Michigan man held for spying in Russia was frequent visitor
By COREY WILLIAMS
Thursday, January 3
DETROIT (AP) — As a staff sergeant with the Marines in Iraq, Paul Whelan enjoyed fine cigars and showed an affinity for Russia — even spending two weeks of military leave in Moscow and St. Petersburg instead of at home in the U.S. with family and friends.
The 48-year-old Detroit-area man had an account on a Russian social media site, where he posted festive notes on the country’s national holidays.
Now, he’s under arrest there on espionage allegations.
Whelan has visited Russia since at least 2007 and was there again for a friend’s wedding, showing other guests around, said his twin brother, David Whelan. He was due to return home on Jan. 6, the brother said.
U.S. officials are seeking answers about Paul Whelan’s arrest on spying charges. The Russian Federal Security Service, or FSB, said Whelan was caught “during an espionage operation,” but gave no details.
U.S. Ambassador to Russia Jon Huntsman Jr. visited Whelan on Wednesday in Moscow’s Lefortovo Prison, the State Department said.
“Ambassador Huntsman expressed his support for Mr. Whelan and offered the embassy’s assistance,” it said.
He also spoke by phone with Whelan’s family, the statement added, but did not disclose any details “due to privacy considerations for Mr. Whelan and his family.”
According to what to appears to be Paul Whelan’s profile on the popular Russian social media platform VKontakte, he posted “God save President Trump” — flanked by flag emojis — on Inauguration Day in 2016. A 2010 post referred to then-President Barack Obama as a “moron.”
Another photo showed Whelan wearing a T-shirt of the Moscow soccer club Spartak. In March 2014, around the time of Russia’s annexation of Crimea, Whelan suggested that “Putin can have Alaska, as long as he takes Sarah Palin, too!” And a photo posted in August shows Whelan attending a security conference organized by the U.S. State Department.
David Whelan disputes Russia’s allegation that his brother is a spy.
Former CIA agent John Sipher agrees, saying Paul Whelan’s spotty military career would keep U.S. intelligence from hiring him for sensitive operations.
“He absolutely does not fit the profile of someone we would use in a place like Moscow,” said Sipher, who once ran the agency’s Russia operations in Moscow. “Due to the oppressive level of counterintelligence scrutiny in Moscow, we do not put people without diplomatic immunity in harm’s way. Nor do we handle low-level intelligence collection operations in a place like Moscow.”
Paul Whelan attended high school in Ann Arbor, west of Detroit, and joined the Marine Corps Reserves in 1994. A decade later, he was made a staff sergeant and was deployed twice to Iraq, in 2004 and 2006.
His last duty assignment was with the Marine Air Control Group 38 Headquarters, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing; Marine Corps Air Station in Miramar, California. He specialized in administrative posts.
While stationed in Iraq, Whelan was part of something called the Lamplighter’s Club, a group of service members who got together to enjoy good cigars.
“It’s one of the unique pleasures that anyone can take advantage of, as everyone should take advantage of a fine cigar once in a while,” Whelan said in a 2007 interview posted on the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing page of the Marine Corps website.
Whelan also was part of “The Rest and Recuperation Leave Program,” which authorized 15 days of leave to service members on yearlong deployments to Iraq, according to another 2007 story on the website . The military paid for the travel and most service members chose to return home, but others could travel abroad.
Whelan spent his two weeks in Russia, saying in the interview that the leave program “gives those of us who are single an opportunity to travel throughout the world wherever we want to go and experience the diversity of culture.”
During his military career, Whelan received awards that included the Navy Meritorious Unit Commendation and Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, but he ran afoul of the military and was convicted in 2008 on larceny-related charges at a special court-martial. Whelan saw his rank stripped, was demoted to private and discharged for bad conduct.
He went on to start Kingsmead Arsenal, an online firearms business, from his Novi, Michigan, home, and worked for Troy, Michigan-based temporary staffing firm Kelly Services until 2017.
Whelan testified in a 2013 deposition in a federal court case involving Kelly Services that he worked as senior manager of global security and investigations for the company.
He was hired in 2017 by Auburn Hills, Michigan-based BorgWarner and currently is the auto parts supplier’s global security director.
“He is responsible for overseeing security at our facilities in Auburn Hills, Michigan, and at other company locations around the world,” company spokeswoman Kathy Graham said Tuesday in a statement.
She said BorgWarner does not have any facilities in Russia.
Associated Press writers Deb Riechmann, Robert Burns and Maria Danilova in Washington, Jim Heintz in Moscow and AP News Researcher Jennifer Farrar in New York contributed.
Quantifying the Holocaust: Measuring murder rates during the Nazi genocide
January 2, 2019
Author: Lewi Stone, Professor of Biomathematics, RMIT University
Disclosure statement: Lewi Stone receives funding from Australian Research Council grant DP150102472
Partners: RMIT University and Victoria State Government provide funding as strategic partners of The Conversation AU.
Even though the Holocaust is one of the best documented genocides in a historical sense, there is surprisingly little quantitative data available, even on major critical events.
What’s more, this history is often told in figures too large to comprehend on the human scale. Large numbers – like the infamous 6 million people murdered – obscure the significance of key operations that shaped this genocide, leaving instead just a vague characterization of a massively devastating event.
In a digital age, mathematics, data science and visualization can help make sense of these events for new generations. By examining a rare and neglected dataset of human train deportations from the period, my study, published on Jan. 2, begins to uncover the true scale of slaughter.
My work investigates a period in 1942, referred to as Operation Reinhard, when the Nazis efficiently shuttled about 1.7 million victims, often whole Jewish communities, across the European railway network in train carriages to Treblinka, Belzec and Sobibor. Almost all of those who arrived at these death camps were murdered, usually within hours, in the gas chambers. Because the Nazis destroyed nearly all records of the massacre, it is important to try to uncover what actually happened at the time.
My study looks at the “kill rate,” or murders per day. This reveals a sudden massive slaughter after Hitler “ordered all action speeded up,” as one SS officer put it, on July 23, 1942. Approximately 1.5 million Jews were murdered in only 100 days, including in shootings outside the death camps, with nearly 500,000 victims killed each month during August, September and October. That’s approximately 15,000 murders every day.
The slaughter then soon terminated, as there were hardly any Jews remaining in the area to kill.
The full scope of this genocidal slaughter appears to be undocumented in history. Available information before this study was mostly reconstructed indirectly, partially conjectured, and usually given on an annual timescale, rather than daily or monthly. That meant completely missing the three-month slaughter.
My analysis was based on carefully compiled train records presented in a 1987 book by Holocaust historian Yitzhak Arad. Arad documents approximately 500 transportations from some 400 different Polish Jewish communities, recording for individual days the location, number of victims of each transportation and final death camp destination.
My analysis required carefully sorting and working with the dataset, as well as including other surviving data. In addition, I generated a spatio-temporal map and film of the data. These visualizations plotted the 400 communities on a map of Poland and indicated the time sequence of all deportations to the death camps over the whole year 1942.
While Operation Reinhard is considered the largest single murder campaign of the Holocaust, the extraordinary speed at which it operated to obliterate the Jewish people has been poorly estimated in the past and almost completely unknown to the general public. This massacre of unparalleled scale took place in just three short months, and was only captured through analysis of Arad’s dataset.
This minimal time indicates the enormous coordination involved by a state machinery responsive to the Fuhrer’s murderous will to eradicate a people. The train records show how zones were emptied of Jewish communities one by one in an organized manner and how intense kill rates were achieved in targeted areas that only slowed as victims ran out. My plots of the data highlight the pace and frenzy of this mass murder.
Despite more than 70 years of research into the Holocaust, this appears to be the first attempt to graph aggregated data of the genocide, chronologically and spatially. My data-driven approach captures Operation Reinhard in a different perspective to the volumes of historical reports.
Genocide scholars often compare rates of recent genocides to the rate at which the Nazi Holocaust occurred, treating the latter as a kind of benchmark for genocide severity. As such, currently many social scientists maintain that the Rwandan genocide was the most “intense genocide” of the 20th century, with a sustained period of murders occurring at a rate three to five times more rapid than the Holocaust.
However, my work shows that while the Rwanda massacre killings were 8,000 victims per day for a 100-day period, the Holocaust was nearly double this rate during a similar 100-day period in Operation Reinhard.
That suggests that Holocaust kill rate has been underestimated on an order of six to 10 times. In my view, these sorts of comparisons have limited usefulness, and clearly diminish the Holocaust’s historical standing.
The Holocaust stands out as a demonstration of how the efficient machinery of government was turned on people in an unparalleled way. It transcended in its ruthlessness and systemic efficiency. This is the key lesson of the Holocaust that I believe must not be forgotten.
The EPA has backed off enforcement under Trump – here are the numbers
January 3, 2019
Associate Professor of Public Health, William Paterson University
Professor of History and Director of the Center for the Study of Inequalities, Social Justice, and Policy, Stony Brook University (The State University of New York)
Researcher for the Environmental Data & Governance Initiative; adjunct instructor, The University of Montana
Professor of law and librarian, CUNY School of Law
Marianne Sullivan received funding from the Environmental Protection Agency Science to Achieve Results grant program from September 2005-September 2008. She is affiliated with the Environmental Data and Governance Initiative. She is currently a Visiting Fellow at Ecologic Institute in Berlin, Germany.
Chris Sellers is affiliated with the Environmental Data and Governance Initiative.
Leif Fredrickson works for the Environmental Data & Governance Initiative.
Sarah Lamdan is affiliated with the Environmental Data and Governance Initiative.
The Trump administration has sought to weaken the Environmental Protection Agency in a number of ways, from staff and proposed budget cuts to attempts to undermine the use of science in policymaking.
Now, our new research finds that one of the EPA’s most important functions – enforcement – has also fallen off dramatically.
Since its founding, the EPA has been the nation’s environmental enforcer of last resort. Enforcing environmental laws is a fundamental role of the EPA. William Ruckelshaus, the agency’s first administrator, famously described its role in environmental enforcement as that of a “gorilla in the closet” – muscular, dexterous, smart and formidable – not omnipresent, but ready to take decisive action to enforce laws if need be.
But the data we have collected show that EPA enforcement under Trump is more accurately characterized as sheep-like – meek and mild, often following the lead of regulated industry rather than acting as an independent, scientifically and statutorily driven regulator. The report is based on interviews with EPA staff and recent retirees and analysis of the EPA’s own data and internal documents. In this article we’ve also used recently updated data and included an expanded analysis of regional and statutory declines.
Our analysis of the EPA’s preliminary data – the raw data that forms the basis of the final numbers that will be published in the agency’s annual report – shows the agency’s enforcement of federal environmental laws has decreased dramatically under the Trump administration. There have been steep drops in civil and criminal enforcement, and across environmental programs under major environmental laws like the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act, and in nearly all regions of the U.S.
Enforcement, in general, takes many forms. Various statutes direct the EPA to ensure compliance with environmental laws in different ways. Polluters may have to clean up their pollution, stop doing an environmentally harmful activity, or pay fines for violating an environmental law.
For example, in 2016, the EPA found that CITGO Petroleum Corporation’s refineries were in violation of the Clean Air Act regulations on benzene emissions and flare operations. Benzene is known to cause cancer. The EPA and CITGO settled before going to court, with CITGO required, among other things, to pay almost US$2 million in civil penalties, install technologies to reduce benzene emissions and flares, and put benzene monitors around its facility.
Some violations of environmental law are criminal, and can result in criminal fines and jail sentences. However, most enforcement actions are civil, and rich data on criminal enforcement is not yet publicly available for 2018, so we have focused on the civil side.
Civil enforcement actions in fiscal year 2018 were the lowest they have been in at least 10 years. EPA orders requiring industry to comply with environmental regulations, reimburse the agency for cleaning up hazardous waste, and pay fines for illegally polluting the air, water and land have steadily declined under the Trump administration. Enforcement of every major statute – from the Clean Air Act to the Toxic Substances Control Act – has fallen since the previous fiscal year. And these drops have occurred in every EPA region.
The EPA is also imposing fewer fines on environmental law breakers. The EPA imposed civil penalties of $58 million in fiscal year 2018, the lowest since at least 2006 by a wide margin. The average for the period from 2006 to 2017 was $846 million, and the next lowest year (2009) still had $109 million in fines.
Costs for regulated entities to comply with environmental regulations, such as upgrading pollution control equipment, were the lowest they have been in at least 12 years. Compliance costs in 2018 were $3.8 billion, down 81 percent from the previous year, and well below the average of $10.9 billion from 2006 to 2017.
Finally, inspections are also down, which means that the EPA does not know if many facilities are complying with the law, and, further, that next year’s enforcement actions will also be low.
Extreme deference to states
In interviews with EDGI researchers, EPA staff discussed how these significant changes to EPA enforcement have happened so quickly. They reported a process where Trump’s political appointees appear to be using under-the-radar shifts in agency policy and procedures to weaken enforcement.
The best example of this is past EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt and current Administrator Andrew Wheeler’s embrace of “cooperative federalism,” which the agency describes as “working collaboratively with states, local government, and tribes.” But staff told us that in practice it means extreme deference to states.
Since the EPA was established, its role has been to collaborate with states to enforce environmental laws. Most enforcement happens at the state level. The EPA’s role is to provide oversight and funding, address interstate pollution, make technical assistance and inspection equipment available, and step in when cases are large and/or complex or the state is not doing the job.
One example of this is EPA’s role in cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay, a critical ecosystem which suffers from a large number of environmental impacts originating in multiple states. The EPA works with six states on programs to reduce pollution to the bay and watershed.
We found what has changed under the Trump administration is that under the guise of cooperative federalism, staff are getting the message from management to leave states alone, rather than act as strong backup to their efforts. “If a state government decides enforcement isn’t important, in the past EPA might step up its efforts in that state. Now we’re really not allowed to unless there is some justification,” one staffer told us.
State environmental programs are also vulnerable to funding cuts and may lack equipment and highly trained staff for complex inspections. When industries operate in multiple states, the EPA brings an important national perspective on compliance issues that can increase the efficiency of inspection and enforcement.
A good example of this is a national enforcement program focused on addressing environmental problems caused by oil and gas extraction that have occurred in multiple states. The EPA brings lessons learned on how to address these problems to all affected states. However, under the Trump administration, it appears that this initiative is being phased out.
The EPA can also typically impose fines on industries that violate environmental laws and can turn egregious cases over to the Department of Justice for further action. The threat of the EPA taking action against a polluter can serve as a strong incentive for compliance.
Combined with regulatory rollbacks and structural weakening of the EPA, the steep declines in enforcement nearly across the board show that Trump’s EPA is on what we consider a dangerous path – one that is at risk of failing in its mission to protect public health and the environment from a wide range of threats such as climate change, air and water pollution, and exposure to toxic chemicals.