John Harding’s book, Escape from Paradise – Paperback and Kindle Versions


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It took me two and a half evenings to complete your un-put-downable is a unique contribution to the appreciation of a life in Singapore. Thank you for having written it. C. V. Devan Nair, former President of Singapore.

Bought the book from Select this weekend and can't put it down! It's a great read! And so nostalgic for me—the good old days! Glen Goei, writer and director of the Miramax film That's the Way I Like It and who played the title role opposite Anthony Hopkins in the London production of M. Butterfly. Mr. Goei's latest film is The Blue Mansion - Click for the trailer!

It is a remarkable story and so full of intrigue that it reads at times like fiction.Jonathan Burnham, Editor in Chief & President, Talk Miramax Books.

“It's quite a story The legendary Alice Mayhew, Vice-President & Editorial Director, Simon & Schuster.

This book out-Dallas, Dallas. No one has written so well of the other side of paradise,Francis T. Seow, former Solicitor General of Singapore

Escape from Paradise – the movie!!!

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As seen on Huffington Post


How to Open a Successful Pawnshop (edited by John Harding)

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Lunch with Senator John McCain

It was a quiet day and Jim was reading stuff on his laptop.

“Geez,” said Jim, “These here guys were caught with $457,000 in cash as they were comin’ across the border from Calexico into Mexicali.
“What happened to them,” I asked.

“A guy was drivin’ a Nissan Maxima with a young lady and they was stopped by the police – our guys the U.S. Border Patrol. The money was hid in the trunk—46 packages of cash. Wow!”
“Wonder what they’re gonna do with those folks?” I asked.

“Jail’em. And get this—they’s both American citizens from Los Angeles.”

“Wonder who that money was going to,” I said.

“Ain’t even gonna guess on that one. Ya know there’s a sign at the border that you can’t bring in no more than ten grand in cash. Some kind’a American currency control for them there IRS guys.”
Jim squinted at his laptop screen. “And here’s another one, MaryAnn. Some guy got stopped at the Salton Sea Border Patrol checkpoint hauling fifty pounds of meth hidden in his car—pretty decent vehicle, a 2013 Dodge Avenger. Geez, the stuff was worth around $505,000.”

“Lunch’s ready, Jim.”

“The guy with the meth was a Mexican citizen but, says here, he was a lawful permanent resident of the U.S.—his green card must’a been OK. Howse about that!”

“Lunch!” I shouted.

Jim walked over to the table, said down and said, “Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches? Bet the guy bringing the $450,000 gets a better lunch.”

Bush & McCain

McCain Sucks Up to Bush

“And the meth guy, too. Look they got McCain on the TV,” I said to distract him.

Jim smiled, “Yeah, bottom of his class at the Naval Academy and graduated because his dad was an Admiral. McCain’s the guy that voted against given’ body armor to our soldiers in the recruiting offices—and now five of our recruiting guys got killed. Thanks… McCain—bet’cha your havin’ a better lunch, too.”

Is Saudi Arabia behind ISIS and 9/11?

The conclusion of a nuclear agreement between the P5+1 (E3/EU+3) international group and Iran yesterday has fed fears that Washington and Tehran were growing closer at the expense of America’s partners and allies in the region – in this case, Saudi Arabia.

In March 2014 President Barack Obama was in Riyadh for a summit with King Abdullah to “underscore the importance of the bilateral relationship” and to “talk about some of the key regional issues, specifically Iran, that affect both of our interests so profoundly,” according to an Administration spokesman. At the time President Obama made very clear that he believes that both American and Saudi strategic interests remain very much aligned.

In the wake of the March 2014 Obama-Abdullah summit Fahad Nazer, a Washington, DC area-based political analyst, writing in Yale Global Online commented on the “unusually blunt, public criticism that some Saudi officials and analysts have leveled against the Obama administration in Saudi and US media” which “suggests that the profound difference stems from varying perceptions of the threat that the region’s crises pose to the national security of each nation and while the Obama administration reassured its Saudi hosts that the differences between the two sides were “tactical,” a careful reading of the assertive, and risky, policies that Saudi Arabia has adopted in places as varied as Syria, Egypt Iraq and Iran – in sharp difference with Obama administration’s extremely cautious, if not ambiguous policies in the region – reveals that the difference is perhaps deeper, more philosophical, and unlikely to be bridged in a two-hour meeting or perhaps even over the next two years.”

Yesterday as Mr. Obama was wrapping up his remarks on the Iranian nuclear deal with Iran he sought to keep the Washington-Tehran prospects in perspective:
In May, President Obama hosted Gulf Cooperation Council leaders at a summit in Washington at the White House and at Camp David. The conclave produced a comprehensive communique addressing the regional challenges that faced the partners. It addressed in an unambiguous fashion the enduring relationships between Washington and its Gulf Arab allies:
The leaders pledged to further deepen U.S.-GCC relations on these and other issues in order to build an even stronger, enduring, and comprehensive strategic partnership aimed at enhancing regional stability and prosperity.

On July 15, 2015, Mr. Nazer drew the sharp distinction between Iran and Saudi Arabia reinforcing the rationale for Washington’s generations’ old ties with Riyadh in a VOA op-ed. He stated: “Some advocates of the nuclear deal are even suggesting that it could potentially transform Iran from an avowed enemy of the United States to its most important strategic partner in the Persian Gulf, supplanting the long-time U.S. ally, Saudi Arabia, in the process.”

Nazer went on to admit that Saudi citizens comprised the majority of the perpetrators who conducted the 9/11 attack against the United States. And then Nazer stated that Saudis continue to fill the ranks of terrorist organizations, including the so-called Islamic State, there is no evidence that the Saudi government supports militant groups that target American citizens and interests.
In Nazer’s admissions, we see what Saudi government officials have long maintained – that Saudi Arabia is not the originator of the Islamic State. However, the mysterious 28 pages of the “The 9/11 Commission Report” which are still classified, may reveal Saudi Arabia’s possible involvement in 9/11 and in the formation of the Islamic State.
Yet, it is known that the Islamic State was formed from Saudis sent into Syria to destabilize the Shiite Assad regime. In addition, there are striking similarities between the Saudi’s brand of Sunni Wahhabi Islam and the religious beliefs of the Islamic State.

Given these circumstances it is no wonder that, even though Saudi Arabia is part of the U.S. coalition against the Islamic State, no Saudi help in the battle against the Islamic State has been forthcoming.

Possible Saudi state terrorism could well be the reason for America’s opening up to Iran.

El Chapo Guzman Escapes from Jail!

We are the first to report this, as it comes directly from our sources in Mexico.

Forbes Billionaire Mexican drug lord Joaquin Guzman, known as El Chapo or “Shorty”, has escaped from a maximum security prison for a second time.

Mexico’s National Security Commission said Guzman was last seen in the showers of the Altiplano jail late on Saturday night. Now, he is nowhere to be found.

He was (and is again?) the leader of the Sinaloa Cartel, which smuggles huge amounts of illegal drugs into the U.S., controlling much of the flow of cocaine, marijuana and methamphetamine to the U.S. Fifty billion U.S. dollars flow into Mexico each year for narcotics.

Officials say that Guzman’s escape was discovered when officers checked his cell in the Altiplano prison, which is near Mexico City.

A search operation has been launched and flights have been suspended at a nearby Toluca airport.

Guzman was arrested in Guatemala in 1993, but escaped from a Mexican high-security prison in 2001. He hid in a laundry basket after bribing prison officials.

He had been serving a sentence of more than 20 years after being arrested in Guatemala in 1993.

The US has indicted him on federal drug trafficking charges. However, Mexico refuses to extradite him to the U.S. – because the powers that be in Mexico are corrupt and easy for billionaire El Chapo to have his way with them. Looks like Donald Trump is correct.

His recapture in 2014 was hailed as a victory for Mexico’s government. El Chapo’s arrest last year was a success story for Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto who has failed to stop the drug-related killings in Mexico. At the time of his arrest Pena Nieto had Guzman paraded before the media in Mexico City. Now, it is El Chapo who has the last laugh.

El Chapo is too rich and Mexico is too corrupt to keep him in prison. Like many U.S. executives, El Chapo is to big to jail!

Pope Francis’ Encyclical on Climate Change

Pope Francis
Pope Francis

The climate as a common good

23. The climate is a common good of all and for all. It, globally, is a complex system in relation to many conditions essential for human life. Scientific consensus exists that indicates that we are very firm in  presence of a worrisome warming of the climate system. In recent decades, that the heating was accompanied by the constant rise in the sea level, and is also hard not to relate it to the increase in extreme weather events, regardless of the fact that we can not attribute a cause scientifically determined at each particular phenomenon. Humanity is called to become aware of the need to change lifestyles, production and consumption, to combat this heating or, at least, the human causes that produce or accentuate. It is true that there are other factors (such as volcanism, and the variations of the orbit of the Earth, the solar cycle), but numerous scientific studies indicate that most of the global warming of recent decades is due to the large concentration of greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide and other) issued mainly because of human activity. Their concentrations in the atmosphere prevents the heat of sunlight reflected by the earth being dispersed in space. This is especially enhanced by the development model based on the intensive use of fossil fuels, which is at the center of the world energy system. It has also affected the increase in the practice of land-use change, mainly deforestation for agricultural purposes.

24. In turn, the heating has effects on the carbon cycle. It creates a vicious cycle that exacerbates the situation even more and that will affect  on the availability of essential resources such as drinking water, energy and agricultural production of the hottest areas, and will result in the extinction of the planet’s biodiversity. The melting of polar ice and high altitude threat of those escaping at high risk of methane gas, and the decomposition of organic matter frozen could further accentuate the emission of carbon dioxide. In turn, the loss of tropical forests makes things worse, since they help to mitigate climate change. The pollution produced by carbon dioxide increase the acidity of the oceans and impairs the marine food chain. If the current trend continues, this century could be witnessed climate change inau- fingers and unprecedented destruction of ecosystems, with serious consequences for all of us. Rising sea levels, for example, can create situations of extreme gravity when we consider that a quarter of the world population lives by the sea or very close to it, and most of the megacities are located in coastal areas.

25. Climate change is a global problem with serious environmental implications, social, economic, and political distribution, area and are one of the main current challenges for humanity. Impacts heavier probably will fall in the coming decades on developing countries. Many poor people living in particularly  affected by phenomena related to heating, and their livelihoods depend heavily from nature reserves and by so-called ecosystem services, such as agriculture, fisheries and forestry. They have no other financial resources and other resources that enable them to adapt to climate impacts or deal with catastrophic situations, and have little access to social services and protection. For example, climate change give rise to migration of animals and plants that can not always adapt themselves, and this in turn affects the productive resources of the poor, and they also see ob- bligati to migrate great uncertainty about the future of their lives and their children. Tragically, the increase of migrants fleeing poverty exacerbated by environmental degradation, which are not recognized as refugees will in international conventions and carry the burden of their lives abandoned without any protection legislation. Unfortunately there is a general indifference to these tragedies, which still occur in different parts of the world. The lack of responses to these dramaturgical me of our brothers and sisters is a sign of the loss of the sense of responsibility for our fellow men that underpin any civilized society.

26. Many of those who hold more resources and economic or political power seem to concentrate mainly in the mask problems and hide the symptoms, just trying to reduce some of the negative impacts of climate change.  But many signs indicate that these effects Po- tranno always be worse if we continue with current patterns of production and consumption. Therefore it has become urgent and compelling policy development in the coming years so that the emission of carbon dioxide and other heavily polluting gas is reduced drastically, for example, by replacing fossil fuels and by developing renewable energy sources. In the world there is a small level of access to clean and renewable energy. There is still a need to develop appropriate technologies for accumulation. However, in some countries there have been advances that are beginning to be significant, although they are far from reaching a significant proportion. There were also some investments in modali- ty of production and transportation that use less energy and require fewer raw materials, as well as mode of construction or renovation of buildings which do best- no energy efficiency. But these good practices are far from becoming general.

The original version, in Italian: of the portion on climate change:

Il clima come bene comune
23. Il clima è un bene comune, di tutti e per tutti. Esso, a livello globale, è un sistema com- plesso in relazione con molte condizioni essen- ziali per la vita umana. Esiste un consenso scien- tifico molto consistente che indica che siamo in

presenza di un preoccupante riscaldamento del sistema climatico. Negli ultimi decenni, tale ri- scaldamento è stato accompagnato dal costan- te innalzamento del livello del mare, e inoltre è difficile non metterlo in relazione con l’aumento degli eventi meteorologici estremi, a prescindere dal fatto che non si possa attribuire una causa scientificamente determinabile ad ogni fenome- no particolare. L’umanità è chiamata a prendere coscienza della necessità di cambiamenti di stili di vita, di produzione e di consumo, per com- battere questo riscaldamento o, almeno, le cause umane che lo producono o lo accentuano. È vero che ci sono altri fattori (quali il vulcanismo, le variazioni dell’orbita e dell’asse terrestre, il ciclo solare), ma numerosi studi scientifici indicano che la maggior parte del riscaldamento globale degli ultimi decenni è dovuta alla grande concen- trazione di gas serra (anidride carbonica, meta- no, ossido di azoto ed altri) emessi soprattutto a causa dell’attività umana. La loro concentrazione nell’atmosfera impedisce che il calore dei raggi solari riflessi dalla terra si disperda nello spazio. Ciò viene potenziato specialmente dal modello di sviluppo basato sull’uso intensivo di combustibili fossili, che sta al centro del sistema energetico mondiale. Ha inciso anche l’aumento della pra- tica del cambiamento d’uso del suolo, principal- mente la deforestazione per finalità agricola.

24. A sua volta, il riscaldamento ha effetti sul ciclo del carbonio. Crea un circolo vizioso che aggrava ancora di più la situazione e che inciderà

sulla disponibilità di risorse essenziali come l’ac- qua potabile, l’energia e la produzione agricola delle zone più calde, e provocherà l’estinzione di parte della biodiversità del pianeta. Lo sciogli- mento dei ghiacci polari e di quelli d’alta quota minaccia la fuoriuscita ad alto rischio di gas me- tano, e la decomposizione della materia organi- ca congelata potrebbe accentuare ancora di più l’emissione di anidride carbonica. A sua volta, la perdita di foreste tropicali peggiora le cose, giacché esse aiutano a mitigare il cambiamento climatico. L’inquinamento prodotto dall’anidride carbonica aumenta l’acidità degli oceani e com- promette la catena alimentare marina. Se la ten- denza attuale continua, questo secolo potrebbe essere testimone di cambiamenti climatici inau- diti e di una distruzione senza precedenti degli ecosistemi, con gravi conseguenze per tutti noi. L’innalzamento del livello del mare, ad esempio, può creare situazioni di estrema gravità se si tiene conto che un quarto della popolazione mondiale vive in riva al mare o molto vicino ad esso, e la maggior parte delle megalopoli sono situate in zone costiere.

25. I cambiamenti climatici sono un problema globale con gravi implicazioni ambientali, sociali, economiche, distributive e politiche, e costituisco- no una delle principali sfide attuali per l’umanità. Gli impatti più pesanti probabilmente ricadranno nei prossimi decenni sui Paesi in via di sviluppo. Molti poveri vivono in luoghi particolarmente

colpiti da fenomeni connessi al riscaldamento, e i loro mezzi di sostentamento dipendono forte- mente dalle riserve naturali e dai cosiddetti ser- vizi dell’ecosistema, come l’agricoltura, la pesca e le risorse forestali. Non hanno altre disponibilità economiche e altre risorse che permettano loro di adattarsi agli impatti climatici o di far fronte a situazioni catastrofiche, e hanno poco accesso a servizi sociali e di tutela. Per esempio, i cam- biamenti climatici danno origine a migrazioni di animali e vegetali che non sempre possono adat- tarsi, e questo a sua volta intacca le risorse pro- duttive dei più poveri, i quali pure si vedono ob- bligati a migrare con grande incertezza sul futuro della loro vita e dei loro figli. È tragico l’aumento dei migranti che fuggono la miseria aggravata dal degrado ambientale, i quali non sono riconosciu- ti come rifugiati nelle convenzioni internazionali e portano il peso della propria vita abbandonata senza alcuna tutela normativa. Purtroppo c’è una generale indifferenza di fronte a queste tragedie, che accadono tuttora in diverse parti del mondo. La mancanza di reazioni di fronte a questi dram- mi dei nostri fratelli e sorelle è un segno della perdita di quel senso di responsabilità per i nostri simili su cui si fonda ogni società civile.

26. Molti di coloro che detengono più risorse e potere economico o politico sembrano con- centrarsi soprattutto nel mascherare i problemi o nasconderne i sintomi, cercando solo di ridurre alcuni impatti negativi di cambiamenti climatici.

Ma molti sintomi indicano che questi effetti po- tranno essere sempre peggiori se continuiamo con gli attuali modelli di produzione e di con- sumo. Perciò è diventato urgente e impellente lo sviluppo di politiche affinché nei prossimi anni l’emissione di anidride carbonica e di altri gas altamente inquinanti si riduca drasticamente, ad esempio, sostituendo i combustibili fossili e svi- luppando fonti di energia rinnovabile. Nel mondo c’è un livello esiguo di accesso alle energie pulite e rinnovabili. C’è ancora bisogno di sviluppare tecnologie adeguate di accumulazione. Tuttavia, in alcuni Paesi ci sono stati progressi che comin- ciano ad essere significativi, benché siano lontani dal raggiungere una proporzione importante. Ci sono stati anche alcuni investimenti in modali- tà di produzione e di trasporto che consumano meno energia e richiedono minore quantità di materie prime, come pure in modalità di costru- zione o ristrutturazione di edifici che ne migliori- no l’efficienza energetica. Ma queste buone prati- che sono lontane dal diventare generali.

The entire encyclical, in Italian, is here:


Sunnis (ISIS and Saudi Arabia), at war with Iran’s Shiites

ISIS Ramadi Victory Parade - Undefended and not Bombed by the US. Why?

ISIS Ramadi Victory Parade – Undefended and not Bombed by the US. Why?

Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Forces, which includes the Shiite militia (mainly from Iran) are fighting ISIS.

Iranian Shiite militiamen continue to pour into Iraq’s Sunni heartland of Anbar province with the goal of recapturing Ramadi which is only miles from Baghdad.
As the U.S. prepares to send an additional 450 personnel to Iraq, the Iranian-backed militias say that coalition assistance only hurts their efforts – contradicting statements by the Iraqi government that more international support is needed.

ISIS fighters captured Anbar’s provincial capital of Ramadi last month, prompting Defense Secretary Ash Carter to lament that the U.S.-trained Iraqi troops lacked “the will to fight.” The Popular Mobilization Forces were called to battle in Anbar after the fall of Ramadi, despite concerns that their involvement in the province would antagonize the Sunni population. as Anbar province is populated by Sunnis.

Many of the Shiite fighters, believe that U.S. airstrikes have been a hindrance to their efforts to recapture territory—and in some cases, have been deadly.

“We know of Shiite Hashd al-Shaabi fighters who were killed by the American planes,” Shiite fighter, Mahdi, said, using the commonly known Arabic name for the Popular Mobilization Forces. “If they really wanted to help us, then they would leave Iraqis to liberate Iraq by themselves.” On the other had, the U.S. missed a golden opportunity, when they did not bomb the ISIS mile’s-long (and undefended) victory parade to celebrate their taking of Ramadi.

The Popular Mobilization Forces have played a key role in several battles in the past year, but their strategy is increasingly at odds with that of the government. While Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi continues to lobby for greater international support in the way of arms, training and aid, the Popular Mobilization Forces want the coalition to back off and let the Iranian Shiites do it.

While there are no official estimates for the size of the Shiite dominated Popular Mobilization Forces, they are now believed to make up the majority of fighters in Iraq, outnumbering the official Iraqi military, which virtually crumbled in the face of the militant onslaught last year.

A number of the individual militias have said Iranian advisers arm and train their fighters, but officially the Popular Mobilization Force can only receive aid from the Iraqi government, leaving the U.S. somewhat at a loss for how to deal with them.

In Anbar itself, red and green flags with the operation’s slogan — “Labaik ya Hussein,” or “At your command, Hussein” — flap in the wind and dust alongside posters hailing the Popular Mobilization Forces. The slogan is in honor of the Prophet Mohammed’s grandson, Imam Hussein, who was killed in the 7th century battle that led to the schism between Shiite and Sunni Muslims.

And that is what the war is all about – the centuries-old war between the Sunnis, now represented by ISIS and Saudi Arabia, and the Shiites, represented by Iran.

Former U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Dennis Hastert Indicted

Vote out the crooks in Washington!

Steve Reinboldt was allegedly the victim of Hastert’s sexual abuse. Reinboldt was Hastert’s equipment manager when the man who went on to be speaker of the House was a high-school wrestling coach.

And Hastert is the type of person we send to Washington?

Former U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Dennis Hastert indicted for money laundering and for lying to the FBI.
Each count can put him away for 5 years.

In 2010, Hastert allegedly agreed to pay money to keep something quiet to an unnamed longtime acquaintance (who the document refers to as Individual A). It is alleged that Hastert agreed to give Individual A a total of $3.5 million to “compensate for and conceal his prior misconduct.” No doubt other indictments will follow and Individual A will be exposed.

And how does Hastert come up with so much money?


v.                                                           ) Violations: Title 18, United States
) Code, Section 1001(a)(2); Title 31,
) United States Code,
JOHN DENNIS HASTERT             ) Section 5324(a)(3)



1. At times material to this indictment:

a. From approximately 1965 to 1981, defendant JOHN DENNIS HASTERT was a high school teacher and coach in Yorkville, Illinois. From approximately 1981 to 2007, defendant JOHN DENNIS HASTERT was an elected public official, including eight years as Speaker of the United States House of Representatives. From approximately 2008 to the present, defendant JOHN DENNIS HASTERT has worked as a lobbyist in Washington, D.C.
b. Individual A has been a resident of Yorkville, Illinois and has known defendant JOHN DENNIS HASTERT most of Individual A’s life.
c. In or about 2010, Individual A met with defendant JOHN DENNIS HASTERT multiple times. During at least one of the meetings,

Individual A and defendant discussed past misconduct by defendant against Individual A that had occurred years earlier.
d. During the 2010 meetings and subsequent discussions, defendant JOHN DENNIS HASTERT agreed to provide Individual A $3.5 million in order to compensate for and conceal his prior misconduct against Individual A.
e. Shortly thereafter, defendant began providing Individual A cash payments.
f. From approximately 2010 to 2014, defendant JOHN DENNIS HASTERT withdrew a total of approximately $1.7 million in cash from various bank accounts he controlled and provided it to Individual A.
g. From approximately June 2010 through April 2012, defendant JOHN DENNIS HASTERT made fifteen $50,000 withdrawals of cash from bank accounts he controlled at Old Second Bank, People’s State Bank and Castle Bank and provided that cash to Individual A approximately every six weeks.
h. Title 31, United States Code, Section 5313(a) and Title 31, Code of Federal Regulations, Section 1010.310-313 required domestic financial institutions to prepare and file with the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network a Currency Transaction Report (Form 104) for any transaction or series of transactions involving currency of more than $10,000.
i. Old Second Bank, People’s State Bank, Castle Bank and Chase Bank were domestic financial institutions subject to the Currency Transaction Reporting requirements described in the preceding paragraph.
j. In approximately April 2012, pursuant to bank policy and federal regulations, bank representatives questioned defendant JOHN DENNIS HASTERT about the $50,000 cash withdrawals that he had made.
k. In July 2012, defendant JOHN DENNIS HASTERT began withdrawing cash in increments of less than $10,000. Defendant provided that cash to Individual A in an increment of $50,000 at pre-arranged meeting places and times.
l. In approximately 2014, defendant JOHN DENNIS HASTERT and Individual A changed the timing and amounts of the payments so that defendant provided Individual A $100,000 every three months. Defendant continued to withdraw cash in increments of less than
$10,000. Defendant provided that cash in an increment of $100,000 at pre- arranged meeting places and times.
m. In approximately 2013, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Internal Revenue Service, agencies within the executive branch of the Government of the United States, began investigating defendant JOHN DENNIS HASTERT’s cash withdrawals as possible structuring of currency transactions to evade the reporting requirements described above.
n. As of December 8, 2014, the following matters, among others, were material to the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Internal Revenue Service regarding possible structuring by defendant JOHN DENNIS HASTERT:
i. Whether defendant JOHN DENNIS HASTERT was withdrawing less than $10,000 in cash at a time in order to evade currency transaction reporting requirements;
ii. Whether defendant JOHN DENNIS HASTERT was using the cash he was withdrawing to cover up past misconduct;
iii. Whether defendant JOHN DENNIS HASTERT was using the cash he was withdrawing for a criminal purpose;
iv. Whether defendant JOHN DENNIS HASTERT was the victim of a criminal extortion related to, among other matters, his prior positions in government and was giving the cash to another individual as payment; and
v. Whether defendant JOHN DENNIS HASTERT was using the cash for some other purpose, not related to a crime or past misconduct.

2. On or about December 8, 2014, in Plano, in the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division, JOHN DENNIS HASTERT, defendant herein, did knowingly and willfully make materially false, fictitious and fraudulent statements and representations in a matter within the jurisdiction of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, an agency within the executive branch of the Government of the United States, when JOHN DENNIS HASTERT was interviewed by agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation about his cash withdrawals over the prior four and a half years totaling in excess of $1.7 million. Specifically, in response to the agents’ question confirming whether the purpose of the withdrawals was to store cash because he did not feel safe with the banking system, as he previously indicated, JOHN DENNIS HASTERT stated: “Yeah . . . I kept the cash. That’s what I’m doing.”
Whereas, in truth and in fact, as JOHN DENNIS HASTERT then well knew, this statement was false because:
(i) He had been withdrawing cash from banks and providing the cash to Individual A in amounts of $50,000 or $100,000 to satisfy the agreement he made with Individual A to provide $3.5 million in order to compensate for and conceal his prior misconduct against Individual A; and
(ii) He had been withdrawing cash in increments of less than $10,000 to evade currency transaction reporting requirements because he wanted his agreement to compensate Individual A to remain secret so as to cover up his past misconduct;
In violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1001(a)(2).


The SPECIAL FEBRUARY 2014 GRAND JURY further charges:

1. The allegations contained in paragraphs 1(a)-1(l) of Count One of this Indictment are realleged and incorporated herein.
2. Beginning no later than July 2012, and continuing until on or around December 6, 2014, in the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division, and elsewhere, JOHN DENNIS HASTERT, defendant herein, did knowingly and for the purpose of evading the reporting requirements of Title 31, United States Code, Section 5313(a) and regulations prescribed thereunder, structure and assist in structuring transactions at Old Second Bank, People’s State Bank, Castle Bank and Chase Bank by withdrawing and causing the withdrawal of $952,000 in United States currency in amounts under $10,000 in separate transactions on at least 106 occasions;
In violation of Title 31, United States Code, Section 5324(a)(3).




Funding of education should be top priority

Viewpoint by Conrad Steinhoff

Viewpoint by Conrad Steinhoff

A few days ago I sat at breakfast with a group of friends. We like to get together and talk about stuff. One had been at the Lebanon School band concert the night before. Inevitably, the conversation turned to how tough it is to keep things like music and art going any more in the face of declining funding of education.

I ventured that this is a travesty. “Funding for education should be our top priority,” I declared. “I agree,” said another in the group. “But then there are the folks who say welfare should be our top priority, or the environment. Every interest group is passionate that theirs should be the most important. They’ve got their lobbyists out there bidding for top billing with legislatures.”

“Yes,” I said. “That’s why I think our debates should be about our core values.”

“O.K.,” said another, “so what are your core values?”

“One of them is that every one of our kids should have everything they need to be well prepared to take their place in the economy and society,” I said.

“I agree;’ said my questioner. “So, that should include ….” He piled on everything he could think of that kids need to have a top-rate education – some of them what we tend to think of as “frills.”

“I’m playing devil’s advocate here,” he said.

“I recognize that,” I said. “And these are exactly the debates we should be having locally, and at the state, and national level.”

Indeed the debates taking place do reflect core values. The debate is about distribution of wealth, the size of government and the role of government in society and the economy. The theme the debate as it applies to the role of government in education is raging across the country. In an article by Alice Ollstein of “ThinkProgress,” we get a look at how this is playing out at the state level in several states, notably Wisconsin, Kansas, Louisiana and Illinois.

Wisconsin’s governor Scott Walker has placed top priority on reducing taxes on wealthy citizens and corporations driven by his belief in trickle-down economics: The surest road to a strong economy is to free wealthy property owners and corporations from burdensome taxation, to unleash their money to invest in economic growth. His first bi-annual budget contained massive tax cuts based in this ideology. Another round of cuts is scheduled in his up­ coming budget.

But there is a problem. His ideology has failed miserably. The non­partisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau has informed him there is no re­ bounding economy. There is no new revenue at all. In his first two years in office, Walker has taken Wisconsin from a state with a $1billion surplus to one with a $2 billion deficit.

He is determined to go ahead with the next round of tax cuts any­ way, based, I assume, on the belief that the problem is not his ideology, but rather that he didn’t cut taxes enough. He is now determined to retrieve the situation by slashing spending. He proposes to cut spending for higher education by $275 mil­ lion, almost exactly the amount his next round of tax cuts will reduce revenue; this in the face of his determination to also spend more than a billion dollars on a new professional basketball stadium in Milwaukee. (Does that sound familiar? How about the new football stadium being built by cash-strapped Missouri, parallel with further cuts in spending for education?) Wisconsin’s elementary and secondary schools are scheduled for a cut as well, at $120 million.

The Wisconsin State University system has already begun laying off hundreds of professors and staff. But other values are beginning to compete with Walker’s agenda. The legislature soundly rejected his new budget. A majority of Republican legislators voted no, joining every Democrat in the legislature. A student movement called United Council of UW Students has mobilized opposition to Walker’s cuts.

Meanwhile, in Kansas, Gov. Brownback’s draconian cuts in taxes have so decimated the state’s coffers, its public schools are closing early this year. They’re out of money.

And in Louisiana, the state university system is considering declaring bankruptcy in the face of Gov. Bobbie Jindal’s huge cuts in taxes on wealthy and corporate entities, consistent with the trickle-down ideology of his fellow governors. Students and their supporters have stormed the State capitol in opposition to Jindal’s tax cuts. The Louisiana House of Representatives has passed a budget that erased more than $200 million of the governor’s tax cuts. The governor threatens a veto.

Here in Illinois, our wanabee Scott Walker, recently elected Governor Bruce Rauner, has proposed a massive budget slashing program as a way of balancing the state’s budget. This is accompanied by huge tax cuts for (guess who) wealthy and corporate taxpayers. Like Walker, he sees that as the way to prosperity.

Like Walker, Rauner’s proposed budget was overwhelmingly rejected by the state House of Representatives. As in Wisconsin, members of Rauner’s own party rebelled. Yes, I am aware that Illinois is in the midst of a major budget crisis. Rauner’s formula for addressing the crisis is untenable, unless we are willing to become like Greece.

The Occupy Movement was the launching pad of a growing push­ back against a value system which places highest priority on wealth accumulation for the already wealthy. The campaign for the $15 minimum hourly wage is an outgrowth of that movement, as is the growing counter-campaign for economic and social justice and quality of life values.
Illinois Voices for Children is one organization pushing back hard against Gov. Rauner’s agenda. Next week we will explore IVC’s proposals for putting the state’s fiscal house in order, based on quality of life values.

Illinois Voices for Children is one organization pushing back hard against Gov. Rauner’s agenda. Next week we will explore IVC’s proposals for putting the state’s fiscal house in order, based on quality of life values.

New ISIS attack in Saudi Arabia near oil fields

Saudi Aramco oilfield area

Saudi Aramco oilfield area

The Islamic State , ISIS claims credit for a suicide bombing of a Shia mosque in Saudi Arabia on May 22 that killed at least 19 people with about 70 injured, “some very critically”. Dozens of people were injured in the blast and the death toll is expected to rise.

The ISIS attack resulted in a huge blast at the Imam Ali mosque in the village of al-Qadeeh, in Qatif governorate during Friday prayers.

The village of al-Qadeeh is only and 20 miles north of Dhahran the location of Saudi Aramco, the source of Saudi Arabia’s vast oil production. Al-Qadeeh is also only 14 miles away from Saudi Arabia’s port of Ras Tanura, from where the country ships most of its oil.

This shows that ISIS has is already present in the area and a major threat to the largest source of crude oil in the world. This fact has been suppressed by the media-so far.

The two million Shias in Saudi Arabia live mainly in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province where Saudi Arabia’s vast oilfields are located.

The Sunni ISIS extremists have a special loathing for the Shia and, in addition, they will almost certainly have been looking to raise sectarian tensions between Saudi Arabia’s Shia minority and the rest of the population.

These Shia/Sunni tensions in already exist in Saudi Arabia as a Saudi court has sentenced to death a prominent Saudi Shia religious leader, Nimr al-Nimr, for “sedition” and “disobeying” the kingdom’s rulers.

Nimr al-Nimr, who is in his 50s, was a driving force behind demonstrations in the oil-rich Eastern Province in 2011 against the kingdom’s Sunni rulers, in tandem with the Shia-led protests in neighboring Bahrain.

Map of Saudi Aramco oil field - al-Qadeeh area.

Location of al Qadeeh in Saudi Arabia

Now Shia anger will likely be directed at the Saudi authorities (mainly Sunnis) for failing to protect their community in Eastern Province.

Shias have been concerned for some time at inflammatory speeches given by hardline Sunnis that depict them as being ‘not real Muslims’, a view shared by ISIS.

In a statement published online, IS said “the soldiers of the Caliphate” were behind the attack and pledged “dark days ahead” for the Shia community. It identified the bomber as Abu Amer al-Najdi.

Saudi Arabia has previously been threatened by ISIS in several border attacks – one in which ISIS killed several Saudi soldiers including a General.

Slowly, ISIS has been penetrating Saudi Arabia. More than 2,000 Saudis are believed to have joined ISIS and Saudi Arabia has launched a security crackdown in recent months, arresting hundreds of ISIS suspects.

With Syria, Iraq and Libya being invaded by ISIS, will Saudi Arabia be next?

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Tom Brady allegedly guilty in deflategate scandal

Ted Wells of the law firm of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP finds New England quarterback Tom Brady guilty of knowingly playing with deflated footballs in the AFC championship game.

Based on the law firm’s exhaustive report, the NFL is weighing a suspension of Tom Brady for allegedly knowing that he was using deflated footballs during the AFC championship game.
His suspension could span up to one season. “Everything is being studied, everything is being considered,” an NFL source disclosed. The source also said it would be wrong to dismiss such an extended and seemingly improbable length of time as the ceiling for discipline – it could be longer.

It is clear the NFL is expecting to hand down some sort of discipline on #deflategate following the unveiling of the Ted Wells report on the incident.

Brady appeared on CNN, today, but was more than cagey in his non-answers to any questions regarding #deflategate. His smug attitude did nothing but aggravate the situation.
ESPN has reported the NFL would respond to this Wells Report (there was another, you may recall) within days, not weeks.

If Brady misses the entire season, the AFC East is up for grabs. Indeed, this has implications beyond the division as players would be fleeing the Patriots for other teams. This is because it is doubtful that Brady’s teammates would find much success under New England’s backup quarterback, second-year player Jimmy Garoppolo who has thrown only 27 NFL regular-season passes in his entire career.

Below is the damning report on Brady by Ted Wells it contains text messages by the “deflators,” but Brady? Brady refused to allow the investigators to see his text messages to the deflators.

By: PAUL, WEISS, RIFKIND, WHARTON & GARRISON LLP Theodore V. Wells, Jr. Brad S. Karp Lorin L. Reisner

On January 18, 2015, the New England Patriots and Indianapolis Colts played in the AFC Championship Game at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts to determine which team would advance to Super Bowl XLIX. During the first half of the game, a question was raised by the Colts concerning the inflation level of the footballs being used by the Patriots. As a result, at halftime, members of the officiating crew assigned to the game, overseen by a senior officiating supervisor from the National Football League (the “ NFL ” or the “ League ”), tested the air pressure of footballs being used by each of the Patriots and the Colts. All eleven of the Patriots game balls tested measured below the minimum pressure level of 12.5 pounds per square inch (“psi”) allowed by Rule 2 of the Official Playing Rules of the National Football League(the “Playing Rules”) on both of two air pressure gauges used to test the balls.
The four Colts balls tested each measured within the 12.5 to 13.5 psi range permitted under the Playing Rules on at least one of the gauges used for the tests.
On January 23, 2015, the NFL publicly announced that it had retained Theodore V. Wells, Jr. and the law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison (“Paul, Weiss”) to conduct an investigation, together with NFL Executive Vice President Jeff Pash, into the footballs used by the Patriots during the AFC Championship Game.

For the reasons described in this Report, and after a comprehensive investigation, we have concluded that, in connection with the AFC Championship Game, it is more probable than not that New England Patriots personnel participated in violations of the Playing Rules and were involved in a deliberate effort to circumvent the rules.

In particular, we have concluded that it is more probable than not that Jim McNally (the Officials Locker Room attendant for the Patriots) and John Jastremski (an equipment assistant for the Patriots) participated in a deliberate effort to release air from Patriots game balls after the balls were examined by the referee.

Based on the evidence, it also is our view that it is more probable than not that Tom Brady (the quarterback for the Patriots) was at least generally aware of the inappropriate activities of McNally and Jastremski involving the release of air from Patriots game balls. During the second quarter of the AFC Championship Game, a ball thrown by Tom Brady was intercepted by a player for the Colts and the ball was taken to the Colts sideline.

On the sideline, Colts equipment personnel used a pressure gauge to measure the inflation level of the ball, determined that it was below the minimum 12.5 psi level and informed a game official and other NFL personnel.

Prior to the game, Colts personnel had notified the NFL that they suspected that the Patriots might be deflating game balls below the minimum level permissible under the Playing Rules, although they did not support their suspicions with any specific factual information. In response to the pre-game concerns raised by the Colts, NFL Football Operations staff had notified the head of the NFL Officiating Department, Dean Blandino, and a senior officiating supervisor who would be attending the game, Alberto Riveron. During a pre-game conversation concerning various game-day topics, Riveron told referee Walt Anderson that a concern had been raised about the air pressure of the game balls. Anderson told Riveron that he would be sure to follow his usual ball inspection procedure to ensure that the balls were properly inflated. 9.After being informed during the second quarter of the AFC Championship Game that the Colts had measured a Patriots game ball and found it to be under-inflated, and having previously been advised of the Colt’s suspicions, Riveron decided that the game balls for both teams should be inspected at halftime by the game officials. Two other senior NFL personnel present at the game, Troy Vincent and Mike Kensil, independently reached the same conclusion.10.At halftime, under Riveron’s supervision, two alternate game officials (Clete Blakeman and Dyrol Prioleau) tested eleven Patriots game balls and four Colts game balls. The Patriots ball intercepted by the Colts was not among the eleven Patriots balls tested. Each official used a separate air pressure gauge provided by referee Anderson that Anderson had brought with him to the game, one of which also had been used by Anderson for his pre-game inspection. Each of the eleven Patriots balls tested at halftime measured below the minimum 12.5 psi level established by the Playing Rules on both gauges. Each of the four Colts balls tested measured within the permissible 12.5 to 13.5 psi range on at least one of the gauges. The measurements were recorded in writing by Richard Farley, an NFL security official who has been assigned to the Patriots and Gillette Stadium for approximately twelve years.

Only four Colts balls were tested because the officials were running out of time before the start of the second half. Indeed, in our view, a contrary conclusion requires the acceptance of an implausible number of communications and events as benign coincidences. Although we believe that a number of the communications between Jastremski and McNally were attempts at humor, based on the evidence and the communications in their entirety, we believe that McNally and Jastremski were joking about events in which they were actually participating that involved the deflation of footballs in violation of the Playing Rules. When interviewed, McNally claimed, among other things, that he brings game balls to the field when he deems fit, that he generally does not receive permission from or inform the game officials before leaving the Officials Locker Room and taking game balls to the field and that he often has taken game balls into the tunnel bathroom near the entrance to the playing field. We do not find these claims plausible and they were contradicted by other evidence developed during the investigation. Counsel for the Patriots also contended that the text messages between McNally and Jastremski referring to the inflation levels of footballs and related topics were not serious and should be seen as nothing more than attempts at humor and hyperbole. We also find these claims not plausible. As noted above and described more fully in the Report, we believe that although a number of the communications between McNally and Jastremski were attempts at humor, McNally and Jastremski were making jokes based on actual events. Our conclusions with respect to Tom Brady also are based on an analysis of the substantial and credible evidence. The evidence does not allow us to reach conclusions as to when McNally and Jastremski began their efforts to release air from Patriots game balls on game day (although McNally referred to himself as “the deflator” prior to the start of the 2014-15 season), exactly how long those efforts have been ongoing…

The complete report can be found here.

ISIS threatens Italy

ISIS routes from Libya to Italy

ISIS routes from Libya to Italy

Italians are worried ISIS that has already infiltrated their country. Apparently, dozens of jihadists who fought in Iraq and Syria have returned home to Italy. In addition, Italy has evidence that ISIS terrorists are hiding among thousands of people arriving boats and ships from Libya. Along with Libyans, others arriving by sea are other Arabs and Africans, just passing through Libya to get to Italy.

More than 11,000 migrants have been rescued in the Mediterranean and taken to Italy in the past six days, with hundreds more expected Friday, April 17, the coastguard said.

Sic transit gloria mundi...

Sic transit gloria mundi…

The migrant wave has swelled in recent days on the back of the worsening security situation in Libya – the staging post for most of the crossings – as well as the milder spring weather.

On April 14, Italian police reported that Muslims who were among migrants trying to get from Libya to Italy in a boat this week threw 12 Christians overboard—killing them.

Italian authorities have arrested 15 people involved in the incident on suspicion of murdering the Christians at sea, police in Palermo, Sicily, said.

The original group of 105 people aboard the killer boat left Libya in a rubber boat. Sometime during the trip north across the Mediterranean Sea, the alleged assailants—Muslims from the Ivory Coast, Mali and Senegal—threw the Christians 12 overboard, according to the Italian police.

Investigating migrants from the Christian murder ship

Investigating migrants from the Christian murder ship

Since the fall of Muammar el-Qaddafi in 2011, Libya has descended into chaos, giving rise to warring militias, many of whom are loyal to ISIS. “We find ourselves facing a country with a vast territory and failed institutions, and that has potentially grave consequences not only for us but for the stability and sustainability of the transition processes in neighboring African states,” Italian foreign minister Paolo Gentiloni said.

Unfortunately for Italy, as many as 500 newcomers arrive each day from Africa.

The Italian Navy has a fleet of ships dispatched to find these migrants at sea. These ships have saved as many as 170,000 people from sinking vessels in 2014, a 66% increase over 2013.

It’s hard to say how many hiding among these immigrants could be terrorists or ISIS sympathizers.

Sabrina Magris, president of the International University School of Rome and Florence, which offers counter terrorism and hostage negotiation training to various governments around the world, said that Italian officials are increasingly worried about the situation in post-Qaddafi Libya and the influx of terrorists sneaking into Italy. A growing number of Libyan militias have proclaimed their loyalty to ISIS in recent months.

Pro-ISIS blogger Abu Irhim al-Libi wrote last month.,“If ISIS can successfully intermingle with those fleeing the Libyan coast en-route for Europe, this could turn life in southern European states into hell.”

ISIS has hundreds of thousands of sympathizers in Italy. Italy’s army is only 5,000 strong—a force to small, perhaps, to save Italy from ISIS—and there are hundreds of thousands currently waiting to be transported to Italy.

Last year, 170,000 refugees from Africa and the Middle East entered Europe through Italy, according to the United Nations. And by some estimates, their number may more than triple this year, as political and economic stability in their home countries worsens. Presently, there are 600,000 or so migrants currently waiting in Libya for their turn to go to Italy.

To stop the largest group of migrants from coming, Europe would have to end the bloody civil war in Syria and institute a lasting peace in the area. This is something Western governments don’t have a great track record with in the Arab world so far, as Libya demonstrates. In fact, the current turmoil in the Middle East and Libya has been caused by the U.S. overthrowing of the governments of Iraq and Libya—thereby upsetting the delicate balance of power in the Middle East and North Africa.

This is the legacy of the last Bush administration with the support of the Democrats led by Hillary Clinton who voted in favor of the invasion of Iraq and who played a leading role in reducing Libya to a failed state. Consequently, there is no end in sight to the continuing migrations to Italy and the threats of ISIS calling for their invasion of Italy.