Posts Tagged ‘Barack Obama’

Bashar Assad, Iran just reached point of no return in Syria — Trump administration should consider more cooperation with Turkey and Russia

April 16, 2018

Assad has to be removed… Iran prefers to sew sectarian hatred rather than encourage cooperation.

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Daily Sabah
Editorial

On Friday evening, U.S. President Donald Trump stood before television cameras to announce that he had ordered the U.S. Armed Forces to launch “precision strikes” against regime positions in Syria. The announcement came a week after Bashar Assad carried out a chemical attack against innocent civilians in Douma, a small town near the Syrian capital Damascus, claiming dozens of casualties. Turkey welcomed Washington’s decision, which, it said, “eased humanity’s conscience.”

In light of the most recent developments in Syria, it has become clear that the Assad regime should not survive. Nor can the Syrian dictator, who has killed hundreds of thousands of his country’s citizens, play any role in the future of Syria.

In recent years, the Syrian regime repeatedly misled the United States and Russia, along with others, into believing that it would abandon its chemical weapons program. At the time, the international community was so eager to believe that it was making some progress in Syria that the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) for its “extensive efforts to eliminate chemical weapons.” To nobody’s surprise, it turned out that the Syrian regime indeed had a large amount of chemical weapons at its disposal.

In retrospect, the fact that the same people thought U.S. President Barack Obama, whose inaction encouraged Assad to massacre innocent people, deserved a “peace prize” should have been telling.

At this point, Assad offers little and does significant damage to his allies. To be clear, it makes no sense for the Syrian regime’s protectors to continue their support. For the Russians, it is time to abandon the criminal in Damascus and work with Turkey and others to shape the country’s future. There are many opportunities in the Middle East that Moscow could seize – but only if it stops carrying the dead weight of Assad and his atrocities.

But the problems in Syria are not limited to the regime and their solution requires the support of Western countries as well. France, for instance, could play a constructive role in Syria. In addition to working toward the preservation of the country’s territorial integrity, Paris can build on its historical relations with the Syrian Arabs to promote a political solution. The obvious obstacle before France’s efforts to maximize its interests in Syria is the French government itself. If French President Emmanuel Macron opts to protect the terrorist organization PKK and its Syrian branch, the Democratic Union Party (PYD) and its armed People’s Protection Units (YPG), because he wants to get back at Daesh for the Paris and Nice terror attacks, his country will pay a heavy price. Fighting a terrorist organization and addressing the threat posed by returning foreign fighters is a serious challenge – which France could address by helping to restore peace and stability in Syria and cooperating with the international community instead of having a knee-jerk reaction.

It is time for the United States to present the world with a coherent Syria policy – right after U.S. President Donald Trump, the Pentagon, U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), the State Department and National Security Adviser John Bolton sign off on the same plan.

Until now, Washington has put a Band-Aid on a bullet wound. The Obama administration’s decision to partner with non-state actors instead of making actual decisions was doomed to fail. Retaliating against the Assad regime’s chemical attacks is not an actual policy either. Nor did attempts by the United States to sabotage the Astana process and the Sochi talks amount to a policy.

Washington’s lack of a coherent policy hurts its reputation in the Middle East. People around the world know that last weekend’s retaliatory strikes amounted to nothing but a facade. There are a number of smart and result-oriented steps that the Trump administration could take in cooperation with Turkey and Russia – including in the fight against Daesh terrorism. By tapping into Turkey’s vast diplomatic experience, Washington could address tensions with Russia and keep its eye on the prize. Although President Trump made an important point in his announcement, developing long-term solutions is the ultimate answer. The United States has a responsibility to ensure that innocent civilians are not killed – with chemical or conventional weapons.

There is a way the U.S., Russia and France can join Turkey to make peace possible in Syria. However, there is one factor that all parties concerned need to take action against and that is Iran’s sectarian expansionism. It has become the main source of instability and violence in the wider region. Particularly due to its long-standing conflicts with the West and regional powers, Tehran’s involvement in any attempt to resolve the Syrian crisis makes things complicated and causes unnecessary suffering for the people of Syria. Iran prefers to sew sectarian hatred rather than encourage cooperation. Tehran has exploited the goodwill of Turkey and a handful of other countries, which want to avoid unnecessary violence and polarization in the region.

What Syria needs is an end to Iran’s sectarian policy and this can only happen if the remaining actors cooperate in instituting a new government in Syria without Assad. The Syrian people deserve the commitment of the international community to ensure the end of bloodshed and the introduction of peace. They have suffered enough.

https://www.dailysabah.com/editorial/2018/04/15/bashar-assad-iran-just-reached-point-of-no-return-in-syria

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Reuters

Turkey: We Differ From Iran, Russia, U.S. on Syria and Middle East

While Turkey is working with both Russia and Iran to decrease the use of violence in Syria, Ankara has long demanded that President Bashar Assad must go and has backed rebels against him

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Turkish soldiers atop an armored personnel carrier in Afrin, Syria, March 24, 2018.
Turkish soldiers atop an armored personnel carrier in Afrin, Syria, March 24, 2018.Lefteris Pitarakis/AP

Turkey does not stand with or against Syria, and its policy on the region differs from that of Iran, Russia and the United States, Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag said on Monday.

Bozdag’s comments were in response to a reporter’s question about an earlier remark from French President Emmanuel Macron, who said Turkey’s support of missile strikes against Syria showed it had “separated” from Russia.

The United States, Britain and France fired more than 100 missilesat Syria on Friday in a “one-time shot” that the Pentagon said followed evidence that Syrian President Bashar Assad was responsible for a chemical weapons attack using chlorine gas.

“Turkey’s Syria policy isn’t to stand with or against any country. There is no change to the policy Turkey has been carrying out,” Bozdag told reporters in Qatar.

“We do not have a united policy with the United States on the YPG issue, and Turkey’s stance has not changed. We are also against the unconditional support for the (Syrian) regime and we are at odds with Iran and Russia on this,” he said.

While Turkey is working with both Russia and Iran to decrease the use of violence in Syria, Ankara has long demanded that President Bashar Assad must go and has backed rebels against him. Assad’s main supporters are Moscow and Tehran.

Turkey has also been at loggerheads with Washington over U.S. support for the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia, which Ankara considers a terrorist organization linked to Kurdish militants waging a decades-long insurgency in Turkish soil.

Turkey supported the airstrikes by U.S., British and French forces, saying the move sent a message to Assad.

Bozdag said Turkey did not hesitate to work with any country that defended “correct principles” on Syria.

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Future of Iran deal may depend on European intervention

April 16, 2018

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Yemen’s Houtis launch an Iranian made ballistic missile toward Saudi Arabia. This still image taken from a video distributed by Yemen’s pro-Houthi Al Masirah television.

WASHINGTON: The future of the landmark Iran nuclear deal hangs in the balance and its survival may depend on the unlikely success of last-minute European interventions with President Donald Trump.

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French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel are to visit Washington separately later this month and, barring a sudden trip by British Prime Minister Theresa May, will likely be the last foreign leaders invested in the deal to see Trump ahead of his mid-May deadline for the accord to be strengthened. Trump has vowed to withdraw from the 2015 agreement by May 12 unless US, British, French and German negotiators can agree to fix what he sees as its serious flaws.

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Iran has said US withdrawal from the nuclear deal and reimposed sanctions would destroy the agreement and has threatened a range of responses, including immediately restarting nuclear activities currently barred under the deal.

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Negotiators met for a fourth time last week and made some progress but were unable to reach agreement on all points, according to US officials and outside advisers to the Trump administration familiar with the status of the talks. That potentially leaves the Iran deal’s fate to Macron, who will make a state visit to Washington on April 24, and Merkel, who pays a working visit to the US capital on April 27, these people said.

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“It’s important to them and I know they’ll raise their hopes and concerns when they travel here to the United States in the coming days,” Mike Pompeo, the CIA chief and secretary of state-designate, told lawmakers on Thursday.

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Pompeo’s testimony at his Senate confirmation hearing came a day after the negotiators met at the State Department to go over the four issues that Trump says must be addressed if he is to once again renew sanctions relief for Iran, officials said.

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Those are: Iran’s ballistic missile testing and destabilizing behavior in the region, which are not covered by the deal, along with inspections of suspected nuclear sites and so-called “sunset provisions” that gradually allow Iran to resume advanced nuclear work after several years, which are part of the agreement.

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Two senior US officials said the sides are “close to agreement” on missiles and inspections but “not there yet” on the sunset provisions.

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Iran’s foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif

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“Malign” Iranian activities, including its support for Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement, Syrian President Bashar Assad and Houthi Shiite rebels in Yemen, were dealt with in a separate session that ended inconclusively, according to the officials, who like the outside advisers were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.

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The two officials and two outside advisers said the missile and inspections issues are essentially settled, but would not detail exactly what had been agreed or predict whether it would pass muster with Trump, let alone his new national security adviser John Bolton and Pompeo. Both men are Iran hawks and share the president’s disdain for the deal, which was a signature foreign policy achievement of former President Barack Obama.

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Bolton and Pompeo’s voices on Iran could be heard as senior US officials discussed Trump’s decision to launch airstrikes against Syria on Friday. In addition to punishing Syria for its apparent use of chemical weapons, the strikes were meant to send a message to Iran about its role in the country, the officials told reporters on Saturday.

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The officials and advisers said the main sticking point on the Iran deal remains the sunset provisions, with the Europeans balking at US demands for the automatic re-imposition of sanctions should Iran engage in advanced nuclear activity that would be permitted by the agreement once the restrictions expire.

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To clear the impasse, one official and one outside adviser said a compromise is being considered under which sanctions would be re-imposed if Iran did enough work to reduce the time it would need to develop a nuclear weapon to less than a year. The current deal aims to keep Iran’s so-called “breakout time” to a year. But the expiration of the sunset provisions, the first of which is in 2024, means that the breakout time could eventually drop.

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The Europeans, who along with the Iranians, have said they will not re-open the deal for negotiation, are reluctant to automatically re-impose sanctions for permitted activity, but have agreed in principle that Iran dropping below a one-year breakout time should be cause to at least consider new sanctions, according to the official and the adviser. How that breakout time is determined is still being discussed, they said.

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Given the remaining differences, US national security officials are stepping up planning for various “day after” scenarios, including how to sell a pullout as the correct step for national security, how aggressively to reimpose US sanctions on Iran that had been lifted under the agreement and how to deal with Iranian and European fallout from such a step.

Associated Press

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1285431/middle-east

James Comey proves he only cares about himself — Most of the merchandise being peddled here is tawdry — Beneath any great law man or investigator

April 15, 2018

“FBI abused their powers to play politics during the 2016 campaign.”

By Michael Goodwin
The New York Post
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How Facebook’s growth banked on users opening doors to their data

April 10, 2018
“Facebook still collects reams of data about you from not just what you do on Facebook but from what you do in the real world,” tech expert Shira Ovide said.
By Ray Downs  |  April 10, 2018
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 Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg listens to a question while testifying at a Joint Senate Judiciary and Commerce Committee hearing on Facebook, social media privacy, and the use and abuse of data, on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday. Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI

April 10 (UPI) — Whenever you log into your Facebook account, you voluntarily share hoards of personal data with the company — which is collected, packaged and sold to other companies for profit.

Selling information about the personal habits of its 1 billion users has been the business practice of Facebook for several years, but it has come under scrutiny in recent weeks, leading to CEO Mark Zuckerberg to appear before House and Senate committees this week.

‘Knowingly’ providing information

The data controversy stems from 2013, when Aleksandr Kogan, a scientist at Cambridge University, built a personality quiz app called “thisisyourdigitallife” that 270,000 people downloaded. In addition to answering questions about their personality, users voluntarily gave other personal information, like the city they live in and content they liked.

Those users also gave information about people on their friends list who had their privacy settings set to allow it, which ballooned the potential total number of people in Kogan’s data set to 87 million.

None of the data collection was illegal, or even against Facebook rules.

© GETTY/AFP / by Rob Lever | Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg held private meetings Monday with lawmakers ahead of his congressional testimony Tuesday and Wednesday

“Aleksandr Kogan requested and gained access to information from users who chose to sign up to his app, and everyone involved gave their consent,” Facebook said in a March 16 statement. “People knowingly provided their information, no systems were infiltrated, and no passwords or sensitive pieces of information were stolen or hacked.”

In 2015, Kogan sold that data to Cambridge Analytica, a data analytics firm operating in Britain that later worked on Donald Trump‘s 2016 presidential campaign. When Cambridge Analytica joined the Trump campaign, it had data points on millions of Americans who likely never heard of the company or interacted with it in any way on Facebook because of the information Kogan’s app scooped up three years before

Kogan didn’t violate any of Facebook’s rules when he collected the data, but the company says he violated their agreement when he sold it to a third party.

The Cambridge University data scientist denies he did anything wrong and told CNN he only did what Facebook does.

“Using users’ data for profit is their business model,” Kogan said.

Nonetheless, after learning of the data sale, Facebook requested that Cambridge Analytica delete the data it bought from Kogan. Cambridge Analytica said it complied with the request.

But Christopher Wylie, a former employee of Cambridge Analytica, told media organizations last month that the company didn’t delete the data and used it when it worked on Trump’s campaign.

Britain’s Channel 4 reported that it had seen a cache of Cambridge Analytica’s data dating from 2014. That data included information on the personalities of about 136,000 people in Colorado — with rankings on how agreeable, conscientious, neurotic and extroverted they are — which would then be used to target those people with ads designed to match their personality profile.

Whether or not Cambridge Analytica deleted the data is unclear.

What is known is that a private company obtained data about millions of users who didn’t know their data was being collected — a practice Facebook has allowed companies and political campaigns to do for years.

Helping campaigns use personal data

In 2012, the re-election campaign for President Barack Obama created an app that operated similarly to Kogan’s by taking information of all the friends of people who initially accessed it.

Teddy Goff, Obama’s digital campaign manager, called it “the most groundbreaking piece of technology developed for the campaign.”

Facebook stopped allowing apps to collect information from users’ friends lists in 2014, but Hillary Clinton‘s campaign created a new iOS app that allowed users to give information about their friends who were synched into their iPhone address book.

The Clinton campaign used that data to encourage the app’s users to ask friends to donate money or volunteer.

“If we need volunteers in Ohio and you’ve got a friend in Ohio, we’re telling you to do that first,” Goff, who also headed Clinton’s digital operations, told Politico one month before the 2016 election.

Facebook was well aware of how its platform was used for political purposes. In fact, it encouraged political organizations to use its platform to target voters and had a government division, which employs former political aidesto help groups target voters.

Brad Parscale, who led Trump’s digital operations in 2016, raised some eyebrows in September when he told CBS’ 60 Minutes that Republican employees of Facebook, and other social media companies like Twitter, were “embedded” with the campaign to help him maximize usage of targeting tools.

Facebook didn’t deny Parscale’s description of its involvement with Trump’s digital campaign.

“For candidates across the political spectrum, Facebook offers the same levels of support in key moments to help campaigns understand how best to use the platform,” the company said.

Facebook offered the Clinton campaign the same level of support, according to reports.

Top product: personal data

More than 1 billion people around the world use Facebook, including nearly 200 million Americans, who each give personal data whenever they use the platform. Facebook is the world’s largest social media company, as well as one of the largest collectors of personal data.

But Facebook makes money by selling that data to advertisers who want to target the people most likely to buy its product or vote for its candidate — and it’s a fast-growing business model.

Advertising accounts for nearly 100 percent of Facebook’s revenue. In 2008, that revenue totaled about $300 million. By the end of last year, Facebook’s revenue was nearly $13 billion.

Political ad revenue is a large part of the company’s growth strategy.

In 2015, some estimates had the company taking in $1 billion in political ad revenue during 2016. The company has not released total figures specifically for its political ad revenue that year.

For a company completely reliant on selling advertisements that target people through their personal data, Facebook is unlikely to stop collecting that data anytime soon. But it has said it will take extra security measures, largely based on placing limits on how app developers obtain and keep user data.

“We need to make sure that developers like Kogan who got access to a lot of information in the past can’t get access to as much information going forward,” according to a prepared statement from Zuckerberg in advance of his congressional testimony this week.

Zuckerberg said Facebook is removing user data from apps if the user hasn’t used the app in more than three months — limiting data apps can ask for to name, profile photo and email address, and requiring developers to sign a contract that imposes “strict requirements” to ask anyone for access to their posts or other private data.

But Facebook isn’t making any changes to how it collects data on users. Other than deleting your Facebook account and removing the app from your mobile devices, there’s no foolproof way to stop your data from being harvested and sold.

“What Facebook hasn’t done is really restrict or limit the amount of data that Facebook itself collects about people,” Bloomberg technology columnist Shira Ovide told NPR. “It is putting some locks on what outsiders can do, and that’s good. But Facebook still collects reams of data about you from not just what you do on Facebook but from what you do in the real world — from purchases that you make, for example, from other websites that you visit all over the Internet.”

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Facebook scandal goes beyond Cambridge Analytica

© Daniel Leal-Olivas, AFP

Text by Sébastian SEIBT

Latest update : 2018-04-10

With Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg poised to appear before Congress on Tuesday to be heard on the Cambridge Analytica scandal, examples of companies exploiting their access to social media users’ private data are rife.

Behind the scenes, Facebook has been busy blocking the pages of entities linked to the British based Cambridge Analytica (CA) and other firms that, like CA, have made exploiting personal data, collected in apparent violation of Facebook’s own rules, their stock-in-trade.

On Sunday, the social network suspended CubeYou’s account after the firm had harvested millions of users’ personal data through ostensibly innocuous personality quizzes. Last Friday, Facebook blocked Aggregate IQ’s page after the Canadian outfit was accused of links to Cambridge Analytica and of having worked for the Leave camp in the UK’s 2016 Brexit referendum by means of data gleaned from the social media giant.

In fact, this pair represents only a tiny fraction of the digital ecosystem that has built up around the exploiting of information Facebook users share online, as described in detail by Austria’s Cracked Labs Institute for Critical Digital Culture, in a June 2017 study. Alongside the case of Harris Media, another Big Data specialist with political intentions, they illustrate excesses in the commerce of personal data.

Aggregate IQ (AIQ), for its part, influenced the result of the Brexit referendum in June 2016. Or at least, that is what the Canadian firm, which specialised in the political exploitation of Facebook data, asserted on its website until March 22 of this year. Once news media began looking into AIQ’s ties to Cambridge Analytica, the published claim disappeared overnight.

The Canadian firm is suspected of having pocketed more than €4 million from assorted pro-Brexit groups for using Facebook data to identify voters whose decision was susceptible to influence. That work resembles the work Cambridge Analytica is suspected of having done on behalf of Donald Trump’s US presidential campaign.

It would be hardly surprising if AIQ is indeed merely a façade for Cambridge Analytica in Canada, as alleged. Christopher Wylie, the former CA employee who brought the firm’s activities to light, says he personally participated in AIQ’s creation. The Canadian firm has denied any contractual link with Cambridge Analytica. But Wylie told The Guardian: “Among internal CA staff AIQ was referred to as ‘our Canadian office’. They were treated as a department within the company.”

CubeYou, too, is no longer welcome on Facebook. And yet the firm does what dozens more do in gathering personal data on the social network and selling them to advertisers.

But US television network CNBC caught CubeYou red-handed using the same subterfuge as Cambridge Analytica to bolster its database illegally. The company had been using quizzes on Facebook – tests that were presented as having been developed in association with Cambridge University researchers – to amass precious insight into the profiles of tens of millions of Facebook users. The harvested knowledge was officially meant to serve academic research. But in fact, CubeYou sold the data on to so-called commercial partners.

The technique, according to CNBC, allowed the firm to establish a profile of 45 million Facebook users, including information on age, employment, education, interests and the brands they followed on social media, as well as what messages they “liked” and the comments they posted on the site.

Harris Media, for its part, is still present on Facebook and continues to extol the merits of its “Big Data” approach to political campaigning, an approach very similar to Cambridge Analytica’s. But for some NGOs, the American firm is hardly different from its British competitor.

Privacy International investigation in December 2017 accused Harris Media of influencing the Kenyan presidential election in favour of the incumbent, Uhuru Kenyatta, by creating online video content discrediting his challenger, opposition leader Raila Odinga. “We thought it would lead us to Cambridge Analytica, because of the similarities. But it actually led us to Harris Media,” Lucy Purdon, Policy Officer for Privacy International, told FRANCE 24.

Harris Media, like Cambridge Analytica, is sitting on a gold mine of data culled from social networks regarding millions of users. The information allows them to create content – videos, websites, Facebook pages – very precisely adapted to targeted profiles. Beyond Kenya’s Kenyatta, Harris Media, which is closely associated with US hardline conservatives, pressed its know-how into service for the National Front in FranceGermany’s populist Alternative für Deutschland (AfD), Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and a long list of American conservatives, including Trump.

In 2014, Bloomberg called Vincent Harris, who founded the firm, “the man who invented the Republican internet”. Harris is keen on high-impact operations online. The Harris Media videos in Kenya suggested bloody racial violence could ensue should the opposition gain power. In Germany, the firm was responsible for campaign videos warning against the country’s supposedly exploding Islamisation. The videos also had French versions, intended to disparage Emmanuel Macron during his presidential run.

The main difference between Cambridge Analytica and Harris Media is that it is unknown how many internet users Harris Media kept records on and to what extent it compiled data on them. Why? For one, there hasn’t been a whistleblower like there was in the case of Cambridge Analytica. And, unlike the British firm, Harris Media is based in a jurisdiction that is less regulated on this issue. “US laws on data protection and privacy do not protect users as much as in Europe,” says Privacy International’s Purdon.

This article has been translated from the original in French.

http://www.france24.com/en/20180410-technology-facebook-privacy-scandal-beyond-cambridge-analytica-cubeyou-aggregate-harris

Trump’s move to deploy the National Guard to the U.S.-Mexico border has been tied before…. But is it mostly “get tough” political theater?

April 6, 2018

Image result for Donald Trump at mexican border, photos

President Donald Trump at the U.S. – Mexico border — FILE photo

, USA TODAYPublished 11:21 p.m. ET April 5, 2018 | Updated 11:49 p.m. ET April 5, 2018

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The Trump administration hasn’t determined how many troops it will seek to have deployed to the U.S.-Mexico border. Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen says: “We’re going to be sending as many troops as we need.” (April 5) AP

Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen

President Trump is taking a lot of heat for his decision to deploy the National Guard to America’s southern border, but he is repeating a move made by many of his predecessors.

Former presidents, including Barack Obama, George W. Bush, George H.W. Bush, Woodrow Wilson and William Howard Taft, all issued orders similar to those Trump made in a proclamation Wednesday. In 1954, President Eisenhower’s attorney general requested the Army assist the border patrol during a major sweep for undocumented immigrants, but his request was denied.

Here is a look at other times the U.S. deployed — and in one case attempted to deploy  — troops to the border.

Mexican-American War

More than a border operation, the 1846-48 Mexican-American War began over tensions related to the U.S. annexation of Mexico. And it led to a full-scale U.S. invasion, that ended with American soldiers seizing control of Mexico City.

More than 13,000 American and 10,000 Mexican soldiers died in the war, and estimates of Mexican civilian deaths run as high as 25,000. As a result of the war, the U.S. took control of the territory that would become Arizona, California, New Mexico, Nevada, and Utah, as well as parts of Wyoming, Colorado and Oklahoma.

Mexican Revolution

From the start of the tumultuous Mexican Revolution in 1910 to its conclusion in 1920, the U.S. maintained a heavy military presence along the border. President Wilson also sent troops into Mexico on two occasions, invading and occupying the port city of Veracruz in 1914 and conducting the “Punitive Expedition” under General John J. Pershing in 1916 after Pancho Villa raided the town of Columbus, N.M., and killed 16 Americans.

Operation Wetback

Beginning in 1954, Attorney General Herbert Brownwell launched the offensively titled Operation Wetback intended to round up and remove more than 1 million Mexican immigrants that were believed to be in the country illegally. Brownwell sought to coordinate the Border Patrol with the Army, but the request was rejected.

University of California Los Angeles history professor Kelly Lytle Hernandez said federal troops stayed out of the operation due to the Posse Comitatus Act, which prohibited the use of military personnel to enforce domestic policies. But the Border Patrol was aided with military equipment.

The war on drugs

Army Gen. Colin Powell established Joint Task Force Six, expanding the military’s role in the war on drugs under former president George H.W. Bush on Nov. 13, 1989. The task force, comprising active-duty and reserve troops, operates out of Fort Bliss, Texas, and aids in law enforcement in anti-drug efforts along the border.

According to the Department of Defense, the task force, now known as Joint Task Force North, has conducted more than 6,400 missions and has assisted in the seizure of $15.2 billion in illegal drugs in the last 16 years.

Operation Jump Start

Former president George W. Bush deployed 6,000 National Guard members to California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas in 2006 to assist Border Patrol operations. The two-year deployment cost $1.2 billion.

According to the Pentagon, under Operation Jump Start, the National Guard assisted in more than 176,000 apprehensions as well as the seizure of more than 316,000 pounds of marijuana and 5,224 pounds of cocaine.

Operation Phalanx

Then-president Barack Obama ordered the deployment of 1,200 National Guard troops to support the Border Patrol in 2010. According to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency, the National Guard assisted in nearly 18,000 apprehensions and the seizure of more than 56,000 pounds of marijuana during the first year of the operation.

The program cost $110 million during its first year.

https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/onpolitics/2018/04/05/history-troop-deployments-mexico-us-border/491317002/

More: President Trump orders National Guard to the Mexican border

More: Mission needs will set Guard size, Pentagon says

More: Trump sends troops to border with Mexico? Not so fast

Donald Trump’s Moves on North Korea and China trade shows he’s no idiot — Trump has taken the U.S. where no other president was able to go to achieve US goals

April 4, 2018

Michael Chugani says despite heavy criticism, the US president’s gun-slinging diplomacy has got the US where it wants to be – around the negotiating table with nuclear-armed North Korea, and outplaying China on trade

By Michael Chugani
South China Morning Post

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 04 April, 2018, 4:38pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 04 April, 2018, 5:07pm

Donald Trump a moron? Hardly. Far from being a moron, the US president is actually a pretty smart cookie. A smart cookie is what Trump called North Korean strongman Kim Jong-un. Recent events, unimaginable just months ago, show both are smart in very different ways.

Kim is a calculating chameleon who can order the ruthless murder of his uncle and brother yet charm Chinese leader Xi Jinping into thawing the chill between them. Trump is no murderer but is cocksure smart, a cowboy-style leader with his finger on the trigger. He figuratively shoots first and asks questions later. Kim shoots first and doesn’t ask questions.

Former US president Jimmy Carter last week indirectly called Trump a jerk during an American TV interview. I agree. But that doesn’t mean jerks can’t be smart. It was big-time jerk Harvey Weinstein’s smarts that elevated him to the dizzying heights of Hollywood from where he took sexual advantage of women.

Trump-bashing, led by America’s liberal media, is now a global sport. Despite daily bashing, Trump’s poll numbers show his voter base remains solid. How come a narcissist, misogynist, bigot and bully can command such loyalty? Smarts, that’s how.

Let’s give credit where credit’s due. Do you honestly think Kim’s sudden charm offensive sprang from a heartfelt desire to be a peacemaker? He would still be testing missiles if Trump hadn’t threatened fire and fury with a nuclear button that he said was bigger than Kim’s, who he mockingly called “little rocket man”.

Trump-bashers pounce on every opportunity to pummel his crass language and swagger as unpresidential. But being presidential got predecessors Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama nowhere. Trump wasn’t far off when he said their conventional diplomacy bought Kim time to fine-tune his nuclear know-how.

What scares people is Trump’s brash unpredictability. You never know if he really means what he says. At least with poker-faced card players, you can risk calling a bluff. But dare you assume it’s a bluff when a mercurial leader with his finger on the button of the world’s most potent nuclear arsenal makes a threat?

People say that’s what makes Trump such a dangerous idiot. But this dangerous idiot got Kim to send his sister and athletes to the Winter Olympics in South Korea, to stop further nuclear missile testing, to set up a summit with South Korean leader Moon Jae-in, offer to meet Trump, and to travel to Beijing to break the ice with Xi.

If you think all of that happened by accident, then you are the idiot, not Trump. It happened because no one dares to call his poker cards. Trump’s detractors claim Kim has already acquired the nuclear arsenal he needs to pose a threat to the US and is now ready to talk with a strengthened hand. What nonsense.

Kim knows that if he dares aim just one missile at the US and its allies, he and his country would be reduced to dust. So he used his own smarts to sell himself as the leader who is ready to talk, to flatter Xi to get the Chinese on his side, to ease Trump’s destructive sanctions, and to charm Moon into thinking rapprochement is possible between the north and the south.

Again, let’s call a spade a spade. Do you really think it’s by accident that China now promises to further open its markets and pledge it will no longer demand foreign firms hand over hi-tech secrets if they want to do business on the Chinese mainland? It was Trump’s threatened trade war that rattled Xi enough to send envoys to the US to discuss market opening. Xi is expected to make a market-opening speech at next week’s Boao Forum.

I am not an apologist for Trump. I sat out the 2016 election. His victory horrified me as an American. But I have to grudgingly admit his gun-slinging diplomacy has taken us where no other president dared go to achieve US political goals.

http://www.scmp.com/comment/insight-opinion/article/2140266/trump-no-dangerous-idiot-his-nifty-diplomacy-north-korea-and

Republicans angered as Trump congratulates Putin

March 21, 2018

AFP and The Associated Press

© Yuri Kadobnov / Pool / AFP | Russian President Vladimir Putin meets at the Kremlin in Moscow on March 19, 2018.

Text by NEWS WIRES

Latest update : 2018-03-21

President Donald Trump called Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday to congratulate him on his re-election, drawing bruising criticism from members of his own party, including a leading senator who scorned the election as a “sham.”

Trump also said he and Putin might meet “in the not too distant future” to discuss the arms race and other matters.

What they didn’t discuss on Tuesday was noteworthy as well: Trump did not raise Russia’s meddling in the U.S. elections or its suspected involvement in the recent poisoning of a former spy in England.

“An American president does not lead the free world by congratulating dictators on winning sham elections,” said Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who chairs the Senate Armed Services Committee and has pressed the Trump administration to respond aggressively to Russia’s interference in the U.S. presidential election.

Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona, a frequent Trump critic, called the president’s call “odd.” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Trump “can call whomever he chooses” but noted that calling Putin “wouldn’t have been high on my list.”

At the State Department, spokeswoman Heather Nauert said it was “no surprise” that Putin was re-elected, commenting that some people were paid to turn out to vote and opposition leaders were intimidated or jailed. She also cited a preliminary report by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe that said Russia’s election took place in an overly controlled environment that lacked an even playing field for all contenders.

Her comments were notably tougher on Russia than those coming from the White House.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders defended Trump’s call, and noted that President Barack Obama made a similar call at the time of Putin’s last electoral victory.

“We don’t get to dictate how other countries operate,” Sanders said.

The action and reaction fit a Trump White House pattern of declining to chide authoritarian regimes for undemocratic practices.

Trump himself has long been reluctant to publicly criticize Putin. He said that during their hoped-for meeting the two men would likely discuss Ukraine, Syria and North Korea, among other things.

“I suspect that we’ll probably be meeting in the not too distant future to discuss the arms race, to discuss the arms race, which is getting out of control, but we will never allow anybody to have anything even close to what we have,” Trump said.

Russia has received global condemnation after Britain blamed Moscow for the recent nerve agent attack that sickened Sergei Skripal and his daughter. Russia has denied the accusation.

Trump’s call came at a period of heightened tensions between the two nations after the White House imposed sanctions on Russia for its interference in the 2016 U.S. election and other “malicious cyberattacks.” Sanders insisted that the administration has scolded Putin at the appropriate times.

“We’ve been very clear in the actions that we’ve taken that we’re going to be tough on Russia, particularly when it comes to areas that we feel where they’ve stepped out of place.”

The Kremlin said in a statement that Trump and Putin spoke about a need to “coordinate efforts to limit the arms race” and for closer cooperation on strategic stability and counterterrorism.

“Special attention was given to considering the issue of a possible bilateral summit,” the Kremlin statement said.

In addition, the two presidents expressed satisfaction with the apparent easing of tensions over North Korea’s weapons program, according to the Kremlin.

No details were released about the timing or location of a possible meeting, which would be their third since Trump took office in January 2017. They met on the sidelines of an international summit in Germany last summer and again more informally at another gathering of world leaders in Vietnam in November.

The presidents “agreed to develop further bilateral contacts, taking into account changes in the U.S. State Department,” the Kremlin statement said in a reference to Trump’s decision to replace Secretary of State Rex Tillerson with CIA Director Mike Pompeo. Russia has repeatedly said it hoped for better ties with the U.S. under Trump.

Putin received calls from a number of other foreign leaders, including French President Emmanuel Macron, Chinese President Xi Jinping, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Many others, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, sent congratulatory telegrams.

The White House had said Monday that it was “not surprised by the outcome” of Sunday’s presidential election in Russia and that no congratulatory call was planned.

Trump continues to grapple with the shadow of the ongoing investigation into whether his campaign colluded with Russian officials during the 2016 election that sent him to the White House.

Last month, special counsel Robert Mueller indicted 13 Russian individuals and three organizations on charges of interfering in the election. Three of Trump’s associates   former national security adviser Michael Flynn, deputy campaign chairman Rick Gates and campaign aide George Papadopoulos   have pleaded guilty to lying to investigators and agreed to cooperate. Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort has pleaded not guilty to a variety of money laundering and other criminal charges.

(AP)

What’s genius for Obama is scandal when it comes to Trump — They both used Facebook and Cambridge Analytica methods

March 21, 2018

Image may contain: 1 person, smiling, closeup

BY BEN SHAPIRO, OPINION CONTRIBUTOR —
03/20/18 09:15 AM EDT
THE VIEWS EXPRESSED BY CONTRIBUTORS ARE THEIR OWN AND NOT THE VIEW OF THE HILL

On Sunday, The Guardian reported on the supposedly nefarious workings of President Trump’s data-gathering team at Cambridge Analytica. The report suggested that Cambridge Analytica had essentially issued questionnaires through a third party; those questionnaires, which were personality quizzes, requested that you use your Facebook login. Cambridge Analytica then compiled data regarding those who completed the quiz and cross-referenced that data with political preferences in order to target potential voters.

This isn’t particularly shocking. In 2012, The Guardian reported that President Obama’s reelection team was “building a vast digital data operation that for the first time combines a unified database on millions of Americans with the power of Facebook to target individual voters to a degree never achieved before.”

What, exactly, would Obama be doing? According to The Guardian, Obama’s new database would be gathered by asking individual volunteers to log into Obama’s reelection site using their Facebook credentials. “Consciously or otherwise,” The Guardian states, “the individual volunteer will be injecting all the information they store publicly on their Facebook page — home location, date of birth, interests and, crucially, network of friends — directly into the central Obama database.” 

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Facebook had no problem with such activity then. They do now. There’s a reason for that. The former Obama director of integration and media analytics stated that, during the 2012 campaign, Facebook allowed the Obama team to “suck out the whole social graph”; Facebook “was surprised we were able to suck out the whole social graph, but they didn’t stop us once they realized that was what we were doing.” She added, “They came to [the] office in the days following election recruiting & were very candid that they allowed us to do things they wouldn’t have allowed someone else to do because they were on our side.”

Not so with Trump. As soon as Facebook realized that Cambridge Analytica had pursued a similar strategy, they suspended the firm.

Again, this isn’t surprising. Since Trump’s election, Democrats — in search of a rationale for their favored candidate’s defeat — have blamed a bevy of social media outlets. Senate Democrats trotted out pathetic Russian-created memes on Facebook, viewed by a handful of human beings, as an excuse for Hillary’s loss; Democrats claimed — without evidence — that “fake news” had swamped Facebook and thus led to Trump’s victory. Democrats have also insisted that Facebook be regulated. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) raged, “You’ve created these platforms, and now they’re being misused, and you have to be the ones to do something about it. Or we will.” Facebook’s former privacy manager called for the government to step into an oversight role regarding Facebook.

In February, Wired magazine ran a cover story specifically dealing with Facebook’s role in the election of 2016, and their subsequent attempts to “fix” the problem. After the election, Mark Zuckerberg even met with Barack Obama, apparently in an attempt to convince Obama that he was serious about stopping the “misuse” of the platform. And in February, Zuckerberg said he wanted to re-jigger the algorithms on his platform to benefit content that Facebook deems “trustworthy, informative, and local.” Wired celebrated: “You can’t make the world more open and connected if you’re breaking it apart.”

The result of Facebook’s algorithmic changes: conservatives have been slammed. And that’s the point. A study from The Western Journal found that conservative sites have lost an average of 14 percent of their Facebook traffic; leftist sites saw a minor increase. Even major publications saw that effect: The New York Daily News saw a bump of 24.18 percent, while the New York Post dropped 11.44 percent.

And that’s the goal in covering Cambridge Analytica, and Russian interference on Twitter, and all the rest — even without any serious information suggesting that such interference shifted votes, the left can rest assured that its Silicon Valley allies will act to de-platform Republicans and conservatives. There’s a reason Twitter has suspended alt-right racists but continued to recommend that others follow Louis Farrakhan; there’s a reason YouTube is being sued by Prager University; there’s a reason Google used automatic fact-checking on right-wing sites but did no such thing for left-wing sites.

We’re in the midst of a radical reshifting in social media. Ironically, the people who have stumped against regulation — conservatives — are those being targeted by social media companies. If companies like Facebook, YouTube, Google and Twitter don’t start acting like platforms again rather than like motivated left-wing outlets, Republicans likely won’t let principle outweigh practicality for long.

Ben Shapiro (@BenShapiro), a lawyer and conservative commentator, is founder and editor in chief of The Daily Wire. The author of seven books, he hosts a daily political podcast, “The Ben Shapiro Show.”

http://thehill.com/opinion/technology/379245-whats-genius-for-obama-is-scandal-when-it-comes-to-trump#.WrFUV_mwDZU.facebook

France urges tough EU approach on Iran to save nuclear accord

March 19, 2018

Image may contain: one or more people, people standing and suit

FILE PHOTO: Iranian President Hassan Rouhani shakes hands with French Foreign Affairs Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, in Tehran, Iran, March 5, 2018. President.ir/Handout via REUTERSREUTERS

BY ROBIN EMMOTT

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – France urged the European Union on Monday to consider new sanctions on Iran over its involvement in Syria’s civil war and its ballistic missile program, as Paris tries to persuade Washington to preserve a 2015 nuclear deal with Tehran.

U.S. President Donald Trump has given the European signatories a May 12 deadline to “fix the terrible flaws” of the deal, which was agreed under his predecessor Barack Obama, or he will refuse to extend U.S. sanctions relief on Iran.

In response, the three European signatories – France, Britain and Germany – have proposed new EU sanctions targeting Iranians who support Syria’s government in that country’s civil war and Tehran’s ballistic missile program, according to a confidential document seen by Reuters.

“We are determined to ensure that the Vienna accord is respected,” French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told reporters on arrival for talks with his EU counterparts, referring to the city where the 2015 deal was signed.

“But we must not exclude (from consideration) Iran’s responsibility in the proliferation of ballistic missiles and in its very questionable role in the near- and Middle East,” he said. “That must also be discussed to reach a common position.”

The confidential document cites “transfers of Iranian missiles and missile technology” to Syria and allies of Tehran, such as Houthi rebels in Yemen and Lebanon’s Shi’ite Hezbollah.

Iran’s foreign ministry criticized Le Drian’s comments, saying there could be no negotiation over what Iran says are purely defensive weapons.

“We were hopeful that after his recent visit to Tehran and negotiations with Iranian officials, he would understand the realities of the Islamic Republic’s defense policies,” Fars news agency quoted Iranian spokesman Bahram Qasemi as saying.

SANCTIONS

The United States has unilateral sanctions on Iran over missile tests it says violate a U.N. resolution against developing weapons capable of carrying nuclear warheads.

Any EU-wide measures would be the first significant punitive steps since the bloc lifted broad economic sanctions on Iran last year following the 2015 accord to curb Tehran’s nuclear ambitions for at least a decade.

But new sanctions would need the support of all 28 EU member states and could complicate new business deals with Iran.

Some EU countries, including Italy and Greece, are keen to rebuild a business relationship that once made the EU Iran’s top trading partner and its second-biggest oil customer.

U.S. Senator Bob Corker, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said on Sunday he expected Trump to pull out of the nuclear agreement in May unless European governments “really come together on a framework”.

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, who chaired the final stages of the nuclear negotiations between Iran and Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States, stressed that there was no formal EU position on new sanctions.

But other foreign ministers in Brussels hinted at discussions that diplomats said were underway in EU capitals.

“We have to explore all the possible measures to have the same type of pressure as we had in the nuclear dossier,” Belgium’s Foreign Minister Didier Reynders told reporters.

(Additional reporting by Samantha Koester, Alissa de Carbonnel, Bozorgmehr Sharafedin Nouri; Editing by Gareth Jones)

Hillary Clinton Leans Out

March 14, 2018

The Democrat explains to Indians why she lost to Donald Trump.

Hillary Clinton during the Women in the World Summit in New York, April 6, 2017.
Hillary Clinton during the Women in the World Summit in New York, April 6, 2017. PHOTO: MARY ALTAFFER/ASSOCIATED PRESS
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By The Editorial Board
The Wall Street Journal

The shock of losing the Presidency to Donald Trump has to be mind-blowing, but Hillary Clinton keeps offering evidence for why she may have been the only Democrat in 2016 who could have managed the feat.

Mrs. Clinton provided the latest demonstration on a visit to India in which she was asked to explain her loss. She blamed the “backwards” parts of America where “you didn’t like black people getting rights; you don’t like women, you know, getting jobs; you don’t want to, you know, see that Indian-American succeeding more than you are.”

This a reprise of her famous “deplorables” crack from the campaign trail, but she didn’t stop there. She also complained about “married white women” who supported Mr. Trump because they were too weak to stand up to “a sort of ongoing pressure to vote the way that your husband, your boss, your son, whoever, believes you should.”

Mrs. Clinton was supposed to be the first female President who rose as the feminist champion for the aspirations of all American women. Yet it turns out she really believes that any woman who voted against her must have been a mental or emotional prisoner of some man, trapped in a kind of political purdah.

Democrats may think Mr. Trump is unfit to be President, but maybe they should take responsibility for nominating a candidate who had such contempt for so many Americans.

Appeared in the March 14, 2018, print edition.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/hillary-clinton-leans-out-1520983364

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