Meldungen (Feeds)

From Russian TV Network, Little Love for Donald Trump

The Intercept - Engl. - Cum, 09/09/2016 - 19:51

Donald Trump’s interview with Larry King on the Russian-government-funded television network RT America is being widely seen in the mainstream U.S. media as evidence of unseemly coziness between Trump and authoritarian Russian leader Vladimir Putin.

The interview came after months of claims by Democratic Party officials and news media pundits that the Russian government is trying to get Trump elected.

RT America has a long history of coverage that benefits the Russian government and is critical of the United States, as many former employees have complained.

But there’s one glaring problem with the theory that RT America and the Russian government are fond of Trump: RT America is arguably more critical of Trump than U.S. media.

The interview with King itself was far from a softball event — with the host pressing Trump on topics from releasing his tax returns to his utter lack of any strategy in the Middle East. And it’s not uncommon to see criticism of Trump on the network.

Host Lee Camp has called Trump a “mediocre wizard who can magically turn unemployment into racism.”

Following Trump’s immigration speech in Arizona last week — in which he doubled down on harsh rhetoric after supposedly “softening” — RT host Thom Hartmann took Trump to task. “Trump Now Flip Flopping Hourly” read the chyron on the segment, as guest Mark Weisbrot exclaimed, “He doesn’t have a coherent position that stays the same, really, from one day to a next on really any of these issues.” Hartmann’s show has repeatedly labeled Trump’s politics as “fascist,” showing little hesitation with using the word compared to mainstream media.

During Trump’s trip to Mexico, anchor Ed Schultz hosted progressive writer and former Texas agricultural commissioner Jim Hightower, who described Trump and the Mexican president as “one president, and one presidential wannabe who have approval ratings down at the mad cow disease level in both of their countries, so they’re both hugging each other up hoping that this actually means something. It’s a freak show.”

King, who has a well-earned reputation for being an easy interview, actually pushed back when Trump said he’ll release his tax returns only once an audit of them is completed. “Why does the audit, it just confuses me. All you have to do is release the first three pages which is not part of the audit, it just states income, what taxes you paid,” King protested.

Trump’s claim that he has a secret plan to tackle ISIS also elicited King’s scorn. “You said that you’ve got a plan on ISIS and you don’t want to reveal it because you don’t want the enemy to know. Nixon said the same thing about Vietnam, but there really was no plan,” King also noted.

Unlike NBC’s Matt Lauer, King was not afraid to interrupt Trump to correct him.

Trump said about Iraq: “Once you go in, you gotta go out the right way, and Obama just took everybody out and it was like a shock to the system, and ultimately ISIS developed and now we have them in 26 to 28 countries and it’s a disaster.”

“The timetable was arranged by Bush for the leaving,” King corrected him.

“Well, you know what, let’s look to the future,” Trump said.

King’s last question to Trump caused the interview to end altogether.

“Let’s get something clear, because I know you a long time. On this immigration issue, what are your feelings about Mexican immigrants. What in your gut about — what do you feel about this?” King asked.

Trump offered no response, and the line went silent.

“Donald are you there?” King asked aloud.

“I don’t know what happened there, we did not lose the connection,” he told his audience.

King and Trump’s relationship goes back decades, but the host has already said he won’t be voting for his old acquaintance.

On Friday, the Trump campaign insisted Trump did not know the interview would end up on the Russian-funded network.

RT America for its part ran an article on Friday noting that the media networks that complained about Trump’s interview with King are owned by corporate conglomerates and Trump foes.

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What’s Behind Barack Obama’s Ongoing Accommodation of Vladimir Putin?

The Intercept - Engl. - Cum, 09/09/2016 - 18:15

When a major party cynically espouses a set of beliefs as a tactic for winning an election, those beliefs get entrenched in popular discourse and often endure well past the election, with very significant consequences. The most significant such rhetorical template in the 2016 election — other than the new Democratic claim that big-money donations do not corrupt the political process — is that Russia is a Grave Enemy of the U.S.; anyone who advocates better relations or less tension with Moscow is a likely sympathizer, stooge, or even agent of Putin; and any associations with the Kremlin render one’s loyalties suspect.

Literally every week ushers in a new round of witch hunts in search of domestic Kremlin agents and new evidence of excessive Putin sympathies. The latest outburst was last night’s discovery that Donald Trump allowed himself to be interviewed by well-known Kremlin propagandist and America-hater Larry King on his RT show. “Criticizing US on Russian TV is something no American, much less an aspiring prez, should do,” pronounced Fred Kaplan. Other guests appearing on that network include Soviet spy Bernard Sanders (who spoke this year to Putin crony and RT host Ed Schultz), Bill Maher (whose infiltrates American culture through his cover as a comedian hosting an HBO program), and Stephen Hawking (whom the FSB has groomed to masquerade as a “physicist” while he carries out un-American activities on behalf of Putin).

Despite the fact that Russia ceased long ago to be guided by anything resembling communism, this linking of one’s political adversaries to the Kremlin is such a potent tactic in the U.S. because of decades of Cold War rhetoric about Moscow. Referring to Putin, Matt Lauer this week asked Trump: “Do you want to be complimented by that former KGB officer?” Denouncing Trump’s praise of Putin, Democratic Rep. Charlie Rangel called the Russian president “a communist leader that’s a potential enemy!” Explaining why Trump’s comments about Russia are so remarkable, the New York Times contended that “Mr. Trump has made improved relations with the Kremlin a centerpiece of his candidacy” in “a fashion that would have been unheard-of for a Republican during or immediately after the Cold War.”

There are all sorts of glaring ironies, and glaring dangers, to this new theme — including the fact that “improved relations with the Kremlin” was a long-time plank of the Democratic Party, which, as a result, was routinely vilified by the American Right as Kremlin agents and sympathizers (as were Republicans such as Nixon and Reagan when they sought better ties with Moscow). But the most glaring irony of all is that as Clinton-led Democrats this year equate overtures toward Russia as evidence of Putin-loving disloyalty — whether it be Trump’s opposition to arming Ukraine or his heretical questioning of NATO — there is an American politician who has, time and again, accommodated Putin, sought to improve relations with Moscow, dismissed as fearmongering the threat Russia poses to the U.S., and repeatedly taken steps that benefited Russian interests.

That politician’s name is Barack Obama. As Trevor Timm wrote yesterday in The Guardian, “Barack Obama seems to be the only politician not playing into the cold war 2.0 hysteria.” Indeed, Obama has continually acted in accord with Russia’s agenda and sought to pour cold water on attempts to revive Cold War rhetoric and policies.


Early last year, U.S. intelligence agencies claimed to have evidence that Russia was making increasingly aggressive military incursions into Ukraine, including with tanks and artillery. Leading foreign policy experts in both parties — including Madeleine Albright, Zbigniew Brzezinski, and Obama’s own Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin E. Dempsey — united to pressure President Obama to send arms to Kiev to ward off what they viewed as Russian aggression. But Obama steadfastly refused. Obama’s recalcitrance became so entrenched that a bipartisan alliance in Congress emerged to introduce legislation to force him to provide lethal aid. As the New York Times reported:

Representative Eliot L. Engel of New York, the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said last week that he was so “disappointed” in the administration for not using tools in past legislation authorizing more sanctions against Russia and arms for Ukraine that he was introducing a new bill to “dial up the pressure on Vladimir Putin.”

The Ukraine debate of 2015 was not the only instance in which President Obama has taken action that accommodated Putin and benefited Russian interests. Last year, Russia began bombing Syria in order to protect its long-time client Bashar Assad. While Hillary Clinton and others advocated imposition of a “no-fly zone” to stop the Russians, Obama did nothing. To the contrary, Obama — who himself has spent two years bombing the anti-Assad fighters in Syria whom the U.S. government regards as terrorists (killing many civilians in the process) — is now actively forgingpartnership with Putin whereby Russia and the U.S. would jointly bomb agreed-upon targets in Syria (ones opposed to Assad).

Then there’s Obama’s total passivity in the face of accusations from Democrats and others that Putin has been actively and maliciously interfering in U.S. elections this year through hacking, disinformation, and other subversive measures. For those who really believe these claims, shouldn’t the U.S. president be issuing strong condemnations and taking aggressive retaliatory measures? What has Obama done to punish Putin for these transgressions? By all appearances, he’s done nothing. Max Boot — who until recently was one of the country’s most discredited neocon extremists but has now once again become a Respectable and Credible Commentator by virtue of endorsing Clinton over Trump — complained this week about Obama’s submission to Putin:

Even when hacks can be traced to Russia, it’s very difficult to prove that the Kremlin was responsible. But the U.S. government doesn’t need to wait for definitive proof to act, assuming, as appears likely, the evidence is already overwhelming. … And yet no action has been forthcoming so far. …

Reflecting the professorial style of the president, this is an administration that has a tendency to talk problems to death even as they grow worse. … So far the Obama administration, in this area as in so many others, is choosing the take-it-on-the-chin option. …

In fact one suspects that that the information-gathering now being conducted by the intelligence community can provide a convenient cover for administration inaction — how can the president possibly do anything before all the facts are in?

So after acting in Putin’s interests in both Ukraine and Syria, Obama now backs down from challenging or punishing him even when the Russian leader interferes in U.S. elections? The plot does indeed thicken.

But perhaps most bizarre of all was the relentless messaging of the Democratic Party under President Obama during the 2012 campaign. All year long, GOP nominee Mitt Romney tried to alert the country of the menace posed by Putin and the Kremlin. Russia “is without question our No. 1 geopolitical foe. They fight for every cause for the world’s worst actors,” Romney warned.


For his patriotic efforts to warn Americans, what did Romney get in response from Obama-led Democrats? Nothing but derision and scorn. During their foreign policy debate, Obama mocked Romney for his Russia-phobia, telling him: “The 1980s are now calling to ask for their foreign policy back because … the Cold War’s been over for 20 years.” Joe Biden “attacked the former Massachusetts governor for being ‘one of a small group of Cold War holdovers,’ for naming Russia as a major threat to the United States.” At the DNC convention, John Kerry scoffed at this Russia-as-Villain cartoon: “Mitt Romney talks like he’s only seen Russia by watching Rocky IV.” The Democrats even made a campaign poster laughing at Romney’s concerns over Putin:

Leading Democrats made it a central theme of 2012 that only someone stuck in antiquated, obsolete Cold War thinking could possibly regard Russia as some sort of dangerous or serious threat:

The Obama-led Democratic Party of 2012 — with very suspect motives and possibly suspect loyalties — tweeted all forms of mockery aimed at Mitt Romney as a result of the GOP nominee’s valiant attempt to warn about the menace of Vladimir Putin:

Romney, who calls Russia our "No. 1 geopolitical foe," doesn't seem to realize it's the 21st century. #RomneyNotReady

— The Democrats (@TheDemocrats) October 22, 2012

While it’s true that Russia had not yet annexed Crimea, it was accused of doing all sorts of other things by that point that Democrats today hold up as proof of the Kremlin’s evil — including its incursion into Georgia (2008), its active support of Assad (2012), its imprisonment of Pussy Riot (2012), its alleged poisoning of Putin critic Alexander Litvinenko (2006), its alleged murder of journalist Anna Politkovskaya (2006), and the shooting of human rights lawyer Stanislav Markelov and journalist Anastasia Baburova (2009). In the face of all that, there were Obama-led Democrats throughout 2012 mercilessly mocking — as outdated Cold War rhetoric; Hillary Clinton called it “dated” — the notion that Russia was a serious threat or that Putin ought to be regarded as serious geopolitical foe.

It is certainly disturbing to watch Donald Trump express admiration for Putin’s domestic authoritarianism and venerate that as “strength.” That’s a valid concern, as it reflects — by his own reckoning — what Trump is likely to do, or what he wants to do, if he becomes president.

But this ongoing attempt to equate a desire for better relations with Russia with disloyalty to America, or to vilify any associations with Moscow as proof of un-American Putin sympathy, is toxic in the extreme. Beyond being dangerous and oppressive, it’s incredibly short-sighted. After all, the politician who, in reality, has most accommodated Vladimir Putin and most eagerly sought to avoid tensions with the Kremlin — up to and including trying to partner with them to bomb Syria — happens to be the one currently occupying the Oval Office: a Democrat.

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Wolf Blitzer Is Worried Defense Contractors Will Lose Jobs if U.S. Stops Arming Saudi Arabia

The Intercept - Engl. - Cum, 09/09/2016 - 17:43

Sen. Rand Paul’s expression of opposition to a $1.1 billion U.S. arms sale to Saudi Arabia — which has been brutally bombing civilian targets in Yemen using U.S.-made weapons for more than a year now — alarmed CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on Thursday afternoon.

Blitzer’s concern: That stopping the sale could result in fewer jobs for arms manufacturers.

“So for you this is a moral issue,” he told Paul during the Kentucky Republican’s appearance on CNN. “Because you know, there’s a lot of jobs at stake. Certainly if a lot of these defense contractors stop selling war planes, other sophisticated equipment to Saudi Arabia, there’s gonna be a significant loss of jobs, of revenue here in the United States. That’s secondary from your standpoint?”

Paul stayed on message.  “Well not only is it a moral question, its a Constitutional question,” Paul said. “Our founding fathers very directly and specifically did not give the president the power to go to war. They gave it to Congress. So Congress needs to step up and this is what I’m doing.”

Watch the exchange:

Saudi Arabia began bombing Yemen in March 2015, and has since been responsible for the majority of the 10,000 deaths in the war so far. The U.S.-backed bombing coalition has been accused of intentionally targeting civilians, hospitals, factories, markets, schools, and homes. The situation is so bad that the Red Cross has started donating morgue units to Yemeni hospitals.

The war’s incredible humanitarian toll has generated an increasing outcry in the United States. Earlier this month, more than than 60 Members of Congress signed a letter asking the administration to delay the most recent arms shipment. Ordinarily, under the Arms Export Control Act, Congress has 30 days to block arms sales proposed by the administration — but by announcing the arms sale in August, most of those 30 days fell during Congress’s August recess. That 30-day window expired at midnight Thursday and the White House has not granted the request for extra time.

The Obama administration has sold more weapons to the Saudis than any other administration, pledging more than $115 billion worth of small arms, tanks, helicopters, missiles, and aircraft.

So yes, it’s a legitimate moral issue. What it’s not is a legitimate economic issue.

If you’re worried about jobs, military spending is not where you look. It’s an inefficient way to create jobs, because it has a lower multiplier effect — meaning how much it ripples in the wider economy. One study from 2011 found that $1 billion put into military spending would create approximately 11,200 jobs, but that same amount of money put into education creates 26,700 jobs.

Top Photo: CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer moderates a presidential debate on December 15, 2015 in Las Vegas.

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Ventimiglia (IT) Solidarität mit Flüchtlingen unerwünscht

IMI Tübingen - Cum, 09/09/2016 - 15:27
Ventimiglia (IT) Solidarität mit Flüchtlingen unerwünscht | Radio Dreyeckland Das ständige Verschärfen der Repression gegen Flüchtlinge lässt die Solidarität in Italien bröckeln. Vor mehr als einem Jahr wurden die Grenzkontrollen zwischen Italien und Frankreich wieder eingeführt. Seitdem prägen sowohl Menschen, (…)

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Vorbild NSA (II)

German Foreign Policy - Cum, 09/09/2016 - 00:00
(Eigener Bericht) - Die Spionageapparate des Bundes sollen im kommenden Jahr deutlich mehr Geld erhalten als 2016 und damit ihre Fähigkeiten zur Überwachung der Telekommunikation ausbauen. Berichten zufolge wird etwa der Haushalt des Bundesnachrichtendienstes (BND) 2017 auf 808 Millionen Euro steigen; das wären rund 75 Prozent mehr als noch im Jahr 2011. Auch das Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz wird über einen Etat verfügen, der fast doppelt so hoch ist wie 2009, und in Zukunft unter anderem direkten Zugriff auf das Ausländerzentralregister erhalten. Beide Dienste sollen in die Lage versetzt werden, auch verschlüsselte Kommunikation beliebig zu dechiffrieren. Zugleich steht die Verabschiedung eines neuen BND-Gesetzes bevor, das die Tätigkeit des BND massiv entgrenzt und das inzwischen von mehreren UN-Sonderberichterstattern scharf kritisiert wird: Es trage der Tatsache nicht Rechnung, dass "der Schutz der Meinungsfreiheit" gemäß internationalen Übereinkünften "unabhängig von der Nationalität und von Grenzen" gelten. Ohnehin bestätigt ein unlängst bekannt gewordenes Beschwerdeschreiben der Bundesdatenschutzbeauftragten, dass der BND in der Praxis geltendes Recht weitgehend ignoriert. Beobachter kommen zu dem Ergebnis, Berlin arbeite am Aufbau einer "europäischen NSA".

Hillary Clinton’s National Security Advisors Are a “Who’s Who” of the Warfare State

The Intercept - Engl. - Per, 08/09/2016 - 22:39

Hillary Clinton is meeting on Friday with a new national security “working group” that is filled with an elite “who’s who” of the military-industrial complex and the security deep state.

The list of key advisors — which includes the general who executed the troop surge in Iraq and a former Bush homeland security chief turned terror profiteer — is a strong indicator that Clinton’s national security policy will not threaten the post-9/11 national-security status quo that includes active use of military power abroad and heightened security measures at home.

It’s a story we’ve seen before in President Obama’s early appointments. In retrospect, analysts have pointed to the continuity in national security and intelligence advisers as an early sign that despite his campaign rhetoric Obama would end up building on — rather than tearing down — the often-extralegal, Bush-Cheney counterterror regime. For instance, while Obama promised in 2008 to reform the NSA, its director was kept on and its reach continued to grow.

Obama’s most fateful decision may have been choosing former National Counterterrorism Center Director John Brennan to be national security adviser, despite Brennan’s support of Bush’s torture program. Brennan would go on to run the president’s drone program, lead the CIA, fight the Senate’s torture investigation, and then lie about searching Senate computers.

That backdrop is what makes Clinton’s new list of advisors so significant.

It includes Gen. David Petraeus, the major architect of the 2007 Iraq War troop surge, which brought 30,000 more troops to Iraq. Picking him indicates at partiality to combative ideology. It also represents a return to good standing for the general after he pled guilty to leaking notebooks full of classified information to his lover, Paula Broadwell, and got off with two years of probation and a fine. Petraeus currently works at the investment firm KKR & Co.

Another notable member of Clinton’s group is Michael Chertoff, a hardliner who served as President George W. Bush’s last secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, and who since leaving government in 2009 has helmed a corporate consulting firm called the Chertoff Group that promotes security-industry priorities. For example, in 2010, he gave dozens of media interviews touting full-body scanners at airports while his firm was employed by a company that produced body scanning machines. His firm also employs a number of other ex-security state officials, such as former CIA and NSA Director Michael Hayden. It does not disclose a complete list of its clients — all of whom now have a line of access to Clinton.

Many others on the list are open advocates of military escalation overseas. Mike Morrell, the former acting director of the CIA, endorsed Clinton last month in a New York Times opinion piece that accused Trump of being an “unwitting agent of the Russian Federation.” The Times was criticized for not disclosing his current employment by Beacon Global Strategies, a politically powerful national-security consulting firm with strong links to Clinton. Three days later, Morell told Charlie Rose in a PBS interview that the CIA should actively assassinate Russians and Iranians in Syria.

During his time at the CIA, Morrell was connected to some of the worst scandals and intelligence failures of the Bush Administration. In his book, he apologizes for giving flawed intelligence to Colin Powell about Iraq’s supposed weapons of mass destruction, but defends the CIA torture program as legal and ethical.

Jim Stavridis, a former NATO Supreme Allied Commander Europe on Clinton’s advisory group, told Fox News Radio in July, when he was being vetted by Clinton as a possible vice presidential nominee, that “we have got to get more aggressive going into Syria and Iraq and go after [ISIS] because if we don’t they’re going to come to us. It’s a pretty simple equation.” He said he would “encourage the president to take a more aggressive stance against Iran, to increase our military forces in Iraq and Syria, and to confront Vladmir Putin” over his moves in Crimea.

The New York Times reported in 2011 that Michael Vickers, a former Pentagon official on Clinton’s new list, led the use of drone strikes. He would grin and tell his colleagues at meetings: “I just want to kill those guys.”

Others on the list played a role in the targeted killing policies of the Obama administration, including Chris Fussell, a top aide to General Stanley McChrystal, and now a partner with him at his lucrative consulting firm, the McChrystal Group.

Fussell was aide-de-camp to McChrystal while he was serving as commander of Joint Special Operations Command. McChrystal oversaw a dramatic expansion in the use of night raids and assassinations, and would later be accused of condoning torture at JSOC’s Iraq Base, Camp NAMA (code for Nasty-Ass Military Area).

Richard Fontaine, a former McCain advisor and president of the counterinsurgency-focused think tank Center for a New American Security, responded to the Paris attacks by writing an op-ed that advocated for, among other things, a U.S.-backed “safe zone” in Syria. He has also proposed intensifying the bombing campaign against ISIS, and increasing the presence of US special forces in Iraq.

Janet Napolitano, a former Obama DHS Secretary, presided over a harsh immigration policy, where the department deported a record number of undocumented immigrants — although she did support Obama’s recent executive actions designed to protect some migrants.

The closest thing the list has to a dissenter to the status quo would appear to be Kathleen Hicks, a think tanker who served in the Obama Defense Department. On a panel at the Charles Koch Institute with John Mearsheimer earlier this year, she denounced American military overreach. “A big footprint in the Middle East is not helpful to the United States, politically, militarily, or otherwise,” she said.

Despite the heavy relevance of the region to U.S. foreign policy, only one advisor, former DHS official Juliette Kayyem, is a (non-Muslim) Arab American.

Top photo: Clinton in discussion with Lt. Gen. David Petraeus on Capitol Hill on Jan. 23, 2007.

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What Aleppo Is, and Is Not

The Intercept - Engl. - Per, 08/09/2016 - 22:05

Gary Johnson, the Libertarian candidate for president, responded to a question Thursday morning about the besieged Syrian city of Aleppo by looking puzzled and asking, “And what is Aleppo?

This is Aleppo:

That footage, recorded last month in the aftermath of an airstrike on a rebel-held neighborhood of the city by the Syrian government or its Russian allies, struck a nerve on social networks because it included heartbreaking images of Omran Daqneesh, a dazed 5-year-old boy pulled from the rubble of his destroyed home.

As my colleagues Murtaza Hussain and Marwan Hisham reported last week, there is an intense battle for control of the city between government forces supported by Russia and a coalition of Syrian rebel factions supported by the United States that is allied with Islamist groups, including Jabhat Fath al-Sham, al Qaeda’s former affiliate in Syria. The Islamic State has no presence in the city, although rebel groups have battled with ISIS in the countryside outside Aleppo, as the Syrian media activist Rami Jarrah documented earlier this year.

This week, the horror of Aleppo’s bombardment was again in the headlines as allegations that government forces had used chemical weapons were followed by more distressing images of child victims.

As aerial footage broadcast by the BBC report shows, much of the ancient city that was once the country’s economic center is now in ruins, four years after fighting started there.

The fact that Johnson had apparently never heard of the strategically important city — and even failed to guess that it was the name of a city (he told Whoopi Goldberg later that he thought it might have been an acronym) — stunned Mike Barnicle, the columnist who asked him what he would do about the situation there if he was elected president.

When Johnson asked what Aleppo (or A.L.E.P.P.O. — or, a leppo) might be, Barnicle replied, with open contempt, “You’re kidding.”

But Johnson, it turns out, was not alone.

As remarkable as that moment was, it was quickly followed by reports on Johnson’s cluelessness that included basic errors about who was fighting in the city and why the tragedy there matters to the rest of the world.

Taken together, those error-strewn reports suggest that American journalists and pundits have become so completely focused on the horse-race aspect of electoral politics that they are paying almost no attention to the biggest foreign policy crisis that will face the next president.

The tone was set by Christopher Hill, a former United States ambassador to Iraq who is now the dean of international studies at the University of Denver.

Asked by MSNBC for his response, Hill wrongly identified Aleppo as “the capital of ISIS,” apparently confusing it with Raqqa, another city in northern Syria that is held by Islamic State militants. Hill’s error baffled Jenan Moussa, who has reported on the war in Syria for Dubai’s Al Aan TV.

And such people decide on our region!
Christopher Hill, ex U.S. ambassador to Iraq, says "Aleppo is #ISIS capital".

— Jenan Moussa (@jenanmoussa) September 8, 2016

To make matters worse, Hill went on to complain that while there are a lot of “inside baseball” terms familiar to foreign policy experts like himself that he would not expect many people to know, it was remarkable for Johnson to draw a blank on a city that has been “very much in the news, especially in the last two days, but for the last two years.”

The Washington bureau of the New York Times then added to the confusion by rushing to publish a report on the reaction to Johnson’s ignorance that echoed Hill’s error by calling Aleppo “the de facto capital of the Islamic State.”

It was just fixed, but NYT report on Gary Johnson not knowing what Aleppo is initially confused it with Raqqa

— Robert Mackey (@RobertMackey) September 8, 2016

When that obvious mistake was spotted by readers — and, no doubt, the newspaper’s own foreign correspondents — the Times report was first edited to insert a new but still incorrect description of Aleppo as “the Syrian city that is a stronghold of the Islamic State.” That description was later removed, and a correction appended, but the article still includes a mistaken summary of Barnicle’s explanation to Johnson of why Aleppo matters.

Barnicle told Johnson that Aleppo is “the epicenter of the refugee crisis,” which is correct, since fighting in what was before the war the most heavily populated region of Syria, and its economic heartland, has driven millions of Syrians to seek refuge in neighboring countries and Europe. Barnicle did not, as the Times reports, ask Johnson “how, as president, he would address the refugee crisis in the war-torn Syrian city.”

Rather than deal with the question of how, exactly, the United States might help to bring this conflict to an end — which it has fueled by supporting rebel groups allied with al Qaeda’s proxy — political reporters covered Johnson’s blank stare as a process story, asking how his gaffe might affect his chances of getting into the upcoming presidential debates.

Typical of those reports was an interview of Johnson in the hallway outside the MSNBC studio, conducted by Mark Halperin of Bloomberg News, that felt more like a post-game chat with an athlete than a discussion with a potential president about an important policy matter.

Johnson played along in the analysis of his gaffe as primarily a matter of politics by telling Halperin that it reminded him of being quizzed, while running for governor of New Mexico, on his plans for rural communities near the Mexican border known as “colonias.”

Eric Levitz, an editor at New York magazine, pointed out that after Johnson managed to get himself elected New Mexico’s governor anyway, he joked about once bluffing his way through a meeting alongside the governor of Texas at the time, George W. Bush, who was similarly baffled.

— Eric Levitz (@EricLevitz) September 8, 2016

Of course, being just as unfamiliar with foreign affairs as most Americans is not necessarily a barrier to the highest office in the land.

George W. Bush, who failed a pop quiz on the names of global leaders in 1999 and went on to order the disastrous invasion of Iraq, is now broadly popular, eight years after he slouched from office. According to the most recent Gallup poll, conducted in July, Bush is now regarded favorably by 52 percent of Americans, essentially tied with his successor, President Obama, and three points ahead of his predecessor, Bill Clinton.

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10 mil agentes de tropas de elite dos EUA são espalhados pelo mundo em operações especiais e clandestinas diariamente

The Intercept - Engl. - Per, 08/09/2016 - 20:14

Documentos obtidos pelo The Intercept, por meio da Lei de Liberdade da Informação, mostram que os EUA estão gastando mais dinheiro em novas missões para enviar tropas de elite a serem treinadas com outras tropas de elite de países aliados.

De acordo com o Programa de Intercâmbio de Treinamento Conjunto (Joint Combined Exchange Training – JCET), desenvolvido para treinar agentes especiais dos EUA em diversos tipos de missões, de “defesa interna estrangeira” a “guerras não convencionais”, as tropas americanas realizaram ao menos uma missão a cada dois dias em 2014, último ano registrado pelos documentos revelados.

Ao custo de mais de US$ 56 milhões, os EUA enviaram seus agentes mais experientes — SEALs da Marinha, Boinas Verdes do Exército e outros — para 176 JCETs, um aumento de 13% em relação aos números de 2013. O número de países envolvidos cresceu ainda mais, de 63 para 87, ou seja, 38% a mais do que o ano anterior.

O JCET é um programa crucial para a estratégia global em torno da tropa mais secreta e menos transparente dos EUA. Desde o 11 de setembro, as Forças de Operações Especiais (Special Operations Forces – SOF) foram expandidas de todas as formas imagináveis, desde seu orçamento, passando pelo número de agentes, até a quantidade de missões em países estrangeiros. Diariamente, 10 mil agentes especiais são enviados ou transferidos para realizar missões que variam desde “criação de parcerias e coleta de informações nos bastidores até operações de ataque dinâmicas de alta importância”, contou o ex-chefe do Comando de Operações Especiais ao Comitê de Serviços Armados do Senado dos EUA, General Joseph Votel.

Em 2014, mais de 4800 tropas de elite participaram de JCETs. No ano anterior, foram 3800. “A finalidade dos JCETs é promover o treinamento de SOFs dos EUA em disciplinas importantes para missões, através do treinamento oferecido pelas forças militares de países aliados”, contou o porta-voz do Comando de Operações Especiais dos EUA, Ken McGraw, ao The Intercept. “JCET permitem que SOFs dos EUA usem e desenvolvam seu conhecimento de idiomas e cultura, além de aprimorar suas competências no treinamento de tropas nativas.”

Em março, o General Raymond A. Thomas III, sucessor de Votel na liderança do SOCOM, contou ao Comitê de Serviços Armados do Senado que “trabalhar com nossos parceiros internacionais permite que compartilhemos a responsabilidade de forma mais eficiente. Precisamos nos integrar em lugares onde os problemas ocorrem, bem como em locais importantes para a materialização de nossos interesses onde não existem ameaças evidentes”.

EUA treinam com forças militares estrangeiras acusadas de graves violações de direitos humanos

Os documentos revelados recentemente mostram que, além das oportunidades de treinamento para as tropas de elite dos EUA, o JCET também oferece “benefícios involuntários”, como aprimorar contatos entre exércitos, aperfeiçoar a interoperabilidade com forças militares estrangeiras, e “obter acesso regional sem deixar vestígios”. Os arquivos também se referem aos JCETs como missões “discretas”.

Uma investigação  de 2015 do The Intercept mostrou como os JCETs são regularmente realizados com forças militares estrangeiras acusadas pelo Departamento de Estado dos EUA de violações graves de direitos humanos. Uma parceria mais recente entre o The Intercept e 100Reporters demonstrou que o JCET é parte de uma rede de treinamento internacional caracterizada pela ausência de uma estratégia coerente e de supervisão eficaz.

Em 2013, um estudo realizado pela Rand Corp. sobre os JCET conduzidos em áreas do Comando África, Comando Pacífico e Comando do Sul apontou uma taxa de eficiência “relativamente baixa” nas missões nessas regiões. Perguntado a respeito das conclusões do estudo, McGraw, do SOCOM, teve pouco a declarar. “Eu não analisei e não tenho tempo para analisar o estudo da Rand”, contou ao The Intercept, confirmando também que não sabia de ninguém no Comando que havia lido a análise da Rand. “Não vamos comentar o estudo.”

Foto principal: O Chile e as Forças Especiais dos EUA aguardam por um helicóptero do Exército americano para levar um refém em exercício simulado durante um operação de treinamento de resgate em Antofagasta, no Chile, em 22 de julho de 2016, como parte do exercício Southern Star.

Tradução de Inacio Vieira

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Obama Promises Lame-Duck TPP Push Despite Uproar Over Pro-Corporate Provisions

The Intercept - Engl. - Per, 08/09/2016 - 18:06

A provision that would let foreign corporations challenge new American laws and regulations has become the latest flashpoint in the battle over the Trans Pacific Partnership trade agreement, even as President Obama on Tuesday said he will renew his push for its passage in the lame-duck session of Congress.

“We’re in a political season now and it’s always difficult to get things done,” Obama said at a town hall meeting in Laos. “So after the election, I think people can refocus attention on why this is so important.” He sounded confident: “I believe that we’ll get it done.”

The latest salvo from opponents of the deal came in the form of a letter to Congress signed by hundreds of law professors and economists – including Laurence Tribe, who taught Obama at Harvard – protesting the inclusion of “Investor State Dispute Settlement” (ISDS) provisions in the TPP agreement.

The ISDS provisions would empower corporations who object to U.S. laws and regulations that cut into their profits to sue the United States before an international arbitration panel. The signatories to the letter write that this “system undermines the important roles of our domestic and democratic institutions, threatens domestic sovereignty, and weakens the rule of law.”

Senator Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., a leading critic of the ISDS provisions, introduced the letter on a conference call hosted Wednesday by the advocacy group Public Citizen.

“It’s about leverage,” Warren said. “Leverage for big companies to threaten an intimidate governments who might dare take action that threatens their profits.”

She cited the example of Canada being successfully sued under ISDS rules contained in the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) by a U.S.-based company that was denied a permit for an open-pit mining project.

Listen to the call:

The Obama administration has pushed back at critics of the ISDS provisions, saying that it is a routine system that exists in thousands of other international agreements, including 50 that the United States is currently a party to.

But that routine system has undermined domestic laws in some countries.

Buzzfeed’s Chris Hamby recently reviewed dozens of ISDS rulings, documenting how corporations used these international arbitration panels to avoid the reach of domestic courts.

For instance, following the ouster of Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak, the country sentenced Dubai-based real estate mogul Hussain Sajwani to five years in prison for corruption charges related to a sweetheart land deal between his company Damac Properties and the country’s Mubarak-era tourism minister.

Within a week of his conviction, Damac decided to sue Egypt using the World Bank’s arbitration process – arguing that because the previous regime had agreed to the terms, the deal was not criminal.

As Sajwani enlisted the help of some of the world’s top ISDS lawyers to argue his case in a court in Paris, Egypt decided to settle. The terms of the settlement are confidential, but we do know that Sajwani’s prison sentence was completely eliminated.

That set a precedent for a wave of ISDS claims. More and more firms used the ISDS process to avoid penalties handed down from Egypt’s courts.

Under the TPP, the U.S. would be exposed to a larger number of potential ISDS claims.

“If these provisions are included in TPP, the number of foreign investors who’d be empowered to use this mechanism would double from what we currently have in our 50 agreements already,” said Melinda St. Louis, international campaigns director at Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch.

In all, Public Citizen estimates that passage of the TPP would newly empower over 10,000 U.S. subsidiaries owned by foreign corporations to launch investor-state cases against the American government.

Corporations from six countries that do not currently have the ability to bring ISDS claims against the United States — Vietnam, Japan, Malaysia, Australia, New Zealand, Brunei – would gain that right under the TPP.

As The Intercept has previously reported, banks and other financial institutions would be able to use TPP provisions to sue over virtually any change in financial regulations affecting future profits in an extra-judicial tribunal.

The United States has not yet lost an ISDS case, but is facing a major claim from TransCanada. The company is using arbitration under NAFTA to seek $15 billion after the Obama Administration decided not to approve its Keystone XL Pipeline project.

Top Photo: President Barack Obama and U.S. Trade Representative Mike Froman meeting with leaders from Trans-Pacific Partnership countries in Beijing in 2014.

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Documents Show U.S. Military Expands Reach of Special Operations Programs

The Intercept - Engl. - Per, 08/09/2016 - 13:44

The United States is spending more money on more missions to send more elite U.S. forces to train alongside more foreign counterparts in more countries around the world, according to documents obtained by The Intercept via the Freedom of Information Act.

Under the Joint Combined Exchange Training program, which is designed to train America’s special operators in a variety of missions from “foreign internal defense” to “unconventional warfare” — U.S. troops carried out approximately one mission every two days in 2014, the latest year covered by the recently released documents.

At a price tag of more than $56 million, the U.S. sent its most elite operators — Navy SEALs, Army Green Berets, and others — on 176 individual JCETs, a 13 percent increase from 2013. The number of countries involved jumped even further, from 63 to 87, a 38 percent spike.

The JCET program is a key facet of a global strategy involving America’s most secretive and least scrutinized troops. Since 9/11, special operations forces (SOF) have expanded in almost every conceivable way — from budget to personnel to overseas missions. On any given day, 10,000 special operators are deployed or “forward stationed,” conducting missions that vary “from behind-the-scenes information-gathering and partner-building to high-end dynamic strike operations,” then-chief of U.S. Special Operations Command, Gen. Joseph Votel, told the Senate Armed Services Committee earlier this year.

In 2014, more than 4,800 elite troops took part in JCETs, compared to just over 3,800 the year before. “The purpose of JCETs is to foster the training of U.S. SOF in mission-critical skills by training with partner-nation forces in their home countries,” Ken McGraw, a spokesperson for U.S. Special Operations Command, told The Intercept. “JCETs allow U.S. SOF to use and further develop their language skills and cultural knowledge plus hone their skills training indigenous forces.”

Gen. Raymond A. Thomas III, who is Votel’s successor as head of SOCOM, told the Senate Armed Services Committee in March that “working with our international partners allows us to share the burden more appropriately. We must engage, not only where problems occur, but also in places critical to our vital national interests where no visible threat currently exists.”

The recently released documents note that, in addition to the training opportunities afforded to elite U.S. troops, the JCET program also provides “incidental benefits,” namely building military-to-military contacts, improving interoperability with foreign forces, and “gaining regional access with a minimal footprint.” The files further refer to JCETs as “low signature” missions.

A 2015 investigation by The Intercept revealed JCETs were regularly conducted with foreign militaries implicated by the U.S. State Department in gross human rights violations. And a more recent effort by The Intercept and 100Reporters found JCETs formed one facet of a global training network typified by a lack of coherent strategy and effective oversight.

A 2013 Rand Corp. study of JCETs conducted in areas covered by Africa Command, Pacific Command, and Southern Command found “moderately low” effectiveness of the missions in all three regions. Asked for comment on the findings, McGraw of SOCOM had little to say. “I have not and do not have the time to review the Rand study,” he told The Intercept, noting that he was aware of no one at the command who had read Rand’s analysis. “We are not going to comment on the study.”

Top photo: Chile and U.S. Special Forces wait for a U.S. Army helicopter to evacuate two simulated hostages during a training rescue operation in Antofagasta, Chile, on July 22, 2016, as part of exercise Southern Star.

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Freispruch für Thomas H.!

IMI Tübingen - Per, 08/09/2016 - 11:16
Das Recht auf freie Meinungsäußerung und das Recht, sich zu versammeln, sind verfassungsrechtlich besonders geschützt, sie sind Grundlage eines friedlichen und selbstbestimmten Zusammenlebens und essentiell, um gegen Krieg und Militär Widerstand zu leisten. Immer wieder versuchen jedoch Strafverfolgungsbehörden, etwa mit (…)

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Die Waffen nieder! Bundesweite Demonstration am 8.Oktober 2016 in Berlin

Bildung ohne Bundeswehr Hamburg - Per, 08/09/2016 - 09:38

Der Bundesausschuss Friedensratschlag, die Kooperation für den Frieden und die Berliner Friedenskooperation rufen für den 8. Oktober 2016 unter dem Motto „Die Waffen nieder! Kooperation statt NATO-Konfrontation, Abrüstung statt Sozialabbau“ zu einer bundesweiten Demonstration in Berlin auf.

Mehrere hundert Organisationen und Einzelpersonen haben den Aufruf bislang schon unterzeichnet. Aus dem gesamten Bundesgebiet werden Busse in die Hauptstadt fahren, u.a. auch aus Hamburg (07:30 Uhr ab Kirchenallee am Hamburger Hauptbahnhof). Das Bündnis Bildung ohne Bundeswehr (BoB) unterstützt das Projekt und fordert alle Friedensbewegten, KriegsgegnerInnen und AntiimperialistInnen dazu auf, sich an der Demonstration in Berlin zu beteiligen. Flyer und andere Materialien können hier bestellt und heruntergeladen werden. Im Folgenden dokumentieren wir den Aufruf:

Die Waffen nieder!!!
Kooperation statt NATO-Konfrontation, Abrüstung statt Sozialabbau

Die aktuellen Kriege und die militärische Konfrontation gegen Russland treiben uns auf die Straße.

Deutschland befindet sich im Krieg fast überall auf der Welt. Die Bundesregierung betreibt eine Politik der drastischen Aufrüstung. Deutsche Konzerne exportieren Waffen in alle Welt. Das Geschäft mit dem Tod blüht.

Dieser Politik leisten wir Widerstand. Die Menschen in unserem Land wollen keine Kriege und Aufrüstung – sie wollen Frieden.

Die Politik muss dem Rechnung tragen. Wir akzeptieren nicht, dass Krieg immer alltäglicher wird und Deutschland einen wachsenden Beitrag dazu leistet: in Afghanistan, Irak, Libyen, Syrien, Jemen, Mali. Der Krieg in der Ukraine ist nicht gestoppt. Immer geht es letztlich um Macht, Märkte und Rohstoffe. Stets sind die USA, NATO-Mitgliedstaaten und deren Verbündete beteiligt, fast immer auch direkt oder indirekt die Bundesrepublik.

Krieg ist Terror. Er bringt millionenfachen Tod, Verwüstung und Chaos. Millionen von Menschen müssen fliehen. Geflüchtete brauchen unsere Unterstützung und Schutz vor rassistischen und nationalistischen Übergriffen. Wir verteidigen das Menschenrecht auf Asyl. Damit Menschen nicht fliehen müssen, fordern wir von der Bundesregierung, jegliche militärische Einmischung in Krisengebiete einzustellen.

Die Bundesregierung muss an politischen Lösungen mitwirken, zivile Konfliktbearbeitung fördern und wirtschaftliche Hilfe für den Wiederaufbau der zerstörten Länder leisten.

Die Menschen brauchen weltweit Gerechtigkeit. Deshalb lehnen wir neoliberale Freihandelszonen wie TTIP, CETA, ökologischen Raubbau und die Vernichtung von Lebensgrundlagen ab.

Deutsche Waffenlieferungen heizen die Konflikte an. Weltweit werden täglich 4,66 Milliarden Dollar für Rüstung verpulvert. Die Bundesregierung strebt an, in den kommenden acht Jahren ihre jährlichen Rüstungsausgaben von 35 auf 60 Milliarden Euro zu erhöhen. Statt die Bundeswehr für weltweite Einsätze aufzurüsten, fordern wir, unsere Steuergelder für soziale Aufgaben einzusetzen.

Das Verhältnis von Deutschland und Russland war seit 1990 noch nie so schlecht wie heute. Die NATO hat ihr altes Feindbild wiederbelebt, schiebt ihren politischen Einfluss und ihren Militärapparat durch Stationierung schneller Eingreiftruppen, Militärmanöver, dem sogenannten Raketenabwehrschirm – begleitet von verbaler Aufrüstung – an die Grenzen Russlands vor. Das ist ein Bruch der Zusagen zur deutschen Einigung. Russland antwortet mit politischen und militärischen Maßnahmen. Dieser Teufelskreis muss durchbrochen werden. Nicht zuletzt steigert die Modernisierung genannte Aufrüstung der US-Atomwaffen die Gefahr einer militärischen Konfrontation bis hin zu einem Atomkrieg.

Sicherheit in Europa gibt es nur MIT und nicht GEGEN Russland.

Wir verlangen von der Bundesregierung:

– den Abzug der Bundeswehr aus allen Auslandseinsätzen
– die drastische Reduzierung des Rüstungsetats
– den Stopp der Rüstungsexporte
– die Ächtung von Kampfdrohnen
– keine Beteiligung an NATO-Manövern und Truppenstationierungen entlang der Westgrenze Russlands.

Wir sagen Nein zu Atomwaffen, Krieg und Militärinterventionen.Wir fordern ein Ende der Militarisierung der EU.Wir wollen Dialog, weltweite Abrüstung, friedliche zivile Konfliktlösungen und ein auf Ausgleich basierendes System gemeinsamer Sicherheit. Für diese Friedenspolitik setzen wir uns ein.

NBC’s Military Forum Was a Master Class On How Not to Hold Candidates Accountable

The Intercept - Engl. - Per, 08/09/2016 - 05:35

The “Commander in Chief forum”  with Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton that NBC’s Matt Lauer moderated Wednesday night was billed as a way to interrogate the presidential candidates on substantive veterans’ and national security issues.

But from the questions chosen to the format, the event served as little more than a class on how not to hold the candidates accountable.

In the 25 minutes devoted to Clinton, nearly half was spent by Lauer grilling her about her use of a private e-mail server while Secretary of State (one veteran also asked about the issue). That left little room for questions on policies she presided over while in office. 

Lauer repeatedly failed to fact-check candidates on their responses to questions. When Hillary Clinton explained her anti-ISIS plan by saying “we are not going to have ground troops in Iraq,” he failed to point out that we already do have those troops. When Donald Trump claimed to have opposed the wars in Iraq and Libya from the beginning, Lauer failed to correct him and tell the audience that wasn’t true.

The forum was co-sponsored with the veterans group the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), and some of the strongest questions came from veterans themselves — such as one question about how war veterans can trust a candidate with hawkish tendencies to end U.S. wars (Clinton) and another about how we can de-escalate tensions with Russia (Trump).

Unfortunately, those veterans received little airtime. Despite the fact that this is the only general election presidential forum so far focused exclusively on veterans’ and national security issues, NBC limited it to one hour. In that hour, a total of three minutes was spent taking questions from ten questioners (four veterans asking questions of Clinton and six for Trump). The veterans were not allowed to ask follow-up questions or to offer any audible evaluation of the answers they elicited.

Lauer chose to ask Trump about his preparedness and past remarks, rather than question his actual plans. “I’d like you to tell our veterans and our people at home why you are prepared for the role of commander in chief,” said Lauer. Lauer would go on to further question Trump about his “preparedness,” his “temperament,” and his receptiveness to intelligence briefings.

It was left to the veterans to ask Trump about how to defeat ISIS, how to bring stability to the Middle East, how to stop veteran suicides and sexual violence in the military, and whether undocumented immigrants can serve in the armed forces. Lauer offered no meaningful challenges to any of his answers.

Lauer could have challenged Trump on his previous proposals, like “bombing the shit out of ISIS,” or on how tonight’s suggestions — like “leave a certain group behind and take various sections where they have the oil” – were supposed to bring lasting peace to the Middle East. But he did not. 

On Wednesday afternoon, just eight hours before the forum, Trump proposed a dramatic expansion in the size of the military, increasing the army from 475,000 active duty soldiers to 540,000 — roughly the amount deployed at the height of the Afghanistan and Iraq Wars — and adding roughly 100 ships and fighter jets to the Navy and Air Force. But Trump did not explain how he intended to pay for those hundred billion dollar proposals, or even attempt to show how they would help defeat ISIS.

Lauer failed to raise many of the most controversial national security issues the post-9/11 world. For Lauer, the issue was whether Clinton’s emails contained information on the covert drone program, not whether the covert drone program was legal or ethical. He never to pressed her about the surveillance implications of her “intelligence surge,” or what “working with experts in Silicon Valley” meant. Trump was never asked to defend his proposals to infiltrate American mosques and spy on predominantly Muslim neighborhoods. At no point was either candidate pressed for their stance on the drone war, torture, Guantanamo Bay, or mass surveillance.

“This forum was an absolute disgrace. Matt Lauer treated this forum less as a chance to educate voters about the real differences in temperament and policy between the candidates and more as a chance to do clickbait trolling. Instead of asking about big ideas, he asked small-bore questions that voters aren’t asking at their dinner tables,” Adam Green’s Progressive Change Campaign Committee, which is pushing for a debate format where Americans generate and rank questions to be asked of the candidates, said in response to NBC’s forum.

Clinton and Lauer on stage at the Commander In Chief Forum on September 7.


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Schafft sich die LINKE selber ab ?

Rationalgalerie - Per, 08/09/2016 - 02:00
Nach der Wahl in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern : Der Autor wohnt in Neubrandenburg und lebt seit den 80er Jahren in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. Er war Hochschullehrer und lange Jahre Mitglied der LINKEN. Schaut man sich die Erst-und Zweitstimmen der Linken in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern von 1990 bis 2011 an, ist zum einen...

Von CDU bis LINKE: Die AfD-Helfer

Rationalgalerie - Per, 08/09/2016 - 02:00
Brennende Flüchtlingsheime stören die Geschäfte nicht : „In der Fundamentalopposition erreicht man mehr als in einer Regierung. Das Ziel ist eine andere Republik“, sagte der Parteifunktionär dem Berliner Inforadio. Ja, ist denn die Linkspartei zurück zu ihren revolutionären Wurzeln? Ach Gottchen, nein. Es ist Alexander Gauland, der...

Eine nukleare Mücke - der Schmock des Monats

Rationalgalerie - Per, 08/09/2016 - 02:00
Der TAGESSCHAU Zika-Elefant : Redaktionssitzung bei der TAGESSCHAU in Hamburg. Dr. Gniffke schaut in die Runde: „Hat einer noch Themen?“ Meldet sich eine aus der drittem Reihe: „Sollten wir nicht über den Un-Beschluss zur Nuklearen Abrüstung was machen?“ - Dr. Gniffke: „Sind sie...

Google Program to Deradicalize Jihadis Will Be Used for Right-Wing American Extremists Next

The Intercept - Engl. - Per, 08/09/2016 - 00:36

A Google-incubated program that has been targeting potential ISIS members with deradicalizing content will soon be used to target violent right-wing extremists in North America, a designer of the program said at an event at the Brookings Institution on Wednesday.

Using research and targeted advertising, the initiative by London-based startup Moonshot CVE and Google’s Jigsaw technology incubator targets potentially violent Jihadis and directs them to a YouTube channel with videos that refute ISIS propaganda.

In the pilot program countering ISIS, the so-called Redirect Method collected the metadata of 320,000 individuals over the course of eight weeks, using 1,700 keywords, and served them advertisements that led them to the videos. Collectively, the targets watched more than half a million minutes of videos.

The event at Brookings was primarily about the existing program aimed to undermine ISIS recruiting. “I think this is an extremely promising method,” said Richard Stengel, U.S. Undersecretary of State for public diplomacy and public affairs.

Ross Frenett, co-founder of Moonshot, said his company and Jigsaw are now working with funding from private groups, including the Gen Next Foundation, to target other violent extremists, including on the hard right.

“We are very conscious as our own organization and I know Jigsaw are that this [violent extremism] is not solely the problem of one particular group,” Frenett said.

“Our efforts during phase two, when we’re going to focus on the violent far right in America, will be very much focused on the small element of those that are violent. The interesting thing about how they behave is they’re a little bit more brazen online these days than ISIS fan boys,” Frenett said.

He noted that this new target demographic is more visible online.

“In the U.K. if someone in their Facebook profile picture has a swastika and is pointing a gun at the camera, that person is committing a crime,” Frenett said. “In the U.S., there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. So we found that when we’re looking for individuals that are genuinely at risk of carrying out violence, that they’re relatively open online.”

Adnan Kifayat, head of global security ventures at Gen Next Foundation, said he is optimistic about applying the ISIS approach to North America. “Our interest is in countering extremism… particularly in the homeland,” he told the Intercept.

Gen Next Foundation, based in Newport Beach, Calif., was founded by a group of young executives, authors, entrepreneurs and others to fight terrorism.

In the ISIS pilot program, the YouTube channel pulls preexisting videos that, according to Yasmin Green, the head of research and development for Jigsaw,  “refute ISIS’s messaging.”

One video is from a woman who secretly filmed her life in ISIS-controlled Raqqa. Another shows young people in Mosul, their faces obscured by keffiyehs for their protection, talking about life under the Islamic State.

“The branding philosophy for the entire pilot project was not to appear judgmental or be moralistic, but really to pique interest of individuals who have questions, questions that are being raised and answered by the Islamic State,” Green said.

The next phase will also hone in on changes in users’ behavior.

“The idea that you can’t measure consumption patterns online is frankly absurd,” Frenett said.

Members of the Fraternal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan in Tennessee in 2009.

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OPM Spent Less Than Nearly All Other Federal Agencies on Cybersecurity

The Intercept - Engl. - Per, 08/09/2016 - 00:11

The federal agency that stored, and lost, millions of current and former government employees’ sensitive files, fingerprints, and security clearances spent only a small fraction of what other federal agencies allocated for cybersecurity, according to a new report published by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on Wednesday.

The Office of Personnel Management breach, announced last June, involved the personal data of over 20 million individuals  and was described by a former NSA senior official as “crown jewels material.” The report was the conclusion of a year-long investigation following the breach.

The personnel agency spent just $2 million in 2015 to prevent malicious cyber activity, while the Department of Agriculture doled out $39 million. The Departments of Commerce, Education, and Labor also spent more in this area. Among the categories of cybersecurity spending delineated by the committee—preventing malicious cyber activity, detecting, analyzing, and mitigating intrusions, and shaping the cybersecurity environment—only the Small Business Administration spent as little as OPM (although Small Business Administration spent more overall on cybersecurity).

OPM responded by saying the report does not actively reflect the progress the agency has made since the hack, and Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., the ranking Democrat on the House Oversight Committee, insisted the report was flawed, in part because it failed to place blame on or otherwise account for the contractors involved in the agency’s cybersecurity. Additionally, an entirely new agency, the National Background Investigations Bureau, will now be in charge of the security clearance process.

More money doesn’t necessarily mean better security, however. According to analysis from the Mercatus Center at George Mason University published in January 2015, the government invested more money in cybersecurity, but failed to stem the increasing flow of cyber breaches.

Yet for an agency tasked with protecting sensitive personnel data, it didn’t appear to invest much in making sure adversaries couldn’t access its databases. The breach, according to many national security officials, will take years to recover from.

“Despite this high value information maintained by OPM, the agency failed to prioritize cybersecurity,” wrote the authors of the report, including Committee Chairman Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Ut., Rep. Mark Meadows, R-NC., and Rep. Will Hurd, R-Tex.

See the chart depicting how much agencies spent on cyber in 2015 below:


The OPM Data Breach: How the Government Jeopardized Our National Security for More than a Generation, and FY2015 Office of Management and Budget Annual Report to Congress: Federal Information Security Management Act

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Paying Taxes Is a Lot Better Than Phony Corporate Courage, Apple

The Intercept - Engl. - Per, 08/09/2016 - 00:07

Every fall the internet and its resident tech mumblers congregate for The Apple Event, a quasi-pagan streaming-video rite in which Tim Cook boasts of just how much money his company is making (a lot) and just how much good it’s introducing to the world (this typically involves a new iPhone). This is merely annoying most years; but in 2016, when Apple is loudly, publicly denying its tax obligations around the world, it’s just gross.

Today’s iteration of the ritual, which spanned roughly two hours and included about five minutes of news, began with a rundown of some very large numbers: Apple’s streaming music service has over 17 million paying subscribers, its App Store has topped 140 billion downloads, and that store’s revenue is double that of its Google counterpart. After a brief preview of an upcoming Super Mario game for the iPhone, sure to be a revenue blockbuster, Cook segued into a spiel about the importance of education and the necessity of providing proper resources to students. His solution: a new version of iWork, Apple’s productivity software suite, that allows for multiple kids to edit the same document at the same time. It seems unlikely this will make a substantial difference in the quality of education for children around the world — particularly in countries where public schools are underfunded because companies like Apple deliberately avoid paying taxes.

Apple, despite (or more likely, because of) its recurring status as the most valuable company in the history of capitalism, funnels a huge portion of its profits overseas, particularly to Ireland, in order to avoid paying its fair share at home in the United States. This year, the company has come under fire from the EU for failing to pay what it should even in the zone where it’s stashing its profits — the European Commission has demanded a $15 billion payment from Apple over unpaid Irish taxes, a sum Ireland is actually refusing to accept for fear it will lose its coveted status as Apple’s unscrupulously convenient money dump. Meanwhile, the United States is condemning the EU’s ruling because it’s also battling Apple for unpaid taxes — it has apparently not occurred to either party that Apple is so unfathomably cash-rich that it could satisfy its tax obligations on two continents at once.

Apple CEO Tim Cook speaks on stage during a launch event on Sept. 7, 2016, in San Francisco, California.

Photo: Stephen Lam/Getty Images

The official corporate position is now effectively We’ll pay what we want, and you’ll deal with it; Tim Cook himself has said Apple will only repatriate its vast billions to the U.S. if it’s at a rate he considers “fair.” Cook simultaneously claims Apple is already paying more in taxes than anyone else in the world, which as Bloomberg’s Shira Ovide puts it, “has the benefit of possibly being true and impossible to verify.”

Apple’s tax schemes cannot be dismissed as merely matching the competition for reasons of corporate pragmatism. Yes, Google and Facebook engage in aggressive tax avoidance too. But Cook appears to be pushing for permanently lower corporate taxes. That’s the best explanation for why he has helped raise money for Republican legislators despite sharp differences on social issues (Cook is the world’s most prominent gay executive). This seems like as good a point as any to mention that Cook today boasted that Apple has sold over a billion iPhones around the world — the iPhone 7 will retail for $649.

And so it’s hard to swallow Apple’s use of the word “courage” to describe the corporate ethos that pushed the company to remove the headphone plug from the newest iPhone while offering a new pair of jack-free earbuds that will run you $160. Removing a headphone jack or adding 20 headphone jacks does not require courage; engineers are very smart, but their job does not typically require much bravery. Courage is more often found in, say, running into a burning school to rescue the students and class rodent. Or, maybe, you could call courageous the act of paying the many billions you owe around the world into the system that ensures those students have all of the resources they need in order to learn and grow. Just a hint: Collaborative spreadsheet software doesn’t count.

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The post Paying Taxes Is a Lot Better Than Phony Corporate Courage, Apple appeared first on The Intercept.

Riskante Überschüsse

German Foreign Policy - Per, 08/09/2016 - 00:00
(Eigener Bericht) - Deutschland wird 2016 seinen höchsten Exportüberschuss seit je erzielen und mit einem Plus im Außenhandel von mehr als einer Viertelbillion Euro sämtliche anderen Länder der Welt weit in den Schatten stellen. Dies sagt das Münchner ifo-Institut voraus. Bereits im ersten Halbjahr 2016 konnten deutsche Firmen ein Außenhandelsplus von 142,6 Milliarden Euro verzeichnen, fast zehn Prozent mehr als im Vergleichszeitraum 2015. International werden die jüngsten deutschen Rekorde scharf kritisiert: Dauerhafte Exportüberschüsse führen in den Abnehmerländern häufig zu dauerhaften Außenhandelsdefiziten, die die betroffenen Staaten häufig tief in die Verschuldung treiben; aktuelle Beispiele sind die südlichen Eurostaaten, etwa Griechenland. Weil die Exportüberschüsse jedoch deutschen Firmen Wohlstand und Einfluss in der Weltwirtschaft sichern, kümmert Berlin sich nicht darum. Mittlerweile warnen allerdings erste Think-Tanks vor den Folgen. So rät beispielsweise die Bertelsmann-Stiftung zu einem vorsichtigen Kurswechsel: Ein Wachstumsmodell, das allzu stark auf Exporte fokussiere, gerate im Falle eines Absatzrückgangs in bedeutenden Abnehmerstaaten in die Krise. Tatsächlich gehen die deutschen Ausfuhren in Nicht-EU-Staaten bereits zurück, etwa wegen Schwierigkeiten in China und wegen der Russland-Sanktionen. Innerhalb der EU nehmen - aufgrund der Krise in der Eurozone - vor allem noch die Ausfuhren nach Großbritannien zu, das allerdings vor dem EU-Austritt steht - mit unklaren Folgen für deutsche Lieferanten.


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