Sunday, September 30, 2018

Hit Men and Power: South Africa’s Leaders Are Killing One Another

UMZIMKHULU, South Africa — Their fear faded as they raced back home, the bottle of Johnnie Walker getting lighter with each turn of the road. Soon, Sindiso Magaqa was clapping and bouncing behind the wheel of his beloved V8 Mercedes-Benz, pulling into familiar territory just before dark. Minutes later, men closed in with assault rifles. Mr. Magaqa reached for the gun under his seat — too late. One of his passengers saw flashes of light, dozens of them, from the spray of bullets pockmarking the doors. The ambush was exactly what Mr. Magaqa had feared. A few months before, a friend had been killed by gunmen in his front yard. Then, as another friend tried to open his front gate at night, a hit man crept out of the dark, shooting him dead. Next came Mr. Magaqa, 34. Struck half a dozen times, he hung on for weeks in a hospital before dying last year. All of the assassination targets had one thing in common: They were members of the African National Congress who had spoken out against corruption in the party that defined their lives.

“If you understand the Cosa Nostra, you don’t only kill the person, but you also send a strong message,” said Thabiso Zulu, another A.N.C. whistle-blower who, fearing for his life, is now in hiding. “We broke the rule of omertà,” he added, saying that the party of Nelson Mandela had become like the Mafia. You have 3 free articles remaining. Subscribe to The Times Political assassinations are rising sharply in South Africa, threatening the stability of hard-hit parts of the country and imperiling Mr. Mandela’s dream of a unified, democratic nation. But unlike much of the political violence that upended the country in the 1990s, the recent killings are not being driven by vicious battles between rival political parties. Quite the opposite: In most cases, A.N.C. officials are killing one another, hiring professional hit men to eliminate fellow party members in an all-or-nothing fight over money, turf and power, A.N.C. officials say.

The party once inspired generations of South Africans and captured the imagination of millions around the world — from impoverished corners of Africa to wealthy American campuses. But corruption and divisions have flourished within the A.N.C. in recent years, stripping much of the party of its ideals. After nearly 25 years in power, party members have increasingly turned to fighting, not over competing visions for the nation, but over influential positions and the spoils that go with them. The death toll is climbing quickly. About 90 politicians have been killed since the start of 2016, more than twice the annual rate in the 16 years before that, according to researchers at the University of Cape Town and the Global Initiative Against Transnational Crime. The murders have swelled into such a national crisis that the police began releasing data on political killings for the first time this year, while the new president, Cyril Ramaphosa, has lamented that the assassinations are tarnishing Mr. Mandela’s dream. But Mr. Ramaphosa is struggling to unite his fractious party before elections next year and has done little to stem the violence. His administration has even resisted official demands to provide police protection for two A.N.C. whistle-blowers in the case surrounding Mr. Magaqa’s murder, baffling some anticorruption officials.

The recent assassinations cover a wide range of personal and political feuds. Some victims were A.N.C. officials who became targets after exposing or denouncing corruption within the party. Others fell in internal battles for lucrative posts. In rural areas — where the party has a near-total grip on the economy, jobs and government contracts — the conflict is particularly intense, with officials constantly looking over their shoulders.

Mr. Magaqa’s province, KwaZulu-Natal, is the deadliest of all. Here, 80 A.N.C. officials were killed between 2011 and 2017, the party says. Even relatively low-level ward councilors have bodyguards, and many politicians carry guns themselves. “It was better before we attained democracy, because we knew the enemy — that the enemy was the regime, the unjust regime,” said Mluleki Ndobe, the mayor of the district where Mr. Magaqa and five other A.N.C. politicians have been assassinated in the past year. “Now, you don’t know who is the enemy,” he said. More than any other, the death of Mr. Magaqa, the most prominent politician assassinated so far, has focused attention on the deadly scramble within the party that helped bring democracy to South Africa. A rising star in the A.N.C. who had become a national figure, Mr. Magaqa returned to local politics in his hometown, Umzimkhulu. After accusing party officials of pocketing millions in the failed refurbishment of a historic building, Mr. Magaqa and two of his allies were killed in rapid succession. Many others have suffered similar fates. This month in Pretoria, the capital, an A.N.C. councilor who had called for an inquiry into government housing was gunned down while driving her car with her three children. A few months earlier, a party official in a neighboring ward was shot dead near his home after exposing the shoddy quality of public housing. In Mpumalanga, the province of Deputy President David Mabuza, an A.N.C. city council speaker was gunned down in front of his son outside his home after exposing corruption in the construction of a soccer stadium. Here in KwaZulu-Natal, an A.N.C. councilor critical of corruption was shot to death last year while escorting a friend to her car. In March, an A.N.C. municipal manager known to be tough on corruption was gunned down behind a police station by two hit men. And this month, in a rare arrest, an A.N.C. councilor and the son of an A.N.C. deputy mayor were charged in the killing of an A.N.C. official who had led protests against corruption.

But few other political figures have been arrested in such killings, adding to a widening sense of lawlessness. Image President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa, center, waving to supporters at an A.N.C. event near Durban this month.  “The politicians have become like a political mafia,” said Mary de Haas, an expert on political killings who taught at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. “It is the very antithesis of democracy, because people fear to speak out.” For good reason. After Mr. Magaqa’s death, Mr. Zulu, the whistle-blower now in hiding, loudly condemned corruption in Umzimkhulu. The impoverished municipal government spent a large chunk of its budget to refurbish a historic building called the Memorial Hall. But after five years and more than $2 million in public money, the project was a sinkhole of dubious spending, with little to show for it. For breaking the code of silence, Mr. Zulu and another party official are now in grave danger, according to a 47-page report released in August by the Office of the Public Protector, a government authority that investigates corruption. The two whistle-blowers, the report said, fear that “they may be assassinated at any time.” The Public Protector’s office urged the national police to provide security for the whistle-blowers and reprimanded Mr. Ramaphosa’s police minister for being “grossly negligent” in failing to do so. But the police minister rejected the report and moved to challenge it in court. The Public Protector had a message for Mr. Ramaphosa as well: The president should “take urgent and appropriate steps” to protect the whistle-blowers. But Mr. Ramaphosa has not responded. Khusela Diko, his spokeswoman, said the president is consulting his police minister.

The government’s inaction reflects the A.N.C.’s inability — or unwillingness — to stop the internal warfare because it could expose the extent of corruption and criminality in its ranks, current and former party officials say. “These allegiances go all the way to the top of the party,” said Makhosi Khoza, a prominent former A.N.C. politician who works at OUTA, an organization fighting graft. “That’s why the A.N.C. is not interested in this, no matter how many murders there are.” For decades before the end of apartheid, different factions under the A.N.C.’s umbrella — communists, free marketeers, trade unionists, agents in exile — competed with one another, sometimes violently, as they fought white rule. But the recent increase in killings inside the A.N.C. is a potent reminder of how far the party has strayed from creating, in the ashes of apartheid, a political order based on the rule of law. The Public Protector’s investigation into the Memorial Hall has frozen the renovation. Umzimkhulu’s mayor, Mphuthumi Mpabanga, called the project a “dream” that would change “the lives of the people.” But it has little resonance for many in Umzimkhulu, a vast municipality with pockets of extreme poverty. Margaret Phungula, 60, carries buckets to a muddy stream six times a day for water, adding spoonfuls of chlorine. Shown a photo of the Memorial Hall, she stared blankly.

“They’re not thinking of us,” she said of the town’s leaders. “We’re still suffering.” From Idealism to Violence Image The Memorial Hall in Umzimkhulu. After five years and more than $2 million in public money, there is little to show for the project.CreditJoao Silva/The New York Times In the arc of the A.N.C., Mr. Magaqa and his friends belong to the generation that includes Mr. Mandela’s grandchildren. Too young to have been politically active during white rule, they came of age in a new country — one forged by the party. Their political lives, mirroring the A.N.C.’s post-apartheid trajectory, began with youthful idealism, followed by lost innocence and, ultimately, fratricidal violence. Mr. Zulu, 36, the whistle-blower, always wanted to be an A.N.C. man. His grandmother took part in the A.N.C.-led potato boycott against apartheid in the 1950s, and he felt part of that legacy. In his late teens, he fell in with a group of politically minded young men like himself. One of them stood out immediately: Mr. Magaqa, a skinny, stubborn teenager with a bright smile. The youngest in the group, he quickly became its leader. Image Thabiso Zulu, left, an anticorruption activist and A.N.C. member, heard complaints from locals during a visit to KwaZulu-Natal Province.CreditJoao Silva/The New York Times Mr. Magaqa made a name for himself by leading a strike during high school. When students contributed money for a trip to Cape Town, the principal told them it had been put to other uses. Mr. Magaqa shut down the school for weeks. The early 2000s were a hopeful time for the young men. Their elders in the A.N.C. had gained political freedom for black South Africans, so the young men turned their attention to breaking into an economy still dominated by the white minority.

Les Stuta — the second A.N.C. whistle-blower whose life is in danger, according to the Public Protector — was in the group as well. He recounted how they pledged to earn money to help their mothers, who worked as live-in maids for white families far away. “Guys,” Mr. Stuta recalled saying often, “they must come back home.” The young men traveled together across the vast stretches of the rural district to open youth league branches of the A.N.C., borrowing cars or hitchhiking. Finally, in 2004, Mr. Stuta got a car — a beat-up white Ford Escort with a sputtering 1.3-liter engine. The young men stocked it with oil and water to deal with frequent breakdowns along the dirt and gravel roads to remote villages. When Mr. Stuta could not afford to replace the starter for six months, party meetings ended with the young men pushing the car back to life. “That Ford Escort,” Mr. Stuta said, “was everything to us.” Pattern of Kickbacks and Corruption Image A.N.C. politicians, from left, Floyd Shivambu, Pule Mabe, Mr. Magaqa and Ronald Lamola in Johannesburg in 2011, when Mr. Magaqa held the No. 3 position in the party’s youth league.CreditThe Times, via Getty Images By 2006, Mr. Magaqa and his circle got well-paid government jobs in Umzimkhulu. He got a car of his own, with a vanity plate: “Gogwana,” the grandmother who had raised him while his mother worked in Johannesburg. When the A.N.C.’s youth league was established in Umzimkhulu, Mr. Magaqa became the chairman, beginning his rapid rise within the league — traditionally a springboard to leadership in the A.N.C. itself. But something nagged Mr. Zulu. Within a few years, the overriding pursuit of positions and money consumed his peers. Suddenly, some were taking kickbacks, drinking rare whiskeys and prodding Mr. Zulu to drop his high-mindedness. Flipping Jesus’s teaching, they often asked him: Who can live on principle alone?

Soon, Mr. Zulu lost his government job and devoted himself to fighting corruption. But life was very different for his friend. At 27, Mr. Magaqa left the province for the national stage in Johannesburg. He became the A.N.C. youth league’s national secretary general, the No. 3 position, in 2011. As soon as he was appointed, he went to a car dealership in a wealthy Johannesburg suburb where he bought an icon of South Africa’s moneyed class: a Mercedes-Benz sport utility vehicle, the ML 500 4Matic. Mr. Magaqa raved about it to his friends back home — its V8 engine, the thunderous noise from the twin exhaust pipes. “He felt like he’s got money,” recalled Phumlani Phumlomo, a childhood friend. How much money Mr. Magaqa made in Johannesburg — and how — were questions Mr. Zulu preferred not to ask. “I don’t know how he acquired his money,” Mr. Zulu said. “Remember, he had access to everyone and anyone who’s big in the country.” It only lasted a few months. Mr. Magaqa fell in one of the countless shake-ups within the A.N.C. and lost his position. He drove his Mercedes straight back to Umzimkhulu and put most of his money into a minor league soccer team, the Blue Birds. He recruited the best players, lodging them in a big house with cable and PlayStations. When his team won on the road — and it won a lot — he put up the players and coach in a hotel.

“But then his cash ran out,” said the coach, Mduduzi Ngubane. With his money gone, Mr. Magaqa went back to what he knew best: politics. A Hit List: ‘After Me, It’s You’ Image Relatives of Mr. Magaqa — including his mother, Khethiwe Dlamini, right — mourning his death, at his house in Ibisi.CreditJoao Silva/The New York Times In his political second act, Mr. Magaqa dove headlong into the issue that defined the A.N.C.: corruption. Jacob Zuma, the party’s scandal-plagued leader, was president of the nation, and more than ever, local A.N.C. politicians began killing one another over positions, contracts and jobs. In 2016, when Mr. Magaqa returned to politics, 31 politicians were assassinated, double the number from the year before, according to the tally by researchers. Of that total, 24 were killed in his province. With the backing of regional A.N.C. power brokers, Mr. Magaqa became a councilor in Umzimkhulu and a member of its decision-making body, effectively becoming the leader of an insurgent A.N.C. faction. The sudden return of a political star, someone who could still call on powerful figures in Johannesburg, was seen as an immediate threat to his party rivals in Umzimkhulu.

“He was too ambitious,” said the municipal manager, Zweliphansi Skhosana. “That was the problem that he had.” Mr. Skhosana, a former high school teacher, knew Mr. Magaqa all too well. He had taught the young man from 10th grade through 12th grade. The two stood on opposing sides during the strike over money for the Cape Town trip. Now they were facing off again. Regarded as the real power behind Umzimkhulu’s dominant A.N.C. faction, Mr. Skhosana still lived next to the old high school, in the area’s largest house, surrounded by a concrete wall and electrified barbed wire. Right after joining the council, Mr. Magaqa zeroed in on the troubled renovation of the Memorial Hall. Little had been done to it, and the construction of a new annex was proving to be a disaster. A few councilors had already raised concerns, calling it a classic public works boondoggle designed to siphon money into the pockets of politicians and their allies. Jabulile Msiya, a councilor whose ward included the hall, said she had been excluded from meetings on the project after asking too many questions. Experts unconnected to Umzimkhulu’s politics, like Robert Brusse, an architect specializing in heritage buildings, agreed something was wrong. A few weeks after being hired as a consultant for the project in 2016, Mr. Brusse went to see the Memorial Hall for himself.

“As I walked onto the site, I said, ‘There’s a rat here. This stinks,”’ he recalled. The new building behind the Memorial Hall was “professionally incompetent” and a “complete waste of money for what is being produced,” he said. Mr. Magaqa and his council allies demanded an independent audit — a motion quashed by the A.N.C.’s dominant faction in the municipality. Mr. Skhosana, the municipal manager, dismissed any possibility of corruption. Mr. Magaqa, he said, was simply trying to stir up trouble to gain control over the local government. Image Zweliphansi Skhosana, the municipal manager of Umzimkhulu, accused Mr. Magaqa of trying to stir up trouble to gain power.CreditJoao Silva/The New York Times He waved away accusations by councilors that the contractor had been chosen because of personal connections to a local official. The contractor simply had a “cash flow” problem, he said. But the contractor, Loyiso Magqaza, contradicted him in a telephone interview, denying any cash flow issues. “They can never” blame me for the project’s failure, he said. Mr. Magaqa, stuck in a deadlock with his former teacher, turned to someone his allies said he trusted fully: his old friend, Mr. Zulu.

Mr. Zulu had become a known corruption fighter in the province, gathering evidence and sharing it with officials he trusted. So Mr. Magaqa gave him what he described as official documents about the Memorial Hall. The documents, which were reviewed by The New York Times, showed that after the contractor won the renovation contract in 2013, worth $1.2 million, the municipality paid the company and its subcontractor nearly two-thirds of the money, even though the project was far behind schedule. Two years later, after the company and its subcontractor failed to finish, the municipality hired a different contractor for another $1 million. In all, the documents do not unequivocally prove corruption on their own, but they show the municipality spent nearly all of the money it had budgeted for the hall — and ended up with little to show for it. Mr. Zulu said he had grabbed the files and promised to pursue the case with his contacts in the police. But over the following months, Mr. Magaqa brandished the documents in the council and challenged leaders of the dominant A.N.C. faction, leading Mr. Zulu to wonder whether his old friend was also trying to use the issue to his personal political advantage. The council speaker appeared to be moving over to Mr. Magaqa’s side, according to the speaker’s nephew, Mduduzi Thobela, an old friend who backed Mr. Magaqa during the high school strike. The speaker and Mr. Magaqa had been friendly, and were even related through marriage. Then the killings started. First came the warning: Three bullets pierced the storefront office where the council speaker worked.

A few weeks later, the speaker, Khaya Thobela, was sprinkling holy water in a religious rite in his front yard — and was gunned down where he stood. A month later, the councilor expected to replace him, Mduduzi Shibase, was assassinated after opening the gate to his home. He had strongly supported Mr. Magaqa’s call for a forensic audit of the Memorial Hall. Ms. Msiya, the councilor who had asked pointed questions about the project, got a worried call from Mr. Magaqa. “‘Where are you? Don’t go out. I’m coming,’” she recalled him saying. He showed her a “hit list” he got from a friend in a government intelligence agency, she said. “‘It’s going to be me,’” Mr. Magaqa told her. “‘After me, it’s you.’” ‘We’re Not Safe’ Image Mr. Magaqa’s cousin Ntlantla Dlamini, right, with the politician’s bullet riddled car.CreditJoao Silva/The New York Times On July 13, 2017, a red BMW cased the neighborhood where Mr. Magaqa lived. His neighbors did not recognize the car. It had a license plate from Gauteng, the province where Johannesburg is. Mr. Magaqa, accompanied by Ms. Msiya and other allies, had spent the day in a far corner of Umzimkhulu. But he was in a rush to head back home. The twin killings had shaken him, it was late afternoon, in the dead of South Africa’s winter, and the sun would be setting in no time.

“‘Let’s go, we’re not safe,”’ he said, recalled Nontsikelelo Mafa, a councilor and close ally. As always, Mr. Magaqa drove his Mercedes himself and hid his gun under the driver’s seat. His bodyguard and another A.N.C. politician in the car also carried guns. Talk of the killings soon gave way to more pleasant topics during the 45-mile drive. The car stereo played house music, blasting the Distruction Boyz’s “Omunye,” an instant hit about a party. The group was planning a party that evening, too, for Ms. Mafa’s 27th birthday. By the time they got back, the music had Mr. Magaqa jumping in his seat. They pulled over at a hangout by the main road, where the red BMW had been waiting. Mr. Magaqa spotted the hit men first. “Don’t move,” he told the passengers in the back seat. Ms. Mafa saw two men with assault rifles approaching and Mr. Magaqa reaching for his gun. Then, the flashes of light. Sleeping in a Different Place Every Night Image Mr. Dlamini, center, and friends, including members of a soccer team formed by Mr. Magaqa, visiting the politician’s grave in Ibisi.CreditJoao Silva/The New York Times Mr. Zulu’s cellphone rang minutes after the shooting. He reached out to senior police officials he trusted. “The first one hour is decisive,” he said. But the hit men weren’t caught, even though they drove a conspicuous car and had left witnesses: two women in the back seat survived with wounds to their legs.

Mr. Magaqa died about eight weeks later — from his injuries, the authorities said. His family insisted he had been recovering and was poisoned. Of the nearly 40 politicians assassinated in South Africa last year, he was the most recognizable. The public broadcaster aired his funeral, five and a half hours long, live from a sports field. Hundreds came, including top A.N.C. politicians and a minister who flew in by helicopter. The speeches were anodyne, or became rallying cries for the party. But Mr. Zulu had none of it. At a service beforehand, he said Mr. Magaqa had been killed for revealing corruption inside the party. Today, fearing for his own life, Mr. Zulu sleeps in a different place every night. Two bodyguards, hired by his extended family, shadow him at all times. The three big men squeeze into his compact Volkswagen, which sinks a few inches every time they get in, as Mr. Zulu wages his one-man crusade against corruption. “The A.N.C. is like an ocean that will cleanse itself,” he said, repeating it so often that he seemed to be trying to convince himself. He, too, says he is fighting for what President Ramaphosa calls a “new dawn” for the nation. So why, he asked, has Mr. Ramaphosa remained silent on the Public Protector’s recommendations to provide him with security? “I’ve been living like a hunted animal,” Mr. Zulu said. In an empty, roofless room, wrapped in heavy blankets against the cold, Mr. Magaqa’s mother spoke about the promises A.N.C. officials made after her son died. His Mercedes sat in a corner of the backyard, riddled with bullets. 

She was still waiting for the A.N.C. to solve the killing, to take care of her son’s four children, or even to fix his broken cars. “Especially the Mercedes,” she said. “It’s destroyed our family, especially me. Each and every day, I see it, and everything comes back.”

The Biggest Jewish Donor in All of US Politics Brings an Israel First Agenda to Washington

(MPN) — According to publicly available campaign finance data, Sheldon Adelson – the conservative, Zionist, casino billionaire –is now the biggest spender on federal elections in all of American politics. Adelson, who was the top donor to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and the Republican Party in 2016, has cemented his role as the top political donor in the country after giving $55 million in recent months to Republicans in an effort to help the party keep its majority in both houses of Congress.
Adelson’s willingness to help the GOP stay in power is likely born out of his desire to protect the massive investment he placed in the party last election cycle. In 2016, the Republican mega-donor gave heavily to the Trump campaign and Republicans, donating $35 million to the former and $55 million to the top two Republican Super PACs — the Congressional Leadership Fund and the Senate Leadership Fund — during that election cycle.
Adelson’s decision to again donate tens of millions of dollars to Republican efforts to stay in power is a direct consequence of how successfully Adelson has been able to influence U.S. policy since Trump and the GOP rode to victory in the last election cycle.
New York Times article on Adelson, titled “Sheldon Adelson Sees a Lot to Like in Trump’s Washington,” notes that Adelson “enjoys a direct line to the president.” Furthermore, Adelson and Trump regularly meet once a month “in private in-person meetings and phone conversations” that Adelson has used to push major changes to U.S. policy that Trump has made reality — such as moving the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and cutting aid to Palestinian refugees, among others.
Adelson’s new title as the top spender in all U.S. elections shows that he, along with his wife, is willing to spend big to keep that direct line open in the months and years ahead. Citing sources close to the Adelsons, the Times writes that the Adelsons’ massive expenditures in federal elections this cycle are being made because he and his wife believe that “Republican control of the House and the Senate is so vital to maintaining these [right-wing and pro-Zionist] policies” and their influence in Washington and at the White House.
“Pleased as Punch”
The fact that Adelson is “pleased-as-punch” with Trump’s performance as president should hardly come as a surprise, given that the president has fulfilled his campaign promises that were of prime importance to Adelson, while many of his other campaign promises – namely those that were populist or anti-war in nature – have rung hollow.
These Adelson-promoted policies include the moving of the U.S. embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, which Adelson had aggressively promoted and even helped to finance, as well as removing the U.S. from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), better known as the Iran nuclear deal. Another recent policy move bearing Adelson’s fingerprints is the U.S. decision to withdraw its funding for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), as Adelson once infamously stated that “there’s no such thing as a Palestinian.”
As previously mentioned, The New York Times recently noted that the cutting of aid to Palestinians, the U.S.’ removal from JCPOA, and the Jerusalem embassy move all resulted from private in-person meetings and phone conversations between Adelson and Trump.
Adelson has also been successful in stocking the Trump administration with politicians he has long supported as well as his confidantes. Adelson-supported appointees include Nikki Haley, long-time recipient of Adelson campaign funds who now serves as U.S. ambassador to the UN; Mike Pompeo, former CIA director who has advocated for bombing Iran and now serves as secretary of state; and John Bolton, a close confidante of Adelson, who is now national security adviser.
Adelson was also instrumental in removing Pompeo and Bolton’s predecessors, Rex Tillerson and H.R. McMaster, from their respective posts, owing to their support for JCPOA and their alleged “anti-Israel” positions. Speculation has recently grown that Secretary of Defense James Mattis may share their fate for similarly opposing Adelson’s positions.
Yet, upon closer examination, these Adelson-driven personnel and policy moves enacted by Trump seem to merely be the foundation for the so-called “Adelson agenda,” a set of convergent goals that could potentially result in thousands of deaths in the Middle East and embroil the U.S. in yet another regime-change war.
To Show That “We Mean Business”
While Adelson’s top-donor status has allowed him unprecedented access to the Trump administration and has resulted in dramatic changes to U.S. policy, there is every indication that the worst is yet to come. This is because, while the Adelson’s past efforts to influence Trump administration policy have had undeniably negative effects, they have yet to embroil the U.S. in another regime-change war or lead to the destruction of entire nations.
Yet, the current path the administration is treading at Adelson’s behest — particularly regarding Iran, Syria and Palestine — has the potential to unleash havoc in the Middle East and beyond, in a way not yet seen during Trump’s young presidency.
Indeed, one need only look at Adelson’s past statements on Iran to understand just how dangerous this man’s influence is to any prospect of peace in the Middle East.
As an example, during the negotiations that eventually led to the Iran nuclear deal, Adelson publicly advocated for a U.S. nuclear attack on Iran without provocation, so the U.S. could “impose its demands [on Iran] from a position of strength.”
More specifically, Adelson’s “negotiation” plan involved the U.S. dropping a nuclear bomb in the middle of the Iranian desert and then threatening to drop “the next one […] in the middle of Tehran” to show that “we mean business.” Tehran, Iran’s capital, is home to nearly 9 million people with 15 million more in its suburbs. Were Tehran to be attacked with nuclear weapons, an estimated 7 million would die within moments.
Furthermore, any sort of diplomatic engagement with Iran, according to Adelson, is “the worst negotiating tactic I could ever imagine.”
In other words, Adelson’s vision for engaging Iran considers the dropping of nuclear weapons on a country, including its heavily populated capital city — for no reason other than to show that the U.S. “means business” — a reasonable tactic.
With the Trump administration now applying “maximum pressure” to Iran, Adelson’s vision for engaging the Islamic Republic is of critical importance. For instance, if this “maximum pressure” campaign — currently a combination of draconian sanctions, bullying Iran’s trading partners, and covert CIA-driven regime-change operations — ultimately fails, Adelson is likely to push Trump towards more drastic “negotiation” tactics in order to force Iran into a “new treaty” designed by and for pro-Israel interests that seek to eliminate Iran as a regional player. Given that many entities– including Europe, China and Turkey — are rejecting U.S. calls to isolate Iran, this is a likely scenario that must be considered.
As his past statements make clear, Adelson — in such a case — is likely to pressure Trump to use military tactics, such as preemptive bombings, to force Iran to yield. Even though such a move would likely embroil Iran, the U.S. and potentially other important nations in a major war, Trump has shown that he has so far been willing to take Adelson’s “advice” regardless of consequences, including international backlash or even war.
Meet Your New Overlord: Adelson Driving Both US and Israeli Policy Behind the Scenes
Beyond the fact that Adelson’s unprecedented influence on U.S. politics is set to create much more instability than past policies he has promoted, lies another unsettling truth: for less than $150 million — pocket change for such a plutocrat — Adelson has effectively bought the presidency and Congress. His role as top political donor has given him a “direct line” to the president and unprecedented access to the Republican party, who are beholden to his desires and whims as their paymaster.
Indeed, crossing Adelson — as shown by the high-profile firings of McMaster and Tillerson — has its steep price, and obeying Adelson now seems to be the most essential step that Trump and other Republicans must follow to stay in power.
Furthermore, Adelson is also the primary driver behind Israeli policy, given his role as a key donor to and long-time backer of Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and his role as owner and funder of Israel’s most widely circulated Hebrew-language newspaper, Israel Hayom. Thus, when considering critiques of U.S. politics as unduly influenced by Israel, Adelson’s role is again clear as day. If Israel is driving the U.S.’s foreign policy, it is not only because Adelson wills it but because Adelson is personally driving the policies of both the U.S. and Israel.
In 2014, a Princeton University study demonstrated that — beyond any doubt — the U.S. is an oligarchy, beholden to the interests of the rich and the powerful, not the interests of the majority of its citizens. Though the presence and power of the oligarchy is nothing new, what is notable is that a massive chunk of it is now under the control of a single individual — a man who has repeatedly shown that he has no empathy or respect for human life and is entirely on board  with totalitarianism. Indeed, Adelson has made it clear time and again that he is no fan of democracy.
Americans, meet your new, unelected overlord — Sheldon Adelson — because, as long as the U.S. political system is “hostage to his fortune,” he’s not going anywhere.

This article originally appeared on MintPress News.

Read the Shocking Conclusions from 28 Medical Studies Linking Fluoride to Lower IQ in Children

By Alex Pietrowski
To date, there are at least 53 known international scientific studies concluding that fluoride consumption is harmful to the development of intelligence in children, it impairs their learning and memory capacity. Children are commonly exposed to fluoride from municipal water supplies, dental treatments, environmental pollution, and  in-utero.
Municipal water fluoridation is a state-mandated pharmacological intervention that ostensibly aims to fight dental fluorosis, but this claim is highly contested, and a growing body of research indicates that water fluoridation is linked to lower IQ in children. Medication without consent is a human rights violation.
In 2017, former EPA senior scientist, William Hirzy, PhD noted:
The significance of this peer reviewed risk analysis is that it indicates there may be no actual safe level of exposure to fluoride. Groups of children with lower exposures to fluoride were compared with groups having higher exposures. Those with higher exposures performed more poorly on IQ tests than those with lower exposures.” ~Former EPA senior scientist, William Hirzy, PhD
Here is a sampling of some of the shocking conclusions from these studies, as documented by The Fluoride Action Network, where a full breakdown on these studies, as well as comments about study methodologies and locations, may be found.
“Chronic exposure to high levels of fluoride in water was observed to be associated with lower intelligence quotient.” ~IQ Study #41: Nagarajappa (2013)
“School children residing in area with higher than normal water fluoride level demonstrated more impaired development of intelligence when compared to school children residing in areas with normal and low water fluoride levels.” ~IQ Study #47: Sebastian (2015)
“[C]hildren residing in areas with higher than normal water fluoride level demonstrated more impaired development of intelligence and moderate [dental fluorosis]. Millions of children including adults around the world are affected by higher level of fluoride concentration through their drinking water and are therefore potentially at risk. It is concluded that for the benefit of the future generation, urgent attention should be paid on this substantial public health problem.” ~IQ Study #50: (Das 2016)
“[S]tudents of the study area have less IQ than students of non-contaminated area, demonstrating that consumption of F also has a major role with the intellectual development of
children.” ~IQ Study #49: Mondal (2016)
“The data from this research may support the hypothesis that excess fluoride in drinking water has toxic effects on the nervous system.” ~IQ Study #48: Khan (2015)
“Fluoride in the drinking water was significantly related with the IQ of children. Along with fluoride, mother’s diet during pregnancy was also found to be significantly related with IQ of children.” ~IQ Study #46: Kundu (2015)
“Results of our field study raise a concern about the safety of elevated systemic exposure to fluoride from high concentrations in the drinking water.While topical fluoride treatment confers benefits of reducing caries incidence, the systemic exposure should not be so high as to impair children’s neurodevelopment especially during the highly vulnerable windows of brain development in utero and during infancy and childhood and may result in permanent brain injury.” ~IQ Study #45: Choi (2015)
“Exposures to fluorine and arsenic are deleterious to the development of intelligence and the development of growth in children” ~IQ Study #43: Bai (2014)
“We observed reduced AChE activity in [the high fluoride area] which may be directly correlate[d] with the reduced intelligence score of the subjects.” ~IQ Study #40: Singh (2013)
“The study found that children residing in a region with a high drinking water F level had lower IQs compared to children living in a low drinking water F region (p<0.001). The differences could not be attributed to confounding educational, economic, social, cultural, and general demographic factors.” ~Karimzade (2014)
“This study indicates that exposure to fluoride is associated with reduced intelligence in children.” ~IQ Study #36: Saxena (2012)
“In conclusion, our study suggested that low levels of fluoride exposure in drinking water had negative effects on children’s intelligence and dental health and confirmed the dose-response relationships between urine fluoride and IQ scores as well as dental fluorosis.” ~IQ Study #35: Ding (2011)
“Based on the findings, chronic exposure to high levels of fluoride can be one of the factors that influence intellectual development.” ~IQ Study #34: Poureslami (2011)
“Previous studies had indicated toward decreased Intelligence in children exposed to high levels of fluoride and our study also confirmed such an effect.” ~IQ Study #32: Shivaprakash (2011)
“Findings of this study suggest that overall IQ levels in children’s exposed to high fluoride level were significantly lower than the low fluoride areas.” ~IQ Study #31: Sudhir (2009)
“High exposure to fluoride most definitely has an adverse effect on the development of intelligence in children, in particular on the capability of abstract inference.” ~IQ Study #30: Li (2009)
“This study indicates that exposure to fluoride in drinking water is associated with neurotoxic effects in children.” ~IQ Study #28: Wang (2007)
“In agreement with other studies elsewhere, these findings indicate that children drinking high F water are at risk for impaired development of intelligence.” ~IQ Study #27: Trivedi (2007)
“Exposure to high levels of fluoride is likely to cause a certain level of harm to a child’s level of intelligence.” ~IQ Study #26: Fan (2007)
“Based on the findings of this study, exposure of children to high levels of fluoride may carry the risk of impaired development of intelligence.” ~IQ Study #25: Seraj (2006)
“High fluoride burden has a definite effect on the intellectual and physical development of children.” ~IQ Study #24: Wang (2005)
“The findings of this study thus replicate those of earlier studies and suggest that a real relationship exists between fluoride exposure and intelligence.” ~IQ Study #18: Lu (2000)
“These results show that water improvement and defluoridation can improve the mental and physical development of children in a fluorosis area.“ ~IQ Study #16: Yao (1997)
“The results of the intelligence tests show that a high level of fluoride influences children’s IQ, which is consistent with some previous data. It is worth mentioning that the higher the degree of dental fluorosis, the more negative the impact on the children’s intelligence level. This is an issue which merits utmost attention.” ~IQ Study #15: Yao (1996)
“The results show that a high fluoride intake has a clear influence on the IQ of preschool children, manifesting itself primarily as damage to performance intelligence.” ~IQ Study #13: Wang (1996)
“A high fluoride intake was associated with a lower intelligence.” ~IQ Study #11: Li (1995)
“The results show that the level of intelligence of primary and secondary students from the high fluoride area and that of primary and secondary students from the non-high fluoride area had very significant differences, proving that high fluoride has adverse effects on the mental development of students. The higher the water fluoride is, the lower the level of IQ.” ~IQ Study #7: An (1992)
“The results of this study indicate that there is significant difference between the intellectual ability of the 7–14 year old children from the [fluorosis] endemic area and those of the control, and moreover that the average IQ of the children from the endemic area is clearly lower.” ~IQ Study #4: Chen (1991)

Alex Pietrowski is an artist and writer concerned with preserving good health and the basic freedom to enjoy a healthy lifestyle. He is a staff writer for Alex is an avid student of Yoga and life.
This article (Read the Shocking Conclusions from 28 Medical Studies Linking Fluoride to Lower IQ in Childrenoriginally created and published by Waking Times and is published here under a Creative Commons license with attribution to Alex Pietrowski and

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