The Silk Cord

66
Fri, Dec 20, 2013 - 1:24pm

I have long had a contentious relationship with Turkey. One of my favorite novels since childhood is a historical tale about the apex moment of the Ottoman Empire. The only fly in the ointment was that my countrymen were the last ones to fall to the military machine of Suleiman the Magnificent – after about a century of TRYING, Turkey finally ground up the borders. Though it STILL needed another 30 years to secure the whole area, ultimately Turkey ruled directly or had dominion over the entire land.

But then again, it was a case of tables being turned – a millennium earlier, it had been Constantinople receiving the raids and paying the tribute

While I was growing up, Turkey was known for three things. One was guest workers commuting to Austria and Germany, swarming the borders and roads in the summer and during Christmas. That institution of legalized ‘illegal immigration’ (e.g. non-assimilative, visibly ethnically different workers of a foreign culture, language and religion toiling at below-average wages WITHOUT enjoying the civil rights and social benefits of the host country) started in the sixties. While the program officially ended in 1973, the vast majority of workers stayed on, becoming ultra-long-distance commuters who would go home 2-3 times a year. The other two notable features of Turkey at the time were leather and gold. If you wanted either, Istanbul was the place to go – both because you did not have to pass through the iron curtain to get there, but mainly because both were available at a large variety and minimal prices (in terms of premium to spot, re: gold). The bazaar was held (grudgingly) in awe for its sheer volume and variety of goods both mundane and exotic. The fact that only a few had resources to make the trip, let alone buy anything, only added to the mystique.

I have been trying to keep an eye on developments vis-a-vis anti-government protests: true grass-roots movement of discontent against a corrupt and overbearing regime? Western meddling and attempted ‘Syria-style’ revolution highjack? Second wave of Arab spring (though I realize Turks and NOT Arabs)? And of course, one must not forget the connection of the story to precious metals – it appears by many (all) accounts that Turkey has been buying Iranian natural gas for gold bullion.

“The system was simple. As Reuters notes, Turkey purchased Iranian natural gas in Turkish lira, and transferring the proceeds to Halkbank accounts. Iranian gold traders then accessed the funds to buy gold in Turkey, which was subsequently carried in luggage to Dubai, and then sold for foreign currency to help sure up Tehran's dwindling foreign exchange reserves.

Remarkably, it was legal under the current sanctions regime, as long as the Obama administration couldn't prove that Turkish gold payments were made to the government of Iran (which strained credulity given Turkey's public admissions that they were selling gold to Iran in exchange for Iranian energy).” – May 17, 2013, The Atlantic

Some have speculated that Turkey has ALSO been facilitating a similar trade between the sanction-beleaguered Persians and the rest of the world – but in any case that trade seems to have been taking place, with or without Turkey.

“The second-largest producer in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, Iran said last month it will accept payment in any local currency or gold as new sanctions make it harder for trading partners to pay in dollars and euros.” – March 30, 2012, Bloomberg

So I got to thinking – if petrogold is indeed re-emerging, what is happening in terms of the ongoing gold price movements? If gold is ‘worth’ less denominated in fully convertible, ‘hard currency’ like Euros, Dollars or Yen, then the gold that Iran may or may not receive in exchange for its exported barrels has less purchasing power, thus benefiting the enemies of Iran. At the same time, lower gold prices might allow those who might USE gold as payment to acquire MORE oil for the same amount of fiat – but only presuming that the trade agreement for the sale of oil was denominated in weight of gold.

In light of all of the above, the news item perhaps lost in the tumult of this week is as follows:

Two parts Crazy Eddie, one part Gatsby and one part Trump, Ali Agaoglu, No. 527 on Forbes’ billionaire list, is Turkey’s most famous and arguably most notorious construction mogul, a man known just as much for his collection of luxury cars and ex-wives as he is for his links to Erdogan’s government and the state housing authority in particular. […]

Today, Agaoglu is in police custody. Tuesday morning, in a series of raids that seemed to catch all of Turkey, including Erdogan’s government, entirely off guard, Turkish police detained at least 50 people on suspicion of tender rigging, money laundering and bribery. In a country where corruption investigations, at least those involving figures close to the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), are rare, this one has netted a number of very big fish: the sons of three Cabinet members, the mayor of one of Istanbul’s biggest boroughs, the general manager of Turkey’s second biggest state bank, Halkbank, several prominent businessmen, as well as a number of civil servants. And finally, Agaoglu.” 12/19/13, TIME

Notice the BANK involved in the story above. Now, the Western media has been very quick to pin the affair on THIS man, a Turkish cleric who is living in Pennsylvania:

Whether or not that is the case, I leave for readers who are more familiar with him and with Turkish current affairs. While on one hand he himself denies/deflects any involvement, or even HAVING a movement behind him in the first place, his students (devotees? disciples?) have opened a network of schools in 140 countries – and by many accounts, the graduates from these schools have reached the highest positions at levels of Turkish government. What perhaps makes all this even MORE interesting is this:

That the U.S. government and, specifically, the Central Intelligence Agency support the Gülen movement is conventional wisdom among Turkey's secular elite even though no hard evidence exists to support such allegations. […]

Gülen attached twenty-nine letters of reference to his June 18, 2008 motion, mostly from theologians or Turkish political figures close to or affiliated with his organization. John Esposito, founding director of the Saudi-financed Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding, who, after receiving donations from the Gülen movement sponsored a conference in his honor, also supplied a reference. Two former CIA officials, George Fidas and Graham Fuller, and former U.S. ambassador to Turkey Morton Abramowitz also supplied references.

The letters may have worked. On July 16, 2008, U.S. district judge Stewart Dalzell issued a memorandum and order granting Gülen's motion for partial summary judgment and ordering the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service to approve his petition for alien worker status as an alien of extraordinary ability by August 1, 2008.” – 2009, Middle East Quarterly

Hmmmm…… So is this a simple shot across the bow to the Turkish PM from an elusive, shadowy figure who acts as a puppeteer, moving his ‘sleeper cell’ followers against the PM at will? Is Gülen in league with/controlled by/ a creature of the US-based NatSecAgencies? Or merely a political player and ersatz spiritual/cultural authority exerting his influence to retain the lifeline of his movement (the Turkish government apparently planned to close the schools in question)? The network of religious schools propagating his brand of Islam is eerily reminiscent of the organization of Wahhabi institutions sponsored by Saudi petrodollars (in their structure, funding and proliferation, if not their principal philosophy). And it would seem convenient that the Agencies mentioned earlier already have substantial experience in funding, working with and exploiting assets educated in such institutions. But this really seems to be taking it to a whole new level:

“His school network is impressive. Nurettin Veren, Gülen's right-hand man for thirty-five years, estimated that some 75 percent of Turkey's two million preparatory school students are enrolled in Gülen institutions.[12] He controls thousands of top-tier secondary schools, colleges, and student dormitories throughout Turkey, as well as private universities, the largest being Fatih University in Istanbul. Outside Turkey, his movement runs hundreds of secondary schools and dozens of universities in 110 countries worldwide.” – 2009, Middle East Quarterly

Destabilizing Syria DID work, but not with the degree of efficiency those directing it might have hoped. All-out, multilateral war did not break out. Whether that bit was off-script, or if we just aren’t far enough along in the play yet remains to be seem, but in any case SOMEONE seems to be keen on at a minimum reducing the power of government in countries in the area – including neighboring Turkey. Who it seems is also a key trading partner of Iran. Who may or may not be involved in a high-volume gold settlement system centered around Iranian oil and gas. Could this be considered a warning to stop the trade or to restore/increase it to levels seen before the tightening of Iranian sanctions? Was Erdogan’s outfit simply skimming too much from the top?

Another (to me) intriguing angle: with the Geneva deal, US-enforced sanctions have eased, giving S. Korea, China and India waivers for buying Iranian oil. However, even if said countries are allowed to pay Iran with their own currency, or Euros, or USD, there are potentially a significant amount of things Iran wants/needs but cannot acquire with fiat currencies, due to the limits on outbound financial transactions it can make, and the types of goods which may be traded. Could it be that Iran isn’t so much accepting gold because it is one of the few types of payment it can RECEIVE, but that it is preferred as a form of payment because it is one which Iran can use most widely to make PAYMENTS? So could the recent developments in Turkey have anything to do with the fact that Iran has just interrupted negotiations in Geneva over the future of global relations with the country?

Or could it be the case that honest, forthright members of law enforcement and the judicial system are standing up, and attempting to take back their country from a ruling caste corrupt to its core?

Whatever the case, this could be a story worth keeping tabs on. Just because it does not remain in the headlines ALL the time does not mean nothing’s happening. An actively simmering Middle East that can be ‘whipped’ into all-out war pretty much at will is an ongoing requirement for the preservation/life-support of the petrodollar. Turkey itself is in a crucially important strategic position geographically, making it a target of imperial interests (and perhaps manipulation) from more than just one side. And it’s not like there have been any conflicts in recent years/decades due to the production, sale and transport of hydrocarbons in this region…

In the Ottoman Empire, a ritual/custom of succession for the seat of monarch developed over the centuries:

In earlier times, the Turkish sultans sent to high-ranking personalities who were sentenced to death, a silk thread - stylishly usually in a small jewelry box. After receiving, the condemned was strangled by a servant or soldier. This method offered the very great advantage that the sultans could vacate brothers and nephews out of the way to secure their rule, without shedding their royal blood. Occasionally, even the convicted had the opportunity to escape the strangling by suicide. If the blood flowed, this was thus the responsibility of the individuals affected.

(For those inclined to do more historical reading on what a REAL game of thrones might have looked like, and more macabre details on royal fratricide and similar hobbies, I can recommend this post and this Smithsonian article.)

A fascinating twist was also introduced for top officials/nobility who were NOT a direct threat to the ruler's position:

"For a grand vizier, however, there was still a chance: as soon as the death sentence was passed, the condemned man would be allowed to run as fast as he was able the 300 yards or so from the palace, through the gardens, and down to the Fish Market Gate on the southern side of the palace complex, overlooking the Bosphorus, which was the appointed place of execution.
If the deposed vizier reached the Fish Market Gate before the head gardener, his sentence was commuted to mere banishment. But if the condemned man found the bostanci basha waiting for him at the gate, he was summarily executed and his body hurled into the sea." -- Smithsonian Magazine

The silk cord is one step worse than a severed horse’s head – it is not so much a warning to cooperate, but rather a notification of imminent violent death. It definitely seems to me that this episode was a warning, not a ‘true’ silk cord (yet) – the only question is who was the sender? Will the current government 'run for it', or try to make a stand?

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gold slut
Dec 25, 2013 - 4:08pm

@ DeaconBenjamin

In todays almost faceless EU, the new normal. Good post.

Welcome to the United States of Europe.

DeaconBenjamin
Dec 25, 2013 - 12:31pm

Turkish economy, interior, environment ministers resign

Turkish Economy Minister Zafer Çağlayan and Interior Minister Muammer Güler announced their resignations this morning. CİHAN photo

Turkish Economy Minister Zafer Çağlayan, Interior Minister Muammer Güler and Environment and Urbanization Minister Erdoğan Bayraktar announced their resignations today.

The first announcement came hours after Çağlayan returned from a trip to Pakistan, where he accompanied Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

“It is clear that the operation that was launched on Dec. 17 is a dirty [game] against our government, our party and our country,” Çağlayan said in a written statement. “I have left my duty as the economy minster to spoil this ugly game in which my son and my close aides were implicated and to allow the facts come out."

"I presented my resignation verbally to the prime minister on Dec. 17 [the date his son was detained in the corruption operation]. Today I presented it in writing," Muammer Güler said in a statement.

The high-level graft probe has shaken the political establishment, exposing a bitter feud between the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government and the Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen, whose followers hold key positions in the police, judiciary and secret services.

Twenty-four people have been arrested under the corruption investigation that hit Turkey last week, including the sons of Interior Minister Muammer Güler and Çağlayan.

In response, approximately 70 police officers, including the powerful head of Istanbul’s force, have been sacked or moved to different posts.

December/25/2013

https://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/turkish-economy-interior-environment-m...

Dagney Taggart
Dec 22, 2013 - 1:26pm

What a lottery ticket!

I wonder if she was on the payroll of JP Morgan.

ag1969
Dec 22, 2013 - 1:08pm

A little more info on Kok

Hours earlier, Kok and his wife Lau Sheng-wan - also known by her Putonghua name Liu Xiang-yan - were pictured toasting their purchase of the vineyard with Gregoire and his wife. Lau reportedly decided at the last minute not to fly as she is afraid of helicopters.

The tragedy was given even greater poignancy when it emerged that a previous owner of the sprawling 65-hectare estate - the largest in Bordeaux's Fronsac wine-producing region - died in a plane crash in 2002.

Kok heads the Hong Kong-based Brilliant Group and is a member of the Yunnan Provincial Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference.

Kok's purchase of the chateau is believed to be the largest Chinese investment in Bordeaux, the famous wine-producing region in southeastern France, and forms part of a growing trend of mainland money pouring into French wineries.

The flight was to mark the sale that had been finalised on Thursday, with Gregoire wanting to show Kok and his son the vineyard from the air. But the helicopter did not return.

A spokesman for the Chinese embassy in France said consular staff had been sent to the scene. Family members had been contacted and it had set up a 24-hour hotline with the French foreign ministry. In Hong Kong, immigration officials confirmed they were in contact with their relevant counterparts.

Kok's company, registered as Pakluen International Ltd in Hong Kong in 1994, specialises in rare teas and owns high-end luxury resorts in Chongqing, Kunming and Jingmai. On the mainland the company is called Brilliant Group with headquarters in Yunnan province.

In an interview in 2010, the media-shy couple signalled their interest in the wine industry. "I drink [wine], but not much," Kok told New Weekly magazine.

https://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/article/1387477/hong-kong-based-bill...

murphy
Dec 22, 2013 - 11:23am

I also caught the article

I also caught the article about the Chinese investor crash from this site. Interestingly here's the snippet on my RSS feed from CNN on the homepage I use. Did they put killed in quotes because he was only feared dead? Or is it a message to other Chinese investors who are buying assets in the west?

Vineyard buyer 'killed' in copter crash

A Chinese investor who had just bought a French vineyard is feared dead in a helicopter crash that killed his son and is thought also to have claimed the lives of an aide and the vineyard's previous o... https://edition.cnn.com/2013/12/21/world/europe/france-china-helicopter-...
DeaconBenjamin
Dec 22, 2013 - 10:24am

Smugglers smile as NRI carriers bring gold into country legally

Dec 22, 2013, 01.12 AM IST CHENNAI:

Faced with curbs on gold imports and crash in international prices leaving it cheaper in other countries, gold houses and smugglers are turning to Non Resident Indians to bring in the yellow metal legally after paying duty. Any NRI, who has stayed abroad for more than six months, is allowed to bring in 1kg gold. It was evident last week when almost every passenger on a flight from Dubai to Calicut was found carrying 1kg of gold, totalling up to 80kg (worth about Rs 24 crore). At

Chennai airport, 13 passengers brought the legally permitted quantity of gold in the past one week. "It's not illegal. But the 80kg gold that landed in Calicut surprised us. We soon got information that two smugglers in Dubai and their links in Calicut were behind this operation, offering free tickets to several passengers" said an official.

The passengers were mostly Indian labourers in Dubai, used as carriers by people who were otherwise looking at illegal means, he said. "We have started tracing the origin and route of gold after intelligence pointed to the role of smugglers," he said.

Reports from Kerala said passengers from Dubai have brought more than 1,000kg of gold in the last three weeks. People who pay a duty of Rs 270,000 per kg in Dubai still stand to gain at least Rs 75,000 per kg, owing to the price difference in the two countries. Gold dealers in Kerala say most of this gold goes to jewellery makers in Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Smugglers-smile-as-NRI-carriers-bring-gold-into-country-legally/articleshow/27742817.cms

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ag1969
Dec 22, 2013 - 10:00am

Hmmmm

So we have already cloned animals, genetically modified our food supply, and now scientists are finding out how DNA really works? Hmmmm So how could we possibly know if GMO food is safe if we don't even fully understand yet how our own DNA is going to be effected?

____________________________________________________________________________

Since the genetic code was deciphered in the 1960s, researchers have assumed that it was used exclusively to write information about proteins.

But biologists have suspected for years that some kind of epigenetic inheritance occurs at the cellular level. The different kinds of cells in our bodies provide an example.

Skin cells and brain cells have different forms and functions, despite having exactly the same DNA.

No Such Thing As Junk DNA

The human genome is packed with at least four million gene switches that reside in bits of DNA that once were dismissed as “junk” but it turns out that so-called junk DNA plays critical roles in controlling how cells, organs and other tissues behave.

The discovery, considered a major medical and scientific breakthrough, has enormous implications for human health and consciousness because many complex diseases appear to be caused by tiny changes in hundreds of gene switches.

As scientists delved into the “junk” - parts of the DNA that are not actual genes containing instructions for proteins - they discovered a complex system that controls genes. At least 80 percent of this DNA is active and needed. Another 15-17 percent has higher functions scientists are still decoding.

Recent findings in the journal Science may have big implications for how medical experts use the genomes of patients to interpret and diagnose diseases, researchers said.

The genetic code uses a 64-letter alphabet called codons.

Dr John Stamatoyannopoulos with co-authors were stunned to discover that some codons, which they called duons, can have two meanings.

one describes how proteins are made

the other instructs the cell on how genes are controlled

The newfound genetic code within deoxyribonucleic acid, the hereditary material that exists in nearly every cell of the body, was written right on top of the DNA code scientists had already cracked.

Controls Genes

Rather than concerning itself with proteins, this one instructs the cells on how genes are controlled.

Its discovery means DNA changes, or mutations that come with age or in response to vibrational changes within the DNA, may be doing more than what scientists previously thought.

"For over 40 years we have assumed that DNA changes affecting the genetic code solely impact how proteins are made," said lead author John Stamatoyannopoulos, University of Washington associate professor of genome sciences and of medicine.

"Now we know that this basic assumption about reading the human genome missed half of the picture," he said.

https://www.bibliotecapleyades.net/ciencia/ciencia_genoma77.htm

Hammer
Dec 22, 2013 - 9:34am

Seems like everyone is

Seems like everyone is enjoying the weekend away from the screen so I'll post this here instead of my usual corner of the forum/newsticker area. I would urge you to also read through the comments section $10m NSA contract with security firm RSA led to encryption 'back door' • Flawed formula enabled agency to crack into products • RSC and NSA decline to comment Share Tweet this Email Reuters in San Francisco theguardian.com, Friday 20 December 2013 22.22 GMT Jump to comments (171) An RSA SecurID dongle used for internet VPN tunnelling. Photograph: Chris Helgren/Reuters As a key part of a campaign to embed encryption software that it could crack into widely used computer products, the National Security Agency arranged a secret $10m contract with RSA, one of the most influential firms in the computer security industry, Reuters has learned. Documents leaked by the former NSA contractor Edward Snowden show that the NSA created and promulgated a flawed formula for generating random numbers, to create a "back door" in encryption products, the New York Times reported in September. Reuters later reported that RSA became the most important distributor of that formula by rolling it into a software tool called Bsafe that is used to enhance security in personal computers and many other products. Undisclosed until now was that RSA received $10m in a deal that set the NSA formula as the preferred, or default, method for number generation in the BSafe software, according to two sources familiar with the contract. Although that sum might seem paltry, it represented more than a third of the revenue that the relevant division at RSA had taken in during the entire previous year, securities filings show. read the rest of the article at https://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/dec/20/nsa-internet-security-rsa-...

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