FORMER MOSSAD CHIEF: MAYBE FLYNN WAS THROWN UNDER THE BUS TO PROTECT TRUMP

 

As the heat stays on the Trump administration about possible illegal communications with Russia, the resignation of National Security Council chief Michael Flynn last week and the proximity of his meetings with the Russian ambassador to his meetings with Mossad Director Yossi Cohen once again raised the question of whether Israeli intelligence has or could be leaked to Moscow.

In December and January, stories started to circulate in the media that Israel, the UK, Australia and others might be reconsidering whether they could fully openly share intelligence with the Trump administration when incoming US President Donald Trump, Flynn and others seemed so close to Russia.

 

On Thursday, The Wall Street Journal reported that some US intelligence officials are withholding certain intelligence from Trump because of continued concerns it will be compromised or leaked.

Most US and Israeli officials interview by The Jerusalem Post in January and early February dismissed the concerns. But there have been developments since then. Flynn resigned on Tuesday – stepping down for having spoken to Russian officials about removing sanctions before Trump entered office as well as for lying to other members of the administration about what he discussed with the Russians.

But not only were the discussions’ content, the lies and the resignation new, but it turns out that Flynn met with the Russian ambassador on December 29, sandwiched just after and just before secret meetings with Cohen in which the sides presumably exchanged key intelligence.

The Post once again interviewed former Israeli intelligence officials on the issue, to see if their confidence in Trump and his team, or more specifically in Flynn, was shaken by the latest developments.

Former Mossad director Danny Yatom came out strongly, saying he knew Flynn personally and affirming that he would not have leaked Israeli intelligence information to Russia even if he may have violated certain US norms by discussing sanctions relief to Russia before Trump had taken office.

Asked about the possibility of a leak, Yatom said, “I don’t think so, from my personal evaluation. Flynn was very experienced. No one thinks he was a Russian spy. He was experienced and smart enough…

maybe he made a mistake even with no intention, but that can happen to anyone. I don’t think we need to worry that our intelligence will go to Russia.”

He speculated that Flynn may have even “been thrown under the bus,” echoing some theories that Flynn’s discussion of sanctions with Russian officials may have been under orders from Trump, but that at this point he may have “fallen on his sword” to protect the US president from fallout.

Yatom said that Flynn’s dismissal should not have a huge impact on Israeli-US intelligence cooperation, since Trump has just come into office and top officials tend to have more power and influence after serving with a new leader for at least a year. This allows time to gain his confidence and authorization for various policies.

Yatom broke down the process of relevant information exchanges in terms of protecting Israeli intelligence sources into two pieces.

The first he said, concerned information meant exclusively for the US, which goes directly to the CIA or the National Security Agency. “Only after it gets to the NSA does it get to the president. The CIA and NSA don’t need to tell the president and others at the White House who is the source of the intelligence they received – they don’t need to know,” he said.

He explained that if the US president does not know the source of the intelligence, then there is no danger to Israel’s sources and no danger to sharing the intelligence.

The second he described as “intelligence we intentionally want to give to Russia. We give them a paraphrase. We don’t give them the actual original material which would let them analyze potential sources of the material. We give intelligence to Russia, for example, to convince them that Iran is not standing by its obligations.”

“Some of the facts we present to Russia directly and some through the US, but we do it in a smart way so they can’t figure out the source,” of the intelligence, said Yatom.

Other former intelligence officials indicated that they could not be sure one way or another about the fate of any Israeli intelligence given to Flynn, with one official saying, “He was a US general, I hope he was not a traitor.”

One former official said that Israel has no choice in these situations about whether to share intelligence with the US, noting “We also receive. We can’t say yes and then no” about Israel asking for the US to share information and then refusing to share or refusing to share in an equal manner.

He indicated that the intelligence sharing between Cohen and Flynn was part of regular working intelligence relations and could have included some of the most important secrets that there are.

Overall, Yatom said he was most worried by reports that US intelligence officials did not trust Trump enough to give him the full picture.

Yatom did not necessarily buy into all of the various theories about Trump and Russia, but he said some of the allegations at the very least required investigation from an internal US perspective, as if some of the allegations were true it would be “a nightmare scenario.”
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Vitamin D May Protect Against Respiratory Infections

Vitamin D supplements may help reduce people’s risk of developing acute respiratory infections, particularly among those with vitamin D deficiency, suggests a new meta-analysis published online February 15 in the BMJ.

However, some experts caution that these findings should not alter clinical practice, as the absolute benefit is relatively small.

“Vitamin D supplementation resulted in a statistically significant reduction in the proportion of participants experiencing at least one acute respiratory tract infection,” write Adrian R. Martineau, MD, PhD, from the Queen Mary University of London, United Kingdom, and colleagues.

“Patients who were very vitamin D deficient and those not receiving bolus doses experienced the most benefit.”

According to the authors, acute respiratory infections are a substantial cause of illness and death, and in 2013, they accounted for one tenth of ambulatory and emergency department visits in the United States and approximately 2.65 million deaths worldwide.

Although some observational studies have linked patients’ low vitamin D levels with greater susceptibility to acute respiratory infections, including colds and influenza, clinical trials investigating the protective effect of vitamin D supplementation have produced conflicting results.

Dr Martineau and colleagues therefore conducted a systematic review and individual participant data meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials involving vitamin D supplementation. The individual participant data meta-analysis could potentially identify factors to help explain the discrepancy in results among previous studies, the authors say.

Their analysis included data on 10,933 participants (aged 0 – 95 years) from 25 randomized controlled trials.

Overall, they found that vitamin D supplementation was associated with a 12% reduction in the proportion of participants who experienced at least one acute respiratory infection (adjusted odds ratio, 0.88; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.81 – 0.96; P for heterogeneity < .001) compared with no supplementation.

They also conducted subgroup analyses to explore reasons for the variable results in previous studies.

These analyses showed a protective effect of vitamin D supplementation in participants who received daily or weekly vitamin D supplements without additional large bolus doses (adjusted odds ratio, 0.81; CI, 0.72 to 0.91), but not in those who received one or more large bolus doses (adjusted odds ratio, 0.97; CI, 0.86 to 1.10; P for interaction = .05).

In addition, the protective effect was greater in participants with severe vitamin D deficiency (baseline blood 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels <25 nmol/L; adjusted odds ratio, 0.30; 95% CI, 0.17 – 0.53) than among those with baseline 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels at least 25 nmol/L (adjusted odds ratio, 0.75; 95% CI, 0.60 – 0.95; P for interaction = .006).

Vitamin D supplementation was also safe, the authors say, and did not affect the proportion of participants who experienced at least one serious adverse event of any cause (adjusted odds ratio, 0.98; CI, 0.80 – 1.20; P = .83).

“Our results add to the body of evidence supporting the introduction of public health measures such as food fortification to improve vitamin D status, particularly in settings where profound vitamin D deficiency is common,” Dr Martineau and colleagues conclude.

However, in an accompanying editorial, Mark J. Bolland, MD, PhD, from the University of Auckland, New Zealand, and Alison Avenell, MD, from the University of Aberdeen, United Kingdom, question whether these findings represent a significant new development or a hypothesis that needs to be tested in adequately powered randomized controlled trials.

Although the study showed that vitamin D supplementation resulted in a 12% reduction in the odds of an acute respiratory infection, the editorialists stress that these findings should be regarded cautiously.

In particular, because the primary result involves only a 2% absolute risk reduction in the proportion of participants who experienced at least one acute respiratory tract infection, the editorialists do not think the general population would consider this sufficient justification to take vitamin D supplements.

Dr Bolland and Dr Avenell therefore conclude that the results should not change clinical practice.

“We think that they should be viewed as hypothesis generating only, requiring confirmation in well designed, adequately powered, randomised controlled trials,” they conclude.

This study was funded by the National Institute for Health Research. Dr Bolland has received funding from the Health Research Council of New Zealand. Both editorialists have published randomized controlled trials and systematic reviews in the field of vitamin D. The authors and editorialists have disclosed no other relevant financial relationships.

U.S. tanks roll into Germany to protect against potential Russian invasion

NORTHERN GERMANY — U.S. Tanks rolled into Germany this weekend.

The deployment — which also includes 3,500 U.S. Troops — is to protect Eastern Europe against a potential Russian invasion.

In the dock area of the German city of Bremerhaven all around is American military hardware just off the boat — everything from Humvees to tanks.

The official name for this display of military muscle is Operation Atlantic Resolve.

Its purpose is to reassure America’s nervous European allies that the U.S. military will stand with them against any aggressive moves by Russia. Moves, like the 2014 invasion of Crimea, when Russian troops arrived in what had been Ukraine — and seized it for the Kremlin.

America’s response is a decision to stop the draw down of U.S. troops in Europe, and reverse it — in the first buildup since the end of the Cold War.

“We intend to reassure all those here in Europe that we are committed to peace and security, and to send a signal to anybody else who would differ with that, that that’s not gonna work,” said Lt. General Timothy Ray, deputy commander of the U.S.’s European command.

That anybody else would be Vladimir Putin, who is on record as saying its stupid and unrealistic to think that Russia would attack anyone.

But just in case, Operation Atlantic Resolve is big and very visible deterrent.

Over the next week all the equipment will leave Germany and be sent to Poland, and from there, be deployed across Eastern Europe.

With Jewish Pedophiles seeking sanctuary in Israel, one way parents can protect kids

Two alleged Jewish pedophiles fleeing possible arrest in their home countries have moved to Israel in the past month, a Jewish child rights group said Friday, adding to the growing list of those who have turned Israel into a haven for sex criminals.

According to Jewish Community Watch, at least 34 pedophiles in their sex offender database have moved to Israel in the past decade under the Law of Return, one of the Israel’s founding pieces of legislation, which guarantees every Jew a place in the country. An additional 12 pedophiles have moved to countries other than Israel.

Childrens’ rights activists contend there is a dark loophole in the Law of Return that allows Jewish pedophiles to effectively flee court-mandated supervision in their home countries and move to Israel with a clean slate.

See related article Diaspora pedophiles increasingly use Israel as ‘a haven,’ activists charge

In a grassroots effort to deal with the problem, activists and concerned parents are starting to raise awareness on social media, issuing “warnings” via text message, Twitter and Facebook to parents in neighborhoods where convicted or alleged pedophiles are moving.

But regardless of grassroots activism or lobbying for increased supervision, the most potent weapon towards protecting minors, activists agree, is also the simplest: talk to your children about the issue.

“People always ask me when is a good age to start talking about this issue,” said Manny Waks, a child sex abuse survivor and founder of Kol V’Oz, an international advocacy organization against child sex abuse in the Jewish community.

“There are age-appropriate resources from ages two or three. They’re not necessarily using those words, but they’re talking about things like having a healthy body image, body safety tips and communication,” he said. “It’s about creating that environment where the child feels secure and safe to disclose anything.”

Manny Waks testifies before the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. (photo credit: Courtesy Manny Waks)

The Center for Jewish Family Life in New York publishes one such resource, in the form of a book to help parents discuss the matter with their kids called “Let’s Stay Safe!” The book is available in Yiddish, Hebrew and English, tailored for Haredi and national religious/Modern Orthodox communities in Israel and the United States.

Rabbi Yakov Horowitz, founder of the Center for Jewish Family life, said he is also hoping to adapt the books to Israel’s secular and Arab communities.

“It’s for parents to sit on the couch and read to their children, because research shows that parents have to be comfortable [talking about the subject],” said Horowitz. If parents are scared or uncomfortable, the child will absorb those feelings and will be unable to internalize the lesson, he added.

“The idea is it’s not really about talking about the actual sex,” said Horowitz, who also narrates a video on the same subject. “It’s really about getting children acclimated to the idea that they have their own personal space and they own it and they are supposed to defend it if someone makes them uncomfortable. They should walk away and tell their parents. It’s about basic safety rules, good touching and bad touching. Some touching is OK, but not in your private space, and no one has the right to [make others] feel uncomfortable.”

In 2010, families in Beit Shemesh founded the NGO Magen, after they felt completely abandoned by the religious institutions when abuse was uncovered at those institutions. Magen also run activities for parents to guide them in this conversation. Their “Chug Bayit,” or home course, is “a crash course for parents in protecting their kids from sexual abuse,” and is geared towards English-speaking families.

Waks said even if parents are “completely unable” to have this conversation with their kids, simply telling people in their community that they had the conversation will give their children an extra layer of protection. “Pedophiles look for vulnerable targets, and if they know your child has been trained, they’ll groom a more simple target,” he said.

Illustrative photo of children reading (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

He pointed out that children are unlikely to directly disclose abuse, but they may hint about spending time alone with an adult and connecting that to a physical complaint like “having a tummy ache.”

The way someone first responds when a victim says they have been abused is vitally important, Waks added. A victim who feels their claim is being ignored or belittled may never find the courage to speak of it again, internalizing the guilt and shame.

In previous decades, the emphasis was on teaching children “Stranger Danger!” But Waks said that 80% of abuse happens in a “family environment,” with someone the child knows, including family members, neighbors, babysitters, or other people who are known and trusted by the family.

Parents should also be aware that predators often “groom” their victims over a period of time, identifying things that the child lacks, including attention, love, or material goods. Parents should look into the situation if an adult suddenly starts spending a lot of time with their child or brings a lot of gifts.

But most predators will be able to slip through a parent’s warning system, especially in large families in Israel, where children have a lot more autonomy than American children and range free most of the day, Horowitz said. Which makes the conversation about abuse still the single best tool for protecting children.

“There is nothing that should be frightening [about this conversation],” said Horowitz. “Quite the contrary, it should be empowering to kids. Certain three-year-olds know, they have things that belong to them, so we’re saying their body also belongs to them.”

Obama Races to Protect His Achievements From Trump

http://www.nbcnews.com/politics/white-house/obama-races-protect-his-achievements-trump-n683771?cid=eml_nnn_20161115

 

From the Iran nuclear deal to the Paris climate change agreement to Obamacare, President Obama and his team plan to spend the next two months aggressively defending and implementing these policies, despite President-Elect Donald Trump’s campaign promises to end them once he takes office.

“To unravel a deal that is working and keeping Iran from getting a nuclear weapon would be hard to explain,” President Obama said on Monday, in his first press conference since Trump’s election victory.

“It becomes more difficult to undo something that is working,” Obama added.

The Obama administration argues that the election results should not prevent the sitting president from governing in his final weeks in office. And this approach could help Obama further entrench these policies and complicate Trump’s plans to unwind them.

Related: Despite ‘Concerns,’ Obama Hopeful for Trump Presidency

Obama, as he visits Greece, Germany and Peru this week and meets with a number of world leaders on his final foreign trip as president, is expected to encourage the international community to continue implementation of both the Paris and Iran agreements.

“We obviously believe in the importance of the Iran deal, which had significantly rolled back Iran’s nuclear program and averts yet another conflict in the Middle East. We believe in the importance of the Paris agreement, which encompasses almost every country in the world and offers an opportunity to fight climate change. So these are issues where our views are well known. We will run through the tape with the implementation of those policies,” Ben Rhodes, a deputy national security adviser for Obama told reporters in a press call.

Related: How Trump Could Erase Key Parts of Obama’s Legacy

Obamacare enrollment started on Nov. 1 and will end on Jan. 31, about 11 days after Obama leaves office. The president’s team wants to get 13.8 million people to enroll or re-enroll over the next few months.

“We’re all in,” said Marjorie Connolly, a spokesman at the Department of Health and Human Services, referring to Affordable Care Act enrollment.

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More than 100,000 people enrolled for Obamacare coverage on Nov. 9, the day after the election.

“There was a day or two last week where I was as despondent over the election results as anyone, and I was deeply concerned that Trump being elected—combined with his promise to join the GOP in wiping out the ACA—would cause people to abandon the currently ongoing 2017 Open Enrollment Period,” said Charles Gaba, a Democrat and ACA supporter who has closely tracked enrollment under the law since its inception.

Related: Obamacare As We Know it May be Done For

He added, “Instead, the exact opposite appears to be happening…or, at the very least, the election results don’t seem to be keeping anyone from signing up.”

Cementing the ACA

Trump has softened some his anti-ACA rhetoric in the days since his victory, and a higher enrollment in the law could make it more politically challenging for Republicans to repeal it.

But for now, Obama the administration must enroll people in an environment in which congressional Republicans and Trump are suggesting they will repeal Obamacare as soon as possible after Trump assumes office.

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Clinton aides likely would have used the last 11 days (Jan. 20 to Jan. 31) of the Obamacare enrollment period to make a big push for sign-ups. Trump’s administration is unlikely to do that.

Related: Iran Rejects Idea That Trump Could Scrap Nuke Deal

On the Iran agreement and climate change, Obama and his team are also trying to campaign for these ideas, both publicly and privately with the president-elect. Trump, in interviews, has suggested that Obama urged him to leave in place parts of Obamacare during the pair’s one-on-one meeting on Thursday.

In a speech on Monday, Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell argued that Obamacare is “now woven into the fabric of our nation.”

Keeping in Tact International Agreements

Obama aides are aware they have to convince Trump to essentially backtrack from what he promised during the campaign.

“We certainly know the positions that were taken throughout the course of the campaign,” Rhodes said. “We will, of course, fully continue to implement our commitments under the Iran deal and under the Paris agreement. We will fully brief the incoming team on those agreements. And you all have heard us repeatedly discuss the benefits of those agreements on American national security.”

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But he added, “We recognize that the incoming administration will make their own determinations about those policies. ”

Trying to protect their policies, Obama and his aides are at times projecting onto Trump views that there is little sign that he holds.

Related: How Trump Can Gut Obama’s National Security Policies on Day One

“The president will offer his reassurance to our allies that… historically, the United States of America, even across political parties, has been committed to not just upholding but also seeking to strengthen the alliances that we have with countries around the world,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters in previewing Obama’s international trip.

“The view of Democratic and Republican presidents has been that the robust health of those alliances makes America safer. And presidents in both parties have been committed to investing in those alliances, and that certainly is what’s happened in the past,” he added.

Trump, during his campaign, sharply questioned many international agreements and alliances, calling NATO “obsolete.”

Image: NATO reacts after the USA elections
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg delivers remarks after the US elections at the alliance’s headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, on Nov. 9, 2016. STEPHANIE LECOCQ / EPA

Obama aides say another goal is the continued battle to retake control of the city of Mosul, Iraq and more broadly fight ISIS. Trump is likely to continue the Obama’s administration policy of fighting ISIS.

Trump’s Victory Permanently Ends Some of Obama’s Hopes

To be sure, Obama will have fewer achievements in his final two months than if Hillary Clinton had won. Some Senate Republicans had suggested Obama nominee Merrick Garland could be confirmed for the Supreme Court in the post-election session of Congress, an idea which was premised on the expectation Clinton would win the election. Obama’s team had some hopes of getting congressional approval of the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

The TPP and the Garland nomination are now effectively dead.

“President Trump will make a selection, and the Senate will act on it expeditiously,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said of the seat on the U.S. Supreme Court that has been vacant since Antonia Scalia died in February.

Funding for the federal agencies expires on Dec. 9. Republicans are expected to seek a budget deal with Obama that only extends that funding for a few months, allowing the Republican majority and Trump to shape a more conservative fiscal plan

Trump aides block him from Twitter to protect his campaign — report

Republican nominee Donald Trump is reported to have been blocked from using his Twitter account by aides, in order to protect the real estate mogul’s presidential campaign from his off-the-cuff, uncensored and unfiltered thoughts.

According to a report in The New York Times in which dozens of aides, supporters and advisers were interviewed anonymously, the Trump campaign has made great efforts to keep the nominee “on message” and that has included revoking access to his popular Twitter profile, with over 13 million followers, screening his proposed tweets and convincing him to stick to talking points and scripted remarks in rallies and other speeches.

In one example given by the Times, Trumps press aide Hope Hicks co-authored, edited and published a proposed tweet by Trump on how President Barack Obama should not be spending the remainder of his time in office campaigning for Democratic rival Hillary Clinton.

In the closing days of an especially vicious presidential campaign, Trump, according to the report, is anxious, moody and restless, constantly seeking reassurance and avoiding being alone.

The Republican nominee, the Times reported, prefers the “soothing” company of his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, husband to his daughter Ivanka, both of whom are said to have played an integral part of his race for the presidency.

“In the final days of the presidential campaign, Mr. Trump’s candidacy is a jarring split screen: the choreographed show of calm and confidence orchestrated by his staff, and the neediness and vulnerability of a once-boastful candidate now uncertain of victory,” the Times reported.

Jared Kushner speaking at the Bloomberg Commercial Real Estate conference in New York, Nov. 9, 2011. (Peter Foley/Bloomberg/Getty Images)

Offline, Trump is plotting his revenge against political rivals, including a threat to fund a Super PAC aimed at meting out punishments, according to the paper.

But even as he seemed more disciplined on the campaign trail, his campaign staff was described as a “band of squabbling and unfireable advisers, with confusing roles and an inability to sign off on basic tasks.”

Trump, according to the report, was hit especially hard following the publication last month of a 2005 audio tape in which he is heard boasting about making unwanted sexual advances, including forcibly kissing and grabbing women citing his fame.

But last week’s surprise FBI announcement that the bureau would investigate whether there was classified information in newly discovered emails that appear to be related to its probe of Clinton’s email practices during her time as secretary of state injected some new hope into the Trump campaign as the nominee, his surrogates and supporters seized on the news to further their claims that Clinton was dishonest and corrupt. The ubiquitous “lock her up” chant at his rallies became even more fervent.

The FBI’s subsequent announcement Sunday that just as in July, the agency would not recommend pressing charges against Clinton, prompted Trump to charge that his rival was “protected by a rigged system.”

A new poll Wall Street Journal and NBC poll published Sunday showed Clinton with a four-point lead among likely voters and 12 points ahead among those who have already voted.

The results showed Clinton has lost some of the lead she held in mid-October, when she was 11 points ahead.

An ABC/Washington Post tracker released earlier Sunday gave a Clinton a 48%-43% lead.