‘Mr. Trump’s plans to eradicate violent extremists…’
“The emerging details suggest that Mr. Trump’s plans to eradicate violent extremists are not only at odds with Mr. Obama’s; they trample on American values and international law.”
The Times’ editors worried that Trump’s approach to fighting radical Islamic terrorism — which they referred to with scare quotes — is “more likely to further inflame anti-American sentiment around the world than to make the United States safer.”
“The emerging details suggest that Mr. Trump’s plans to eradicate violent extremists are not only at odds with Mr. Obama’s; they trample on American values and international law,” they wrote. Read the rest of this entry »
Hillary Clinton cannot seem to seal the deal with voters, and the left is lashing out at the media in frustration.
Noah Rothmans writes: For months, frustrated liberals have bemoaned the fact that Donald Trump receives any fair coverage at all. His xenophobic policies and racially toxic rhetoric, they contend, render him beyond the pale. To “normalize” him as though he were just another politician is irresponsible, and the press should not be giving him equal footing with a more responsible candidate like Clinton.
This view has recently received traction among liberal commentators and mainstream Democrats as it becomes ever clearer that Hillary Clinton’s post-convention halo is gone. Worse, Donald Trump continues to be mired in scandal, alleged misconduct, and potential fraud, and yet none of it seems to be affectinghis polling.
“He is playing you guys like a Stradivarius. Dominating news instead of Newsweek story, Trump Foundation. Pathetic.”
— the Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza
Instead, superficial matters like the health of both candidates—propelled along by absurd displays like Trump’s apperance with celebrity physician Dr. Oz—are sucking up all the oxygen. These have been the prevailing conditions since Donald Trump entered the political fray, but only when Clinton became vulnerable did they become intolerable.
“He is playing you guys like a Stradivarius. Dominating news instead of Newsweek story, Trump Foundation,” perennial Republican critic Norman Ornstein barked at the Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza. “Pathetic.”
“[Y]ou can ask any question about Trump, Trumpism or anti-Trumpism except the existential ones,” wrote newly minted GQ pundit Keith Olbermann, “because the existential ones could lead him to stop calling in to your morning show and providing you with your highest-rated hour for free.”
Even President Barack Obama has become a media critic. “We cannot afford suddenly to treat this like a reality show,” Obama said, lambasting the press for covering the 2016 campaign as though both candidates were acceptable alternatives. “We can’t afford to act as if there’s some equivalence here.” Read the rest of this entry »
The Republican Party was in turmoil again Wednesday as party leaders, strategists and donors voiced increasing alarm about the flailing state of Donald Trump’s candidacy and fears that the presidential nominee was damaging the party with an extraordinary week of self-inflicted mistakes, gratuitous attacks and missed opportunities.
“A new level of panic hit the street. It’s time for a serious reset.”
— Veteran operative Scott Reed
Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus was described as “very frustrated” and stressed by Trump’s behavior over the past week, having run out of excuses to make on the nominee’s behalf with donors and other party leaders, according to multiple people familiar with the events.
“The current race is which of these two is the more unacceptable, because right now neither of them is acceptable. Trump is helping her to win by proving he is more unacceptable than she is.”
— Newt Gingrich
Meanwhile, Trump’s top campaign advisers are failing to instill discipline on their candidate, who has spent the past days lunging from one controversy to another while seemingly skipping chances to go on the offensive against his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton.
“A new level of panic hit the street,” said veteran operative Scott Reed, chief strategist for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. “It’s time for a serious reset.”
Trump allies on Wednesday publicly urged the candidate to reboot, furious that he has allowed his confrontation with the parents of dead U.S. Army captain Humayun Khan to continue for nearly a week. They also are angry with Trump over his surprising refusal in a Tuesday interview with The Washington Post to endorse House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) or Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) — two of the party’s top elected officials — in their upcoming primary campaigns.
“The current race is which of these two is the more unacceptable, because right now neither of them is acceptable,” Gingrich said in a Wednesday morning telephone interview. “Trump is helping her to win by proving he is more unacceptable than she is.”
Gingrich said Trump has only a matter of weeks to reverse course. “Anybody who is horrified by Hillary should hope that Trump will take a deep breath and learn some new skills,” he said. “He cannot win the presidency operating the way he is now. She can’t be bad enough to elect him if he’s determined to make this many mistakes.”
Reed, who managed Bob Dole’s 1996 presidential campaign, recommended that Trump “stop doing silly interviews nine times a day that get you off message” and deliver a major address seeking to reset the campaign establishing himself as the change candidate. Read the rest of this entry »
Hackers have stolen sensitive information from American energy companies — and have planted malware in the energy grid with the intent to turn off the lights in the future.
Jose Pagliery reports: They even managed to infect at least three energy companies with Cryptolocker ransomware, a particularly nasty computer virus that locks digital files and demands a ransom payment.
Newly released documents from the Department of Homeland Security are finally shedding some light on what exactlyhackers are doing when they sneak into the American electrical grid.
Some of the attacks described in the report are potentially serious.
Aggressive foreign government hackers broke into American companies 17 times between October 1, 2013 and September 30, 2014, according to DHS. In two cases they snuck into U.S. petroleum organizations, and hackers are “suspected of exfiltrating data” from one of them.
It’s rare, but highly sophisticated foreign government hackers have gotten inside the energy grid, DHS said. They hack “primarily to conduct cyber espionage … to conduct a damaging or disruptive attack in the event of hostilities with the United States,” DHS stated in a recent internal “intelligence assessment.”
That sounds alarming, but DHS is throwing cold water on any present worries. The agency concluded that damaging cyberattacks against the American energy sector is “possible but not likely.”
That calm demeanor doesn’t sit well with some cybersecurity experts. Ryan Duff is a researcher and former member of U.S. Cyber Command, the American military’s hacking unit. He warned that once a hacker gets into a computer — even if physical damage hasn’t been caused yet — the potential is there.
“While I agree with the DHS assessment overall, it’s still pretty frightening,” he said. “The fact is that the ability to cause destruction exists. Their assessment that attack is unlikely is based on political realities instead of technical realities. Attack is way more than technically possible.”
DHS prefers to label these cyber incidents as “espionage or some other activity,” rather than “cyberattacks.” To date, there have been “no damaging or destructive attacks against the U.S. energy sector,” DHS said.
“The majority of malicious activity occurring against the U.S. energy sector is low-level cybercrime that is … not meant to be destructive,” DHS analysts wrote.
“Most of the attacks that we’ve witnessed against this sector are in fact criminal in nature,” he told CNNMoney. “In some cases we even see criminals not realizing the importance of some of the machines [they gained access to.]”
[PHOTO] ‘If you think Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are awful separately, try to imagine them as one person’Posted: December 21, 2015
Belgian poster for The Deadly Mantis (1957)
‘Be Afraid, America. Be Very Afraid’
Joseph Weiss writes:
…I’m talking about seizing control of industrial control systems. These ubiquitous hidden computers have gradually and quietly been put in charge of all manner of critical infrastructure—including nuclear power plants, the grid, water and gas pipelines, refineries, air traffic control, trains, factories, you name it.
[Also see – Cyberwar Ignites a New Arms Race]
Unlike the computers we use in our daily lives, these computers are largely invisible. They don’t have screens or keyboards. Most people aren’t aware that they exist. And yet they are embedded in low-level processes. They are everywhere because they create tremendous efficiencies and cost savings, and because they exist almost as an afterthought, they are often completely insecure. They often don’t run anti-virus software and by and large no one bothers to scan them to see if they might be infected with malicious software. And guess what? They often are connected to the Internet where a clever hacker half a world away can get access to them!
The threat is not hypothetical. There have been almost 750 control system cyber events (including both malicious and unintentional incidents). They’ve had a global impact. Industries have included power companies, pipelines, dams, planes, and trains. Why hasn’t the public heard about them? Most often because the victims didn’t realize it since they didn’t have the right forensics….(read more)
Source: The Daily Beast
Has Joe Trippi Lost His Mind?
Source: LA Times
The Dow Jones industrial average closed at session lows, off nearly 531 points and in correction territory for the first time since 2011 as all blue chips declined. The last time the index closed more than 500 points lower was on Aug. 10, 2011. In the last five years, the index has only had four instances with closing losses of more than 400 points.
“For investors the momentum and the drive of the market is now lower (than) it used to be because there’s no place to hide,” said Lance Roberts, general partner at STA Wealth Management. “Every time we hit the major technical points we kept selling.”
A trader noted that investors stopped looking at technicals and were plowing through them.
“It’s an expiration day and it looks like they’re to have for sale on the close maybe as much as a billion dollars,” said Art Cashin, director of floor trading for UBS.
The Nasdaq Composite lost 3.5 percent, also closing in correction territory and joining the other major averages in negative territory for the year.
“Right now there is a feeling of fear in the marketplace and all news is interpreted negatively and it’s interpreted indiscriminately,” said Tom Digenan, head of U.S. equities as UBS Global Asset Management…(read more)
Clinton vulnerable, Democrats nearing full-on panic mode
Niall Stanage and Kevin Cirilli write: Democrats are worried that the furor surrounding Hillary Clinton’s private email server will be prolonged and intensified after her sudden move to hand it over to the FBI.
“I’m not sure they completely understand the credibility they are losing, by the second. At some point this goes from being something you can rationalize away to something that becomes political cancer. And we are getting pretty close to the cancer stage, because this is starting to get ridiculous.”
— Anonymous Democratic strategist, navigating through early stages of nervous breakdown
The Clinton campaign’s decision to give up the server and a thumb drive containing backup copies of emails left Democrats scratching their heads as to why the former secretary of State had resisted for months turning over the server.
“Concerned Democrats keep coming back to the same question: Why did the Clinton campaign not simply hand over the private server when the controversy first erupted in March?”
— Democratic strategist, whispering into mobile phone from locked bathroom
Coupled with new polls that suggest Clinton is vulnerable, Democrats are nearing full-on panic mode.
something that becomes political cancer. And we are getting pretty close to the cancer stage, because this is starting to
“The culture of secrecy that has surrounded the Clintons — understandably, in some cases — has now yielded a situation where she did something that wasn’t necessary and looks nefarious.”
“Look, this is a classic example of the cover-up being 10 times worse than the so-called crime — though in this case there wasn’t a crime,” said another progressive strategist.
“The culture of secrecy that has surrounded the Clintons — understandably, in some cases — has now yielded a situation where she did something that wasn’t necessary and looks nefarious.”
The former secretary of State remains the odds-on favorite the win the party’s presidential nomination. But the pattern seen in the email controversy — months of stonewalling followed by an eventual concession — has stoked worries about her flaws as a candidate.
“It’s bizarre…Let me give you some simple strategic communications advice: Put everything out first, on your terms. If you wait, or you are forced to do it, you always lose and look bad. … That is exactly what is happening here, and I find it inexplicable.”
— Democratic strategist, trying not to urinate in pants
The slew of unimpressive poll numbers is exacerbating the situation. Some have shown slippage against her main left-wing rival, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). Others have indicated her losing swing states against Republican opponents. Still others have revealed continuing weakness in her ratings on trustworthiness and favorability.
Hank Sheinkopf, a New York-based Democratic strategist who has worked with Clinton in the past, argued that the general suspicion that the former secretary of State is concealing something is much more damaging than the specifics of the email matter.
“The thing that’s hurt has been losing the ground she’s lost on trustworthiness and honesty. It’s on trust, not on the specifics of emails or anything like that.”
— Joe Trippi
“It’s hard to imagine Americans in the heartland wondering about whether Hillary Clinton gave up an email server or not,” he said. “But [it adds to] this constant battering she’s taking, which is that people don’t trust her. It increases the feeling that something is not being told to them.”
“If Hillary continues to sink in the polls and is beleaguered by all of this stuff, there will be more and more interest in other candidates — including and not limited to Sanders.”
— Democratic strategist, from ledge of tall building
Joe Trippi, who served as campaign manager for Howard Dean’s 2004 presidential bid, concurred.
“The thing that’s hurt has been losing the ground she’s lost on trustworthiness and honesty. It’s on trust, not on the specifics of emails or anything like that,” he said.
A new Franklin Pierce University poll from New Hampshire on Tuesday showed Clinton losing to Sanders by seven percentage points in the Granite State. Another survey from the Democratic-leaning Public Policy Polling (PPP), also released Tuesday, indicated Clinton getting the worse of hypothetical match-ups with four separate Republican opponents in the swing state of Iowa, which President Obama won in both 2008 and 2012. Read the rest of this entry »
Fears of ‘cord-cutting’ jolt stocks of traditional media firms.
Austen Hufford And Saumya Vaishampayan report: Stocks slumped on Thursday in a selloff led by shares of media companies, which have reported a flurry of disappointing earnings amid concerns about the shift away from traditional television.
“Media stocks are getting slaughtered. It’s been the long-running fear that we would eventually see cord-cutting. Everyone thought it would be a slow-moving train wreck, but Disney’s comment woke people up.”
— Aaron Clark, a portfolio manager at GW&K Investment Management
A 15% decline in Viacom Inc. dragged down the Nasdaq Composite Index, which was 1.9% lower at 5044. Before the opening bell, the media giant reported a decline in second-quarter profit and revenue, fueling worries that more consumers are cutting the cable cord and turning to the Internet for their viewing.
That again weighed on the Dow Jones Industrial Average, which declined 154 points, or 0.9%, to 17386.77. The S&P 500 fell 1% to 2079.
Disney was down 4.8% on Thursday after falling 8.4% Wednesday. 21st Century Fox Inc. declined 11% after lowering its expectations for full-year profit for fiscal 2016.
“Media stocks are getting slaughtered,” said Aaron Clark, a portfolio manager at GW&K Investment Management, which manages $25 billion in assets. “It’s been the long-running fear that we would eventually see cord-cutting. Everyone thought it would be a slow-moving train wreck, but Disney’s comment woke people up.”
Thursday’s losses come against the backdrop of tepid growth in the U.S. and around the world. Many investors are also concerned that elevated valuations on some stocks aren’t supported by earnings growth.
As well, investors are skittish ahead of the July U.S. jobs report, due out Friday, as they try to gauge the path of interest rates in the U.S. Read the rest of this entry »
Secretary of State John Kerry goes to bat for Iran as he tries to sell the legitimacy of the nuclear deal.
Richard Whittle writes: Sweat the small stuff.
That’s the unofficial motto for this year’s edition of the military exercise Black Dart, a two-week test of tactics and technologies to combat hostile drones that begins Monday on the Point Mugu range at Naval Base Ventura County in California.
The military categorizes Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) by size and capability, from Group 5 drones that weigh more than 1,320 pounds and can fly above 18,000 feet like the Reaper, down to Group 1, mini- and micro-drones less than 20 pounds that fly lower than 1,200 feet. Previous Black Darts have covered threats to troops overseas and targets at home posed by drones of all sizes.
But small drones are this year’s focus, said the director of this 14th edition of Black Dart, Air Force Maj. Scott Gregg, because of worrisome incidents since the last exercise.
Gregg cited the quadcopter that a drunk crashed onto the White House lawn in the wee hours of Jan. 26 and sightings of unidentified small drones flying over nuclear reactors in France. In the wake of those events, he said, “Even though we’ve been looking at [the small drone threat], it’s taken on a new sense of urgency.”
Gregg also could have mentioned how, to protest government surveillance, the Pirate Party of Germany flew a small drone right up to the podium as Chancellor Angela Merkel spoke in Dresden two years ago. Or how in Japan last April, a nuclear-energy foe landed a drone carrying radioactive sand on the roof of the prime minister’s residence. And there was a report last week that British officials are worried ISIS may try to bomb festival crowds using small drones.
The United States enjoyed a near-monopoly on armed drones for much of the past 15 years, but with more than 80 countries now buying or building drones of their own, and with terrorist groups such as Hezbollah, Hamas and ISIS known to have used unarmed drones in the Middle East, that advantage has evaporated.
Few countries and no terrorist groups are likely to emulate the complex and costly US system of undersea fiber-optic cables and satellite earth terminals in Europe that allows crews in the United States to fly drones carrying missiles and bombs over Africa, the Middle East and South Asia.
But anyone can buy a Group 1 drone for a couple of hundred dollars and put it to nefarious use. Arm it with plastic explosives, radioactive material, biological or chemical agents, and it can be crashed, kamikaze-style, into a target.
“I’d say for the Department of Homeland Security, it’s one of the biggest concerns,” Gregg said.
The threat isn’t imaginary. Former Northeastern University student Rezwan Ferdaus is now serving 17 years in prison for plotting to pack C-4 plastic explosives into 1/10 scale radio controlled models of F-4 and F-86 fighter jets and fly them into the Capitol and Pentagon. Ferdaus also supplied cellphone detonators for IEDs to people he thought were agents of al Qaeda but turned out to be working for the FBI….(read more)
This year the surrogate threats will include three Group 1 drones — a Hawkeye 400 hexacopter, a Flanker and a Scout II — and one Twin Hawk drone from the Group 2 category (21 to 55 lbs., slower than 250 knots, lower than 3,500 feet). Six Group 3 drones, all of them 13.5-foot wingspan Outlaw G2s made by Griffon Aerospace, also will be targets. Read the rest of this entry »
Terrorists want to use the unmanned machines – available for as little as £100 on the high street – to drop explosives on large crowds at popular sporting and cultural gatherings.
Defence chiefs fear they could launch a multi-drone attack carrying several bombs, even using airborne cameras to film the bloody carnage below for twisted propaganda videos.
“Isis is obsessed with re-creating the horror of 9/11 and believes this may be possible by launching a multi-drone attack on large numbers of people in a synchronised attack.”
Senior MI5 figures believed that Isis has already tested how much plastic explosive the flying machines can carry, getting as far as experimenting with detonation devices.
“They want the spectacular devastation of such a raid, which would cause murder and maiming in a crowd, while filming it for a sick video.”
A counter-terrorism source said: “Islamist plotters have been trying to launch a drone-borne bomb attack for some time, as these machines are getting more hi-tech every year. Read the rest of this entry »
ATHENS – Kerin Hope reports: IGreek banks are preparing contingency plans for a possible “bail-in” of depositors amid fears the country is heading for financial collapse, bankers and businesspeople with knowledge of the measures said on Friday.
The plans, which call for a “haircut” of at least 30 per cent on deposits above €8,000, sketch out an increasingly likely scenario for at least one bank, the sources said.
A Greek bail-in could resemble the rescue plan agreed by Cyprus in 2013, when customers’ funds were seized to shore up the banks, with a haircut imposed on uninsured deposits over €100,000.
It would be implemented as part of a recapitalisation of Greek banks that would be agreed with the country’s creditors — the European Commission, International Monetary Fund and European Central Bank.
“It [the haircut] would take place in the context of an overall restructuring of the bank sector once Greece is back in a bailout programme,” said one person following the issue. “This is not something that is going to happen immediately.”
Eurozone officials said no decision had been taken to wind up any Greek banks or initiate a bail-in of depositors, a process that would be started by the ECB declaring the banks insolvent or pulling emergency loans.
Greece’s banks have been closed since Monday, when capital controls were imposed to prevent a bank run following the leftwing Syriza-led government’s call for a referendum on a bailout plan it had earlier rejected. Greece’s highest court rejected an appeal by two citizens on Friday who had asked for the referendum to be declared unconstitutional.
Depositors can withdraw only €60 a day from bank ATM cash machines, while requests to transfer funds abroad have to be approved by a special finance ministry committee in co-operation with the Greek central bank. Read the rest of this entry »
“…Bank runs are expected on Monday, and a friend in Athens reports almost all the ATM machines have already run out of cash. Obviously, even those who work at the Greek parliament don’t have confidence in the system…”
via John Fund
When the Administration disclosed the OPM hack in early June, they said Chinese hackers had stolen the personal information of up to four million current and former federal employees. The suspicion was that this was another case of hackers (presumably sanctioned by China’s government) stealing data to use in identity theft and financial fraud. Which is bad enough.
Yet in recent days Obama officials have quietly acknowledged to Congress that the hack was far bigger, and far more devastating. It appears OPM was subject to two breaches of its system in mid-to-late 2014, and the hackers appear to have made off with millions of security-clearance background check files.
These include reports on Americans who work for, did work for, or attempted to work for the Administration, the military and intelligence agencies. They even include Congressional staffers who left government—since their files are also sent to OPM.
This means the Chinese now possess sensitive information on everyone from current cabinet officials to U.S. spies. Background checks are specifically done to report personal histories that might put federal employees at risk for blackmail. The Chinese now hold a blackmail instruction manual for millions of targets.
These background checks are also a treasure trove of names, containing sensitive information on an applicant’s spouse, children, extended family, friends, neighbors, employers, landlords. Each of those people is also now a target, and in ways they may not contemplate. In many instances the files contain reports on applicants compiled by federal investigators, and thus may contain information that the applicant isn’t aware of.
Of particular concern are federal contractors and subcontractors, who rarely get the same security training as federal employees, and in some scenarios don’t even know for what agency they are working. These employees are particularly ripe targets for highly sophisticated phishing emails that attempt to elicit sensitive corporate or government information. Read the rest of this entry »
Gerard Araud, the French ambassador the United States, says an emerging nuclear deal with Iran will impose tough restrictions on the Islamic Republic and improve regional security across the Middle East. But on Tuesday, Arnaud acknowledged that it could also pose a potential risk: spurring an array Arab countries to develop their own civilian nuclear programs.
“For me, that’s one of the major weak points of the agreement we are negotiating because let’s be frank: the agreement is not perfect,” Araud said at an Atlantic Council event in Washington. “It’s a compromise. Any agreement is a compromise.”
Araud, joined by his British and German counterparts, insisted that Western negotiators in Switzerland wrested the maximum amount of concessions from Iran as possible. Their joint appearance was the latest indication that a final nuclear deal with Tehran is likely to happen this summer, though perhaps not by the June 30 deadline.
“It’s very likely that we won’t have an agreement before the end of June or even (right) after,” Arnaud said, citing the difficulties of fleshing out technical details and possible delaying tactics by the Iranians. “We could have a sort of fuzzy end to the negotiation,” he said.
In their remarks, the diplomats said the benefits of such an accord far outweigh the risks. But as the June 30 deadline looms for world powers to make an agreement, Araud differed with his fellow European ambassadors about the unintended consequences a final deal might produce.
Namely, Araud said that allowing Iran to maintain enough enrichment capacity for a one-year breakout time could cause Arab adversaries such as Saudi Arabia to seek a similar capability, resulting in more countries becoming nuclear threshold states. Read the rest of this entry »