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TBR News December 13, 2017

Dec 13 2017

The Voice of the White House

Washington, D.C., December 13, 2017: “Historical events are very much like a child’s kaleidoscope. It is possible to identify all of the shapes and colors of the bits of glass contained in the toy, but when they are placed in a mirrored tube, no one can accurately predict the exact patterns that will emerge when the tube is rotated. Historians can recognize the factors and forces that create change but can never predict exactly when or how they will combine, or what the effect of these combinations will be.”

 

Table of Contents

  • Trump loses his big bet on Alabama U.S. Senate race
  • ‘America is more progressive than Trump’
  • How Black Voters Lifted Doug Jones Over Roy Moore
  • Bad Moon Rising
  • Russia-gate’s Litany of Corrections
  • The past, the present and the future
  • Muslim leaders declare ‘East Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Palestine’
  • Abduct, imprison, repeat: Israel systematically imprisons Palestinians on false or no charges
  • Brexit: UK Parliament backs final say in EU divorce in major blow to Theresa May
  • You may be mining cryptocurrencies for fraudsters while watching online videos

 

Trump loses his big bet on Alabama U.S. Senate race

December 13, 2017

by James Oliphant

Reuters

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – In backing Roy Moore in Alabama’s U.S. Senate race even though the candidate faced allegations of sexual misconduct with teenage girls, President Donald Trump made a risky bet – and lost big.

The victory by Democrat Doug Jones over the Republican Moore in the Alabama special election on Tuesday was a catastrophe for Trump, portending a Democratic wave next year that could cost Republicans control of one or both houses of Congress.

The stakes in Alabama were that high. Democrats already were confident they had a strong chance to retake the U.S. House of Representatives in next year’s congressional elections. Jones’ narrow victory increases their once-long odds of retaking control of the Senate as well.

If Democrats were to recapture both chambers, they would serve as a check on Trump’s agenda and might even initiate impeachment proceedings against him.

“That Republicans lost in one of the most Republican states in the nation is a wake-up call no matter how flawed their candidate was,” said Jesse Ferguson, a Democratic strategist and former aide to Democrat Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.

Democrats never expected to have a chance in Alabama, where they had not won a U.S. Senate race in 25 years. But the combination of Trump’s unpopularity, the sexual misconduct allegations that erupted against Moore in November, and Trump’s enthusiastic support of him anyway gave them the opportunity, experts said.

“Trump was the one who got Jones within firing range, and Moore allowed Jones to win,” said Kyle Kondik, a political analyst at the University of Virginia.

Even as Democrats lost several special congressional elections this year, they consistently showed higher levels of turnout and engagement, which is attributable to Trump, Kondik said.

TRUMP REFERENDUM?

The Alabama race showed there were limits both to Trump’s endorsement power and his judgment.

Even as senior Republicans urged Trump to abandon Moore, the president decided instead in the campaign’s final days to throw the full weight of his office behind him. In the end, that was not enough, and early turnout reports suggested that many Republicans stayed home.

Moreover, despite the sexual misconduct allegations against Moore, the race near the end increasingly seemed to become about the president. Moore’s camp this week said the contest was specifically a referendum on Trump and his presidency.

“It is Donald Trump on trial in Alabama,” Dean Young, a strategist for Moore, told ABC News.

Trump congratulated Jones on Twitter “on a hard fought victory” and added: “Republicans will have another shot at this seat in a very short period of time.”

The loss was also a body blow to Steve Bannon, Trump’s former top strategist, who backed Moore in the primary against the Republican incumbent, Luther Strange, because he viewed Moore as a more reliable ally.

Bannon also frequently characterized the race as less about Alabama and more about furthering Trump’s economic nationalist agenda.

Bannon is looking to wage an insurgency against the Republican establishment in the 2018 congressional elections, particularly Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who condemned Moore after several women accused him of unwanted sexual contact when they were in their teens and he was in his 30s.

Moore, 70, has denied the allegations, and Reuters has not independently verified them.

ANTI-ESTABLISHMENT

Beyond Moore, Bannon is supporting anti-establishment candidates such as Kelli Ward in Arizona, Danny Tarkanian in Nevada and Kevin Nicholson in Wisconsin, all of whom oppose McConnell staying on as Senate leader.

Bannon also may ultimately support challenges against sitting Republicans in Mississippi and Wyoming.

But Moore’s loss seems certain to dampen that effort, and Republicans who fear losing control of Congress may be even less likely to back outsider candidates who may turn off mainstream voters.

It is now an open question whether Trump will inject himself into more Republican primaries, given his setback in Alabama.

“When you nominate candidates who are unqualified and an embarrassment to the party, you run the risk of ruining your entire brand,” said Josh Holmes, a Republican consultant and close ally of McConnell.

Bannon’s supporters say rank-and-file Republican voters are more likely to blame McConnell, not Bannon, for the loss in Alabama, arguing that McConnell and his well-resourced Senate Leadership Fund did nothing to help Moore.

McConnell “actively opposed the Republican candidate in Alabama and threatened our Senate majority by helping to put a liberal Democrat in that seat,” said Andy Surabian, a former Bannon protégé who now advises a pro-Trump advocacy group, Great America Alliance.

Even with the Alabama win, Democrats face a significant challenge next year if they are to take control of the Senate. They must defend 10 incumbents in states that were won by Trump and they must gain two seats currently held by Republicans. Their best opportunities to secure those seats lie in Arizona and Nevada, and perhaps Tennessee.

Democrats need 24 seats to retake the House, but that is viewed as a more realistic goal because of the number of congressional districts where they are competitive, particularly in suburban areas.

Brian Walsh, president of another pro-Trump group, America First Policies, said Trump could not be blamed for Moore’s loss, arguing that the president’s late endorsement almost won the race for Moore, a deeply flawed candidate.

“He was trying to push a boulder up a hill,” Walsh said.

Reporting by James Oliphant; Editing by Caren Bohan and Peter Cooney

 

America is more progressive than Trump’

Doug Jones has become the first Democrat to win a Senate seat in the southern US state of Alabama in 25 years, narrowly defeating Republican Roy Moore. Political scientist Andrew Denison is not surprised at the outcome.

November 13, 2017

by Christoph Hasselbach

DW

DW: How was it possible that a Democrat was elected to the US Senate in the very conservative state of Alabama?

Andrew Denison: I think it was a reaction to this particular candidate, Roy Moore, and to all of his misdemeanors and moral failings. But it was also a reaction to Donald Trump and the brutal style of politics that he has introduced. I think it was a reaction to racism — black voter turnout was partly responsible for Jones’ victory. In the end, it shows that it can all become too much — even for people in places like Alabama — and people ultimately react by delivering unexpected electoral results.

President Trump endorsed Roy Moore, whereas some Republican leaders had distanced themselves from him. Would the result have been different if Moore had not been the candidate?

It certainly would have. Moore’s character was the determining factor, thus, not only did we see a vote against Republicans, but also a vote by Republicans against this particular type of politics.

Was this an isolated case or is the Republican establishment as a whole beginning to turn on Trump?

That is the big question. But if we look at the sum total of reactions to Trump, a larger pattern begins to emerge. For instance in Congress. Although the Republicans control both houses now, that fact could change in the November election next year. Public opinion is shifting as well, then there’s the role of the media and also the fact that a special prosecutor is going after Trump. Therefore, Alabama is part of an overall reaction to everything that people dislike about Trump.

When Trump was elected, many observers were astonished that he won despite having alienated almost every minority group in the country, especially blacks and women. Based on numbers alone, that outcome would have seemed highly unlikely. It appears that Jones got many votes from blacks and women. Does that prove that a campaign geared against the interests of minorities can no longer be successful?

Well, it certainly can’t in the long term. Of course that has a lot to do with voter turnout. It also has to do with the fact that in America an individual has a vote, but so does a state. That means that less densely populated states have a disproportionate amount of influence. And those states tend to be fundamentally conservative. All of those factors play a role. But in the long run, the political situation has to reflect the balance of power in the nation as a whole. And America is more progressive, optimistic, generous, welcoming, innovative, inclusive, young and female than Trump and the minority that currently have the say in Washington. As much as Trump and his followers were a reaction to Obama, Americans are now reacting to them.

 

How Black Voters Lifted Doug Jones Over Roy Moore

December 12 2017

by Jonathan Lee Krohn and Ryan Grim

The Intercept

Dothan, Alabama — The day after Doug Jones won the Democratic nomination for Senate, Dr. Joe Reed sat down to share his thoughts on the race with The Intercept. Reed, head of the Alabama Democratic Conference, is largely seen as the de facto leader of the Alabama Democratic Party, as most of the state executive committee is either an ally or member of the ADC.

He is, in many ways, the last true black party boss in the South. But the way Reed sees it, if a Democrat like Jones wants to win the Alabama Senate seat, he can’t rely on black votes, he has to do his own work in the white areas.

“He’s gonna have to campaign in white folks’ districts himself,” Reed said. As if on cue, his flip phone rang.

It was Doug Jones, calling to pay his respects.

“Now whatcha gotta do now,” he lectured Jones, “is get out on the road and tell Bubba and Cooter how important the Democratic Party is for them.”

He rattled off the names of long-dead Democratic congressmen and their accomplishments. “If he’s from around Huntsville, he oughta thank John Sparkman every day. If he got a student loan, he oughta thank Carl Elliott,” Reed said. “So go tell ’em what the Democratic Party has meant to them and meant to their parents.”

While Reed was comfortable delegating the white vote to Jones, he didn’t leave anything to chance on his end. Reed’s job was eased by Roy Moore, the Republican nominee, who toward the end of the campaign waxed poetically about the halcyon days of slavery, comments that got little attention at the time but began going viral last week. Asked by an African American voter when he thought America was last “great,” he reached for the years before the Civil War. “I think it was great at the time when families were united — even though we had slavery — they cared for one another,” he said. “Our families were strong, our country had a direction.”

Precisely whose families were strong, and which were sold in pieces, was left unsaid, but it resonated nonetheless. Black activists in Alabama expected increased turnout in the Senate special election, in part due to those remarks. And they got it: Late Tuesday night, the Associated Press called the race for Jones, who won largely on the strength of black turnout.

“Roy Moore said the only time America was great was back when slavery existed, and we don’t want nothing to do with that dude,” said Rev. Kenneth Glasgow, an activist in Dothan. “That dude trying to make us slaves.”

Glasgow led a county-wide canvassing effort here in Houston County for Reed’s Alabama Democratic Conference, the largest Democratic and black organization in Alabama. Old school tactics are being deployed to try to repair the turnout machine that was broken by the Republican waves of the early 2000s.

Tuesday afternoon, Glasgow and his friend Edward Jones set up grills outside polling stations. Buses, minivans, and taxicabs started taking people to the polls. In rural Escambia County, likewise, a Monday night fish fry served as an informal local gathering and a get-out-the-vote rally.

Under the leadership of Reed and party chair Nancy Worley, the ADC and the Alabama Democratic Party have largely focused their efforts on preserving their seats in the cities and the Black Belt around Montgomery, much to the chagrin of some rank and file (mostly white) Democrats, like Rep. Craig Ford, D-Gadsden, who complains that Joe Reed “killed” the party.

Reed, on Election Day, was unapologetic. “I can’t get white folks to vote Democrat. White folk gots to do that,” he said, exasperated. “It’s much easier for whites to go out and embrace white Republicans; they go to church together, they go to school together, they go to sororities and fraternities together, they do all that stuff together. So it’s much easier than to pick up the flag and say I’m gonna be a Democrat.”

The ADC said that it was hoping for 50 percent turnout among the black community in Alabama; an improbable number but a sign of confidence from an organization that has seen setbacks in recent years. With the exception of President Barack Obama’s campaigns in 2008 and 2012, the black vote has seen a steep decline in Alabama since the early 2000s.

It is an unavoidable reality that black enthusiasm has waned, says Dr. Earl Jones, the head of ADC’s efforts in southeastern Alabama, and Glasgow’s mentor.

“I consider it to be a function of learned helplessness on the part of black and poor people, particularly in Alabama and in rural areas,” Jones explains. “Their sons and daughters are being arrested. Look at the city jails, the county jails, the state jails, you see they’re filled with people of color. … And that learned helplessness evolved out of that. In other words, they said it’s not going to make any difference anyway regardless to how I vote. And they’ve seen that in various ways, I would say.”

Moore seems to have been just enough to begin to reverse that.

After the election results came in, Dr. Jones called black turnout performance “phenomenal.” Michael Jones, ADC’s chair of the black belt county of Crenshaw, said that he had “called it” within a few thousand votes.

The Democratic nominee, Doug Jones, needed black voters to come out in higher numbers than they have in the past. Bob Vance nearly beat Judge Roy Moore in 2012 when he last ran for chief justice of the state’s Supreme Court, but even then it was only with the massive turnout inspired by Obama’s re-election campaign.

Nationally, of course, the conversation centered on Moore’s penchant for molesting children as a prosecutor in his 30s. An exit poll found that 54 percent of voters said the allegations did not influence their vote, but, presumably, that number included many voters who had long ago made up their mind they would not vote for Moore, who has been twice removed from the bench.

But those who dismissed the allegations relied on a few mental exercises. Some blamed the “fake news media” for concocting them from whole cloth, while others claimed the women had been paid by George Soros to make the charges.

It is harder, though, to explain away Moore’s own words. When asked by Sean Hannity if he ever remembered dating teenagers as a 30-something when he was deputy district attorney, he said, “I don’t remember ever dating any girl without the permission of her mother.”

When asked how he met his wife, he described seeing her perform at a ballet recital as a young girl. With no children of his own with him, Moore stood at the back of the auditorium and watched the girls dance, he said.

“When I was deputy district attorney, many years before we got married, I saw her at a dance recital. I was standing in the back of the auditorium and I saw her up front, and I remembered her name, Kayla Kaiser — K.K. — I remembered that. I didn’t meet her, I left, and it was, gosh, eight years later, I met her.”

Moore told her he thought he knew her. “She thought I was coming on and making it up, then I told her, and she identified the dance,” he said.

When they eventually married, she was 24.

At Moore’s campaign event Tuesday night, the crowd was raucous as the results began to trickle in, showing the judge ahead in early voting. Someone in the crowd had to call for quiet as Janet Porter, the head of the Faith2Action, tried to lead the room in prayer. “I thank God for Roy Moore,” Porter intoned, “who is the closest to a Founding Father I’ve ever seen.”

But after the AP and the New York Times called the race, a visibly distraught Rich Hobson came on stage, declaring that the Moore campaign wasn’t giving up yet. “I wanna ask y’all to pray,” Hobson implored the stunned audience

 

Bad Moon Rising

A new cabinet will mark neocon ascendancy

December 12, 2017

Philip Giraldi

The Unz Review

Back during the admittedly brief shock and awe period that immediately followed on the Trump electoral victory, it appeared that there might be an actual realignment of American foreign policy. The neoconservatives virtually unanimously had opposed Donald Trump in the most vile terms, both in the GOP primaries and during the actual electoral campaign, making clear that Hillary was their choice for a future full of unrelenting, ideologically driven warfare to convert the world to democracy. By that metric, one would assume that Trump would prefer to be roasted on a spit rather than have neocons on his national security team, and many in the punditry did agree with that analysis and went on to share that view.

At the time, I agreed, but I did note that the neoconservatives have proven to be remarkable resilient, particularly as many of them have remained true to their Democratic Party values on nearly everything but foreign policy, where they are irredeemable hawks, hostile to Russia and Iran and always reliably in the corner of Israel. In short, many neocons can be unmasked as Hillary Clinton Democrats if one looks at them issue by issue, which certainly helps to explain some subsequent developments.

Some Washington observers who actually care about such things have been writing how there has been a kumbaya process going on between self-described conservative neocons and liberal interventionists. Katrina vanden Heuvel describes the progressive hawks as “the essential-country crowd,” borrowing a phrase from ex-Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.

There are inevitably minor disconnects between the two groups based on their motives for aggression – Democrats claim to do it to bring democracy and freedom while Republicans say they do it to enhance national security. Both are lying in any event as it all comes down to great power rivalries, with big powerful nations pushing smaller weaker nations around because they are able to get away with it and feel more comfortable if everyone lines up behind them.

So everyone in Washington and New York’s financial services industry agrees that a more assertive America is a better America even when the reality is that no one winds up with either democracy or security. Which brings us to the latest shuffle in the Donald Trump cabinet and what it is likely to mean down the road. Multiple sources are predicting Tillerson out and Mike Pompeo in at State Department with Pompeo replaced at CIA by Senator Tom Cotton. The White House is denying the story, calling it “fake news,” but it is clear that Trump is uncomfortable with the current arrangement and Tillerson will be gone sooner or later.

Mike Pompeo as Secretary of State replaces a somewhat bumbling businessman adept at dealing in energy futures contracts who has been struggling with reducing State’s enormously bloated payroll. Pompeo, a real hard-nosed political hardliner who tends to see complex issues in fairly simplistic ways, has become a presidential confidant, briefing Trump frequently on the state of the world, most recently pushing for the horrific decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. In a recent speech , Pompeo criticized the CIA, observing that it had both forgotten how to spy, which is almost certainly true, while adding that it will have to become “more vicious” to accomplish its mission of making the United States “safe.” Pompeo would like to turn the United States into an unleashed wrecking ball directed against the enemies of the American Way and he appears intent on starting that process in the Middle East.

And Pompeo will be replaced as CIA Director by Tom Cotton. The less said about Tom the better, but I will attempt to summarize in 8 words here: Tom is completely owned by the Israel Lobby. In his 2014 election as junior Senator from Arkansas, he received $1 million from the Emergency Committee for Israel headed by Bill Kristol as well as additional assistance from the Republican Jewish Coalition. In March 2015, Tom paid those supporters back when 47 Republican United States Senators signed a letter allegedly written by him that was then sent to the Iranian government directly, warning that any agreement over that country’s nuclear program reached with President Barack Obama would likely be overturned by the Congress. The letter, which undercuts the authority of the American president before an international audience, was signed by the entire Republican Party leadership in the Senate and also included then presidential contenders Rand Paul, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz.

I do not wish to imply that Cotton and Pompeo are somehow stupid, but they do tend to see the world in a very monochromatic fashion, just like their boss. Pompeo was first in his class at West Point and Cotton graduated from Harvard as an undergrad and also from the Law School. Trump claims to be the smartest person in the room no matter where he is standing. But for all the academic credentials and other posturing, it is hard to imagine how the new choices could possibly be worse from a common-sense perspective unless one includes Nikki Haley, who is, fortunately, otherwise engaged. Haley really is stupid. And ambitious. And is also owned by the Israel Lobby, which appears to be a thread that runs its way through all the Trump foreign policy appointees.

What is wrong about the whole Trump team is that they all seem to believe that you can go around the world kicking the shit out of everyone without there being any consequences. And they all hate Iran for reasons that continue to be obscure but may be connected to their relationships with – you guessed it – the neoconservatives and the Israeli Lobby!

Yes, the neocons are back. I noted back in October that when Pompeo and National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster wanted a friendly place to drop by to give a policy speech that would be warmly received they went to the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies (FDD), whose marketing masthead slogan is “Fighting Terrorism and Promoting Freedom.” FDD is currently neocon central, used like the American Enterprise Institute was when Dick Cheney was Vice President and needed a friendly audience. It is headed by Canadian Mark Dubowitz, whose passion in life is making sure that sanctions on Iran are enforced to the letter. Unfortunately, it is not easy to deport a Canadian.

Neocon watchers will undoubtedly note that big names like Brill Kristol, the Kagans, Michael Chertoff and Max Boot will not be showing up in government. True, but that is because they will instead be working through their foundations, of which FDD is only one. The Alliance for Securing Democracy, which has recently sprung up in lobby-land, markets itself as “bipartisan, and transatlantic…” but it actually is pure neocon. Its goal is to “expose Putin’s ongoing efforts to subvert democracy in the United States of America and Europe.” It includes the usual neocon names but also has the loyal Democratic opposition, including ex-CIA Acting Director Mike Morell and Jake Sullivan, both of whom were top level advisers to Hillary Clinton.

The replacement of former political appointees in the government has been so slow in Trump’s first year that it has actually benefited the neocons in their recovery. Many survivors of the two previous administrations are still in place, nearly all of whom reflect the hawkishness prevalent during 2001-2016. They will be supplemented by second and third tier neoconservatives, who will fill in the policy gaps, virtually guaranteeing that the neocon crafted foreign policy that has been around for the past sixteen years will be here for some time longer.

What all this means is that, now that the Palestinians have been disposed of and the Israelis rewarded, we can expect armed conflict with Iran within the next year, followed by increased hostility towards Moscow as Russiagate continues to play out. I do not even want to guess at what kind of insanity the gang in the West Wing Situation Room will come up with for dealing with North Korea. The good news is that the builders of home bomb shelters, a booming enterprise when I was growing up back in the 1950s and 1960s now used to cultivate mushrooms, will be back in business.

 

Russia-gate’s Litany of Corrections

As much as the U.S. mainstream media insists that the Russia-gate scandal is growing, what is undeniably growing is the list of major corrections that news outlets have been forced to issue

December 11, 2017

by Robert Parry

consortium news

The U.S. mainstream media’s year-long hysteria over Russia’s alleged role in the election of Donald Trump has obliterated normal reporting standards leading to a rash of journalistic embarrassments that have both disgraced the profession and energized Trump’s backers over new grievances about the MSM’s “fake news.”

Misguided groupthink is always a danger when key elements of the Washington establishment and the major news media share the same belief – whether that is Iraq’s supposed possession of WMD or the need to bring down some foreign or domestic leader unpopular with the elites.

Yet, we have rarely witnessed such a cascading collapse of journalistic principles as has occurred around the Russia-gate “scandal.” It is hard to keep track of all the corrections or to take note of all the dead ends that the investigation keeps finding.

But anyone who dares note the errors, the inconsistencies or the illogical claims is either dismissed as a “Kremlin stooge” or a “Trump enabler.” The national Democrats and the mainstream media seem determined to keep hurtling down the Russia-gate roadway assuming that the evidentiary barriers ahead will magically disappear at some point and the path to Trump’s impeachment will be clear.

On Friday, the rush to finally prove the Russia-gate narrative led CNN — and then CBS News and MSNBC — to trumpet an email supposedly sent from someone named Michael J. Erickson on Sept. 4, 2016, to Donald Trump Jr. that involved WikiLeaks offering the Trump campaign pre-publication access to purloined Democratic National Committee emails that WikiLeaks published on Sept. 13, nine days later.

With CNN finally tying together the CIA’s unproven claim that WikiLeaks collaborates with Russia and the equally unproven claim that Russian intelligence “hacked” the Democratic emails, CNN drew the noose more tightly around the Trump campaign for “colluding” with Russia.

After having congressional reporter Manu Raju lay out the supposed facts of the scoop, CNN turned to a panel of legal experts to pontificate about the crimes that the Trump campaign may have committed now that the “evidence” proving Russia-gate was finally coming together.

Not surprisingly the arrival of this long-awaited “proof” of Russian “collusion” exploded across social media. As The Intercept’s Glenn Greenwald noted in an article critical of the media’s performance, some Russia-gate enthusiasts heralded the CNN revelation with graphics of cannons booming and nukes exploding.

The problem, however, was that CNN and other news outlets that jumped on the story misreported the date of the email; it was Sept. 14, 2016, i.e., the day after WikiLeaks released the batch of DNC emails, not Sept. 4. In other words, it appeared that “Erickson” – whoever he was – was simply alerting the Trump campaign to the WikiLeaks disclosure.

CNN later issued a quiet correction to its inflammatory report – and not surprisingly people close to Trump cited the false claim as yet another example of “fake news” being spread by the mainstream media, which has put itself at the forefront of the anti-Trump Resistance over the past year.

But this sloppy journalism – compounded by CNN’s rush to put the “Sept. 4 email” in some criminal context and with CBS and MSNBC panting close behind – was not a stand-alone screw-up. A week earlier, ABC News made a similar mistake in claiming that candidate Donald Trump instructed Michael Flynn to contact Russian officials during the campaign, when Trump actually made the request after the election when Flynn was national security adviser-designate, a thoroughly normal move for a President-elect to make. That botched story led ABC News to suspend veteran investigative reporter Brian Ross.

Another inaccurate report from Bloomberg News, The Wall Street Journal and other news outlets – that Russia-gate special prosecutor Robert Mueller had subpoenaed Deutsche Bank records of President Trump and his family – was denied by Trump’s lawyer and later led to more corrections. The error apparently was that the bank records were not those of Trump and his family but possibly other associates.

A Pattern of Bias

But it wasn’t just a bad week for American mainstream journalism. The string of errors followed a pattern of earlier false and misleading reporting and other violations of journalistic standards, a sorry record that has been the hallmark of the Russia-gate “scandal.” Many stories have stirred national outrage toward nuclear-armed Russia before petering out as either false or wildly exaggerated. [See, for instance, Consortiumnews.com’s “Russia-gate Jumps the Shark.”]

As Greenwald noted, “So numerous are the false stories about Russia and Trump over the last year that I literally cannot list them all.”

The phenomenon began in the weeks after Trump’s shocking victory over Hillary Clinton as Democrats and the mainstream media looked for people to blame for the defeat of their much-preferred candidate.

So, on Thanksgiving Day, just weeks after the election, The Washington Post published a front-page story based on an anonymous group called PropOrNot accusing 200 Web sites of acting as propaganda agents for Russia. The list included some of the Internet’s leading independent news sources, including Consortiumnews, but the Post did not bother to contact the slandered Web sites nor to dissect the dubious methodology of the unnamed accusers.

Apparently, the “crime” of the Web sites was to show skepticism toward the State Department’s claims about Syria and Ukraine. In conflating a few isolated cases of “fake news” in which people fabricated stories for political or profitable ends with serious dissent regarding the demonizing of Russia and its allies, the Post was laying down a marker that failure to get in line behind the U.S. government’s propaganda on these and other topics would get you labeled a “Kremlin tool.”

As the Russia-gate hysteria built in the run-up to Trump’s inauguration during the final weeks of the Obama administration, the Post also jumped on a claim from the Department of Homeland Security that Russian hackers had penetrated into the nation’s electrical grid through Vermont’s Burlington Electric.

As journalist Gareth Porter noted, “The Post failed to follow the most basic rule of journalism, relying on its DHS source instead of checking with the Burlington Electric Department first. The result was the Post’s sensational Dec. 30 story under the headline ‘Russian hackers penetrated U.S. electricity grid through a utility in Vermont, U.S. officials say.’ …

“The electric company quickly issued a firm denial that the computer in question was connected to the power grid. The Post was forced to retract, in effect, its claim that the electricity grid had been hacked by the Russians. But it stuck by its story that the utility had been the victim of a Russian hack for another three days before admitting that no such evidence of a hack existed.”

The Original Sin

In other cases, major news outlets, such as The New York Times, reported dubious Russia-gate claims from U.S. intelligence agencies as flat fact, rather than unproven allegations that remain in serious dispute. The Times and others reported Russian “hacking” of Democratic emails as true even though WikiLeaks denied getting the material from the Russians and the Russians denied providing it.

For months into 2017, in dismissing or ignoring those denials, the U.S. mainstream media reported routinely that all 17 U.S. intelligence agencies concurred in the conclusion that Russia was behind the disclosure of Democratic emails as part of a plot initiated by Russian President Vladimir Putin to help elect Trump. Anyone who dared question this supposed collective judgment of all the U.S. intelligence agencies risked being called a “conspiracy theorist” or worse.

But the “consensus” claim was never true. Such a consensus judgment would have called for a comprehensive National Intelligence Estimate, which was never commissioned on the Russian “hacking” issue. Instead there was something called an “Intelligence Community Assessment” on Jan. 6 that – according to testimony by President Obama’s Director of National Intelligence James Clapper in May 2017 – was put together by “hand-picked” analysts from only three agencies: the CIA, FBI and National Security Agency.

Even after Clapper’s testimony, the “consensus” canard continued to circulate. For instance, in The New York Times’ White House Memo of June 25, correspondent Maggie Haberman mocked Trump for “still refus[ing] to acknowledge a basic fact agreed upon by 17 American intelligence agencies that he now oversees: Russia orchestrated the attacks, and did it to help get him elected.”

Finally, the Times ran a correction appended to that article. The Associated Press ran a similar “clarification” applied to some of its fallacious reporting which used the “17-intelligence-agencies” meme.

After the correction, however, the Times simply shifted to other deceptive wording to continue suggesting that U.S. intelligence agencies were in accord on Russian “hacking.” Other times, the Times just asserted the claim of Russian email hacking as flat fact. All of this was quite unprofessional, since the Jan. 6 “assessment” itself stated that it was not asserting Russian “hacking” as fact, explaining: “Judgments are not intended to imply that we have proof that shows something to be a fact.”

Even worse than the Times, the “fact-checking” site Politifact, which is part of Google’s First Draft Coalition for deciding what the search engine’s algorithms will promote as true and what information will be disappeared as false, simply decided to tough it out and continued insisting that the false “consensus” claim was true.

When actual experts, such as former National Security Agency technical director William Binney, sought to apply scientific analysis to the core claim about Russian “hacking,” they reached the unpopular conclusion that the one known download speed of a supposed “hack” was not possible over the Internet but closely matched what would occur via a USB download, i.e., from someone with direct access to the Democratic National Committee’s computers using a thumb drive. In other words, the emails more likely came from a DNC insider, not an external “hack” from the Russians or anyone else.

You might have thought that the U.S. news media would have welcomed Binney’s discovery. However, instead he was either ignored or mocked as a “conspiracy theorist.” The near-religious belief in the certainty of the Russian “hack” was not to be mocked or doubted.

‘Hand-picked’ Trouble

In recent days, former DNI Clapper’s reference to “hand-picked” analysts for the Jan. 6 report has also taken on a more troubling odor, since questions have been raised about the objectivity of the Russia-gate investigators and — as any intelligence expert will tell you — if you “hand-pick” analysts known for their personal biases, you are hand-picking the conclusion, a process that became known during the Reagan administration as “politicizing intelligence.”

Though little is known about exactly who was “hand-picked” by President Obama’s intelligence chiefs to assess the Russian “hacking” suspicions, Russia-gate special prosecutor Robert Mueller has been forced to reassign Peter Strzok, one of the top FBI investigators who worked on both the Hillary Clinton email-server case and the Trump-Russia inquiry, after it was discovered that he exchanged anti-Trump and pro-Clinton text messages with a lawyer who also works at the FBI.

Last week, Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee sought answers from new FBI Director Christopher Wren about Strzok’s role in clearing Hillary Clinton of criminal wrongdoing in her use of a private unsecured email server to handle official State Department communications while Secretary of State. They also wanted to know what role in the Russia-gate probe was played by a Democratic-funded “opposition research” report from ex-British intelligence officer Christopher Steele, which included unverified hearsay claims by unnamed Russians about Trump.

Wren avoided direct answers by citing an ongoing Inspector General’s review and Mueller’s criminal investigation, but Republicans expressed displeasure at this evasiveness.

The Republican questions prompted E.J. Dionne Jr., a liberal columnist at The Washington Post, to publish a spirited attack on the GOP committee members, accusing them of McCarthyistic tactics in questioning the FBI’s integrity.

Dionne’s straw man was to postulate that Republicans – because of this discovery of anti-Trump bias – would discount evidence that proves Trump’s collusion with Russia: “if Strzok played some role in developing [the] material. … Trump’s allies want us to say: Too bad the president lied or broke the law or that Russia tried to tilt our election. This FBI guy sending anti-Trump texts is far more important, so let’s just forget the whole thing. Really?”

But the point is that no such evidence of Russian collusion has been presented and to speculate how people might react if such evidence is discovered is itself McCarthyistic, suggesting guilt based on hypotheticals, not proof. Whatever one thinks of Trump, it is troubling for Dionne or anyone to imply treasonous activities based on speculation. That is the sort of journalistic malfeasance that has contributed to the string of professional abuses that pervades Russia-gate.

What we are witnessing is such an intense desire by mainstream journalists to get credit for helping oust Trump from office that they have forgotten that journalism’s deal with the public should be to treat everyone fairly, even if you personally disdain the subject of your reporting.

Journalists are always going to get criticized when they dig up information that puts some politician or public figure in a negative light, but that’s why it’s especially important for journalists to strive for genuine fairness and not act as if journalism is just another cover for partisan hatchetmen.

The loss of faith among large swaths of Americans in the professionalism of journalists will ultimately do severe harm to the democratic process by transforming information into just one more ideological weapon. Some would say that the damage has already been done.

It was, if you recall, the U.S. mainstream media that started the controversy over “fake news,” expanding the concept from the few low-lifes who make up stories for fun and profit into a smear against anyone who expressed skepticism toward State Department narratives on foreign conflicts. That was the point of The Washington Post’s PropOrNot story.

But now many of these same mainstream outlets are livid when Trump and his backers throw the same “fake news” epithet back at the major media. The sad truth is that The New York Times, The Washington Post, CNN, MSNBC and other leading news organizations that have let their hatred of Trump blind them from their professional responsibilities have made Trump’s job easy.

 

The past, the present and the future

December 13, 2017

by Christian Jürs

 

No coup or popular rising has taken place in times of relative stability. It is only when the great middle-class awakens to find itself and its institutions under attack and undefended that the thought of self-defense becomes valid. Violent upheavals do not begin without warning. Before a volcano erupts, there are nearly always ominous signs of the impending disaster and very often, clear though these indications may be, they are ignored out of the fear of radical change found in the complacent throughout history.

Trotsky very clearly recognized this fear of change and took swift advantage of it when he seized power in Russia. By the time the public was aware of what had happened, it was almost too late to react, and by the time the population, most of whom were only interested in survival and creature comforts might have reacted, the militants were in power and increasing their control on a daily basis.

A conservative government might be dull but it does not, in general, attempt to exert control over its citizens, other than to maintain law and order. A radical government, on the other hand, cannot feel safe in its power until it has established an ever-intrusive control over its people. Control of weapons is certainly a prime goal for such an entity and this would work in tandem with discrediting, and eventually destroying, any institution that might be able to mount an attack on it. The first target would be any religious group who might find a moral, and hence religious, fault with its goals or techniques. The second target would be any other organization that could conceivably organize against it.

In a monarchy, the people have little choice over the succession of rulers and a good king with a short reign can easily be replaced by a bad one with a long reign. In a republic, malfunction and mendacity are correctable at the ballot box. If this safety valve is shut down, an explosion will certainly result. Thus, Müller’s discussion of the importance of the press, or media, as a means of public control has complete validity.

News can easily be controlled by those with the desire and ability to do so. Governments can exert great influence over nearly any media entity through their power in the granting of licenses or their control over entree to official information. By a de facto control over the reporting of news, an administration bent on complete domination can accomplish the implementation of their goals with relative ease, given a receptive and passive audience.

Faked opinion polls and heavily slanted pro-administration reportage might have had a strong effect on this audience when there were no other sources of information. But, with the advent of alternative information sources, such as the computer, the photocopier and the facsimile machine, propaganda is far less able to influence, dominate, and control public perceptions.

The concept of civil unrest is always abhorrent to the entrenched entities which comprise the leadership of the political and business factors of an urbanized and stable society. These individuals belong to the Order of St. Precedent whose motto is “Look Backwards,” and whose watchword is “That Which Has Not Been, Cannot Be.” Trotsky and his ilk knew how to utilize such blindness.

Muslim leaders declare ‘East Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Palestine’

A summit of Islamic nations has issued a unified response to counter the US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. The draft declaration has also called on the US to withdraw from the Middle East peace process

December 13, 2017

DW

A draft declaration, agreed by delegates from all 57 members from the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) on Wednesday, invited “all countries to recognize the State of Palestine and East Jerusalem as its occupied capital.”

Wednesday’s emergency summit in Istanbul, called by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, came in response to US President Donald Trump’s recognition last week of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Muslim leaders said they considered Trump’s Jerusalem announcement to be “null and void legally,” adding that demonstrated that the United States was no longer a sponsor of peace in the Middle East.

Trump’s announcement was “a deliberate undermining of all peace efforts” that would give impetus to “extremism and terrorism” the OIC declaration said.

Washington’s actions, the OIC added, had amounted to the “encouragement of Israel… to continue its policy of colonialism, settlement, apartheid and ethnic cleansing.”

A final statement from the OIC was expected later on Wednesday.

Erdogan’s decries Israeli ‘occupation’

Erdogan told delegates: “With this decision [by the US to recognize Jerusalem as the Israeli capital], Israel, which is responsible for occupation, blockade, unlawful settlements, home demolitions, evictions, land asset appropriations, disproportionate violence and murders, was rewarded for all its terrorist actions.”

Erdogan’s rhetoric on the US Jerusalem move had been particularly harsh ahead of the summit. The Turkish president, who has presented himself as a champion of the Palestinian cause, warned last week that US recognition of Jerusalem would plunge the world “into a fire with no end” and labeled Israel a “terrorist state.”

Jerusalem’s status remains one of the core issues of the decades-long Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Israel captured the predominantly Arab eastern part of the holy city during the 1967 Middle East war. Its claim to the entire of city, which it sees as the ancient capital of the Jewish people, was never internationally recognized. Trump reversed that policy last week

The US president’s decision on Jerusalem provoked worldwide condemnation from leaders, Arab and otherwise, and sparked violent protests across the Arab world, particularly in the Israeli-occupied territories Gaza and the West Bank. The Palestinians also lay claim to Jerusalem and have repeatedly insisted during peace negotiations that the eastern part of the city be the capital of their future state.

Last week’s clashes between Palestinian youths and with Israeli security forces led to two deaths among the protestors.

However, no state has yet announced any concrete measures against the US or Israel.

Abbas: UN should broker peace talks

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas told OIC delegates that his people would refuse any role for the US in future peace talksfollowing Trump’s declaration.

“We do not accept any role of the United States in the political process from now on because it is completely biased towards Israel,” Abbas said.

Abbas said Washington’s recognition of Jerusalem as the Israeli capital as “the greatest crime” that showed it was no longer “fit” to broker talks. Instead, the Palestinian president said he wanted to see the United Nations taking charge of the peace process and the creation of a new mechanism.

Iran’s Rouhani accused the United States of lacking any respect for the Palestinians and their rights to a nation. Arriving at the summit, Rouhani posted on Twitter that Trump’s move showed that the US was not “an honest mediator and will never be,” adding that Washington wanted only to “secure the interests of the Zionists.”

Jordan’s King Abdullah II also warned that recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital was “dangerous and destabilizing decision.”

Jordan, which along with Egypt is one of only two Arab nations with diplomatic ties to Israel, stressed that “our region cannot enjoy peace without the two-state solution,” referring to the peace mechanism that would see Israelis and Palestinians granted their own separate state.

Uniting Arab opinion – an impossible task?

Turkey, however, faces the monumental task of bridging the Muslim political community, which includes regional rivals Saudi Arabia and Iran.

Many close allies of Unite States — including Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates — are unlikely to risk souring their relationship with Washington by endorsing an OIC statement condemning Israel.

However, despite not attending the OIC summit, Saudi King Salman echoed calls from Istanbul that eastern Jerusalem be handed back to the Palestinians. Salman reportedly told the kingdom’s Consultative Council: “The kingdom has called for a political solution to resolve regional crises, foremost of which is the Palestinian issue and the restoration of the Palestinian people’s legitimate rights, including the right to establish their independent state with east Jerusalem as its capital.”

 

Abduct, imprison, repeat: Israel systematically imprisons Palestinians on false or no charges

December 12, 2017

by Eva Bartlett

RT

People around the world are rightfully outraged by Donald Trump’s recent effective handing over of Jerusalem to Israel.

Behind the scenes, out of sight, an outrageous and illegal practice continues, the alleged“only democracy in the Middle East” on a near-daily basis abducts Palestinian men, women, and children under false pretexts (or no charges at all), using sham legal proceedings to enforce prolonged, illegal, detentions.

According to October 2017 statistics by the Palestinian prisoner support group Addameer, Israel holds 6,198 Palestinians in prison (including 280 children and 58 women).

On October 27, Israeli forces abducted Ashraf Abu Rahme (36) from Bil’in, a village of around 2,000 people, just west of Ramallah. Abu Rahme’s alleged crime? “Throwing stones.”

Even were Israel’s claims true, under international law, he could have been firing a gun at the occupying forces. The UN General Assembly resolution A/RES/37/43 of December 3, 1982, reaffirms:

“…the legitimacy of the struggle of peoples for independence, territorial integrity, national unity and liberation from colonial and foreign domination and foreign occupation by all available means, including armed struggle.”

That said, all accounts put Abu Rahme as unarmed and not throwing stones. Bil’in resident Haitham al-Khatib was with Abu Rahme the day of his abduction. Al-Khatib wrote of walking with Abu Rahme and others in Bil’in’s fields when the Israeli Army entered and handcuffed Abu Rahme. Khatib included a video of the incident.

On November 21, al-Khatib noted that Abu Rahme’s already one month-long detention would be extended by another two months, with an additional fine of 5,000 shekels (over $1,400), adding: “He is a peaceful activist like me! Israel is trying to destroy my village’s peaceful demonstrations!”

Protesting land theft

In 2005, Bil’in residents began creatively protesting the theft of 60 percent of their mostly-agricultural land, in part for the building of Israel’s massive wall cutting through the occupied West Bank, known to many as the Apartheid Wall. Every Friday since then, Bil’in villagers, and outside supporters have marched on the land, protesting the blatant Israeli land-grab.

Having myself participated in many of these protests in 2007, I’m well aware of the brutality of the Israeli soldiers, who seem to treat the occasion as one of honing their sniping, crowd-control and abduction skills. Using live ammunition and metal bullets thinly-coated with rubber (benignly called “rubber” bullets), Israeli soldiers fire on unarmed protesters, young and old, and otherwise suffocate and injure by firing high-velocity tear gas canisters into crowds and directly at people, as I experienced.

But my experiences were only a glimpse.

In April 2009, Abu Rahme’s brother, Bassam, was killed by one such tear gas canister, fired directly at his chest. In December 2010, his sister Jawaher died of cardiac arrest from tear gas inhalation.

Ashraf Abu Rahme has himself been shot point-blank (while blindfolded and handcuffed) by Israeli soldiers, and otherwise arrested over 50 times, according to his wife Rana, held “sometimes 6 months, sometimes two weeks.”

Given that many seen as influential in the Bil’in protests have also been targeted with repeated arrests, it is clear that Israel’s motivation in imprisoning Ashraf, and harassing he and his wife, is in seeking to bring about an end to these protests.

This is just one aspect of the farce that is the great Israeli “democracy.”

Fake legal proceedings and family visits denied

The first month of Abu Rahme’s imprisonment was spent under administrative detention, which even the UN Special Rapporteur on Palestine, Michael Lynk has addressed, saying:

“I am particularly concerned with Israel’s use of administrative detention, which involves imprisonment without charge, trial, conviction or meaningful due process, as well as the possibility of unrestricted renewal of their detention,” as noted in a May 2017, UN article.

The article also cited Lynk as “highlighting that administrative detainees are imprisoned on secret evidence that neither they nor their lawyers can review or challenge.” Israel holds around 500 Palestinian prisoners in administrative detention, and many of the at least 6,000 Palestinian prisoners are held in prisons within Israel, in contravention of International Humanitarian Law, Lynk noted.

Robert Inlakesh, an Australian journalist, and activist who recently spent several months in Palestine, including substantial time in Bil’in before Abu Rahme’s arrest, explained of the eventual trial:

“His court date was held back four times. Up until now his wife Rana has only seen him and spoken to him in court while he was shackled. He was given an Israeli lawyer, but Rana wasn’t able to make contact anywhere except on the actual court dates with this lawyer who is defending Ashraf.”

Special Rapporteur Lynk pointed out that holding Palestinian prisoners in prisons in Israel creates, “significant barriers to the families of prisoners who wish to visit them, due to the difficulty of obtaining permits to enter Israel, and the often arduous journey families must undertake to reach their relatives.”

For Palestinians in Gaza under Israeli siege, visiting loved ones in Israeli prisons is nearly impossible. Addameer notes: “Palestinians wishing to visit their relatives detained in Israeli prisons must apply for a permit from the Israeli security services.”

Guess how that works out…

In a recent interview on Sputnik, Inlakesh pointed out the Israelis’ astounding 99.7 percent incarceration rate. Also on the interview, Scottish activist Mick Napier noted that a 99.7 percent conviction rate is “not a justice system, it’s an industrial process of snatching Palestinians from homes, schools, and streets, and subjecting them to six months, or five years, or 22 years…”

Followup abductions in Bil’in

Those following Bil’in villagers’ struggles to regain their land and end the constant Israeli invasions will be aware that Israel has not only targeted perceived leaders of the protests, but employed psychological warfare, with endless night invasions.

Some weeks following Ashraf Abu Rahme’s abduction, in the early hours of November 20, Israeli forces and intelligence invaded anew. Haitham al-Khatib wrote that around 150 soldiers in 20 jeeps entered again in the middle of the night, raiding over 15 homes, and abducting Ahmad Abu Rahme (16) and Abdullah Abu Rahme (46).

Being ripped out of your sleep and home by the Israeli Army is a norm. In 2007, in a village under constant lockdown and invasion by the Israeli Army, I experienced these night raids. In darkness, Israeli soldiers fired flares in the street and at homes, tear gas, sound bombs, and of course live ammunition at and inside Palestinian homes. The psychological terror the village residents felt would have been immense, and endless. The day raids are equally brutal. One youth’s spleen was destroyed by the bullet which narrowly missed his heart, as invading Israeli soldiers shot him outside his grandmother’s home.

On December 10, Robert Inlakesh updated that 17-year-old Abdul Khaliq Bornat, Hamzah al-Khatib (17) and Malik Radhi (18), also from Bil’in, had just been abducted and imprisoned by Israeli forces. Of Bornat, Inlakesh wrote:

“They beat him and then brutally took him away. He is currently in his last year of school and wishes to study overseas for the university, this last year of school is his only option to achieve this…”

Solidarity with Abu Rahme, and Syria

Robert Inlakesh, who has remained in touch with Bil’in villagers and Abu Rahme’s wife Rana, is trying to help raise money to pay for his release, since most Palestinians under occupation don’t make the kind of ransom Israel is demanding.

We decided it’s best to make a fundraiser for him, because if he doesn’t pay in time, he remains in prison.”

He also noted that even after Abu Rahme is released, he’ll be under the gun:

“He’s on a five-year probation period. So if he even goes to a demonstration for five years, they can put him in prison for one and a half years.”

There’s another thing about Ashraf Abu Rahme which Israel definitely doesn’t like: on more than one occasion at the weekly Friday protests in Bil’in, Abu Rahme has raised the Syrian flag, in solidarity with a country whose land Israel illegally occupies and fires upon. Israel, known to be treating Al-Qaeda and other extremists in Israeli hospitals, and Israel which has self-professedly dozens of times attacked Syria, certainly doesn’t want Syria’s southern kin to stand in solidarity.

One day before he was abducted, Ashraf Abu Rahme messaged me on Facebook, sending me a video about the health benefits of garlic, of which he knows I’m fond. I mention this because this is the kind of person he is: gentle, thoughtful, playful, yet brave, so brave, a bravery most of us will never know.

It ain’t just Trump: US history of supporting “Israeli” Jerusalem project

Many are surprised by Trump’s Jerusalem move.

Indeed, former US president Barack Obama, in a June 2008 speech stated: “Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel, and it must remain undivided.”

In 1995, the US Senate passed an act, “To provide for the relocation of the United States Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, and for other purposes.”

As to the notion that Trump’s move will affect peace negotiations, what needs to be recognized is that there hasn’t ever been fair peace negotiations. Were the “two-state solution” to be enforced, Palestinians would forever live in Bantustans, all borders controlled by Israel, with only a fraction of their historic land.

Meanwhile, daily less-noticed crimes against Palestinians continue, including Israel’s continued expansion of illegal Jewish colonies, its imprisonment of Palestinians, and its war crimes.

With the inaction of the United Nations to seriously hold Israel accountable for its decades of breaches of international law, and with America’s handing over of more Palestinian land to Israel, it is time for a paradigm shift, and time finally for a just peace for a people robbed of their land, expelled, murdered and imprisoned.

 

Brexit: UK Parliament backs final say in EU divorce in major blow to Theresa May

In a major blow to Theresa May’s government, the British parliament has granted itself the power to determine the fate of a final Brexit deal. The move follows the European Parliament’s warning on London back-pedaling.

December 13, 2017

DW

The British parliament on Wednesday voted in favor of an amendment that gives the legislative body the power to approve or reject any Brexit deal made by the government in a major blow to Theresa May’s power.

With a group of May’s Conservative lawmakers rebelling against her Brexit vision, parliament voted 309 to 305 in favor of amending the government’s EU (Withdrawal) Bill, a move which observers believe will undermine the government’s ability to negotiate a deal.

A government spokeswoman said that while British negotiators were disappointed with vote’s results, it will not prevent them from moving forward and making legal preparations for the UK to leave the bloc.

“This amendment does not prevent us from preparing our statute book for exit day. We will now determine whether further changes are needed to the (EU withdrawal) bill to ensure it fulfills its vital purpose,” she said after the vote.

‘Taking back control’

The Labour Party supported the amendment to the bill, with shadow Brexit minister Keir Starmer saying that the measure ensures the UK’s future is not determined solely by the government.

Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn hailed the vote as a victory for parliament in deciding the terms in which the UK will depart the EU.

“This defeat is a humiliating loss of authority for the government on the eve of the European Council meeting,” Corbyn said.

“Therese May has resisted democratic accountability. Her refusal to listen means she will now have to accept Parliament taking back control.”

EU parliament backs progress

Members of the European Parliament voted on Wednesday to start the next round of Brexit negotiations based on last week’s preliminary agreement. The EU warned, however, that the UK must “fully and faithfully” turn the deal into a concrete exit treaty.

The vote was carried by a wide margin of 556 votes to 62. The resolution included a biting critique for Britain’s Brexit Minister David Davis, saying some of his recent inflammatory remarks “risk undermining” the entire process.

‘Statement of intent’

Over the weekend, Davis told the BBC that last week’s agreement was merely a “statement of intent,” that was not “legally enforceable,” prompting considerable ire from Brussels. Davis also said his government would not pay its €40 billion to €45 billion ($47 billion to $52 billion) divorce bill if Britain failed to gain what it wanted from a new trade deal.

The EU immediately warned the UK about backtracking on its promises, as it could affect future relations between Britain and the other 27 members of the bloc.

“While I am optimistic as far as the second phase is concerned, we have to ensure that the joint report presented last week is fully and faithfully translated into the wording of the exit treaty,” EU Parliament President Antonio Tajani said after Wednesday’s vote.

“No discussions on future relations will take place if the principles contained are not implemented.”

 

You may be mining cryptocurrencies for fraudsters while watching online videos

December 13, 2017

RT

Popular video sites Openload, Streamango, Rapidvideo, and OnlineVideoConverter, are allegedly forcing your PC to mine cryptocurrency for cybercriminals while you watch a video, according to ad blocker & privacy protection software maker Adguard.

The video sites are uploading malicious software onto your computer, which allows the fraudsters to force your PC to create the cryptocurrency monero, Adguard said.

According to the company’s blog, the so-called “crypto-jacking” has reached almost a billion internet users in just two months, and the number is soaring every day.

“We came across several very popular websites that secretly use the resources of users’ devices for cryptocurrency mining. According to SimilarWeb, these four sites register 992 million visits monthly,” said Andrey Meshkov, co-founder of Adguard.

In September, Russia’s Kaspersky Lab also reported the problem. In Russia, the company noticed a hacker group, controlling about 9,000 computers. When installed on a victim’s computer, the malware starts using its hardware like graphics cards to create digital tokens. The malware is hard to trace for an ordinary user, who will notice the PC slowing down and heating up, but doesn’t understand why.

The total monthly earnings from crypto-jacking, taking into account the current monero rate, could be as much as $326,000. These are simply outrageous figures,” Adguard’s Meshkov said.

Pieter Arntz from Malwarebytes has explained why hackers choose monero instead of bitcoin, which is much more expensive. According to the expert, bitcoin mining requires specialized hardware, monero can be mined through home computers.

“Monero mining does not depend on heavily specialized, application-specific integrated circuits (ASICs), but can be done with any CPU or GPU. Without ASICs, it is almost pointless for an ordinary computer to participate in the mining process for bitcoin,” he said.

 

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