Monday, March 21, 2016

Raul Castro: What Political Prisoners?

Raul Castro: What Political Prisoners? 

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Cuban President Raul Castro became defensive with Cuban-American reporter Jim Acosta after his question about political prisoners on Monday, pretending not to hear the question and then insisting on being given a list of them if they did exist.
Earlier in the joint press conference with President Obama, Acosta asked questions of both Obama and Castro, asking the latter why Cuba had political prisoners and why the regime would not release them. Obama gave a lengthy answer to Acosta’s questions before Castro cut over him to ask if the question about political prisoners was directed at him.
“For him or for me?” Castro asked.
“For you, President Castro,” Acosta said.
“What did you say about political prisoners?” Castro asked through a translator. “Can you repeat that question about political prisoners? Did you ask if we had political prisoners? Did you ask if we had political prisoners?”
“I wanted to know if you have Cuban political prisoners and why you don’t release them,” Acosta said.
“Give me a list of the political prisoners, and I will release them immediately,” Castro said. ‘“Just mention the list. What political prisoners? Give me a name or names, or when after this meeting is over you can give me a list of political prisoners, and if we have those political prisoners, they will be released before tonight ends.”
Politico noted Cuba released 53 political prisoners in December 2014, but people who speak out against the communist government are still arrested. Just hours before Obama arrived in Cuba on Sunday for the first visit by a sitting U.S. president in nearly 90 years, the government arrested more than 50 dissidents protesting for improved rights.

Key figure doesn’t see costs of Obama’s Syria policy

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Obama seems to be haunted by his Syrian retreat — so much so that he has concocted a kind of negative doctrine around it.

Obama’s visit to Castro-led Cuba is a mistake

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Obama shrugs his shoulders at the little man. He shows a callous disregard for the human conscience, the single greatest threat to any ruler.

Cuba wants back the 'illegally occupied' base at Guantanamo. The US isn't budging.

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When U.S. President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro stepped up to a podium Monday in Havana to mark the first visit by a U.S. president there in 88 years, the event came with a remarkably sharp exchange on several issues. Among them: It's time, Castro said, for Washington to give back the "illegally occupied" naval base at Guantanamo Bay back to Cuba.

FBI may not need Apple to unlock San Bernardino shooter's iPhone - Washington Post

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Washington Post

FBI may not need Apple to unlock San Bernardino shooter's iPhone
Washington Post
It stands in contrast to assertions made by FBI Director James BComey who earlier this month testified that bureau officials “have engaged all parts of the U.S. government to see does anybody have a way, short of asking Apple to do it,” to unlock ...
FBI Will Attempt To Crack iPhone, Requests Court Delay Case Against Apple [Breaking]The Inquisitr

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US Says It May Not Need Apple's Help to Unlock iPhone - New York Times

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New York Times

US Says It May Not Need Apple's Help to Unlock iPhone
New York Times
The emergence of a potential third-party method to open the iPhone was a surprise, as the government said more than a dozen times in court filings that it could open the phone only with Apple's help. The F.B.I. director, James BComey Jr., also ...
FBI may not need Apple to unlock San Bernardino shooter's iPhoneWashington Post
FBI Will Attempt To Crack iPhone, Requests Court Delay Case Against Apple [Breaking]The Inquisitr

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Churchill’s Bomb 

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Title:                      Churchill’s Bomb
Author:                 Graham Farmelo
Farmelo, Graham (2013). Churchill’s Bomb: How The United States Overtook Britain in The First Nuclear Arms Race. New York: Basic Books
LCCN:    2013940827


Date Posted:      March 21, 2016
Reviewed by Joseph C. Goulden.[1]
On occasion, a book crosses my desk with a viewpoint so daft that I find myself checking the dust jacket to reassure myself that it emanated from an ostensibly reliable source, not some crank who lives out under the .viaduct. Such was my reaction as I turned through the pages of Churchill’s Bomb, whose author, Graham Parmele, is billed as a senior research fellow at the Science Museum in London and an adjunct professor at a British university.
The core of Mr. Farmelo’s argument is that Winston Churchill erred grievously when he botched a chance for the British to seize supremacy in the development of nuclear energy in the 1940s, thus ceding leadership to the United States. Better had the Brits kept atomic secrets to themselves, he writes, and developed the bomb on their own. Had he heeded the warnings of the relevant British scientists both during and after the development of the bomb, “Churchill may have still been able to avert the frightening nuclear arms race that America precipitated [sic] during the Cold War.”
First things first. Britain indeed was offered first dibs on nuclear power by emigre European scientists in the late 1930s and 1940s. Churchill, Mr. Farmelo writes, had long been fascinated with nuclear energy, both as a source of domestic power and as a weapon of war. His interest was honed in large part by works of a friend, the futuristic (and also prescient) author H.G. Wells.
That nuclear energy possibly had enormous military potential was articulated in a 1940 memo by Otto Frisch and Rudolf Peirls, Europeans who had taken refuge from Nazism in Britain. They wrote, “As a weapon, the superbomb would be practically irresistible. There is no material or structure that could be expected to resist the force of the explosion.” Further, both feared that Hitler’s scientists were well along in developing such a weapon, to Britain’s peril.
To the distress of much of the British scientific community, Churchill chose to put his emphasis on the development of air power, rather than nuclear energy. Here Mr. Farmelo points an accusing finger at Frederick Lindemann, an Oxford professor, a Churchill friend since the early 1920s and a trusted adviser thereafter. As Mr. Farmelo puts it, “Churchill regarded the Prof as the only source of advice on military science worth listening to.” For years, he complains, Churchill and Lindemann “were on one side of a venomous political battle” against an array that included “one of Britain’s finest nuclear scientists,” Henry Tizard. Mr. Farmelo dismisses Lindemann “as loyal as a lapdog” insofar as Churchill was concerned, with a “skill as a writer of jargon-free summaries on difficult topics.” (From the vantage point of chronological distance, the dispute that Mr. Farmelo describes bears the distinct aroma of academic politics, a faculty club argument waged on the national level.)
Once he became prime minister, Churchill faced a decision that can be summarized thusly: Should the British endeavor to develop the nuclear bomb on their own, or pass the responsibility on to the United States? The tight relationship that Churchill was to forge with President Roosevelt was still some months in the offing. There had already been disputes over just how much technology the nations should share.
In the end, the question that Churchill had to decide was whether Britain could build the bomb on its own, given its congeries of other problems. The country was on the financial (and psychological) ropes in 1939-1941, with its army driven off the European Continent, and German bombers striking the island nation almost at will.
Already, London was pleading with Roosevelt for financial aid. In time, American Lend Lease provided some $49.1 billion to allies, $21 billion of it to the British (2012 dollars). The latter sum was equal to one year’s gross national product for the British, and it is almost the exact amount that the United States spent developing the bomb, and providing the aircraft required for its use.
Security was another matter. The industrial components of the Manhattan Project (the code name for the bomb) were in Tennessee and the Pacific Northwest, scores of square miles safe from the reach of any German bombers. The only cost and space estimates cited by Mr. Farmelo were for a gaseous diffusion facility covering 40 acres and costing 5 million pounds ($200 million at 2013 prices), roughly a tenth of the UK’s weekly expenditure on the entire war effort.) Any testing of a bomb would be on some unspecified “remote island.”
Could the British have diverted such a vast sum to work on a bomb that might not even work? Churchill made what in retrospect was a decision that was both pragmatic and correct: He willingly agreed to let the United States take the lead in nuclear power.
The FDR-Churchill agreement on sharing nuclear knowledge did not survive the end of the war. American security officers were shaken by revelations that many Brits working on the Manhattan Project also served Moscow, notably the German Klaus Fuchs. (The United States, of course, had its own security problems, aka the Rosenbergs and others.)
Perhaps even more puzzling is Mr. Farmelo’s contention that had Britain maintained control of the nuclear program, the Cold War confrontation between nuclear powers might not have occurred. He points to the esteemed Danish physicist Niels Bohr as one of the visionaries who foresaw the nuclear rivalry, and who urged sharing of secrets with the Soviet Union, heading off such an arms race. Stalin’s spies were well onto the secret by 1945, and Moscow showed no zest for cooperation.
Bottom line: Mr. Farmelo’s case is unproved. Churchill’s reputation remains intact.
[1] Joseph C. Goulden is a long-time reviewer of espionage and spy books for The Washington Times, for AFIO’s Intelligencer, and other publications and this review appeared in The Intelligencer: Journal of U. S. Intelligence Studies (20, 2, Fall/Winter, 2013, pp. 116-117). Most of the reviews above appeared in prior editions of The Washington Times. Joe Goulden’s recent book is Goulden, Joseph C. (2012). The Dictionary of Espionage: Spyspeak into English. Mineola, NY: Dover Publications

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· · · · ·

Johns Hopkins researchers poke a hole in Apple’s encryption

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Johns Hopkins researchers just shattered the opinion that strong commercial encryption has left no opening for law enforcement to breach an iPhone.

The Future of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles – Part 3 

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Continuing In Homeland Security's series of peer-reviewed journal articles from Global Securities and Intelligence Studies. The Future of UAVs, Part 3.

Donald Trump reveals foreign policy team in meeting with The Washington Post 

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GOP presidential front-runner Donald Trump has revealed his foreign policy team to The Washington Post including counter-terrorism expert Walid Phares.

FBI Says It May Be Able To Access Shooter's iPhone Without Apple's Help - NPR

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FBI Says It May Be Able To Access Shooter's iPhone Without Apple's Help
The FBI says it may have found a way to crack into the iPhone of one of the San Bernardino terrorists without Apple's help. While it explores this option, a federal judge has postponed Tuesday's hearing that would have been the next step in the battle ...
FBI says it might be able to unlock San Bernardino terrorist's iPhone without Apple's helpLos Angeles Times
FBI may have found way to unlock San Bernardino attacker's iPhoneFox News
FBI may have found way to unlock San Bernardino iPhone without AppleThe Guardian
The Verge -Washington Post
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Judge suspends Apple's San Bernardino trial pending FBI hack - The Verge

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The Verge

Judge suspends Apple's San Bernardino trial pending FBI hack
The Verge
Apple's monthlong legal odyssey is now officially suspended, after a magistrate judge approved the FBI's request for continuation earlier this afternoon. The FBI now has until April 5th to test a method that the bureau says could potentially unlock the ...
Conflict between Apple and the FBI started 18 months ago with the release of iOS 8, says BloombergTechCrunch
Apple's Dispute With the FBI Over Encryption Dates Back to Debut of iOS 8Mac Rumors
Apple vs. FBI: How iOS 8 changed everythingMacworld
RT -Gizmodo -Forbes
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Apple defeats FBI - BetaNews

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Apple defeats FBI
Well, Apple has defeated the FBI. Sort of. Unless you've been chilling under a rock, news of the iPhone-maker's fight with the US government has been everywhere. Even though Apple is clearly on the correct side of the encryption-cracking battle, some ...

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Putin’s Not-Quite-Withdrawal Signifies a Strategic Retreat

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A week after President Vladimir Putin’s surprise announcement (on March 14) of the partial withdrawal of Russian forces from Syria, the parameters of this strategic maneuver are becoming clearer, but the motivations remain subject to second-guessing (see EDM, March 17). US Secretary of State John Kerry will be going to Moscow in a few days, and the Russian foreign ministry expressed hope that discussions on Syria would lead to a “normalization” of bilateral relations (, March 19). US President Barack Obama called Putin after midnight last Monday to confirm that the reduction of the six-month-long Russian intervention was for real. But even now, the White House remains cautious about commenting on the significance of this self-restraint (, March 15). Meanwhile, the United Kingdom’s Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond was far less circumspect, arguing, to the great chagrin of Russian officials, that Putin deserves no credit for stopping the bombing of Syrian schools and hospitals—especially since that halt has only been partial (Moskovsky Komsomolets, March 16).
The Kremlin’s decision to use the window of opportunity presented by the three-week-old ceasefire deal was perfectly sensible; yet, Putin did not appear to enjoy making this call. Even in the carefully doctored official video, he is visibly nervous and twitchy while listening to the “mission accomplished” report from Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu (, March 14). Besides being out of character for Putin, retreat involves particular risks. So while several squadrons of Russian jets arrived home safely, the remaining forces could be exposed to attacks by suddenly emboldened rebels (, March 19). The Russian High Command has ordered to continue selective strikes, but the downing of a Syrian MiG-21 by a portable surface-to-air missile has demonstrated a new level of risk in the air campaign (Vedomosti, March 13). Moscow maintains that the Russian Air Force grouping at the Hmeymim airbase could be quickly reinforced if needed, but the element of surprise is now lost, and casualties could be higher than in the past months, while the public support for the continued operation is certain to be lower (Rosbalt, March 17).
Cold risk assessments alone were unlikely to have compelled Putin to give the marching orders. And the timing of the announcement (while useful in terms of “outfoxing” Obama) is still rather odd from the point of view of influencing the course of the civil war in Syria (, March 15). Bashar al-Assad’s forces have gained in strength and morale, but not to such a degree that they can sustain their rather moderate gains without continued Russian air support (, March 16). The Russian withdrawal was announced right on the eve of the Geneva peace talks; and Moscow’s aim was certainly not to give more confidence to the rebels of various persuasions, who are demanding al-Assad’s departure with firm support from Turkey and Saudi Arabia. Ankara and Riyadh, in particular, were surprised with the demonstrated lack of Russia’s staying power (, March 15). If a beginning of an end to the Syrian catastrophe is indeed negotiated in Geneva (a tall order, certainly), Russia’s influence will shrink further because it has nothing to contribute to the, as yet, hypothetical peace-building process.
One plausible explanation for Putin’s deliberately inexplicable decision-making can be found in Russia’s far-from-trust-based relationship with Iran. One of the key elements of Putin’s grand plan for turning the course of the Syrian war was the combination of a Russian air campaign with a sizeable ground offensive by Iranian expeditionary corps. But with the latter in short supply, al-Assad’s forces achieved only minor success in the battle for Aleppo, which Putin still had to present as a decisive victory (, March 15). What signified an even greater “stab in the back” (in Putin’s view) was Iran’s flat-out refusal to join the dubious initiative to “freeze” global oil production. The Kremlin engaged in desperate talks with Saudi Arabia and other members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) in the hope that a joint commitment (even if just verbal) not to increase deliveries to the saturated international market would push the oil price up a few dollars. But Tehran has rebuffed such cartel intrigues (RIA Novosti, March 14). Indeed, the Iranian leadership is keen to juggle opening up to the West with new missile tests. Putin has nothing against the latter (the delivery of S-300 surface-to-air missiles has been again confirmed) but feels betrayed by the former (Vedomosti, March 11).
Regional stakeholders in the Syrian disaster are not necessarily impressed with Putin’s alleged tactical acumen, and they have good reasons to believe that the Russian intervention will be just a brief episode in the long transformation of the war zone that stretches from Lebanon to Iran (Novaya Gazeta, March 14). What matters most in this perspective are the fast-shrinking resources available to Moscow for possible further experiments with power projection—and the six quarters of economic contraction so far show no signs of plausible recovery (Nezavisimaya Gazeta, March 15). For now, nothing resembling a coherent anti-crisis plan has emerged from the president’s brainstorming sessions with his economic advisors (, March 13). Rather, the reality of a protracted decline is apparently becoming internalized, as illustrated by the directive to cut defense expenditures by 5 percent—while not a huge cut, it nonetheless represents a major departure from the government’s recent readiness to uphold the ambitious goals of rearmament at any cost (Vedomosti, February 19). In this context, Putin’s acknowledgement that the Syrian intervention was indeed a costly endeavor and not combat training on the cheap amounts to a reluctant retreat from the position of imagined omnipotence (, March 17).
Putin has found it opportune recently to warn against a “dizziness from success”; but in fact, Russia is sinking into a depression from degradation (, March 15). Russians remain fearful of change—though are also suspicious that the change they fear is already upon them. The only recipe from this unhealthy angst has been distraction, and now the Kremlin has to invent a new one—preferably before Russia’s remaining “footprint” in Syria brings home a second painful setback (the first one was the downing of a Russian bomber by a Turkish fighter last November). The problem is not only that the costs of producing effective distractions has become barely affordable but also that each of the previous distractions remains a burden and a liability. Putin has become a hostage to his own surprises and has no way of knowing how the next one may backfire.
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Attack in Grozny on Member of Presidential Council Forces Kremlin Response

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On March 16, a well-known human rights activist, Igor Kalyapin, who heads the Committee for the Prevention of Torture, was attacked in Grozny, Chechnya. Soon after Kalyapin’s arrival in Grozny, the administration of the hotel where he was staying asked him to leave the premises. After the rights activist stepped out of the hotel, a mob attacked him, using eggs, flour and other substances. The assailants quickly retreated after the attack and the police reportedly did not go after them. The attack came only days after another high-profile incident, in which unidentified individuals beat up a group of journalists and rights activists near the Chechen-Ingush administrative border (Kavkazsky Uzel, March 16).
Kalyapin has repeatedly criticized the governor of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov, for human rights violations, so many observers assumed that Kadyrov was behind the attack. The Russian government has not been known to care much about human rights activists. Igor Kalyapin, however, is a member of the Council for Human Rights under the President of the Russian Federation, which meant Moscow had to react to the incident, at least in some way. Also, two successive attacks on rights activists in and around Chechnya have had a cumulative effect.
On March 17, the Russian president’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, stated that the attack on Kalyapin was connected to the earlier assault on the rights activists in Ingushetia. Peskov diplomatically called the incident “a continuation of the criminal and quite dangerous attack, which occurred before, on the border with Ingushetia. This is a very dangerous trend, which is certainly a cause for concern.” The head of the Russian presidential human rights council, Mikhail Fedotov, stated that he would insist on launching a criminal case against the perpetrators of the attack (, March 17).
Even the notorious human rights ombudsman of Chechnya, Nurdi Nukhazhiev, condemned the aggression, saying that “the attack on the head of the ‘Committee for the Prevention of Torture’ Igor Kalyapin is quite an unpleasant event. It does not bode well for the Chechen Republic and the Chechen people. I want to urge our young people never to do such a thing again. Whoever he is, for us a guest is an inviolable person” (, March 18).
A pro-Kremlin journalist well-known in the North Caucasus, Maksim Shevchenko, who has been quite supportive of Kadyrov and his policies in Chechnya, stated that the Chechen authorities must quickly investigate the incident and punish the perpetrators (Kavkazskaya Politika, March 18).
The attack on Kalypin, particularly coupled with the violent harassment of journalists and rights activists in Ingushetia, does not come at a good time for Ramzan Kadyrov. The Chechen governor’s term in office ends on April 5, and he is still waiting for Putin’s approval to run for the post again. From the legal standpoint, the situation is quite awkward since Chechnya formally elects its governor along with other Russian regions through direct popular elections. Unlike the other republics of the North Caucasus, Chechnya did not opt out of direct gubernatorial elections. Yet, for some reason, Kadyrov is waiting for Putin’s approval to run for office. Two weeks before his term as governor runs out, Kadyrov still does not seem to know whether he will be allowed to run for the governor’s post or not.
Reportedly, Moscow is still considering appointing Kadyrov to a position at the federal level. The idea is to “decouple” Kadyrov from Chechnya and replace a highly independent ruler of Chechnya who wields a large support base, including a small personal army, with a “safe” Russian bureaucrat without a support base who can easily be controlled by Moscow. One of the proposed compromises included giving Kadyrov the position of head of the North Caucasian Federal District. However, most of the North Caucasian governors would likely resent it if one of them was suddenly elevated and put in charge of overseeing their work. At the same time, Kadyrov would likely suspect that Moscow wants to detach him from Chechnya and cut him off from his support base in the republic. Also, if Moscow appoints Kadyrov as the head of the North Caucasian Federal District, its plans for further mergers and partitions of federal districts in southern Russia may be derailed. According to some sources, Moscow is considering merging the Southern and North Caucasus federal districts. Some suggest that Crimea may be amalgamated into the Southern Federal District (, March 14).
If Moscow decides to merge the Southern and North Caucasus federal districts, it is highly unlikely that it will appoint Kadyrov to head it. The only region in the North Caucasian Federal District with a predominantly ethnic-Russian population, Stavropol, has repeatedly revolted against being made part of a district that includes ethnically non-Russian republics. Ethnic Russians would be even more resentful if a Chechen were to govern a united federal district in southern Russia, which makes such a development quite unlikely.
With Kadyrov’s term as governor term quickly running out, the situation surrounding Chechnya’s ruler remains quite tense. It appears that pressure is mounting on the Kremlin to make Kadyrov a less visible person, which would mean removing him from the post of governor. The Kremlin apparently has not yet decided what to do next in Chechnya. Political transitions following an authoritarian ruler are hard not only at the national level but also at the regional level, which is likely to prevent Moscow from making decisive moves in the republic anytime soon.
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Ukrainian Media Speculate That Akhmetov, Boyko May Head Rebel-Occupied Provinces

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Two years since Russia’s annexation of Crimea and Moscow’s initiation of the war in Donbas, the peace process in Ukraine is at a standstill. Moreover, there are fears that after a pullout from Syria, Moscow may mount a new offensive in Ukraine (, March 18). On the other hand, if Moscow decides to back away from all-out confrontation with the West, a détente in eastern Ukraine could plausibly follow a U-turn on Syria. If so, the replacement by Moscow of its puppets in Donetsk and Luhansk with somebody more acceptable to the West and Kyiv would be logical. It has been speculated that steel tycoon Rinat Akhmetov and the leader of the Opposition Bloc (OP) in Ukraine’s parliament, Yury Boyko, might replace Moscow appointees Aleksandr Zakharchenko and Igor Plotnitsky in Donetsk and Luhansk, respectively.
The weekly Zerkalo Nedeli has reported, citing an anonymous source, that Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko approved an idea of Viktor Medvedchuk, a mediator in the peace talks who is linked to Vladimir Putin, that Akhmetov and Boyko should become the new heads of Donetsk and Luhansk. Poroshenko discussed this with Akhmetov and Boyko, who gave their preliminary consent, according to the paper (Zerkalo Nedeli, March 11). Ukrainska Pravda later cited a source from Poroshenko’s administration, who confirmed that talks with Akhmetov and Boyko took place. The source also said that Akhmetov, not Medvedchuk, was behind the idea of himself replacing Zakharchenko, and that US Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland backed it (Ukrainska Pravda, March 12).
Akhmetov and Boyko have neither confirmed nor denied these reports. Akhmetov’s press service issued an evasive statement saying, that it would not comment on rumors, while stressing that Akhmetov would do his utmost to stop the war. The government should be decentralized, and Donbas should remain part of Ukraine, said the statement (Interfax, March 12). Judging by official declarations, this vision is shared in Kyiv, Moscow, Washington and Brussels. Boyko has been no less evasive, dodging questions about the purported talks with Poroshenko even from his close allies, according to a people’s deputy from the OP, Tetyana Bakhteyeva (, March 16).
Akhmetov and Boyko used to be among the leaders of the kleptocratic elite that had ruled Ukraine until February 2014, when the then-president and head of the Party of Regions, Viktor Yanukovych, fled to Russia as the EuroMaidan revolution was heating up. After that, their party was transformed into the OP. Both men have played rather controversial roles throughout modern Ukrainian history. Akhmetov, Ukraine’s richest businessman for many years, was rumored to have had links to the underworld in the 1990s. In 2014, when most Ukrainian oligarchs sided with Kyiv against Russian aggression, he took an ostensibly neutral position. Boyko, as energy minister and deputy prime minister under Yanukovych in 2006–2007 and 2010–2014, has for years had to fend off allegations that he bought drilling rigs for Ukraine to extract gas from the Black Sea from a fictitious firm based in Latvia at an inflated price (see EDM, January 28, 2013).
Despite these controversies, the two men have been popular in Donetsk and Luhansk, where appointees from Kyiv have often been scorned and rejected. To start with, both are natives of the region. Akhmetov has for years been the main local employer: his steel mills and coal mines are the backbone of the regional economy. While there has been widespread perception locally that Kyiv abandoned the region, especially since Kyiv has mounted an economic blockade against the rebel-held areas, many needy locals have been surviving arguably thanks to humanitarian assistance linked to Akhmetov.
Meanwhile, Boyko would perform relatively well in a presidential election, mainly thanks to his popularity in his native region, according to recent opinion polls. But his and Akhmetov’s OP is even more popular. According to the most recent poll by KMIS, it has leapfrogged even the Poroshenko Bloc, becoming the most popular party after former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko’s Fatherland (, accessed on March 18). Local elections last fall demonstrated that the OP has no rivals in the government-held areas in Donetsk and Luhansk, and this political party and Akhmetov’s people won elections for both the mayor and local councils in Mariupol (Mariupil), the biggest city in the area not controlled by Moscow-sponsored rebels (, November 15; UNIAN, December 2).
Naturally, the warlords in Donetsk and Luhansk do not want to go. Commenting on the rumor about Akhmetov and Boyko, Zakharchenko said he saw no future for oligarchs, while Plotnitsky bragged that he would arrest Boyko if he crosses the division line (, March 12; Regnum, March 15). However, Moscow is unlikely to ask Zakharchenko and Plotnisky’s opinions if their replacement is on the agenda. After all, the two were installed in their positions by Moscow in August 2014, and have been backed with money and weapons ever since.
It is a big question if Poroshenko would agree to the appointments of his bitter rivals Akhmetov and Boyko to top positions in the rebel areas. First, the political establishment, nationalists, and especially anti-corruption activists in the rest of Ukraine would be unlikely to accept that. Second, Poroshenko has already had enough problems with a regional oligarch roughly on a par with Akhmetov, Ihor Kolomoysky, who was entrusted his native Dnipropetrovsk province in March 2014 (see EDM, March 6, 2014). Poroshenko had to fire Kolomoysky last year for trying, as had been widely expected, to convert his political clout into economic dividends (see EDM, April 1, 2015). A sudden about-face by Poroshenko regarding Akhmetov and Boyko, regardless of whether or not Moscow cooperated or acquiesced, could thus create serious domestic backlash against the Ukrainian government.
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Nasrallah threatens to rocket Israel’s nuclear sites in future war

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March 21, 2016, 9:28 PM (IDT)
Hizballah chief Hassan Nasrallah again threatened Israel Monday:  "If the Israeli army escalates its aggression against Lebanon, Hezbollah will strike all the strategic targets in the occupied Palestinian territories, including the nuclear facilities," he said, and boasted that Hizballah has rockets that can strike anywhere in the country. “We have a full list of targets, including nuclear reactors and biological research centers, and will not abide by any restrictions or red lines in the event of any war against Lebanon,” he said. “How can Netanyahu have the right to possess a nuclear weapon while we don't have the right to possess a defensive weapon?” Nasrallah asked rhetorically.
The Hizballah chief ruled out an Israeli attack on Lebanon in the near future “because Israel understands the high costs with regard to casualties and other repercussions.”
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Page 4

Number of US government 'cyber incidents' jumps in 2015 - Reuters

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Number of US government 'cyber incidents' jumps in 2015
WASHINGTON The U.S. government was hit by more than 77,000 "cyber incidents" like data thefts or other security breaches in fiscal year 2015, a 10 percent increase over the previous year, according to a White House audit. Part of the uptick stems from ...

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US Hit by 77000 Cyber Attacks in 2015—a 10 Percent Jump - Newsweek

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US Hit by 77000 Cyber Attacks in 2015—a 10 Percent Jump
03_21_cyber_attacks_01 National security and intelligence officials have long warned that cyberattacks are among the most serious threats facing the United States. President Barack Obama asked Congress last month for $19 billion for cyber security ...
Number of US government 'cyber incidents' jumps in 2015Reuters

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Why outlook on ISIS is 'pretty negative,' ex-CIA officer says -

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Why outlook on ISIS is 'pretty negative,' ex-CIA officer says
GRAND RAPIDS, MI – The United States can defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria in a military battle, Patrick Skinner says, but that won't end the threat of terrorism inspired by the group's ideology anytime soon. The world will be dealing with the ... 

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No NSA, CIA or Big Brother watching your mails anymore -

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No NSA, CIA or Big Brother watching your mails anymore
National security, invasion of privacy and high-tech espionage. No, we aren't talking about a new television series or a work of fiction. We are talking about the worry most people have of having the state-run intelligence US organisation National ...

Russia's remarkable trust in Putin has been shaken, poll finds - Washington Post

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Washington Post

Russia's remarkable trust in Putin has been shaken, poll finds
Washington Post
Approval ratings have long shown Russian President Vladimir Putin to be a very popular leader among Russians. But a new poll suggests that maybe he's not seen as quite so trustworthy as he was just a year ago. According to the poll, published Monday by ...
How Putin Could Make Russia Great AgainNewsweek 
Number of Russians Living in Poverty RisesWall Street Journal
Economic Woes Push More Russians Into Poverty, Highest Level In A DecadeInternational Business Times
all 44 news articles »

Vladimir Putin's Trust Rating Drops 10 Percent

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President Vladimir Putin's trust rating among ordinary Russians has fallen by 10 percent in the past year.
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Latvia Discovers Russian Warships; Sweden Suspects Russian Hackers

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Russia, with an eye on US, threatens to bomb Syrian cease-fire violators - Washington Post

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Washington Post

Russia, with an eye on US, threatens to bomb Syrian cease-fire violators
Washington Post
Russia's Defense Ministry said the country's military was ready to strike as early as Tuesday against groups that it said were violating the cease-fire unless U.S. leaders agree to discuss aRussian proposal for how to maintain the peace. So far ...
Syria conflict: Russia warns US over truce violationsBBC News 
Did Russia Win in Syria?The National Interest Online

What Russia's military proved in SyriaVox
U.S. News & World Report 
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The National Interest Online-Wall Street Journal
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Corrupt European countries costing EU nearly £800bn a year, says study 

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Estimate of total annual loss more than eight times higher than previous calculations

Millions more Russians living in poverty as economic crisis bites 

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Nearly 20 million now surviving on wages which are below the poverty threshold according to latest state statistics
Russia’s recession-hit economy has propelled the country’s poverty rate to a nine-year high, state statistics showed, as the country struggles to cope with a crippling economic crisis.
An average of 19.2 million Russians – or 13.4% of the population – were living last year on less than 9,452 roubles ($139) a month, the minimum subsistence level determined by the Russian government in the fourth quarter.
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Syrian Army Moves Closer To Ancient Palmyra Behind Russian Cover

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Fighting raged around the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra as Syrian forces backed by Russian air strikes battled to recapture the city from Islamic State (IS) fighters.

U.S. Calls On Russia To Refrain From Unilateral Acts In Syria

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The United States military has called on Russia not to take any unilateral action in Syria in response to cease-fire violations.
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FBI Might be Able to Unlock Shooter's Phone Without Apple

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The U.S. government says it may have found a way to unlock the iPhone of one of the assailants in December's terror attack in San Bernardino, California, without the help of Apple. The Justice Department said an "outside party'' came forward over the weekend and showed the FBI a possible method for unlocking the phone. Lawyers for the Justice Department late Monday requested that Tuesday's hearing before a federal judge in California be canceled in order to allow time for testing the new method. For more than a month, the government and Apple have waged a very public debate over how far technology companies must go in aiding criminal investigations. Prosecutors have argued that the iPhone used by Syed Rizwan Farook probably contains evidence of the attack in which he and his wife, Tashfeen Malik, slaughtered 14 at a holiday luncheon. The two were killed in a police shootout hours later. The move appears to vindicate Apple's argument that the U.S. government has not exhausted all available means to recover information from the phone. Apple also argued that the government's demands violated the company's constitutional rights, harmed the Apple brand and threatened the trust of its customers to protect their privacy.

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Opinion: Russia has sent a clear signal to Syria's Assad - Deutsche Welle

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Deutsche Welle

Opinion: Russia has sent a clear signal to Syria's Assad
Deutsche Welle
This disagreement between Assad and his protecting power regarding the goals of Russia'sintervention had already made itself felt directly after the recent ceasefire went into force: In interviews with the international press, Syria's dictator made no ...
Russia is following a clear strategy in SyriaFinancial Times
What Quagmire? Even in Withdrawal, Russia Stays a Step AheadNew York Times
Russia begins withdrawing forces from SyriaCNN
USA TODAY -BBC News -Washington Post
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Don’t Fear the Russians 

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Washington needs to stop the saber rattling and recognize that President Putin doesn’t threaten American interests in either Syria or Ukraine.

Vladimir Putin Calls Syria Operation a Success and Says It’ll Lead to Peace 

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The Russian president said that military units could redeploy if needed, while Kurdish leaders unveiled a plan for an autonomous region within a federated Syria.

What Quagmire? Even in Withdrawal, Russia Stays a Step Ahead 

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Vladimir V. Putin’s move to withdraw the bulk of his forces from Syria caught the White House by surprise.

Chappatte on Putin’s Syria Withdrawal

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Mission accomplished?
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Диктатура импотентов и опыт Гайдара 

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From: SvobodaRadio
Duration: 55:14

19 марта главе первого правительства реформаторов исполнилось бы 60 лет.
Юбилей был отмечен в узком кругу, но в кулуарах много говорилось о том , что в отличие от нынешнего правительства Дмитрия Медведева, члены кабинета Егора Гайдара смогли быстро изменить страну в лучшую сторону. Они дали России рыночную экономику, которая стала основой роста конца 90-х и нулевых годов, и не дает даже в условиях внешнеполитической конфронтации режима Путина с Западом, свалиться в такие кризисы, какие регулярно переживал СССР, с его довоенным голодом и послевоенным всеобщим дефицитом.
Логику поведения властей России в условиях послекрымского кризиса обсуждаем с доктором экономических наук, членом комитета гражданских инициатив, в 90-е годы зам министра соцразвития Евгением Гонтмахером.
Ведет передачу Михаил Соколов

The costs of Obama’s Syria policy are apparent to everyone but him

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Putin’s Paranoia Is Driving His Foreign Adventures

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Russia's worldview is conditioned by a conspiracy theory: The United States is out to get it.
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The trouble with this delusion is that Russia's actions and policy decisions appear to be built on it. To understand and predict Russia's behavior, Western policymakers need to grasp the fact that this delusion is real for Russia's leadership.
The conspiracy theory has been set out many times by Russia's current elite, but Kremlin Chief of Staff Sergei Ivanov gave it its pithiest airing in an interview with Komsomolskaya Pravda on October 24, 2014:
First [the Americans] tried to use the so-called “non-system opposition” [i.e., parties which work outside the Kremlin-controlled political system] like a battering ram to, let's say, bring down the moral authority of the state. It didn't work.
After that, even before events in Ukraine, we could clearly sense that our foreign policy course, and our domestic course too, didn't suit those across the pond. They claimed that Russia had become too independent, disobedient, it dares to speak its mind.
A massive information war started. And sometimes they even distorted the facts, saying white is black, and vice versa. They went so far that they even launched direct insults at the President.
Western analysts have, quite rationally, dismissed these absurd-sounding statements. The problem is that they are not just statements; they are embodied in Russia's foreign policy and military doctrines, and they appear to be motivating its actions.
Domestically, one clear example is the law stating that nongovernmental organizations that receive foreign funding must register as "foreign agents." Internationally, Russia is aggressively sponsoring the disinformation broadcasters RT and Sputnik—a policy that makes little sense in terms of Russian domestic politics but is completely logical according to the Russian belief that it is already at war with the West.
The most striking case, however, is Russia's annexation of Crimea. Russian President Vladimir Putin has advanced a number of reasons for the annexation; none hold any water.
The argument that he did it to give the people of Crimea a say in their future ignores the fact that the operation was conducted at gunpoint. The argument that he did it to prevent neo-Nazi pogroms is simply a trope of Russian propaganda. Even the argument that he did it to stop Ukraine from joining NATO is implausible, as he had persuaded NATO not to accept Ukraine as far back as 2008.
The most common Western theory is that he did it to boost his flagging poll ratings. However, even for Putin, to launch the annexation of a neighbor's territory just because his poll ratings had fallen to 48 percent a full four years before the next election seems like an extraordinary gamble. Why take over Crimea when he had already taken over all Russia's main TV stations?
The simplest explanation is that Putin believes his own conspiracy theory. In that case, his thinking might have run thus: The United States wants to take over Russia. It staged the color revolutions in Georgia, Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan. It then staged the Arab Spring in 2011.
It tried to sponsor rebellion in Russia in 2012. It overthrew the Ukrainian government in 2013 to 2014. It sent two warships into the Black Sea in February 2014. What could be easier than to conclude that it was all a plot to get the U.S. Navy into Crimea, a clear and present threat to Russian security?
The chain of logic leading up to the annexation is clear; only the premise is wrong.

How to respond?

The question for the United States, and the West more broadly, is how to respond. Whatever the justification for Russia's actions, they are aggressive, destabilizing and (in some cases) illegal. As such, ignoring them is not an option. Instead, the policy response should be built on four planks: analysis, anticipation, reassurance and restraint.
The first response must be to develop the West's expertise on Russia through greatly increased analysis. In particular, this should focus on the correlation between Russia's conspiracy narrative and its actions, and between external events apparently unrelated to Russia, such as the Arab Spring, and Russia's military deployments and exercises.
The second response must be to learn to anticipate Russia's actions (and overreactions) based on the calculus of conspiracy, rather than more rational considerations.
Imagine, for example, a pro-democracy revolution in Belarus. The West's likely reaction would be to praise the rebels, call for calm, offer limited support in return for sweeping reforms and sit back to watch.
However, Russia would probably see the revolution as a U.S. coup aimed at stationing U.S. military hardware on Russia's border. Western statements in favor of the revolution would be taken as confirmation. That would bring the real danger of an immediate Russian military intervention, designed to pre-empt the (nonexistent) American one.
Therefore, should any pro-democracy uprising happen in Russia's neighborhood, it would be vital for the U.S. to engage with Russian leadership from the outset, to make clear that military intervention by either party is off the table.
Telling Russia to stay out would simply feed its delusion; only a message of "We're staying out, so must you too" would have any chance of success.
Third, the United States should continue to reassure its allies of its commitment to their defense, while doing what it can by way of transparency to reassure Russia that its intentions are purely defensive.
This is, of course, a delicate balancing act, and may not always be possible. However, a dual-track approach offers the best chance of success.
Perhaps counterintuitively, the likelihood of a Russian overreaction is lower for U.S. land deployments than for maritime ones. This is because Russia's military doctrine sees the U.S.'s precision strike capabilities as an existential threat. U.S. tanks in Latvia cannot be seen as having long-range precision capability; U.S. guided-missile cruisers in the maritime approaches to Russia might.
In a similar vein, transparency regarding deployments to non-NATO countries would be more important than deployments to NATO ones. This is because, as Russia sees it, the worst has already happened with NATO states: They have already fallen into America's clutches.
Conversely, American deployments to NATO hopefuls such as Ukraine and Georgia would be taken as proof that the United States is trying to extend its steel rampart around yet more Russian territory, and be more likely to trigger an overreaction.
Finally, the West should exercise restraint in addressing Russia's current campaign against it. That campaign is ongoing and has found supporters, especially among those far-left and far-right groups that share Russia's conspiracy theory.
However, the tools for dealing with such attacks are largely in place. There may well be a call to refine or reinforce specific aspects of them, but it would be unwise to go beyond them by contemplating any sort of counterattack.
Any such move would only serve to reinforce the delusion of conspiracy. That would risk turning the situation into a spiral of paranoid overreaction which could escalate into all-out war.
There is little the West can do to cure Russia's leadership of its collective delusion. The most it can do is limit the damage to itself. That means not falling into the trap of behaving like the aggressor Russia already believes it to be. After all, it would be a crowning tragedy if the Russian delusion of a world war for domination were to turn into a real one.
Ben Nimmo is a British-based analyst of Russian information warfare and strategy. He formerly worked as a press officer at NATO and as a journalist in Brussels and the Baltic States, specializing in NATO and EU issues.
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U.S. dismisses Russia call for urgent talks on Syria ceasefire

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World | Mon Mar 21, 2016 11:04am EDT
A general view shows damaged buildings in the rebel held besieged town of Douma, eastern Damascus suburb of Ghouta, Syria March 19, 2016. REUTERS/Bassam Khabieh
A general view shows damaged buildings in the rebel held besieged town of Douma, eastern Damascus suburb of Ghouta, Syria March 19, 2016.
Reuters/Bassam Khabieh
GENEVA The United States on Monday rejected Russia's call for an urgent meeting over violations of Syria's three-week cessation of hostilities, saying that its concerns were already being handled in a constructive manner.
Russia's general staff of the armed forces proposed on Monday to hold an urgent meeting with U.S. representatives to agree on the mechanism of controlling the ceasefire in Syria, saying it would act unilaterally starting from March 22 if it gets no response.
"We have seen the media reports on alleged Russian concerns over ceasefire violations. Whoever is making such statements must be misinformed, because these issues have been discussed at length already, and continue to be discussed, in a constructive manner," a U.S. official told Reuters in Geneva.
(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Angus MacSwan)
Air Force One carrying President Barack Obama and his family flies over a neighborhood of Havana as it approaches the runway to land at Havana's international airport, March 20, 2016. REUTERS/Stringer
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