TBR News April 20, 2017

Apr 20 2017

The Voice of the White House

Washington, D.C. April 20, 2017:” Here are only some of the intercepted documents the controllers of WikiLeaks are working on:

1.Leading American political figures who regularly search and download child pornography, the so-called Kiddie Porn, from a Ukrainian site.

2.A CIA plan to assassinate Vladimir Putin. A deliberate car “accident” was already attempted in Moscow.

3.Large-scale bribery by Saudi Arabia of leading American political figures.

4.Love letter-type communications between Hillary Clinton and her top Arabic aide, Huma Abedin.

5.Dossiers on eight of the leading neo-cons who are paid to spy for Israel.

6.The involvement of former President George H.W. Bush and Karl Rove in the fomenting of the Saudi attack on 9/11

I would anticipate any or all of these.

I do not know a publication schedule but I would believe it would be determined by domestic American politics.”

Table of Contents

  • A Turkey Divided by Erdogan Will Become Prey for the Country’s Enemies
  • How to Lose the Next War in the Middle East
  • Pompeo vs. WikiLeaks: It’s No Contest
  • Exclusive: Julian Assange Strikes Back at CIA Director and Talks Trump, Russia, and Hillary Clinton
  • WikiLeaks for fun and profit
  • DARPA
  • North Korea tension: US ‘armada’ was not sailing to Korean peninsula
  • Who Really Started the Korean War?
  • Commentary: The next super weapon could be biological
  • Smallpox redux
  • O’Reilly loses job over harassment claims
  • Windows users urged to update computers after major NSA hacking tool release
  • Last stand: Nebraska farmers could derail Keystone XL pipeline

 A Turkey Divided by Erdogan Will Become Prey for the Country’s Enemies

April 17, 2017

Patrick Cockburn

The Unz Review

What critics claim is the openly fraudulent Turkish referendum ends parliamentary democracy in the country and gives President Recep Tayyip Erdogan dictatorial powers. The most unexpected aspect of the poll on Sunday was not the declared outcome, but that the ruling AKP (Justice and Development Party) allegedly found it necessary to fix the vote quite so blatantly.

The tightness of the final outcome of the referendum – 51.4 per cent “yes” to the constitutional changes and 48.59 per cent voting “no” – shows that the “no” voters would have been in the majority in any fairly conducted election.

Late on election day the head of the Electoral Board overseeing the process decided that votes not stamped as legally valid, numbering as many as 1.5 million, would be counted as valid, quite contrary to the practice in previous Turkish elections. An even cheekier ploy was to announce that cities with large Kurdish populations in south-east Turkey, where Erdogan’s security services have brutally crushed dissent, had swung in his direction.

These possible signs of fraud come in addition to the detention of journalists, MPs and activists and the takeover or closure of almost 150 media outlets. Some 145,000 people have been detained or arrested and a further 134,000 sacked for alleged links to the attempted military coup on 16 July 2016 which is the excuse for a purge in which anybody suspected of dissent is targeted as “a terrorist”. Erdogan already holds arbitrary power under a state of emergency under which parliament, the judiciary and other power centres will be brought under the full control of “an executive presidency”.

All of this will be familiar to anybody familiar with the toxic politics of one party or monarchical states anywhere in the world. Syrian elections to this day and Iraqi elections up to 2003 invariably returned overwhelming majorities in favour of their regimes and some found it a mystery why their rulers bothered to hold a vote at all. The answer was that the vanity of autocrats is bottomless and they want to see reports in their state-controlled media that they and their policies are the people’s choice. A subtler and more menacing message is to demonstrate their ability to force their people to perform an electoral kow-tow as a demonstration of raw power and to show the world who is in charge.

In the past foreign observers have often made the mistake of thinking that Turkey was similar to Middle East states. In reality, it was a much more modern state closer in its political history to the countries of southern Europe. There were military coups and military rule, but there were also real elections and powerful parliaments. There was a sophisticated and influential media and an intellectual energy in Turkey superior to most countries in Europe. It is this that is now being eliminated as Turkey becomes yet another member of the corrupt and tawdry club of Middle East autocracies.

The manipulation of the referendum results, claimed by the opposition, is in sharp contrast to the conduct of past Turkish elections which were generally fair. Parts of the process remained legitimate, as witness the majority of “no” votes Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir, the three biggest Turkish cities. This was an encouraging show of independence by voters and their representatives in the face of relentless pressure from the authorities to vote “yes”. No act of revenge is too petty or cruel: In one case an opposition MP, who denounced the “yes” voters, found that in retaliation his 88-year-old mother had been discharged from a hospital where she had been under treatment for two-and-a-half years.

Opponents of Erdogan are taking comfort in the thought that a “stolen” election will not legitimise his rule and can be challenged in the courts. But people in the business of establishing authoritarian rule and taking over the judiciary are not going to be deterred by such quibbles. In addition, the leaders of opposition political parties are incompetent, rendered ineffective by state persecution or, as in the case of the pro-Kurdish HDP, in jail awaiting long sentences.

The narrowness and dubious nature of Erdogan’s electoral “success” is unlikely to make him more conciliatory and, going by his actions after failing to get the majority he wanted in a general election in 2015, he will become even more aggressive in stamping out opposition. He is already proposing to bring back the death penalty which scarcely argues any appetite for compromise on his part. Resistance to his rule, deprived of any effective legitimate vehicle for protest through parliamentary politics, may become more violent, but he can use this to demonise all dissent as “terrorism”.

Yet it will be difficult for Erdogan to stabilise his country because he has previously specialised in provoking crises, such as the Kurdish insurgency since 2015 or Turkey’s role in the war in Syria, which supposedly necessitate a strong leader such as himself.

Authoritarian rulers often get away with such justifications for their monopoly of power, particularly if they have full control of the media in their own country. They can deal with domestic opponents by unleashing the security arm of the state against them. The real danger to their rule is when their foreign and domestic enemies combine against them.

Erdogan tried to whip up Turkish nationalist feeling during the election campaign, by carefully-staged theatrical rows with the Netherlands and Germany. But Turkey is surrounded by many actual or potential enemies – Syrian, Kurdish, Iranian, Russian – who see how easy it will be to exploit and exacerbate the country’s hatreds and deep divisions.

How to Lose the Next War in the Middle East

The Short Answer: Fight it!

by Danny Sjursen

TomDispatch

Make no mistake: after 15 years of losing wars, spreading terror movements, and multiplying failed states across the Greater Middle East, America will fight the next versions of our ongoing wars. Not that we ever really stopped.  Sure, Washington traded in George W. Bush’s expansive, almost messianic attitude toward his Global War on Terror for Barack Obama’s more precise, deliberate, even cautious approach to an unnamed version of the same war for hegemony in the Greater Middle East.  Sure, in the process kitted-up 19 year-olds from Iowa became less ubiquitous features on Baghdad’s and Kabul’s busy boulevards, even if that distinction was lost on the real-life targets of America’s wars — and the bystanders (call them “collateral damage”) scurrying across digital drone display screens.

It’s hardly a brilliant observation to point out that, more than 15 years later, the entire region is a remarkable mess.  So much worse off than Washington found it, even if all of that mess can’t simply be blamed on the United States — at least not directly.  It’s too late now, as the Trump administration is discovering, to retreat behind two oceans and cover our collective eyes.  And yet, acts that might still do some modest amount of good (resettling refugees, sending aid, brokering truces, anything within reason to limit suffering) don’t seem to be on any American agenda.

So, after 16 years of inconclusive or catastrophic regional campaigns, maybe it’s time to stop dreaming about how to make things better in the Greater Middle East and try instead to imagine how to make things worse (since that’s the path we often seem to take anyway). Here, then, is a little thought experiment for you: what if Washington actually wanted to lose? How might the U.S. government go about accomplishing that? Let me offer a quick (and inevitably incomplete) to-do list on the subject

As a start, you would drop an enlarged, conventional army into Iraq and/or Syria. This would offer a giant red, white, and blue target for all those angry, young radicalized men just dying (pardon the pun) to extinguish some new “crusader” force.  It would serve as an effective religious-nationalist rallying cry (and target) throughout the region.

Then you would create a news-magnet of a ban (or at least the appearance of one) on immigrants and visitors of every sort from predominantly Muslim countries coming to the United States.  It’s hardly an accident that ISIS has taken to calling the president’s proposed executive order to do just that “the blessed ban” and praising Donald Trump as the “best caller to Islam.”  Such actions only confirm the extremist narrative: that Muslims are unwelcome in and incompatible with the West, that liberal plurality is a neo-imperial scam.

Finally, you would feed the common perception in the region that Washington’s support for Israel and assorted Arab autocrats is unconditional.  To do so, you would go out of your way to hold fawning public meetings with military strongmen like Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, and suggest that, when it came to Israel, you were considering changing American policy when it comes to a two-state solution and the illegal Israeli settlements in Palestine.  Such policies would feed another ISIS narrative: U.S. support for illiberal despots and the failure of the Arab Spring is proof that practicing Muslims and peaceful Islamists will never successfully gain power through the democratic process.

Key to such a losing strategy would be doing anything you could to reinforce ISIS’s twisted narrative of an end-of-days battle between Islam and Christendom, a virtuous East versus a depraved West, an authentic Caliphate against hypocritical democracies.  In what amounts to a war of ideas, pursuing such policies would all but hand victory to ISIS and other jihadi extremist groups.  And so you would have successfully created a strategy for losing eternally in the Greater Middle East.  And if that was the desired outcome in Washington, well, congratulations all around, but of course we all know that it wasn’t.

Let’s take these three points in such a losing strategy one by one. (Of course “losing” is itself a contested term, but for our purposes, consider the U.S. to have lost as long as its military spins its wheels in a never-ending quagmire, while gradually empowering various local “adversaries.”)

Just a Few Thousand More Troops Will Get It Done…

There are already thousands of American soldiers and Marines in Iraq and Syria, to say nothing of the even more numerous troops and sailors stationed on bases in Kuwait, Bahrain, Turkey, and other states ringing America’s Middle Eastern battlefields.  Still, if you want to mainline into the fastest way to lose the next phase of the war on terror, just blindly acquiesce in the inevitable requests of your commanders for yet more troops and planes needed to finish the job in Syria ( and Iraq, and Afghanistan, and Yemen, and so on).

Let’s play this out.  First, the worst (and most plausible) case: U.S. ground forces get sucked into an ever more complex, multi-faceted civil war — deeper and deeper still, until one day they wake up in a world that looks like Baghdad, 2007, all over again.

Or, lest we be accused of defeatism, consider the best case: those endlessly fortified and reinforced American forces wipe the floor with ISIS and just maybe manage to engineer the toppling of Bashar al-Assad’s Syrian regime as well.  It’s V-Day in the Middle East!  And then what?  What happens the day after? When and to whom do American troops turn over power?

* The Kurds? That’s a nonstarter for Turkey, Iran, and Iraq, all countries with significant Kurdish minorities.

* The Saudis? Don’t count on it.  They’re busy bombing Houthi Shias in Yemen (with U.S.-supplied ordnance) and grappling with the diversification of their oil-based economy in a world in which fossil fuels are struggling.

* Russia? Fat chance. Bombing “terrorists”? Yes. Propping up an autocratic client to secure basing rights? Sure. Temporary transactional alliances of convenience in the region? Absolutely. But long-term nation-building in the heart of the Middle East? It’s just not the style of Vladimir Putin’s Russia, a country with its own shaky petro-economy.

* So maybe leave Assad in power and turn the country back over to what’s left of his minority, Alawite-dominated regime? That, undoubtedly, is the road to hell.  After all, it was his murderous, barrel-bombing, child-gassing acts that all but caused the civil war in the first place.  You can be sure that, sooner or later, Syria’s majority Sunni population and its separatist Kurds would simply rebel again, while (as the last 15 years should have taught us) an even uglier set of extremists rose to the surface.

Keep in mind as well that, when it comes to the U.S. military, the Iraqi and Afghan “surges” of 2007 and 2009 offered proof positive that more ground troops aren’t a cure-all in such situations.  They are a formula for expending prodigious amounts of money and significant amounts of blood, while only further alienating local populations.  Meanwhile, unleashing manned and drone aircraft strikes, which occasionally kill large numbers of civilians, only add to the ISIS narrative.

Every mass casualty civilian bombing or drone strike incident just detracts further from American regional credibility.  While both air strikes and artillery barrages may hasten the offensive progress of America’s Kurdish, Iraqi, and Syrian allies, that benefit needs to be weighed against the moral and propaganda costs of those dead women and children.  For proof, see the errant bombing strike on an apartment building in Mosul last month.  After all, those hundred-plus civilians are just as dead as Assad’s recent victims and just as many angry, grieving family members and friends have been left behind.

In other words, any of the familiar U.S. strategies, including focusing all efforts on ISIS or toppling Assad, or a bit of both, won’t add up to a real policy for the region.  No matter how the Syrian civil war shakes out, Washington will need a genuine “what next” plan.  Unfortunately, if the chosen course predictably relies heavily on the military lever to shape Syria’s shattered society, America’s presence and actions will only (as in the past) aggravate the crisis and help rejuvenate its many adversaries.

“The Blessed Ban”

The Trump administration’s proposed “travel ban” quickly became fodder for left-versus-right vitriol in the U.S.  Here’s a rundown on what it’s likely to mean when it comes to foreign policy and the “next” war.  First, soaring domestic fears over jihadi terror attacks in this country and the possible role of migrants and refugees in stoking them represent a potentially catastrophic over-reaction to a modest threat.  Annually, from 2005 to 2015, terrorists killed an average of just seven Americans on U.S. soil.  You are approximately 18,000 times more likely to die in some sort of accident than from such an attack.  In addition, according to a study by the conservative Cato Institute, from 1975 to 2015 citizens of the countries included in Trump’s first ban (including Iraq and Syria) killed precisely zero people in the United States.  Nor has any refugee conducted a fatal domestic attack here.  Finally, despite candidate and President Trump’s calls for “extreme vetting” of Muslim refugees, the government already has a complex, two-year vetting process for such refugees which is remarkably “extreme.”

Those are the facts.  What truly matters, however, is the effect of such a ban on the war of ideas in the Middle East.  In short, it’s manna from heaven for ISIS’s storyline in which Americans are alleged to hate all Muslims. It tells you everything you need to know that, within days of the administration’s announcement of its first ban, ISIS had taken to labeling it “blessed,” just as al-Qaeda once extolled George W. Bush’s 2003 “blessed invasion” of Iraq. Even Senator John McCain, a well-known hawk, worried that Trump’s executive order would “probably give ISIS some more propaganda.”

Remember, while ISIS loves to claim responsibility for every attack in the West perpetrated by lost, disenfranchised, identity-seeking extremist youths, that doesn’t mean the organization actually directs them. The vast majority of these killers are self-radicalized citizens, not refugees or immigrants. One of the most effective — and tragic — ways to lose this war is to prove the jihadis right.

The Hypocrisy Trap

Another way to feed the ISIS narrative is to bolster perceptions of diplomatic insincerity. Americans tend to be some of the least self-aware citizens on the planet. (Is it a coincidence that ours is about the only population left still questioning the existence of climate change?) Among the rare things that Democrats and Republicans agree on, however, is that America is a perennial force for good, in fact the force for good on Earth. As it happens, the rest of the world begs to differ. In Gallup global polls, the United States has, in fact, been identified as the number one threat to world peace!  However uncomfortable that may be, it matters.

One reason many Middle Easterners, in particular, believe this to be so stems from Washington’s longstanding support for regional autocrats.  In fiscal year 2017, Egypt’s military dictator and Jordan’s king will receive $1.46 and $1 billion respectively in U.S. foreign aid — nearly 7% of its total assistance budget.  After leading a coup to overturn Egypt’s elected government, General Sisi was officially persona non grata in the White House (though President Obama reinstated $1.3 billion in military aid in 2015).  Sisi’s recent visit to the Trump White House changed all that as, in a joint press conference, the president swore that he was “very much behind” Egypt and that Sisi himself had “done a fantastic job.”  In another indicator of future policy, the State Department dropped existing human rights conditions for the multibillion-dollar sale of F-16s to Bahrain’s monarchy.  All of this might be of mild interest, if it weren’t for the way it bolstered ISIS claims that democracy is just an “idol,” and the democratic process a fraud that American presidents simply ignore.

Then there’s Israel, already the object of deep hatred in the region, and now clearly about to receive a blank check of support from the Trump administration.  The role that Israeli leaders already play in American domestic politics is certainly striking to Arab audiences. Consider how unprecedented it was in 2015 to see Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu criticize a sitting president before a joint session of Congress in an Israeli election year and receive multiple, bipartisan standing ovations.  Even so, none of this prevented the Obama administration, domestically labeled “weak on Israel,” from negotiating a record $38 billion military aid deal with that country.

While violent Palestinian fighters are far from blameless, for 40 years Israel has increasingly created facts on the ground meant to preclude a viable Palestinian state.  Netanyahu and his predecessors increased illegal settlements in the Palestinian territories, built an exclusion wall, and further divided the West Bank by constructing a network of roads meant only for the Israeli military and Jewish settlers.

Although most world leaders, publics, and the United Nations see the Jewish settlements on the West Bank as a major impediment to peace, the current U.S. ambassador to Israel was once the president of a fundraising group supporting just such an Israeli settlement.  The notion that he could be an honest broker in peace talks borders on the farcical.

All of this, of course, matters when it comes to Washington’s unending wars in the region.  Even Secretary of Defense James Mattis, soon after leaving the helm of U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), recognized that he “paid a military security price every day as a commander of CENTCOM because the Americans were seen as biased in support of Israel.”  So, you want to lose?  Keep feeding the ISIS narrative on democracy and Israel just as the Trump administration is doing, even as it sends more troops into the region and heightens bombing and drone raids from Syria to Yemen.

Send in the Cavalry…

If the next phase of the generational struggle for the Middle East is once again to be essentially a military one, while the Trump administration feeds every negative American stereotype in the region, then it’s hard to see a future of anything but defeat. A combination of widespread American ignorance and the intellectual solace of simplistic models lead many here to ascribe jihadist terrorism to some grand, ethereal hatred of “Christendom.”

The reality is far more discomfiting. Consider, for instance, a document from “ancient” history: Osama bin Laden’s 1998 fatwa against the United States.  At that time, he described three tangible motives for jihad: U.S. occupation of Islam’s holiest lands in the Middle East, U.S. attacks on and sanctions against Iraq, and American support for Israel’s “occupation” of Jerusalem.  If ISIS and al-Qaeda’s center of gravity is not their fighting force but their ideology (as I believe it is), then the last thing Washington should want to do is substantiate any of these three visions of American motivation — unless, of course, the goal is to lose the war on terror across the Greater Middle East and parts of Africa.

In that case, the solution is obvious: Washington should indeed insert more troops and set up yet more bases in the region, maintain unqualified support for right-wing Israeli governments and assorted Arab autocrats, and do its best to ban Muslim refugees from America.  That, after all, represents the royal road to affirming al-Qaeda’s, and now ISIS’s, overarching narratives. It’s a formula — already well used in the last 15 years — for playing directly into the enemy’s hands and adhering to its playbook, for creating yet more failed states and terror groups throughout the region.

When it comes to Syria in particular, there are some shockingly unexamined contradictions at the heart of Washington’s reactions to its war there.  President Trump, for instance, recently spoke emotionally about the “beautiful babies cruelly murdered” in Idlib, Syria.  Yet, the administration’s executive order on travel bans any Syrian refugees — including beautiful babies — from entering this country.  If few Americans recognize the incongruity or hypocrisy of this, you can bet that isn’t true in the Arab world.

For ISIS, today’s struggle in Syria, Iraq, and elsewhere is part of an unremitting, apocalyptic holy war between Islam and the West.  That narrative is demonstrably false.  The current generation of jihadis sprang from tangible grievances and perceived humiliations perpetrated by recent Western policies.  There was nothing “eternal” about it.  The first recorded suicide bombings in the Middle East didn’t erupt until the early 1980s.  So forget the thousand-year struggle or even, in Western terms, the “clash of civilizations.”  It took America’s military-first policies in the region to generate what has now become perpetual war with spreading terror insurgencies.

Want a formula for forever war? Send in the cavalry… again.

Pompeo vs. WikiLeaks: It’s No Contest

April 19, 2017

by Thomas Knapp

AntiWar

Last July, while stumping for then-candidate, now-president Donald Trump, US Representative Mike Pompeo (R-KS) gleefully referenced nearly 20,000 Democratic National Committee emails released by the transparency/disclosure journalists at WikiLeaks. “Need further proof that the fix was in from Pres. Obama on down?” Pompeo tweeted. The emails showed that DNC officials had worked overtime to rig their party’s primaries for eventual nominee Hillary Clinton and against challenger Bernie Sanders.

What a difference nine months makes! On April 13, Pompeo – now in charge at the Central Intelligence Agency – used the bully pulpit of his first public speech in his new job to call out his old ally as “a nonstate hostile intelligence service often abetted by state actors like Russia.”

WikiLeaks says that no, it is not in fact abetted by Vladimir Putin’s regime.

If I have to choose between believing WikiLeaks or believing Mike Pompeo, I’ll believe WikiLeaks six days a week and twice on Sunday.

Over the course of more than a decade, WikiLeaks has built a sterling reputation for delivering the real goods on various governments (including Russia’s). The next document it releases which is shown to be fake will be the first. WikiLeaks has earned the trust of the public – and moreover, it has shown that it trusts the public with information about what our governments are doing in our names and with our money.

The US intelligence community, on the other hand, spies on us, lies to us about it, and expects us to pick up the check even after decades of irrefutable evidence of its dishonesty and incompetence.

The publicly released evidence for Pompeo’s allegation that WikiLeaks is in bed with the Russians is: Zero, zip, zilch, nada, a big fat goose-egg. If Pompeo has any such evidence, he’s keeping it secret. And that’s not very believable: After all, the CIA has done a pretty poor job of keeping secrets lately. WikiLeaks is in the process of releasing “Vault 7,” a trove of CIA documents revealing the agency’s work to subvert the electronic devices we all use on a daily basis and spy on us through them.

If Pompeo had any evidence that WikiLeaks was working with or for Putin, someone (maybe even WikiLeaks itself) would likely have already procured and published that information. Just sayin’.

North Korea tension: US ‘armada’ was not sailing to Korean peninsulaWikiLeaks has changed the world, and it’s changed it for the better. Pompeo and his old and busted spy mill, not so much.

Exclusive: Julian Assange Strikes Back at CIA Director and Talks Trump, Russia, and Hillary Clinton

April 19 2017

by Jeremy Scahill

The Intercept

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is hitting back at Trump’s CIA director Mike Pompeo following a speech last week in which Pompeo accused WikiLeaks of being a “hostile nonstate intelligence agency” operating outside of the protections of the First Amendment. “We can no longer allow Assange and his colleagues the latitude to use free speech values against us. To give them the space to crush us with misappropriated secrets is a perversion of what our great Constitution stands for,” Pompeo declared, adding an ominous assertion: “It ends now.”

Speaking from the Ecuadorian embassy in London, where he has been living since June 2012, Assange said Pompeo appeared to be issuing a threat. “So how does he propose to conduct this ending? He didn’t say. But the CIA is only in the business of collecting information, kidnapping people, and assassinating people. So, it’s quite a menacing statement that he does need to clarify,” said Assange.

Assange made the remarks during an exclusive interview for the Intercepted podcast. “The reason why Director Pompeo is launching this attack, is because he knows we’re in this series exposing all sorts of illegal actions by the CIA,” Assange said, referring to WikiLeaks ongoing publication of secret CIA hacking documents as part of its “Vault 7” project. Pompeo, he said, is “trying to get ahead of the publicity curve and create a preemptive defense.”

When he watched Pompeo’s speech, Assange said he was struck by what he perceived as a lack of gravitas. “We thought it was quite a weak speech in that it put Director Pompeo, it put the CIA, in a position where they looked like they were frightened and worried that we were the better intelligence service,” Assange said.

Regarding Pompeo’s declaration that WikiLeaks was not entitled to First Amendment rights, Assange said: “For the head of the CIA to pronounce what the boundaries are, of reporting or not reporting — is a very disturbing precedent. The head of the CIA determining who is a publisher, who’s not a publisher, who’s a journalist, who’s not a journalist, is totally out of line.”

In the wide-ranging interview, Assange discussed the allegations that WikiLeaks was abetted by Russian intelligence in its publication of DNC emails, his alleged relationship with Roger Stone and his newfound admirers on the right, from FOX News to Sarah Palin and Donald Trump.

Assange said that if WikiLeaks had obtained a cache of RNC emails, it would have published those as well. “Just imagine if WikiLeaks had obtained information that it knew was true about the Democratic party and corruption of the primary process, and it decided that it was not going to publish that information, but suppress it — it would be completely unconscionable,” he said. “We specialize in really big scoops. You can’t go, ‘Oh, we have this massive scoop about corruption in the DNC. Now we need to balance this with a massive scoop about corruption in the RNC.’ These things come along once every few years.”

Questioned about WikiLeaks’s aggressive targeting of Hillary Clinton, Assange rejected the notion that he went after her for personal reasons. “I’ve never met Hillary Clinton,” he said. “I think I’d probably like her in person. Most good politicians are quite charismatic in person. In some ways she’s a bit like me, She’s a bit wonkish and a bit awkward. So maybe we’d get along.”

WikiLeaks for fun and profit

April 20, 2017

by Harry von Johnston, PhD

Our Asian intelligence sources report the following:

“Wikileaks is running a disinformation campaign, crying persecution by U.S. intelligence- when it is U.S. intelligence itself. Its [Wikileaks’] activities in Iceland are totally suspect.”

Wikileaks claims it is the victim of a new COINTELPRO [Counter Intelligence Program] operation directed by the Pentagon and various U.S. intelligence agencies.

WMR’s sources believe that it is Wikileaks that is part and parcel of a cyber-COINTELPRO campaign, such as that proposed by President Obama’s “information czar,” Dr. Cass Sunstein.

In January 2007, John Young, who runs cryptome.org, a site that publishes a wealth of sensitive and classified information, left Wikileaks, claiming the operation was a CIA front.

Young also published some 150 email messages sent by Wikileaks activists on cryptome.

They include a disparaging comment about this editor by Wikileaks co-founder Dr. Julian Assange of Australia.

Assange lists as one of his professions “hacker.”

His German co-founder of Wikileaks uses a pseudonym, “Daniel Schmitt.”

Wikileaks claims it is “a multi-jurisdictional organization to protect internal dissidents, whistleblowers, journalists and bloggers who face legal or other threats related to publishing” [whose] primary interest is in exposing oppressive regimes in Asia, the former Soviet bloc, Sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East, but we are of assistance to people of all nations who wish to reveal unethical behavior in their governments and corporations. We aim for maximum political impact. We have received over 1.2 million documents so far from dissident communities and anonymous sources.”

Asian intelligence sources also point out that Assange’s “PhD” is from Moffett University, an on-line diploma mill and that while he is said to hail from Nairobi, Kenya, he actually in from Australia where his exploits have included computer hacking and software piracy.

Wikileaks is intimately involved in a $20 million CIA operation that U.S.-based Chinese dissidents that hack into computers in China.

Wikileaks was originally started by DARPA as a disinformation program.

Some of the Chinese hackers route special hacking program through Chinese computers that then target U.S. government and military computer systems.

After this hacking is accomplished, the U.S. government announces through friendly media outlets that U.S. computers have been subjected to a Chinese cyber-attack.

The “threat” increases an already-bloated cyber-defense and offense budget and plays into the fears of the American public and businesses that heavily rely on information technology.

It is also pointed out that on Wikileaks advisory board is Ben Laurie, a one-time programmer and Internet security expert for Google, which recently signed a cooperative agreement with the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) and has been charged by China with being part of a U.S. cyber-espionage campaign against China.

Other Wikileaks advisory members are leading Chinese dissidents, including Wan Dan, who won the 1998 National Endowment for Democracy (NED) Democracy Award; Wang Youcai, founder of the Chinese Democracy Party; Xiao Qiang, the director of the China Internet Project at the University of California at Berkeley, member of the advisory board of the International Campaign for Tibet, and commentator on the George Soros-affiliated Radio Free Asia; and Tibetan exile and activist Tashi Namgyal Khamsitsang.

DARPA

DARPA is a Defense Agency with a unique role within DoD. DARPA is not tied to a specific operational mission: DARPA supplies technological options for the entire Department, and is designed to be the “technological engine” for transforming DoD.

Near-term needs and requirements generally drive the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force to focus on those needs at the expense of major change. Consequently, a large organization like DoD needs a place like DARPA whose only charter is radical innovation.

DARPA looks beyond today’s known needs and requirements. As military historian John Chambers noted, “None of the most important weapons transforming warfare in the 20th century – the airplane, tank, radar, jet engine, helicopter, electronic computer, not even the atomic bomb – owed its initial development to a doctrinal requirement or request of the military.” And to this list, DARPA would add unmanned systems, Global Positioning System (GPS) and Internet technologies.

DARPA’s approach is to imagine what capabilities a military commander might want in the future and accelerate those capabilities into being through technology demonstrations. These not only provide options to the commander, but also change minds about what is technologically possible today.

DARPA as a model

DARPA’s key characteristics to be replicated to reproduce DARPA’s success are:

  • Small and flexible: DARPA has only about 140 technical professionals; DARPA presents itself as “100 geniuses connected by a travel agent.”
  • Flat organization: DARPA avoids hierarchy, essentially operating at only two management levels to ensure the free and rapid flow of information and ideas, and rapid decision-making.
  • Autonomy and freedom from bureaucratic impediments: DARPA has an exemption from Title V civilian personnel specifications, which provides for a direct authority to hire talents with the expediency not all wed by the standard civil service process.
  • Eclectic, world-class technical staff and performers: DARPA seeks great talents and ideas from industry, universities, government laboratories, and individuals, mixing disciplines and theoretical and experimental strength. DARPA neither owns nor operates any laboratories or facilities, and the overwhelming majority of the research it sponsors is done in industry and universities. Very little of DARPA’s research is performed at government labs.
  • Teams and networks: At its very best, DARPA creates and sustains great teams of researchers from different disciplines that collaborate and share in the teams’ advances.
  • Hiring continuity and change: DARPA’s technical staff is hired or assigned for four to six years. Like any strong organization, DARPA mixes experience and change. It retains a base of experienced experts – its Office Directors and support staff – who are knowledgeable about DoD. The staff is rotated to ensure fresh thinking and perspectives, and to have room to bring technical staff from new areas into DARPA. It also allows the program managers to be bold and not fear failure.
  • Project-based assignments organized around a challenge model: DARPA organizes a significant part of its portfolio around specific technology challenges. It foresees new innovation-based capabilities and then works back to the fundamental breakthroughs required to make them possible. Although individual projects typically last three to five years, major technological challenges may be addressed over longer time periods, ensuring patient investment on a series of focused steps and keeping teams together for ongoing collaboration. Continued funding for DARPA projects is based on passing specific milestones, sometimes called “go/no-go’s.”
  • Outsourced support personnel: DARPA extensively leverages technical, contracting, and administrative services from other DoD agencies and branches of the military. This provides DARPA the flexibility to get into and out of an area without the burden of sustaining staff, while building cooperative alliances with its “agents.” These outside agents help create a constituency in their respective organizations for adopting the technology.
  • Outstanding program managers: The best DARPA program managers have always been freewheeling zealots in pursuit of their goals. The Director’s most important task is to recruit and hire very creative people with big ideas, and empower them.
  • Acceptance of failure: DARPA pursues breakthrough opportunities and is very tolerant of technical failure if the payoff from success will be great enough.
  • Orientation to revolutionary breakthroughs in a connected approach: DARPA historically has focused not on incremental but radical innovation. It emphasizes high-risk investment, moves from fundamental technological advances to prototyping, and then hands off the system development and production to the military services or the commercial sector.
  • Mix of connected collaborators: DARPA typically builds strong teams and networks of collaborators, bringing in a range of technical expertise and applicable disciplines, and involving university researchers and technology firms that are often not significant defense contractors or beltway consultants.

History

DARPA was created as the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA), by Public Law 85-325 and Department of Defense Directive 5105.15, in February 1958. Its creation was directly attributed to the launching of Sputnik and to U.S. realization that the Soviet Union had developed the capacity to rapidly exploit military technology. Additionally, the political and defense communities recognized the need for a high-level Department of Defense organization to formulate and execute R&D projects that would expand the frontiers of technology beyond the immediate and specific requirements of the Military Services and their laboratories. In pursuit of this mission, DARPA has developed and transferred technology programs encompassing a wide range of scientific disciplines which address the full spectrum of national security needs.

From 1958-1965, ARPA’s emphasis centered on major national issues, including space, ballistic missile defense, and nuclear test detection. During 1960, all of its civilian space programs were transferred to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the military space programs to the individual Services. This allowed DARPA to concentrate its efforts on the DEFENDER (defense against ballistic missiles), Project Vela (nuclear test detection), and AGILE (counterinsurgency R&D) Programs, and to begin work on computer processing, behavioral sciences, and materials sciences. The DEFENDER and AGILE Programs formed the foundation of DARPA sensor, surveillance, and directed energy R&D, particularly in the study of radar, infrared sensing, and x-ray/gamma ray detection.

During the late 1960s, with the transfer of these mature programs to the Services, ARPA redefined its role and concentrated on a diverse set of relatively small, essentially exploratory research programs. The Agency was renamed the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) in 1972, and during the early 1970s, it emphasized direct energy programs, information processing, and tactical technologies.

Concerning information processing, DARPA made great progress, initially through its support of the development of time-sharing (all modern operating systems rely on concepts invented for the Multics system, developed by a cooperation between Bell Labs, General Electric and MIT, which DARPA supported by funding Project MAC at MIT with an initial two-million-dollar grant), and later through the evolution of the ARPANET (the first wide-area packet switching network), Packet Radio Network, Packet Satellite Network and ultimately, the Internet and research in the artificial intelligence (AI) fields of speech recognition and signal processing. DARPA also funded the development of the Douglas Engelbart’s NLS computer system and the Aspen Movie Map, which was probably the first hypermedia system and an important precursor of virtual reality.

The Mansfield Amendment of 1973 expressly limited appropriations for defense research (through ARPA/DARPA) to projects with direct military application. Some[who?] contend that the amendment devastated American science, since ARPA/DARPA was a major funding source for basic science projects of the time; the National Science Foundation never made up the difference as expected. But the resulting “brain drain” is also credited with boosting the development of the fledgling personal computer industry. Many young computer scientists fled from the universities to startups and private research labs like Xerox PARC.

From 1976-1981, DARPA’s major thrusts were dominated by air, land, sea, and space technology, tactical armor and anti-armor programs, infrared sensing for space-based surveillance, high-energy laser technology for space-based missile defense, antisubmarine warfare, advanced cruise missiles, advanced aircraft, and defense applications of advanced computing. These large-scale technological program demonstrations were joined by integrated circuit research, which resulted in submicrometre electronic technology and electron devices that evolved into the Very Large Scale Integration (VLSI) Program and the Congressionally mandated charged particle beam program. Many of the successful programs were transitioned to the Services, such as the foundation technologies in automatic target recognition, space based sensing, propulsion, and materials that were transferred to the Strategic Defense Initiative Organization (SDIO), later known as the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization (BMDO), now titled the Missile Defense Agency (MDA).

During the 1980s, the attention of the Agency was centered on information processing and aircraft-related programs, including the National Aerospace Plane (NASP) or Hypersonic Research Program. The Strategic Computing Program enabled DARPA to exploit advanced processing and networking technologies and to rebuild and strengthen relationships with universities after the Vietnam War. In addition, DARPA began to pursue new concepts for small, lightweight satellites (LIGHTSAT) and directed new programs regarding defense manufacturing, submarine technology, and armor/anti-armor.

On October 28, 2009 the agency broke ground on a new facility in Arlington, Virginia a few miles from the Pentagon.

North Korea tension: US ‘armada’ was not sailing to Korean peninsula

April 19, 2017

BBC News

A US aircraft carrier and other warships did not sail towards North Korea – but went in the opposite direction, it has emerged.

The US Navy said on 8 April that the Carl Vinson strike group was travelling to the Korean peninsula amid tensions over Pyongyang’s nuclear ambitions.

Last week President Trump said an “armada” was being sent.

But the group was actually farther away over the weekend, moving through the Sunda Strait into the Indian Ocean.

The US military’s Pacific Command said on Tuesday that it had cancelled a port visit to Perth, but had completed previously scheduled training with Australia off its northwest coast after departing Singapore on 8 April.

The strike group was now “proceeding to the Western Pacific as ordered”.

It is not clear whether the failure to arrive was a deliberate deception, perhaps designed to frighten North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un, a change of plan or simple miscommunication, the BBC’s Korea correspondent Stephen Evans says.

Either way, US Vice-President Mike Pence was undeterred as he spoke aboard the USS Ronald Reagan – an aircraft carrier docked in Japan – during his tour of the region, vowing to “defeat any attack and meet any use of conventional or nuclear weapons with an overwhelming and effective American response”.

North Korea and the US have ratcheted up tensions in recent weeks and the movement of the strike group had raised the question of a pre-emptive strike by the US.

On Wednesday, Mr Pence described the country as the “most dangerous and urgent threat to peace and security” in the Asia-Pacific.

His words came after the North held a show of military might in a parade over the weekend and tested another missile on Sunday, which blew up almost immediately after launch, the Pentagon said.

Timeline of recent tensions

  • 8 April: The US military orders a navy strike group to move towards the Korean peninsula
  • 11 April: North Korea says it will defend itself “by powerful force of arms”
  • 15 April: North Korea puts on a huge military parade – complete with missiles – to mark 105th birthday of the nation’s founding president, Kim Il-sung. Meanwhile US Vice-President Mike Pence arrives in South Korea
  • 16 April: North Korea conducts a rocket test, but it fails
  • 17 April: Senior North Korean official tells the BBC the country will continue to test missiles “weekly” and Mr Pence warns North Korea not to “test” Donald Trump
  • 18 April: It emerges the US Navy strike group was not heading towards North Korea when US officials said it was

The US also accused North Korea of trying to “provoke something”, with US Defence Secretary James Mattis calling the test a reckless move on Tuesday.

He said the US was “working closely” with China to engage North Korea.

Pyongyang said it may test missiles on a weekly basis, and warned of “all-out war” if the US takes military action.

“If the US is planning a military attack against us, we will react with a nuclear pre-emptive strike by our own style and method,” Vice-Foreign Minister Han Song-ryol told the BBC on Monday.

Who Really Started the Korean War?

Forget the Trumanite mythology

April 19, 2017

by Justin Raimondo

AntiWar

The sixtieth anniversary of the “end” of the Korean war saw President Obama attempt to rescue that classic example of interventionist failure from history’s dustbin. Addressing veterans of that conflict, he declared:

“That war was no tie. Korea was a victory. When 50 million South Koreans live in freedom, a vibrant democracy…a stark contrast to the repression and poverty of the North, that is a victory and that is your legacy.”

This is a fairytale: it wasn’t a victory, or even a tie: the US public was disenchanted with the war long before the armistice, and Truman was under considerable pressure at home to conclude an increasingly unpopular conflict. As for this guff about “democracy”: whatever the US was fighting for, from 1950, when the war broke out, to 1953, when it ground to a halt, democracy hardly described the American cause.

We were fighting on behalf of Syngman Rhee, the US-educated-and-sponsored dictator of South Korea, whose vibrancy was demonstrated by the large-scale slaughter of his leftist political opponents. For 22 years, Rhee’s word was law, and many thousands of his political opponents were murdered: tens of thousands were jailed or driven into exile. Whatever measure of liberality has reigned on the Korean peninsula was in spite of Washington’s efforts and ongoing military presence. When the country finally rebelled against Rhee, and threw him out in the so-called April Revolution of 1960, he was ferried to safety in a CIA helicopter as crowds converged on the presidential palace.

The mythology that has coagulated around the Korean war is epitomized by Obama’s recent peroration, a compendium of uplifting phrases largely bereft of any real history. When history intrudes, it is seen only in very soft focus. The phrase “Korea reminds us” recurs throughout, like the refrain of a pop song, but nowhere does this anonymous presidential speechwriter remind us of the origins of this war. How did it come about?

The standard neocon-cold war liberal line is that the North Koreans, in league with Moscow and Beijing, launched a war of aggression on June 25, 1950, when North Korean troops poured across the disputed What this truncated history leaves out is that, in doing so, they preempted Rhee’s own plans to launch an invasion northward. As historian Mark E. Caprio, professor of history at Rikkyo University in Tokyo, points out:

“On February 8, 1949, the South Korean president met with Ambassador John Muccio and Secretary of the Army Kenneth C. Royall in Seoul. Here the Korean president listed the following as justifications for initiating a war with the North: the South Korean military could easily be increased by 100,000 if it drew from the 150,000 to 200,000 Koreans who had recently fought with the Japanese or the Nationalist Chinese. Moreover, the morale of the South Korean military was greater than that of the North Koreans. If war broke out he expected mass defections from the enemy. Finally, the United Nations’ recognition of South Korea legitimized its rule over the entire peninsula (as stipulated in its constitution). Thus, he concluded, there was “nothing [to be] gained by waiting.”

The only reason Rhee didn’t launch an attack was due to American reluctance to supply him with the arms and aid he would need: war, when it came, would be on America’s terms, and our leaders had good reason to think it would come sooner rather than later. Washington’s policy was to keep Rhee supplied with just enough arms to control the South. There is also evidence for Congressman Howard Buffett’s contention that the secret testimony before Congress of CIA director Admiral Hillenkoeter proved US responsibility for the war.

Buffett, Republican anti-interventionist from Iowa, went to his grave demanding the declassification of that crucial testimony: alas, to no avail. And yet what we do know is this: the US government had ample warnings of the pending North Korean invasion, via intelligence reports sent to top cabinet officials well before the June 25 commencement of large-scale hostilities. Yet Washington took no action, either diplomatic or otherwise, to deter the North Koreans.

On the other side of the equation, the Communist world was divided on the Korea question, with Stalin skeptical of Kim il Sung’s assurances that his forces would achieve victory in three days. Russian policy was: military aid, yes – Soviet intervention, no. China’s Mao, on the other hand, offered his support – which wasn’t actually forthcoming, however, until the US entered the war and advanced into North Korea itself.

Neither Stalin nor President Harry Truman were particularly eager to see the conflict erupt, although both may have considered it inevitable. In which case it was convenient, for propaganda purposes, to be able to portray the enemy as having fired the first shot.

As to who did in reality fire that shot, Bruce Cumings, head of the history department at the University of Chicago, gave us the definitive answer in his two-volume The Origins of the Korean War, and The Korean War: A History: the Korean war started during the American occupation of the South, and it was Rhee, with help from his American sponsors, who initiated a series of attacks that well preceded the North Korean offensive of 1950. From 1945-1948, American forces aided Rhee in a killing spree that claimed tens of thousands of victims: the counterinsurgency campaign took a high toll in Kwangju, and on the island of Cheju-do – where as many as 60,000 people were murdered by Rhee’s US-backed forces.

Rhee’s army and national police were drawn from the ranks of those who had collaborated with the Japanese occupation during World War II, and this was the biggest factor that made civil war inevitable. That the US backed these quislings guaranteed widespread support for the Communist forces led by Kim IL Sung, and provoked the rebellion in the South that was the prelude to open North-South hostilities. Rhee, for his part, was eager to draw in the United States, and the North Koreans, for their part, were just as eager to invoke the principle of “proletarian internationalism” to draw in the Chinese and the Russians.

Having backed the Maoists during World War II, in cooperation with the Soviet Union, the US had already “lost” China, and Truman was determined not to “lose” Korea, too. In spite of the fact that he had ample warning of the North Korean offensive, the President used this “surprise attack” to justify sending American troops to Korea to keep Rhee in power, and in doing so neglected to go to Congress for approval – or even give them advance notice.

Republicans were outraged: Sen. Robert A. Taft and others denounced this usurpation of Congress’s constitutional duty as a dangerous precedent that would come back to haunt us – as it surely did in Vietnam, and continues to do so to this day. In the months prior to the war, anti-interventionist Republicans in Congress had succeeded in defeating the administration’s $60 million aid package to the Rhee regime (by one vote!), but this was later reversed on account of pressure from the well-funded China Lobby. Now Truman had sent our troops to fight in a foreign war as if he were a Roman emperor ordering his legionnaires into Gaul.

In defense of the administration, the liberals came out in support of the war, with The Nation and The New Republic leading the charge: the antiwar Republicans were “isolationists” and their alliance with “legalists,” sniffed TNR, revealed a natural affinity, while progressives were burdened with no such sentimental attachments to the Constitution. The editor of The Nation red-baited Col. Robert McCormick’s fiercely conservative Chicago Tribune for being on the same side as the American Communist Party. What’s interesting is that the CP’s former fellow-travelers, such as Henry Wallace, Corliss Lamont, and the principals of the Progressive Party – which had run Wallace for President with fulsome Communist support – rallied behind Truman, reveling in the idea of a UN-sponsored war on behalf of “collective security.” Obama, it seems, commands a similar ability to inspire the left to throw its vaunted antiwar credentials overboard.

Sixty years after the non-ending of the Korean war – there is, to this day, no peace treaty – the lesson of that conflict is not, as Obama insisted in his speech, that “the drawdown after the end of World War II left us unprepared,” but that involvement in other peoples’ civil wars is never to our benefit, or theirs. Sixty years have passed, and US troops are still in South Korea, defending a country well-prepared to take care of itself – sitting ducks if the North Koreans should ever launch an attack. Having stifled every effort at peaceful reunification – including a promising effort during the Bush era – Washington continues to enable the Korean standoff, and in doing so perpetuates the North Korean regime, one of the worst, if not the worst, in the world.

North Korea is dangerously unstable, with a significant movement within the military against the rule of Kim Jong-un, the third member of the IL Sungist dynasty to take the reins of power. There have been episodic reports of gun battles between rival military units, and this, combined with North Korea’s dire economic straits, has the potential to spark an explosion sooner or later – and inevitably draw in the South. Having isolated the North Koreans, who have in turn isolated themselves, the West has limited its ability to have much of an effect on the ground.

The two Koreas are very different, opposites in many ways, but one thing unites them: an intense nationalism. This same nationalism resents the US presence, whatever the pretext, and will one day find expression in a successful national reunification. Until that day, the unfinished war and its consequences will continue to be a thorn in our side.

Commentary: The next super weapon could be biological

April 19, 2017

by Peter Apps

Reuters

With the threat of chemical weapons in Syria and nuclear arms in North Korea, the risk of biological weapons has largely dropped off the international agenda. But evolving technologies and genetic engineering may open the door to new dangers.

Other than the “anthrax in the mail” attacks that followed 9/11, killing five people, there have been few serious attempts at biological attacks in recent years. Most global powers scaled back their biological weapons research in the 1970s, partly because of the difficulties of getting fragile bacteria and viruses to survive being dropped in bombs or missiles, or even sprayed.

Militant groups like al Qaeda and Islamic State have largely embraced the other end of the technological spectrum, turning to basic but brutal tactics such as using a car or truck to attack pedestrians in Nice, Berlin and elsewhere.

Most scientific and security experts agree the risk remains relatively low. That may change with the proliferation of basic genetic engineering technologies, some small and cheap enough to be used at home. (This gene-editing kit, built by a former NASA bioengineer, was marketed last year.) The unscrupulous can now tamper with the DNA of bacteria or viruses to make them that much more lethal and potentially hard to treat.

Regulations on biological and genetic research vary widely between countries – but making weapons with such techniques is largely illegal under the 1975 Biological Weapons Convention. Some experts worry, however, that recent advances may make it easier to design more effective and lethal new pathogens. In February, Microsoft founder Bill Gates warned that a conflict involving such weapons could kill more people than nuclear war.

When scientists first sequenced a single human genome in 2003 – allowing them to understand what each small piece of biological coding meant – it was a vast and expensive undertaking. Now, computing power means the cost of that kind of technology – analyzing the difference between the DNA of individual humans, animals, plants and pathogens– is nose-diving by the year. Some scientists have raised the still-controversial idea that as the availability of basic genetic engineering techniques also rises, it could become easier to create new, more sophisticated weapons, perhaps targeted to the DNA of an individual or even an entire ethnic group.

Senator Joseph Lieberman – who has been warning of biological attack since before 9/11 and has said the United States has been “damn lucky” to avoid it – called on President Donald Trump and Congress to make biodefense a national priority.

In a 2010 paper, former CIA officer Rolf Mowatt-Larssen described how al Qaeda wanted to acquire biological weapons with roughly the same level of priority that it sought a stolen nuclear weapon. It never came close to getting either, focusing instead on more conventional attacks.

A recent report from the Combating Terrorism Center at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point concluded Islamic State, too, was keen to acquire biological weapons. That group has already used basic chemical weapons, including in the battle for Mosul, although it has been unable to inflict significant casualties with them.

Smallpox redux

by Harry von Johnston, PhD

April 20, 2017

Smallpox is a serious, contagious, and sometimes fatal infectious disease. There is no specific treatment for smallpox disease, and the only prevention is vaccination. The name smallpox is derived from the Latin word for “spotted” and refers to the raised bumps that appear on the face and body of an infected person.

There are two clinical forms of smallpox. Variola major is the severe and most common form of smallpox, with a more extensive rash and higher fever. There are four types of variola major smallpox: ordinary (the most frequent type, accounting for 90% or more of cases); modified (mild and occurring in previously vaccinated persons); flat; and hemorrhagic (both rare and very severe). Historically, variola major has an overall fatality rate of about 30%-40%; however, flat and hemorrhagic smallpox usually are fatal.

The deliberate reintroduction of smallpox as an epidemic disease would be an international crime of unprecedented proportions, but it is now regarded as a possibility. An aerosol release of variola virus would disseminate widely, given the considerable stability of the orthopoxviruses in aerosol form and the likelihood that the infectious dose is very small. .Moreover, during the 1960s and 1970s in Europe, when smallpox was imported during the December to April period of high transmission, as many as 10 to 20 second-generation cases were often infected from a single case. Widespread concern and, sometimes, panic occurred, even with outbreaks of fewer than 100 cases, resulting in extensive emergency control measures

Even without a deliberate attack, the threat of a mass pandemic is real, and organizations such as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization are always on the lookout for signs of outbreak. Scientists have been warning for decades that mankind is at risk for a serious pandemic on the scale of Spanish influenza, which killed an estimated 50 million to100 million people a century ago.

The modern world has a host of techniques to fight such infections. But it also has vulnerabilities. Air travel – and some argue, mass migration – make it easier for infections to spread faster.

An Islamic State laptop obtained in 2014 contained documents that examined ways of harvesting and using bubonic plague from animals, the West Point report said. But it concluded that, like other groups, IS remained “extremely unlikely” to acquire the capability to mount a mass casualty attack using biological weapons.

During the 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa, Western officials worried Islamic State or another group might try to take advantage. In particular, according to the West Point report, there were worries that it might attempt to get individuals infected and then use them to spread the disease elsewhere.

The reality is that such a technique would have had a limited effect. Any infected individual would have become sick and been identified relatively quickly. And, as with the rest of the outbreak, infection control measures would have bought it under control.

Still, simple attacks can work. In 1984, 751 people fell ill and 45 were hospitalized, mainly in Oregon, after a religious group run by Indian mystic Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh sprayed salmonella into food distribution areas in 10 salad bars. No one died, but it remains the largest biological attack in recent U.S. history – and could well have been fatal if those behind it had used typhoid, as they had at one point considered.

Japan’s Aum Shinrikyo cult – responsible for the 1995 Tokyo subway sarin nerve gas attack that killed 12 and hospitalized many more – is generally believed to have had the most sophisticated biological weapons program of any non-state group. It could not successfully execute an attack with anthrax or other pathogens, however – one of the main reasons it switched its focus to chemicals.

The greatest danger may come if any of the handful of people who have relevant expertise decide to mount solo attacks. After anthrax-filled envelopes began to appear in government and other offices in late 2001, Federal Bureau of Investigation agents concluded that a microbiologist and U.S. Army researcher, Bruce Ivins, was likely responsible and was believed to have acted alone. Ivins committed suicide in 2007, shortly before his planned arrest; a panel of scientists later cast doubt on the FBI’s evidence against him.

There are other dangers. If the regime in North Korea were to collapse, some worry Pyongyang could unleash its biological arsenal, which may include smallpox.

World War One saw the emergence of chemical warfare, World War Two the atomic bomb. The next era-defining super weapon, some experts have long warned us, could be biological.

A quantity of verolia virus was stolen from a Munich, Germany, based laboratory and intensive investigation, not only by German police but also by global agencies, has failed to either locate the perpatrators or ascertain what their target might be. Both Russian and the United States have ample stocks of the virus and the best guess of the investigators is that a small group of Muslim activitsts were the thieves. Their goal is presumed to be either the United States or Israel (or both).

O’Reilly loses job over harassment claims

April 19, 2017

BBC News

Presenter Bill O’Reilly has been dropped from Fox News over sexual harrassment claims, the company said in a one-sentence statement on Wednesday.

“After a thorough and careful review of the allegations…Bill O’Reilly will not be returning” the network said.

Mr O’Reilly has been on holiday since 12 April, and was photographed shaking hands with Pope Francis at the Vatican earlier on Wednesday.

More than 50 sponsors have withdrawn ads from his show, The O’Reilly Factor.

Windows users urged to update computers after major NSA hacking tool release

April 18, 2017

by Aatif Sulleyman

The Independent/UK

Windows users are being told to update their computers after a hacking group released a collection of exploits designed to help cybercriminals break into Microsoft’s software.

The tools, which were released by the Shadow Brokers group, had allegedly been stolen from the US’ National Security Agency (NSA) last summer.

It is believed that NSA spies had been using the exploits to secretly break into computers running older versions of Windows, including XP and Vista.

Microsoft says “most of the exploits” have already been addressed with a series of patches – one of which was issued as recently as last month – but warned Windows users to make sure their devices are up to date.

“Most of the exploits that were disclosed fall into vulnerabilities that are already patched in our supported products,” the company wrote in a blog post. “We encourage customers to ensure their computers are up-to-date.”

Users running the latest versions of the Windows operating systems still supported by Microsoft will be safe from the EternalBlue, EmeraldThread, EternalChampion, ErraticGopher, EsikmoRoll, EternalRomance, EducatedScholar, EternalSynergy and EclipsedWing exploits.

“Of the three remaining exploits, ‘EnglishmanDentist’, ‘EsteemAudit’, and ‘ExplodingCan’, none reproduces on supported platforms, which means that customers running Windows 7 and more recent versions of Windows or Exchange 2010 and newer versions of Exchange are not at risk,” added Microsoft.

Windows 10 Creators Update: What you need to do before downloading it

“Customers still running prior versions of these products are encouraged to upgrade to a supported offering.”

Microsoft has hinted that the NSA didn’t warn it about the release, with a spokesperson telling Reuters, “Other than reporters, no individual or organization has contacted us in relation to the materials released by Shadow Brokers.”

However, Edward Snowden, who previously claimed that the NSA “did not warn Microsoft” about the Shadow Brokers release, has suggested that the organisation may have tipped off the tech firm ahead of its March patch, tweeting, “Microsoft doesn’t credit anyone for the report behind the March patch. Was it @NSAGov? If so, it was the right call. Better late than never.”

Last stand: Nebraska farmers could derail Keystone XL pipeline

April 19, 2017

by Valerie Volcovici

Reuters

Neligh, NEBRASKA-When President Donald Trump handed TransCanada Pipeline Co. a permit for its Keystone XL pipeline last month, he said the company could now build the long-delayed and divisive project “with efficiency and with speed.”

But Trump and the firm will have to get through Nebraska farmer Art Tanderup first, along with about 90 other landowners in the path of the pipeline.

They are mostly farmers and ranchers, making a last stand against the pipeline – the fate of which now rests with an obscure state regulatory board, the Nebraska Public Service Commission.

The group is fine-tuning an economic argument it hopes will resonate better in this politically conservative state than the environmental concerns that dominated the successful push to block Keystone under former President Barack Obama.

Backed by conservation groups, the Nebraska opponents plan to cast the project as a threat to prime farming and grazing lands – vital to Nebraska’s economy – and a foreign company’s attempt to seize American private property.

They contend the pipeline will provide mainly temporary jobs that will vanish once construction ends, and limited tax revenues that will decline over time.

They face a considerable challenge. Supporters of the pipeline as economic development include Republican Governor, Pete Ricketts, most of the state’s senators, its labor unions and chamber of commerce.

“It’s depressing to start again after Obama rejected the pipeline two years ago, but we need keep our coalition energized and strong,” said Tanderup, who grows rye, corn and soybeans on his 160-acre property.

Now Tanderup and others are gearing up for another round of battle – on a decidedly more local stage, but with potentially international impact on energy firms and consumers.

The latest Keystone XL showdown underscores the increasingly well-organized and diverse resistance to pipelines nationwide, which now stretches well beyond the environmental movement.

Last year, North Dakota’s Standing Rock Sioux, a Native American tribe, galvanized national opposition to the Energy Transfer Partners Dakota Access Pipeline. Another ETP pipeline in Louisiana has drawn protests from flood protection advocates and commercial fishermen.

The Keystone XL pipeline would cut through Tanderup’s family farm, near the two-story farmhouse built in the 1920s by his wife Helen’s grandfather.

The Tanderups have plastered the walls with aerial photos of three “#NoKXL” crop art installations they staged from 2014 to 2016. Faded signs around the farm still advertise the concert Willie Nelson and Neil Young played here in 2014 to raise money for the protests.

The stakes for the energy industry are high as the Keystone XL combatants focus on Nebraska, especially for Canadian producers that have struggled for decades to move more of that nation’s landlocked oil reserves to market. Keystone offers a path to get heavy crude from the Canada oil sands to refiners on the U.S. Gulf Coast equipped to handle it.

TransCanada has route approval in all of the U.S. states the line will cross except Nebraska, where the company says it has been unable to negotiate easements with landowners on about 9 percent of the 300-mile crossing.

So the dispute now falls to Nebraska’s five-member utility commission, an elected board with independent authority over TransCanada’s proposed route.

The commission has scheduled a public hearing in May, along with a week of testimony by pipeline supporters and opponents in August. Members face a deadline set by state law to take a vote by November.

“TENS OF THOUSANDS” OF JOBS

TransCanada has said on its website that the pipeline would create “tens of thousands” of jobs and tens of millions in tax dollars for the three states it would cross – Montana, South Dakota and Nebraska.

TransCanada declined to comment in response to Reuters inquiries seeking a more precise number and description of the jobs, including the proportion of them that are temporary – for construction – versus permanent.

Trump has been more specific, saying the project would create 28,000 U.S. jobs. But a 2014 State Department study predicted just 3,900 construction jobs and 35 permanent jobs.

Asked about the discrepancy, White House spokeswoman Kelly Love did not explain where Trump came up with his 28,000 figure, but pointed out that the State Department study also estimates that the pipeline would indirectly create thousands of additional jobs.

The study indicates those jobs would be temporary, including some 16,100 at firms with contracts for goods and services during construction, and another 26,000, depending on how workers from the original jobs spend their wages.

TransCanada estimates that state taxes on the pipeline and pumping stations would total $55.6 million across the three states during the first year.

The firm will pay property taxes on the pumping stations along the route, but not the land. It would pay a different – and lower – “personal property” tax on the pipeline itself, said Brian Jorde, a partner in the Omaha-based law firm Domina Law Group, which represents the opposition.

The personal property taxes, he said, would decline over a seven-year period and eventually disappear.

TRUMP: ‘I’ll CALL NEBRASKA’

The Nebraska utilities commission faces tremendous political pressure from well beyond the state it regulates.

“The commissioners know it is game time, and everybody is looking,” said Jane Kleeb, Nebraska’s Democratic party chair and head of the conservation group Bold Alliance, which is coordinating resistance from the landowners, Native American tribes and environmental groups.

The alliance plans to target the commissioners and their electoral districts with town halls, letter-writing campaigns, and billboards.

During the televised ceremony where Trump awarded the federal permit for the pipeline, he promised to weigh in on the Nebraska debate.

“Nebraska? I’ll call Nebraska,” he said after TransCanada Chief Executive Russell Girling said the company faced opposition there.

Love, the White House spokeswoman, said she did not know if Trump had called Nebraska officials.

The commission members – one Democrat and four Republicans – have ties to a wide range of conflicting interests in the debate, making it difficult to predict their decision.

According to state filings, one of the commissioners, Democrat Crystal Rhoades, is a member of the Sierra Club – an environmental group opposing the pipeline.

Another, Republican Rod Johnson, has a long history of campaign donations from oil and gas firms.

The others are Republicans with ties to the farming and ranching sectors – including one member that raises cattle in an area near where the pipeline would cross.

All five members declined requests for comment.

PREPPING THE WITNESSES

TransCanada has been trying since 2008 to build the 1,100-mile line – from Hardisty, Alberta to Steele City, Nebraska, where it would connect to a network feeding the Midwest and Gulf Coast refining regions. The firm had its federal permit application rejected in 2015 by the Obama administration.

Opponents want the pipeline, if not rejected outright, to be re-routed well away from Nebraska’s Sandhills region, named for its sandy soil, which overlies one of the largest freshwater aquifers in the United States.

The Ogallala aquifer supplies large-scale crop irrigation and cattle-watering operations.

“It all comes down to water,” said Terry Steskal, whose family farm lies in the pipeline’s path.

Steskal dug his boot into the ground on his property, kicking up sand to demonstrate his biggest concern about the pipeline. If the pipeline leaks, oil can easily seep through the region’s porous soil into the water, which lies near the surface.

TransCanada spokesman Terry Cunha said the company has a good environmental record with its existing Keystone pipeline network in Nebraska, which runs east of the proposed Keystone XL.

The company, however, has reported at least two big pipeline spills in other states since 2011, including some 400 barrels of oil spilled in South Dakota last year.

The Domina Law Group is helping the opposition by preparing the landowners, including the Tanderups and Steskals, for the August hearings, much as they would prepare witnesses for trial.

If the route is approved, Jorde said the firm plans to file legal challenges, potentially challenging TransCanada’s right to use eminent domain law to seize property.

Eminent domain allows for the government to expropriate private land in the public interest. But Jorde said he thinks TransCanada would struggle to meet that threshold in Nebraska.

“Some temporary jobs and some taxes is not enough to win the public interest argument,” he said.

(Additional reporting by Ethan Lou in Calgary; Editing by Richard Valdmanis and Brian Thevenot)

 

 

 

 

 

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