TBR News March 27, 2017

Mar 27 2017

The Voice of the White House

Washington, D.C. March 27, 2017: “The Internet has an enormous storehouse of information and nearly any desired material can be located and downloaded.

That is the positive aspect of the Internet.

The negative side is that the Internet supplies an enormous flood of false, misleading and useless information, almost all of invented out of whole cloth by the same types that also have rushed to join, and use, what is known as the Social Network.

The Social Networks are a handy means for persons to express their personal views on almost any subject and to communicate with others of a like mind. The problem that one notes from reading their postings is the same one observes in reading the comments appended to serious articles on major newspapers. In reading both of these areas, one is at once struck by the utter stupidity of the writers, their total lack of English, their constant bad grammar and terrible spelling and, most important, their desire not to express a thoughtful view but to parade their insignificance and ignorance to a wide audience.

Another negative aspect of the Social Network is that, at least in the United States, all of the networks of any size are working closely with such official governmental agencies as the DHS and the FBI, to spy on their members at no cost or effort to themselves. In these cases, the mindless babblings and boastings of the dim of wit load federal surveillance files with moronic chatters from which the authorities can easily build a criminal case.”



Washington Post anti-Trump headlines for March 27

The best from Bezos’ Catbox liner


  • Trump shifts blame for health-care collapse to the far right
  • Chairman and Trump ally: Rep. Devin Nunes’s actions raise concerns about Russia inquiry
  • Here’s what the Republicans who just stopped Trump want next
  • The health-care debacle isn’t Trump’s biggest failure
  • The lessons Trump and Ryan failed to learn from history
  • Trump is building an interstate system all the way to dystopia
  • The innocent lives lost amid Trump’s war on terror
  • Nearly 1 out of every 3 days he has been president, Trump has visited a Trump property
  • Does Trump’s health-care failure undercut his ability to bargain internationally?
  • Trump is trying to take credit for a jobs announcement Charter made months ago

Table of Contents

  • Where the Anti-Russian Moral Panic is Leading Us
  • Why the London attacker’s links to Saudi Arabia might matter
  • ‘People aren’t spending’: stores close doors in ‘oversaturated’ US retail market
  • The Secret Playbook of Internet Trolls
  • White House denies reports Trump handed Merkel bill for NATO defense
  • Report: nearly one in two Muslims in Germany engaged in aiding refugees
  • North Korea Fears ‘Regime Change’ Strike
  • We see them as monsters. At least Israel makes normal, typical war’: As Isis caliphate shrinks, Syrian anger grows
  • Facial recognition database used by FBI is out of control, House committee hears

 Where the Anti-Russian Moral Panic is Leading Us

‘Show me on this doll where Russia touched you’

March 27, 2017

by Justin Raimondo,


They said the election of Donald Trump would usher in an era of political repression in which the First Amendment would come under attack – and they were right, although not in the way they meant it:

“Federal investigators are examining whether far-right news sites played any role last year in a Russian cyber operation that dramatically widened the reach of news stories – some fictional – that favored Donald Trump’s presidential bid, two people familiar with the inquiry say.

“Operatives for Russia appear to have strategically timed the computer commands, known as ‘bots,’ to blitz social media with links to the pro-Trump stories at times when the billionaire businessman was on the defensive in his race against Democrat Hillary Clinton, these sources said.”

Aside from sites run by the Russian government, like Russia Today and Sputnik, the targets of the investigation are Breitbart.com, the pro-Trump web site formerly managed by Steve Bannon – now an advisor to the President – and Infowars.com, the “conspiracy” site made famous by entertainer Alex Jones, although the purview of the witch hunt “investigation” is bound to broaden.

Those “bots” – automated programs that broadcast links, tweets, Facebook posts, etc. – were supposedly launched at key times during the presidential campaign, and were disproportionately anti-Clinton — are supposedly the key link in a Vast Russian Conspiracy. The FBI leakers tell McClatchy News that “investigators examining the bot attacks are exploring whether the far-right news operations took any actions to assist Russia’s operatives. Their participation, however, wasn’t necessary for the bots to amplify their news through Twitter and Facebook.”

So this is how the smear campaign scores points: you don’t have to be on the Russian payroll – you can be a “useful idiot” just because of your political views, which condemn you as an “unwitting” agent, as former CIA director Mike Morell described Trump. This is how the parameters of “respectable” opinion are policed: this is how the War Party criminalizes those who think that the cold war is over and shouldn’t be revived.

“’This may be one of the most highly impactful information operations in the history of intelligence,’ said one former U.S. intelligence official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.”

Ah yes, there’s yet another one of those “former intelligence officials” leaking the details of an ongoing FBI inquiry – but, hey, there’s no Deep State campaign to undermine the Trump administration! And he’s right, if “impactful” means that what we’re witnessing is a wave of anti-Russian hysteria backed by government coercion the likes of which we haven’t seen in this country since the 1950s.

Because you can bet that Rep. Adam Schiff (D-California), the chief ringmaster of the House hearings on “Russian influence” in the election, is going to jump on this. And so we’re going to be treated to the spectacle of web site editors hauled up before his committee and harangued about their “Russian connections” – just like accused “Communists” were dragged before the House Un-American Activities Committee and interrogated, smeared, and threatened with prison time if they refused to answer questions.

That’s the practice – here’s the theory:

“As for the bots, they carried links not only to news stories but also to Democratic emails posted on WikiLeaks, especially those hacked from Podesta and made public in October, said Philip Howard, a professor at the Oxford University Internet Institute who has researched the bot attacks.”

Prof. Howard’s research tells us that “misinformation” (i.e. opinions Howard doesn’t agree with) is being spread via “computational propaganda,” and that this is a Bad Thing since it creates “distrust among voters.” And it isn’t just Trump-bots the Professor is “concerned” about: in the run up to the Brexit referendum (and guess which side he was on!) he warned that Brexit-bots were spreading similar “misinformation.” Howard and other concern-trolls from academia moan that these automated bots could “sway” elections – but, then again, so could other “automated” means of persuasion, say, Internet ads that pop up on your computer, or, indeed, any other form of “computational propaganda” that utilizes advanced technology (television ads) to make the case for a candidate or cause. What these people are edging toward, but don’t dare say openly, is that they advocate censorship of opinions they don’t like.

Yet they come very close to saying it. Here’s an approving article on the Oxford University web site that hardly masks Howard’s agenda:

“A form of mass propaganda more insidious than anything used in the 20th century is being used to manipulate global politics, according to the latest research. The culprit is social media and the lax regulation that allows voters to be bombarded with politically slanted misinformation – fake news.”

Insidious! Manipulative! “The culprit”! And what’s the solution? Regulation. The piece goes on to cite Howard:

“Ruling elites have often used propaganda to sustain their power, but this latest wave is different,’ says Professor Philip Howard, Director of Research at the Oxford Internet Institute and a Fellow of Balliol College. ‘Targeted messaging over social media is deeply personalized compared to the messaging that ‘all communists are evil’ that used to be distributed by mass films. It’s much more difficult to source who’s generating the content. Users think the messaging may be coming from their family and friends; it’s about particular issues the programmer knows you care about. And it appears to be pretty effective.’”

So it’s okay for “ruling elites” to use propaganda, “but this latest wave is different.” Well, yes, its goal is apparently to oppose the current ruling elites, which is what Howard objects to.

Despite the fact that “it’s more difficult to source who’s generating the content,” however, Howard has a pretty good idea of who are the “culprits”:

“‘We know that the Russians have spent money on propaganda efforts to improve Trump’s profile over Twitter,’ says Howard, ‘and that seems to have included creating bots that follow Trump and re-tweet a lot of what he says, as well as news from Russia. They often tweet stories about Democrats, western elites and corruption.’ There are links between propagandists for Brexit and for Trump, he adds. ‘My speculation would be that Russia would like to see the EU smaller and further from consensus. There’s a handful of accounts that were passionate about getting the UK to leave Europe and then they suddenly became interested in American politics.’”

“Links between propagandists for Brexit and for Trump” – somebody please call the FBI! And apparently somebody has.

Howard hails from Canada, where they don’t have a First Amendment, and where “hate speech” – another alleged “problem” with social media, according to the Professor – is illegal. Here in the United States, people like Howard, who want to regulate speech, have to hide their real agenda. Thus we have the Adam Schiffs of this world, and their media camarilla, pushing an “investigation” into pro-Trump web sites on the pretext that they’re part of a Vast Russian Conspiracy to take over America. If “hate speech” doesn’t work, then try invoking “national security” – that’s a sure bet.

Howard goes on to target those he sneeringly dubs “patriotic programmers” – Americans – who are guilty of spreading pro-Trump “misinformation,” slyly implying that they, too, are part of the Vast Russian Conspiracy. Which conjures visions of ordinary American citizens being hauled up before Schiff’s Inquisition and being asked “Are you or have you ever been …?”

It would be comical if it didn’t represent such a serious threat to our liberties.

McCarthyism started out as a partisan campaign to tar the Democrats as the Kremlin’s party. But at least there was some evidence that the reds had indeed infiltrated the highest reaches of FDR’s administration. In the case of the neo-McCarthyites, their “evidence” consists of sheer assertions by anonymous spooks, cries of “it’s classified, we can’t give you the evidence,” and a case made by profit-making cyber-“security” companies like CrowdStrike that is fast coming unglued.

In an effort to explain away their stunning election loss, the Democrats – in league with their Deep State and media allies – are embarked on a campaign of vilification that will end the way these things always end: the use of State power to discredit, smear, and ultimately outlaw dissenting opinions.

What this latest outbreak of politically-motivated moral panic reminds me of is the “Satanic sex ritual” craze of some years ago, where children were brought in to be interviewed by psychiatrists and social workers and asked: “Show me on this doll where the evil Satanists touched you.”

Yes, they told us that if Trump took the White House the First Amendment would be crushed underfoot and the dark shadow of authoritarianism would be cast across the crumbling remnants of our republic – and they were right!

Why the London attacker’s links to Saudi Arabia might matter

March 26, 2017

by Aya Batrawy

Associated Press

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — The British man who killed four people in a rampage in London last week had made three trips to Saudi Arabia in his lifetime. Though millions of foreigners from around the world live and work in the kingdom, Khalid Masood’s time there immediately raised questions about whether the country’s ultraconservative brand of Islam impacted his worldview and radicalized him.

The answer is not so simple. Before he stabbed a police officer to death and rammed his vehicle into people on the famed Westminster bridge March 22, Masood had been convicted twice of violent crimes involving knife attacks. As with so many other terror attacks across the world, investigators are trying to piece together how the apparent convert to Islam, who was athletic and popular in high school, became radicalized.

Some suggest it may have been the 52-year-old’s lengthy stints in prison in the UK that had the greatest impact on him. Investigators are also trying to determine who Masood associated with in Saudi Arabia and whether his time there set him on his future path.

The path to radicalization is often mined with a complicated mix of personal failures, a deep sense of discrimination, mental health problems and a superficial understanding of religion. Some are moved too by slick propaganda efforts that capitalize on this combustible combination.

The Islamic State group was quick to claim Masood as “a soldier of the caliphate” but it was unclear whether he had any direct contact with the extremist group or if he was even inspired by their violent ideology.

For now, there are no clear answers.

With so many possible motives and reasons, here’s a look at why Masood’s time in Saudi Arabia has sparked attention:


Masood spent two years in Saudi Arabia between 2005 and 2006, and between 2008 and 2009. The Saudi Embassy in London says he worked as an English teacher. His last and most recent visit appears to have been in March 2015, when he obtained an “Umra” visa to perform an Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca, as millions of Muslims do annually.

Though Saudi Arabia quickly condemned the London attack, some people believe that prominent Saudi officials were behind one of the world’s most stunning acts of terrorism — the Sept. 11 attacks.

Under new legislation, U.S. family members of those killed on 9/11 are gearing up to sue Saudi Arabia for the attacks. They point out that 15 of the 19 Sept. 11 hijackers were Saudi citizens, as was al-Qaida’s late founder Osama bin Laden — though the Saudi government stripped him of his citizenship in 1994.


The answer depends on who you ask.

A decade after the 9/11 attacks, clerics across the Arabian Peninsula encouraged young men to join in jihad in Syria.

Though the government made it illegal to encourage fighting abroad in 2014, many Saudi clerics continue to use the pulpit to spread an ultraconservative doctrine known as Wahhabism, which holds a dim view of non-Muslims and regards Shiite Muslims as apostates. The kingdom actively exports this worldview by building and funding mosques and religious schools across the globe.

Additionally, across the Gulf, private funding for extremist groups and jihadi fighters continues despite official efforts to stem the flow.

However, extremist groups such as al-Qaida and IS perceive the Saudi government as an enemy of Islam that is too closely aligned with the West. The Islamic State group has killed dozens of Saudi citizens and police throughout the kingdom since 2014, and the country weathered a wave of al-Qaida bombings, shootings and kidnappings from 2003-2006. The country’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, who also serves as interior minister overseeing police, survived a suicide bombing by al-Qaida intended to kill him.

Sceptics of the kingdom point to the case of Tashfeen Malik, who along with her husband Syed Rizwan Farook carried out the December 2015 shootings in San Bernardino, California that killed 14 people. Malik had traveled to Saudi Arabia, where her father has been a resident since the 1980s. Friends say she became more conservative after her time in the kingdom.

Saudi authorities say there is no indication Malik was radicalized there.


The country has created a groundbreaking program, which rehabilitates extremists through months of indoctrination by moderate Islamic clerics, sociologists and psychologists. It claims a success rate of around 87 percent.

Saudi Arabia has also helped establish and fund the United Nations Counter-Terrorism Center, contributing more than $100 million to help finance it. The kingdom also announced in late 2015 a new military coalition of 34 Muslim majority countries to fight terrorism in the region.

The country has arrested more than 3,000 terror suspects since 2015 and is part of the U.S.-led coalition bombing IS group targets in Syria.

Saudi Arabia and the U.S. also share intelligence on extremist groups. Under President Donald Trump, CIA Director Michael Pompeo awarded Crown Prince Mohammed with a medal for his intelligence-related counterterrorism work in February.

‘People aren’t spending’: stores close doors in ‘oversaturated’ US retail market

Boarded-up shops are a common sight in cities across the country as Macy’s, Sears and JCPenney struggle and Credit Suisse downgrades the retail sector

March 26, 2017

by Edward Helmore

The Guardian

New York-Canal Street was never a high-end retail experience. But, like many streets in New York City and in cities across the US, it is becoming increasingly desolate.

Boarded-up stores line the thoroughfare that bisects much of lower Manhattan. Many stores that are still open for business also display signs that read “for lease” or “for rent”.

“It’s not Trump,” said one downcast store-owner recently. “It’s not the economy. Something else is happening. People aren’t spending.”

This week, Credit Suisse downgraded the retail sector, saying the outlook had become bleaker than it had anticipated in large part because of events in Washington and through discussion of “whether we think the risks of the border adjustment provision in the House corporate tax reform proposal are fully reflected in apparel and retailing stocks”. Other analysts have shown similar pessimism.

Earlier in the month, Richard Hayne, chief executive officer of Urban Outfitters, equated the woes facing retail in 2017 to the housing market of 2008. Hayne traced the problems to over-expansion in the 1990s and early 2000s, noting that the US now had six times the retail space per capita of either Europe or Japan.

“The US market is oversaturated with retail space and far too much of that space is occupied by stores selling apparel,” he said, anticipating that retail retrenchment would continue “for the foreseeable future and may even accelerate”.

Urban Outfitters, a Philadelphia, Pennsylvania-based company that operates roughly 200 locations for stores under its own name and Anthropologie, said that despite sales declines in the single figures, it still planned to open 15 new stores in North America this year. That figure is a drop on previous years but looks rosy next to mass store closings recorded by rivals.

In the past several months, Macy’s has announced it will close 63 stores; Sears, 150; The Limited, 250; BCBG Max Azria, 120; Guess, 60; American Apparel, 104; Abercrombie & Fitch, 60; JCPenney, up to 140.

While retail executives are keen to state they do not plan to abandon bricks-and-mortar retail entirely, many now tend to see it on equal terms with online operations. Main Street, hollowed out by web-based competition, is increasingly viewed as a tool to be used by consumers “showrooming” – browsing – before buying online for less.

The cost in jobs is stark, with Macy’s saying it expects to see 10,000 workers laid off, including 6,200 managers, or 17% of executives.

“We have been planning this very carefully,” said Jeff Gennette, Macy’s president and new CEO, announcing the cuts. “This is not something we did quickly.”

In some areas of Manhattan, retail rents have declined 10-15%. But it has come too late for many retailers. The cycle of the change is apparent across much of downtown, with chains that pushed out smaller independent stores now closing too.

There is no immediate solution, said Justin Levinson, a former reporter who began creating an interactive map of vacancies last year. He believes landlords with large portfolios have been unable to drop prices significantly without experiencing a ripple effect, so they often prefer to take a loss on one property rather than drop prices across the board.

Simply blaming landlords for pushing rents too high is an overly simplistic explanation for the malaise, however. This is not urban blight in the sense that neighborhoods are abandoned, but something else – it is high-rent blight.

“The retail landscape has changed,” Levinson said. “It’s many factors coming together to create increasing instability and retailers are struggling to adapt.”

The result, Levinson said, is “a weirdly disconnected environment” that contributes to an overall sense of loss in a neighborhood that some describe as akin to the effects of habitat loss through climate change.

“The vacancy changes are similar to gentrification but not exactly,” he said. “Even if you put a Starbucks in, somebody got a call [there] they’d got the job or they kissed their girlfriend for the first time [there]. Some kind of social memory is created. But an empty storefront removes the possibility of any kind of interaction.”

‘People are social by nature’

A recent Synchrony Financial report entitled The Future of Retail predicted that instant gratification coupled with a higher degree of tech-driven personalization would drive consumer behavior and retail industry through to 2030.

The report said that the future of bricks-and-mortar will center on authentic brand experiences: more than half of consumers polled said they looked forward to an amalgam of in-store and entertainment experiences.

“Brick-and-mortar stores will exist in the future but there will be fewer of them,” the report predicted. “A new model of delivering not only products, but also genuine brand experiences is emerging.

“People are social by nature and will be drawn to gathering places to share ideas and be entertained. It’s not just about making money. It’s about building trust. Retailers who tap into this trend will be rewarded.”

That means, for instance, that stores and banks could end up offering more than just retail or banking services and come to add some aspect of community cohesion. Perhaps crucially, the report found that brands will have to more clearly enunciate their reason for being.

“Shoppers are reaching a tipping point around American consumption,” it read. “Feelings of angst about acquiring too much ‘stuff’ is driving a shift toward purchasing experiences rather than things.”

Along with concern for the environment, the report said, “retail must streamline and consolidate in the future”.

Along Canal Street and up through SoHo, such changes in sentiment are yet to be articulated. Levinson predicted change, but said things could get worse before they got better.

“People’s discontent over the issue is useful only if we can discuss and come up with a solution,” he said. “If there was a silver bullet, we would have done it.

“There’s a bunch of things of play, but even just acknowledging that this is a problem brings us closer to figuring out what to do next.”

This article was corrected on 27 March 2017. Urban Outfitters is based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, not Columbus, Ohio.

 The Secret Playbook of Internet Trolls

August 21, 2014


Pleased to meet you

Hope you guess my name

What’s confusing you

Is the nature of my game

– The Rolling Stones


What’s Confusing You Is the Nature of Their Game

The reason that Internet trolls are effective is that people still don’t understand their game.

There are 15 commonly-used trolling tactics to disrupt, misdirect and control internet discussions.

As one interesting example, trolls start flame wars because – according to two professors – swearing and name-calling shut down our ability to think and focus.

And trolls will often spew divisive attacks so that people argue against each other, instead of bad actions and policies of the powers-that-be.   For example, trolls will:

Start a religious war whenever possible using stereotypes like “all Jews are selfish”, “all Christians are crazy” or “all Muslims are terrorists”.

Yesterday, the alternative news site Common Dreams caught a troll using scores of different user names to spew anti-Semitic bile. (Common Dreams discovered that the same troll was behind the multiple user names by tracking their IP addresses. And the troll confessed to Common Dreams.)

The troll is a “a Jewish Harvard graduate in his thirties who was irritated by the website’s discussion of issues involving Israel”.

He posted anti-Semitic diatribes – such as Hitler should have finished the job and killed all Jews – using one alias.  Then – a couple of minutes later – he’d post an attack on the first poster using a different alias, claiming that criticism of Israel is the same thing as anti-Semitism.  (Note: Holocaust survivors and Israeli ministers say it’s not.)

Why would a Jew post vile anti-Semitic comments?  Because normal people are offended by – and don’t want to be associated with – pure, naked anti-Semitism, and so they will avoid such discussions.  If the discussion was originally criticizing a specific aspect of Israeli policy, the discussion will break down, and the actual point regarding policy will be lost.

Similarly, anti-Semitic posts weaken websites by making them seem less reputable. Indeed, Common Dreams says that the troll’s anti-Semitic comments drove away many of that site’s largest donors … dealing a severe blow to its continued viability. That’s exactly what trolls spewing anti-Semitic bile are trying to do: shut down logical discussion and discredit and weaken sites which allow rational criticism of policy.

It is well-known that foreign \ governments and large companies troll online.  For example, the Israeli government is paying students to post pro-Israeli comments online.

And American students are also attempting to influence internet discussion.

While the Common Dreams troll claims that he’s not sponsored by the state of Israel, government  agencies have manipulated  Internet discussion for years. This includes the use of multiple “socket puppet” aliases.  The potential for mischief is stunning.

Unless we learn their game …

The 15 Rules of Web Disruption

David Martin’s Thirteen Rules for Truth Suppression,  H. Michael Sweeney’s 25 Rules of Disinformation (and now Brandon Smith’s Disinformation: How It Works) are classic lessons on how to spot disruption and disinformation tactics.

We’ve seen a number of tactics come and go over the years.  Here are the ones we see a lot of currently.

  1. Start a partisan divide-and-conquer fight or otherwise push emotional buttons to sow discord and ensure that cooperation is thwarted. Get people fighting against each other instead of the corrupt powers-that-be. Use baseless caricatures to rile everyone up.  For example,  start a religious war whenever possible using stereotypes like “all Jews are selfish”, “all Christians are crazy” or “all Muslims are terrorists”.  Accuse the author of being a gay, pro-abortion limp-wristed wimp  or being a fundamentalist pro-war hick when the discussion has nothing to do with abortion, sexuality, religion, war or region.  Appeal to people’s basest prejudices and biases. And – as Sweeney explains – push the author into a defensive posture:

Sidetrack opponents with name calling and ridicule … Associate opponents with unpopular titles such as “kooks”, “right-wing”, “liberal”, “left-wing”, “terrorists”, “conspiracy buffs”, “radicals”, “militia”, “racists”, “religious fanatics”, “sexual deviates”, and so forth. This makes others shrink from support out of fear of gaining the same label, and you avoid dealing with issues.

  1. Pretend it’s hopeless because we’ll be squashed if we try. For example, every time a whistleblower leaks information, say “he’s going to be bumped off”.If people talk about protesting, organizing, boycotting, shareholder activism, spreading the real facts, moving our money or taking other constructive action, write things to scare and discourage people, say something like “we don’t have any chance because they have drones and they’ll just kill us if we try”,  or “Americans are too stupid, lazy and greedy, so they’ll never help out.”  Encourage people to be apathetic instead of trying to change things.
  2. Demand complete, fool-proof and guaranteed solutions to the problems being discussed.

For example, if a reporter breaks the story that the big banks conspired to rig a market, ask “given that people are selfish and that no regulation can close all possible loopholes … how are you going to change human nature?”, and pretend that it’s not worth talking about the details of the market manipulation.  This discourages people from reporting on and publicizing the corruption, fraud and other real problems.  And it ensures that not enough people will spread the facts so that the majority know what’s really going on.

  1. Suggest extreme, over-the-top, counter-productive solutions which will hurt more than help, or which are wholly disproportionate to what is being discussed. For example, if the discussion is whether or not to break up the big banks or to go back on the gold standard, say that everyone over 30 should be killed because they are sell-outs and irredeemable, or that all of the banks should be bombed. This discredits the attempt to spread the facts and to organize, and is simply the web method of the provocateur.
  2. Pretend that alternative media – such as blogs written by the top experts in their fields, without any middleman – are untrustworthy or are motivated solely by money (for example, use the derogatory term “blogspam” for any blog posting, pretending that there is no original or insightful reporting, but that the person is simply doing it for ad revenue).

6.Coordinate with a couple of others to “shout down” reasonable comments.  This is especially effective when the posters launch an avalanche of comments in quick succession … the original, reasonable comment gets lost or attacked so much that it is largely lost.

  1. Use an army of sock puppets. You can either hire low-wage workers in India or other developing countries to “astroturf” or – if you work for the government – you can use hire military personnel and subcontractors to monitor social media and “correct” information which you don’t like (and see this), or use software which allows you to quickly create and alternate between numerous false identities, each with their own internet address.
  2. Censor social media, so that the hardest-hitting information is buried. If you can’t censor it, set up “free speech zones” to push dissent into dank, dark corners where no one will see it.

9 When the powers-that-be cut corners and take criminally reckless gambles with our lives and our livelihoods, protect them by pretending that the inevitable result – nuclear accidents, financial crises,  terrorist attacks or other disasters – were “unforeseeable” and that “no could have known”.

10 .Protect the rich and powerful by labeling any allegations of criminal activity as being a “conspiracy theory”.  For example, when Goldman gets caught rigging markets, label the accusations as mere conspiracies.

The following 4 tactics from Sweeney are also still commonly used …

  1. Become incredulous and indignant. Avoid discussing key issues and instead focus on side issues which can be used show the topic as being critical of some otherwise sacrosanct group or theme. This is also known as the “How dare you!” gambit.
  2. Use a straw man. Find or create a seeming element of your opponent’s argument which you can easily knock down to make yourself look good and the opponent to look bad. Either make up an issue you may safely imply exists based on your interpretation of the opponent/opponent arguments/situation, or select the weakest aspect of the weakest charges. Amplify their significance and destroy them in a way which appears to debunk all the charges, real and fabricated alike, while actually avoiding discussion of the real issues.
  3. Hit and Run. In any public forum, make a brief attack of your opponent or the opponent position and then scamper off before an answer can be fielded, or simply ignore any answer. This works extremely well in Internet and letters-to-the-editor environments where a steady stream of new identities can be called upon without having to explain criticism reasoning — simply make an accusation or other attack, never discussing issues, and never answering any subsequent response, for that would dignify the opponent’s viewpoint.
  4. Question motives. Twist or amplify any fact which could so taken to imply that the opponent operates out of a hidden personal agenda or other bias. This avoids discussing issues and forces the accuser on the defensive.
  5. Associate opponent charges with old news. A derivative of the straw man usually, in any large-scale matter of high visibility, someone will make charges early on which can be or were already easily dealt with. Where it can be foreseen, have your own side raise a straw man issue and have it dealt with early on as part of the initial contingency plans. Subsequent charges, regardless of validity or new ground uncovered, can usually them be associated with the original charge and dismissed as simply being a rehash without need to address current issues — so much the better where the opponent is or was involved with the original source.

White House denies reports Trump handed Merkel bill for NATO defense

Media reports have claimed that US President Donald Trump handed Germany’s chancellor a NATO defense invoice for more than $300 million. But the White House has dismissed the claims as false.

March 27, 2017

by Lewis Sanders IV


US President Donald Trump handed German Chancellor Angela Merkel a bill for more than $300 million (277.6 million euros) for Berlin’s failure to meet NATO’s defense spending target of 2 percent of GDP, British newspaper “The Sunday Times” reported on Sunday, citing an unnamed German government official.

The same official told the British newspaper that Merkel had not responded to the invoice.

“The concept behind putting out such demands is to intimidate the other side, but the chancellor took it calmly and will not respond to such provocations,” the official said.

White House spokesman Michael Short denied the incident occurred, telling US broadcaster CNBC and other media outlets that the report was “false.”

Trump reportedly requested White House aides to calculate the amount by totaling the difference between Berlin’s defense spending and NATO’s 2 percent of GDP target from 2002, when former German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder pledged to increase defense expenditure.

The “owed” amount allegedly included interest for failure to meet the target.

Trump has claimed that NATO countries rely on US defense to protect them, and that Washington is effectively owed for this protection. But US allies in NATO have insisted that’s not how the transatlantic alliance works.

‘No account where debts are registered’

In the wake of Merkel’s official visit to the US, Trump argued forcefully that Germany owed vast amounts to Washington for its protection.

“Germany owes vast sums of money to NATO and the United States must be paid more for the powerful, and very expensive, defense it provides to Germany,” the US president said in two tweets.

German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen issued a statement in the wake of Trump’s allegations, saying: “There is no account where debts are registered with NATO.”

Meanwhile, Germany is the second-largest funder of NATO’s civil and military budgets, comprising nearly 14 percent of common-sharing budgets and programs in the alliance.

The UK and France trail behind Washington and Berlin, providing 10.6 percent and 9.8 percent, respectively

Report: nearly one in two Muslims in Germany engaged in aiding refugees

The report released by the Bertelsmann Stiftung has described the Muslim volunteers as “important bridge-builders.” It further revealed that one out of every five Germans provided assistance to refugees in 2016.

March 27, 2017


According to the study released by the German foundation on Monday, 44 percent of Muslims were socially engaged for refugees in 2016, providing assistance through activities such as German language courses, clothing donations and assistance navigating bureaucratic language.

The results of the study, entitled “Engagement for Refugees – a religious thing?: The roll of religion in Refugee aid,” also counter what the Berstalsmann Stiftung described as the broadly held assumption that Muslims assist refugees to exert religious influence or radicalization. Only two percent of the study’s respondents reported such intent as motivating their voluntary service.

Instead, the study showed that the majority of Muslims surveyed campaigned for openness towards other religions through their volunteer activities.

Bertelsmann expert for social cohesion Stephan Vopel described Muslims who volunteer as “important bridge-builders” in society.

A distance thing?

A primary determinant of whether an individual engaged in volunteer activities aiding refugees was the proximity of said individual’s home to refugee housing.

Respondents were more willing to provide aid the closer they lived to refugee housing, while those who lived further away were more reluctant. The Bertelsmann foundation pointed out that this counters the stereotype that refugee housing only brings problems to the surrounding communities.

Religious and regional differences

In comparison to Muslims, 21 percent of Christians in Germany provided volunteer aid to refugees while for religiously unaffiliated individuals in Germany, the percentage was 17.

Overall, nearly a fifth of all Germans volunteered to help refugees in 2016, most of them regularly.

The study also regionally broke down patterns of participation. In examining West German and East German tendencies, the report revealed that every fifth German living in the eastern part of the country regularly volunteered multiple times a week, while only every tenth German living in the west did so.

However, a higher percentage of those in western Germany who live close to refugee shelters were included to help refugees overall than those in eastern German, at 28 percent and 17 percent respectively.

Part of a larger report

The report recommended further interreligious cooperation in the area of aid for refugees, as well as expanded support and qualification possibilities for volunteers.

The authors of the study surveyed around 1,500 German inhabitants in addition to a further 1,000 Muslims living in Germany.

“Engagement for refugees” is the initial portion of the Religion Monitor 2017, a Bertelsmann research project that examines the roll of religion and religious diversity for societal cohesion in Germany and in Europe. Over 10,000 individuals across various European and neighbor nations participated in the full project.

North Korea Fears ‘Regime Change’ Strike

Tensions keep rising on the Korean peninsula with North Korea test-firing missiles and the U.S. dispatching a naval task force, but no sign of President Trump’s proposed negotiations

March 8, 2017

by Jonathan Marshall


Japanese citizens had every reason to be flustered on Monday when North Korea fired four missiles into the Sea of Japan as a show of strength. But they — and every American who cares about the risk of getting dragged into a nuclear war to defend Japan and South Korea — need to think harder about how to end the cycle of military provocations that are escalating in the region to a potentially deadly end.

Declaring that he stands “100 percent” behind Japan, President Trump blasted North Korea’s demonstration as “a clear challenge to the region and the international community,” and a “new phase” of Pyongyang’s threat to America’s allies. His ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, declared that the world “won’t allow” North Korea to continue following its “destructive path.”

Meanwhile, the head of the U.S. Pacific Command announced that “continued provocative actions” by North Korea, including its missile launches, confirmed the wisdom of Washington’s decision to begin this week deploying a long-awaited missile defense system to South Korea.

Instead of contributing to regional peace, however, that deployment decision only inflamed regional tensions with two major powers that share Washington’s dismay over North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs. Furious China officials immediately threatened unspecified countermeasures, and Russian officials condemned the deployment as well, noting that it could be expanded to neutralize their own military capabilities.

Provoking Pyongyang

Mentioned only in passing — if at all — in most news stories was the context for the latest of Pyongyang’s seemingly random acts of aggressive militarism.

Korea experts had in fact long predicted that the North would — as it does every year — undertake “military provocations” to protest the start of the latest annual U.S.-South Korean military exercises on March 1. The same day those exercises began, the Wall Street Journal reported ominously that “an internal White House review of strategy on North Korea includes the possibility of military force or regime change to blunt the country’s nuclear-weapons threat.”

A North Korean diplomat condemned the latest joint exercises as “massive” and “unprecedented in size,” saying, “It will certainly jeopardize peace and stability in the region and drive the situation in the Korean peninsula to the brink of nuclear war.”

His rhetoric had more than a little factual basis. South Korea’s defense minister confirmed that the exercises are similar in scale to those held last year. With more than 300,000 South Korea and 17,000 American troops, 2016’s war games were the largest in the region’s history.

Although officials in Washington and Seoul invariably characterize the maneuvers and simulations as “defensive” and “non-provocative,” last year’s exercises reportedly included “rehearsals of surgical strikes on North Korea’s main nuclear and missile facilities and ‘decapitation raids’ by special forces targeting the North’s leadership.”

Taking part in the exercises was a naval strike group led by the nuclear-powered supercarrier USS John C. Stennis, along with the nuclear-powered attack submarine USS North Carolina, stealth F-22 fighter aircraft, nuclear-capable B-52 and B-2 bombers, and Marine special forces who practiced amphibious landings.

Those forces represent exactly the capabilities that informed military analysts say would be used if Washington decided to unleash a preemptive, surprise “surgical strike” against North Korea’s nuclear forces and command and control centers.

Dangerous Precedents

Viewing that array of forces in the light of past “U.S. attacks on Libya and Iraq and Serbia,” leaders in Pyongyang last year understandably saw “the potential for a U.S. attack,” remarked Bruce Klinger, a Korea analyst for the conservative Heritage Foundation, at the time.

“They know the history of the Marine Corps,” he added, “so they would see a large presence of Marines on the peninsula as possibly a prelude to an attack or an invasion — especially when it’s coupled with the presence of B-52s and nuke-capable submarines.”

On both sides of the 39th parallel, opponents are operating by the same familiar logic — summed up by one Marine Corps general as “peace through strength.” Ignoring military threats is certainly not an option. But responding to them only with military force leads to a dangerously illogical cycle of escalation, bluffs, threats, and counter-escalation.

We should take seriously the warning of North Korea’s ambassador to the U.N. that “the situation on the Korean Peninsula is again inching to the brink of a nuclear war.” That risk makes it more imperative than ever that Washington and its allies stop threatening “regime change” and start exploring negotiations, and even a meeting of leaders, to end the state of war between the two Koreas that has lasted ever since the armistice in 1953.

Before it’s too late, indeed, someone should remind President Trump of his professed willingness to talk to Kim Jong Un over a hamburger in the cause of peace. “I’ll speak to anybody,” he told a campaign rally last June. “Who knows? There’s a 10 percent or a 20 percent chance that I can talk him out of those damn nukes because who the hell wants him to have nukes?”

We see them as monsters. At least Israel makes normal, typical war’: As Isis caliphate shrinks, Syrian anger grows

Endgames: inside Syria and Iraq The great geopolitical battles in Iraq seem far away until you notice the contrails sweeping the skies far above Jibl Jarrah

March 27, 2017

by Robert Fisk

The Independent/UK

Jibl Jarrah, central Syria-It must be the most beautiful front line in the world. Turn right at the ancient city of Qatna, drive east for 40 miles and you’ll come to a village called Telwared, the “Hill of Roses”. There are fields of yellow flowers, sheep and cattle and almond orchards and an old T-62 tank and then a series of largely empty, slightly sinister two-storey houses and a row of gentle hills to the south. That’s where Isis holds its ground, an ideology quite divorced from all this beauty and bright sky and sunlight.

They’re just the other side of the low mountain range to the south which stretches all the way across to Palmyra. But it’s difficult to shrug off the lethargy. Surely the old shepherd sitting with his back to the road, two cows tethered beside him, isn’t worried about the war. Can the children playing with their mother behind a red-painted house have the slightest idea why there’s a Syrian army checkpoint down the road at Jibl Jarrah, the very last bit of territory before the forward troops of the shrinking Isis caliphate?

The great geopolitical battles in Iraq seem far away until you notice the contrails sweeping the skies far above Jibl Jarrah and the military map in the local company headquarters which depicts three bleak grey and black circles to the right. “South al-Mushairfeh, east Habra, west Habra” are written in them. Isis holds these villages to this day.

On the highway driving out here, there were Russian military engineering convoys on the Palmyra run, heavy armoured vehicles between each truck, soldiers with cloth webbing draped from their helmets to their chins. Some of them wear Ray-Bans and you remember that this is also a European war, that these are Putin’s men, their equipment gleaming, their heavy machine guns pointed up the road.

You’d think the crusty Syrian colonel round the corner, billeted in an ancient shrine, would be watching the television news of the fighting for Mosul, the suicide bomb attacks on his Iraqi brother soldiers far to the east. Nothing of the sort. Isis mortared Jibl Jarrah a few hours ago. They send in artillery rounds each night. When their men captured and held the village for six hours on 21 January, the colonel managed to evacuate every civilian safely – but it cost the lives of three soldiers, another 12 in the neighbouring village of Mesaudia, and six members of the local “national guard” militia.

So much for the hill of roses. The colonel saw one of the Isis men who was captured on the road. “They send in Syrians first and then foreigners behind them,” he said. “Chechens and Afghans. He was a short man, blond-haired, about 19 or 20. He said he was from the village of Ankalhawa. He said they wanted to attack with waves of fighters. Fifteen at first, then maybe 200. They failed. Isis couldn’t operate here if they didn’t have Syrians with them. All of us grew up loving our homeland, but they’ve played on the sectarian question to turn these people into extremists.

“We never thought a Syrian would turn a gun against another Syrian but the Arab nations – Qatar, Saudi Arabia – they give them the money and ideology. This situation is very strange to us.”

As the colonel says repeatedly, most of the Isis men on the other side of these gentle hills are clearly not Syrians. Repeatedly, Syrian intelligence officers monitoring their radio chat find themselves listening to Dari (the Afghan version of Persian) and Chechen, which is meaningless to them.

The Syrian soldiers agree that they all talk about the motivation of these strange men. The colonel saw a lot of prisoners in Idlib. “I arrested a lot of Syrian fighters. Before this, I thought they were forced to fight; but when they were questioned, they said they believed in what they did.”

Deceptive, too, are the quiet roads leading west from Jibl Jarrah. You would never imagine that the blasted old building at Alamod was a school targeted by a suicide bomber two years ago. Thirty children were killed, all Shia Muslims, four from one family, the killer a Sunni Muslim. In Mukharam, there’s a pulverised building in the corner of the square, where another Sunni man, an Islamic student well known in the village, blew himself up among his neighbours just four months ago, wearing a suicide belt, waiting till market day to kill as many as possible.

No wonder the colonel, puffing away on his Armenian cigarettes – they say that Akhtamar cigarettes have to be smoked to be believed – is so puzzled. This web of villages, right up to the front line, has for years been a blaze of mixed religion so typical of Syria; Christians, Shiites, Alawites, Sunnis. Many people here are Sunni Circassians and the locals insist their white complexion comes from Russia generations ago. And looking at the young Russian soldiers on their Palmyra convoys, you can see a faint similarity.

The colonel kept shaking his head. “We see Isis as kind of monsters,” he said. “Even traditional enemies are more honest than these people. Killing pregnant women. Why would anyone do such a terrible thing? At least Israel makes normal, typical war.” The colonel wasn’t being kind to Syria’s traditional enemy. He merely hasn’t fathomed what lies behind Isis and he’s too far from Mosul to work out if his monsters are in their death throes.

But like as not – if any of them can get out of Mosul, or if the Iraqi army and Americans let them – Isis will move across to the lands east of Homs and try another attack on this all too beautiful front line.

Facial recognition database used by FBI is out of control, House committee hears

Database contains photos of half of US adults without consent, and algorithm is wrong nearly 15% of time and is more likely to misidentify black people

March 27, 2017

by Olivia Solon

The Guardian

San Francisco-Approximately half of adult Americans’ photographs are stored in facial recognition databases that can be accessed by the FBI, without their knowledge or consent, in the hunt for suspected criminals. About 80% of photos in the FBI’s network are non-criminal entries, including pictures from driver’s licenses and passports. The algorithms used to identify matches are inaccurate about 15% of the time, and are more likely to misidentify black people than white people.

These are just some of the damning facts presented at last week’s House oversight committee hearing, where politicians and privacy campaigners criticized the FBI and called for stricter regulation of facial recognition technology at a time when it is creeping into law enforcement and business.

“Facial recognition technology is a powerful tool law enforcement can use to protect people, their property, our borders, and our nation,” said the committee chair, Jason Chaffetz, adding that in the private sector it can be used to protect financial transactions and prevent fraud or identity theft.

“But it can also be used by bad actors to harass or stalk individuals. It can be used in a way that chills free speech and free association by targeting people attending certain political meetings, protests, churches, or other types of places in the public.”

Furthermore, the rise of real-time face recognition technology that allows surveillance and body cameras to scan the faces of people walking down the street was, according to Chaffetz, “most concerning”.

“For those reasons and others, we must conduct proper oversight of this emerging technology,” he said.

“No federal law controls this technology, no court decision limits it. This technology is not under control,” said Alvaro Bedoya, executive director of the center on privacy and technology at Georgetown Law.

The FBI first launched its advanced biometric database, Next Generation Identification, in 2010, augmenting the old fingerprint database with further capabilities including facial recognition. The bureau did not inform the public about its newfound capabilities nor did it publish a privacy impact assessment, required by law, for five years.

Unlike with the collection of fingerprints and DNA, which is done following an arrest, photos of innocent civilians are being collected proactively. The FBI made arrangements with 18 different states to gain access to their databases of driver’s license photos.

“I’m frankly appalled,” said Paul Mitchell, a congressman for Michigan. “I wasn’t informed when my driver’s license was renewed my photograph was going to be in a repository that could be searched by law enforcement across the country.”

Last year, the US government accountability office (GAO) analyzed the FBI’s use of facial recognition technology and found it to be lacking in accountability, accuracy and oversight, and made recommendations of how to address the problem.

A key concern was how the FBI measured the accuracy of its system, particularly the fact that it does not test for false positives nor for racial bias.

“It doesn’t know how often the system incorrectly identifies the wrong subject,” explained the GAO’s Diana Maurer. “Innocent people could bear the burden of being falsely accused, including the implication of having federal investigators turn up at their home or business.”

Inaccurate matching disproportionately affects people of color, according to studies. Not only are algorithms less accurate at identifying black faces, but African Americans are disproportionately subjected to police facial recognition.

“If you are black, you are more likely to be subjected to this technology, and the technology is more likely to be wrong,” said Elijah Cummings, a congressman for Maryland, who called for the FBI to test its technology for racial bias – something the FBI claims is unnecessary because the system is “race-blind”.

“This response is very troubling. Rather than conducting testing that would show whether or not these concerns have merit, the FBI chooses to ignore growing evidence that the technology has a disproportionate impact on African Americans,” Cummings said.

Kimberly Del Greco, the FBI’s deputy assistant director of criminal justice information, said that the FBI’s facial recognition system had “enhanced the ability to solve crime” and emphasized that the system was not used to positively identify suspects, but to generate “investigative leads”.

Even the companies that develop facial recognition technology believe it needs to be more tightly controlled. Brian Brackeen, CEO of Kairos, told the Guardian he was “not comfortable” with the lack of regulation. Kairos helps movie studios and ad agencies study the emotional response to their content and provides facial recognition in theme parks to allow people to find and buy photos of themselves.

Brackeen said that the algorithms used in the commercial space are “five years ahead” of what the FBI is doing, and are much more accurate.

“There has got to be privacy protections for the individual,” he said.

There should be strict rules about how private companies can work with the government, said Brackeen, particularly when companies like Kairos are gathering rich datasets of faces. Kairos refuses to work with the government over concerns about how his technology could be used for biometric surveillance.

“Right now the only thing preventing Kairos from working with the government is me,” he said.



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