Tag Archives: US

Donald Trump says he has ‘the absolute right to share facts with Russia’ amid claims he leaked classified information

President claims he disclosed information for ‘humanitarian reasons’ – in statement appearing to contradict administration’s previous account

Donald Trump has insisted he has the “absolute right” to share selected information with Russia amid allegations he passed on classified intelligence.

The President made his first statement on Twitter following a series of denials from White House officials.

Continue reading Donald Trump says he has ‘the absolute right to share facts with Russia’ amid claims he leaked classified information

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Interview: Richard Dearlove—I spy nationalism

A former head of MI6 says that, though the White House commands our attention, Europe is the greater worry.

Richard Dearlove frowned at the coffee pot on the table before him, as he pondered the phenomenon of Donald Trump. “I think he’s very strongly nationalist,” he said, pouring himself a small cup. The room, at a discreet location in central London, was large and empty of other people, its walls lined with 19th-century portraits. Is Trump the start of something worrying, I asked. “I think it depends on how fundamental this shift in politics in the US and other countries is,” he replied, speaking slowly. “I think the jury’s out on how far it is going to go.”

Continue reading Interview: Richard Dearlove—I spy nationalism

Lavrov and Tillerson hold talks in Moscow

The meeting will allow to define Washington’s position and may set the tone for bilateral relations for years to come

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov are holding talks with the US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in Moscow.

Russia still has many questions regarding the foreign policy course of the new US administration. The  meeting between the two top diplomats will allow to define Washington’s position and may set the tone for bilateral relations for years to come.

Continue reading Lavrov and Tillerson hold talks in Moscow

Kim Jong-un ‘has ordered North Korean hackers to rob World Bank, Bank of America’

North Korea has reportedly told its army of hackers to target major world banks and rob them.

This is according to the New York Times, which lists the Bank of America and the European Central Bank as targets for the country’s cyber-criminals.

Continue reading Kim Jong-un ‘has ordered North Korean hackers to rob World Bank, Bank of America’

This Map Of US And Russian Arms Sales Says It All

Russia US Arms Race Graphic Final

They say the Cold War is over, but Russia and the U.S. remain the leading supplier of weapons to countries around the world and are the two biggest military powers. Lately, tensions have been pretty high, too.

The U.S. supplies much of NATO and Middle Eastern allies like Turkey, Israel, and Saudi Arabia.

Russia supplies many BRIC nations, as well as Iran, much of Southeast Asia, and North Africa.

Continue reading This Map Of US And Russian Arms Sales Says It All

Afghanistan’s Opium Industry Now Employs More People Than Its Military

Afghanistan Muddy Boots

Afghanistan’s opium economy provides more employment — “up to 411,000 full-time-equivalent jobs” — than even the country’s armed forces, according to a quarterly report released today by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR).

The country’s poppy cultivation is at an all-time high, covering more than 200,000 hectares, another SIGAR report found earlier this month.

Opium and its derivatives are the country’s largest export, worth $3 billion in 2013, an increase from $2 billion in the year before.

In fact, Afghanistan’s opium production has been on a constant uptick since 2010, according to a chart included in the SIGAR report:

SIGAR Poppy Cultivation Estimates Graph

“Counternarcotics Appears To Have Fallen Off The Agenda”

Despite the rampant growth of an illicit drug economy that stokes corruption and even finances the Taliban, the concern over opium has diminished. The US and its partners seem to have given up on opium eradication as a goal in the country. As the SIGAR report notes, it isn’t even mentioned in “the declarations and communiqués from the conferences on Afghanistan reconstruction that have become a mainstay of the international effort.”

Opium cultivation is paid only “oblique reference” in the 2012 document laying out the country’s reconstruction. Indeed, nowhere in the Tokyo Mutual Accountability Framework do the words “poppy” or “opium” appear, even as the industry plays an ever-bigger role in the life of Afghans.

Meanwhile, appropriations for the Department of Defense’s Drug Interdiction and Counter-Drug Activities Fund (or DOD CN) have plummeted since a steady climb in the aughts and a peak in 2012. Since 2002, the US has spent nearly $7.8 billion trying to tackle Afghanistan’s opium problem.

This chart shows how that effort recieved less and less US budgetary attention, at the same time opium production in the country increased:

Counter Narcotics Funding Afghanistan SIGAR

Read the entire report here.

10 facts that reveal the absurdity of Pablo Escobar’s wealth

The “king of cocaine” was the son of a poor Colombian farmer. But by the time he was 35, he was one of the world’s wealthiest men.

Despite his humble origins, Pablo Emilio Escobar Gaviria became the infamous leader of the Medellín cartel — responsible for 80% of the global cocaine market.

“El Patron,” as he’s often called, brought in an estimated $420 million a week in revenue, easily making him one of the wealthiest drug lords in history.

While verifying Escobar’s wealth is impossible due to the nature of drug money, figures range up to $30 billion.

1. In the mid-1980s, Escobar’s cartel brought in an estimated $420 million a week, which totals almost $22 billion a year.

1. In the mid-1980s, Escobar's cartel brought in an estimated $420 million a week, which totals almost $22 billion a year.

2. Escobar made the Forbes’ list of international billionaires for seven years straight, beginning in 1987 until 1993. In 1989, he was listed as the seventh richest man in the world.

2. Escobar made the Forbes' list of international billionaires for seven years straight, beginning in 1987 until 1993. In 1989, he was listed as the seventh richest man in the world.

3. By the end of the 1980s, he supplied 80% of the world’s cocaine …

3. By the end of the 1980s, he supplied 80% of the world's cocaine ...

4. … and smuggled approximately 15 tons of cocaine into the US per day.

4. ... and smuggled approximately 15 tons of cocaine into the US per day.

Pablo Escobar with his son Juan Pablo in front of the White House in 1981.

According to journalist Ioan Grillo, the Medellín cartel smuggled most of its cocaine straight over the Florida coast.

“It was a nine-hundred-mile run from the north coast of Colombia and was simply wide-open. The Colombians and their American counterparts would airdrop loads of blow out to sea, from where it would be rushed ashore in speedboats, or even fly it right onto the Florida mainland and let it crash down in the countryside,” Grillo wrote.

5. In other words, of the Americans doing cocaine, four in five of them were snorting lines supplied by “El Patron.”

5. In other words, of the Americans doing cocaine, four in five of them were snorting lines supplied by "El Patron."

6. The “king of cocaine” factored in a $2.1 billion loss in profits each month, but that didn’t really matter.

6. The "king of cocaine" factored in a $2.1 billion loss in profits each month, but that didn't really matter.

Escobar’s immense wealth became problematic when he couldn’t launder his cash quick enough.

He resorted to stashing piles of cash in Colombian farming fields, dilapidated warehouses, and in the walls of cartel members’ homes,according to Roberto Escobar, the cartel’s chief accountant and the kingpin’s brother, in his book, “The Accountant’s Story: Inside the violent world of the Medellín cartel.”

“Pablo was earning so much that each year we would write off 10% of the money because the rats would eat it in storage or it would be damaged by water or lost,” Escobar wrote.

That would be about $2.1 billion, given how much money he was reportedly making.

Escobar simply had more money than he knew to do with, and therefore haphazardly losing money to rodents and mold wasn’t an issue.

7. And he expensed $2,500 on rubber bands each month.

7. And he expensed $2,500 on rubber bands each month.

While hiding or destroying the exorbitant amount of money was one issue, the brothers faced another much more elementary problem — neatly organizing the banknotes.

According to Roberto Escobar, the Medellín cartel spent an estimated $2,500 a month on rubber bands which were needed to hold stacks of bills together.

8. Once he started a fire with $2 million because his daughter was cold.

8. Once he started a fire with $2 million because his daughter was cold.

Pablo Escobar with his wife Maria Victoria, son Juan Pablo, and daughter Manuela Escobar.

In a 2009 interview with Don Juan magazine, Escobar’s son Juan Pablo, 38, who has since changed his name to Sebastián Marroquí­n, described what life was like on the run with the “king of cocaine.”

According to Marroquí­n, the family was living in a hideout in the Medellín mountainside when Escobar’s daughter Manuela became hypothermic.

Escobar decided to torch $2 million in crisp banknotes to keep her warm.

9. He was nicknamed “Robin Hood” after handing out cash to the poor, building housing for the homeless, constructing 70 community soccer fields, and building a zoo.

9. He was nicknamed "Robin Hood" after handing out cash to the poor, building housing for the homeless, constructing 70 community soccer fields, and building a zoo.

10. He cut a deal with Colombia to be imprisoned, but in a luxury prison he built and named “la catedral” meaning cathedral.

10. He cut a deal with Colombia to be imprisoned, but in a luxury prison he built and named "la catedral" meaning cathedral.

Pablo Escobar with his top hitman “Popeye” in “la catedral.”

In 1991, Escobar was incarcerated in his self-designed prison he named “la catedral.”

In the terms of his agreement with the Colombian government, Escobar was allowed to select who was imprisoned with him and who worked in the prison. He could also continue to run his cartel business and receive visitors.

La catedral was equipped with a soccer field, barbecue pit and patios and was nearby another compound he built separately for his family.

Also, the Colombian authorities were not allowed within 3 miles of his prison.

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