Friday, May 6, 2016

FBI, Justice Department Using Russian Password-Cracking Software by Bill Gertz Friday May 6th, 2016 at 6:42 PM

FBI, Justice Department Using Russian Password-Cracking Software 

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The Justice Department and FBI are using password-breaking software produced by a Russian technology firm set up by a cryptographer who attended a school linked to the KGB.
The U.S. government’s contracts and use of the Russian-origin password-cracking software produced by the Moscow-based company called Elcomsoft is raising security concerns among some U.S. officials and security experts.
The company was founded by Alexander Katalov, who stated in a 2001 online interview that he once “studied at the highest school of the KGB,” the Soviet-era political police and intelligence service. He also said the FBI “on many occasions” purchased forensic software programs from Elcomsoft.
Password-breaking software was used by the FBI to access the locked iPhone of the Islamist terrorist Syed Farook, who carried out the Dec. 2 shooting in San Bernardino, Calif., that killed 14 people and wounded 22 others. News reports have said an Israeli security firm helped the bureau hack the iPhone 5s that was owned by a local government agency that had employed Farook.
Elcomsoft CEO Vladimir Katalov, Alexander’s younger brother, denied the company has ties to the KGB’s successor, the Federal Security Service. He stated in an email to the Washington Free Beaconthat the company does business with both the FBI and FSB, as the Russian spy service is known.
“We only develop and sell the software, and do not cooperate with any intelligence or security service,” Katalov said. “However, our software is being widely used by government, military, forensic and law enforcement organizations all over the world, from FSB to FBI.”
Public records show the Justice Department, FBI, and Department of Homeland Security have purchased Elcomsoft software since at least 2012.
In August 2014 and in March 2015 the FBI signed contracts worth $1,495 and $2,542 respectively for Elcomsoft software with a Nevada company called Password Mining LLC, a U.S. subsidiary of Elcomsoft.
Password Mining’s officers include two officers of Elcomsoft, the Katalov brothers.
Justice Department spokesman Marc Raimondi and FBI spokesman Matthew Bertron declined to comment.
The FBI purchased what records describe as “Elcomsoft iOS Forensic Toolkit, Full Version,” in 2014 and “Elcomsoft Blackberry Backup Explorer and Elcomsoft iOS Forensic Toolkit Renewal” a year later.
Earlier in September 2012, the Justice Department’s Criminal Division purchased the “Elcomsoft Password Bundle Forensic Edition” from a company called H-11 Digital Forensics Co. LLC, a Utah-based reseller of forensics software and hardware.
The Department of Homeland Security’s U.S. Customs and Border Protection also purchased Elcomsoft’s Password Recovery Suite in June 2015.
A DHS spokesman did not respond to emails seeking comment.
Michelle Van Cleave, former National Counterintelligence Executive, a senior counterintelligence official, said Russian intelligence frequently coopts businesses.
“Russia’s security services—in particular the FSB, the KGB’s successor—are the glue that binds Putin’s government to the oligarchs’ business operations worldwide,” Van Cleave said.
“You have to assume that any successful Russian industry is tied into that complex—especially companies that specialize in cutting-edge cyber capabilities. It’s difficult to believe that their security services would let that kind of expertise be offered for sale without getting something in return.”
Chris Farrell, director of research at the watchdog group Judicial Watch and a former Army counterintelligence officer, also warned about the use of Russian-origin software.
“The Justice Department’s decision to engage Russian technology firms, or their thinly-veiled U.S. subsidiaries, borders on reckless,” Farrell said. “Many such business entities act as surrogates or co-optees of foreign intelligence services.”
A U.S. official familiar with the company said the founders appear to have had a past relationship with the KGB and asked “why is DoJ having contracts with this company?”
Vladimir Katalov said he spent two years with the Soviet military in radio operations. He did not respond when asked if he had a past relationship with the KGB or Russian intelligence services.
Katalov confirmed that the company founder spent a year at the KGB university.
“Yes, Alexander has studied in this university, its current name is FSB Academy,” he said, adding that it was “just a university” and that Alexander’s specialty was cryptography. He attended for a year and then quit to study at another university, he said.
“Since then, he had no relationship with any Russian government, security, or law enforcement services,” he said.
Elcomsoft programs are “mostly used on the computers that are not even connected to the Internet, for security reasons, as a rule in the most organizations mentioned above,” he said.
Katalov added that “even more important, it is in fact not really hard to detect whether the software opens some ports for incoming Internet connections, or send [may send] any data over the network etc.”
Additionally, the company would provide source code for the software for security analysis, he said.
“And finally, did you ever think what is going to happen with our Elcomsoft reputation if any security vulnerabilities are found?” Katalov asked.
The Justice Department in 2001 charged Elcomsoft and one of its employees with violating the Digital Millennium Copyright Act for illegally selling software designed to circumvent copyright-protected e-books. Charges against the employee were dropped and the company was found not guilty of the charges in a 2002 trial in San Jose.
In February, DNI James Clapper told Congress that Russia is one of the leading threat actors in cyberspace.
“Russia is assuming a more assertive cyber posture based on its willingness to target critical infrastructure systems and conduct espionage operations even when detected and under increased public scrutiny,” Clapper said.
“Russian cyber operations are likely to target U.S. interests to support several strategic objectives: intelligence gathering to support Russian decision making in the Ukraine and Syrian crises, influence operations to support military and political objectives, and continuing preparation of the cyber environment for future contingencies,” he said.
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Former East German first lady Margot Honecker dies in Chile at age 89 

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Former East German first lady Margot Honecker dies in Chile at age 89.

U.S. rights official travels to Vietnam ahead of Obama visit

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The State Department's most senior human rights diplomat, Tom Malinowski, will visit Vietnam next week to urge it to make more progress on human rights, the department said on Friday.

One of Russia’s biggest holidays is a WWII anniversary Americans don’t think about 

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Most Russians lost a family member in World War II. On Monday they mark the 71st anniversary of Germany's defeat.

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Former East German first lady Margot Honecker dies in Chile

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Former East German first lady Margot Honecker, who defended the now-vanished Communist country to the end, died Friday in Chile at age 89, a family friend confirmed.

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Russian, Syrian Officials Deny Their Planes Hit Refugee Camp

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A rebel fighter from the Jaish al-Fatah, or Army of Conquest, brigades during clashes with Syrian pro-government forces near the village of Om al-Krameel on Thursday.
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Page 9

Russia-Japan Leaders Meet as Tensions Loom - Voice of America

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Voice of America

Russia-Japan Leaders Meet as Tensions Loom
Voice of America
May 06, 2016 12:35 PM. MOSCOW—. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was in Russia Friday hoping to ease strained relations between Tokyo and Moscow before President Vladmir Putin heads to China for a bilateral summit next month. At the top of the ...
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Brazil Senate's Impeachment Committee Votes to Try Rousseff

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An impeachment committee in Brazil’s Senate approved a report recommending the chamber put President Dilma Rousseff on trial, setting the stage for her potential suspension next week.

Syrian Military Denies Camp Attack

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Military calls allegations it was behind airstrikes that killed more than 30 people in a camp for internally displaced Syrians ‘completely baseless.’ Its ally Russia also denies responsibility.

German paper publishes ‘manifesto’ from Panama leak source

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A German newspaper that obtained leaked files from a Panamanian law firm detailing offshore financial dealings published Friday what it said is a manifesto from its anonymous source, who described having been moved to act by “the scale of the injustices” the documents show.

Journalist Shot At Outside Turkish Court

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Can Dundar escapes unharmed but a reporter covering his trial, on charges of revealing state secrets, is reportedly injured.

No More Space Race for US, Rivalry Gives Way to Collaboration

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While many Americans celebrate May 5 as Cinco de Mayo, the anniversary of a Mexican military victory, science nerds recognize the date as a technological milestone: the day the United States first put a man into space. In 1961, the year astronaut Alan Shepard Jr. made his milestone 15-minute flight, hysteria about the U.S.- Soviet Union space race was in full swing. Russia had already put a man in orbit and had launched the world's first artificial satellite, the Sputnik 1, in 1957,...

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Page 10

Politics|Obama Makes Case Against Donald Trump, Saying Presidency 'Is Not a Reality Show' - New York Times

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New York Times

Politics|Obama Makes Case Against Donald Trump, Saying Presidency 'Is Not a Reality Show'
New York Times
At a news conference on Friday, President Obama addressed the presidential campaign of Donald J. Trump. "We are in serious times and this is a really serious job," he said. "This is not entertainment." By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS on Publish Date May 6, ... 
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Leading rights lawyer arrested in Egypt

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A leading Egyptian human rights lawyer who opposes President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi's decision to hand two Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia is arrested.

Study: Americans Uncertain, Divided Over US Global Role

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With a presidential election just six months away, Americans appear deeply divided over the role the United States should play in the world, according to an opinion survey by the Pew Research Center. "Considerable apprehension and concern" are the words researchers used to describe the mood of the American public regarding how the country fits into the current world order. A summary of the Pew study, "America’s Place in the World," posted on its website, puts it...

Opinion: Springtime on the Afghan Front Lines

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The officer pointed to houses on the horizon: “Taliban. Taliban.” He shrugged. “Maybe Taliban.”

Shelling kills four at rally in Libya's Benghazi: source

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BENGHAZI, Libya (Reuters) - At least four people were killed and more than 20 wounded in the Libyan city of Benghazi on Friday when shells were fired at a rally in support of forces allied with the country's eastern government, a medical source said.

Labour's Khan elected mayor of London: Sky News

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LONDON (Reuters) - Labour lawmaker Sadiq Khan was elected mayor of London on Friday, beating the ruling Conservatives' candidate Zac Goldsmith to the coveted position, Sky News reported.
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Page 11

Two dead in three shootings in Maryland

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Two people have been killed and three injured in three shootings in Maryland that police believe may be linked.

Lawyer’s Arrest in Egypt Signals Determination to Quell Criticism 

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A prominent human rights lawyer joined more than 1,200 people detained after protests against the transfer of two Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia.

Panama Papers Source Releases Manifesto, Denies Working for Government 

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The anonymous source behind the Panama Papers leak has written a manifesto explaining why he facilitated the release of law firm Mossack Fonseca’s records in one of the largest data leaks in history and denying working for a nation or intelligence agency.
Published in the Süddeutsche Zeitung, the German newspaper that initially obtained the Panama documents, “John Doe’s” manifesto says he wanted to expose the “massive pervasive corruption” that has led to worldwide income inequality.
He outlines a few reforms he hopes to see, including in the United States’ campaign finance system. And he calls for protection for whistleblowers, writing, “Legitimate whistleblowers who expose unquestionable wrongdoing, whether insiders or outsiders, deserve immunity from government retribution, full stop.”
“Democracy’s checks and balances have all failed, that the breakdown is systemic, and that severe instability could be just around the corner,” John Doe writes. “So now is the time for real action, and that starts with asking questions.”
Doe also attempted to shut down speculation that he is an intelligence operative or government agent. “For the record, I do not work for any government or intelligence agency, directly or as a contractor, and I never have,” he wrote. “My viewpoint is entirely my own.”

Egypt gives Italy phone records of union chief: source

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ROME (Reuters) - Egypt has handed over the mobile phone records of the head of a street vendors union to Italian investigators who are looking into the killing in Cairo of student Giulio Regeni, a legal source said on Friday.

Putin, Abe Hold 'Constructive' Talks On Disputed Islands

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Russian President Vladimir Putin and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe have held what the Kremlin described as “constructive” talks on a territorial dispute involving a Pacific island chain.

Turkish Journalist Sentenced to 5 Years in Prison Hours After Escaping Assassination Attempt 

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(ISTANBUL)— Turkish media reports say a court in Istanbul has sentenced a prominent journalist to more than five years in prison hours after he escaped an attack by a gunman.
The court on Friday found Can Dundar, editor in chief of Cumhuriyet newspaper, guilty of revealing state secrets for publishing reports on alleged government arms smuggling to Syrian rebels.
The paper’s Ankara representative, Erdem Gul, was also convicted.
Earlier Friday, a gunman shouting “traitor” fired two shots at Dundar outside the courthouse. Dundar was not harmed, but another journalist was slightly injured in the leg.
The journalists are expected to appeal the verdict.
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Page 12

Panama Papers source breaks silence, denies being a spy: Sueddeutsche Zeitung

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BERLIN (Reuters) - Sueddeutsche Zeitung said on Friday that the source of millions of documents leaked to the German newspaper from Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca had sent them a manifesto, saying his motivation was the "scale of injustices" the papers revealed.

Panama Papers source breaks silence, denies being a spy - Sueddeutsche Zeitung - Reuters

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Panama Papers source breaks silence, denies being a spy - Sueddeutsche Zeitung
BERLIN Sueddeutsche Zeitung said on Friday that the source of millions of documents leaked to the German newspaper from Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca had sent them a manifesto, saying his motivation was the "scale of injustices" the papers ...
Panama Tries Persuading the World It Isn't a Tax HavenBloomberg 
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Journalists Fleeing Afghanistan Over Insecurity

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An Afghan media watchdog estimates that 300 journalists have fled Afghanistan for Europe in the past year because of growing security concerns. The journalists include employees of major TV networks such as 1TV and Tolo, the country’s leading commercial broadcaster, according to Sidiqullah Tawhidi of Nai-Supporting Open Media in Afghanistan, a local media advocacy organization.  Some of the journalists fled in groups of 15 to 20 while others left the country with their families,...

Syrian troops 'storm mutinous prison'

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Syrian government troops storm a prison in the central city of Hama to try to put down a mutiny among some 800 inmates, monitors say.

Colombia to use warplanes against gangs

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Colombia announces it will use military force, including air strikes, against major criminal gangs.

US takes tougher tone on Israeli settlements in new report

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WASHINGTON (AP) -- The United States will endorse a tougher tone with Israel in an upcoming international report that takes the Jewish state to task over settlements, demolitions and property seizures on land the Palestinians claim for a future state, diplomats told The Associated Press....
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Page 13

Police: Federal officer in custody after 3 fatal shootings

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SILVER SPRING, Md. (AP) -- A federal security officer suspected in three fatal shootings outside a high school, a mall and a supermarket in the Washington, D.C., area was arrested Friday, police said....

Baseball scraps Puerto Rico series amid Zika concerns

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NEW YORK (AP) -- Baseball has scrapped a series in Puerto Rico between the Pittsburgh Pirates and Miami Marlins amid concerns over the Zika virus....

Genetic testing ordered on Prince's blood to handle 'parentage' claims - USA TODAY

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Genetic testing ordered on Prince's blood to handle 'parentage' claims
The judge overseeing the resolution of Prince's estate on Friday ordered genetic testing on a sample of the late superstar's blood, saying "parentage issues" might arise and time is short. Carver County, Minn., District Judge Kevin Eide signed the ... 
Prince's Blood to Be DNA Tested in Case Supposed Heirs Step
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Turkey Sentences 2 Journalists Who Reported on Arms Shipments to Syrian Rebels 

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The journalists, convicted of revealing state secrets, drew five-year prison terms. The verdicts came hours after one of the journalists narrowly escaped an attack by a gunman.

He once fought U.S. troops. Now Moqtada al-Sadr is battling Iraq’s political system. 

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A reformation of the Shiite cleric’s notorious Mahdi Army is now at the heart of his power.

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Russia's Lavrov: U.S. must give us legal guarantee over Asian anti-missile system

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SOCHI, Russia (Reuters) - Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Friday that Moscow needed legal guarantees from the United States that its planned Asian anti-missile system would not be directed against Russia.
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Page 14

Six Family Members Killed In House Fire

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A neighbour tells local media she "heard a boom" and looked out of her window to see the home engulfed in flames.

Joint Afghan special operations raid frees 60 hostages from Taliban

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Afghan special operations forces freed 60 prisoners from a Taliban prison in southern Afghanistan on Thursday, according to a statement from the U.S.-led mission there. The rescue mission took place in Now Zad, a restive district in Helmand province that has changed hands numerous times over the course of the 15-year-long war.

Ролдугин в Пальмире, или Концерт с пропагандистским подтекстом 

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From: deutschewellerussian
Duration: 02:09

Западные СМИ и политики критично оценили концерт Мариинского театра в сирийской Пальмире. Они уверены, что мероприятие призвано отвлечь внимание от совершенных в Сирии преступлений.
Другие видео DW на сайте или на канале DW (на русском) в YouTube:

Russia-Japan Leaders Meet as Tensions Loom

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Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was in Russia Friday hoping to ease strained relations between Tokyo and Moscow before President Vladmir Putin heads to China for a bilateral summit next month. At the top of the agenda was a long-running dispute over the group of islands Russia calls the southern Kurils and Japan calls the Northern Territories. But Moscow and Tokyo were both quick to dismiss any suggestions that Friday’s meeting would lead to a quick fix to their long-standing territorial dispute. The governments in Tokyo and Moscow have yet to sign a peace treaty for World War II after Soviet troops seized four islands. While Japan has demanded the return of the islands, Russia has offered to give back only two of them. Russia announced plans in March to station coastal missile systems on the disputed islands, sparking a rebuke from Japan.   Easing strained relations In 2013, Abe was the first Japanese leader to make an official visit to Russia in a decade. But, relations grew strained shortly after he visited the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, when Japan joined the United States and the European Union in penalizing Russia for annexing Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula and supporting separatists in its former Soviet neighbor’s east. Japanese news agencies in February reported that U.S. President Barack Obama asked Abe to cancel his scheduled trip to Russia but the Japanese prime minister refused.   The fact that Japan is seeking to maintain relations with Russia, despite U.S. pressure, will allow the two sides to tackle "all the different problems," Putin said last month. The Kremlin said Thursday that the Russian president would propose new cooperation in trade, finance and the economy at the meeting. The dispute over the islands will be raised, though it’s a "difficult" issue that requires a much closer partnership, presidential foreign policy aide Yuri Ushakov told reporters Thursday. Abe's visit will give a “new impetus” to ties, he said. Abe was on a tour of Europe this week, visiting Italy, France, Germany and the United Kingdom; he’s scheduled to chair the Group of Seven industrialized countries’ meeting in Japan’s Ise-Shima region in late May. Russia was pushed out of the group of the world’s largest economies, then called the G-8, after a rift with Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Britain and the United States over Moscow's alleged role in the Ukraine conflict. This week, Abe and French President Francois Hollande have agreed to continue dialogue with Russia ahead of the upcoming G-7 meeting, according to Japanese news reports. Political analysts say Abe is positioned to facilitate dialogue between the G-7 and Russia.  "The meeting will allow him to more effectively play the role of a ‘bridge’ or mediator between Russia and the G-7, which will let him gain more political points," said Valery Kistanov, who heads the Center for Japanese Studies at the Russian Academy of Sciences, in comments emailed to VOA.  Russia’s China pivot Perhaps the biggest worry the Japanese prime minister has now is Russia’s pivot to China. Behind Abe’s eagerness to meet Putin is to ease what he sees as a geopolitical threat to Japan from China as an isolated Russia draws closer to Beijing. "Japan is very concerned about the rapprochement of Russia and China, believing that this may occur on the grounds of anti-Japanese base," said Kistanov. "In particular, Tokyo is disturbed by the possibility of creating a single territorial front of Moscow and Beijing against Tokyo, since Japan has a much more acute territorial conflict with China over the Senkaku Islands [Diaoyu in Chinese] in the East China Sea than that with Russia." Russia-China military drills have also raised eyebrows in Tokyo. "As the so-called theory of ‘China threat’ is much spread in Japan," said Kistanov, "the Japanese are very concerned about the increasing military cooperation between Moscow and Beijing." Trade declining At the end of 2015, bilateral trade between Japan and Russia was down 30 percent from the previous year, while Russian exporters dropped 27 percent and Japanese imports fell 38 percent, according to Russia’s Presidential Press Service. The press service blamed the fall in commodity prices and weakened exchange rates, as well as on Tokyo joining western sanctions against Russia. It said the Russian and Japanese leaders would discuss ways to strengthen trade and economic relations.  "As for economic cooperation, the most important obstacle to Russia's turning into an important trade partner of Japan is not a territorial problem and not the lack of a peace treaty, but the structural weaknesses of the Russian economy," Kistanov said. Tokyo-based journalist Maxim Krylov told VOA that Japanese media coverage of the Putin-Abe meeting in Sochi had been fairly modest so far. "Apart from internal Japanese issues, eyes are now on Abe's trip to Europe, which lays the ground for the upcoming G-7 summit in Ise-Shima," Krylov said in emailed comments.   “By comparison, Abe's meeting with Putin is an event of a much lower profile: unofficial visit, one-on-one talks, no press conference after the meeting ends, not much in terms of details on the agenda,” he concluded.

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Panama Papers source breaks silence

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The source behind the leak of the Panama Papers speaks for the first time, offering to help with prosecutions in return for immunity.

German paper publishes ‘manifesto’ from Panama leak source

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A German newspaper that obtained documents from a Panamanian law firm detailing offshore financial dealings has published what it says is a manifesto received from its anonymous source, who describes having been moved to act by “the scale of the injustices” the documents show.
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Page 15

How the World Is Reacting to the Prospect of a Donald Trump Presidency 

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The news that Donald Trump had become the presumptive Republican Presidential nominee as his rivals suspended their campaigns after his Indiana victory prompted reactions around the world ranging from the stunned to the sanctimonious.
The prospect of a ‘President Trump’ has set off alarm bells in Mexico, perhaps understandably given the Republican’s promise to build a wall along the entire border with the U.S.. “The Mexican government is deep in analysis over how to face what we could call the Trump emergency,” saidMexico’s deputy minister for migration Humberto Roque Villanueva to El Universal. Alejandro Ramírez Magaña, president of the Mexican Business Council, that represents the country’s top companies, told the daily La Jornada that his potential candidacy “will generate uncertainty in Mexico and world-wide.”
But the response wasn’t universally negative in Mexico. After feuding with Trump for weeks, former Mexico President Vicente Fox back-pedalled on Wednesday. Speaking to Breitbart, Fox issued an apology to the reality-show star and said he wanted Trump to see the border from Mexico’s side.
Trump also made headlines in continental Europe, which has so far treated him mainly as a distraction. “So this Wednesday morning, Europe wakes up to Donald Trump across the Atlantic as the presumptive Republican nominee. A man who many considered just a few months ago as a clown” wrote French newspaper Liberation. Germany’s Die Welt said while the “craziest primaries” in modern America history is over, if Trump’s candidacy has thought us anything “it is this: One should not underestimate this man.” In an editorial, Spanish daily El Pais said that the triumph “populist, xenophobic, homophobic and sexist” candidate “attends the suicide of a party with 160 years of history.”
In the U.K., the reaction could best be described as frosty — aside from a handful of anomalies such as commentator Katie Hopkins, who shares an affinity with Trump’s view on Muslims. This, after all, is the country where half a million people signed a petition to ban Trump from the U.K. in 2015. So it came as no surprise when Tuesday’s news brought headlines like “America’s Trump nightmare has arrived” in the Guardian. Lucia Graves, also in the Guardian, lamented the rise of “a man who actively demeans women, has encouraged violence at his campaign rallies, would ban all Muslims from entering the US and recently seemed undisturbed by an endorsement from a leader of the Ku Klux Klan.” On May 4, the Financial Times wrote a stern editorial on the reality show star, which said: “The past few months have already demonstrated that he would be a disastrous choice for the most powerful political office in the world.”
China, however, seems to have taken the news well. When its foreign ministry spokesperson, Hong Lei, was asked on May 4 whether he would be nervous if Trump became the next U.S. President, he urged Americans to be “rational and objective” when it came to both countries’ bilateral relations. Academics writing in the state-controlled Global Daily, saw Trump’s isolationism as a happy alternative to Hilary Clinton. “Trump sticks to isolationism when it comes to foreign policy. He doesn’t want the US to bear so many global responsibilities. In contrast, Clinton initiated the Asia-Pacific rebalancing strategy which is aimed at containing China” wrote Jia Qingguo, dean of the School of International Studies at Peking University.
In the same piece, the Director of Institute of International Affairs at Renmin University Institute Wang Yiwei said Trump “has injected an entertainment element into the US presidential primaries” but he didn’t think his rise would “bring any major structural changes to the bilateral relationship” between both countries.
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Failed Russian Rocket Launch Sees Top Official Fired

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Backlash from the failed rocket launch at Russia's Vostochny Cosmodrome has seen the dismissal of a top-ranking official.

FBI Crime Analyst Describes Highway Serial Killings Initiative

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From: fbi
Duration: 01:58

Christina Palazzolo, a crime analyst in the FBI Violent Criminal Apprehension Program, or ViCAP, describes the Highway Serial Killings Initiative.

New tension between US, Iran over Tehran's threat to block Hormuz Strait

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May 6, 2016, 6:59 PM (IDT)
Does Tehran intend to close the Hormuz Strait to the US Navy, a step that could cause an armed conflict between the US and Iran? Such a warning was issued on Tuesday, May 3, by Gen. Hossein Salami, deputy commander of the Revolutionary Guard Corps. In an interview with Iran's state-run TV channel in Tehran, he said Iran had built up its naval capability with a main goal of a conflict with the US Navy in the area. The general said, "We warn the US and its allies against any threatening passage through Hormuz, for if it ever happens, we will have no other choice but act according to the 1982 Convention (of the United Nations on the Law of the Sea)."
The statement came two days after Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, referring to the US, said, "They come here from the other side of the globe and stage war games. What are you doing here? Go back to the Bay of Pigs. Go and hold exercises there. What are you doing in the Persian Gulf?"
These remarks by senior Iranian figures follow an effort in the US Congress to punish Iran over its missile development program and the frequent maneuvers of the Revolutionary Guard's navy in the Gulf.
DEBKAfile's Iranian sources: Khamenei and the Revolutionary Guard are taking advantage of the end of Obama's tenure to humiliate the US in an attempt to create the conditions for the cancellation of Tehran's nuclear agreement with Western powers in the future.
The humiliation of US marines who were briefly taken prisoner by the Revolutionary Guard's navy in January, as well as the recent flood of treats against the US by senior Iranian political and military figures, are part of this plan.          

In Portuguese Arrests, Suspicions Of Dirty Russian Money And European Soccer

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Portuguese police have arrested a Russian businessman and two other colleagues, accusing them of being part of a conspiracy to use the club to launder money from Russian organized-crime groups.The arrests have opened another tiny window into the vast flows of money sloshing through world soccer, and European leagues in particular.

The Morning Vertical, May 6, 2016 

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Given the news that convictions for extremism have increased threefold over the past five years, you can only reach two conclusions: Either Russians have become a nation of rabid extremists or the Kremlin is becoming more zealous in prosecuting citizens under its notoriously flexible anti-extremism laws. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say it’s the latter.
Exhibit A: A man in Tver was sentenced to two years and three months in prison for re-posting an article critical of Russia’s annexation of Crimea on social media. Exhibit B: A journalist in Saratov is under investigation for extremism for posting a picture on Facebook of the Virgin Mary wearing a mask and holding a Molotov cocktail. And that is just in the past couple days.
But while the Kremlin is eager to prosecute such fictional “extremism,” they gladly ignore the real thing — as long as it adheres to the party line. Violent hate crimes against homosexuals, for example, are hardly ever even investigated, let alone prosecuted.
Japanese Prime Minister visits Russia — and breaks Putin’s G7 isolation.
Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev says unemployed Ukrainian refugees in southern Russia pose a threat to Russia.
A man in Tver has been jailed for “extremism” for re-posting an article critical of Russia’s annexation of Crimea.
The “extremism” trial of opposition nationalist Dmitry Dyomushkin begins today.
Poland has charged a Warsaw lawyer with spying for Russia.
A Russian orchestra played a concert in Syria, in Palmyra’s ancient amphitheater.
And The New York Times noted that Russia “plays Bach where ISIS executed 25” people.
A second Russian journalist has been found killed in his apartment.
An Opposition Without Leaders
In an op-ed in Vedomosti, sociologist and economist Anton Oleinik argues that Russia’s opposition might be better off without leaders.
“Many argue that the scandals involving the leaders of Russia’s political opposition in the run-up to this September’s parliamentary elections play right into the hands of the ruling elite. Using any means available to discredit the leaders of the democratic opposition, it’s said that the people now in power are ensuring desired outcomes in the State Duma elections this fall, and in the presidential election in 2018,” Oleinik writes.
“But if we look at the situation from another point of view, it could be that today’s disappointment in the opposition’s leaders and the collapse of the democratic coalition, ironically, may contribute to qualitative changes in Russia’s protest potential, perhaps ultimately strengthening it. Critically minded citizens, after all, must learn to live without thinking only of their leaders — and this includes the opposition’s leaders.”
Meduza has an English-language translation by Kevin Rothrock here.
Be Careful What You Wish For
In a piece in The National Interest, Kazushige Kobayashi argues that the West may not be ready for a democratic Russia.
“Think about it: If we can barely prevent democratic Poland and Hungary (which are deeply embedded in NATO and the EU) from ‘going rogue,’ what makes us think that we would be able to handle a democratized Russia?” Kobayashi writes.
“As the Central European cases have taught us, democracy can become a powerful tool for the ascendance of illiberals, and we know little about how to remedy this problem without compromising core democratic values (that is, without simply criminalizing illiberal political organizations).”
Exploiting Victory Day
Writing in Novy Region, Russian journalist Ksenia Kirillova takes a look at how the Kremlin exploits Victory Day celebrations.
“It’s hard to imagine a greater travesty to the fallen as well as to the survivors than the sight of thugs and rapists, wearing St. George ribbons and accusing Ukrainians of fascism, in the very country savagely attacking Ukraine in an undeclared war,” she writes.
“Today, just as a year ago, the blood, pain, and suffering of some are being used by others to justify militaristic hysteria, hatred, aggression, and lies to rob, murder, and slander in a boundless orgy of barbaric baseness.”
Euromaidan Press has an English-language translation here.
The Economist writes that Russia’s crackdown on Salafis in Daghestan may be driving Muslims to Islamic State.
Full Speed Ahead On Missile Defense
The New York Times is reporting that NATO is moving forward with missile defense despite Russian criticism.
Opting Out
According to a piece in, Kazakhstan and Belarus will not hold Victory Day parades this year.
Politicized Russians
According to a poll by the Kremlin-connected Public Opinion Foundation, Russians are more interested in politics than at any time since 2001.
Read the whole story
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Page 16

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