Sunday, October 2, 2016

Monitoring the Pulse of World Leaders

Monitoring the Pulse of World Leaders

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Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who battled cancer during his last years in office, makes an appearance in Caracas in 2011. Two years later, he would die. (LEO RAMIREZ/AFP/Getty Images)

Summary

Diplomacy at the highest level was on conspicuous display at the recently concluded 71st General Assembly of the United Nations, which drew leaders from across the globe. But the high-profile pomp and circumstance was only part of the attraction for those at the highest levels of power who took advantage of their distance from public and media scrutiny in their home countries to undergo medical procedures and checkups in New York City. Those little-noticed medical trips — and the health status of some heads of state in general — can carry implications for a country's stability. And while the international media might not cover those side trips to visit doctors, others place great importance on tracking the health of world leaders.

Analysis

A quote attributed to U.S. Gen. George S. Patton, that "all glory is fleeting" presents a lesson on humility and the impermanence of power that is not always grasped by some of today's world leaders. The hubris of aging or ill despots who cling to power, reinforced by sycophantic aides and fawning followers, can lead to instability for their countries should they succumb to death. It is an issue that stretches back to antiquity. Alexander the Great's sudden death after an acute illness at the age of 32 led to the division of his vast empire. Had the great conqueror had access to the benefits of modern medicine, his reign might have been long extended.
That is the case in many countries today, as heads of state cling ever longer onto power thanks to medical advancements and the political environments in which they operate. In some cases, leaders have engineered constitutional means to extend their mandates. In systems that do not impose term limits, their ambitions may be thwarted only by death. In 2016, three aging African presidents have won re-election: Uganda's Yoweri Museveni (age 72 and in office since 1986), the Republic of Congo's Denis Sassou-Nguesso (also 72 and in office from 1979-1992 and again starting in 1997) and Equatorial Guinea's Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo (74 and in office since 1979). Uzbek President Islam Karimov, who won re-election in 2015 at age 77, died Sept. 2, ending his 25 years in office and unleashing concerns over a rise in clan competition that would follow Uzbekistan's ambiguous succession process.
Other countries have sought to circumvent such ambiguity, amending their constitutions to prepare for presidential succession. In Zambia, where presidents died in office twice in less than 10 years, the office of vice president was created to reduce uncertainty in the event of leadership crisis. Still, other countries are not even able to publicly contemplate the eventual passing of their strongman. In Zimbabwe, where 92-year-old President Robert Mugabe has stated his intentions to run for re-election in 2018, the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front has been mute on the subject of the country's first power transition since independence, but intense political jockeying rages behind the scenes. Despite regular trips abroad to attend to medical issues, there could soon be a reckoning for Mugabe, who has said of his long political survival, "I have died many times — that's where I have beaten Christ. Christ died once and resurrected once." His death after decades of despotic rule could well unleash a nasty power struggle.
While the health status of world leaders can certainly affect state or regional stability, in some cases, health concerns could even reverberate internationally. In Russia, for instance, Vladimir Putin's consolidation of power sets up a situation where an increasing amount of its governing system revolves around his personality. Thus, it inevitably becomes more intertwined with his wellbeing, too. While Putin, 63, is quick to demonstrate his good health and athletic abilities, if he remains atop the system he continues to craft, it will inevitably become increasingly unstable as his health fades and others try to exploit his growing weakness.
Succession problems can occur even in the most advanced of democracies. On Oct. 2, 1919, U.S. President Woodrow Wilson had a stroke that confined him to the White House. During that period, questions arose over who was actually running the country in light of Wilson's feeble state. As World War II continued to rage in April 1945, Vice President Harry Truman was thrust into the Oval Office after the death of President Franklin Roosevelt, whose longtime health issues had grown more acute just before his re-election to an unprecedented fourth term. Truman — and the world at large — had been kept in the dark about Roosevelt's deteriorating condition, and about the broader U.S. strategy to win the war and manage its aftermath, including the secret development of the atomic bomb. It eventually fell to Truman to give the order to drop the weapons over Hiroshima and Nagasaki later that year.

Choosing Your Health Care Provider

Not every country has world-class medical facilities. In many cases, leaders from underdeveloped countries seek medical care abroad. Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari's 10-day trip to Londonin June, reportedly to visit specialists for treatment of a persistent ear infection, is one such example. One of Buhari's predecessors, Umaru Yaradua, took office in 2007 only to suffer from rapidly declining health. Eventually Yaradua was confined to a hospital in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, in 2009 before returning to Nigeria under a cloak of secrecy. (It is unclear where he in fact died). His death essentially paralyzed the Nigerian political system until his successor, Goodluck Jonathan, could take over. Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez made frequent trips to Cuba for cancer treatment, with the ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela keeping the extent of his disease a secret from the public. He died sometime in 2013, but the exact time frame of his death remains unclear. Some accused the government of delaying the announcement of his death.
The United States, which has many of the world's most highly regarded medical clinics, plays a big role in providing health care to heads of state. Leaders often fly into New York City ahead of U.N. events, where they can take advantage of renowned facilities such as New York Presbyterian Hospital, where Iran's ousted shah, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, received cancer treatment in 1979. In time, loyalties can form among those leaders. The Saudi royal family has a relationship with medical facilities in Houston, Texas, spanning decades. The royal Al Nahyan family of Abu Dhabi has relied upon the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, enjoying its care so much that it opened a Cleveland Clinic in Abu Dhabi in 2015.
In addition to top medical facilities, some world leaders look for discretion. The health of a country's leader is often a closely guarded state secret, even more so in places with rigid or authoritarian systems, given their inability to quickly adapt to changing circumstance and reliance on the continued support of government elites, such as military and security services leaders. Consequently, when a strongman who presides over a system built on fear and widespread patronage displays serious health symptoms, it can cast doubt in the minds of the powerbrokers who carry out his orders. Additionally, a strongman who becomes preoccupied with health concerns and focuses less on the affairs of state may be more prone to making mistakes, possibly creating an opening for internal or external leadership threats.
If a leader's health starts to fade, it can give rise to internal dissent as well. This is why keeping medical problems a secret can buy governments time to set up a transition. Algeria is case in point. In 2013, Abdel Aziz Bouteflika, currently 79 years old and Algeria's longest-serving president, reportedly suffered a massive stroke. Even after spending time hospitalized and out of the public light, he managed to win re-election in 2014. For nearly three years now, Bouteflika has rarely been seen in public, and there are concerns over his ability to function. It is possible that the president is simply being used as a prop for those in his inner circle to continue to exercise power. What will happen when the president dies is relatively uncertain, given the amount of jockeying within the Algerian political elite.
The United States is not the only country to provide health care to world leaders. The United Kingdom, France, and others have opened their arms to leaders seeking medical care. For example, Singapore has been a favored destination for Mugabe for years. France has been particularly forthcoming for leaders of its former colonies in Africa, as it sought to bolster the positions (and security) of leaders favorable to French interests. France has also made it a policy to open its military hospitals, with their stricter security measures, to heads of state seeking maximum confidentiality.
That policy was employed in 2012 after Mauritanian President Mohamed Ould Abdelaziz was mistakenly shot by his own troops. The incident immediately caused concern that the nation was in the midst of yet another coup (Abdelaziz took power with a coup). However, he was quick to make a televised speech from his hospital bed to defuse tensions in the country and reassert his authority. After an initial operation at a hospital in Mauritania, a former French colony, the president was flown to a military hospital outside Paris to receive extended treatment out of the spotlight.

The Privilege of Office

While it is difficult to ascertain whether a country opening its medical facilities to a foreign leader gives it any specific leverage later, it is entirely possible that it establishes a quid pro quo, especially when the visit is kept tightly under wraps. Moreover, if the leader is from of a friendly country, it is likely considered a simple gesture of goodwill. Nevertheless, a foreign leader's medical trip to another country provides an opportunity for those with curious eyes and open ears. National intelligence agencies are known to keep detailed files on world leaders, including physiological profiles. When a leader visits a medical facility in a foreign country, that information could be noticed and logged. In addition, news of any especially grave medical issues would be highly valuable, enabling decision-makers to be ahead of the game in regard to a potential change of leadership.
In fact, in some situations intelligence agencies keep doctors and specialists on call to provide discreet help in pressing situations. This is also important for agencies that are responsible for the protection of visiting foreign dignitaries. Oftentimes part of the preparation for a visit includes gathering information on specific health concerns that in case of emergency would provide faster action — and thus increase the dignitary's chances of survival.
Heads of state, given their position, can afford the best health care options available. Consequently, aging leaders can take advantage of the latest medical advancements. Sultan Qaboos bin Said, 75, of Oman has made frequent trips to Germany to receive advanced treatments for cancer. This has given the ailing monarch time to find an heir, as he never married, has no children and has not named a successor despite dominating the entire Omani government.
The health of heads of state is both a closely guarded secret and of great concern to other countries given the potential ripple effects should infirmity strike them down. And as aging leaders around the world cling to power, the odds that their medical problems will catch up with them and provoke instability inevitably increase with time. For many of them, the notion that "all glory is fleeting" will become all too real.
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Monitoring the Pulse of World Leaders - STRATFOR

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STRATFOR

Monitoring the Pulse of World Leaders
STRATFOR
While the health status of world leaders can certainly affect state or regional stability, in some cases, health concerns could even reverberate internationally. In Russia, for instance, VladimirPutin's consolidation of power sets up a situation where ...

Germany's finance minister presses for a 'German Islam'

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BERLIN (Reuters) - A veteran ally of Angela Merkel urged Muslims in Germany on Sunday to develop a "German Islam" based on liberalism and tolerance, saying the influx of people seeking refuge, many of them Muslims, is a challenge for mainstream society.
  
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Page 6

Aftermath of Spanish explosion injuring dozens of people – video 

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La Bohemia Cafe is seriously damaged as a result of a suspected gas explosion in Velez-Malaga, Spain. Debris is cordoned off as investigators try to establish the cause of the explosion which happened at around 7pm local time on Saturday. More than 70 people were injured, four seriously
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Judge orders reopening of El Salvador military massacre case

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SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador (AP) - A judge in El Salvador has ordered prosecutors to reopen a probe into one of the most notorious massacres in recent history: the army's slaying of hundreds of people in the village of El Mozote.
Human rights advocate Ovidio Mauricio told The Associated Press ...

The Rise and Fall of the Karzai Dynasty 

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A recent New York Times headline says it all: “15 Years Into Afghan War, Americans Would Rather Not Talk About It.” A Kingdom of Their Own by Joshua Partlow, who was the Washington Post’s bureau chief in Kabul from 2009-2012, explains in agonizing detail why. He has told the story of America’s involvement in Afghanistan since 9/11 by telling the story of the Karzai family, many of whom were working in their own restaurants and living in America when 9/11 happened.
Hamid Karzai was not, though; he was living in Pakistan in modest circumstances. At first, U. S. officials did not want him to be president of Afghanistan—he was not a significant player in the region—but he knew the different tribes and spoke the languages, including a British-accented English. He was a Pashtun, a member of the most powerful tribe in the country’s south. He was suave, smooth, a low-level diplomat who liked to meet with people and compromise. He would not embarrass American officials as a fragrant, bearded Afghan warlord might. With American help, he became president of Afghanistan on December 12, 2001. As one diplomat told Partlow, “What you have to remember about Hamid is, he was just a nice guy.”
Despite a bad start—at the Bonn conference where Karzai was chosen, it was obvious the Americans and international community had already picked him—Partlow describes how the Bush administration got along better with Karzai than President Obama. Bush would often have video conferences with Karzai, whereas Obama delegated that task to Joe Biden and an ambassador. The general message of Obama’s administration, via Richard Holbrooke and later David Petraeus, was that the Afghans needed to get out of the way of the power pouring money and men into Afghanistan’s reconstruction.
A story about Biden illustrates this attitude. “Biden came with a message that Karzai needed to clean up his government and deliver services to the people and that he wouldn’t have the type of chummy relationship or easy access to Obama that he had enjoyed with Bush.” As the discussion escalated into argument, “Biden chucked down his napkin.” Partlow writes:
This type of pressure tended to backfire. The Afghans present, even those with little sympathy for Karzai, found it offensive. They saw Biden as not just impolite but condescending. “He was talking as if he were negotiating with some wild mountain people who knew nothing. He was showing a lot of disrespect,” Amrullah Saleh, Karzai’s intelligence chief at the time, told me. “Biden’s way of conducting that talk was not diplomatic. It shattered the image of American grandness. Slamming a cup. It’s over. This is not Hollywood. These are negotiations. … Karzai’s reaction was very decent. Very brave. Very courageous. He kept his composure. He was much higher than Biden.”
But military failures also abounded. Besides the infuriating replication of mistakes we made in Vietnam, such as one-year rotations of personnel, many bombings and night raids were disasters (some because of Afghan treachery). For instance, in 2012 a raid of a pharmacist suspected of being a “‘subcommander’ of the Haqqani insurgent network” ended with the suspect’s mother killed, his father wounded, and his aunt shot in the eye. When asked how they defined “subcommander,” those in charge of the raid said the suspect had “an informal relationship with just one other suspected insurgent.” Karzai asked, “Why didn’t you just arrest him on his fifteen-mile commute to the pharmacy?”
Aside from their deadly mistakes, the Afghan political class in this book comes off as one of the most corrupt I’ve ever read about. Powerful men, two of them Karzai’s brothers, enriched themselves shamelessly. The Kabul Bank was a huge Ponzi scheme; most of the money ended up in foreign banks, and Hamid Karzai did little to bring the guilty to justice or recover money for the poor who had invested in a bank they trusted.
Power and money tore the Karzai family apart. At the center stood Hamid, the quiet intellectual who became president. Partlow often praises him, and admits his basic achievements in a troubled country. “He wasn’t a despot, or vengeful, or cruel. He didn’t win the war or make peace with the Taliban. But when he left, there was still a democracy.” Yet Partlow also displays the leader’s quirks, failures, obtuseness, and, gallingly, ingratitude to the American slain. Karzai had no words of gratitude for the United States during his last speech as president of Afghanistan. Partlow says this is because Karzai thought America had prolonged the war to serve its own ends. And so, “The man who began the war as arguably the most pro-American Muslim leader in the world ended it with this message to the United States: thanks for nothing.”
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The World Still Needs America 

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Anders Fogh Rasmussen’s support for the transatlantic alliance was tested by fire the year he was elected prime minister of Denmark in 2001. Following 9/11, Denmark proved to be one of the United States’ closest allies, deploying over 4 percent of its active-duty military to the NATO mission in Afghanistan and suffering one of the highest casualty rates of any nation in that war. The bond between the two countries would be strengthened by subsequent crises, including the showdown with Saddam Hussein in 2003 and the deadly international riots over Danish depictions of Muhammad in 2005. Rasmussen stepped down as president of Denmark to become secretary-general of NATO in 2009, two years before NATO launched an air campaign to oust Muammar Gaddafi. His final days in that position in 2014 were marked by increasing Russian interference in Eastern Europe, which culminated in an invasion of Ukraine.
For almost 15 years, then, Rasmussen had an elevated vantage point from which to observe global crises and the responses to them by two U.S. presidents. What he sees today disturbs him.
Syria has unraveled into a slaughterhouse state contested by terrorists, rebels, government thugs, Iranians, Russians, and American special forces, to name a few; survivors from the civil war and other violent Middle Eastern countries have flooded into Europe for refuge, overwhelming border controls, threatening safety and social cohesion, and fueling the rise of far-right political parties. Authoritarian states like China and Russia repress internal enemies and flex their muscles to intimidate their neighbors.
“[I]t has become a cliché to talk of the ‘global village,’” Rasmussen writes in his new book, The Will to Lead. “Right now, the village is burning, and the neighbors are fighting in the light of the flames.”
The outgoing American president was elected on a promise to end the war in Iraq. He promised to replace the cowboy spirit of his predecessor with a cautious, cosmopolitan spirit that would accept a greater role in world affairs for other powers, be they allies or adversaries. It later came to be understood that his policy would center around not doing “stupid shit.” He did not keep the first promise, but he largely delivered on the second. As to the stupid stuff, citizens can judge for themselves.
Reflecting on Obama’s legacy, Rasmussen concludes that America should ditch the self-doubt and reassume its leadership position in the world. Only America, he states, has the resources and moral stature to lead the free world against the forces of chaos and tyranny. “We need a policeman to restore order; we need a fireman to put out the fire; we need a mayor, smart and sensible, to lead the rebuilding,” Rasmussen writes.
As a concept, America as the world’s policeman has long been mocked. Rasmussen points out, however, that America has largely played that role since the mid-1940s, when it emerged as the only major country with an intact industrial base after six years of world war. Under the strong internationalist leadership of presidents like Harry Truman, John F. Kennedy, and Ronald Reagan, the United States built institutions that enabled never-before-seen prosperity, a flowering of democracy, and the eventual defeat of the Soviet Union. Rasmussen devotes three chapters of the book to profiles of Truman, Kennedy, and Reagan, and outline how their words and deeds in fact did make America great.
The rest of the book is a grab bag of topics, part history lesson, part threat assessment, part apologia and memoir (he recounts a breakfast meeting with George W. Bush where Bush ordered nothing but three varieties of corn flakes). Throughout, Rasmussen contrasts his vision of a unipolar world against the rarely stated vision of critics like Obama and former French President Jacques Chirac. These men want America’s power to be balanced by other countries and institutions, likely including countries with less of a commitment to human rights and liberty than our own.
“The key question is whether we want to live in a bipolar or multipolar world with the alliance of repressive states working together to deny their peoples’ legitimate demands for change—which is what the balance of power ultimately means,” Rasmussen writes. “Or do we want a unipolar world with strong and determined leadership by one liberal democratic power assisted by a network of like-minded allies and partners?”
The book is also studded with policy proposals that reveal Rasmussen’s interest in markets. Some of the ideas, like a transatlantic free trade zone among trusted, developed allies seem like they might have a chance even in a political environment that has become bearish on free trade. Others, like an increase in low-skilled immigration coupled with restrictions of welfare benefits, seem not to have taken today’s politics into account at all.
Rasmussen has published The Will to Lead at either an inopportune moment, or an essential one, depending on your point of view. This year’s presidential election pits a right-wing nationalist whose promotes the slogan “America First” against a liberal internationalist who has seemingly repudiated every international initiative she has ever supported in an attempt to shore up support on her left flank. This is the year of Brexit, the white working class, and refugee panic; of Nigel Farage, Jeff Sessions, and Marine Le Pen.
Rasmussen does not do enough to address the anxieties and fears that have driven these developments. He mounts a sound and knowledgeable defense of institutions that have made us free and prosperous, but he does so in the way one might expect from a Danish Minister of Taxation, a role he served in from 1987 to 1992. But what is needed is for friends of American leadership and the rules-based international order to think and act like the statesmen Rasmussen identifies in his book—which is to say, they need to consider how to push mass opinion in the right direction.
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America's Irrational Saudi Arabia Relations 

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Daniel R. DePetris
Security, Middle East
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry chats with Deputy Crown Prince and Defense Minister Mohammad bin Salman. Wikimedia Commons/U.S. Department of State

Washington is sending mixed messages to one of its most important regional allies.

For the first time in the seven and a half years of the Obama presidency, the legislative branch was able to override a presidential veto yesterday and force the White House to implement a law that it opposes. The bill, of course, is the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (or JASTA in Washington lingo), which provides U.S. victims of terrorist attacks on American soil with the ability to bring a foreign government to court if they have a suspicion that the foreign government in question aided or supported the attack.
The House and Senate easily met the two-thirds threshold under the Constitution: the Senate voted 97 to 1 to buck Obama on JASTA, and the House quickly followed suit by a resounding 348 to 77 margin. Congressional Democrats who the White House has come to rely on to prevent GOP–legislation from reaching the president’s desk were some of the most passionate advocates for passing JASTA despite the administration’s objections—a humiliating defeat for the Obama administration. Press Secretary Josh Earnest called the decision the “single most embarrassing thing the Senate has done since 1983.”
As senators pat themselves on the back for going to bat for Americans who have been injured or whose relatives have been killed in terrorist attacks, they seem to be oblivious to the fact their actions are rather schizophrenic.
One week, Saudi Arabia is perceived to be America’s most-vital Arab ally in a dangerous region torn by conflict, civil war and terrorism. But during the next week, Saudi Arabia is akin to a rogue state that sponsors or creates the very international terrorism that the United States has been fighting against for the last fifteen years. One week, senators trust the Saudis to use American-made weapons responsibly and in accordance with international law, but in the next week is judged as an accomplice that deserves to be held financially liable for the worst act of mass killing in the continental United States since the Civil War. If King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed are confused about where Washington stands on their country, they wouldn’t be the only ones. It’s increasingly tough for Americans to know what is in the minds of their elected representatives, let alone Saudis half a world away.
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Shimon Peres: A Great Statesman, a Tragic Politician

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Shai Feldman
Politics, Middle East
Israeli President Shimon Peres speaks during a meeting with Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel in 2013. Wikimedia Commons/Department of Defense

He was one of the two most influential people in Israel’s short modern history.

Shimon Peres, who died on Tuesday at the age of ninety-three, was a one-of-a-kind biological and historical phenomenon. After all, other than Peres, can we name a single person who played a major role in the creation of a new state and who some sixty-five years later held what is formally the highest office of the state he helped create—the state’s presidency? Indeed, while rarely if ever are there clearly right or wrong answers in the realms of history and politics, one college exam question about Israel’s history that has only one correct answer is: name two individuals who contributed more than anybody else to Israel’s existence. The correct answer: David Ben-Gurion and Shimon Peres.
Publically, Peres liked to refer to David Ben-Gurion as the grand master and to call himself the student. But in reality, while Ben-Gurion was the grand strategist, Peres was the one who executed: he made it all happen. During Israel’s formative years—the late 1940s, and through the 1950s—Peres built at least three pillars of the grand strategy that Ben-Gurion had designed. He was also in charge of managing the inbuilt tensions between these pillars.
The first of these pillars was self-help: the Jewish state would not rely on others’ good will for its security and survival. And so, as a very young director general of Israel’s Ministry of Defense, and later as its deputy minister, Peres set out to create the country’s armament industry, first the Israel Military Industry (IMI) and later its Israel Aircraft Industry (IAI).
The second pillar of Ben-Gurion’s grand strategy was the pursuit of an alliance with a major power. The first decisive move he made in that direction was to side with the West. Although Israel’s creation was supported by both Truman’s America and Stalin’s Russia, when in 1950 the War in Korea forced Israel to chose sides, Ben-Gurion decided to abandon Israel’s neutrality and to place the two-year-old country squarely in the American-led camp. The decision was costly—it earned Israel decades-long hostility from both the Soviet Union and Communist China.
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Putting the Security into Cybersecurity 

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Daniel M. Gerstein
Cybersecurity, United States

"In the new cyber world order, government entities and businesses certainly represent lucrative targets."

You live in a crime ridden city, yet you leave your doors and windows open, display your valuables in plain sight and then wonder why criminals walk in and steal your belongings. Your response is to share your sad story with your neighbors and complain about your loss of privacy. Sound familiar?
It should – this largely reflects the laws and policies the United States has selected for responding to the cybersecurity crisis that is threatening and sometimes even ravaging public and private internet users.
In recent months, major attacks involving hundreds of millions of U.S. users have occurred on financial institutions, retail companies, healthcare providers, movie companies, government organizations, a presidential candidate’s emails and, recently, the Democratic National Committee. Aransomware epidemic has become the latest threat to emerge on the internet. All the while, the use of the “Dark Web” for criminal and terrorist activities has continued to expand.
This is not to say that U.S. cybersecurity experts have been totally inactive. However, a majority of the executive and legislative branch policy documents and legislation that have been enacted have dealt directly with information sharing and privacy issues, while largely ignoring the broader issues associated with internet organization and governance of the internet itself. For example, in 2013White House called for establishing a voluntary framework for cyber and critical infrastructure security and, information sharing, adoption of best practices and privacy provisions. The recent Cybersecurity Act of 2015 – elements of which had been debated by Congress for more than three years -- allows for private entities to operate defensive measures while sharing and receiving federal government cybersecurity information, liability protection for sharing this information, and privacy of non-cybersecurity threat information.
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COUNTER-TERRORISM: Mossad Versus Quds In South America

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Canadian defense officials weigh contribution to US missile defense

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Canadian defense officials and lawmakers appear to have some interest in aiding American missile defense programs.
     

Official: No 'manipulation' of data seen in election hacks

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Federal officials and many cybersecurity experts have said it would be nearly impossible for hackers to alter an election's outcome because election systems are decentralized and generally not connected to the internet.
     

How Lori Robinson defied the odds to become head of US Northern Command

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It wasn't supposed to be a career choice. But from that beginning came the meteoric, improbable rise of Gen. Robinson, America's highest-ranking woman in uniform and the first female to lead one of the nation's major commands.
     

Civilian casualties are not just ‘fog of war’

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Individuals working in military commands — from pilots, to intelligence analysts, to commanders themselves — inevitably experience pressures that lead them to cut corners and shortcut standard operating procedures.
     
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What ‘Plan B’ could US have in Syria?

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U.S. officials say they’re weighing new options to stop the bombing campaign by Russia and Syria that’s plunged the city of Aleppo deeper into misery. Few people outside the Obama administration believe there’s much it will do.
     

Ideology à la Carte: Why Lone Actor Terrorists Choose and Fuse Ideologies 

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Editor's Note: The succession of so-called "Lone Wolf" attacks that have hit America in the last year have generated a wave of panic about the Islamic State's global reach. Yet many of the individuals seem more confused losers than religious fanatics. In assessing this phenomenon, Paige Pascarelli of Boston University argues that we are looking in the wrong place. She contends that many of terrorists fuse the personal and the political, and looking at the teachings of a specific group offers us little understanding.
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As details emerge about the recent arrest of Ahmad Rahami, the man who is charged with planting numerous bombs in New York and New Jersey, one facet of the case seems obvious: the man’s ideological inspiration does not place him neatly within one terrorist group.
Evidence from Rahami’s journal paints a complex portrait of the man’s relationship with the broader jihadist movement, citing a constellation of groups: his praise for Anwar al-Awlaki and Osama bin Laden suggests he could be sympathetic to al-Qaeda’s aims, but he also uses language consistent with calls to action by deceased ISIS spokesman Abu Muhammad al-Adnani. Rahami’s journal also expresses frustration towards the persecution of jihadists in Palestine and anger at U.S. “slaughter” of mujahideen in Afghanistan.  
Rahami isn’t alone in his murky ties to multiple jihadist organizations. The case of Orlando shooter Omar Mateen offers striking parallels. Mateen pledged his allegiance to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and expressed support for its rival, Jabhat al-Nusra (which recently renamed itself Jabhat Fatah al-Sham). Mateen had even previously boasted that he was a Hezbollah member. Mateen’s endorsements were perplexing because ISIS, Jabhat al-Nusra, and Hezbollah are politically (and especially in the case of Hezbollah, ideologically) at odds with one another.
While Mateen was more explicit in his contradictory claims, Rahami and Mateen are not alone in this trend. Despite plotting with conspirators, Asia Siddiqui was arrested in April 2015 for a conspiracy to commit a terrorist attack on her own. Like Mateen, her ideology remained within broader jihadi-Islamist movements but fused ISIS and al-Qaeda philosophies. Blending ideologies for tactical benefit is an evidenced phenomenon as well and is particularly relevant in analysis of the Charlie Hebdo and Kosher market attacks that consisted of both ISIS and AQI attackers likely working together. The differences between both groups appeared to matter little to European jihadists, who found the feud “distant, annoying, and counterproductive.”
More recently, 18-year-old Mahin Khan, a self-proclaimed “American jihadist,” was arrested on terrorism-related charges linking him to a conspiracy targeting Arizona government buildings. Although information about his case is still emerging, evidence suggests that Khan claimed to support both ISIS and the Pakistani Taliban. The broad proclamation of claiming to be a “jihadi” eclipsed his alleged support for truly ideologically conflicting groups.
This sampling of examples highlights a trend of violent lone actors whose ideologies are broadly jihadist, but not tied to any one group. 
This sampling of examples highlights a trend of violent lone actors whose ideologies are broadly jihadist, but not tied to any one group. Even so, in the case of Mateen, security officials andpolicymakers rushed to identify Mateen’s alignment with a specific group. The temptation to classify Mateen within one organization’s particular ideological prism outweighed an objective assessment of the problem: Mateen fused multiple group affiliation and ideologies to motivate his actions. As far as categorization goes, Mateen’s case suggests that group affiliation matters less than his broader commitment his idea of jihad. In this capacity, Mateen’s statements and sentiments are not outliers or rarities in lone actor extremist violence, nor are they as confusing as they seem; individuals tend to blend group affiliation and ideological motivations, which is a significant, recurring, and surprisingly understudied phenomenon. Indeed, if anything, Rahami’s case confirms that this phenomenon is not rare.
Nevertheless, the tendency to try and place all violent lone actors neatly within one extremist group is understandable, because law enforcement must assess the threat and determine if attackers have links to a broader network. Further, group affiliation often informs the rationale behind the attack, including possible motives. Without a clear ideology, motives become more ambiguous and less predictable, more about psychology than national security.
Choosing and fusing is particularly prevalent among the lone actors and wannabes. In fact, recent evidence suggests that lone actors, including small cohorts, are more likely to pick and choose their affiliations and ideologies even if they remain largely “jihadi.” It is, therefore, neither surprising nor abnormal that lone actors do not clearly adhere to any one group’s ideology – but it poses a danger nonetheless.
Academics that study the connection between lone actors and ideological fusion show that lone actors tend to conflate personal grievances with terrorist ideologies, “combining aversion with religion, society, or politics with a personal frustration.” Thus ascribing to one group’s affiliation and ideology is only of peripheral importance. In the absence of a network, where authorities can provide strict and clear guidelines and a social group to reinforce and perpetuate them, lone actors have the freedom to create their own worldview. Any violent trajectory their thoughts or actions might take remains largely unaffected or undeterred by social influences around them.
Ideological fusion entails blending seemingly different elements and beliefs from often competing organizations within the same broader ideological framework; Omar Mateen had fused various ideologies within the context of Islamist radicalism. Despite such inconsistencies, Mateen’s tailor-made ideology remained tethered to global radical Islamist movements and gave him a personalized justification for violence. As a jihadi wannabe, it mattered little to him that such groups, in fact, compete with one another on the ground or, more so in the case of Hezbollah, have fundamentally disparate ideologies. But Mateen wasn’t in Syria or Iraq, and he likely had little or no connection with other like-minded individuals in Florida. Broadly ascribing to jihadi ideology was a means to a very violent end.
The cases highlighted above show how one’s personal ideology may be less of a conscious decision and more aligned with the ebb and flow of popular movements – the flavor(s) of the day. Ultimately, the general connection to jihad is the overarching motivation.
Without a clear ideology, motives become more ambiguous and less predictable, more about psychology than national security.
But, in some cases, the process of fashioning a personal ideology helps to create a measure of certainty and stability amid chaos, whether external or internal, real or imagined. The case of Norwegian Anders Breivik, the lone terrorist who attacked a leftist camp for children in 2011, proves that fusion isn’t limited to jihadists. Behind the mass murder was a meticulously crafted 1,500-page manifesto detailing his self-made ideologies, which included pieces of white supremacism, ultra-nationalism, anti-Islam rhetoric, and Christian fundamentalism. The entirely new ideology he created still resides in the far-right in what’s known as a “new doctrine of civilizational war.” In Breivik’s chaotic mind, he was aware that he did not cleanly fit into any ideological box. It made sense to Breivik; for him, it validated the killing of 77 people.
These cases highlight the many ways individuals can patch together pieces of various and sometimes incompatible ideologies, sometimes deriving from competing groups. But more importantly, they demonstrate how this phenomenon makes lone actors or small groups dangerously unpredictable precisely because they don’t fit in pre-existing boxes.
Whether it’s selected or fused together, “ideology à la carte” is a growing problem. It further obscures an already amorphous, intangible threat that enables individuals to fashion their own justifications for violence. Its connection to lone actor terrorists and small cohorts means that it deserves the attention of law enforcement and counter-extremism actors for the simple fact that incidents of lone actor violence are on the rise. But violent ideology does not simply cause terrorism; as an enabling factor, ideology tends to sit atop a host of underlying root causes. Thus, fighting ideology itself would be a futile exercise. Moreover, the fact that these ideologies are so broad, suggests that trying to understand and counter them through a specific ideological lens would be misleading and counterproductive.
Ideology itself is a far too elusive enemy. It is and will continue to be extremely difficult to mitigate something so intangibly threatening, and such voices and messages will always be waiting in the wings. If wannabes or lone actors who operate outside a network or group don’t care that they are pulling from different groups, then perhaps we shouldn’t either. This undoubtedly will make the job of law enforcement and counter-terrorism officials significantly more difficult. But a focus on individual motivations and grievances, rather than on group allegiances, could offer a more preventive model that will outmaneuver transitory ideological influences. 
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· · · · · ·

FBI seeking former Syrian intelligence officer reportedly hiding in Florida 

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A Syrian former intelligence officer, who was given American citizenship several years ago, is being sought by authorities in the United States. 



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Observer 

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Title:                      Observer
Author:                 Glen Aaron
Aaron, Glen (2015). Observer: The Colonel George Trofimoff Story, The Tale of America’s Highest-ranking Military Officer Convicted of Spying. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
ISBN-13:               978-1508455516
Unknown Call Number
Date Posted:      September 29, 2016
Note: This book is not listed in the Library of Congress catalog, nor in Worldcat.org listing. Amazon, however, does have it for sale.
Caveat. Perpendat itaque lector cavendum (civilis).[1]
Reviewed by Joseph C. Goulden[2]
It was no accident that Glen Aaron spent a year as the late George Trofimoff’s cellmate. Trofimoff knew Aaron had been a lawyer before being sent to prison for two years, and he wanted to tell his story to someone with legal experience who might help him get a new trial. Aaron listened, says he believed Trofimoff, tried to help, but failed.
Trofimoff was convicted in June 2001 of spying for the Soviet and the Russian intelligence services, thanks in part to the revelations of Vasili Mitrokhin, a spectacular sting operation by the FBI, and the testimony of former KGB general Oleg Kalugin. Trofimoff’s rationalized version of events was that he had been the victim of a set-up and Kalugin’s perjury.
As Aaron ends his account, he mentions that, toward the end of their time together, Trofimoff confessed that in an effort to help his brother—an official of the Russian Orthodox Church—he had in fact passed a few harmless documents to the KGB: just a gesture of brotherhood.
There is nothing in this undocumented book that contradicts the government’s case or suggests in any way that Trofimoff was not guilty. Don’t be taken in.
[1] On occasion, personal loyalties and opinions can be carved in stone and defended with a vengeance — at times with some venom thrown in. In these situations, the actual importance of the subject matter is dwarfed by the amount of aggression expressed. Retain a sense of proportion in all online and in-person discussions. [From The Intelligencer: Journal of U. S. Intelligence Studies.]
[2] Goulden, Joseph C. in The Intelligencer: Journal of U.S. Intelligence Studies (22, 2, Spring 2016, p. 133). Joseph C. Goulden’s 1982 book, Korea: The Untold Story of the War, was published in a Chinese-language edition in 2014 by Beijing Xiron Books. He is author of 18 nonfiction books. Goulden is a long-time reviewer of espionage and spy books for The Washington Times, for AFIO’s Intelligencer, for law journals, and other publications. Some of the reviews appeared in prior editons of The Washington Times or The Washington Lawyer (DC Bar Association) and are reprinted by permission of the author. Goulden’s most recent book [as of 2016] is Goulden, Joseph C. (2012).The Dictionary of Espionage: Spyspeak into English. Mineola, NY: Dover Publications.

 

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Syria military says it retook hospital, refugee camp in Aleppo - USA TODAY

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USA TODAY

Syria military says it retook hospital, refugee camp in Aleppo
USA TODAY
Syrian government forces took control of a hospital in the besieged northern city of Aleppo on Friday, a day after seizing a Palestinian refugee camp in the city from rebels, according to Syria's military. The military said its forces captured the ...
Syrian Army begins new military operation in east AleppoAMN Al-Masdar News (registration)
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China is cutting off cash to Venezuela - CNNMoney

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CNNMoney

China is cutting off cash to Venezuela
CNNMoney
After pouring billions into Venezuela over the last decade, China is cutting off new loans to the Latin American nation. It's a major reversal of relations between the two nations, experts say. It also comes at the worst time for Venezuela, which is ...

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If TPP fails, China takes advantage - Aljazeera.com

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If TPP fails, China takes advantage
Aljazeera.com
Lee further stressed that the United States could not achieve its aims in Asia through a security-centric posture: "It will add substance to America's 'rebalance', which cannot just be about themilitary, or the 7th Fleet." Japan, one of Washington's ...

Why the internet of things is the new magic ingredient for cyber criminals - The Guardian

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The Guardian

Why the internet of things is the new magic ingredient for cyber criminals
The Guardian
Why the internet of things is the new magic ingredient for cyber criminals. John Naughton. The massive attack on Brian Krebs's website presents huge problems for investigative reporters. Online journalists do not have the resources to protect ...

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Syrian Campaign Removes Any Doubt as to Russia's Military Capabilities - Sputnik International

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Sputnik International

Syrian Campaign Removes Any Doubt as to Russia's Military Capabilities
Sputnik International
A year ago, when Russian air power began hammering Daesh positions in Syria, local analysts looked on nervously, and Western ones spitefully, waiting for a slipup. A year later, the militaryproved decisively that it was no longer its decrepit 1990s ...

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Four military options for Obama in Syria - The Hill

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Four military options for Obama in Syria
The Hill
Lawmakers are pressing for a U.S. military option to help end the Syrian civil war, a so-called "Plan B," as the Obama administration's last-ditch diplomatic effort with Russia flounders. Frustration on Capitol Hill is mounting after a temporary ...

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FBI head: Extremism apparent influence in Minnesota attack

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FBI Director: "We're working on it" but the Minnesota mall attack appears to have been motivated "by some sort of inspiration from radical Islamic groups."

Saudi Arabia has ways to hit back at 9/11 lawsuit effort

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Saudi Arabia and its allies are warning that U.S. legislation allowing the kingdom to be sued for the 9/11 attacks will have negative repercussions.
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Five Counterterrorism Strategies for the Next President

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Here are the five counterterrorism approaches that have worked well over the past two decades. The next administration should embrace them.

Russia fighting in Syria for a year, still at odds with US

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Moscow appears no closer to one of its military goals in Syria - getting the U.S. to cooperate in the skies or on the ground in the civil war.

The Latest: NTSB recovers recorder from wrecked train

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Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson says investigators in the train crash at a rail station in New Jersey have ruled out terrorism and should have some answers soon.

White House lashes out at Congress after 9/11 bill vote

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The White House lashed out at Congress on Thursday, a day after Republicans and Democrats overwhelmingly overrode President Barack Obama's veto of a bill to allow families of the 9/11 victims to sue Saudi Arabia.

FBI Says Database Tracking Police Use of Deadly Force Coming - Claims Journal

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Politico

FBI Says Database Tracking Police Use of Deadly Force Coming
Claims Journal
“Everybody gets why it matters,” Comey said of the planned database at an oversight hearing of the House Judiciary Committee. Much of the hearing, though, focused on the FBI's handling of the now-closed investigation into Clinton's use of a private ...
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Newsweek Hacked After Donald Trump Cuba Story, As FBI Director Talks Hacking Investigation Into October Surprise - The Inquisitr

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The Inquisitr

Newsweek Hacked After Donald Trump Cuba Story, As FBI Director Talks Hacking Investigation Into October Surprise
The Inquisitr
This week, a major news outlet was hacked after publishing a story on the latest alleged Donald Trump violation, according to tweets posted by Kurt Eichenwald, the author of the Newsweek story that alleges Donald Trump broke a Cuba embargo in the ...

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FBI Use of Controversial Surveillance Program Declined - Washington Free Beacon

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Washington Free Beacon

FBI Use of Controversial Surveillance Program Declined
Washington Free Beacon
The FBI has significantly scaled back its collection of Americans' phone records since Edward Snowden exposed the government's surveillance program in 2013, according to a new report. The number of FBI “business records orders” approved by the ... 
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report - Return to the USDOJ/OIG Home Page - US Department of JusticeReturn to the USDOJ/OIG Home Page - US Department of Justice

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Keith Stroup: Marijuana Smoking up, Marijuana Arrests Down - ATTN

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ATTN

Keith Stroup: Marijuana Smoking up, Marijuana Arrests Down
ATTN
The latest marijuana arrest data released this week by the FBI show that 643,122 Americans were arrested on marijuana charges in 2015, with 89 percent of those arrests for marijuana possession only, not for cultivation or trafficking. While that number ...

FBI reports violent crime is up, but what does it mean? - Cincinnati.com

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New York Times

FBI reports violent crime is up, but what does it mean?
Cincinnati.com
Violent crime in the United States was up in 2015 compared to 2014, but is still at historic lows, according to recently released FBI crime data. The FBI's report, "Crime in the United States 2015," is an annual report compiling statistics from the FBI ...
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Trump suggests FBI gave Clinton immunity in email probe - Politico

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RadarOnline

Trump suggests FBI gave Clinton immunity in email probe
Politico
The Republican presidential nominee dubbed the five people who were granted immunity the “FBI Immunity Five” and suggested that the bureau was so lax in giving people immunity in the case that the investigators had no one left to interview and Clinton ...
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President Barack Obama Recognizes DIA's 55th Anniversary

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I am honored to recognize the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) for 55 years of outstanding service



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Are you a killer? The quiet discrimination shutting military veterans out of the workplace 

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Pope Met With Disregard by Georgian Orthodox Church

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Pope Francis led prayers in front of more than a thousand Catholic faithful Saturday in the former Soviet state of Georgia, but an official delegation from the Georgian Orthodox Church stayed away in an apparent snub.

Pope Francis to Tread a Fine Line in Azerbaijan

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Pope Francis arrived in the former Soviet republic of Azerbaijan on the last leg of his trip through a fragile and often volatile region.

Pope Francis Celebrates Mass In Baku

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Pope Francis met with the local Roman Catholic community and led Sunday Mass at the Church of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Baku during his historic visit to Azerbaijan on October 2. The pope's visit follows a stop in neighboring Georgia and comes a little over three months after the pope received a warm welcome in Azerbaijan's Caucasus archrival, Armenia. (RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service)

Inside a Dysfunctional Psychiatric Hospital

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The state-run El Pampero Hospital in Venezuela has almost no drugs left for its tormented patients, let alone food and clothing, amid the nation’s economic crisis.

At a Loss for Meds, Venezuela’s Mentally Ill Spiral Downward

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Mario Simeone and his wife, Evelin, at home in Maracay with their sons, Accel and Gerardo, right, who both suffer from schizophrenia. Venezuela has run out of most psychiatric medicines, and the voices in Accel’s head demanded that he kill his brother.

Pope Francis Navigates Orthodox Georgia’s Rocky Terrain

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The Georgian Orthodox Church was once hostile to the Vatican, and the former Soviet republic remains pulled between East and West.

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Page 13

Jamaica, Long Opposed to Marijuana, Now Wants to Cash In on It 

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A marijuana farmer in central Jamaica in 2013. Jamaica has spent years prosecuting illegal marijuana growers, but as it moves to legalize parts of the industry, small farmers worry they will be left behind.

Watch: aftermath of deadly barrel bomb attack on M10 Aleppo hospital 

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Syria conflict: Besieged city of Aleppo a 'living hell'

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A top UN official says civilians in the rebel-held part of the Syrian city of Aleppo are enduring a "living hell" as fighting rages on.

Pope pays homage to tiny Catholic flock in Muslim Azerbaijan

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BAKU (Reuters) - Pope Francis said a Mass on Sunday for the miniscule Catholic community in Shi'ite Muslim Azerbaijan, urging the "precious little flock" to keep the faith and paying tribute to those persecuted during the Soviet era.
  

Pope Francis to Tread a Fine Line in Azerbaijan

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TBILISI, Georgia— Pope Francis arrived in the former Soviet republic of Azerbaijan on Sunday on the last leg of his trip through a fragile and often volatile region.
The pontiff will lead Mass for the country’s Catholic faithful and meet with Azeri President Ilham Aliyev. During his one-day stop, the pope is expected to navigate a fine line between speaking out on human rights and reaching out to the ruling government.
Mr. Aliyev has come under criticism for increasing human-rights abuses and attempts to boost his control over the predominantly Muslim country. The government has dismissed this criticism, saying the will of the people is more important. Azerbaijan recently held a referendum to amend the constitution and allow Mr. Aliyev to extend his current term.
Regional experts say the pope may be seen by the local population as validating the president’s increasingly authoritarian course if he doesn’t voice some criticism.
“If the pope doesn’t speak out about human-rights abuses, it will be a lost opportunity to address an issue in dire straits,” said Giorgi Gogia, who works for Human Rights Watch in the region.
Azerbaijan has a community of only several hundred Catholics. After holding Mass and meeting with the president, the pope will meet with a regional Islamic leader and hold a meeting on interreligious dialogue.
The trip will also bring into focus violence between Azerbaijan and Armenian-backed rebels in the disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh.
The Georgian Orthodox Church advised its followers, which make up 85% of the country's population, to not attend Pope Francis' Saturday morning mass in Tbilisi Stadium. The Pope is concluding his second trip to the region, attempting to promote unity between the Orthodox and Catholic churches while not angering Russia. Photo: Getty
Some of the worst fighting since a 1994 cease-fire broke out earlier this year in the region, which is part of Azerbaijan’s sovereign territory but is controlled by Armenian separatists.
The rebels, backed by Armenia, wrested the mountainous region away from Azeri control in fighting that followed the breakup of the Soviet Union. Despite cease-fires, a formal peace treaty has never been signed between the warring sides.
In a trip to Armenia earlier this year, Pope Francis called on reconciliation between the two regional rivals. He also called on reconciliation with Turkey, ethnically and linguistically tied to Azerbaijan, and referred to the mass killings of Armenians in 1915 by Turks across much of what is now eastern Turkey as “that tragedy, that genocide.”
Armenia is overwhelmingly Christian, though there are relatively few Catholics.
The pope departed Sunday morning from Georgia, where he made ecumenical overtures to the powerful Georgian Orthodox Church. Those offers of greater ties between the two churches were partly rebuffed, however, with representatives of the Georgian Orthodox Church declining to attend a Mass led by the pontiff earlier in the weekend.
The Vatican is presenting the pope’s visit to Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan as one trip, even though his visit to Armenia occurred in June. However, the trip was split into separate visits amid renewed conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh.
Write to Thomas Grove at thomas.grove@wsj.com
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Can Fancy Bear Be Stopped? The Clear and Present Danger of Russian Info Ops

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Former Secretary of State Colin Powell was curt to his former aide. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump “is a national disgrace and an international pariah,” he wrote. In the leaked email, Powell, whose public persona is dignified and deeply appealing to both political parties, comes across as frustrated and upset by the 2016 presidential election. “I would rather not have to vote for her,” he wrote elsewhere, referring to Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, describing her as having “a long track record, unbridled ambition, greedy, not transformational.”
It was the sort of juicy gossip political reporters just cannot ignore, and they predictably ran stories detailing who got burned and who got shade from the famously dignified and respectful Powell. Yet this email leak was the latest vanguard of what has become a sustained campaign of cyber operations by the Russian government, seemingly geared to manipulate the election. By aggressively hacking into email accounts and then selectively leaking documents meant to embarrass Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party, Moscow is combining two different strains of security threats in a way no one is sure how to counter. Combining a traditional form of cyber operation (the actual email hacks) with targeted releases to affect a political outcome (information warfare), the Russian government has innovated a type of cyberwarfare that is catching both the media and policymakers off guard.
The Powell emails have been linked to a hacking group called Fancy Bear, and they have been behind some of this year’s biggest cyber operations on the United States. It is the same group thathacked into the Democratic National Committee and released emails in an effort to embarrass Hillary Clinton and hurt her campaign for the presidency. They hacked into the World Anti-Doping Agency in an effort to embarrass Venus and Serena Williams over exemptions they claimed for taking prohibited drugs during the Olympics. They leaked emails by former Supreme Allied Commander-Europe, Gen. Philip Breedlove to undermine U.S. policies in Europe. And now they’ve been linked tothe Powell email leaks as well.
As cybersecurity firm ThreatConnect has documented meticulously, Fancy Bear is at the heart of a network of websites backed by the Russian state, most likely a military intelligence unit, and is engaged in a sustained information operations campaign. One of those related websites, called DC Leaks, which has also been linked to Russian intelligence, recently released Michelle Obama’s passport alongside sensitive travel information for the White House. This is happening in an election year.
To put it as bluntly as possible: Russian intelligence is breaking into senior officials’ computers in an effort to manipulate a U.S. presidential election.
Yet, the response from the White House has been muted. One reason might be that the U.S. government is still unsure how to respond. I reached out to a half-dozen current and former officials responsible for both public diplomacy and cyber security. None of them expressed confidence in which agency should take the lead in responding to a massive effort to leak private correspondence heavily weighted toward one party in an election. There’s never been an attack on the process of an American election like this, and given its openly partisan nature (the leaks seem to primarily target Democrats) many officials are reluctant to be seen engaging in partisan activity by pushing back too hard against the Kremlin. Complicating matters is the casual attitude Donald Trump has taken toward the leaks, at one point flat-out asking Russia to do more hacking against Democrats (one of Trump’s foreign policy advisers just came under investigation for his alleged backdoor negotiations with Russian officials).
But it goes deeper than that too: This isn’t the sort of “cyberwar” we were promised. When scholars and pundits talk about this set of threats, they are thinking of things like Stuxnet: sophisticated programs meant to destroy or disrupt infrastructure. From former White House officials to journalists, even to academics trying to debunk the worst of the fear mongering, the overwhelming focus is on tangible targets: the power grid, banking institutions, military installations, even voting machines. The idea of targeting one party and selectively leaking embarrassing emails just wasn’t on anyone’s radar. In hindsight, maybe it should have been.
•      •      •
For the last eight years, Russia has been expanding its information operations capabilities and deploying them against the United States and Europe. The 2008 invasion of the Republic of Georgiawas, in many ways, the prototype that got it all started: Russia engaged in as much cyber and information warfare as it did conventional war with tanks and bombs. Some of this was the conventional cyberwarfare that garners so much attention: distributed denial of service (DDOS) attacks against Georgian websites, for example. But the Kremlin also made a concerted effort tocreate a friendly narrative about its invasion, to a degree that hadn’t been seen since the Cold War. The Russian government not only deployed its propaganda outlets to spin the conflict (one Western reporter working for them resigned in protest), but they directly approached journalists in the United States to buy positive coverage. Georgia fought back with its own efforts to spin the war, and mostly cemented its version of events in the West.
Less than 18 months later, the Kremlin released its updated military doctrine, which cemented “the intensification of the role of information warfare” in Russian foreign policy. One feature of modern military conflict, it said, is:
[T]he prior implementation of measures of information warfare in order to achieve political objectives without the utilization of military force and, subsequently, in the interest of shaping a favourable response from the world community to the utilization of military force.
A key task for modernizing the Russian military to be more effective in modern conflict, the doctrine concluded, is “to develop forces and resources for information warfare.”
This use of information warfare as a primary tool of warfare was put into play during the Euromaidan crisis in Ukraine, and later during the ongoing conflict in the Donbass region of Eastern Ukraine. Russia’s information operations about Ukraine have been so sophisticated and so extensive that it has become its own genre of research.
Yet Russia’s propaganda about Ukraine did not guarantee it a strategic victory. Broadly, the global consensus is that Russia was wrong to invade Ukraine, that its annexation of Crimea was flagrantly illegal, and that its attempt to conceal its role in the destruction of a civilian airliner with hundreds of innocents onboard was appalling. Meanwhile, Russia effectively achieved a stalemate in Ukraine and pivoted to Syria (where it is also working for a stalemate). The Russian government successfully distracted global attention from Ukraine and propped up a friendly government in Damascus. But this “success” came with grave costs: Sanctions have pushed millions of ordinary Russians into poverty. The Kremlin’s renewed alliance with Damascus has poisoned its relationship with other Gulf powers. Ukraine has transformed from a state within Russia’s orbit to one mostly hostile to Russian interests. Russia may not have “won” in Ukraine or Syria, but both Ukraine and Syria have suffered greatly as a result of Russia’s attempts to muddle the global response.
Russia’s big innovation in information warfare isn’t to create traditional propaganda: Very few Westerners read Sputnik as their primary source of news (according to HypeStat, it has 7 percent of the website traffic the New York Times does). As Edward Lucas explains, their intent isn’t to provide an alternative set of facts but to attack the very idea of facts. You don’t have to believe their version of events, but you will question whether there is a version of events.
The most corrosive force for this muddling of reality has been RT, the English-language propaganda channel formerly known as Russia TodayRT’s trick is a clever one: it rarely will directly praise or promote the Russian government; rather, its role is to sow confusion and doubt. In stark contrast to U.S. government-funded outlets like Voice of America or Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, RT does not have editorial independence from the Kremlin (the head of RT, Margarita Simonyan, reportedly meets with political operatives at the Kremlin to discuss the network’s coverage). Moreover, the United States does not block RT from broadcasting here, while the Russian government hasinterfered with both VOA’s broadcasting and routinely harasses RFE/RL’s correspondents.
RT, and its video broadcasting service Ruptly, target the United States and the Western international order writ large. This year, it has focused on the Democratic Party: Russian President Vladimir Putin nurses a nasty grudge against Hillary Clinton for her accurate assessment of the fraud in Russia’s 2012 elections, which resulted in massive protests in Moscow. The service is very good at what it does: it hired Larry King to give softball interviews with political figures critical of the United States(most recently Donald Trump). As of 2015, RT had a budget of  $400 million dollars (Fox News, in contrast, has an annual revenue of approximately $2.3 billion). RT has the most-watched channel on YouTube (there is confusion as to whether those are real viewers, or bots artificially inflatingviewership, but there is no way to determine the exact source of views on a YouTube video). Casey Michel, a researcher at Columbia University in New York, describes the channel:
RT has perfected a method in which it injects anodyne, actual reportage into its lineup. In breaking news, for instance, RT remains a reliable source. The outlet’s perfected an amalgamation of the real and the fictional, the news alongside Newspeak, leaving viewers off-kilter along the way.
By flooding the zone with budget conspiracy theories about CIA agents fighting for fascist militias in eastern Ukraine, or how flight MH-17 was really shot down by the JewsRT is more than just a lavishly funded propaganda channel. They effectively exploit weaknesses in Western journalism itself. By manipulating the instinctive push for equivalence in Western journalism, Russia is able to insert a factually wrong narrative and have it considered alongside an actual version of events as simply a competing perspective instead of being accurately described as a lie. Thus, when agents working for the Russian government release hacked emails under the guise of gossip journalism, it fits their false narrative: “Everyone is corrupt, everyone is a liar, but we’ll tell you the truths they want to hide.” Hook it up to an appealing, click-baity headline and thousands of otherwise innocent people spread it across social media, and it becomes its own self-reinforcing conventional wisdom.
•      •      •
Russia has been learning how social media helps spread stories for years. Adrian Chen followed one early effort Russia undertook on this front in 2014. He researched a Russian “troll farm,” where employees of the Russian government flooded social media feeds with dummy content. One type of behavior he noticed was hoaxing, whereby Russian troll accounts would try to fabricate some sort of emergency and then study how local media picked up on the story and covered it.This campaign of releasing emails, however, represents something new. While the media efforts by Russian propagandists have been difficult to counter, they have existed in a realm that is at least understandable: RTSputnik, et. al, are state propaganda, which means they can be evaluated as sources. Even if a story they publish is provably wrong, you can’t ignore what Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov says about Russian troops in Crimea. The hacks are different: It’s not always clear at first where they come from, so it’s harder to evaluate their reliability (there is a reason the released emails are only those with insults and negativity, for example: people speaking positively of each other does not fit Russia’s narrative). And because they are, in fact, true (Colin Powell really sent those emails), they can’t simply be denounced as a lie. It is the most effective form of propaganda, because there’s nothing to denounce as a lie.
In hindsight, the hoaxing Chen covered seems like an experiment to see exactly how to goad the U.S. media into covering an event. They seem to have learned their lessons: despite the overwhelming sense from within the U.S. intelligence committee that the hacked emails from presidential candidates, generals, and secretaries of state are coming more or less directly from Russian intelligence, there is reluctance to cover it very closely: The veneer of unguarded honesty is irresistible to click-hungry reporters.
Journalists love gossip, and the leaked emails have given them a lot of it. But journalists aren’t always beholden to dumps of private documents. Wikileaks was widely criticized for publishing the personal information of donors to the Democratic National Party and Turkey’s ruling AKP party. When Sony’s emails were hacked and posted online, many journalists chose not to publish them, citing both privacy concerns and the possible source of the emails in North Korea. And when hackers exploited a flaw in iCloud security and dumped thousands of nude photos of celebrities online, most journalists collectively ignored the tranche of revealing images entirely, choosing instead to focus on howunethical it was to hack in the first place.
Yet the cries of “public interest” usually accompany the publication of stolen emails. This is wrong. From a normative perspective, publishing stolen emails, even if they come from current or former senior officials, is a fundamental attack on a free society. An open society simply cannot function if people cannot communicate privately. Colin Powell has been out of government for almost a decade; Philip Breedlove was retired when his correspondence was published. The idea that serving in government (or worse: your husband’s service in government) means you can never have private communication ever again is incredibly toxic. It is tantamount to censorship by denying them any space at all to talk to friends, colleagues, and family away from the public.
Moreover, these leaks don’t actually serve any public interest: they aren’t exposing corruption or illegal conduct. They are just gossip: who secretly hates whom, can-you-believe-this-brainstorm, stuff like that. But journalism thrives on gossip, especially if it’s gossip about an election. No one in the media seems to care that a hostile intelligence agency is feeding them gossipy news stories: They are too happy to have coverage of another scandal about the candidates. Russia just may have found an Achilles heel.
Yet no one seems to know how to respond to Russia employing the tools of cyberwarfare to further their information war. From a policy perspective, it is far from clear how to defend citizens and private organizations against a sophisticated attack on their private correspondence that will be used for a propaganda campaign during an election. The White House’s 2015 release of its Cybersecurity Strategy and Implementation Plan does not cover this sort of incident: it is focused more on traditional threats like national security leaks, infrastructure attacks, and identity theft. The National Cyber Incident Response Plan offers few clues, either. The FBI can do a forensic investigation of the affected email systems to identify and even prosecute specific hackers, but there is no sense of how to counter these leaks from an information operations perspective.
This has exposed a frightening vulnerability in our society. The worst gossip-chasing tendencies in the media and the lackadaisical security of many legacy email systems have created a perfect storm. From the government’s perspective, it isn’t clear how to characterize these attacks (Are they cyber? Propaganda? Something new?), so it isn’t clear which agency should be in charge of coordinating a response – or even if a response is possible. While both NATO and the European have opened their own offices to counter Russian disinformation, U.S. law tightly restricts how the government can disseminate information domestically. The revelation that the government of Russia is trying to influence a U.S. election by attacking candidates and disrupting media coverage should be a big deal, but it hasn’t yet sparked much urgency in the general public. This is not mere red baiting; a hostile government attempting to manipulate a presidential election is a crisis-level event.
For now, this leaves policymakers in a bind. There is ample evidence that Russia has targeted its information warfare to be both extremely effective and extremely difficult to defeat. What Russia is doing through these email leaks is not misinformation in the traditional sense – they are real emails – so simply denouncing them as propaganda would not make sense.
In the long run, there are other ways to defend against these and similar attacks. One way Fancy Bear has compromised email accounts it through “spearfishing,” whereby an email recipient is persuaded to open an attachment or click on the link that infects the system with malicious code. Training senior officials to be smarter about how they handle their email accounts, including how to respond to unexpected attachments and links from their friends, would have prevented a lot of these attacks from succeeding.
In the immediate term, however, there are a few ways the U.S. can respond. The Treasury Department can expand the list of sanctioned individuals within Russia to include those ordering and carrying out these hacks. Both intelligence officials and cybersecurity researchers think Fancy Bear isa unit of the GRU, Russia’s military intelligence agency. While Igor Sergun, the former head of GRU, was sanctioned over the invasion of Ukraine, he died earlier this year. The new GRU chief, Igor Korobov, should be added to the sanctions list as well. The sanctions could be applied to lower-level officials too, should they be identified.
Further, the White House should be more up-front about the nature of these hacks: publicly naming and shaming both the government of Russia and the specific Russian operatives who are engaged in this attack. This is far outside the realm of normal politics, where interests can be balanced and egos soothed. The enormity of Russia interfering with a presidential election requires a strong, public response.
Joshua Foust is a former intelligence analyst and a national security fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute. His website is <a href="http://joshuafoust.com" rel="nofollow">joshuafoust.com</a>
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Page 14

Newsweek Hacked After Donald Trump Cuba Story, As FBI Director Talks Hacking Investigation Into October Surprise

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This week, a major news outlet was hacked after publishing a story on the latest alleged Donald Trump violation, according to tweets posted by Kurt Eichenwald, the author of the Newsweek story that alleges Donald Trump broke a Cuba embargo in the 1990’s. Also, the House Judiciary Committee questioned the FBI about all of the hacking regarding an “October surprise” promised by the Trump camp according to Media Matters.
All of this happened in the same week, actually, within 24 hours.
This might be the first Presidential election where hacking plays a role, that we know of. But the subject of hacking has been part of Elections 2016 since the Summer, when the DNC was hacked, and a number of illegally obtained documents regarding the Democratic Party were leaked online. Additionally, in another odd, but not unrelated event, the word “Russia” has come up a lot in this election.
The word Russia comes up a lot with all of this. Nobody was thinking, much, of Russia and connections to this election until this summer and convention season began.
It was, actually, Donald Trump that brought Russia up first. Right around the time that Hillary Clinton’s convention that secured her Presidential nomination began creating an uprising of support in the public, he did something very strange.
Donald Trump asked Russia for help in finding Hillary Clinton’s lost emails. Then, almost immediately after, in the same week, the DNC and the Hillary Clinton campaign was hacked. By Russia.
It all happened through an Internet portal known as Wiki Leaks. It was discovered the founder of Wiki Leaks is a person named Julian Assange. Then, as if that leak was not bad enough, an “October surprise” by the hacker and leaker was promised that would help Donald Trump’s campaign, and would occur this month, right before Americans started going to the polls to choose their next President.
Nobody knows what the October surprise is, but we do have reason to believe the FBI is trying to find out.
So the DNC gets hacked, conventions finish, and the general election campaign continues. At an alarming rate, almost daily, more and more information comes out of Donald Trump violating one federal regulation or law after another, and also, of his connections to Russia and overseas oligarchs.
We’ve covered a few from the tireless journalists that have been pulling these details out of the mud. There was David Fahrentold’s work in the Washington Post about all of the strange things happening at the Trump Foundation. There was Eichenwald’s story in Newsweek that Trump broke Cuban embargo once.
There was also the New York Times bombshell that broke on August 14 alleging a secret ledger in the Ukraine was connected to former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, alleging some money had changed hands. Not just some, $12 million. The New York Times story came out on August 14. Then, Paul Manafort was benched. Then he quit by August 19.
But Manafort denies that happened.
The word Russia came out a lot then too. We’ve also reported this week on Trump’s racketeering and fraud lawsuits that are currently open cases, that one law professor says, are impeachable offenses.
This makes Donald Trump the only Presidential candidate to head into an election, and potentially even the Oval Office, with open racketeering and fraud cases.
This week, it was the Cuban embargo story by Newsweek that made jaws drop. Donald Trump promptly denied that. Then, Newsweek got hacked. By Russia.
The original Newsweek story by Kurt Eichenwald alleged that a company “secretly conducted business in Communist Cuba despite strict America trade bans that made such undertakings illegal.”
During this Cuban embargo in the 1990’s, money could not be spent in Cuba without approval. Money for or used by charities in Cuba was permitted, but government approval by the OFAC, the Office of Foreign Assets Control, was mandatory.
Newsweek interviewed former Trump employees, and provided documentation that backed up those claims. The documentation also shows that the companies Trump was dealing with, discussed hiding the expenses as charitable ones, in a charity known as “Carinas Cuba.”
Eichenwald also tweeted the documentation to Corey Lewandowski, Trump’s former campaign manager, after Lewandowski went on CNN and said there was no proof of the Cuba embargo violations.
Trump Hotels, the Seven Arrows, the consulting firm behind all of it, clearly knew that the federal approval was necessary, as they spoke about the requirement of a White House sanction in that documentation. As Newsweek notes, it’s not an actual White House sanction, just approval by the OFAC, a branch of the executive branch known as the Office of Foreign Assets Control.
At first, the Trump campaign and organization did not respond to Eichenwald’s request for comment. Then, the day after, when they realized how big a deal people thought this was, they commented, denying everything.
Newsweek reports that Kellyanne Conway, Trump’s campaign manager, went on The View the next day to talk about it. She did say that “they paid money” in Cuba but denied the allegations. The allegations are that, “they paid money” in Cuba, and it was illegal to do so.
Eichenwald’s report says that a former Trump employee admitted the proper sanctions and approval was not obtained prior to the trip. Internal documents also revealed that executives involved in the project “were still discussing the need for federal approval” after the trip had occurred.
This story had everybody talking, and led to Trump Hotels trending on Facebook. Politicians such as Hillary Clinton and Marco Rubio spoke out, saying that, this was deeply concerning if true. And then,Newsweek got hacked. That’s not what it looked like at first though.
By the evening of the night the story broke, Newsweek posted on their Facebook page, an indication of some technical difficulty. Kurt Eichenwald’s story broke the Internet. Literally. Newsweek said the story led to “overwhelming readership” and that Newsweek was “temporarily down.”
Then, a series of tweets by Eichenwald occurred. He said, Newsweek was hacked. But, worse, that “lots of IP addresses involved” and that “main ones are Russian.” He then thanked other outlets for reposting the story “when hackers blocked access 2 it on Newsweek.” He also thanked the hackers for giving the story more attention.
Eichenwald has also expressed concerns that none of this Russian hacking is being investigated by the GOP Congress.
Meanwhile, in an odd but not unrelated hacking note, the world awaits with baited breath to see if there really is an “October surprise” coming out of the Trump camp that is going to rock the Hillary Clinton campaign. It is said to be another hacking scandal, and was announced on August 8 of this year, by Julian Assange, founder of Wiki Leaks.
Megyn Kelly for Fox News spoke with Assange about this. The interview was conducted with Assange at an “undisclosed location” because he is wanted for extradition by Sweden, and is currently being investigated by the United States government for “his role in the largest leak of classified documents in U.S. history.” Watch that interview with Julian Assange here.
On August 9, Roger Stone then made a startling claim. Roger Stone is a self-described “political operative and pundit” according to his website. He’s a “veteran of nine national presidential campaigns” and a “senior campaign aide to three Republican presidents.”
He describes himself as a libertarian, and once worked on the Trump campaign until he had a falling out with Trump earlier this year and resigned. Stone told the Financial Times in August why he resigned.
“It was clear to me that Trump had his own vision of how to be nominated. It was not a vision I shared. He never took a single poll, he was shooting from his gut the entire time – no analytics, no targeting, no paid media of any kind. He decided to bet the ranch on a communications strategy that consisted of doing as many interviews as you could jam in one day, then framing his rallies as media events that enticed the cable channels to cover them in a kind of commercial worth millions of dollars that we don’t have to pay.”
Roger Stone told the Financial Times that instead of buying ads, Trump went controversial in interviews to get free press. He didn’t agree with that strategy, and also had multiple problems with Trump’s former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, and then Stone resigned.
But the Donald Trump connection for Roger Stone did not end there.
Stone has been described as an ongoing wing man and confidante to Donald Trump, by the House Judiciary Commitee since he resigned. Then, on August 9, he spoke to the Southwest Broward Republican Organization and made a startling claim.
Stone was asked if he knew what the October surprise was going to be. He said, it “could be any number of things” but hinted towards the Clinton Foundation. He also said, “I actually have communicated with Julian Assange” in a Roger Stone video posted on Media Matters.
That Trump’s former campaign staffer would admit publicly that he had spoken with the founder of Wiki Leaks raised concerns, primarily with the House Judiciary Committee, and possibly the FBI. This week, on September 28, Media Matters reported that FBI Director James Comey was questioned by the House Judiciary Committee on the topic.
Democratic Representative Jerrold Nadler of New York asked Comey if Comey was familiar with a letter “from ranking members of a number of House committees” that asked whether or not the FBI was investigating “troubling connections between Trump campaign officials and Russian interests.”
James Comey responded, yes, he was aware of the letter. Then, Rep. Nadler says, “Roger Stone, a Donald Trump confidant, revealed that he has communicated with Wiki Leaks founder Julian Assange about the upcoming release of additional illegally hacked Democratic documents.” Nadler then said the following.
“Obviously if someone is stating publicly that he is in direct communication with the organization that obtained these illegally hacked comments, I assume the FBI would want to talk to that person.”
And that is when FBI Director James Comey clammed up. He told the House Judiciary Committee that he couldn’t comment on that, and when pressed if that was because there was an open investigation, Comey could not comment on that either. Watch the video here, where Nadler even tries to get Comey to explain why he would or would not comment, and what the implications of not commenting were.
The October surprise remains to be seen, although if Roger Stone is correct, the next round of Wiki Leaks, if it occurs, could pertain to the Clinton Foundation. This suggests that Roger Stone has information that the Clinton Foundation has also been hacked.
Interestingly enough, after Newsweek was hacked, Donald Trump’s former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski went on CNN in an effort to back up Donald Trump on the Cuba story.Newsweek reported that too, saying that the Trump camp “knew for days” that the story was coming out, and that, “Trump still won’t tell the truth” on the Cuba mission.
Corey Lewandowski then went on CNN to say, “There’s absolutely no facts whatsoever that this took place.” Then, Kurt Eichenwald of Newsweek began tweeting multiple documents to show that, indeed there were facts to indicate this definitely took place.
Eichenwald is also tweeting about “shocking level of dishonesty and incompetence” in the Trump campaign. He is also calling out the GOP for blocking the “investigation of Russia hacking into the election.” Yesterday he tweeted,
Whether the Newsweek hack and the DNC hack will be investigated remains to be seen. However, that the FBI Director is being questioned about that, and a possible October surprise, by the House Judiciary Committee is an indicator that the problem definitely has not been forgotten.
[Feature Image by John Locher/AP Images]
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Marijuana labs spawn lethal explosions across the country

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NEW YORK (AP) -- An explosion that destroyed a New York City home and killed a firefighter has drawn attention to marijuana-making methods that are legal in many states - but can also be lethal....

NTSB probe of deadly crash focuses on engineer, black box

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HOBOKEN, N.J. (AP) -- Here&apos;s what is known about the investigation into a commuter train crash that killed one person and injured more than 100 others Thursday in Hoboken, New Jersey....

Russia Warns Against U.S. Attack on Syrian Forces

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BEIRUT (AP) — Russia warned the United States Saturday against carrying out any attacks on Syrian government forces, saying it would have repercussions across the Middle East as government forces captured a hill on the edge of the northern city of Aleppo under the cover of airstrikes.
Russian news agencies quoted Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova as saying that a U.S. intervention against the Syrian army “will lead to terrible, tectonic consequences not only on the territory of this country but also in the region on the whole.”
She said regime change in Syria would create a vacuum that would be “quickly filled” by “terrorists of all stripes.”
U.S.-Russian tensions over Syria have escalated since the breakdown of a cease-fire last month, with each side blaming the other for its failure. Syrian government forces backed by Russian warplanes have launched a major onslaught on rebel-held parts of the northern city of Aleppo.
Syrian troops pushed ahead in their offensive in Aleppo on Saturday capturing the strategic Um al-Shuqeef hill near the Palestinian refugee camp of Handarat that government forces captured from rebels earlier this week, according to state TV. The hill is on the northern edge of the Aleppo, Syria’s largest city and former commercial center.
The powerful ultraconservative Ahrar al-Sham militant group said rebels regained control Saturday of several positions they lost in Aleppo in the Bustan al-Basha neighborhood.
State media said 13 people were wounded when rebels shelled the central government-held neighborhood of Midan.
Airstrikes on Aleppo struck a hospital in the eastern rebel-held neighborhood of Sakhour putting it out of service, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and the Local Coordination Committees. They said one person was killed in the airstrike.
Opposition activist Ahmad Alkhatib described the hospital, known as M10, as one of the largest in Aleppo. He posted photographs on his Twitter account showing the damage including beds covered with dust, a hole in its roof and debris covering the street outside.
A doctor at the hospital told the Aleppo Media Center, an activist collective, that thousands of people were treated in the compound in the past adding that two people were killed in Saturday’s airstrikes and several were wounded.
“A real catastrophe will hit medical institutions in Aleppo if the direct shelling continues to target hospitals and clinics,” said the doctor whose name was not given. He said the whole hospital is out of service.
Opposition activists have blamed the President Bashar Assad’s forces and Russia for airstrikes that hit Civil Defense units and clinics in the city where eastern rebel-held neighborhoods are besieged by government forces and pro-government militiamen.
On Friday, the international medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders demanded that the Syrian government and its allies “halt the indiscriminate bombing that has killed and wounded hundreds of civilians_many of them children,” over the past week in Aleppo.
“Bombs are raining from Syria-led coalition planes and the whole of east Aleppo has become a giant kill box,” said Xisco Villalonga, director of operations for the group. “The Syrian government must stop the indiscriminate bombing, and Russia as an indispensable political and military ally of Syria has the responsibility to exert the pressure to stop this.”
It said from Sept. 21 to 26, hospitals still functioning in Aleppo reported receiving more than 822 wounded, including at least 221 children, and more than 278 dead bodies_including 96 children_according to the Directorate of Health in east Aleppo.
Sweden’s Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom criticized attacks on civilian targets writing on her Twitter account: “Unacceptable to bomb civilians, children and hospitals in #Aleppo. No humanity. Assad & Russia moving further away from peace.”
In the eastern province of Deir el-Zour, warplanes of the U.S.-led coalition destroyed several bridges on the Euphrates river, according to Syrian state news agency SANA and Deir el-Zour 24, an activist media collective. The province is a stronghold of the Islamic State group.
SANA said that among the bridges destroyed was the Tarif Bridge that links the eastern city of Deir el-Zour with the northern Syrian city of Raqqa, the extremists’ de-facto capital.
___
Associated Press writers Nataliya Vasilyeva in Moscow, Albert Aji in Damascus, Syria and Jan M. Olsen in Copenhagen, Denmark, contributed to this report.


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Putin’s Aim Is to Make This the Russian Century

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The role Russia is playing in Donald Trump’s election campaign is quite extraordinary.
The candidate’s son has acknowledged that Trump’s companies have received large Russian investments. His former campaign manager Paul Manafort worked for Ukraine’s disgraced pro-Moscow authoritarian president for almost a decade.
Two of his foreign policy advisers, Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn and Carter Page, have close links with RTand Gazprom, respectively.
The emails of the Democratic National Committee were hacked and released, effectively ousting its chair just before the Democratic National Convention, allegedly by Russian intelligence. This looks like a Russian special operation in the U.S. presidential election, and the most shocking element is that most Americans do not understand that or seem to care.
Therefore, the publication of Putin’s Master Plan: To Destroy Europe, Divide NATO, and Restore Russian Power and Global Influence (Encounter, 2016) by veteran democratic pollster Douglas E. Schoen and Evan Roth Smith is most welcome: It puts the current events around Trump’s election campaign into a broader context. No book of this kind has been published since Edward Lucas’s The New Cold War in 2008, which now stands out for its foresight.
The nature of Russia’s President Vladimir Putin is a popular theme, because the man is inscrutable, being everything to everybody as either a skillful politician or an influence agent. A common view is that he is an eminent tactician but no strategist, with his primary strength being surprising improvisations. It is often said that he is a judo fighter but no chess player.
Vladimir Putin at a summit of former Soviet republics at Kyrgyzstan's international Manas airport outside Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, on September 17. Anders Aslund writes that a new book argues that Putin has a global strategy which it is to break up the NATO alliance and defeat the West.Kremlin/Mikhail Klimentyev/reuters
The authors of this book, however, argue convincingly that Putin has a global strategy and it is to break up the NATO alliance and potentially defeat the West. Their thesis is that
Putin is a calculating master of geopolitics with a master plan to divide Europe, destroy NATO, reestablish Russian influence in the world and, most of all, marginalize the United States and the West in order to achieve regional hegemony and global power. And his plan is working (p. vi).
They offer a survey of all the potential targets of Russian aggression and conclude that “Putin’s master plan is designed to make the twenty-first century a Russian century” (p. 27).
Five out of nine chapters are devoted to the Kremlin’s techniques of aggression. Schoen and Roth Smith subscribe to the idea of hybrid warfare, offering an overview of what it amounts to. They discuss its many aspects: military action as seen in Georgia, Ukraine, and Syria; espionage; propaganda and cyberwarfare; support to rogue regimes and terrorists; energy policy; and financial support to proxies in Europe and now the U.S.
Their ambition is not to offer readers any new revelations, but to provide a clear picture of how many and extensive the Kremlin’s activities are. They express respect for Kremlin successes. “Putin’s sudden strike in Syria was a master class in interventionism and a stark counterpoint to failed Western efforts in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya.” (p. x).
The authors devote two chapters to criticism of current Western policy. “In the face of Putin’s naked aggression in Europe, the West has shown a level of incompetence that approaches impotence.” They lament “the shameful inadequacy of the Western response to Putin, as well as the embarrassing state of America, NATO, and EU military preparedness” (p. 123).
Most of all they criticize the EU, which “is growing more wobbly by the day, with the U.K.’s shocking Brexit vote an ominous harbinger of future European disintegration” (p. ix).
But they also scold the Obama administration for being far too complacent, focusing especially on Obama’s prediction that Russia’s intervention in Syria was “just going to get [Russia] stuck in a quagmire and it won’t work” (p. x). The authors claim that “Putin is ready for war and nobody else is. And he’s not going to stop until he is rebuffed. So far no one and nothing is standing in his way” (p. xii).
The book concludes with a clarion call for Western mobilization around NATO to deter Russia and defeat its hybrid warfare efforts, arguing that NATO must get serious and America needs to lead.
The authors believe in Western economic and military strength and are convinced that the West is strong enough to stand up to this real and clear danger, but Europe and the U.S. need to mobilize politically.
Schoen and Roth Smith focus on Eastern Europe, especially Ukraine. They call for a permanent NATO troop presence in Eastern Europe, which is what the NATO summit in Warsaw effectively decided.
Needless to say, this book is not trying to show both perspectives, but sticks to one side of the argument. While it is well documented, its focus is policy rather than academic research. Those who disagree will call it partisan and rightly so, but therein lies its appeal. This book shows no understanding whatsoever for Putin or his motives.
Putin's Master Plan offers a fascinating and multifaceted account of Putin's grand strategy of aggression, while lamenting the weak or even feckless Western response. It is highly readable and well researched. While criticizing Obama's foreign policy, it is in effect far more critical of Trump's foreign policy pronouncements. This is an important and timely book.
Anders Aslund is a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council.
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Путина нельзя привлечь к трибуналу – эксперт - FaceNews.ua

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FaceNews.ua

Путина нельзя привлечь к трибуналу – эксперт
FaceNews.ua
По его словам, у Путина есть иммунитет, как первого лица страны, из-за чего он не может быть привлечен к трибуналу, пока находится на своем посту. Политик отметил, что обойти иммунитет можно, если доказать его вину в военных преступлениях. «В международном праве действует ...
В РФ пояснили, почему не удастся привлечь Путина к трибуналу ...СЕГОДНЯ
Пономарев: Путина вряд ли будут судить за крушение MH17, так как Украина не квалифицирует события на Донбассе как войнуGORDONUA.COM

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