Tower — that Donald Trump had personally sold to him.

Much has been written about Bayrock, the property development firm that was building Trump SoHo, his towering building in New York and other projects.A key principal in Bayrock was Felix Sater, a Russian convicted of helping to lead a massive mafia-linked Wall Street stock fraud scheme. (Mr Sater also attacked a man at a New York bar by stabbing him in the face with the broken stem of a Martini glass). Two lawyers, Frederic Oberlander and Richard Lerner, who have spent much of their careers tracking Bayrock’s dealings, allege in court documents that Bayrock “for most of its existence was substantially and covertly mob-owned and operated”. In a petition to the US Supreme Court, they write that Mr Sater’s father, Michael Sheferofsky, worked for Semion Mogilevich,

 

Sergey Mikhailov was directly involved in the establishment of following companies set up by Semen Mogilevich:

•        Mixim,

•        SV Holding,

•        Arbat International, joint venture,

•        Emire Bond in Israel,

•        Arigon,

•        Magnex in Hungary,

•        MAB International in Belgium,

•        YBM Magnex,

•        Benex

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Adam Khan on Putin Trump Assange

These are cut and pastes from his twitter accounts. Much thought went into this.

1. Some more color, background to my theory that blackmail is how Assange went from “darling of the left” to Putin apologist

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2. Putin routinely uses blackmail to get his way-that’s how he rose to power-that’s how he got Assange

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3. Just like they rescued Trump and Manafort at low points in their careers, Russians aided Assange when his finances dried up

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4. Another motivator for Assange-aside from evidence Putin blackmailed him with? Like Putin, he isn’t a fan of America or Hillary Clinton.

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5.So to people like claiming Assange is a “man of the left” Nope He switched sides in 2010 and is firmly in Putin’s pocket

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6. 6. Not a coincidence that Wikleaks dumps–TPP, Saudi, Turkey, DNC, Podesta-are timed to perfection to aid Putin’s geopolitical objectives

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7. When Panama Papers leak revealed how billions wound up in shell companies controlled a Putin crony, Assange blamed…a Soros conspiracy!

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8. Two Assange comments (left from 2006, right from 2016) best trace his arc from an idealistic whistleblower to a Putin puppet/apologist

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more call this 9

In 2010, Putin used damaging info about Assange’s sexual assault case to blackmail him, turn him into a Kremlin asset

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10. Wikileaks Sarah Harrison (Assange lieutenant) who escorted Snowden into Russia–”US is greatest unaccountable power”

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11.. Assange received documents to leak from Russian Military Intelligence (GRU).

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12. Flynn himself was fired by Obama after repeatedly leaking classified intelligence

 

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13. Flynn, who now freely peddles conspiracy theories, was so prone to dubious pronouncements that senior aides coined a term: “Flynn facts”

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14. And while he criticized Clinton for her private email, Mike Flynn himself used a forbidden private internet connection at the Pentagon!

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15. After he was fired, Flynn was found swooning about Putin, criticizing Obama openly as having lost Putin’s respect

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16. Did the Russians woo/groom Flynn, a disgruntled senior US intelligence official, as their direct conduit to manipulate US National Security?

 

 

 

 

 

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Price of exported Russia natural gas is now at 30% of 2011 level

The Russian economy has been crippled by the falling price of natural gas.

russia-natural-gas

The global gas glut and low prices themselves are expanding the natural gas market by making use more attractive vs oil.

Gazprom has long been the dominant supplier of natural gas to Europe. Last year, it supplied 31% of the Continent’s gas needs.

But that could be disrupted later this year when the United States begins shipping liquefied natural gas (LNG) to Europe from its abundant shale gas fields.

That has put a frown on the face of Vladimir Putin and Gazprom executives. Russia is already getting squeezed by the fall in oil prices. Now, the U.S. is threatening to take its lucrative European gas revenues away – and Europe accounts for the vast bulk of Gazprom’s profits.

Gazprom might consider a strategy to flood Europe with cheap gas in 2016 to kill off U.S. LNG.

Such a scenario would be possible because Gazprom has 100 billion cubic meters of annual gas production capacity sitting on the sidelines in West Siberia, which can effectively be used as spare capacity, not unlike the way Saudi Arabia can ramp up and down oil production to affect prices. Gazprom’s latent capacity is equivalent to 3 percent of global production. This large volume of capacity is the result of investments that were made in a major project on the Yamal Peninsula back when gas markets looked much more bullish.

The approach would mirror Saudi Arabia’s strategy of keeping oil production elevated in order to protect market share, forcing the painful supply-side adjustment onto higher-cost producers. Crucially, Gazprom can produce and export gas to Europe at a much lower cost than LNG from across the Atlantic.

Gazprom will report negative free cash flow this year as its operating profit will not be enough to cover spending.

The company’s market capitalisation has fallen 86 per cent in dollar terms since a peak in 2008.

Gazprom’s own budget, drawn up at the start of the year, envisages that its export prices will fall this year to the lowest level in a decade, and this is forcing the company to pay more attention to its spending.

The company may be forced to delay or cancel some of its projects. The largest of them is the $55bn proposal to develop two new fields in eastern Siberia and build a new pipeline to ship gas to China.

People close to Gazprom say that due to a clause in the contract, first deliveries of gas, which were originally anticipated in 2019, could be as late as 2021.

The company has halved its plans for construction of the pipeline this year, from 800km to 400km.

Russian government has Gazprom as its largest taxpayers. These issues are a further drain on its resources. The government had hoped to force Gazprom to pay 50 per cent of its profit in dividends this year, but last week the company announced a much lower payout.

In America, five new LNG export terminals are under construction. When finished, they will be capable of exporting roughly 10 billion cubic feet per day, according to Perry, making America one of the world’s largest exporters of natural gas.

China has upped its LNG imports by 20 percent during the first three-quarters of 2016, compared to the same period last year. The jump has been caused by low gas prices, which has led the government to seek out new contracts for the procurement of the carbon emission-conservative fossil fuel.

During the United Nations-led Climate Change talks in Marrakesh earlier this month, China confirmed its commitment to abandoning coal – a potent polluter – and increasing its utilization of natural gas to power its developing economy.

russia-gdp

The net result is Russia GDP is zero with prospects low for 2017. In 2015, tax from oil and gas amounted to 52% of Russian receipts – a stabilisation of the oil price will be a significant fiscal boost next year. Russia has been far from profligate since 2008, it runs a trade and current account surplus and, although the government is in deficit to the tune of 2.6% of GDP this year, the government debt to GDP ratio is a very manageable 17.17%.

With a growing federal fiscal deficit (3.7% of GDP by end 2016), one proactive step the government has taken is to reintroduce a three-year, medium-term fiscal framework, which proposes to cut the deficit by about 1% each year, ultimately leading to a balanced budget by 2020. The budget is conservatively based on a $40 per barrel oil price, and cuts are driven mostly by a reduction in expenditures in mostly defence/military and social policy.

They need the sanctions lifted and expect political movements toward that end.

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The world and debt

The International monetary Fund said the world debt is $152 trillion.

It said that new research in its half-yearly fiscal monitor covering 113 countries had shown that debt was currently 225% of global GDP, with the private sector responsible for two-thirds of the total.

IMF said in its semi-annual Fiscal Monitor, noting that about two-thirds of the liabilities reside in the private sector. The rest of it is public debt, which has increased to 85 percent of GDP last year from below 70 percent.

Vitor Gaspar, the director of the IMF’s fiscal affairs department said: “$152tn is a record high. In places around the world we have excessive debt. In some places we have debt, in particular non-financial corporations’ debt, growing very fast.

“Excessive private debt is a major headwind against the global recovery and a risk to financial stability,” said Mr Gaspar. “The Fiscal Monitor shows that rapid increases in private debt often end up in financial crises. Financial recessions are longer and deeper than normal recessions.”

Countries where people owe the most
Japan: $85,694.87 per person

Ireland: $67,147.59 per person

Singapore: $56,112.75 per person

Belgium: $44,202.75 per person

United States: $42,503.98 per person

Canada: $42,142.61 per person

Italy: $40,461.11 per person

Iceland: $39,731.65 per person

Australia: $23,356.08 per person

United Kingdom: $36,206.11 per person

 

 

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Ukraine Russism Soros

May 2014 – Soros on CNN “they are supported by Russia and pro-Russian.  So Russia has emerged as an alternative to the European Union.  Putin has sort of come out of the closet in – in Ukraine with an ideology that is Nationalist based on ethnic nationalism.  You could call it Russism..”

he hacking group CyberBerkut claims it has penetrated Ukraine’s presidential administration website and obtained correspondence between Soros and Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko.

The hacktivists have published three files online, which include a draft of “A short and medium term comprehensive strategy for the new Ukraine” by Soros (dated March 12, 2015); an undated paper on military assistance to Kiev; and the billionaire’s letter to Poroshenko and Ukraine’s Prime Minister Arseny Yatsenyuk, dated December 23, 2014.

According to the leaked documents, Soros supports Barack Obama’s stance on Ukraine, but believes that the US should do even more.

He is confident that the US should provide Ukraine with lethal military assistance, “with same level of sophistication in defense weapons to match the level of opposing force.”

“In poker terms, the US will ‘meet, but not raise,” the 84-year-old businessman explained, supposedly signing one of the letters as “a self-appointed advocate of the new Ukraine.”

The Western backers want Kiev to “restore the fighting capacity of Ukraine without violating the Minsk agreement,” Soros wrote.

Retired US general Wesley Clark, who commanded the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia, and Polish ex-general, Waldemar Skrzypczak, will be among those advising Poroshenko on how to fulfil this task, he added.

In mid-February, after a year of fighting, Kiev and rebels from the self-proclaimed People’s Republics of Donetsk and Lugansk signed a peace deal calling for a ceasefire, heavy weapons withdrawal, and prisoner exchanges between the sides.

Among other things, the leaked documents claim that the Ukrainian authorities were also asked to “restore some semblance of currency stability and functioning banking system” and “maintain unity among the various branches of government” in order to receive assistance from foreign allies.

Soros believes that it’s up to the EU to support Kiev with financial aid, stressing that “Europe must reach a new framework agreement that will allow the European Commission to allocate up to $1 billion annually to Ukraine.”

As for the current state of economy, the billionaire wrote that former Chilean finance minister, Andres Velasco, after visiting Ukraine on his request, returned with “a dire view of financial situation.”

“The new Ukraine is literally on the verge of collapse” due to the national bank’s lack of hard currency reserves, Soros warned Poroshenko.

George Soros published an article in the New York Review of Books on January 7, 2015, calling on Europe and the West to put together a $50 billion rescue package for the “new” Ukraine, upping his October suggestion of $20 billion.

The $50 billion package, dubbed the Ukraine ‘Marshall Plan’, suggests taking money from unused rescue funds for other EU countries and from the IMF, the European Investment Bank, the World Bank and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, as well as other sources. The US helped financially to rebuild Europe after World War II with the original Marshall Plan.

The new so-called ‘Marshall Plan’ focuses on supporting Ukraine, and not weakening Russia as the two economies are closely tied.

In Februsry 2015 he wrote “Ukraine needs international assistance because it has experienced shocks that have produced a financial crisis. The shocks are transitory; once Ukraine recovers from the shocks it should be able to repay its creditors. This explains why the IMF was put in charge of providing financial assistance to Ukraine.

Since Ukraine is not yet a member of the EU, European institutions (like the European Commission and the European Central Bank) played only a secondary part in providing assistance to it. The IMF welcomed the opportunity to avoid the complications associated with the supervision by a troika consisting of the EU, the European Central Bank, and the IMF that was used to deal with Greece and others. This new arrangement also explains why the IMF-led package was based on overly optimistic forecasts and why the IMF’s contribution of approximately $17 billion in cash to Ukraine is so much larger than the approximately $10 billion of various commitments associated with the EU, and even smaller amounts from the US.

Since Ukraine has had a poor track record with previous IMF programs, the official lenders insisted that Ukraine should receive assistance only as a reward for clear evidence of deep structural reform, not as an inducement to undertake these reforms.

From this conventional perspective, the successful resistance to the previous Yanokovych government on the Maidan and, later, the Russian annexation of Crimea and the establishment of separatist enclaves in eastern Ukraine are incidental. These events are seen as simply temporary external shocks.

This perspective needs to be altered. The birth of a new Ukraine and the Russian aggression are not merely temporary shocks but historic events. Instead of facing the remnants of a moribund Soviet Union, the European Union is confronted by a resurgent Russia that has turned from strategic partner into strategic rival. To replace communism, President Putin has developed a nationalist ideology based on ethnic grounds, social conservatism, and religious faith—the brotherhood of the Slavic race, homophobia, and holy Russia. He has cast what he calls Anglo-Saxon world domination as the enemy of Russia—and of the rest of the world. Putin has learned a lot from his war with President Mikheil Saakashvili’s Georgia in 2008. Russia won that war militarily but was less successful in its propaganda efforts. Putin has developed an entirely new strategy that relies heavily on using both special forces and propaganda.

Putin’s ambition to recreate a Russian empire has unintentionally helped bring into being a new Ukraine that is opposed to Russia and seeks to become the opposite of the old Ukraine with its endemic corruption and ineffective government. The new Ukraine is led by the cream of civil society: young people, many of whom studied abroad and refused to join either government or business on their return because they found both of them repugnant. Many of them found their place in academic institutions, think tanks, and nongovernmental organizations. A widespread volunteer movement, of unprecedented scope and power unseen in other countries, has helped Ukraine to stand strong against Russian aggression. Its members were willing to risk their lives on the Maidan for the sake of a better future and they are determined not to repeat the mistakes of the past, including the political infighting that undermined the Orange Revolution. A politically engaged civil society is the best assurance against a return of the old Ukraine: activists would return to the Maidan if the politicians engaged in the kind of petty squabbling and corruption that ruined the old Ukraine.

The reformists in the new Ukrainian government are advocating a radical “big bang” reform program that is intended to have a dramatic impact. This program aims to break the stranglehold of corruption by shrinking the bureaucracy while paying the remaining civil servants better and by breaking up Naftogaz, the gas monopoly that is the main source of corruption and budget deficits in Ukraine.

But the old Ukraine is far from dead. It dominates the civil service and the judiciary, and remains very present in the private (oligarchic and kleptocratic) sectors of the economy. Why should state employees work for practically no salary unless they can use their position as a license to extort bribes? And how can a business sector that was nurtured on corruption and kickbacks function without its sweeteners? These retrograde elements are locked in battle with the reformists.

The new government faces the difficult task of radically reducing the number of civil servants and increasing their pay. Advocates of radical reform claim that it would be both possible and desirable to shrink the ministries to a fraction of their current size, provided that the general population would not be subjected to severe cuts to their living standards. That would allow the discharged civil servants to find jobs in the private sector and the employees retained on the payroll to be paid higher salaries. Many obstacles to doing business would be removed, but that would require substantial financial and technical support from the EU. Without it, the “big bang” kind of radical reforms that Ukraine needs cannot succeed. Indeed, the prospect of failure may even prevent the government from proposing them.”

 

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