While most of the focus on the presidential campaign remains on the weight of a former Miss Universe and unsubstantiated claims of a Russian plot to get Donald Trump elected, a story with at least a tenuous grounding in reality emerged today.
Trump Rented Space to Outlawed Iranian Bank Linked to Terrorism
That’s a headline story if I’ve ever seen one. But is it true? Not really.
The bank in question, Bank Melli, was sanctioned in 2007 by the US Treasury Department on claims that, as a bank that exists in Iran, it had something to do with financial transactions related to Iran’s civilian nuclear enrichment program.
Which it probably did, being Iran’s main bank, which has some 30% of the market there. So did Trump violate sanctions by doing business with an “outlawed” bank? Not at all.
The “story” such as it is, is that Bank Melli rented office space in a Trump-owned building in New York City between 1998 and 2003. The sanctions, as noted above, only happened in 2007, years after the bank moved out of the building.
Reports out of the Republican leadership say that the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act, or JASTA, is expected to come up for a vote in the House of Representatives this week, likely on Friday.
The JASTA allows for 9/11 victims to sue Saudi Arabia for damages related to the 2001 terrorist attack. Saudi Arabia threatened the US over the bill back in April, threatening to immediately divest themselves of $750 billion in US treasury assets, potentially collapsing both the US debt market and the dollar.
The Saudi threats initially worked, with the White House threatening a veto, citing the risk of the bill to “taxpayers.” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R – SC) also briefly blocked the bill, though the Senate did eventually pass the bill in mid-May.
Continue reading “House Expects Friday Vote on 9/11 Lawsuit Bill Opposed by Saudis”
While everyone gives lip-service to protecting customers’ privacy these days, many major US tech companies are known to be in bed with the NSA on wholesale surveillance. It’s tough to know, then, how seriously to take security promises from such companies.
A good rule of thumb, however, might be derived from Telegram, an open-sourced private messaging application with a soaring user base. While government officials sort of pooh-pooh anything that seems too private, the reaction to Telegram is downright apoplectic.
Several European officials are reacting with absolute fury toward Telegram for being a serious obstacle to surveillance, with French officials complaining they struggled to even find ways to get in touch with the company to demand they hand over information.
Even then, they’re not getting the chat logs from Telegram, because part of the design infrastructure ensuring the privacy of such chats is that the company doesn’t keep chat logs in the first place, and therefore has nothing to hand over.
The hostility toward Telegram, and the claims that they’re facilitating ISIS because their service isn’t built to be spied on, is a good indication that they’re doing their job pretty well.
Indeed, officials are calling Telegram a “technological nightmare,” which for people who don’t want those officials reading what they write can only be a good thing.
When a branch of the US military starts rolling out a new pet project, it is rarely either cost effective or literally effective. The US Navy’s littoral combat ship (LCS) program is really underscoring that recently, with more ships breaking at seemingly random, meaning four nearly brand new ships have broken down in less than a year.
Just yesterday, the Navy discussed problems with its first LCS, the USS Freedom, which inexplicably was put out of commission back in July when seawater got into the engine and the oil system and started rusting things out. Limping back to home port, the USS Freedom now needs an engine replaced outright, with no timetable for the fix, or the cost.
Continue reading “US Littoral Combat Ships a Figurative Disaster”
A major fine by the UEFA expected to be levied against Scottish football powerhouse Celtic F.C., after a group of fans publicly displayed Palestinian flags during a playoff match against Hapoel Be’er Sheva.
Celtic fans, however, aren’t backing down, and have insisted that they will “match the fine for Palestine,” raising nearly $100,000, and promising to donate the money to Palestinian charities.
Celtic fans flew thousands of the flags at last week’s match in Glasgow’s Celtic Park as a “show of solidarity” with Palestinians living under Israeli occupation, as they played the first leg of a series against the team from southern Israel.
This was not the first time Celtic showed interest in the cause of Palestinian independence, however, as fans have in the past flown Palestinian flags at certain games, including those not involving an Israeli team. In 2014 the UEFA fined Celtic some $20,000 for allowing fans to display an “illicit banner” i.e. the Palestinian flag, during a game against an Icelandic team. That incident was during the 2014 Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip.
The second leg of the playoff is Tuesday in Israel. Israeli police have warned they have “zero tolerance” for Scottish fans with Palestinian flags, and have vowed to jail anyone who attempts to display such a flag during the match. Celtic is leading 5-2 after dominating the home leg of the playoff.
In comments which appeared to be designed to end concerns about foreign donors buying influence in a future Clinton government through the Clinton Foundation, former President Bill Clinton has announced that, if Hillary is elected president, there will be changes made to the foundation’s donations guidelines, including an end to all foreign donations.
Instead of resolving the questions, however, this appears to only add to them, with the advanced notice about a potential end to foreign donations in three months giving the appearance that they’re soliciting those donors before the rule change.
Hillary stepped down from the board of the Clinton Foundation after launching her presidential campaign, and Bill has indicated he would step down as well if she is elected. Still, it is hard to say they would not retain substantial influence over the foundation’s activities.
When she was Secretary of State, Clinton faced similar questions, and indeed the foundation similarly stopped accepting foreign donations while she was in that role, though they resumed accepting such donations as soon as she left the office. This too gives the appearance that foreign donations might just be “temporarily” suspended during her administration, leaving the question of whether donors are buying influence totally unanswered, and just indicating that the cash can’t flow after a certain date.