Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Russia-Ukraine Conflict May Last Decades: Ex-NATO Chief | ISIS threatens to “liberate” Baghdad | Iraq's Problem Is So Much Bigger Than Just Training Its Military | Obama on ISIS: ‘We Don’t yet Have a Complete Strategy’ | It's Nearly Impossible to Understand What Motivates Terrorists | How China Is Building the Biggest Commercial-Military Empire in History | US Welcomes Top Chinese Military Official Amid Hacking Allegations | Washington Post Poll: Obamacare Hits Record Unpopularity

Iraq's Problem Is So Much Bigger Than Just Training Its Military

"The biggest obstacle is the president hasn’t articulated what is strategy for “Degrading & Destroying ISIS” is?
In his comments the president signaled out the Pentagon for not sending him a complete strategy, but before one can be conceived one needs to know what the political policy is first, before the military can present one...
President Obama in his statement at his news conference, “As soon as a finalized plan is presented to me by the Pentagon, then I will share it with the American people. We don’t yet have a complete strategy because it requires commitments on the part of the Iraqis as well about how recruitment takes place, how training takes place, so the details of that are not yet worked out.”
What is not spelled out in detail is how the president plans on leveraging the Shiite dominated Iraqi government of Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi to be more inclusive of all groups especially, the Sunni ethnic minority, and The Kurds in the north...
How does the president plan on dealing with Iran in Iraq, when he is pre-occupied with the nuclear negotiation with Tehran?These are many of the problems confronting the president and they will not wait until 2017, when a new president is sworn into office."

Obama: No ISIS Plan | In Homeland Security

» Obama on ISIS: ‘We Don’t yet Have a Complete Strategy’
09/06/15 14:57 from InHomelandSecurity.com - News & Analysis of Critical Issues in Terrorism & Homeland Defense
By John Ubaldi Contributor, In Homeland Security Speaking at a news conference Monday, President Barack Obama stated that “We don’t yet have a complete strategy,” with regard to ISIS, as the Pentagon hasn’t presented hi...

"The top U.S. military officer said Tuesday the overall U.S. strategy in fighting the Islamic State group in Iraq is not in question, but added President Barack Obama is considering further action, including expanding training sites for Iraqi forces.
General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told a small group of reporters during a trip to Israel that it was still "to be determined" whether more U.S. forces might be needed in such a scenario.
The comments come a day after Obama said during a news conference at the Group of Seven (G-7) meeting in Germany the U.S. lacks a “complete strategy” for training Iraqi security forces.
Pentagon spokesman Colonel Steve Warren agreed with Dempsey's assessment Tuesday, saying, “There is a strategy for ISIL (Islamic State group), which I think has been well-articulated.”
... Republican National Committee spokesman Michael Short also criticized the president’s comments Monday.
“When President Obama said 10 months ago he didn’t have a strategy to combat ISIS, it was deeply troubling, and the fact he still doesn’t have a final plan for the deteriorating situation in Iraq is unacceptable,” Short said...
Kirby said Obama was "referring yesterday to a specific plan to improve the training and equipping of Iraqi security forces, and the Pentagon is working on that plan right now. But absolutely, we have a strategy.""

It's Nearly Impossible to Understand What Motivates Terrorists

Washington Post Poll: Obamacare Hits Record Unpopularity

» Cyberwar will make a bigger bang than the Bomb - The Times (subscription)
09/06/15 14:52 from cyber warfare - Google News
Cyberwar will make a bigger bang than the Bomb The Times (subscription) Debt problems? Trouble with the in-laws? Sexual peccadillos? Let's hope you haven't applied for US national security clearance because by now your most intim...

» The White House press room cleared over telephone bomb scare
09/06/15 14:51 from DEBKAFile
The Secret Service explained at a news conference that the White House press room was cleared in mid-briefing Tuesday afternoon after a bomb threat to the press room was telephoned to the Metropolitan Police Department.  The West Wi...

» ISIS threatens to “liberate” Baghdad
09/06/15 14:36 from DEBKAFile
In a new video released Tuesday, the Islamic State claims to have developed a strategy for “liberating” the Iraqi capital of Baghdad.

New FBI files show wide range of Black Panther informant's activities

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New Israeli cyber-security technique: Daze and confuse hackers

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The best way to beat hackers is to let them chase their own tail – by letting them mine phony data that ends up leading nowhere, said a cyber security executive.
“Statistically, we have found that our system of deceptive attack points catches almost all hackers who try to mine a system for information,” said Shlomo Touboul, the CEO of new Israeli cyber-security firm Illusive. “The fake attack vectors lead them in the wrong direction, keeping them busy with nonsense information. Meanwhile, the security department can gather information on them, including where the attack is originating from, and how it is being carried out.”
More than a “honeypot” – a trap set for hackers on a system – Illusive is a new paradigm of cyber-security tech, in which an invisible (to users) layer of security is overlaid on a system, set up especially for hackers who are able to breach traditional defenses, said the company.
Google co-founder Eric Schmidt is an investor in Team8, a unique accelerator/venture capital firm/incubator that takes Israeli cyber-security technology, develops it and gets it ready for the market, and then sends the newly formed company out for an exit.
“The business world is under cyber siege, with cyber attacks dominating headlines.” said Schmidt. “It is critical that we support innovative start-ups developing creative and disruptive solutions to these threats.”
Team8-supported Illusive Networks, he said, “is a perfect example of the kind of ‘out of the box’ thinking necessary to challenge the growing threat of targeted attacks.”
Illusive lives up to the play on words in its name. Finding data becomes an elusive task for hackers, because they are distracted by illusory data points that are designed to lead them in the wrong direction.
“In a sense, we are turning the tables on hackers,” said Touboul. “Their power is in their capability to sneak into systems and steal data unnoticed, but our power is in providing them with information that they can’t know in advance is phony.”
To break into a network, hackers will often use phishing techniques to fool low-level employees into giving up their log-ins and passwords. But a low-level employee is not going to have access to the high-level data (like credit card numbers) the hackers want. So, said Touboul, once they “land” on a network they move onto the next step of their plan – gaining access to the secure servers where the real data they want is stored.
To do that, hackers will seize on passwords, likely looking files, executables – anything that can get them closer to their target. While there are usually some false leads, a good hacker will be able to figure out what kinds of files or other signals to look for rather quickly. By reading the appropriate log files, for example, a hacker can figure out the administrative passwords needed to access the “money” servers, the ones with the information they can cash in on – and at that point, the valuable credit card data stored there is as good as compromised.
But what if the hacker were to access phony log files with nonsense data – or, even better, log-in information that will place them on a server that has nothing but more phony data for them to root around in? That is exactly what lIlusive does, said Touboul.
“As successful attackers move towards their target, they rely on one simple fact – that the data they collect is accurate,” said Touboul. “We tamper with that data and create an environment where attackers can’t rely on the information they gather. If the information is unreliable, the attack cannot move forward.”
According to Touboul, in fact, if Sony and Target – both victims of huge hack attacks over the past year – had been using Illusive, “those attacks could have been prevented.”
Even while still in stealth mode – the fact that Illusive was doing business was only authorized for publication Tuesday – the company was selected for the exclusive list of “Cool Vendors” for 2015 by tech analyst firm Gartner.
Gartner observed that “deceptive security technologies provide a refreshing and complementary approach to enterprise security.”
IT and security personnel, said the firm, should “examine the benefits of Illusive because deception methods will become more prevalent in the future … they will prove effective and easy to deploy.”
Illusive networks is the first company launched by cyber-security foundry Team8, which has deep ties to the Israeli army’s Unit 8200. Several alumni of Unit 8200 have gone on to found or play leading roles in some of the most successful cyber-security companies.
Illusive was founded by Ofer Israeli, a research and development veteran of Check Point, who will serve as Illusive’s vice president of R&D, while CEO Touboul is a seasoned cyber-security entrepreneur, a veteran of the Network Management Business Unit at Intel, and founder and CEO of three cyber-security companies: Finjan Software, Shany (acquired by Intel), and Yoggie (acquired by Cupp Computing).
“Traditional solutions to targeted attacks and APTs are passive; they try to defend the weakness in an organizations network. Illusive is proactive. It attacks the weakness in how an attacker sees the network,” said Nadav Zafrir, Team8 CEO and former head of Israel’s famous Unit 8200, the cyber intelligence organization synonymous with the United States National Security Agency (NSA). “The genius of Illusive’s solution is that it knows how attackers see the network and then uses it against them. If attackers cannot collect reliable data, they cannot make decisions. And if they cannot make decisions, they are paralyzed.”
(L to R) Shlomo Touboul, Eric Schmidt, and Ofer Israeli cut the cake celebrating the official launch of Illusive in Tel Aviv, June 8, 2015 (Illusive Networks)
(L to R) Shlomo Touboul, Eric Schmidt, and Ofer Israeli cut the cake celebrating the official launch of Illusive in Tel Aviv, June 8, 2015 (Illusive Networks)
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CIA chief made secret trip to Israel ahead of Iran deadline

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The head of the CIA reportedly made a secret trip to Israel, ahead of a looming deadline to finalize a nuclear deal with Iran.
According to Haaretz, Director John Brennan met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and National Security Advisor Yossi Cohen during a visit as the guest of the leader of the Mossad intelligence service, Tamir Pardo.
Last Thursday's visit came amid increased tensions between the Obama administration and Israel, and followed the 
March elections
 that secured Netanyahu’s fourth term as prime minister.
The two nations have been especially divided over Iran.
While the U.S. and five other world powers have reached a tentative deal to curb Tehran’s nuclear ambitions, Netanyahu has pushed a much more aggressive approach.
Brennan’s visit may have been an attempt to smoother over those differences, though Haaretzreported that it is unclear whether or not Brennan conveyed a particular message about the deal.
The Obama administration is seeking to reach a final nuclear deal by the end of the month to stop Iran from creating a nuclear weapon. The final deadline comes after an initial framework agreement reached in April to lift sanctions on Iran in exchange for new limits on its nuclear program. 
"I can, I think, demonstrate, not based on any hope but on facts and evidence and analysis, that the best way to prevent Iran from having a nuclear weapon is a verifiable tough agreement," President Obama told Israel’s Channel 2 in an interview last week.  
"A military solution will not fix it,” he added. “Even if the United States participates, it would temporarily slow down an Iranian nuclear program but it will not eliminate it.”
In addition to the nuclear deal, discussions between Brennan and the Israelis also touched on Iran’s broader role in the region, Haaretz said, from Iraq to Yemen.
The CIA declined to comment about the reported trip.

A Brief History of Anti-Americanism in Modern Russia

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Or how contemporary Russians came to see the United States as Enemy No. 1. From Carnegie.ru.
by Denis Volkov 9 June 2015
Russians’ attitudes toward the United States have been monitored by the Levada Center on a regular basis since the early 1990s (with small breaks in the first few years). During this time there have been four sudden bursts of negativity toward the United States: in 1998, 2003, 2008, and 2014-2015. It’s not hard to guess that they coincided with the differences between the two countries about events – respectively, in Kosovo, Iraq, Georgia, and Ukraine. The word “sudden” here indicates that the relationship is reversed for one to two months, and every time (except for the current situation) as quickly returns to its original “benevolent” state. These bursts are easy to explain as the work of propaganda on Russian television, as when it shifts into gear, hostility immediately increases. Conversely, as soon as the switch is released, everything returns to normal. But understanding why that propaganda is so effective requires a more in-depth analysis of changes in Russian public opinion toward the United States.
Today it seems hard to believe, but in the early 1990s, for most Russians the United States represented not just the sole superpower, but also the undisputed role model, the main reference point in foreign policy. According to surveys of 1990-1991, the United States aroused the greatest interest of all countries of the world: 39 percent, versus 27 percent for Japan and 17 percent for Germany. When respondents were asked to choose which Western country Russia should cooperate with primarily, most (74 percent) voiced an unconditional preference for America. Germany, for example, was mentioned almost half as often. The United States was seen as the richest and most developed country in the West.
In this short period America not only served as a guide, but was also considered the most reliable partner, whose support could be expected. If Russia needed help, most (37 percent) said the United States would be the first to provide it. By comparison, only 9 percent expected Germany to help. Most (44 percent) were confident that the United States would help (18 percent did not think so, while the remainder found it difficult to answer or said Russia should not seek such assistance). In the United States Russians saw a friendly country (51 percent) or an ally (16 percent). No more than 1-2 percent saw hostility to Russia.
In 1992, more Russians (38 percent) placed a higher priority on cooperation with the United States than even on cooperation with the post-Soviet Commonwealth of Independent States (25 percent). In light of these figures, the U.S.-centric foreign policy of Boris Yeltsin and his first foreign minister, Andrei Kozyrev, looks logical. However, in 1993, attitudes shifted somewhat: 35 percent thought cooperation with the United States was of primary importance, compared with 45 percent for the CIS. The deepening economic crisis made people feel that Russia would not reach America’s level of development in the near future. Rapture with the United States was replaced by disappointment, followed by the dismissal of unrealizable desires on the principle that if the grapes are out of reach, they are likely sour anyway.
Today it seems obvious how unrealistic were hopes that Russia, which had just lost the Cold War and did not meet accepted Western economic and political standards, would be welcomed with open arms by the international community. Some processes, such as long-term negotiations on accession to the World Trade Organization, the reluctance of the United States to abolish the Jackson-Vanik amendment [which restricts trade with controlled economies], etc., must have seemed especially frustrating (but rather for the elite, not for the general population). The process of establishing a trusting relationship would be long and painful. But no one wanted to wait, so expectations were fairly quickly replaced by disappointment and resentment. The origins of anti-Americanism are also rooted in the feeling of offense and injury at a fast slide from the status of superpower to junior partner who constantly needs to learn and catch up to be finally treated equally.
In the next few years, polls showed a shift in the public’s image of the United States. One of the first hits to the positive attitude toward America was the 1993 bombing of Iraq. Public opinion was divided: one-third was ready to support the U.S. actions, but half was against (with 26 percent calling for “strong condemnation” of the bombing). It is difficult to say whether the negative reaction was due to opposition to the war or to the fact that such decisions were taken without consulting Russia.
However, in 1995-1996 America's actions were still generally assessed as friendly by a majority of Russians. No more than 7 percent saw the United States as an enemy, compared with 62 percent today. America was sixth on a list of perceived enemies, after the mafia, corrupt bureaucrats, Chechens, etc., but it was not an ally. In 1997, half the population already considered Russia an opponent of the West, while 30 percent did not. And while only a third of the population was ready to accept the idea that the United States posed a threat to global security, these numbers would soon change dramatically.
A series of events in 1998-1999 had a huge effect on how the United States was perceived in Russia. Those two years saw the U.S military action in Iraq; the intervention of NATO forces in Yugoslavia; the second Chechen war, for which Russia received sharp criticism from the West; the United States amending the ABM Treaty; and NATO’s first post-Soviet eastward expansion.
It was during this time that we see the apparent debut of the notion that the United States is involved in all international conflicts. One-half (or more) of the respondents said America wanted only to establish control over territory rather than to enforce international norms and punish their violators. … This pattern can still be found in how the NATO intervention in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the events in Libya and Syria are perceived in Russia.
The Russian military action in Kosovo, which, according to journalists who observed these events, made no practical difference for Serbs, had important consequences and was warmly welcomed by both the general public and the elite.  It caused an explosion of optimism at home, and stoking patriotism with the use of foreign policy to maintain the legitimacy of power would become the favorite method of the next president.
In 1999 the announcement that the United States would amend the ABM Treaty and NATO would enlarge only confirmed for Russians American perfidy. In surveys, 55 percent said the U.S. position on missile defense “was contrary to the interests of Russia.” Approximately the same number (50 percent) said Russia should strengthen security and defense in response to NATO expansion (23 percent still insisted on the development of cooperation, and 13 percent believed Russia did not need to respond). At the same time the United States for the first time topped the list of countries that “threaten the security of Russia” (in 1998, 23 percent thought so; by 1999 it was at 35 percent). Seventy-five percent agreed with the statement that “the United States uses Russia’s difficulties to transform it into a secondary country.” Another 60 percent were confident that the United States would like to see our country divided into several parts, although only 8-9 percent could seriously imagine a military conflict between the two countries. By the time Vladimir Putin came to the presidency in early 2000, the image of the United States had taken a familiar shape, without the help of the daily TV propaganda to which we usually attribute it.
Another event in 1999, which received a response from the Russian authorities, was criticism from the West of the Russian military action in Chechnya. It was the first time Russia openly accused the West of supporting terrorists. Around the same time, the tendency to Russian hardships on the machinations of the West returned to the repertoire of domestic propaganda.
Such explanations worked. In 2008, half of the population considered the main cause of the Russia-Georgia war the desire “of the United States to extend its influence in a country neighboring Russia”; 32 percent blamed Georgia, and 5 percent blamed Russia. This demonstrates another feature of having experienced the USSR’s collapse – the refusal to confer subjectivity on former Soviet republics, the reluctance to admit that for them the Western project could be more attractive than the Russian. This pattern can be observed in relations with Georgia, new countries joining NATO, and Ukraine today.
Before finally moving on to the present day, it’s worth saying a few words about the failed “reset” in relations between Russia and America. The attacks of 11 September 2001 provided a chance to change the situation. Russians saw cooperation between Putin and George W. Bush as a sign of the revival of their country’s role in foreign affairs, and the “joint fight against international terrorism” was seen as the main thing uniting the two countries (51 percent in 2002). However, by that time the population of Russia more firmly saw the United States as a global hegemon. In the same survey, 38 percent blamed “the arrogant attitude of Americans toward other nations” as the main reason the countries were moving away from each other. Thirty-six percent blamed “the desire of the U.S. authorities to extend their power,” and 32 percent U.S. officials’ “unwillingness to reckon with the interests of other countries.”
The point of the final break can be considered the period 2003-2004: the U.S. invasion of Iraq, a series of “color revolutions” that the Russian elite clearly saw as a conspiracy against Russia (it is interesting that at the time, only a fifth of the population shared that view), and the second wave of NATO enlargement to the east. Since then, polls have shown a growing alienation of Russia from the United States and NATO, based on a doctrine of Russia’s “special path.” So if in 2002 half of the population was in favor of cooperation with NATO, and a quarter was against it, in the next 10 years, the situation was reversed. In the mid-2000s, the United States and NATO took a leading position among the “enemies of Russia,” and the United States was among the states “most unfriendly toward Russia.”
As for the current record levels of anti-Americanism (in January the proportion who had a negative view of the United States reached 81 percent), there are several reasons. First of all, from the beginning of Euromaidan, Russian TV channels successfully worked out a formula to describe it as an American plot against Russia: for half the population, the main force that brought protesters to the streets of Kyiv was the “influence of the West, seeking to draw Ukraine into the orbit of their political interests.” Over time, this conviction only strengthened (41 percent in December 2013 to 54 percent in December 2014). Most (56 percent) say the conflict in southeastern Ukraine continues because it “benefits the United States and the leadership of the West” and not because of Russian participation (6 percent).
Rather, it is the Russian authorities who “exposed” the Euromaidan as an American project, recalling the Orange Revolution and compelled to quickly discredit the popular uprising, which in its origins strongly resembled the 2011-2012 protest movement in Russia. A successful version of civil protest in the adjacent Russian territory must not happen. Then, as events unfolded, the Russian media underlined this interpretation.
But to explain existing views only as the work of propaganda would be simplistic. Across the country, about 30 percent have access to alternative sources of information. In Moscow and other large cities, the figure is more than double that, but satisfaction with Russian policy in Ukraine is only slightly lower than in the general population. Alternate information is available, but the majority refuses to take it into account. With all frankness, these sentiments are expressed in the responses to the question of whether there are Russian troops in Ukraine: 37 percent are certain there are not. Another 38 percent say that “even if the troops are there, under the current international situation it is the right policy for Russia to deny these facts.”
The annexation of Crimea, about which the West and the United States could do nothing, then the sanctions and the war, have for the first time since the collapse of the Soviet Union made most Russians feel that Russia is once again becoming a “great power” (70 percent versus 47 percent in 2011). It is a kind of revenge for the lost Cold War and compensation for the inability to catch up with American living standards. Focus group participants say, “We’re being noticed again,” “We bared our teeth,” and “They’ll have to take us into account.” And that brings great satisfaction and a new sense of power. According to one respondent, “If before Putin we only spoke of Russia's greatness, now he has proved it in practice” and proved it not only to us, but also to the United States.
Thus, Russian anti-Americanism has its roots in the collapse of unreasonable and unrealistic expectations of the early 1990s – hopes that the new Russia, which did not meet accepted political and economic standards in the West, would immediately and unconditionally be welcomed into the circle of leading world powers. The realization that the American standard of living would not be achieved quickly played a role as well, as did U.S. military action in Iraq, Kosovo, Afghanistan, and so on, which was perceived as unfriendly toward Russia.
However, throughout the 1990s, anti-Americanism remained largely situational; U.S. policy was perceived as aggressive but not directed against Russia. The defining event proved to 1998-1999 and 2003-2004, when the majority of people in Russia first saw America’s actions as a threat to Russian security, reinforced by Russia’s isolationist streak.
Since it became clear in the late 1990s that a confrontation with the United States could boost the popularity of Russian authorities, rising anti-Americanism has been a key theme of propaganda. And in recent years opposition to U.S. leadership has been one of the main instruments for maintaining Russian officials’ own legitimacy in the economic crisis.
Denis Volkov is a sociologist with the Levada Center in Moscow. This article originally appeared on the website of the Carnegie Moscow Center.
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CIA Cybersecurity Guru Dan Geer Doesn’t Use a Cell Phone

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Why doesn’t cybersecurity icon Dan Geer carry a cell phone? If he doesn’t understand how something works in detail, he says, he won’t use it. Yet he’s no Luddite: as chief information security officer at In-Q-Tel, the nonprofit venture arm of the CIA, Geer has one of the clearest views of the future of security technology. His personal vision? To put those technologies (as well as new laws and policies) to work in ways that governments and corporations around the world today are too feeble, dysfunctional, or corrupt to implement themselves.
Geer argues that the EU’s “right to be forgotten” doesn’t go far enough, that software needs liability policies, and that governments should buy and disclose all zero-day vulnerabilities to prevent countries from stockpiling cyber weapons. Geer’s ideas (outlined in 10 points
he proposed in his keynote at the Black Hat USA 2014 conference) don’t win him many friends in policy or software development, but they’re certainly aligned to a core belief that is tough to argue: Sticking with the current status quo is a dangerous path to follow. #MakeTechHuman talked to Geer about what the better road might look like.
Let’s start with an optimistic question. When it comes to privacy and security, what should we not be worried about right now?
Let’s take phishing e-mail for a second. As you probably are aware, with phishing e-mail, the people who do it are getting better. They don’t misspell as often, their grammar is good, the plausibility background of their story is getting really, really good. On the other hand, I can honestly tell people that I know really well, my children for example, it’s going to be really hard to fake one of my daughter’s e-mails to me, because there’s a certain style that I would recognize no matter where I was.
So there is a kind of bifurcation now that says you can, as a human, recognize communications from a limited number of people that really are people that you really do know on a close basis. But the original Internet dream—and I’m not making fun of it, let me be clear—was suddenly you could talk to anybody on the planet. That’s still true, but you should be careful when you talk to anybody on the planet, because the provenance of that is quite unclear. So we’re beginning to, in effect, enhance the value of communications from people we know because we are beginning to devalue the communications from people we don’t know.
What’s the most outlandish invasion of privacy you’ve seen?
What I would call most egregious has to do with the aspect of data fusion. If I were to go in a room, if I were in front of an audience, and I’ve actually done this twice and described it many more times than that in front of other audiences, then you pick someone from the audience and you say, “I’d like to ask you an embarrassing question.” And so you ask them an embarrassing question. Not terribly embarrassing, by the way, just something like how many pairs of unused underwear do you have in your drawers. And almost always people will answer. But if you keep asking questions, they eventually balk. And the reason they balk is because the sum of the answers is greater than the parts. And when I say data fusion, I mean the ability to take data from disparate sources and put it together.
Bruce Schneier had a very interesting comment on the privacy front. He didn’t ask it, he stated, but I’ll pretend that he asked. And that is, in the equation of privacy, is every additional piece of information, every additional mechanism of observing you—first we have your telephone metadata, now we have drone pictures of your house, now we have the searches you did at Google, now we have on and on—does each additional avenue like that contribute to a linear sum? Or is it the exponent of that equation? I actually side with the argument that it is greater than linear and maybe even an exponent.
I would argue that what the marketing people are trying to do, which is to develop a complete picture of the individual, such that everywhere you go there’s an advertisement that has your name on it, I would argue that that’s egregious, in the sense that for that activity, there is no scientific distinction between targeting and personalization, except for the intent of the analyst. And so I think it’s egregious, not because I’m affronted by it per se, but because it’s building an apparatus that would allow, in effect, my view of the world to be completely personalized and, as such, how would I know? Now we’re in the The Truman Show. If all of your interactions with the rest of the world were personalized, how would you know?
Why doesn’t the EU’s “right to be forgotten” go far enough?
What I think you have a right to do is to be unobserved by facilities more complicated than the human eye and ear. I am well aware that the number of avenues of observability is expanding.
It isn’t that I really want the right to be forgotten. What I want is the right to be not recorded. And I want that to be understood to mean, oh, nothing exotic, like you can’t look at me or you can’t listen to me if I’m mumbling to myself on the street. I don’t mean something crazy like that. I just mean the idea that I would prefer to think that when I choose to have other people hear me, or see me, or whatever, I have chosen that, but that it is not something that other people can choose to do.
It is a slight distinction here that is probably important, and that is what is your definition of privacy versus secrecy. One can argue that privacy is something that others give you; secrecy is something you take for yourself. And I think a great deal of the interest in encryption, for example, is because people realize that they’re not going to be given privacy, so they have to acquire secrecy as a fallback. And I’m of that character, in effect.
Why should the U.S. government buy and disclose all zero-day vulnerabilities?
Bruce Schneier asked a coherent question on that, too, which was, “Are security vulnerabilities sparse or dense?” If they are sparse, then finding them and closing the holes is useful. If they are dense, finding them and closing them is not useful, because you’re just wasting your effort. I happen to think that exploitable vulnerabilities, which are the ones that actually matter, are probably relatively sparse.
Now, how do you find them? The answer is you find them through hard work. And we have made it too hard to find vulnerabilities as a hobby. It has to be a job. And there are lots of people whose job it is, and some of those whose job it is are nice and some are not nice. What can we do about that? I think the answer is markets. What I suggested was the U.S. government being who it is and what it is—why don’t we say show us an exploitable vulnerability [Heartbleed is an example of this], show us a competing bid [there’s a black market for these], we’ll pay 10xWe are in a financial position to flat out corner the market.
And I would suggest that if we did that, the one requirement for that process would be and then we make it public. Maybe we don’t make it public the same day, maybe we do it next week, maybe we give the manufacturer who is about to be embarrassed like nothing else a chance to pull up their pants. I’m OK with that. I’m OK with all the rules that come with responsible disclosure. I’m OK with saying we found a whopping flaw, it’s going to take six weeks to fix it, we will hold the information for six weeks, but not a minute longer.
In this process, one, we have forced vendors to fix the flaw, and two, what if country XYZ is accumulating cyber weapons? We have just erased one of their cyber weapons if they knew about it. And if they didn’t know about it, we’re no worse off than we were at the beginning.
You try to stay off the network as much as possible, carrying a pager and no cellphone. How do you evaluate technology in your personal life?
I am getting older, and I have to allow for the fact that perhaps that explains everything, though I don’t think so. I am, as a rule, skeptical of coming to rely upon things that I don’t know how they work. If there’s anything that I’ve come to be relatively adamant about is that, as humans, we have repeatedly demonstrated that we can quite clearly build things more complex than we can then manage, our friends in finance and flash crashes being a fine example of that.
Given what I know in the cyber security arena, the number of things that, in effect, nobody understands how they work causes me to say, well, then why do I want to depend on it?
Join the conversation in the comments section below and let us know how you feel about the current state of cyber security.
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Army Continues Cyber Workforce Development With Transition, Reclassification Programs

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cybersecurityThe U.S. Army Human Resources Command has developed a personnel transition strategy and reclassification procedure for enlisted soldiers qualified to serve as cyber operations specialists under Military Occupational Specialty 17C, the Army said Wednesday.
David Ruderman writes that the transition strategy covers soldiers from the 780th Military Intelligence Brigade, 7th Cyber Brigade and Joint Force Headquarters-Cyber, while any eligible servicemen can go through reclassification to join the cyber workforce.
“This move demonstrates the Army’s commitment to operating in cyberspace by investing in the most critical component necessary to work within the operational domain — a talented, trained and highly focused corps of world-class operators dedicated to the mission,” said Col. Douglas Stitt, director of HRC’s Enlisted Personnel Management Directorate.
Jim Bragg, the directorate’s retention and reclassification branch chief, added that eligible soldiers with the E6 additional skill identifier and covered under the strategy will transition to MOS 17C by September or undergo reclassification.
Soldiers interested in voluntary reclassification must meet requirements on noncommissioned officer education and service limits and undergo cyber-mission force functional training, he said.
Further guidelines are available in the MILPER 15-164 and MILPER 15-165 military personnel messages, the report said.
Ruderman earlier reported on May 29 that the Army has offered a selective retention bonus to cryptologic network warfare specialists and exploitation analysts under MOS 35Q and MOS 35Q EA, respectively.
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Army Claims No Data Breach from Attempted Hack

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A United States Army official said the military was able to safeguard its data from an attempted hack by taking down its own website.
Army Brig. Gen. Malcolm B. Frost, Chief of Public Affairs, said in a statement that the military preemptively took down its website after indications that hackers were attempting to breach it.
“An element of the Army.mil service provider’s content was compromised. After this came to our attention, the Army took appropriate preventive measures to ensure there was no breach of Army data by taking down the website temporarily,” Frost said.
It has not been confirmed who is responsible for the security breach. However, the Syrian Electronic Army (SEA), which supports Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, took credit for the attack. SEA posted a screen shot of the site with a pop-up message saying, “Your commanders admit they are training the people they have sent you to die fighting.”
The SEA attempt to breach one of the most secure departments of the federal government is just the latest attempt to hack the federal government.
The federal government revealed that the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), which oversees sensitive information including security clearance, was hacked in December. The hack potentially affected up to 4 million federal workers potentially compromising their personal data and leaving them vulnerable to identity theft or even blackmail.
According to Zach Noble of FCW, a federal technology news site, the OPM files were not encrypted and could serve as a “holy grail” of counter-intelligence. The files contained not only sensitive information such as Social Security numbers and dates of birth, but even information on gambling and sexual habits among the federal workers applying for security clearance.
It has not been proven but it is suspected that China was behind the hacking of OPM for the purposes of  “collecting intelligence on employees, their roles, projects they work on, access levels,” as Jason Polancich, an ex-intelligence analyst for the U.S. government, told CNN.
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‘Scandal Ridden State Department’ Faces Greater Congressional Oversight

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Sen. Tim Kaine (D.,Va.) / AP
Sen. Tim Kaine (D.,Va.) / AP
BY: Adam Kredo 
A bipartisan team of senators is pushing new legislation to ensure the Obama administration’s “scandal-ridden State Department” comes under greater congressional oversight, particularly to ensure that it cannot hide instances of wrongdoing among employees, according to a copy of the new legislation.
Sens. Tim Kaine (D., Va.) and David Perdue (R., Ga.) introduced legislation that would force the State Department to undertake a series of reforms aimed at increasing transparency and ensuring oversight authorities have the ability to route out malfeasance among employees.
The Improving Department of State Oversight Act comes on the heels of multiple disclosures regarding the agency’s inability to police itself. It aims to ensure that sensitive State Department computer networks undergo security changes to protect against hack attacks that officials say occur “thousands of times a day,” some having breached internal networks.
“Conducting congressional oversight is critical to making Washington more accountable, and a good place to start is at the scandal-ridden State Department,” Perdue said in a statement.
The new bill would require the State Department to report to its Office of the Inspector General (OIG) all allegations of criminal and administrative misconduct among employees.
Currently, however, the State Department’s OIG shares a computer network with the entire agency, meaning that State administrators can “read, modify, delete” any of the OIG’s active work.
Lawmakers and the OIG have expressed concern that this set-up enables the State Department to interfere with oversight investigations or stop them outright.
“They really have unfettered access to the system,” State Department IG Steve Linick warned during testimony before lawmakers earlier this year. “If they wanted to, they could read, modify, delete any of our work.”
Perdue explained that the new reform legislation would remedy this conflict by providing the OIG with a fully independent network.
“The State OIG must be able to conduct thorough, independent investigations on the State Department without obstruction from the very individuals who might warrant investigating,” he said.
“Making the OIG more independent is an important first step in turning our State Department from a liability into its proper role as a strategic foreign policy tool,” Perdue explained. “This bipartisan bill will help make sure the OIG is fully independent and empowered to conduct critical oversight of the State Department’s IT systems and high-risk posts around the world.”
“The State Department has been plagued with problems, and it’s ridiculous that the State OIG does not have autonomy to investigate wrongdoing within the Department,” Perdue told the Washington Free Beacon. “An independent OIG that is actually allowed to do its job is a necessary requirement in fixing a State Department that badly needs reform.”
A congressional source familiar with the legislation said that a measure to increase the OIG’s autonomy could be introduced this afternoon as part of a larger bill to authorize State Department funding.
“IG Linick testified that these are the type of reforms and autonomy he needs to be able to do his job effectively,” the source said. “This amendment will likely be included in the underlying State Department reauthorization this afternoon at the full SFRC committee markup.”
Another critical issue facing the State Department is the mounting number of cyber attacks launched against it on a daily basis.
“This legislation would make commonsense reforms that improve oversight at the State Department and help protect the State Department’s Office of the Inspector General IT systems from external cyber threats,” Kaine said in a statement.
Additionally, the legislation would require the State Department to file a report disclosing the frequency of inspections of “high-risk” diplomatic posts abroad.
A State Department official declined to comment on the new legislation, stating an organizational policy of not commenting on pending legislation.
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Congress apparently had no idea the FBI has a secret air force

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First, they came for our free checked baggage. And now, airlines may be zeroing in on our carry-ons. 
The International Air Transport Association announced a new guideline on Tuesday that recommends smaller carry-on size limits, so that overhead bins will become less crowded.
Under current regulations, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, and United Airlines allow carry-on bags up to 22 inches by 14 inches by nine inches. The new guideline, however, wants to reduce the "optimal" size of carry-on bags to 21.5 inches by 13.5 inches by 7.5 inches. If the new guidelines are implemented, travelers may need to bring smaller bags or pay to check their suitcases.
AP also notes, however, that "details of how the guideline will be implemented are murky," and the guideline isn't binding, so airlines may choose not to follow it. While no U.S. airlines have signed on yet, eight international airlines, including Emirates, Lufthansa, and Air China, said Tuesday they will include the guideline in their operations. Meghan DeMaria

U.S. Weighing More Iraq Training, But No Strategy Overhaul

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General Martin E. Dempsey arrives to deliver a statement in Tel Aviv
General Martin E. Dempsey arrives to deliver a statement in Tel Aviv / Reuters
BY: Reuters
JERUSALEM (Reuters) – U.S. President Barack Obama is weighing steps to bolster Iraq’s battle against Islamic State, including expanding the number of training sites for Iraqi forces, but the overall U.S. strategy is not in question, the top U.S. military officer said on Tuesday.
General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told a small group of reporters during a trip to Israel that it was still “to be determined” whether more forces might be needed in such a scenario.
A senior U.S. military official, speaking separately on condition of anonymity, said any decision to expand training of Iraqi forces would likely only require a “modest” increase of trainers and support personnel.
(Reporting by Phil Stewart; Editing by Mohammad Zargham)
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Dempsey warmly praises US-Israel defense ties on his final visit

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Dempsey warmly praises US-Israel defense ties on his final visit
DEBKAfile June 9, 2015, 7:23 PM (IDT)
Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey, thanked the IDF for the badge of honor he was awarded Tuesday by Israel’s Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gaxy Eisenkott and said he was accepting it on behalf of the entire US armed forces. "This medal I accepted in the name of hundreds of thousands of American servicemen and women, who feel the partnership, the friendship and the commitment which exists between the United States and Israel," he said. On his fifth and last visit to Israel before he retires in October, Dempsey said:  “I could not imagine a world in which we did not have a relationship like this” and voiced his certainty that his successor would “even strengthen them further.”
Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon praised Dempsey's record and hailed the enduring ties between their two respective countries as crucial."We are all facing the challenge of jihadism in the region," adding that in Syria alone there are 30 terrorist organizations that will have to be dealt with when the time comes.

Showdown begins in Senate over defense spending - U.S.

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WASHINGTON — A Senate panel approved a $575.9 billion defense spending bill on Tuesday, but its fate is uncertain as lawmakers argue over spending caps.
The usually bipartisan bill has run into snags this year. The GOP-led House and Senate both have bills that give President Barack Obama the amount he seeks for defense, but they do that by padding a war-fighting account that's not subject to the automatic spending caps that took effect a few budget cycles ago.
Democrats and the White House - and some Republicans - say doing an end-run around the caps by increasing the war-fighting account for a year doesn't permit defense officials the flexibility to plan to keep U.S. military might strong, especially at a time when Islamic extremists are on the rise. It takes years, for instance, to develop weapon systems.
The defense subcommittee of the Senate Appropriations Committee on Tuesday recommended $489.1 billion in base spending and another $86.8 billion for the war-fighting account called Overseas Contingency Operations. The total $575.9 billion measure is to be considered by the full committee on Thursday. If additional mandatory spending and money used in national security programs at the Energy Department are added in, the subcommittee's markup is aligned with the $612 billion defense authorization bills.
Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin, the top Democrat on the subcommittee, said this year's defense appropriations process is overshadowed by a "budget impasse."
Senate Democrats have said they will block the defense appropriations bill from the Senate floor unless there is agreement on spending caps. Obama has threatened a veto, saying he's opposed to using a budget "gimmick" to increase defense spending while failing to do away with the Budget Control Act's spending caps.
"The Budget Control Act, which set in motion dangerous defense cuts, establishes caps on defense and nondefense discretionary spending," Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, wrote in an op-ed published on Tuesday. "There is bipartisan consensus on the dangerous impact these spending caps would have on defense. All of the military service chiefs testified this year that funding defense at the level of the BCA caps would put American lives at risk.
"Rather than seeking to avoid this scenario at all costs, the president is using it as leverage to extract increases in nondefense spending. As his veto threat made clear, the president `will not fix defense without fixing non-defense spending."
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Iraq's Problem Is So Much Bigger Than Just Training Its Military

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Iraq’s army is a pathetic mess. Everyone inside the Pentagon knows this. The White House does too. And setting aside official protest by Baghdad, the Iraqi government is so aware it’s trembling.
But that’s not why ISIS is winning. And to be clear, ISIS is winning.
The terrorist group too extreme for al Qaeda now controls 50 percent of Syria and an increasing share of Iraq. It’s conducting suicide attacks in Saudi Arabia and inspiring rocket launches from Gaza into Israel. All this ISIS has accomplished in one year. Despite more than 3,800 airstrikesagainst it.
On Monday, when asked about a U.S. strategy in the face of this frightening advance, President Obama said the United States is studying how it can help recruit more Iraqis to fight and get Iraqi soldiers better ready for war. “Where we’ve trained Iraqi forces directly and equipped them and we have a train-and-assist posture, they operate effectively,” Obama contends. “Where we haven’t—morale, lack of equipment, etc.—may undermine the effectiveness of Iraqi security forces.”
According to Obama, arresting ISIS is an Iraqi responsibility.
This is dishonest. That he takes this position, however, is understandable. The man ushered into office in part on a promise to get America out of Iraq (and Afghanistan) does not want to be the man who did that only to watch that state fail and then go back in. Add to this the polling: While the public wants a U.S. campaign against ISIS, it remains divided over the use of ground troops.
So as Obama’s critics shout about the president putting politics, and legacy, ahead of security, the truth is that his ambivalence reflects the collective churning of the American gut. We think we’ve seen this movie before, and we didn’t like the ending.
But we haven’t seen this movie before because this one is not about Iraq. And after a decade of training Iraqi troops, a few more months of tutoring will not turn this force into one that can defeat what Obama today called the “nimble,” “aggressive,” and “opportunistic” Islamic State fighters.
It’s about ISIS, a lethal, strategically smart and tactically effective adversary whose intentions are not contained by Iraq’s borders.
The United States – under Barack Obama or the next president – can choose to sit this out, to let Sunni fight Shia and then Wahhabi fight Sunni until some resolution is found. The risk associated with this option is that what remains standing could be the slave-holding, woman-raping, Christian- and Jew-killing territory known as the Islamic State, which will not pause to relish victory but instead set sights on Europe and the United States.
Or the United States – under Barack Obama or the next president – can choose to engage aggressively, hoping that a greater assault than what’s being accomplished by U.S. airpower and on-the-ground training will stop ISIS from destroying the governments in the region that still take Washington’s calls. The cost of this choice is great: money and, more importantly, blood.
There are certainly other plausible scenarios between these two extremes. But in any case, this is the debate America should be having. Wait it out and see what might be necessary later, knowing it could be more taxing and destructive than it would be now. Or engage yet again in a region that seems committed to conducting the intra-Muslim war the world so desperately wants the Middle East to avoid.
No matter the answer, that’s a more honest question to consider than whether the Iraqi army is trained well enough.
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Russia-Ukraine Conflict May Last Decades: Ex-NATO Chief

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The Russia-Ukraine crisis is unlikely to wear off anytime soon. Last week, Moscow-backed separatist forces launched an offensive in Marinka, which is just ten miles from the separatists' capital of Donetsk. Though Ukrainian army repelled the attack, separatists have renewed their offensive in eastern Ukraine, violating the Minsk ceasefire agreement reached in February.
Russia NATO

West should supply lethal arms to Ukraine

Former NATO secretary general Anders Fogh Rasmussen warned that the conflict could last decades. In an interview with CNBC, Rasmussen said that the Western countries should consider arming Ukraine to thwart Russian aggression. The U.S. is supplying only non-lethal aid to Kiev, though Obama administration has been considering to supply lethal weapons for months.
Rasmussen believes that the conflict in Ukraine and subsequent annexation of Crimea are "part of a bigger Russian master plan." He led the Western military alliance between 2009 and 2014. Rasmussen said Moscow continues to destabilize Ukraine. Russia has amassed tens of thousands of troops along the Russian-Ukrainian border, and is actively operating within Ukraine, he claimed.
While Western countries have been looking for a peaceful political solution to the crisis, the Kremlin is looking for a military solution. And that's why they continue to destabilize Ukraine, said the former NATO head. It's time Western powers should start sending lethal weapons to Ukrainians to help them defend themselves. Pro-Russian separatists, allegedly sponsored by Moscow, continue to fight Ukrainian government forces in eastern Ukraine.

Russia trying to regain its Soviet-era glory

On Monday, President Barack Obama said that the G-7 countries will continue sanctions against Russia, even though some European countries fear retaliation. Rasmussen says Moscow is deliberately destabilizing the region to resurrect the country's Soviet-era sphere of influence. To achieve that objective, Moscow wants to keep its neighbors weak and prevent them from integrating with NATO or the European Union.
Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin has tried to quell fears of a major conflict. In an interview with Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera, he said that only a "sick person" would imagine a conflict between Russia and NATO.
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Sen. King Warns of Cyber-Security Weakness

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WASHINGTON - Maine Sen. Angus King today told fellow members of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee that better security is needed to protect the nation's computer-controlled infrastructure.
King said that the nation's electric grid, telecommunications systems and natural gas pipelines are vulnerable to hackers. "We are going to have a serious cyber-attack. The next Pearl Harbor is going to be cyber," he said.
King questioned representatives of several associations about industry efforts to safeguard crucial control systems from hackers. He says, while progress has been made, much more needs to be done to bolster security.

US Welcomes Top Chinese Military Official Amid Hacking Allegations

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The U.S. military is rolling out the red carpet across the country this week for a top Chinese military official, culminating in a visit to the Capitol -- all allegations that hackers in China were behind a major recent hacking operation, and during escalating tensions over the South China Sea.
Gen. Fan Changlong, Vice Chairman of China’s Central Military Commission, is leading a high-level military delegation that was scheduled to visit military installations in California, tour the USS Ronald Reagan and “observe soldiers” at the Army’s Fort Hood in Texas, Defense Department spokesman Col. Steve Warren told reporters. Fan, described by the Pentagon as a “visiting guest” of U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter, will meet with Carter at the Pentagon Thursday.
Friday Fan is expected to join U.S. Army Gen. 
Ray Odierno
 to sign a U.S.-China Army-to-Army Dialogue Mechanism (AADM) at the National Defense University.
The trip by Fan, who analysts say holds a position in the Chinese command structure just below President Xi Jinping roughly equivalent to the U.S. Secretary of Defense or Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is the “highest-level visit by a Chinese military leader” since 2012, according to a China Daily report posted on the Chinese military’s website. During his trip, Warren said Fan will be extended “all traditional customs and courtesies to the Secretary’s guest.”
But the visit comes as the U.S. continues to investigate a massive cyber breach at the government’s Office of Personnel Management, purportedly by hackers working in China. The personal information of as many as 4 million people, potentially including top current and former cabinet secretaries, is believed to have been stolen. A spokesperson for the Chinese Foreign Ministry said dismissed the allegations and said China would "hope the U.S. side would discard suspicions, refrain from making groundless accusations and show more trust and conduct more cooperation in this area."
A little more than a year ago, the U.S. indicted five officers in the Chinese military – officers that, like the rest of the Chinese military, fall under Fan's chain of command – for allegedly hacking U.S. companies to steal industry secrets.
Fan will also be meeting Carter face-to-face just two weeks after Carter publicly called out theChinese government over its controversial “reclamation” of 2,000 acres of land in the contested South China Sea.
“The United States is deeply concerned about the pace and scope of land reclamation in the South China Sea, the prospect of militarization, as well as the potential for these activities… to increase the risk of miscalculation or conflict among claimant states,” Carter said in the keynote address at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore May 30. “With its actions in the South China Sea, China is out of step with both the international rules and norms that underscore the Asia-Pacific’s security architecture, and the regional consensus that favors diplomacy and opposes coercion.”
Mark Cozad, a Senior Defense Policy Analyst and Chinese specialist at the RAND Corporation, told ABC News that while U.S. and China’s top military officials certainly have much to talk about behind closed doors this week, it’s doubtful there will be any fruitful outcome on either the hacking allegations -- which China routinely flatly denies -- or the South China Sea controversy.
“I think it [the visit] is just about keeping the lines of communication open,” Cozad said. “The visit says something about the willingness, on the Chinese side, to be involved in these discussions.”
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White House, Iraqi Government Trade Barbs Over Obama Admin’s Help Against Islamic State

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Josh Earnest / AP
Josh Earnest / AP
The White House and the Iraqi government disagree about both the extent and the effectiveness of the Obama administration’s efforts to assist in the fight against the Islamic State.
In Tuesday’s daily briefing, Josh Earnest, the White House press secretary, detailed the administration’s efforts to assist Iraqi security forces.
“The training, equipping and offering advice and assistance to Iraqi security forces is merely one element of the strategy, but this is one area where we can talk with some specificity about how Iraqi security forces have benefited from the support of our coalition military partners and have performed well on the battle field,” Earnest said.
However, CNN reported Tuesday that Iraqi officials claim that they have not received adequate support.
“Iraqi military officials insist they have the men and the tools they need to attack Ramadi, but complain bitterly at what they say is a lack of coalition air support,” CNN reported.
CNN further reported that American coalition forces are not supplying the Iraqis with the type of support that they have requested.
“They are supposed to give us some support now from warplanes … we are in control of the ground, all we need is air support,” said Major General Khalil Abadi.
The White House also said Tuesday that Iraqi security forces need to focus more on recruiting.
“What we also know that we need, in order to maximize that opportunity [to ramp up coalition forces] is for the Iraqi government to do a better job in sending recruits to that program,” Earnest said in Tuesday’s daily briefing.
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More Training Weighed for Iraq Forces

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The top U.S. military officer said Tuesday the overall U.S. strategy in fighting the Islamic State group in Iraq is not in question, but added President Barack Obama is considering further action, including expanding training sites for Iraqi forces.
General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told a small group of reporters during a trip to Israel that it was still "to be determined" whether more U.S. forces might be needed in such a scenario.
The comments come a day after Obama said during a news conference at the Group of Seven (G-7) meeting in Germany the U.S. lacks a “complete strategy” for training Iraqi security forces.
Pentagon spokesman Colonel Steve Warren agreed with Dempsey's assessment Tuesday, saying, “There is a strategy for ISIL (Islamic State group), which I think has been well-articulated.”
But in responding to questions about the United States' ability to train Iraqis, Warren said the problem is getting more forces to train, "the Iraqis need to solve this problem. … We'd like to see more Sunni tribes.
He said the Pentagon is “working through a strategy” for how to train more Iraqi forces and will present that plan to Obama when it is ready.
The U.S. has “seen great success” with U.S.-coalition trained Iraqi forces, Warren added. “Iraqi security forces that we’ve trained tend to perform well … (they) exercise better command and control … exercise better discipline."
Obama's comments to reporters in Germany, however, brought a round of criticism from many Republican leaders.
Republican Senator John McCain, chairman of the Armed Services committee, said Monday, "Nearly a year after the president said, 'We don't have a strategy yet to fight ISIS (Islamic State) in Iraq and Syria, he said again, We don't yet have a complete strategy about how to combat ISIS.
“I'd like to see the incomplete strategy. ... I would not like to see ... 75 percent (of) combat missions flown in Syria return to base without firing a weapon, because we don't have forward air controllers on the ground," he added.
“When is this administration going to figure out that if you want to destroy the enemy, you’ve got to be able to identify the enemy and that requires air controllers on the ground, and that means U.S. troops?” McCain said from the Senate floor.
Obama has so far ruled out that as a possibility.
Republican National Committee spokesman Michael Short also criticized the president’s comments Monday.
“When President Obama said 10 months ago he didn’t have a strategy to combat ISIS, it was deeply troubling, and the fact he still doesn’t have a final plan for the deteriorating situation in Iraq is unacceptable,” Short said.
Republican House Speaker John Boehner said on Twitter: "Have repeatedly called upon Pres Obama to develop a strategy to defeat #ISIL. Now he admits he still doesn't have one."
'Not the overall strategy'
When questioned at a State Department briefing Monday, spokesman Jeff Ratheky said Obama was speaking about “how to accelerate and optimize the training and equipping of Iraqi forces, including the integration of Sunni fighters and not the overall strategy to fight” the Islamic State group.
At the G-7 meeting Monday, Obama and Iraq Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi met in the latest high-level effort to strategize against the militant group that swept through large areas of Iraq a year ago and has persisted in some of its biggest cities despite a U.S.-led campaign of airstrikes backing Iraqi ground forces.
The group has also taken control of areas in Syria.
Obama stressed the need to more quickly train Iraqi troops in order to succeed in fighting against Islamic State fighters, saying Abadi agreed on the desire for more security forces who are "trained, fresh, well-equipped and focused."
Obama said the Pentagon is working on plans to boost the training effort, and that those who have been trained are operating "effectively." But he said recruiting, particularly from Sunni tribes, needs to be a priority.
"One of the things that we're still seeing is, in Iraq, places where we've got more training capacity than we have recruits," he said.
Up to five years
Earlier Tuesday, State Department spokesman John Kirby said it could take at least three to five years for Iraq to overcome the Islamic State group's onslaught.
Even then, the war effort “has to be owned by the Iraqis," the retired Navy admiral said.
Kirby appeared Tuesday on an MSNBC morning talk show to try to clarify Obama's comments.
Kirby said Obama was "referring yesterday to a specific plan to improve the training and equipping of Iraqi security forces, and the Pentagon is working on that plan right now. But absolutely, we have a strategy."
Asked if the current strategy is working, Kirby conceded "maybe the way we're going about that needs to be changed a little bit."
He said the U.S. and its allies could go "all in," but he said if the problem is viewed only in a military context, "it's still going to take three to five years. It's not going to happen overnight."
Foreign fighters
In Germany Monday, Obama also reiterated the need to stop the flow of foreign fighters, saying thousands of militants are still going into Syria and on to Iraq.
"Not all of that is preventable, but a lot of it is preventable if we've got better cooperation, better coordination, better intelligence, if we are monitoring what's happening at the Turkish-Syria border more effectively," Obama said.
"This is an area where we've been seeking deeper cooperation with Turkish authorities who recognize it's a problem, but haven't fully ramped up the capacity they need," he added.
Abadi agreed on the need to keep more militants from joining the fight.
Warren, of the Pentagon, told reporters Tuesday the U.S. is looking for ways to work with Turkey to seal off the border region to stem the flow of foreign fighters, including "putting direct pressure on those border crossings from the air" and friendly forces on the ground.
FILE - A women who fled Ramadi holds a child in a camp in the town of Amiriyat al-Fallujah, west of Baghdad, Iraq, May 22, 2015.
Humanitarian crisis
Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) also said Tuesday Iraq faces its biggest humanitarian emergency in a generation as nearly 3 million people have fled the war-torn central and northern areas of the country, in particular the governorates of Anbar, Nineveh, Salah al-Din, Kirkuk and Diyala.
The group said they were driven from their homes by intense fighting, but help is not reaching those still stranded in no-go zones for aid agencies, Reuters reported.
Successive waves of people forced from their homes over the past year are now stranded in "grey zones" with no access to the most basic humanitarian assistance, MSF said.
Many in the grey zones north of the city of Mosul and between Baghdad and Anbar are living in damaged buildings without sanitation, clean water, or basic healthcare, and some have been displaced several times, MSF told Reuters.
"Despite the magnitude of people's needs, the humanitarian response has been mostly concentrated in safer areas, such as the Kurdistan region of Iraq," said Fabio Forgione, MSF's head of mission in Iraq.
U.S. and allied forces conducted 14 airstrikes in Iraq and nine in Syria against Islamic State militants during a 24-hour period ending on Tuesday morning, the U.S. military said.
The strikes in Iraq hit near Mosul, Tal Afar, Baiji, Kirkuk and Makhmur, destroying buildings, fighting positions, vehicles and a rocket system belonging to the militant group, the Combined Joint Task Force said in a statement.
Jeff Seldin contributed to this report from the Pentagon. Some material for this report came from AP and Reuters.
WATCH: Related video report by Sharon Behn
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Page 4

Russian Defense Ministry asks Pentagon for explanations over Dempsey's statements

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June 09, 11:47 UTC+3
Deployment of cruise and ballistic missiles in Europe and Asia would be tantamount to the United States' walkout from the INF treaty
MOSCOW, June 9. /TASS/. The Russian Defense Ministry has requested explanations from the Pentagon over recent statements by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey, to the effect the United States might deploy in Europe and Asia its cruise and ballistic missiles that might be targeted against Russia, Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov said.
'The Russian Defense Ministry is conducting scrupulous analysis of information regarding compliance with the INF treaty coming from different sources. Certainly, we took note of these publications in the Western press. In order to obtain official reaction from the American side we have dispatched a request through military-diplomatic channels for explanations of the Pentagon's positions regarding statements reportedly made by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey.
'The measures mentioned by US sources would be tantamount to the United States' walkout from the INF treaty,' he added.
'We believe that the return of US intermediate and shorter range missiles to Europe and their deployment in other regions from where they might threaten Russia and other countries reluctant to follow instructions from Washington would cause a drastically negative impact on global security and stability. We cannot but feel worried about such prospects,' Antonov said.
He recalled that the Russian Defense Ministry had more than once vowed commitment to the INF Treaty.
'We confirm that we are still prepared for a professional, competent discussion of all problems regarding the parties' compliance with that treaty,' he said.
Antonov recalled that Russia, too, had certain grievances over the United States' observance of this treaty, and if the US side were determined to address the issue in earnest, 'it should provide clear answers to Russia's concerns over US violations of the treaty.'
The Russian Defense Ministry, Antonov said, counted on an honest dialogue by experts, but specialists should be discussing not circumstantial evidence, hints or general speculations over 'hypothetical violations,' but specific facts.
'For the time being the US partners have not provided any to this day in defiance of our repeated requests,' Antonov said.
According to last week's reports by Associated Press quoting unclassified extracts from a report by the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey the deployment in Europe or Asia of ground-based missiles targeted at Russia's nuclear potential was one of the likely responses to Russia's alleged failure to fully comply with the INF treaty of 1987.
Moscow has repeatedly dismissed all US charges it had breached the terms of the INF treaty.
The head of the Russian Foreign Ministry's non-proliferation and arms control department, Mikhail Ulyanov, described Washington's claims as groundless.
'The United States refuses to provide facts to back up the charges. Or, which is more likely, it is unable to do that. One has the impression that the real aim is to discredit Russia and to make it look like a state that violates its international obligations,' Ulyanov said.

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Obama: No ISIS Plan | In Homeland Security

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By John Ubaldi
Contributor, In Homeland Security
Speaking at a news conference Monday, President Barack Obama stated that “We don’t yet have a complete strategy,” with regard to ISIS, as the Pentagon hasn’t presented him with a “finalized plan” in how the U.S. should proceed in dealing with the Islamic State.Obama War ISIS
The president is in Europe as part of the international G-7 summit in Kruen, Germany, Obama continued with his remarks that “because it requires commitments on the part of the Iraqis as well about how recruitment takes place, how that training takes place. And so the details of that are not yet worked out.”
Since last summer when ISIS gained substantial ground in Northern Iraq, the U.S. has not had a coherent comprehensive strategy for dealing with ISIS, and the president made the surprising statement last August that the U.S. doesn’t have a strategy for dealing with ISIS yet.
This statement by the president is confusing as the U.S. has been conducting combat operations against ISIS since September as part of a broad coalition, and in February the president sent Congress his war authorization, which is now stalled by both Democrats and Republican; albeit for different reasons.
The biggest obstacle is the president hasn’t articulated what is strategy for “Degrading & Destroying ISIS” is?
In his comments the president signaled out the Pentagon for not sending him a complete strategy, but before one can be conceived one needs to know what the political policy is first, before the military can present one.
One first needs to understand the military axiom articulated by 19th century military theorist Carl von Clausewitz, “We see, therefore, that war is not merely an act of policy but a true political instrument, a continuation of political intercourse carried on with other means.”
The other means Clausewitz is referring to is the military being used as the political instrument, but as we have seen in the past without clearly defined political goals, and absence of a coherent political strategy this will only lead to chaos as we have already experienced.
The president has to define what his political strategy is, considering events in the Middle East have radically changed since he sent Congress his war authorization.
President Obama in his statement at his news conference, “As soon as a finalized plan is presented to me by the Pentagon, then I will share it with the American people. We don’t yet have a complete strategy because it requires commitments on the part of the Iraqis as well about how recruitment takes place, how training takes place, so the details of that are not yet worked out.”
What is not spelled out in detail is how the president plans on leveraging the Shiite dominated Iraqi government of Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi to be more inclusive of all groups especially, the Sunni ethnic minority, and The Kurds in the north.
Anthony Codresman, military analyst for Center for Strategic & International Studies wrote, Iraq began to fall apart with the 2010 election and the struggles that kept Nouri al-Maliki in power. Maliki increasingly used the Iraqi security forces to maintain and expand his power base, and to support his Shi’ite faction at the expense of national unity. He appointed leaders on the basis of loyalty rather than competence and tolerated steadily higher levels of corruption. He sidelined the Sunni Sons of Iraq, and increasingly used the security forces to suppress peaceful opposition. These problems were compounded by cuts in the role of U.S. forces and training efforts before newly formed Iraqi forces were ready to operate on their own, efforts to impose U.S. systems that Iraqis had not successfully absorbed, and other problems in the train and assist effort.
Now the question is how to reconstruct the Iraqi army after the disastrous polices of Maliki, and to get the Sunni tribes to fight against ISIS, has never been articulated by the president.
The other aspect which needs to be addressed, is that Baghdad is now heavily influenced by Iran, and with the Iraqi army is disarray, Shiite militias are now filling the vacuum. The current operation to retake Ramadi is “Labaik ya Hussein,” named after a one of the most referred figures in Shia Islam, but hardly a way to gain the support of Sunni population.
How does the president plan on dealing with Iran in Iraq, when he is pre-occupied with the nuclear negotiation with Tehran?
Another problem, which hasn’t been discussed, is the situation in Syria. David Ignatius commented in Real Clear Politics that U.S. officials see mounting pressure on Syrian Bashar al-Assad from four directions. A potent new rebel coalition known as Jaish al-Fatah, or the Army of Conquest, backed by Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, seized the capital of Idlib province late last month. Fighting ferociously alongside this coalition is Jabhat al-Nusra, or the Nusra Front, which is affiliated with al-Qaida. Moderate rebels known as the “Southern Front,” backed by the U.S. and Jordan, are finally gaining some ground in southern Syria. And the Islamic State, the most fearsome group of all, is rampaging across northern, central and eastern Syria.
What is the strategy if the Assad regime collapses, as this will create a massive humanitarian disaster affecting Jordan, which already has hundreds of thousands of refugees inside its border from the Syrian civil war?
These are many of the problems confronting the president and they will not wait until 2017, when a new president is sworn into office.


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How China Is Building the Biggest Commercial-Military Empire in History

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In the 18th and 19th centuries, the sun famously never set on the British empire. A commanding navy enforced its will, yet all would have been lost if it were not for ports, roads, and railroads. The infrastructure that the British built everywhere they went embedded and enabled their power like bones and veins in a body.
Great nations have done this since Rome paved 55,000 miles (89,000 km) of roads and aqueducts in Europe. In the 19th and 20th centuries, Russia and the United States established their own imprint, skewering and taming nearby territories with projects like the Trans-Siberian and the Trans-Continental railways.
Now it’s the turn of the Chinese. Much has been made of Beijing’s “resource grab” in Africa and elsewhere, its construction of militarized artificial islands in the South China Sea and, most recently, its new strategy to project naval power broadly in the open seas.
Yet these profiles of an allegedly grasping and treacherous China tend to consider its ambitions in disconnected pieces. What these pieces add up to is a whole latticework of infrastructure materializing around the world. Combined with the ambitious activities of Chinese companies, they are quickly growing into history’s most extensive global commercial empire.
China views almost no place as uncontested. Chinese-financed and -built dams, roads, railroads, natural gas pipelines, ports, and airports are either in place or will be from Samoa to Rio de Janeiro, St. Petersburg to Jakarta, Mombasa to Vanuatu, and from the Arctic to Antarctica. Many are built in service of current and prospective mines, oilfields, and other businesses back to China, and at times to markets abroad.
But while this grand picture suggests a deliberate plan devised in Beijing, it also reflects an unbridled commercial frenzy. Chinese companies are venturing out and doing deals lacking any particular order. Mostly, they’re interested in finding growth abroad that is proving difficult to manage at home. This, too, is typical for a fast-growing power.
“This is very much in line with what we would expect from other great powers whose military posture follows its economic and diplomatic footprint,” Lyle Morris, a China specialist with Rand, told Quartz.
Below are snapshots of components that are either already in place or on the way.

The story starts with a reimagined Silk Road …

In September 2013, newly anointed Chinese leader Xi Jinping visited Kazakhstan’s capital, Astana. He was in town to seal the Chinese purchase of a $5 billion stake in Kashagan, one of the world’s largest oilfields. On that trip, he unveiled a plan ultimately dubbed “One Belt, One Road”—a land-and-sea version of the fabled East-West Silk Road trading route.
The idea is audacious in scope.
On land, Beijing has in mind a high-speed rail network (map 2). It will start in Kunming, the capital of Yunnan province, and connect with Laos and on into Cambodia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
Another overland network of roads, rail and energy pipelines will begin in Xi’an in central China and head west as far as Belgium (see dotted brown line above). As we’ve written previously, Beijing has already initiated an 8,011-mile cargo rail route between the Chinese city of Yiwu and Madrid, Spain. Finally, another 1,125-mile-long bullet train will start in Kashgar and punch south through Pakistan to the Arabian Sea port of Gwadur. The thinking behind this rail-driven plan isn’t new–as we have written previously, Beijing has been piecing it together for awhile.
At sea, a companion 21st-century Maritime Silk Road (see dotted blue line in map 1) would connect the South China Sea, and the Indian and South Pacific oceans. China would begin to protect its own sea lanes as well. On May 26 it disclosed a strategy for expanding its navy into a fleet that not only hugs its own shores, but can wander the open ocean.
China does not need to build all of these thousands of miles of railroads and other facilities. Much of the infrastructure already exists; where it does, the trick is to link it all together.
Everywhere, new public works will be required. And to make its vision materialize, Beijing must be careful to be seen as generously sharing the big engineering and construction projects. Up to now, such contracts have been treated as rare, big profit opportunities for state-owned Chinese industrial units. These include the China Railway Group, whose already-inflated share prices have often gone up each time another piece of the overseas empire has fallen into place. If local infrastructure companies are excluded from the largesse, there will be push-back on almost every continent.
In any case, not all this will necessarily happen. In a recent note to clients, China observer Jonathan Fenby of the research firm Trusted Sources suggested that it may all be too ambitious. China has had a history of announcing and then shelving projects, such as a $3.7 billion railway canceled by Mexico in February amid allegations of local nepotism. Meanwhile, Japan has begun to challenge Chinese plans. It has launched rival bids for billion-dollar high-speed rail and other projects in Indonesia, Thailand and elsewhere, with relatively low-interest loans and sometimes better technology (paywall).
But Beijing seems to recognize its own limits. Rather, the world may help to build at least some of the infrastructure through another Chinese creation—the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, with its 57 founding members, modeled loosely on the World Bank. Projects backed by the bank are meant to be good for the country where they are built. But given China’s outsize influence in the institution, they are certain to include some that fit into its grand scheme of global infrastructure.

…extends into South America…

China’s South American railway project, which cuts through the Amazon rainforest.(Global Forest Watch)

Xi has pledged $250 billion in investment in South America over the next 10 years. The centerpiece is a $10 billion, 3,300-mile, high-speed railroad (dotted red line above) that would start in Acu, near Rio de Janeiro, crossing the Amazon rainforest and the Andes Mountains, and terminate on the Peruvian coast. (NPR’s Tom Ashbrook conducted anexcellent hour-long program on the railroad.)
On top of that, there’s an advanced proposal by Chinese billionaire Wang Jing to build a 170-mile-long, $50 billion canal through Nicaragua.

…and also across Africa


In January, China agreed with the African Union to help build railroads (map 4), roads, and airports to link all 54 African countries. These plans are already under way, including a $13 billion, 875-mile-long coastal railroad in Nigeria; a $3.8 billion, 500-mile-long railroad connecting the Kenyan cities of Nairobi and Mombasa; a $4 billion, 460-mile railway linking the Ethiopian cities of Addis Ababa and Djibouti; and a $5.6 billion, 850-mile network of rail lines in Chad.
Then there are China’s maritime ambitions. These envision modern ports in the Tanzanian capital, Dar es Salaam; the Mozambican capital, Maputo; Libreville, Gabon; the Ghanaian city of Tema; and the Senegalese capital, Dakar.
All these land and marine projects align with existing Chinese natural-resource investments on the continent. For example, the China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) has large oil projects in Chadand Mozambique, and Chinese manufacturers are fast setting upEthiopian factories that rely on cheap local labor.

The new Chinese empire is enveloping its neighbors …

In addition to its planned high-speed rail network into Malaysia and Singapore (map 2) and Laos (map 5) into southeast Asia (see map 5 for Laotian portion), China plans a canal across the Isthmus of Kra in Thailand, a deep-water container port and industrial park in Kuantan, Malaysia, and a $511-million expansionof Male airport in the Maldives.

… and nations further afield in the Pacific

Chinese investments in the South Seas, by dollar amount (Lowy Institute)

China wants to dominate not only the South and East China seas, but far into the Pacific (map 6). According to the Lowly Institute, transportation comprises by far the largest portion of $2.5 billion in Chinese assistance and commercial credit to South Sea nations. Among the projects are:
Fiji: A $158 million hydroelectric plant and several sports complexes, including the 4,000-seat Vodafone stadium in Suva.
Samoa: A $100 million hospital in Apia, a $40 million terminal and upgraded runway at Faleolo Airport, and a $140 million wharf at Vaiusu.
Tonga: A $12 million government building to be called St. George Palace, and two small Chinese turboprop aircraft for domestic routes aboard Real Tonga airlines. The aircraft deal has been controversial because neither of the planes are certified for use in the West.
Vanuatu: Two more turboprops, this time for Air Vanuatu, and $60 million to build a Port Vila campus of the University of the South Pacific and a Parliament House (both loans have been forgiven).

Pakistan is pivotal to China’s Silk Road …

The Pakistan-China rail link(Xinhua)

Why has China lavished $42 billion in infrastructure projects on Pakistan? The two have always been allies. But China has a particular goal: It wants to contain Uighur separatists who have been fomenting violence in the western province of Xinjiang. Some of these separatists have sanctuaries in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and Beijing has pushed hard for both countries to hand over Uighurs living there.
But sending goods through Pakistan (map 7) also helps China avoid the Malacca Strait (map 8). Much of Beijing’s oil and other natural resources passes through this narrow, 500-mile-long stretch of sea between Malaysia and Indonesia. China worries that, if its relations with Washington become truly hostile, the US could theoretically blockade the strait and starve the country of its lifeblood resources. That is in large part why Beijing is financing a deep Arabian Sea port at Gwadur, and the 1,125-mile-long super-highway, high-speed railway and oil-pipeline route to the Chinese city of Kashgar.

… as is Central Asia …

Central Asia has been an almost exclusively Russian playground for almost two centuries. It still is when it comes to pure muscle. But in matters of cash, China is fast moving in.
The relationship revolves around oil and natural gas. Turkmenistansupplies more than half of China’s imported gas. It gets there throughthree, 1,150-mile-long pipelines; a fourth pipeline is soon to begin construction. China is the only foreign nation that Turkmenistan allows to drill for gas onshore, in particular from Galkynysh, the second-largest gasfield in the world. China’s $5 billion share of the Kashagan oilfield in Kazakhstan is one of its largest oil stakes anywhere. Xi also has signed $15 billion in gas and uranium deals inUzbekistan.

… and Russia

Two years ago, Russia announced a pivot towards China. The centerpiece of the shift is two natural-gas pipelines (the larger of the two is the dotted red line in map 9) through which a fifth of China’s gas imports would flow. The deal had some snags, but they reportedly have been worked out, and construction is to begin soon. In addition, China is to build a $242 billion, 4,300-mile high-speed railway from Beijing to Moscow, a two-day trip compared with the current six-day Trans-Mongolian Express.

China is speeding up how fast goods get to Europe …

The Maritime Silk Road (the solid blue line in map 10) will enter Europe through a $260 million Chinese-funded upgrade of the Greek port of Piraeus. From there, rail service will continue into the Balkans. Ships from China will also make port in Lisbon, Portugal, and Duisburg, Germany. To take the network into the heart of Europe, Beijing has agreed to finance a 250-mile bullet train, costing up to $3 billion, from Belgrade to Budapest. Separately, China’s new 8,011-mile cargo railroadfrom Yiwu to Madrid is taking away business from far more time-consuming truck shipping.

… and has piled into US real estate

For now, the Chinese web of infrastructure does not extend to the US. Instead, what has been built elsewhere is serving as a jumping-off point to the gigantic US market. High-speed trains are only now starting to be planned in the US, and Chinese firms are front-runners to win contracts, including a $1 billion contest for the San Francisco-to-Los Angeles route, expected to be worth $68 billion. China’sCNR Corp. is already providing 284 passenger cars worth $566 million to the Boston subway system.
Another big splash: the United States is China’s favored destination for real estate investment (see chart above). This has included commercial jewels such as New York’s Waldorf Astoria ($1.95 billion to Angbang Insurance) and the Chase Manhattan Plaza ($725 million to Fosun). But the bigger sums have been spent in all-cash deals by wealthy Chinesefor residential properties (pdf, page 12).

Last but not least, China has polar ambitions

Though the closest Chinese territory gets to the Arctic Circle is a thousand miles away, China nonetheless calls itself a “near-Arctic state.” Chinese oil company Cnooc has a majority share in Iceland’s Dreki oil and natural gas field, and Beijing established the Arctic Yellow River Station, a permanent research facility on Norway’s Spitsbergen Island. In Antarctica, China has four research stations, structures that allow nations to stake a claim to the continent. Plans for a fifth station at a place called Inexpressible Island are under way. It is positioning itself to move for the continent’s resources when a 1959 treaty guaranteeing its wilderness status expires in 2048.
Some of the infrastructure China is creating around the world will align with Western economic interests. But to the extent that it does, that will be inadvertent. Some of the most modern transportation infrastructure going up not only in China, but around the developing world, is deliberately linked to China. It is meant to make the global economy a friendly place for Chinese commerce.
That does not make China’s ambitions necessarily menacing or pernicious. But it does make them China-centric. It’s worth remembering that this way of doing economic development is not a Chinese invention. As Michael Pillsbury, author of “The Hundred Year Marathon,” tells Quartz, China’s ambitions are rooted in “a fierce sense of competitiveness which they claim they learned from the America of the 1800s.”
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It's Nearly Impossible to Understand What Motivates Terrorists

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One of the most frequently asked questions about terrorism is also the most intractable. Why? Why do they do it? Why do people join terrorist groups and participate in acts of terrorism?
There are as many answers to this question as there are terrorist groups, and everyone from clerics to caustic cab drivers seems to have a confident opinion on the subject, as though the interior world of terrorists can be easily mined and mapped. But this confidence is often misplaced, given how little scholars actually know about terrorism and the people who are involved in it. It also betrays an epic obliviousness about just how difficult it is to access the internal, subjective desires and emotions that shape the outer world. Instead of asking why people join terrorist groups and commit terrorist atrocities, a more worthwhile starting point for explanation is to ask how.
One culturally prevalent answer to the why question is that terrorists are “driven” or “pushed” to do it, and that the decisive driving or pushing agent is pathology. This answer has evolved in recent years in line with advances in knowledge and moral sensibilities. In terrorism studies in the late 1960s, it was not uncommon for scholars to conceive of pathology as a psychological abnormality or affliction rooted inside the individual. Since the 1980s, this idea has fallen into disrepute, and the scholarly consensus now holds that the roots of terrorism lie not in the individual, but in the wider circumstances in which terrorists live and act.
This reflects a broader consensus in the social sciences about violence: namely, that it is “socially determined,” a product of deeper historical, economic, or cultural forces over and above the individual. It is perhaps best summarized by the renowned social psychologist Albert Bandura. Drawing on studies of violence from across the human sciences, Bandura concluded that “it requires conducive social conditions rather than monstrous people to produce atrocious deeds. Given appropriate social conditions, decent, ordinary people can be led to do extraordinarily cruel things.” Social scientists argue about the nature and impact of the “social conditions” in question, but few would question the essential point that violence, however personalized or idiosyncratic its expression, is primarily rooted in historical structures or social relationships, not individuals, still less their “pathological” mindsets.
This consensus is also reflected in much liberal-left commentary about terrorism, especially of the jihadist variant. For example, in some quarters of the “radical” left it is asserted that the roots of jihadist terrorism lie not in Islam but in the myriad historical crimes and injustices of Western, and specifically U.S.-driven, imperialism—most notably, in the post-9/11 era, the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Jihadist violence, from this perspective, is an inevitable reaction fueled by Muslim anger and vengeance; and Westernized jihadists, far from rejecting the civilized norms and ideals proclaimed by the West, are in fact alienated from a West that excludes, demeans, and harasses Muslims.
The scholarly consensus on violence has a lot going for it. It humanizes the perpetrators of violence by insisting on their ordinariness and contextualizing their actions. It obliges people to reflect on their own possible shortcomings and vulnerabilities, and how, in different circumstances, they too could do monstrous deeds. And it compels people to recognize that they do not act in a social vacuum, and that what they think, feel, and do is powerfully shaped by the broader historical circumstances in which they are compelled to live and act. Moreover, Westernized jihadists, as a recent report cogently suggested, assuredly are alienated and feel that they do not belong in a secular world that often mocks and challenges their religion and identity as Muslims.
But the consensus can’t divest itself of the idea of pathology. Rather, it simply relocates the notion, tracing the causes of violence to pathological “background factors” operating on the violent. No doubt this is a more illuminating and edifying narrative than that sketched out in earlier psychological accounts. But its explanatory power is limited, because, as the eminent sociologist Jack Katz has convincingly argued, “whatever the validity of the hereditary, psychological, and social-ecological conditions of crime, many of those in the supposedly causal categories do not commit the crime at issue, … many who do commit the crime do not fit the causal categories, and … many who do fit the background categories and later commit the predicted crime go for long stretches without committing the crimes to which theory directs them.” Or as the British writer David Aaronovitch once joked, “Why don’t black lesbians blow up buses? Aren’t they alienated enough?”
One of the most sensitive and profound explorations of terrorism in recent years comes not from a scholar, but from a novelist. Philip Roth’s American Pastoral is a murder mystery in which the focal point is not the who, but the why. The protagonist, Seymour Levov, is a successful businessman whose 16-year-old daughter Meredith (“Merry”) blows up a post office to protest the Vietnam War, killing a bystander. All Seymour can think about is why Merry did it. She was an adored only child who grew up in a privileged and decent family in the idyllic hamlet of Old Rimrock, New Jersey. Seymour is desperate to locate “the wound” that caused Merry’s violence. Was it her stutter? Was it that anomalous kiss on the mouth he gave her one summer when she was 11 and he 36? Or was it the mysterious firebrand Rita Cohen who radicalized her?
As the novel progresses, Seymour’s disbelief gives way to clarity. But it is a negative clarity. “He had learned the worst lesson that life can teach—that it makes no sense,” Roth writes. He had learned that his daughter “was unknowable,” and that “there are no reasons,” that “reasons are in books.” In capturing Seymour’s efforts to understand the disaster that befalls his family, Roth holds up to scrutiny conventional efforts to explain terrorism—and exposes just how imaginatively cramped and simplifying they can be.  
Do terrorists have their reasons for committing atrocities? They certainly reel off any number of reasons in their pronouncements, but, as law professor Stephen Holmes has observed, “private motivations cannot always be gleaned from public justifications.” Sometimes people do what they do for the reasons they profess. Sometimes not, because what they do is motivated by reasons that are too dark, shameful, or bizarre to be openly acknowledged. Sometimes people do things that are so morally contentious that when called to account they are liable to excuse or justify, rather than to explain, their actions. Terrorists unquestionably fall into this category.
And sometimes people do what they do without the slightest sense of knowing why. I once met someone who robbed a liquor store in his teens. He was caught and did jail time for it. This person is now an accomplished writer. Doing that stick-up was a hinge moment in his life and today, some 30 years later, he still cannot make sense of it. The motive simply eludes him.
Terrorism scholar John Horgan has made a similar point. “The most valuable interviews I’ve conducted [with former terrorists] have been ones in which the interviewees conceded, ‘To be honest, I don’t really know,’” he writes. “Motivation is a very complicated issue. To explain why any of us does anything is a challenge.” It’s a challenge further compounded by the fact that some actions are informed by multiple motives, and even if these can be reliably identified it is often difficult to disentangle them and calculate their respective causal weight.
As Horgan suggests, a more manageable and useful question to ask about terrorism is not why, but how—and when and where? How did this specific person come to join this specific organization? What networks helped facilitate the act of joining, and where and how were these networks accessed or sought out?
Because these questions are about the circumstances of terrorism, and not the interior world of terrorists, they are not only more intellectually tractable for scholars, but also more directly relevant to efforts to prevent or stop terrorist recruitment. Law-enforcement agents can’t disrupt a motive, but with the right intelligence and skills they may be able to disrupt a network of terrorist recruiters. Marc Sageman’s work on Western “leaderless” jihadists demonstrates the promise of this kind of approach. Although Sageman has some interesting things to say about the why question, the strength of his research lies in showing just how decisive social and kinship networks are in the radicalization process.
This isn’t to suggest that the why question should be abandoned, but rather that those who ask it better appreciate the magnitude of the question and acknowledge the possibility that some momentous life decisions will remain forever opaque and mysterious—not only to outside observers, but also to the people who take them and must live with the consequences.
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ISIS Proves Its Persistence With Attacks in Libya and Iraq

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CAIRO — Islamic State militants staged attacks near Baghdad and the Libyan city of Surt on Tuesday, underscoring the group’s persistent strength on both fronts despite a monthslong American-led air campaign against it in Syria and Iraq.
In Libya, the Islamic State captured a critical power plant along the coastal road westward from its stronghold in Surt toward Misurata, a commercial center whose powerful militias are the backbone of a coalition that controls the capital, Tripoli. The loss was the second significant retreat in less than two weeks by the Misuratan militia that the provisional government in Tripoli had originally sent to expel the Islamic State from Surt.
More than 1,500 miles to the east in Iraq, two gunmen wearing suicide vests attacked a local council building in Amiriyat al Falluja, a bold incursion into the center of a city about 37 miles southwest of Baghdad. The city is one of the last bastions of government control in Anbar Province after Islamic State militants captured the major city of Ramadi three weeks ago, and Iraqi troops had fought against the fighters on the outskirts of Amiriyat al Falluja for months before the attack on Tuesday.
The extremist group, also known as ISIS or ISIL, is gaining ground in both countries in large part because of the feebleness of the national authorities, leaving the United States and its allies without effective ground forces in their efforts to crush the group. The Obama administration is considering whether to increase military training for the Iraqis.
In Libya, the capture of the power plant now means the Islamic State can threaten to cut off electricity to parts of the central and Western regions of the country.
The group’s takeover of the plant comes less than two weeks after it captured the badly damaged airport on the outskirts of Surt, as well as a water utility plant that the Misuratan militia had previously used as a base.
Leaders of the militia had said at the time of that retreat that they were pulling back to the power plant on the road toward Misurata in order to defend it after other fighters had pulled out, complaining that they had not been paid.
On Tuesday, the militia — known as Brigade 166 — posted a statement on Facebook saying that it had been forced to retreat again after losing five fighters in an early morning attack by the Islamic State militants.
“Up until now, the Brigade 166 has not received any support from the general staff of the army,” the statement said, referring to the “army” of the provisional government in Tripoli.
The Tripoli government “will have to dispatch a force as soon as possible,” the statement continued. “Until then we are going to be powerless.”
The Misurata-dominated provisional government in Tripoli is locked in a struggle for power against a rival military leader, Gen. Khalifa Hifter; he has the backing of the internationally recognized government, based in the eastern cities of Tobruk and Bayda.
Islamic State fighters seized important locations around Surt.
OPEN Graphic
Extremists pledging allegiance to the Islamic State, meanwhile, have capitalized on the chaos to establish a growing presence on the Libyan shores of the Mediterranean even as they have come under attack in Syria and Iraq. A faction of the Islamist fighters in the eastern city of Darnah has pledged allegiance to the Islamic State, and so has what appears to be a separate group based in the southern desert region.
The coastal city of Surt, the hometown and birthplace of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, has become the Islamic State’s most significant Libyan foothold. The group has established full control of the center of the city since at least the beginning of the year, and militants acting in the name of the Islamic State have staged several attacks on Misurata forces, as well as a mass shooting at a luxury hotel in Tripoli and less lethal attacks on several embassies and government buildings.
United Nations diplomats have been working for six months to negotiate the formation of a unity government that would bring together Libya’s two rival factions, in part to more effectively counter the Islamic State’s expansion.
The diplomats leading the effort released what they called a final draft of a unity proposal late Monday night, and on Tuesday representatives of both sides who had helped negotiate the deal traveled to Berlin to present it to the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council. The Security Council is expected to provide support for the proposed unity government as it attempts to stabilize the country.
The Islamic State aims to build a broad colonial empire across many countries.
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Western diplomats hope that the deal will bring together moderates from both sides to fight against hard-liners in each camp, as well as the Islamic State. But it was not yet clear on Tuesday how much support or opposition the final proposal might win within the two warring factions.
In Iraq, the fall of Ramadi to the Islamic State last month has raised alarms about the continued weakness of the central government in Baghdad as well. United States military officials have expressed growing impatience with the failure of the government’s forces to stand their ground or roll back the militants, even with heavy air support from the American-led coalition.
The attack on Amiriyat al Falluja on Tuesday underscored the group’s sustained ability to strike even inside tightly controlled government territory.
The two Islamic State gunmen who carried out the attack wore police uniforms and suicide vests. They attacked at about 11 a.m. during a meeting of local sheikhs inside the council building, said Shaker al-Issawi, the head of the council. Mr. Issawi said the gunmen killed two civilians and two police officers before his own bodyguards shot and killed the attackers.
ISIS has more than enough in its coffers despite expectations that airstrikes and falling oil prices would hurt the group.
OPEN Graphic
Mr. Issawi said the authorities believed that the gunmen had been hiding among the thousands of displaced Sunni Muslims from Anbar Province who had been sheltering in Amiriyat al Falluja.
The Islamic State is a Sunni Muslim group hostile to Shiites, and it has drawn support from the Sunni communities alienated by the Shiite leadership of the government in Baghdad. Iraq’s Shiite Muslim majority dominates the government, and allied Shiite militias backed by Iran have played a major role in fighting the Islamic State.
Mr. Issawi’s assertion that displaced Sunnis were responsible for the attack on Tuesday threatened to further inflame local sectarian tensions. Many Sunnis forced from their homes by the Islamic State and searching for safety in Amiriyat al Falluja and elsewhere are already facing suspicion from Iraqi Army officers and Shiite militiamen, who fear there are Islamic State infiltrators among them.
The United States has become increasingly flustered over what it views as the Iraqi military’s anemic performance. Last month, Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter said the Iraqis had shown “no will to fight” in their rout from Ramadi by Islamic State fighters.
During a visit to Israel on Tuesday, Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, the top American military officer, said that he had asked war commanders to look into expanding the number of training sites for Iraqi forces. Speaking to a small group of reporters, General Dempsey said a decision had not been made on whether that would make additional American troops necessary.
“TBD — to be determined,” General Dempsey said. A Defense Department official said afterward that a decision to increase American troops in Iraq would likely require only a “modest” number of additional trainers.
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Of Reputations Lost: The New York Times and SEAL Team Six

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Over the weekend, the normally stolid New York Times published an almost hysterical screed targeting the operators of the Navy’s SEAL Team Six. The article accused them of a variety of war crimes, including the unprovoked murder of civilians, the summary execution of enemy combatants, the mutilation of corpses and the use of snipers to kill little girls.
In sensationalist prose, Mark Mazzetti, Nicholas Kulish, Christopher Drew, Serge F. Kovaleski, Sean D. Naylor, and John Ismay enumerated a litany of despicable acts supposedly carried out by SEAL Team Six— an outfit they depicted as out of control and running amok in the shadows of America’s secret war against terror.
I was disgusted to read these allegations, though I did try not to take them personally. I am a former Assault Element Commander who served at SEAL Team Six. I have commanded SEALs in combat, and my experience in the unit and my knowledge of the men and women who serve there makes it impossible for me to believe what I have read. Let me share my doubts.
In SEAL Team 6: A Secret History of Quiet Killings and Blurred Lines, murder, mutilation and beatings are described in lurid detail—the authors even allege that SEAL operators used “primeval” tomahawks to kill Afghan civilians. Could this be true? The article is certainly gripping and tries to make a case marshaling allegations and very few facts. Missing are the names of the alleged perpetrators, the dates and locations of their crimes, and something, or anything, resembling motive. Unfortunately, the motives of Misters Mazzetti, Kulish, Drew, Kovaleski, Naylor and Ismay might be easier to guess at. Their article has been splashed in headlines around the world.
While the most serious allegations in the article are made by anonymous parties, the credibility of their accusations is uniformly marginal. Drawing on second- and sometimes third-hand information, apparently from the ‘war stories’ of unnamed persons, the authors do not once offer hard evidence. They do, however, shovel a great deal of blood curdling hearsay. Though a handful of former operators did speak on the record about injuries SEALs themselves receive, most of the article’s scabrous innuendo was gleaned from non-SEALs, officers from other units and civilian academics.
After making allegations about summary executions in an unnamed Afghan village, the authors solicited comment from United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM), who, perhaps understandably, “Would not comment on SEAL Team Six”.
Ominous? Perhaps, until one is informed that despite a grand and omniscient sounding name, the United States Special Operations Command has nothing to do with the manning, training, organization or operational control of SEAL Team Six.
Where an organizational fire-wall was an insufficient clue to the authors (and their editors), a geographical one might suffice. SOCOM is located on an Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida– more than 900 miles from the SEAL’s base in Virginia. SEAL Team Six’s parent organization, the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), is located in North Carolina and shares nothing with SOCOM except the words “Special” and “Operations.” Though JSOC is mentioned in the article, and accused of exonerating SEALs after numerous investigations, the authors apparently did not choose to print statements from the Public Affairs Officers of either SEAL Team Six or JSOC.
Because it was cobbled together by so many different people, the article is studded with contradictions. The authors decry the needless violence of SEAL missions carried out “in dark rooms with few witnesses” and in the next paragraph state “Team 6 members often operate under the watchful eyes of their commanders — officers at overseas operations centers… can routinely view live surveillance feeds of raids provided by drones high above.” Which is it? Few witnesses, or control centers full of direct video feeds?
In plain fact, SEAL missions are very frequently streamed live via satellite. Yet the article laments, “Even the military’s civilian overseers do not regularly examine the unit’s operations.” That allegation, too, is flat wrong.
Within hours of the Bin Laden raid, the White House press office foisted on the world the now-famous ‘situation room photograph’— showing the President, the Secretaries of Defense and State, along with ten other civilians who watched the SEAL’s Abbottabad operation live as it unfolded. Twenty-first century technology makes it possible for the Commander in Chief of the US military to view missions as they unfold, not only by circling drones, but also with footage beamed from individual operator’s helmet cameras.
Closer civilian supervision can hardly be imagined.
Presuming for a moment that this same technology makes it possible to witness any SEAL Team mission, carried out anywhere on the planet, one might ask what command centers full of Admirals, Generals, Secretaries and Deputy Secretaries have come to think of the ‘war crimes’ the New York Times believes the SEALs carry out on a weekly, if not nightly, basis.
Are the SEALs operating outside Command and Control? Hardly.
In a further contradiction, the authors admit that on most SEAL missions “no shots are fired.” SEALs prefer to operate at night, and to use stealth as their principal weapon, striking and withdrawing before the enemy is even aware of their presence. The most successful intelligence gathering missions are those accomplished without arousing the attention of either the enemy or the civilian population that harbors them. In the parlance of Special Operations, this is called “economy of force.”
Yet even when SEALs accomplished these missions, the authors complained “a number of detainees had broken noses after SEALs punched them in struggles to subdue them.” As though that were not sufficiently absurd, the authors go on to question why SEAL Team Six found it necessary to kill the captors of an unnamed American hostage during a rescue operation.
Perhaps it was because the captors were holding an American hostage.
The nadir of this tripe comes when an unnamed SEAL operator alleges that a Team Six sniper shot and killed three unarmed people, including a little girl. In what country this occurred is not clear, though it might possibly be Afghanistan. Like the location and the shooter, the date can only be guessed at. Did this happen? It is extremely unlikely. In the first place, the wanton shooting of unarmed non-combatants makes no sense, moral or tactical. Shooting into a crowded square would not only reveal the hidden location of the team, but also serve to enrage the surrounding populace. In the second place, presuming this “sniper” was not operating alone (and SEALs do not operate solo), directing a person in the US military to shoot, or deliberately wound, an unarmed person or prisoner is an unlawful order. The mere act of ordering such an action is, in itself, a crime. Witnessing this action, and concealing it is conspiracy. Also a crime.
Of all of the accusations, this is the one I find so appalling, because I have operated as a counter-sniper and I have witnessed with my own eyes the wretchedness and evil of random shooters. I encourage the authors and the accuser to come forward, name the guilty party, and specify charges. Should this story prove to be false, grossly exaggerated, or apocryphal, I would expect any responsible journalist to retract it and issue apology.
In this case, with these writers, that is probably too much to hope for.
In my career I have never seen nor would I tolerate the harming of any innocent person, or prisoner or noncombatant. No officer, Chief Petty Officer, Petty officer or operator I have ever known would stand by and watch a corpse be desecrated. Frankly, we don’t care enough to do it. We are trained from the first day to subtract emotion and hatred from operations. We are technicians. We hit them, and then we forget them.
Unfortunately, no action will be taken against the six scribblers who produced this libelous sludge. The Times itself is unlikely to issue a retraction or clarification, and will, instead, attempt to ride out the controversy in self-satisfied silence.
While this happens, the men and women who serve at SEAL Team Six will continue to serve their country by putting themselves in harm’s way and between us and our enemies. Their service will be carried out without fanfare or clamor or desire for fame– because the men and women who serve us in this fight are the true “Silent Professionals.”
Chuck Pfarrer is a former Assault Element Commander at SEAL Team Six. He is the New York Times bestselling author of SEAL Target Geronimo: Inside the Mission to Kill Osama Bin Laden, and Warrior Soul: The memoir of a Navy SEAL. Pfarrer serves presently as an Associate Editor of The Counterterrorist Journal and is a distinguished fellow of the US Naval Special Warfare Institute.
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Page 5

Washington Post Poll: Obamacare Hits Record Unpopularity

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by Wynton Hall9 Jun 2015867
Support for President Barack Obama’s unpopular signature legislative achievement registered at just 39%, which “ties the record low” as seen in April 2012.
The bleak Obamacare poll numbers come as Obama’s controversial healthcare law faces an uncertain future before the Supreme Court.
On Tuesday, Obama launched a new website in an effort to tout Obamacare’s “successes.”
However, with Obamacare now over five years into its existence, it remains unclear how Obama can turn around broad-based negative public perceptions about a law that will cost U.S. taxpayers $2.6 trillion in its first 10 years alone–and that is set to send health insurance premiums skyrocketing this year.
Obama signed Obamacare into law March 23, 2010.

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Fuel depot blaze in Ukraine kills five

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VASYLKIV, Ukraine (Reuters) - A massive fire at a Ukrainian fuel depot killed five people on Tuesday, officials said, including three firemen who went missing after the flames triggered a powerful explosion.
The fire burned overnight and by morning had spread to at least 16 tanks, most of them storing petrol. That sent a pall of black smoke over the area around the depot near Vasylkiv, 30 km (19 miles) from Kiev. The depot's owners said they suspected arson.
"Firemen have the situation ... under total control," top security official Oleksander Turchynov said in a statement.
There was no longer any threat of the blaze spreading and emergency services were putting out remaining fires in the depot, he said.
Entire oil tanks were consumed in the flames, which emergency services had feared would spread to another fuel depot nearby. Weapons and equipment were removed from a neighboring military base to a place of safety.
"The crisis will be resolved entirely within the next 12 hours," Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said in televised comments.
The bodies of three firemen, unaccounted for after the explosion ripped through the area as they battled the fire, had been found, Avakov said. Two other people died and several others were injured, the emergency services said.
Sixty-two fire-fighting units and three trains delivering water and supplies have been mobilized, emergency services said.
Rescuers had evacuated people from within a two-kilometer radius of the fire, Turchynov said.
Interior Ministry official Zoryan Shkiryak said police were investigating three possible causes of the fire -- "violations of fuel storage regulations, technical malfunctions or arson".
The owners of the depot, BRSM-Nafta, said in a statement they believed the fire was the result of an arson attack aimed at damaging its business.
Of the 16 fuel tanks affected, eight had a capacity of 900 cubic meters, while the rest were smaller in volume, the emergency ministry said. The overall capacity of the depot is 25,000 cubic meters.
(Reporting by Pavel Polityuk and Serhiy Karaziy; Writing by Alessandra Prentice; Editing by Richard Balmforth and Andrew Roche)
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NATO stages large-scale Saber Strike exercise in Lithuania - watch on

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More than 6,000 troops take part in ‘Saber Strike' operation
Thousands of troops from 13 NATO allies have been training in Lithuania as part of the annual Saber Strike exercise. More than 6,000 soldiers arrived to take part in the large scale exercises inLithuania's two largest training areas.
Lithuanian Major General, Almantas Leika: "It is the largest exercise of its type in Lithuania during last decade. The aim of this exercise is to train together and ensure that we achieve inter-operability in conducting military operations. Besides this, we continue building and developing trust and confidence among us, among soldiers, commanders and units. Soldiers from our nations, were deployed together on operations numerously. We know each other. Here, during Saber Strike, we'll further what we built previously, and make sure that confidence and trust of each other do not diminish."
The United Kingdom, which contributed participants to Saber Strike, raised its commitment to NATO's new rapid response force on Monday, a day after US President Barack Obama pressed Prime Minister David Cameron over defence spending.
US Major General Mark Mcqueen: "This is a tremendous opportunity to showcase the incredible talent that is embedded in the formation that stands before us this day. With a focus on regional stability, inter-operability, and fostering trust and confidence in our systems, and our command operating systems. This gives us an opportunity to train hard, to hone our skills and to strengthen leadership within our formations. What is standing before us today is the tip of the spear for what exists throughout Saber Strike within Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and Poland, representing over 6,000 soldiers, sailors, marines, airmen, that are all committed to working together to forge peace in this region and the world."
These latest exercises comes following a drill last month called ‘Lightning Strike' which simulated an attack on Lithuania's new gas terminal; a move the president said was intended to show the Kremlin that the small country can defend itself. 
The drill involved some 3,000 troops and also simulated a response to armed groups seizing local government buildings, weapons stockpiles and airports in order to form a separatist government.
The scenario emulated events from last year in Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula, when the Black Sea territory was annexed by Russia. 
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NATO and Russia aren't talking to each other. Cold war lessons forgotten?

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Washington; and Moscow — Knowing your enemy doesn't just win the war. Sometimes, it also can be critical to keeping the peace.
Such was the case in 1983, during a massive NATO drill to test the alliance's capabilities to respond to a Soviet invasion of western Europe. Unknown to its planners, however, "Able Archer," which envisaged using nuclear weapons to halt the enemy advance, looked to Soviet eyes exactly the way Soviet intelligence had predicted a US nuclear "first strike" would unfold.
Though many of the details of how war was averted remain undisclosed, experts on both sides say the world came to the very brink of nuclear Armageddon through a chain of preventable misunderstandings. It was one of several cold war close calls that convinced Moscow and Washington to step up military contacts and establish formal, as well as informal, channels of communication that might make all the difference in an emergency.
Those old tales are taking on urgent new relevance as the crisis over Ukraine drives East-West tensions to levels unseen since the cold war.
Military machines on both sides are engaged in nearly non-stop war games aimed at displaying their readiness to their jittery publics, and scary near-misses between warplanes are multiplying as Russia's Air Force tries to return to its Soviet-era pattern of global patrolling. All this is happening at a time when dialogue, even at the highest levels, is almost nonexistent.
"Not just communications, but other mechanisms that used to exist are simply not working anymore," says Viktor Baranets, a former Russian defense ministry spokesman. "I don't want to sound alarmist, but judging by the rapid pace of events and growing aggressiveness on all sides, we may be moving toward disaster. It's like we're all priming a bomb, but no one knows when or how it will explode. Gradually, we are moving from cold to hot war."

'We should be having these conversations'

The disconnect between the Russian and American militaries is in part a natural result of the end of the cold war. Most of the old coping mechanisms were scrapped after they became unnecessary 25 years ago. That has left fighter pilots and ship captains today without the experience of their cold war predecessors, who were steeled by regular encounters with the enemy.
But as NATO and Russia broke off relations last year amid the escalating spat over Ukraine, communications at lower echelons virtually ended.
Last month NATO announced that it would set up a cold war-style "hotline" with the General Staff in Moscow. But that came even as NATO kicked out dozens of Russians formerly stationed at its Brussels headquarters.
Pentagon officials say the US decision, alongside NATO, to slash military relations with Russia was the right thing to do "in light of Russia's aggressive actions in Ukraine." Virtually all bilateral engagements were shut down, including military exercises, bilateral meetings, port visits, and planning conferences. They say they continue to maintain "open lines of communication with Russia."
But some experts worry that the hotline may prove far too little as tensions spiral, snap war drills become larger and more frequent on both sides, and genuine efforts to see the other guy's point of view dwindle.
Army Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond Odierno says the fall-off in communications is indeed of concern.
"I’m a big believer in no matter how big your disagreements are, it’s important that you continue to have discussions," he says. "In my mind, when you’re not talking, relationships can deteriorate faster because you can misinterpret – you don’t quite understand exactly what’s being said, and you don’t have the opportunity to discuss the most difficult issues," he told defense reporters on May 28.
"I believe we should be having these conversations, but we’re not."

Nuclear troubles

Strategic nuclear weapons are still subject to strict controls. Five years ago Russia and the US signed the New START treaty, which holds the two sides  to defined numbers of warheads and delivery systems. The treaty has its own apparatus for mutual verification and consultation.
But the late-cold-war treaty that banned all medium-range nuclear missiles in Europe is under new strains, with the US accusing Russia of violations and some Russian politicians openly calling for the accord to be scrapped altogether. Russia is also warning that it might deploy nuclear-capable Iskander missiles to its western enclave of Kaliningrad and the newly-annexed territory of Crimea, which could add a nuclear dimension to the standoff.
In the worst case, there is still the "red phone" – not actually a phone, but a priority connection – between the White House and the Kremlin, established in the wake of the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis. But that's not enough to offset the shift in attitudes.
"Relations are changing in the worst possible direction. We're in a propaganda war, and the realization has dawned that we are not friends," says Viktor Kremeniuk, a veteran Russian America-watcher and author of a new book, "Lessons from the Cold War."
"If something should happen in an area not covered by a specific, preexisting agreement, it's not clear how it would be handled," he says. "Basically, the normal channels of diplomacy are all we've got now."

Growing risk of accident

An air-to-air encounter turned bad is one of the  nightmares that plague officials on both sides. Pentagon officials point to an April 2014 incident, in which a Russian fighter plane buzzed a US reconnaissance aircraft and "put the lives of its crew in jeopardy."
"During the cold war, it was routine anytime our reconnaissance aircraft was looking at them, or them at us, that we would be flying in formation in a very predictable way," says Christopher Harmer, a retired naval officer who served as former deputy director of future operations at the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet. That tight formation flying helped keep miscalculations to a minimum, Mr. Harmer says.
But the sort of "reckless" flying demonstrated by the Russian fighter jet represents a shift in tactics. There is little chance it was the act of a show-off pilot, he adds. "Russian pilots don’t do rogue."
The US Navy complains of similar close and "provocative" Russian approaches toward its ships in the Black Sea, including an incident last week involving the guided missile destroyer USS Ross. Russian media accounts of the same event stress the defensive actions of Russian military forces in the face of US "aggressive" moves.
Odierno says that he has endeavored to arrange meetings to discuss rules of engagement. "I’ve actually tried to meet to meet with my Russian counterpart on two separate occasions, and both times they’ve refused to do that in neutral settings. So it’s concerning," because the lack of communication "definitely increases the danger of miscalculations" between the two countries, he says.
"It's depressing to find ourselves back in this situation. Trust is ebbing, tensions are spiking, there's the constant feeling that something could go badly wrong," says Andrei Baklitsky, an expert with the independent PIR Center in Moscow, a think tank specializing in nuclear security issues.
"We need to work out a new set of rules. The way we've been doing things for the past 25 years isn't working in this new situation, so people really need to start talking."
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NATO Spearhead Troops Practice Fast Deployment in Poland

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Associated Press
Hundreds of NATO troops with heavy equipment began a military exercise in Poland on Tuesday, testing the alliance's rapid response readiness in the face of new security challenges on its eastern flank.
The so-called spearhead force was agreed upon at a NATO summit last year in reaction to Russia's role in the separatist fighting in Ukraine which has raised security concerns in other nearby nations that were once under Moscow's dominance.
"It is our unconditional priority to have NATO's eastern flank strengthened," Deputy Foreign Minister Henryka Moscicka-Dendys said when asked about the role of the Noble Jump exercises. "I feel safe."
The deployment exercise began with German and Dutch troops arriving near the southwestern Polish city of Zielona Gora to test the Very High Readiness Joint Task Force. It will soon move to a test range in nearby Zagan, where more than 2,000 troops will train.
A mobilization exercise was held in April in the Netherlands and the Czech Republic. The current exercise tests deployment procedures by road, rail and air.
Allied Shield exercises will be held this summer in the region and will involve 14,000 troops from 19 NATO members and three partner nations.
A multinational naval exercise opened on the Baltic Sea last week.
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Russia’s INF Treaty Violations Raise Nuclear Alarm for U.S., NATO

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The Russian government’s violation of the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty has recently risen in prominence as a concern in Washington and European capitals. What was originally an arms control issue for the United States has escalated into a major defense and security problem for all of NATO.
Russia’s strategic modernization, nuclear saber-rattling and aggressive bomber patrols throughout the trans-Atlantic region have compounded the alarm over Moscow’s violation of the treaty as well as Russia’s continuing aggression against Ukraine. Moscow’s disregard for long-standing laws, borders and agreements demands a major re-evaluation of Russian goals and strategy. The U.S. and its NATO allies are correctly considering vigorous response options even as American officials prudently game out the likely response of Russia and other critical players. ...
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Page 6

Russian Jets Overfly NATO Mission In Baltic Sea, Captured On Video By US Sailor

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During a scene that would not be out of place in a Cold War blockbuster, Russian jets flew over a large NATO maritime exercise consisting of dozens of ships and aircraft that were operating in international waters in Baltic Sea on Monday evening. A sailor from USS San Antonio, an amphibious assault ship, was able to capture the moment, showing two unidentified jets flying at low altitude and high speed over the ships.   The footage was published on Youtube by the U.S. Navy.
“Sailors and Marines enjoy an air show courtesy of the Russian air force during #BALTOPS2015,” read the posting.
Along with the ships, around 5,600 ground troops are taking part in the joint exercise, which began Tuesday and will end on June 19. 
“The goal of these at-sea scenarios is to sustain partnerships, knowledge and skill sets across a broad range of mission areas to strengthen the capabilities of both individual services and our international force,” said the official U.S. BALTOPS website.
Recently, another Russian jet buzzed a U.S. warship operating in the Black Sea. 
NATO said in the lead-up to the exercise, which included fourteen NATO members plus Finland, Sweden and Georgia, that BALTOPS 2015 was not aimed at any specific threat. In fact, the exercise is now in its 43rd year. However, the significance and timing of the event cannot be ignored.
Russia and Europe are deeply divided over Russian president Vladimir Putin’s decision to annex Crimea in March last year and the continued involvement of Russian soldiers in the yearlong east Ukraine war. While Russia has denied its involvement, Europe and the U.S. have enforced strong financial sanctions on Russia last year. Russia has since flown hundreds flights close to the airspace of NATO countries, contributing to tensions not seen since the end of the Cold War.
In east Ukraine, where the Russian military is alleged to be assisting pro-Russian rebel forces, fighting has intensified in recent weeks, despite the signing of a ceasefire in February. Over the last 24 hours, Ukrainian officials have reported that eight soldiers have been killed and five wounded.

Russia Successfully Test-Fires Defense Shield Anti-Missile System

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The Russian military has successfully test-fired a short-range anti-missile system, the Russian defense ministry announced Tuesday. The latest move comes four days after Pentagon officials said that the United States was considering deploying missiles in Europe to counter potential threats from Russia.
“The launch was aimed at confirming the performance characteristics of missile defense shield anti-missiles operational in the Aerospace Defense Forces,” the defense ministry said, according to Russia’s TASS news agency.
According to Lieutenant General Sergei Lobov, deputy commander of the Aerospace Defense Forces, “an anti-missile of the missile defense shield successfully accomplished its task and destroyed a simulated target at the designated time.”
The test's timing is crucial as the U.S. government is considering aggressive moves, including deploying land-based missiles in Europe, in response to Russia’s alleged violation of a Cold War-era nuclear arms treaty, the Associated Press (AP) reported.
Last year, Washington had reportedly accused Moscow of violating the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty, by testing a banned ground-launched cruise missile.
“The administration is considering an array of potential military responses to Russia's ongoing violation of the INF Treaty,” Agence France-Presse quoted Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Joe Sowers, as saying last week. “All the options under consideration are designed to ensure that Russia gains no significant military advantage from their violation.”
In 2015, Russia is also expected to triple the production of missiles -- for use in air-defense and missile-defense complexes -- compared to last year, in a sign that the country is strengthening its missile defense shield.
“The defense-industrial complex has been ordered to step up the production of missiles manufactured for air defense and missile defense complexes by 200%, which is to considerably increase the capabilities of the newly-created arm of the Russian armed forces -- the Air and Space Force,” a source at the Russian defense ministry told TASS.

The Putin Syndicate

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When Russia annexed Crimea, the Kremlin installed a reputed gangster known as "the Goblin" to run the peninsula. When Moscow's agents abducted Estonian law enforcement officer Eston Kohver, they used a mafia-run smuggling ring to set him up. 
And of course, organized crime groups have played a prominent role in the Moscow-instigated conflicts in Transdniester, South Ossetia, Abkhazia, and Donbas.
It has become something of a cliche to call Vladimir Putin's Russia a "mafia state." But cliche or not, the term actually fits. Not just because the Kremlin and organized crime groups are closely linked. And not just because Moscow uses gangsters as instruments of policy.
The term is most apt because the Putin regime actually operates like a crime syndicate. It uses threats, intimidation, and extrajudicial violence to achieve its goals. It has teams of enforcers to harass, harm, and -- if necessary -- kill its enemies.
It is even structured like a crime syndicate. It is run by a tight cabal of "made men" who oversee their own crews of capos and underbosses.The made men are led by a godfather-like figure whose main function is to settle disputes among them.
The Putin Syndicate has its code and its rituals. It has a team of respectable consiglieres, who, like good little mafia lawyers and accountants, give it a facade of respectability. In this sense, Tom Hagenhas nothing on Sergei Lavrov. 
And its goal is simple. Self-perpetuation and self-enrichment.
But just as La Cosa Nostra adorned itself in age-old Sicilian traditions and the venerable rites of Roman Catholicism (recall the chilling baptism scene from The Godfather), the Putin Syndicate cloaks itself in Russian nationalism and Orthodox Christianity.
But all the pomp and ceremony masks a much more banal reality.
Be Corrupt, Be Very Corrupt
Vladimir Yakunin is doing pretty well for himself. According to an investigation by anticorruption blogger Aleksei Navalny, the longtime Putin crony and boss of Russian Railways controls a business empire of offshore companies around the world worth billions of dollars.
"It is an underworld family of the purest kind, and it exists due to its mafia boss, Vladimir Putin, who gives license to steal everything they can get their hands on," Navalny wrote.
Yakunin's case is typical for the syndicate's made men, all of whom have their own little empires: Igor Sechin at the oil giant Rosneft; Yury Kovalchuk at Bank Rossia; Gennady Timchenko at the gas producer Novatek; and construction magnates Arkady and Boris Rotenberg.
Corruption is the Putin Syndicate's lifeblood. It starts at the top and it flows down by design. It isn't a bug in the system, it's a feature -- an essential feature.
"For the Kremlin, corruption has been a reliable means of keeping control over all meaningful elites -- economic, political, municipal, media, even intellectual," Kadri Liik of the European Council on Foreign Relations wrote recently. 
"It is the basis of much upward mobility in Russia. In the clientelist system, loyalty rather than merit is rewarded, and access to illicit wealth is the reward as well as guarantee of continuing loyalty."
And the more widespread the corruption, the better. The more people and companies who are corrupt, the more who are dependent on -- and beholden to -- the syndicate.
Indeed, the syndicate's code demands that its members steal, seek rents, and take bribes and kickbacks -- although not in excess of their rank. It also demands total loyalty.
And those "that do not engage in corruption are clearly alien elements to the system," Liik wrote. "What happens to them depends on the circumstances. If they are dangerous, they will be marginalized or isolated, even destroyed."
And this same principle applies to Russia's neighbors.
Making The World Safe For Graft
Putin's syndicate is more than a small-time local mafia. It's an international conglomerate that seeks to spread corruption -- and by extension its reach -- beyond its borders.
In a 2012 report for Chatham House, James Greene noted how Putin sought to gain control over Ukraine and Belarus's energy infrastructure by using murky companies "such as EuralTransGas and RosUkrEnergo as carrots for elites, and energy cut-offs as sticks." 
But the approach is about more than just energy policy. It's about control.
Greene wrote that by utilizing "the corrupt transnational schemes that flowed seamlessly from Russia to the rest of the former Soviet space -- and oozed beyond it -- Putin could extend his shadow influence beyond Russia's borders and develop a natural 'captured' constituency for maintaining a common Eurasian business space."
And in this sense, the European Union, with all its transparency and accountability, is a mortal threat. Which goes a long way toward explaining Moscow's approach to EU aspirants like Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine.
"Ukraine’s former President Viktor Yanukovych was clearly 'Russia’s person' in Moscow’s eyes -- if not by convictions, then certainly by virtue of his corrupt relationships and the ties that these created," the European Council on Foreign Relations' Liik wrote.
"Yanukovych's talks with the EU were therefore viewed by Moscow not even as a rebellion by Yanukovych, but as a hostile takeover attempt by the West."
And when Putin's syndicate was unable to stop this by buying off Yanukovych, it resorted to more extreme measures.
"Russia’s destabilization of Ukraine...should be seen for what it is: a Kremlin containment effort to prevent Ukrainians from achieving a democratically accountable government that would threaten Russia’s corrupt authoritarian system," Christopher Walker, executive director of the National Endowment for Democracy’s International Forum for Democratic Studies, wrote last year in The Washington Post.
In a recent article expanding on this theme, Walker noted that the Kremlin "aims to erode the rules-based institutions that have established global democratic norms and cemented the post-Cold War liberal order." It is also seeking "to check the reform ambitions of aspiring democracies and subvert the vitality of young democratic countries."
The Kremlin frames this in the language of national security and restoring Russia's international role. But at it's core, it is about protecting the interests of a corrupt syndicate.
-- Brian Whitmore
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Islamic State Attacks Government Office West of Baghdad

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Three militants disguised in military uniform killed at least eight people in a local government office in Amiriyat al-Falluja in western Iraq on Tuesday, in an attack claimed by Islamic State.
One of the attackers blew himself up inside the building, but the other two were still at large, according to deputy district council chairman Falih al-Issawi, who said he could still hear gunfire.
A further 17 people were wounded in the attack, including the head of the council, Shakir al-Issawi, who leapt from the window of his office after the explosion, a police source said.
In a statement, Islamic State said the three attackers had killed "dozens of apostates."
Located on the western fringe of Baghdad, Amiriyat al-Falluja is one of the few remaining pockets of territory under government control in Anbar province, most of which is held by Islamic State.
Since overrunning the provincial capital Ramadi last month, the insurgents have sought to consolidate their gains in Anbar by attacking the last government strongholds, strung out along the Euphrates river valley.
Iraqi security forces and Shi'ite paramilitaries are meanwhile edging toward Ramadi.

Iraqi PM fails to get Obama's attention in painfully awkward video - Europe - World

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He was seconds away from whipping out his smartphone just so he had something to do
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A video shows Iraqi prime minister Haider al-Abadi and an aide sit down next to Obama on a bench in the hope of engaging him in conversation.
He is already too immersed in one with Christine Lagarde, the head of the International Monetary Fund and Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi however, and things soon get awkward.

After an encouraging nudge from his aide, al-Abadi sidles a little closer to Obama, who completely misses this.
Perhaps sparing him further embarrassment, the cameraman then zooms in to cut the Iraqi PM out of shot, who is later forced to simply leave without a greeting, checking his watch as his aide shrugs.
Obama took aim at Vladimir Putin at the summit in Germany, accusing him of trying to 'recreate the glories of the Soviet empire'.
The G8 became the G7 after Russia was suspended following the annexation of Crimea last year.