Is Tehran spying on Southern California?

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE LOS ANGELES TIMES)

 

Is Tehran spying on Southern California? Feds say O.C. waiter and ‘Chubby’ from Long Beach were agents of Iran

Is Tehran spying on Southern California? Feds say O.C. waiter and ‘Chubby’ from Long Beach were agents of Iran
Authorities allege that two Iranians were operating in Orange County as spies on behalf of Iran. One of the men, Majid Ghorbani, worked at Darya, a popular Persian restaurant in Sana Ana, for more than 20 years. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

They seemed an unlikely pair of spies.

The older man, Majid Ghorbani, worked at a posh Persian restaurant in Santa Ana’s South Coast Village Plaza. At 59, he wore a thick gray mustache and the weary expression of a man who had served up countless plates of rice and kebab.

The younger man, Ahmadreza Mohammadi Doostdar, was a Long Beach native who held dual U.S.-Iranian citizenship. Round-faced and bespectacled, the 38-year-old answered to the Farsi nickname “Topol,” or “Chubby.”

Yet even as the men sipped coffee at a Costa Mesa Starbucks, chatted outside an Irvine market, or made trips to Macy’s at South Coast Plaza, they were doggedly trailed by federal agents.

Despite the pair’s disarming appearance, U.S. authorities allege they were operating in Orange County as agents of the Islamic Republic of Iran — an accusation that has alarmed many in the local Persian community because it suggests tensions between the U.S. and Iran have spilled over into Southern California.

The men’s goal, authorities say, was to conduct surveillance on Israeli and Jewish facilities in the U.S., and to collect information on members of the Mujahedin Khalq, MEK, an Iranian exile group that has long sought to topple the regime in Tehran and enjoys newfound support among members of the Trump administration.

Within the span of a year — from the summer of 2017 to the spring of 2018 — authorities say the men crisscrossed Orange County and the United States, videotaping participants at MEK rallies in New York and Washington, D.C., and photographing Jewish centers in Chicago.

During that time, the men also flew back and forth between Iran and Los Angeles International Airport, and appeared to be assembling “target packages” — dossiers that would “enable an intelligence or military unit to find, fix, track and neutralize a threat,” according to documents filed in Washington, D.C., federal court.

In at least one instance, the pair were recorded by an FBI listening device as Ghorbani briefed Doostdar on a New York MEK event in September 2017, according to court documents.

“I took some pictures and collected some information of them and some senators that they are working with,” the waiter said, according to court documents. “I have prepared a package, but it is not complete.”

::

The target of the alleged spying, the MEK, is a shadowy organization with a militant past. Up until 2012, it was deemed a terrorist organization by the U.S. State Department. Although few Americans have heard of it, the group has vexed the Iranian government since the revolution of 1979, when members helped to overthrow the shah.

Led by a husband-and-wife power couple — Massoud and Maryam Rajavi — the group was sheltered and armed by Saddam Hussein for nearly 20 years. Known for its female-led military units, the MEK was disarmed after the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Massoud Rajavi went missing that same year and is believed to be dead.

Despite a long history of lobbying U.S. lawmakers and officials for support, few have taken the group seriously — up until now, that is.

President Trump’s national security advisor, John Bolton, is not only a prominent hawk on Iran, he has championed the MEK. Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s lawyer, has also supported the group.

“The MEK in recent years has spent time and money building political capital,” said Daniel Benjamin, director of Dartmouth College’s Center for International Understanding. “Bolton has been the MEK’s most dedicated long marcher.”

Although the Trump administration has not explicitly stated that it seeks regime change in Iran, it has reimposed tough economic sanctions and pulled out of a 2015 nuclear deal. These actions, as well as new, cozier relations with the MEK, have apparently worried Iran enough to act against the group.

In a case similar to the one in Orange County, two Iranians in Albania were arrested in March after allegedly surveilling the MEK. In July, an Iranian diplomat in Germany was arrested on suspicion of plotting to bomb a MEK rally in Paris.

“This is escalation of Iran attempting to attack us,” said Alireza Jafarzadeh, the U.S. deputy director of the National Council of Resistance of Iran — an MEK-linked organization.

::

It is unclear how Ghorbani and Doostdar first came into contact, but investigators believe their first physical meeting occurred behind Darya, the Persian restaurant where Ghorbani had worked for more than 20 years.

Doostdar was born in Long Beach but left at a young age to move to Canada and then Iran. An energy tech consultant, Doostdar had visited the U.S. on only a few occasions, court documents say. His wife gave birth to a baby girl in late August and was hoping to bring her to the U.S.

Ghorbani, whom neighbors and co-workers described as quiet and easygoing, was born in Iran but immigrated to the U.S. in 1995. He kept mostly to himself and lived with his brother and a Pomeranian dog in a quiet Costa Mesa apartment complex not far from the restaurant.

A fellow employee, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because she wasn’t authorized to speak on behalf of the restaurant, said Ghorbani was well-liked and generous. On one occasion, Ghorbani lent money to a co-worker who was struggling, the employee said.

Investigators said Ghorbani also infiltrated meetings the MEK held at Darya. During one meetup in early August, Ghorbani met with MEK members as they discussed sending three American senators to evaluate the group’s base in Albania, according to the indictment.

Rene Redjaian, a spokeswoman for Darya, said the restaurant owners had no idea that Ghorbani was allegedly involved in spying. “Our owners love America and knew nothing about the events that took place at Darya,” Redjaian said.

As time went on, the men continued their alleged covert operation, unaware that federal agents were closing in.

In December 2017, Doostdar returned to Iran allegedly to hand over the intelligence Ghorbani had collected. Unbeknownst to him, FBI agents searched his checked luggage at LAX and found an orange and white CVS pharmacy envelope. Inside the envelope, FBI agents found photos of Ghorbani standing next to people who were at the New York City MEK rally from September 2017. Many of the photographs had names and positions of the individuals written on the back, including one photograph that had “Dr. Ahmad Rajavi, the brother of Massoud,” written on it, prosecutors said in court documents.

In March 2018, Ghorbani traveled to Iran to conduct an in-person briefing about ways to take photos for an upcoming conference supported by the MEK, prosecutors allege.

When he returned April 17, authorities found tucked in his luggage a list written in Farsi that detailed his future tasks, including deeper infiltration into the MEK and recruiting a second person, according to court documents.

The pair never succeeded in allegedly recruiting another operative, however.

On Aug. 9, FBI agents swarmed Darya restaurant and arrested Ghorbani in front of stunned co-workers.

Doostdar was arrested the same day in Chicago.

Both men have been accused of acting as agents of a foreign government without prior notification of the U.S. attorney general and with providing services to Iran in violation of U.S. sanctions. Both men have pleaded not guilty and remain in custody.

Ghorbani’s lawyer has declined to comment on the case. Doostdar’s attorney, Thomas Durkin, said he’s suspicious about the timing of his client’s arrest considering it comes on the heels of Trump reimposing sanctions against Iran.

“There’s political machinations going on between the Trump administration and Iran. Why did the government all of a sudden decide to arrest these people?” he said.

::

The arrests of Ghorbani and Doostdar have left many in Orange County’s Persian community shaken.

“There is a sense of fear in the Iranian community that the regime in Iran are sending people to USA and keeping track of movements,” said Mike Kazemi, an Irvine immigration lawyer.

For those in the Persian community who are against the Islamic Republic but also disagree with the Trump administration’s policies toward Iran, the escalation in tensions has been disconcerting. They say it serves as a reminder of how both American and Iranian officials view members of the Iranian diaspora with suspicion.

“We are in the middle of two hard places,” Kazemi said.

Yet others in the community say they are refusing to allow geopolitics to interfere with their day-to-day lives.

Nasrin Rahimieh, a professor of humanities at UC Irvine, said she understands how recent developments might cause some Persians to feel scared of being too visible.

Throughout her career, Rahimieh said, she has been chastised for either appearing pro-Islamic Republic or anti-Islamic Republic.

But those experiences have left Rahimieh emboldened to speak out against what she said is the fear-mongering rhetoric present in today’s political environment.

“There is such rabid desire to show Iranians as bad actors and as bad agents that it’s had the opposite effect on me,” Rahimieh said. “To paint all Iranians with the same brush is something that needs to be protested.”

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Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden

Telling Stories

Memoirs of a Geisha takes place during the 1930s and 1940s in Japan, before and after World War II. This is a story of a geisha’s life: the transformation of a small nine-year-old girl, Chiyo to celebrated geisha, Sayuri Nitta. After Chiyo’s mother falls ill, her father, a poor fisherman, sells his two young daughters: Chiyo and Satsu, to Tanaka – a renowned business man, who later hands Chiyo to a geisha house and Satsu to a brothel.

As Sayuri enters the world of the geisha, she becomes aware of the role of beauty in her society. When Sayuri looks at Hatsumomo for the first time, Sayuri is utterly speechless and awestruck by her beauty. “Even then, amid all my fears, I couldn’t help noticing how extraordinary Hatsumomo’s beauty was.” As Sayuri progresses through the challenging ordeal of a geisha’s apprenticeship, she is amazed by her own beauty in full…

View original post 308 more words

Earth’s magnetic field is acting up and geologists don’t know why Erratic motion of north magnetic pole

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF SCIENCE)

 

NEWS

Earth’s magnetic field is acting up and geologists don’t know why

Erratic motion of north magnetic pole forces experts to update model that aids global navigation.

Update, 9 January: The release of the World Magnetic Model has been postponed to 30 January due to the ongoing US government shutdown.

Something strange is going on at the top of the world. Earth’s north magnetic pole has been skittering away from Canada and towards Siberia, driven by liquid iron sloshing within the planet’s core. The magnetic pole is moving so quickly that it has forced the world’s geomagnetism experts into a rare move.

On 15 January, they are set to update the World Magnetic Model, which describes the planet’s magnetic field and underlies all modern navigation, from the systems that steer ships at sea to Google Maps on smartphones.

The most recent version of the model came out in 2015 and was supposed to last until 2020 — but the magnetic field is changing so rapidly that researchers have to fix the model now. “The error is increasing all the time,” says Arnaud Chulliat, a geomagnetist at the University of Colorado Boulder and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA’s) National Centers for Environmental Information.

The problem lies partly with the moving pole and partly with other shifts deep within the planet. Liquid churning in Earth’s core generates most of the magnetic field, which varies over time as the deep flows change. In 2016, for instance, part of the magnetic field temporarily accelerated deep under northern South America and the eastern Pacific Ocean. Satellites such as the European Space Agency’s Swarm mission tracked the shift.

By early 2018, the World Magnetic Model was in trouble. Researchers from NOAA and the British Geological Survey in Edinburgh had been doing their annual check of how well the model was capturing all the variations in Earth’s magnetic field. They realized that it was so inaccurate that it was about to exceed the acceptable limit for navigational errors.

Wandering pole

“That was an interesting situation we found ourselves in,” says Chulliat. “What’s happening?” The answer is twofold, he reported last month at a meeting of the American Geophysical Union in Washington DC.

First, that 2016 geomagnetic pulse beneath South America came at the worst possible time, just after the 2015 update to the World Magnetic Model. This meant that the magnetic field had lurched just after the latest update, in ways that planners had not anticipated.

Source: World Data Center for Geomagnetism/Kyoto Univ.

Second, the motion of the north magnetic pole made the problem worse. The pole wanders in unpredictable ways that have fascinated explorers and scientists since James Clark Ross first measured it in 1831 in the Canadian Arctic. In the mid-1990s it picked up speed, from around 15 kilometres per year to around 55 kilometres per year. By 2001, it had entered the Arctic Ocean — where, in 2007, a team including Chulliat landed an aeroplane on the sea ice in an attempt to locate the pole.

In 2018, the pole crossed the International Date Line into the Eastern Hemisphere. It is currently making a beeline for Siberia.

The geometry of Earth’s magnetic field magnifies the model’s errors in places where the field is changing quickly, such as the North Pole. “The fact that the pole is going fast makes this region more prone to large errors,” says Chulliat.

To fix the World Magnetic Model, he and his colleagues fed it three years of recent data, which included the 2016 geomagnetic pulse. The new version should remain accurate, he says, until the next regularly scheduled update in 2020.

Core questions

In the meantime, scientists are working to understand why the magnetic field is changing so dramatically. Geomagnetic pulses, like the one that happened in 2016, might be traced back to ‘hydromagnetic’ waves arising from deep in the core1. And the fast motion of the north magnetic pole could be linked to a high-speed jet of liquid iron beneath Canada2.

The jet seems to be smearing out and weakening the magnetic field beneath Canada, Phil Livermore, a geomagnetist at the University of Leeds, UK, said at the American Geophysical Union meeting. And that means that Canada is essentially losing a magnetic tug-of-war with Siberia.

“The location of the north magnetic pole appears to be governed by two large-scale patches of magnetic field, one beneath Canada and one beneath Siberia,” Livermore says. “The Siberian patch is winning the competition.”

Which means that the world’s geomagnetists will have a lot to keep them busy for the foreseeable future.

Nature 565, 143-144 (2019)

doi: 10.1038/d41586-019-00007-1

Gov. Shutdown About To Get ‘Really Bad’ For Unpaid TSA Workers

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HUFFINGTON POST)

 

POLITICS 

01/10/2019 01:11 pm ET

The Government Shutdown Is About To Get ‘Really Bad’ For Unpaid TSA Workers

These essential federal employees are about to miss their first paycheck of 2019.
X

Transportation Security Administration employees would normally receive their first paycheck of the year on Friday, but the government shutdown means that won’t happen. Instead, workers are bracing for the next phase of the shutdown as they worry how to pay for gas, rent and food with no income in sight.

Now, the effects of the shutdown will get a whole lot worse, the TSA employee union and several officers told HuffPost.

“Morale is, I believe, close to rock bottom, and I think things will start getting really bad if this isn’t fixed by this weekend,” one TSA officer told HuffPost, requesting anonymity out of concern over repercussions at work.

TSA employees received their last paycheck on Dec. 28, giving them money that would typically last through the next pay period ― but which will now have to stretch much further. Many TSA workers live paycheck to paycheck, with the starting salary for officers between $25,000 to $30,000 a year. The shutdown has already forced some employees to look for new jobs or take on extra work, TSA staff say, and the pressure is immense for employees and families with no other source of income.

“I don’t know how people are going to get to work next week, when we don’t get a check,” said Joe Shuker, a regional vice president for the TSA employee union. Shuker says many workers will have to choose between the cost of getting to their job at the airport and covering everyday living expenses.

The shutdown is taking an increasing toll on federal workers, adding stress to already difficult work environments such as airport security. As the situation deteriorates at these jobs, some experts warn that it may also increase the risk of corruption at borders, prisons and airports. Meanwhile, the TSA employee union claims that a loss of staff over the shutdown could create a “massive security risk” for travelers if the agency is left short-handed.

People are out of money already.Joe Shuker, a regional vice president for the TSA employee union

Although TSA officers will very likely receive back pay when the government eventually reopens, that does little to help with their immediate expenses and concerns. Because TSA workers are classified as providing essential services, they must continue to work through the shutdown with no pay coming in and can face disciplinary action for unexplained absences.

Already the shutdown has resulted in hundreds of employees calling out of work sick, according to union officials. The TSA has rejected reports of widespread callouts, however, with a representative telling HuffPost that rates are only slightly higher than at this time last year ― but multiple employees say that they do know of some officers who are calling out due to the shutdown.

“No one wants to go to work and not get paid, especially for a job like TSA,” another TSA officer told HuffPost, also on the condition of anonymity.

The shutdown is now in its 20th day, and there is no sign of a breakthrough in negotiations over President Donald Trump’s demand for $5 billion to fund a border wall with Mexico. On Wednesday, Trump abruptly walked out of a meeting with top Democratic leaders ― which Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) described as “a temper tantrum because he couldn’t get his way.”

Hundreds of thousands of federal workers are either furloughed or working without pay during the shutdown, often resulting in them scrambling to make rent or even pay for medicine. Federal workers have already held or planned protests in major cities, including one in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, and Shuker expects more to come if the shutdown isn’t resolved soon.

“I can’t imagine it being a good situation next week, because people are out of money already,” Shuker said.

“We’ve got a lot of dedicated people, man, but sooner or later they’re gonna break.”

Jayme Closs Turns Up Alive In Northern Wisconsin

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

Jayme Closs turns up ‘like a ghost’ on a Wisconsin street 70 miles from where her parents were shot dead at home

(CNN)Kristin Kasinskas was at home Thursday evening when someone pounded on the door. When she opened it, her neighbor was standing next to a skinny girl with unkempt hair and oversized shoes.

“This is Jayme Closs!” the neighbor said, according to an account Kasinskas gave to the Star Tribune in Minneapolis. “Call 911!”
With those words, the frantic search for Jayme ended 87 days after she vanished on October 15, the same night police found her parents dead in their home near Barron, Wisconsin. She was located Thursday in the Wisconsin town of Gordon — about 70 miles north of where she was last seen.
As the stunned neighbors stood at the door, Jayme did not say a word.

She asked a dog walker for help

The neighbor was walking her dog when Jayme approached and asked for help, according to Kasinskas, a local teacher.
The woman was so unnerved, she did not want to be identified, the Star Tribune reported. She told the paper that when Jayme walked up to her, she immediately knew who she was.
They rushed to the nearest home, which happened to be that of Kasinskas. As they waited for authorities, Jayme declined food and water, and instead met the family’s puppy.
“I honestly still think I’m dreaming right now. It was like I was seeing a ghost,” her husband, Peter Kasinskas, told the paper.
Authorities said Jayme was located shortly before 5 p.m., and a suspect arrested 10 minutes later.

Good news after a day of rumors

Jayme was taken to the hospital after she was found, her aunt Sue Allard said.
“Oh my gosh,” Allard told CNN affiliate WCCO between sobs. “There was rumors earlier today, and I prayed and prayed and they come to not be true … I thought today was going to be the day, and then I find out two hours later that she’s found and I just cannot believe this.”
Jayme’s cousin, Seara Closs, shared her relief on social media.
“She is alive and on her way home from the bottom of my heart thank you all for the help!” she posted on Facebook. “I can never repay each and everyone one of you for posting and sharing and contributing to the search of my cousin Jayme Closs!”
No more details were immediately available. Authorities planned a news conference Friday morning.

Mysterious 911 call

Since Jayme disappeared, authorities have said they believe she’s in danger. Her parents, James and Denise Closs, were found shot dead in their home the same night she went missing.
Investigators say a mysterious 911 call led deputies to discover the bodies. When the dispatcher called the number back, a voice mail greeting indicated the phone belonged to Denise Closs. The log does not say who made the 911 call, but the dispatcher heard yelling in the background.
Police arrived to find the door kicked in but no one was there. Investigators said they believed Jayme was at home during the shooting.

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Months of tips and searches

For months, thousands of people joined search parties as investigators received thousands of tips. The FBI offered a cash reward for information on her whereabouts, and authorities urged hunters in the area to be on the lookout for clues.
The searches and thousands of tips had not yielded any clues before Thursday. But Barron County Sheriff Chris Fitzgerald said they never got tired of looking for Jayme.
“We promised to bring Jayme home and tonight we get to fulfill that promise. From the bottom of my heart THANK YOU!,” Fitzgerald said in a statement. “This case has been very trying on the family so please respect their privacy and we reunite them later tonight.”
He also thanked the Douglas County Sheriff’s Department, which responded to the scene when Jayme was found, and other law enforcement agencies that helped in the search.
Barron is 90 miles east of Minneapolis.

Probing the magnetar at the center of our galaxy

Source: Probing the magnetar at the center of our galaxy

( A Bit Bent Humor) Do We See

Do We See

 

 

Rambling Thoughts: Why Do We Treat Each Other So

Why Do We Treat Each Other So

 

I don’t know about you

Only you truly know this answer

Have there been times in your life

Where you were a prick: And you were wrong

I just didn’t realize how big of a dick I was at the time

 

I have been there and I still live in it

I can never be anything in my own eyes

If a person honestly allows us entrance in

Getting to maybe see our other-kids and Theirs

I have hated no one but myself and I have been a fool

 

Do I write a bit to direct for some

I do not wish to offend anyone

Why must some spout so much Hate

Is it genetics or ignorance that we do it

Why must we treat each other so cold

 

Some who have known me now

Or some in different times in my life

Hopefully their first thought wouldn’t be, you Ass

Yet I look back at the persons I have been

I hope they are stronger than they were then

 

I have treated some people far less good

Than that person deserved that I treated them

I have for a long time Prayed them good in my Prayers

Is our Ego so big that we honestly have no regrets  

Or, are you clear to Pick Up and throw that First Stone

 

 

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We’re Cracking Apart From The Inside, With Missiles Aimed At Our Back

We’re Cracking Apart From The Inside, With Missiles Aimed At Our Back

 

I’m sorry, but I don’t exactly like the Title either. Here in our Country we are acting like it is back in the 20’s or something ignorant like that. We have our HollyWood and our Politics, the never-ending battle between the Dems and the GOP and we pick Our Country apart. We have several outside State Players and other well-funded hate groups who are actually in the Chess Possession to make this play. Folks, I hope they do not push the ‘ignite’ button. This would be the end of the world as we all know it all because of a couple of dozen people from around whom have some Power in this world who hate us and hate everything’ the West’ stands for. Attacking us from the inside while we bicker among ourselves is a sure Cancer to our Cells.

 

Our current Government has weakened Us with our long-standing Allies and gotten off to a bad start with several other ‘not so friendly States.’ There is always the issue of other ‘unfriendliness’ such as Hezbollah, Hamas and many others. I pray for our Children, and Theirs. Hate, it is such a disgusting thing when we direct it at each other. Our System has many errors within it but it could be very much better. We need to address these things quickly before there is no tomorrow in which to be concerned about.

 

 

 

I Want To Write My Mom

I Want To Write My Mom

 

She was a very good lady to have had in my life

Most of my young lessons taught I learned from her

She was the one good constant from the beginning

of my life till she died

What do you say to an excellent person who raised you

the very best that she could

This Lady has been gone now for more that 20 years

I wish that I could call Her, Hug Her, like it was yestar-year

I knew what a light I had before I ever lost Her

I sure do wish that I could write and thank my Mom