Six agencies, federal cops, investigate Russia paying for pro-Trump hackers


“Oh, Look. This one has Donald’s name engraved on it.”

❝ The FBI and five other law enforcement and intelligence agencies have collaborated for months in an investigation into Russian attempts to influence the November election, including whether money from the Kremlin covertly aided President-elect Donald Trump…

The agencies involved in the inquiry are the FBI, the CIA, the National Security Agency, the Justice Department, the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network and representatives of the director of national intelligence…

❝ Investigators are examining how money may have moved from the Kremlin to covertly help Trump win, the two sources said. One of the allegations involves whether a system for routinely paying thousands of Russian-American pensioners may have been used to pay some email hackers in the United States or to supply money to intermediaries who would then pay the hackers…two sources said.

The informal, inter-agency working group began to explore possible Russian interference last spring, long before the FBI received information from a former British spy hired to develop politically damaging and unverified research about Trump…

❝ Trump’s presidential transition team did not respond to a request for comment about the inquiry.

❝ FBI Director Comey refused at a recent Senate hearing to comment on whether the bureau was investigating Russia’s hacking campaign for possible criminal prosecutions. Spokespeople for the FBI, the Justice Department and the national intelligence director declined to comment…

❝ The BBC reported that the FBI had obtained a warrant on Oct. 15 from the highly secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court allowing investigators access to bank records and other documents about potential payments and money transfers related to Russia…

RTFA for the whole context. Importantly, this started before the Chris Steele dossier surfaced with the FBI. That the FBI was able to get a FISA warrant indicates they were able to establish probable cause the target was a foreign power – and the surveillance was likely to produce foreign intelligence.

Golden showers? Russia knows nothing about America’s sex habits

❝ Dear Vlad,

You don’t mind if I call you, Vlad, do you? I wanted to write you about your close relationship with our president-elect, Donald J. Trump.

❝ I read recently that your intelligence agents had collected some “compromising and salacious personal information” on The Donald. A memo about this was said to be generated by a former agent of MI-6, one of Britain’s premier spook agencies, so our US news media has taken this allegation seriously.

But, really, golden showers? You say the “perverted sexual acts” worthy of blackmailing a US president consisted of renting a hotel room in Moscow where Trump hired some prostitutes to “perform a golden showers (urination) show in front of him” on the bed that president and Mrs. Obama supposedly slept in?

❝ Vlad, by your own admission in an interview with Bloomberg News, you clearly have no understanding of American culture or domestic political life…

❝ This is a country that endorses gay marriage. It celebrates the freedom of choosing your own gender. One of our most decorated male athletes at the age of 66 decided he was in fact she and ended up on the cover of Vanity Fair in a corset. We are having so much oral sex that throat cancer rates among men have shot up. Our young people publicly declare themselves to be polyamorous (Vlad, that means they sleep with lots of different people, with consent). Way back in the 1990s one of our most popular female vocalists released a coffee-table book called Sex that showed bondage, full nudity, scenes with a dog, and scenes from a New York sex club…

If the best dirt you’ve got on a our highest elected official is he hired a bunch of girls to pee on a bed, we’ve got nothing to worry about. You don’t understand freedom and democracy enough to upset it.

❝ Sincerely,

Joe Q. Public

Vlad mistakenly accepts the hypocrisy so beloved of our priests, pundits and politicians as somehow representative of what private life may decide is participatory sport in bedrooms ranging from home grown to Trumpkins. Tain’t so.

What’s one thing you would change about the global economy?

❝ How can we create, as Oxfam’s Winnie Byanyima puts it in this article, “an economy that works for the 99% “ and not just the fortunate few?

We asked 10 Davos participants for their thoughts; here’s what they had to say.

Diane Coyle, Professor of Economics, University of Manchester

❝ I would pay teachers at schools in poor communities such high wages that the very best people would want to take the job. That’s not the only change needed in education. We must also think more seriously about the skills our children will need for the world they’ll graduate into, and how to equip them with those skills. And the needs will differ from place to place, so more local control over education policy would make sense, too. But the top priority should be getting society’s most talented people on the task of preventing whole communities from falling further and further behind.

Kenneth Rogoff, Thomas D. Cabot Professor of Public Policy and Professor of Economics, Harvard University

❝ …Trade protectionism will not bring back disappearing manufacturing jobs to the United States or Europe. Instead it will only raise prices of many goods that low-income consumers depend on, and accelerate the pace of mechanization. The best solution to inequality in advanced economies lies in greater redistribution through taxes and transfers, and in improved – and more equal – education at all levels…

Sharan Burrow, General Secretary, International Trade Union Confederation

❝ …Wage share continues to fall further behind both productivity and profits. People are fighting back at the ballot box but tragically the alternatives offered by populist political leaders, with people excluded by race, religion, gender or sexual preference, will not offer inclusive solutions. Governments are caught in the web of corporate capture and fail to regulate or to defend their own people by prosecuting corporations for human and labour rights abuse. Tax fraud and unjust corporate tax concessions threaten essential public services…

RTFA. This is just a taste from a single article. Like the best forums, particularly internationally chartered, a pretty wide range of viewpoints is on display in Davos, this year.

If, like Donald Trump, you think you’re better off ignoring the discussion, then, I’d suggest President Xi’s response to that concept: “Pursuing protectionism is like locking yourself in a dark room, which would seem to escape the wind and rain, but also block out the sunshine and air…”

Move the date back on the first humans in North America — another 10,000 years!


Click to enlargeBourgeon et al

❝ The timing of the first entry of humans into North America across the Bering Strait has now been set back 10,000 years.

This has been demonstrated beyond a shadow of a doubt by Ariane Burke, a professor in Université de Montréal’s Department of Anthropology, and her doctoral student Lauriane Bourgeon, with the contribution of Dr. Thomas Higham, Deputy Director of Oxford University’s Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit.

Their findings were published in early January in the open-access journal PLoS One.

❝ The earliest settlement date of North America, until now estimated at 14,000 years Before Present (BP) according to the earliest dated archaeological sites, is now estimated at 24,000 BP, at the height of the last ice age or Last Glacial Maximum.

❝ The researchers made their discovery using artifacts from the Bluefish Caves, located on the banks of the Bluefish River in northern Yukon near the Alaska border. The site was excavated by archaeologist Jacques Cinq-Mars between 1977 and 1987. Based on radiocarbon dating of animal bones, the researcher made the bold hypothesis that human settlement in the region dated as far back as 30,000 BP…

To set the record straight, Bourgeon examined the approximate 36,000 bone fragments culled from the site and preserved at the Canadian Museum of History in Gatineau — an enormous undertaking that took her two years to complete. Comprehensive analysis of certain pieces at UdeM’s Ecomorphology and Paleoanthropology Laboratory revealed undeniable traces of human activity in 15 bones. Around 20 other fragments also showed probable traces of the same type of activity.

“Series of straight, V-shaped lines on the surface of the bones were made by stone tools used to skin animals,” said Burke. “These are indisputable cut-marks created by humans.”

❝ Bourgeon submitted the bones to further radiocarbon dating. The oldest fragment, a horse mandible showing the marks of a stone tool apparently used to remove the tongue, was radiocarbon-dated at 19,650 years, which is equivalent to between 23,000 and 24,000 cal BP (calibrated years Before Present).

“Our discovery confirms previous analyses and demonstrates that this is the earliest known site of human settlement in Canada,” said Burke. It shows that Eastern Beringia was inhabited during the last ice age.”…

The Beringians of Bluefish Caves were therefore among the ancestors of people who, at the end of the last ice age, colonized the entire continent along the coast to South America.

Bravo. If I was a young ‘un, again – this would be high on the list of work I’d love to be doing.