TBR News November 20, 2016

Nov 20 2016


The Voice of the White House

Washington, D.C.  November 20, 2016:”Now that the presidential elections are over, the losers, the Democrats, are howling about ‘false stories on the media’ as if these alone caused the destruction of their party.

The Internet has had fake news rampant on it for years on various blogs and in the case of the DNC, they are the ones who launched an extensive campaign of false propaganda aimed at ruining Trump.

The left-wing UK Guardian is upset because there are actually people who dare to attack the precious black community and  Lesbians, criticize uni-sex public lavatories, the save-the-gophers leagues, and there is the awful denial of man-made global warming, and rejection of the elevation of the Precious Hillary to public sainthood, the refusal to acknowledge that the Evil Trump roasted kittens in his microwave, the denial of the delight of having 30 million illegal, but wonderfully culturally diverse aliens crowding the American welfare rolls and on and on.

Insofar as the members of the rapidly shrinking American print media being very obvious shills is concerned, remember the old saying that ‘once a newspaperman, always a whore.’”

Ron Paul reveals hit list of alleged ‘fake news’ journalists

November 20, 2016


Former congressman Ron Paul revealed a list of “fake news” journalists he claims are responsible for “bogus wars” and lies about Hillary Clinton’s chances of winning the election. Journalists from CNN, the New York Times, and the Guardian are included.

“This list contains the culprits who told us that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and lied us into multiple bogus wars,” according to a report on his website, Ron Paul Liberty Report. Paul claims the list is sourced and “holds a lot more water” than a list previously released by Melissa Zimdars, who is described on Paul’s website as “a leftist feminist professor.”

“These are the news sources that told us ‘if you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor,’” he said. “They told us that Hillary Clinton had a 98% of winning the election. They tell us in a never-ending loop that ‘The economy is in great shape!’”

Paul’s list includes the full names of the “fake news” journalists as well as the publications they write for, with what appears to be hyperlinks to where the allegations are sourced from. In most cases, this is WikiLeaks, but none of the hyperlinks are working at present, leaving the exact sources of the list unknown.

CNN is Paul’s biggest alleged culprit, with nine entries, followed by the NY Times and MSNBC, with six each. The NY Times has recently come under fire from President-elect Donald Trump, who accuses them of being “totally wrong” on news regarding his transition team, while describing them as “failing.”

The publication hit back, however, saying their business has increased since his election, with a surge in new subscriptions.CNN’s Wolf Blitzer is also amongst those named on the list. In an email from the Democratic National Committee (DNC) released by WikiLeaks, the DNC staff discusses sending questions to CNN for an interview with Donald Trump.

Also listed is NY Times journalist Maggie Haberman, whom leaked emails showed working closely with Clinton’s campaign to present the Democratic candidate in a favorable light.

So-called ‘fake news’ has been recently attacked by US President Barack Obama, who claimed that false news shared online may have played a role in Donald Trump’s victory in the US presidential election.

Facebook head Mark Zuckerberg has now said that the social media site may begin entrusting third parties with filtering the news.

New leak reveals extent of Clinton ties with US media

October 10, 2016


Hillary Clinton has been revealed to have a very cozy relationship with the US media, which has been found to work closely with Clinton’s campaign to present her in a favorable, transparent light – even planting stories, new email leaks suggest.

These facts are laid bare in the latest cache of classified Clinton campaign emails seen by The Intercept, which in turn received them from Guccifer 2.0 – the hacker who’s reportedly behind several high-profile intrusions.

The cache of emails includes campaign strategies aimed at keeping the public perception of Clinton favorable, focusing particularly on her transparency, especially in light of the FBI investigation into her use of a private email server. The strategies sometimes reveal the campaign presiding over stylistic points and emphasizing what is to be described as “on the record.”

Of particular note is one January 2015 document which includes references to Maggie Haberman. Formerly of Politico, Haberman now covers the presidential election for the New York Times. According to the leaked document, she’s a “friendly journalist” who has “never disappointed” in painting a positive picture of Clinton.

Haberman was seemingly put to good use, emerging with two stories which were meant to shed light, among other things, on how Hillary Clinton’s thought process works and how successful her cabinet members were. The New York Times piece entitled ‘Hillary Clinton Begins Process of Vetting — Herself’, talks about how open Clinton is to researching herself and how committed to transparency that makes her. Especially given how her opponents mainly focus on her foundation work, or the millions she’s received in paid speech appearances, as well as her relationship to Wall Street.

Neither Merrill nor Haberman responded to the Intercept’s requests for comment, nor did they deny that the document exists.

One of the documents, entitled ‘The Press and Surrogate Plan’, talked of willing personnel in the media who could always be put to good use, at CNN or elsewhere. Clinton staffers were also careful in distinguishing between “progressive helpers” and those who were potentially friendly, but could be further coerced.

These so-called media surrogates would often include TV pundits whose roles would appear to be neutral, but who were enrolled by the campaign. The metadata for the ‘surrogate’ document traces it back to its author Jennifer Palmieri – the Clinton campaign communications director.

Furthermore, as described in an April 2015 memo, there would be secret get-togethers involving media big shots and celebrity TV personalities – a notable one would take place in the aftermath of Clinton’s running announcement at the home of one of her strategists on the Upper East Side. The informal cocktail party was completely off-the-record, and intended to coordinate how Clinton’s campaign would be presented to the American public.

The strategies were not specifically formulated for the Clinton campaign, however. According to a March 2015 memo by campaign manager Robby Mook, the tried and tested tactic of constantly feeding the press positive stories in order to take away its ability to react to constant outside accusations was particularly important.

These controversial strategies have also been employed by the Republicans, although this latest cache of documents is the first glimpse into just how coordinated the effort is to use the media to political advantage.

The revelations from the Intercept come just as the second round of debating between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump has wrapped up, looking colder than ever, with not so much as a handshake exchanged.

The leak also comes amid the latest official attack on Russia by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. On Friday they released a statement claiming they are ““confident that the Russian government directed” the hacks of emails and documents and their posting on WikiLeaks, DCLeaks, and the blog of the hacker calling himself ‘Guccifer 2.0.’

Russia has been denying all complicity. The United States has still not presented any evidence of an official link to the Russian government.

Obama is worried about fake news on social media – and we should be too

The outgoing US president has lamented an age where ‘active misinformation’ can spread as quickly and easily as the truth. And he is not exaggerating

November 20, 2016

by Nicky Woolf

The Guardian

San Francisco-President Obama, facing the imminent handover to his bombastic successor, has plenty to be concerned about this week. But he took the time express his concern about the impact of fake news online when he spoke to reporters on Thursday.

Obama, who was described in a detailed New Yorker interview as being “obsessed” with the problem since the election, described the new ecosystem of news online in which “everything is true and nothing is true”.

“In an age where there’s so much active misinformation, and it’s packaged very well, and it looks the same when you see it on a Facebook page or you turn on your television, where some overzealousness on the part of a US official is equated with constant and severe repression elsewhere, if everything seems to be the same and no distinctions are made, then we won’t know what to protect,” he told reporters in Berlin on Thursday. “If we can’t discriminate between serious arguments and propaganda, then we have problems.”

Obama is not exaggerating. Worse yet, in the last weeks of the US election campaign, according to an analysis by Buzzfeed News, fake news – whether claiming that the Pope had endorsed Trump, or that Clinton sold weapons to Isis – actually outperformed real news on the platform, with more shares, reactions and comments.

Another widely shared story used a young picture of Donald Trump with variations on a quote he reportedly gave People magazine in 1998. “If I were to run, I’d run as a Republican. They’re the dumbest group of voters in the country. They believe anything on Fox News. I could lie and they’d still eat it up. I bet my numbers would be terrific.”

Yet Trump never said that. It is not even possible to know how widely the quote was shared, with a new version created every time another is flagged, and removed. Memes like this replicate across the internet like a virus in this way, so the quote, tantalising in its plausibility, is pitch-perfect for quick sharing.

Facebook has faced many controversies in its 12 short years, but has fumbled with the gravity and impact of its editorial power in an age where 62% of US adults now turn to social media for some or all of their news, according to the Pew Research Centre.

In the early days of the election, Facebook was criticised for what was perceived as over-zealousness curation of its “trending topics” chart. When conservative outlets accused them of censoring right-leaning news stories, Zuckerberg fired the trending stories team and replaced them with an algorithm – which almost immediately began to distribute fake news.

The problem went unaddressed. Sources told Gizmodo that high-level meetings in Facebook have been underway since May, when a planned update to identify fake news to Facebook’s news feed was shelved after it was found to disproportionately impact right-wing sites, though Facebook officially denies this happened.

Part of the problem, experts say, is that many people share articles based on the headline alone and don’t even read the story – let alone apply any skepticism to the claims within.

Another viral story by “The Denver Guardian” claimed, completely falsely, that an FBI agent investigating Clinton had been killed in a house-fire in Colorado. It prompted The Denver Post – a newspaper that does actually exist and was founded in 1892 – to explain that “There is no such thing as the Denver Guardian”, pointing out that address it listed as its base led to a tree in a Denver carpark.

In one way, the problem is not a new one. Publications like the National Enquirer in the US have long bent the truth, often shamelessly. But now, a fake story can much more easily masquerade as real because in Facebook’s walled garden, all the posts look largely the same – a New York Times investigation alongside a fake story claiming Taylor Swift endorsed Trump.

The ease of deception has given birth to a brand new cottage industry. In November Buzzfeed discovered that many of the pro-Trump fake news sites – over 100 of them – were being operated as for-profit click-farms by Macedonian teenagers.

By 5 November, Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg was facing mounting pressure to address the problem. “Of all the content on Facebook, more than 99% of what people see is authentic. Only a very small amount is fake news and hoaxes,” he wrote on his Facebook page. “The hoaxes that do exist are not limited to one partisan view, or even to politics. Overall, this makes it extremely unlikely hoaxes changed the outcome of this election in one direction or the other.”

Experts say this statement sounds like Zuckerberg is in denial. “As long as Mark Zuckerberg refuses to understand his own system, there is no hope for Facebook reforming itself,” said Siva Vaidhyanathan, professor of media studies at the University of Virginia.

“Facebook and its leaders have consistently applauded themselves for connecting millions of people around the world and enabling friction-free conversation, and have gladly taken unwarranted credit for pro-democracy movements in different parts of the world,” he said. “And yet Zuckerberg himself has denied any moral responsibility for the fact that Facebook has helped poison American democracy.”

This weekend Zuckerberg openly acknowledged for the first time the gravity of the problem and the steps Facebook is taking to counter it.

“We take misinformation seriously,” he wrote in a post on Saturday. “We know people want accurate information. We’ve been working on this problem for a long time and we take this responsibility seriously.”

Zuckerberg said they were working to make it easier for users to report a story as fake. He also said Facebook has “reached out” to “respected fact-checking organizations” about third-party verification, but didn’t provide specifics.

The problem isn’t just limited to the latest US presidential election cycle, Vaidyanathan said. “The harmful information that spreads on Facebook includes the myths and lies about vaccination and links to autism. It contains myths and lies about the scientific fact of global warming. These are issues that are crucial to our wellbeing, and there is no algorithm that can distinguish a fact from a lie.”

On Monday, Google and Facebook both announced that they would be making it harder for fake news sites to make money via their advertising networks – though this does not address Facebook’s news feed problem.

Pressure continues to grow, even from within Facebook itself. A report emerged on Monday that a “renegade” group of “more than dozens” of Facebook employees had formed a task force, kept secret from upper management, to try to address the issue. “[Zuckerberg] knows, and those of us at the company know, that fake news ran wild on our platform during the entire campaign season,” an employee, speaking anonymously, told Buzzfeed. Hundreds more had privately expressed dissatisfaction with how the company had dealt with the problem.

Melissa Zimdars, assistant professor of communication and media at Merrimack College in Massachusetts, said that she was concerned about some of the sources her students were finding and using online, so she created a Google document which lists a number of sites and which has since gone viral.

Not all of them are fake. Many are satirical sites like The Onion or the New Yorker’s Borowitz Report, while others are news organizations whose stories are often slanted, like Breitbart on the right or Occupy Democrats on the left.

“There are things that readers can do, but there are [also] things structurally and within the culture of journalism itself that need to change,” Zimdars said. “One thing readers can do is to read what they’re sharing, and after that if you read something and have a strong reaction to it, read more about it rather than just accept what you originally read as complete information.”

The only solution to Facebook’s problem, according to Vaidhyanathan, is the laborious and labour-intensive human checking of facts.

“Facebook would have to hire thousands of human beings who are trained to make editorial judgments and could step in and edit news feeds,” he said. In the meantime, it’s as if Mark Zuckerberg is using some different version of Facebook unafflicted by hoax stories and misinformation. “The rest of us know too well the corrosive power of fake news.”

Donald Trump, America’s first independent president

November 19, 2016

by Dan Balz

Washington Post

Viewed through any conventional lens, President-elect Donald Trump’s candidacy was improbable from start to finish. Today, two things about his victory seem to be in sharper focus: one, that Trump’s victory might best be understood as the success of the country’s first independent president, and second, that the Trump coalition may be even more uniquely his than President Obama’s has turned out to be.

Think again about how he prevailed. There are a handful of major events during a general election that give the nominees a chance to showcase themselves, their judgment and their vision. One is the selection of a running mate. Another is the staging of the conventions. A third is performance in the debates. Hillary Clinton did better than Trump on all three tests, though Trump’s team believes the debates did not fall so decisively in her favor.

Then there are the other factors that go into producing a successful candidacy. These include resources, the operations and mechanics of campaigning, and the skill with which candidates avoid mistakes and deal with the unexpected setbacks.

Clinton raised more money than Trump. She had a larger number of paid staffers on the ground in the battleground states. She ran more television ads by far. He created needless controversies throughout the general election, while her problems were far fewer. Only in the final days did he seem surer of himself.

In other words, Trump came out the loser on virtually every aspect of how campaigns are usually evaluated. Yet today he is staffing his administration and Clinton is still absorbing the brutal shock of having lost a race she believed was hers.

Trump owes his success in part to the fact that he ran for president in an environment that favored change over the status quo. But his luck or genius goes beyond that. It has long been noted that the conditions have existed for an independent candidate to run a serious campaign for president. The level of dissatisfaction with Washington, the anxiety over the economy and the generally sour mood about the future provided the foundation for a campaign by someone from outside the system, who is tied to neither political party and with a promise to shake things up.

What has stood in the way of people running as an independent is that winning the presidency in a system that so clearly favors the two major parties is something of a hopeless cause. That’s a big reason former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg decided not to run several times when he seriously explored the idea.

Trump took the elements of an independent candidacy — the lack of clear ideology, the name recognition of a national celebrity and the personal fortune needed to fund a presidential campaign — and then did what no one seemed to have thought of before. He staged a hostile takeover of an existing major party. He had the best of both worlds, an outsider candidacy with crosscutting ideological appeal and the platform of a major party to wage the general election. By the time he had finished, he had taken down two political dynasties: the Bush dynasty in the primaries and the Clinton dynasty in the general election.

All through the campaign, one big question was whether 2016 would produce a new electoral map. Mostly this was an outgrowth of the idea that demography is destiny. This was shorthand for the hope among Democrats that changing demographics — rising numbers of Hispanics in particular — along with a growing proportion of the population with college degrees would move some states from red to purple and others from purple to blue.

One example was the way the Clinton team saw Virginia and Colorado as two states that had moved toward the Democrats during the Obama years and now were securely in the party’s column. They also saw an opportunity to win in Arizona this year and believed that Georgia would soon become a true battleground. Even bright red Texas looked more in play during the early fall.

The flip side of this “demography is destiny” concept was that, for a time, the Republicans might have their best opportunity to change the map by focusing on a handful of Northern industrial states, all of which have older, whiter populations and lower percentages of college graduates.

But with the exception of Ohio, those states — Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin — were all part of what the Atlantic’s Ron Brownstein long ago dubbed the “Blue Wall.” The phrase was shorthand for states that as of 2012 had voted Democratic in six consecutive presidential elections. Despite the demographics, it seemed that wall would be too high an obstacle for Trump to surmount in this election, even though his messages on trade and immigration were tailor-made for voters in that region.

What happened was that this map of a new America came true only in part. Trump converted the portion of the map that was suddenly hospitable to his message, and Clinton failed to win the states that someday might lean more Democratic. The northern map was riper for picking by Trump — barely, given the tight results in Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania — than the southern map turned out to be for Clinton.

For Republicans, the fact that Trump won the presidency while losing the popular vote should remain a concern. It was the second time in five recent elections that the GOP has gotten to the White House with fewer votes, as Clinton probably will emerge with a clear plurality and a raw vote margin significantly higher than Al Gore in 2000.

An analysis by Mark Gersh of the National Committee for an Effective Congress looked at the vote in 14 swing states vs. the rest of the country. Trump won the popular vote in those 14 states and got 142 of his electoral votes from them. In the other 36 states, he lost the popular vote by an even larger margin. He found the votes where he needed them. She did not.How did he do it? Take a look at Ohio. For years, the state has been a classic bellwether and, in the three previous elections, ground zero in the battle for the White House. This year it went to Trump by 8 points and shifted from its historical norm by the biggest margin in more than half a century.

Mike Dawson, an expert on election statistics in Ohio, did an analysis of the vote last week for the Columbus Dispatch. What he found was that Trump’s percentage was higher than that of Mitt Romney in 2012 in 83 of the state’s 88 counties. Trump’s percentage in rural southeast Ohio was the biggest since Herbert Hoover in 1928. In the Youngstown area, once reliable Democratic turf, Trump got 52 percent of the vote compared with 39 percent that Romney got in 2012.

Ohio was not unique. Similar patterns existed in the other Northern industrial states. Yet in the three formerly blue states that Trump converted, Clinton might have won had she not suffered erosion among African American voters — one key portion of the Obama coalition — or prevented more white, college-educated voters from moving away from her and returning home to the GOP, the group her team saw as a key element of a new Clinton coalition.

Trump redrew the map just as he redrew the rules for running a campaign. For those reasons alone, and despite all the controversy of his campaign and the earlier personnel appointments, he ought not to be underestimated and/or seen through conventional lenses.

US police spend millions on social media monitoring tools, study finds

November 19, 2016


A new study has found law enforcement agencies spent $4.75 million on social media monitoring tools between 2013 and 2016 to surveil the public and investigate possible crimes, although this sum is “massively understated,” according to researchers.

The Brennan Center for Justice published an analysis of 151 US cities, counties and law enforcement departments that have spent more than $10,000 on software to monitor social media, using public records to compile the list.

The study found the City of Los Angeles, the County of Sacramento, Florida Department of Law Enforcement, Macomb County in Michigan and Texas Department of Public Safety were the biggest users of surveillance, spending about $70,000 each over the past three years.

As the list was compiled using publicly available information, “the numbers we have are massively understated,” Brennan Center for Justice’s Faiza Patel said. “But it gives an indication of a phenomenon that is growing rapidly and flying under the radar.”

The companies identified in the analysis are, Geofeedia, Media Sonar, Snaptrends, Dataminr, DigitalStakeout, PATHAR, Meltwater, and Babel Street.

Companies such as Dataminr, Geofeedia and Snaptrends analyze social media data with corporations and law enforcement buying licenses to access the data.

The companies use algorithms to sift and sort through millions of social media posts in real time, allowing customers to track, monitor and discover relationships between social media users. It can also be utilized to track protests and political movements, posing a potential threat to citizens’ First Amendment rights.

“Today the main way protesters organize is online,” Patel told the Washington Post. “This is a new administration that has been frankly threatening to the act of political protest.”

The analysis doesn’t include details on the FBI, CIA or other intelligence agencies and their use of social media monitoring software.

A New Documentary Explores the Devastating Effects of Drone Warfare on Victims and Whistleblowers

November 20 2016

by Murtaza Hussain

The Intercept

On the night of February 21, 2010, a group of families driving a convoy of vehicles through the valleys of Uruzgan Province, Afghanistan came into the sights of a Predator drone crew operating out of Creech Air Force Base in Nevada.

“That truck would make a beautiful target,” one of the operators says. The crew analyzes the convoy, debating whether children are present. “I really doubt that child call, man. I really fucking hate that shit.”

Under the watchful gaze of the drone crew, the families disembark from the convoy, stopping to pray at the side of the road. After a brief pause, they get back in their cars and continue their journey, still unaware that they are being stalked from above.

The drone crew, satisfied that they have a legitimate target in their sights, make the necessary preparations to use force.

As the cars trundle down the road, they open fire.

“And….oh…there it goes!” one of the pilots exclaims. The first car in the convoy, struck by a missile, disappears into in a giant cloud of dust. Moments later, a second car explodes. People run out of the remaining vehicle, waving at the aircraft above to stop firing. They brandish pieces of cloth at the sky to try and indicate they are non-combatants. A woman can be seen holding a child.

“I don’t know about this,” one of the operators says. “This is weird.”

A total of 23 people were killed in the strike against the convoy, all civilians. An investigation by the military later found that drone pilots “ignored or downplayed” evidence that the convoy was a civilian one. A transcript of the drone operator’s conversation was later made public through a Freedom of Information Act request by the ACLU.

The Uruzgan drone strike and the events surrounding it form much of the basis of “National Bird,” an extraordinary new documentary about the U.S. drone program. The film, which opened Friday in Los Angeles, profiles the lives of former drone operators, as well as victims of the program, including the survivors of the Uruzgan attack. In doing so, it provides a rare glimpse into the lives of those affected by the U.S. military’s covert global assassination program, as well as the consequences facing those who speak out about it.

“We wanted to make film on the drone war and the people directly impacted: those operating the program and those impacted in countries where drone strikes are being carried out,” said Sonia Kennebeck, the producer of National Bird. “We took many risks to make this film, because we felt there is a real need for transparency in these programs.”

The film profiles three Americans who took part in the drone program but later experienced a crisis of conscience.

“This is not just one person sitting there with a joystick moving around a plane that’s around the world, its like borders don’t matter anymore. There’s a huge system that is around the world, and that can suck up endless data,” says Lisa, a former technical sergeant on drone surveillance systems, who, like all subjects in National Bird, is identified only by her first name.

In the film, Lisa shows a commendation she received for helping identify over 121,000 “insurgent targets” over a two-year period, as part of military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. “That is 121,000 lives affected by technology that we control. How many years have we been at war now?”

The film, beautifully constructed, intersperses scenes from the lives of drone operators living in small American towns with scenes from Afghanistan showing those who have been targeted by strikes.

The subjects in the film are cautious in their descriptions of their activities, citing a pervasive fear that they will be charged under the Espionage Act for their whistleblowing. And during the making of the film, a drone operator named Daniel, a former NSA operative at Fort Meade, has his house raided by the FBI and is informed that he is under investigation for speaking out about the program.

The Obama administration has been notorious for using that law to prosecute individuals speaking out about the covert warfare programs. Indeed, more individuals have been prosecuted under the Espionage Act by Obama than under all previous administrations combined. This crackdown makes the acts of whistleblowing documented in “National Bird” even more courageous.

“I can say the drone program is wrong because I don’t know how many people I’ve killed,” Heather, a drone operator now suffering from PTSD, says in the film. Having lost several friends in the program to suicide, she says she is tormented by her role in drone strikes that she believes killed and maimed civilians. She is also consumed with fear that she will soon be targeted for speaking out. “If someone comes to my house and puts a bag over my head and hauls me away, what was the point in anything I did?”

Some of the most moving scenes in the film are shot in Afghanistan, where the filmmakers traveled to meet victims of the program. “When your body is intact, your mind is different. You are content,” says one man who was wounded in the Uruzgan attack. “But the moment you are wounded, your soul gets damaged. When your leg is torn off, and your gait slows, it also burdens your spirit.”

“Sometimes I am so sad, my heart wants to explode,” the man says before breaking down silently in tears.

As the Obama administration prepares to hand-off its vast, opaque institutions of surveillance and covert warfare to Donald Trump, many have begun to worry anew about these powers. The new president-elect and his cabinet will have unprecedented power to conduct secret wars and assassinations around the globe, thanks in part to programs bequeathed to him by his liberal predecessor. The aggressive posture that Obama took towards whistleblowers also sets a precedent for Trump to step-up attacks against those inside the government who dare to shed light on such programs.

“We made this film in part to highlight the repercussions of future governments holding these powers, but I don’t think many people realize how bad things already are under Obama,” says Kennebeck. “The whistleblowers in the film took great risks, because they felt that people need to know what is happening inside the drone program.”

“But, over the course of our shooting, the film ended up being as much about the consequences of whistleblowing as it did about the drone program itself.”

Putin’s 2015 UN speech on ‘multipolar world’ coming to fruition

November 20, 2016

by John Wright


When Vladimir Putin took the podium to address the delegates in attendance at the 70th UN General Assembly in New York on September 28, 2015 the sense that we were about to witness a seminal moment in history was inescapable.

And so it proved.

The speech the Russian leader proceeded to deliver to the delegates in attendance, along with an expectant world via the international media, was tantamount to announcing the birth of a multipolar world, one in which Washington would no longer enjoy the uncontested primacy and hegemony it had since the demise of the Soviet Union in 1991.

In a trenchant indictment, Putin reminded the delegates of the responsibility of Washington and its allies in destabilizing the Middle East since 9/11, and how their actions had unleashed chaos and crises to the point where it now threatened to reduce the entire region to a state of permanent anarchy. The most powerful moment in the speech came when he looked up from his notes and out to the assembled international delegates, whereupon, directly addressing the US government and political establishment, he said, “Do you realize what you have done?”

It was a j’accuse delivered in the form of a simple question, penetrating the walls of propaganda that had been erected to conceal the truth of US exceptionalism. Russia was no longer a second tier power, Putin’s address confirmed, reduced to the role of bystander while Washington’s writ ran wherever it saw fit. And no longer was it, as unofficial representative of the emerging powers otherwise known as BRIC, prepared to accept a world in which the US, supported by its European allies, treated international law and the principle of national sovereignty as a gift to be bestowed or removed as it deemed fit rather than a universal and inalienable right.

The response of the Obama administration to the Russian president’s address was predictably bullish and dismissive, refusing to budge from a position of attributing responsibility for the crisis and conflict in eastern Ukraine to “Putin’s aggression,” while when it came to the conflict in Syria opining that “When a dictator slaughters tens of thousands of his own people, that is not just a matter of one nation’s internal affairs. It breeds human suffering on an order of magnitude that affects us all.”

There was no disagreement to be had when it came to the scale of the carnage and human suffering cited by the US president in Syria. How could there be when it was of such magnitude it refuted the assertion that humanity’s presence on the planet charted an ever-upward climb of progress and development? A refugee crisis of biblical proportions had swallowed up thousands of men, women, and children in the Mediterranean, as a flotilla of unseaworthy craft of all shapes and sizes made the desperate to attempt to ferry them to Europe, resulting in their deaths. It came as a sad and tragic bookend to the fatuous boasts of Bush, Blair, and their neocon and interventionist acolytes on liberating the Arab word from tyranny as the bombs and missiles started falling on Iraq in March 2003.

The disagreement and discord between Moscow and Washington came, as it had throughout, over where ultimate responsibility for the carnage in Syria and its attendant fallout in the form of a growing refugee crisis and the proliferation of terrorism across the world lay. The US government and its European and regional allies extended themselves in blaming Russia and Assad, even though neither was responsible for the destabilization of the region starting with the war in Iraq in 2003, which heralded its inexorable slide into the arms of sectarian hatred and enmity and ultimately unleashing the forces of hell as religious extremism managed to ride the coattails of the Arab Spring in 2011.

The build-up of Russian military equipment in Syria was near complete by the time Vladimir Putin delivered his UN address. The deployment had been conducted with impressive speed, taking Western governments and military analysts by surprise. This was not the ramshackle Russian military that lacked advanced equipment and communications capability during the brief Georgian conflict of 2008. Seven years of intensive upgrading, training and re-organization had borne fruit with Russia demonstrating the ability to project considerable military strength thousands of miles beyond its borders; this despite the challenges involved due not only to the distance but also the fact they were projecting said power into the middle of a conflict zone.

Equally impressive was the preparations that were made in the form of extending existing Syrian airbases in and around Latakia in order to be able to facilitate Russian aircraft and equipment, and also the establishment of a joint intelligence center in Iraq with the Iraqis, Syrians, and Iranians. As for the military hardware involved, going forward it would include some of the most advanced fighter aircraft in the world – the SU34 and SU35 – and the S300 and S400 anti aircraft defense systems, acknowledged as the most advanced of any currently in existence.

The consequences of success or failure made Moscow’s decision to undertake such an intervention a high stakes gamble, especially with the shadow of the Afghan quagmire of the 1980s looming ever large over Russia’s military and political leadership. Just as the US had experienced its Vietnam Syndrome and was now in the throes of an Iraq Syndrome, Moscow had experienced the fallout of its extended and ultimately failed Afghanistan mission in the form of a fear of finding itself drawn into anything like it again.

Just over a year on from Putin’s address to the UN and ISIS is on the way to being defeated, Syria’s survival as a non-sectarian secular state is assured, and a new US president, pledging to reset relations with Moscow, has just been elected.

How the world has changed.

Hedge in the cloud: funds outsourcing computing power step into unknown

November 18, 2016

by Maiya Keidan and Jemima Kelly


LONDON-Tucked into the attic of a Georgian building in London’s West End, seven people run a $200 million hedge fund following artificial intelligence formulas. But the supercomputers that process their complex algorithms are nowhere to be seen.

While most established hedge funds keep their trading systems at close quarters, Piquant Technologies outsources all its IT to third parties via the cloud, where multiple computing resources are shared by multiple and often unrelated users.

Moving data off-site to cloud providers may be physically safer than storing servers in an office in Mayfair and may even provide security in anonymity.

Piquant co-founders James Holloway, 32, and Iain Buchanan, 36, say putting their trading and back office systems on external platforms halves hardware costs and means one less person to hire for maintenance. “Do not burgle Piquant – it’s not worth it,” said Holloway, the fund’s Chief Investment Officer. “In our office we have really no hardware except for a mouse, a keyboard and a screen.”

But risks lurk if data is not properly protected. Technology provider RFA, which has 576 hedge fund clients globally, said 20 percent – or 115 – of them funds moved some operations to the cloud last year.

The likes of Amazon, Google and Microsoft are winning new customers – asset managers who gain access to the latest supercomputers without having to buy any hardware, helping them cut costs.

Regulators are trying to keep up, raising concerns about how well the risks are monitored.

Britain’s Financial Conduct Authority spelled out in guidelines earlier this year that use of the cloud must not “erode, impair or worsen the firms operational risk”.

It said “some respondents” wrote in to challenge that prerequisite.

The regulator also asked funds to actively supervise and test arrangements. The Monetary Authority of Singapore added the topic to its guidelines.

Regulators in Germany, Spain, Italy and the United States have put out no guidelines specifically on cloud usage, though many address outsourcing generally. They declined to comment on whether they might provide future guidelines.

A spokesman at the Swiss regulator said they were “aware of the topic” but had no plans to bring out FCA-style guidelines.


Piquant’s founders set up their fund in 2013 and later outsourced all their IT.

Most other hedge funds – worried by the risks of cyber-attacks and data centres going down – are reluctant to trust third-party providers with their trading systems. They are outsourcing less sensitive areas such as email.

“We are putting our toe in the water, starting to use infrastructure and other services on the private cloud,” said Iain Anderson, Chief Technology Officer at $15 billion hedge fund Cheyne Capital.

Cheyne has moved investor relations and marketing applications to an off-site location dedicated solely to their firm. It is not currently using “public” cloud platforms such as Amazon’s, where hardware is shared by multiple users who require technological aptitude to use it securely.

Amazon says, for example, that clients should encrypt their own data to keep it totally safe.

Some funds worry the size of public cloud providers makes them a hacking target.

Others say only platforms like Amazon Web Services have the money and expertise to put in place the safest systems. Research firm Gartner says Amazon holds almost double the amount of data held by its seven nearest competitors combined.

“Few firms have the means to stay on top of cyber security,” said Alexandru Agachi, the chief operating officer of Empiric Capital, a Knightsbridge-based hedge fund. “The largest clouds in the world do have these resources.”


Some anticipate a wholesale move.

“This will be the last set of servers we buy,” said Andy Flatt, Chief Technology Officer at London-based fund Omni Partners. “My guess is that in three years we will not be buying physical servers”.

Others fear that many breaches – beyond well-publicised hacks of celebrities’ images stored on Apple’s iCloud – may go unreported.

“If you’re storing someone else’s data, you’d think there’d be hacks on that but that’s not something we’ve seen,” Garry Liburn, detective inspector for the Metropolitan Police Cyber Crime Unit, said at an event in Mayfair last month.

Under the FCA’s new guidelines, which only took effect in July, firms should tell the regulator if they experience a breach. The watchdog declined to comment on whether any had reported incidents.

“I am sure there have been hacks of the cloud … no one is reporting them,” said Viktor Ula, managing partner at investment consultant PivotalPath.

“If a cloud reported a hack, it would halt their growth. The risk that everyone believes exists out there would then be perceived to be even higher and folks would probably revert to having systems internally.”


Such fears explain why some funds, like $10 billion Systematica Investments Services, reject the cloud.

“Systematica does not use any external cloud at this point in time,” said Matt Kilsby, chief operating officer at Systematica. “Security is a big risk, with the growing range and complexity of cyber crime in the backdrop.”

Ian Massingham, a technical evangelist at Amazon Web Services (AWS), told Reuters AWS hadn’t had any hacks, though it was possible to create an insecure system using AWS.

“When we give you the resources, you’re creating machines, you’re configuring machines on our platform so we give you a set of tools – but it’s in your hands,” he said.

(Reporting by Maiya Keidan and Jemima Kelly, additonal reporting by Joshua Franklin, Lawrence Delevingne and Andrew MacAskill; Editing by Ruth Pitchford)


(And here is a often-recurring email, sent to our site with many different return addresses. There is also a comment about this sort of business from the Internet. Ed.)


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What is Safe Guard Trader?

Our software uses cutting edge methods to LEGALLY and ETHICALLY beat the markets to CONSISTENTLY make at least $1375 per hour.

How does it work?

Automatically seeks out winning trades using super-fast Global Positioning technology.

Highly automated software places the trade at the exact required time.

Safe Guard Protocol makes it mathematically impossible to lose even a single trade.

Safeguard Trader Review

Safeguard Trader is an automated trading software for binary options that opened on June 19th, 2016. Sometimes we see a new software and get excited, in the case of Safeguard Trader there is nothing to get excited about.

We have seen this software sold under different names, as recently as last month. Investors can see the Navstar Trader software, which does the same thing as Safeguard Trader.

Lucky for you, you decided to do a little research before plunking down $250 with a useless trading robot, who deals with sketchy brokers.

If you made a mistake and deposited money already then you should read about brokers complaints.

Safeguard Trader Scam

The two big problems we have with Safeguard Trader is:

They make false promises about your potential profits. Here is what they wrote…

“On a daily average and since we’ve offered Safeguard Trader publicly, our members generate an average of $33,000 a day!”

The signals and results are fake.

Safeguard Trader Software Review

The robot that Safeguard gives you is very limited in its abilities.

You have 3 options for programming the software, which is bad. A real binary options robot will offer you over 25 options for controlling the robot.

If you have no control of the robot, then the robot will just keep trading until you lose all your money.

The Demise of Anti-War Liberals?

November 18, 2016

by Ted Galen Carpenter


During the post-World War II period, opposition to U.S. militarism and involvement in dubious military conflicts has usually been stronger on the political left than the right.  Left-wing, anti-war sentiment reached its peak during the Vietnam War, when groups opposed to that conflict could sometimes mobilize tens of thousands of demonstrators.  Opposition to subsequent U.S. military crusades was less robust, but even as late as the Iraq War, there were sizable anti-war demonstrations in the streets.

There have been warning signs for some time, though, that opposition to unnecessary armed conflicts has lost its appeal to much of the political left.  For one thing, there was always a partisan bias to anti-war movements.  Even during the heyday of resistance to the Vietnam War, the criticism became more intense after Republican Richard Nixon took over the White House than it had been when Democrat Lyndon Johnson occupied the Oval Office.  The bias was even more apparent in later decades.  There was far more criticism of Republican George H.W. Bush’s Persian Gulf War than there was of Democrat Bill Clinton’s wars in Bosnia and Kosovo.  Indeed, a distressing number of prominent liberals found reasons to praise Clinton’s military crusades in the Balkans.

The partisan factor has grown even more intense in the twenty-first century.  Left-wing groups mounted a fairly serious effort to thwart Republican George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq.  But when Democrat Barack Obama greatly escalated U.S. military involvement in Afghanistan and led a NATO assault to remove Libya’s Muammar Qaddafi from power, the reaction was very different.  Except for a few hard-left organizations, such as Code Pink, the sounds coming from the usual supposed anti-war liberal quarters were those of crickets.  Likewise, there has been little push-back to Obama’s gradual return of the U.S. military presence in Iraq or the entanglement of the U.S. military in Syria.

Some on the left hoped that the campaign of Senator Bernie Sanders for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination signaled a revitalization of opposition to the warfare state among progressives.  That did not prove to be the case.  Foreign policy in general, and opposition to Washington’s wars in particular, was a secondary and anemic theme in his campaign against Hillary Clinton.

And Sanders may now have sounded the death knell for the liberal anti-war movement.  Just days after Donald Trump’s upset victory in the 2016 presidential election, Sanders published a high-profile article in the New York Times outlining the policy agenda for progressives going forward.  The piece contained the usual laundry list of identity politics and spending proposals that left-wing types have been pushing for decades.  What was striking, though, is that the article contained not a single word—not a single word—about foreign policy.  The United States is mired in the longest war in its history in Afghanistan, it has returned to the scene of its last major interventionist disaster in Iraq, and it is already entangled to a dangerous degree in Syria.  The president-elect has indicated that he may tear up the agreement with Iran, wants to adopt a confrontational trade policy toward China, and wants to pour even more money into the Pentagon.

Yet the most visible and prominent political figure on the left apparently deems all of this unworthy of a comment in America’s most prestigious newspaper.  That omission suggests that Sanders may believe his followers do not consider foreign policy very important.  That would be worrisome.  The other possibility is even worse: that he believes they have accommodated themselves to the warfare state—that as long as they can get the funding for their pet domestic programs, they are willing to back even more generous funding of the Pentagon and other elements of the national security apparatus.  Such an assumption would also suggest that they would remain largely mute as Washington embarks on future military crusades.

If the latter scenario proves true, we are witnessing the demise of anti-war liberals.  It would then be up to libertarians and limited government conservatives to redouble their efforts to wage campaigns for peace, despite knowing that we may have few, if any allies, on our left flank.

Sea Level Rise

National Geographic

Core samples, tide gauge readings, and, most recently, satellite measurements tell us that over the past century, the Global Mean Sea Level (GMSL) has risen by 4 to 8 inches (10 to 20 centimeters). However, the annual rate of rise over the past 20 years has been 0.13 inches (3.2 millimeters) a year, roughly twice the average speed of the preceding 80 years.

Over the past century, the burning of fossil fuels and other human and natural activities has released enormous amounts of heat-trapping gases into the atmosphere. These emissions have caused the Earth’s surface temperature to rise, and the oceans absorb about 80 percent of this additional heat.

The rise in sea levels is linked to three primary factors, all induced by this ongoing global climate change:

Thermal expansion: When water heats up, it expands. About half of the past century’s rise in sea level is attributable to warmer oceans simply occupying more space.

Melting of glaciers and polar ice caps: Large ice formations, like glaciers and the polar ice caps, naturally melt back a bit each summer. But in the winter, snows, made primarily from evaporated seawater, are generally sufficient to balance out the melting. Recently, though, persistently higher temperatures caused by global warming have led to greater-than-average summer melting as well as diminished snowfall due to later winters and earlier springs. This imbalance results in a significant net gain in runoff versus evaporation for the ocean, causing sea levels to rise.

Ice loss from Greenland and West Antarctica: As with glaciers and the ice caps, increased heat is causing the massive ice sheets that cover Greenland and Antarctica to melt at an accelerated pace. Scientists also believe meltwater from above and seawater from below is seeping beneath Greenland’s and West Antarctica’s ice sheets, effectively lubricating ice streams and causing them to move more quickly into the sea. Moreover, higher sea temperatures are causing the massive ice shelves that extend out from Antarctica to melt from below, weaken, and break off. There is enough water stored in the East Antarctic ice sheet to raise sea levels by 164 feet (50 meters).


When sea levels rise rapidly, as they have been doing, even a small increase can have devastating effects on coastal habitats. As seawater reaches farther inland, it can cause destructive erosion, flooding of wetlands, contamination of aquifers and agricultural soils, and lost habitat for fish, birds, and plants.

When large storms hit land, higher sea levels mean bigger, more powerful storm surges that can strip away everything in their path.

In addition, hundreds of millions of people live in areas that will become increasingly vulnerable to flooding. Higher sea levels would force them to abandon their homes and relocate. Low-lying islands could be submerged completely.

How High Will It Go?

Most predictions say the warming of the planet will continue and likely will accelerate. Oceans will likely continue to rise as well, but predicting the amount is an inexact science. A recent study says we can expect the oceans to rise between 2.5 and 6.5 feet (0.8 and 2 meters) by 2100, enough to swamp many of the cities along the U.S. East Coast. More dire estimates, including a complete meltdown of the Greenland ice sheet, push sea level rise to 23 feet (7 meters), enough to submerge London.

Storms lash western France, southern England

Bad weather overnight to Sunday left thousands of homes in the French region of Brittany without power. And in the English Channel, a cargo ship took on water amid a storm lashing the southern English coast.

November 20, 2016


Strong winds that lashed France’s western and northwestern coast overnight to Sunday left nearly 70,000 homes without power, according to the national electricity grid Enedis.

France’s national weather agency, Meteo France, said winds that reached up to 160 kilometers (100 miles) per hour battered the Breton peninsula and the Normandy coast, and that two other regions also remained under a storm alert.

Power was off in the morning hours in 33,000 homes in Normandy, 18,700 in Brittany and 16,500 in the Loire-Atlantique region south of Brittany, according to Enedis.

Local officials said a woman suffered serious injuries when she ran into a fallen tree in her car in Brittany’s Cote d’Armor department.

Meteo France said the stormy conditions resulted from a rare combination of bad weather in the northeastern Atlantic and a strong airstream directed at northwestern France. The winds were expected to die down on Monday.

Media reports said that many trees and roofs were torn down in the violent winds.

Ship in distress

On the other side of the English Channel, a storm affecting England’s south coast has brought a cargo ship into difficulty, British coast guards said on Sunday.

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency said the 650-foot (200-meter) vessel, carrying 23 people, lost power near the southern port city of Dover, causing it to drift into a rock-laden barge. The agency said a tug was being sent to tow the leaking ship to safety, and that some crew members had already been taken from board.

Two helicopters were involved in the evacuation measures, according to the agency, with duty commander Steve Carson saying the accident had been declared “a major incident.”

Local media reported the name of the ship as the Saga Sky.

The storm, called Angus, is the first big one of the autumn-winter season in Britain. Forecasters said the southern coast had been hit by 110 kph winds, with one offshore gust reaching 156 kph.

The port of Dover earlier said ferry movements had been temporarily suspended owing to “very high winds.”

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