Posts Tagged ‘Google’

Israel’s Attack in Syria: Israel’s Policy of Ambiguity Could Be Nearing an End — Proxy “War” With Iran — Has Russia Allowed Israel’s Raids?

April 28, 2017

By Amos Harel

Strike in Damascus international airport attributed to Israel ■ Why isn’t Russia taking action? ■ defense chief draws a new red line: No Iranian and Hezbollah military presence on the Syrian border

Explosion in Syria

Explosion in Syria . (photo credit:ARAB MEDIA)

Witnesses said a total of five strikes occurred near the Damascus airport road, about 25km from the capital, early on Thursday.

Iranian cargo planes land in Damascus hours before ‘Israeli strike’ on airport

Syria confirms Israeli strike hit military compound near Damascus airport

Israel destroyed dozens of Hezbollah-bound missiles in last Syria raid, officer says

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What has been done up to now with a degree of ambiguity, not to say discretion, is now being done for all to see. Syria confirmed on Thursday, in a report from its official news agency, that the Israeli airforce struck a military compound next to the Damascus airport before dawn.

Intelligence Minister Yisrael Katz implicitly acknowledged Israeli responsibility for the strike when he explained in a somewhat sleepy radio interview from the United States on Army Radio that “the incident totally fits with our policy for preventing weapons transfers to Hezbollah.” And all of this happened while Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman was away on a visit to Russia, the chief sponsor of the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Katz’s comments followed an earlier, first acknowledgement of its kind by Israel, after numerous reports in the Arab media of an Israeli airstrike in Syria in late March. And this past Tuesday, a senior Israel Defense Forces officer told journalists that about a hundred missiles, some intended for Hezbollah, were destroyed in that March airstrike. But it is still not certain that a deliberate decision has been made to abandon the policy of ambiguity that Israel has adhered to for the past five years, neither denying nor confirming its responsibility for such air strikes.

This policy of ambiguity seems to be based on the idea that Israel’s refusal to comment on these strikes makes them less of an embarrassment for the regime and thus does not whet the Syrians’ appetite for revenge as much. The recent deviations from this policy were likely random occurrences and not the product of long-range strategic thinking.

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An Israeli tank on the Golan Heights

The initial reports from Damascus did not specify what types of weaponry was hit. Arab intelligence sources (quoted by an Amman-based reporter for Reuters) claimed that the targets this time were arms shipments from Iran being smuggled on civilian commercial flights via the international airport in Damascus.

Syrian reports denied that Israeli planes had penetrated Syrian airspace, and claimed their bombs were launched from within Israeli territory. This could explain the lack of an antiaircraft missile response from the Syrian and Russian air defenses, although Russian radar in northwest Syria can also identify aircraft movements in much of Israel.

Why isn’t Russia taking action? After the March airstrike, Russia reportedly protested to Israel that the Syrian target in the Palmyra area came too close to a Russian military base. Possibly, Russia doesn’t really care that much, as long as these actions don’t directly threaten the Assad regime’s survival. Most of the Russian troops and aircraft are in the northwest, in the area of Tartus and Latakia, and hardly Israeli strikes have been reported in that area since the start of the Russian military deployment in September 2015.

On the tactical level, Russia and Israel seem to be getting along quite well amid the general Syrian chaos. The military coordination mechanism for preventing aerial clashes between the two countries is working properly and Israeli officials, especially Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, have held frequent consultations with their Russian counterparts. But on the long-term, strategic level, Israel has a problem: Russia’s military success in the war means the salvation of the Assad regime and a gain for Assad’s other allies, Iran and Hezbollah. Should Russia decide to promote the interests of these other members of the Assad alliance, it could come at Israel’s expense.

In his talks in Russia, Lieberman has been emphasizing the new red line drawn by Israel: no Iranian or Hezbollah military presence near the Syrian border on the Golan Heights. As Assad’s forces have advanced southward, there have been initial reports of the arrival of members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, Hezbollah and related Shi’ite and Palestinian militias in the border area, mainly in the northern Golan Heights. Besides the arms smuggling, this is the matter of greatest concern for Israel right now. Should it decide to take action to enforce its stance, as Lieberman has spoken about, Israel will have to weigh the possibility not only of heightened friction with Iran, but also of a shift in relations with Moscow.

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Did Moscow Green-Light an Israeli Attack in Syria?

The Kremlin may be backing Bashar al-Assad and publicly denouncing Israel’s strike on Damascus’ airport Thursday, but the two sides are ‘tightly’ coordinating behind the scenes.

By Benny Avni

An Israeli attack in Damascus on Thursday was evidently well coordinated with Russia, highlighting how transient alliances in the Middle East’s most consequential war can be.

Israel, in addition to Sunni Muslim countries opposed to the Syrian regime, is America’s close regional ally, while Russia backs some of Israel’s most formidable foes: Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Iran, and Hezbollah.


Loud explosions were reported near Damascus’ international airport Thursday morning, reportedly injuring three people.


Syrian officials were quick to blame Israel for the attack, and in an apparent attempt to retaliate, an “object”—reportedly a drone—was sent over the Golan Heights that was destroyed by an Israeli Defense Force Patriot missile, according to an IDF spokesman.

Although Jerusalem officials normally refrain from confirming such attacks like the one in Damascus, this time they did not quite deny it.


“The incident in Syria is consistent with our policy of preventing the smuggling of advanced weapons from Syria to Hezbollah in Lebanon by Iran,” Intelligence Minister Israel Katz told Israel’s Army Radio. He declined, in accordance with the long-held policy, to explicitly confirm that the IDF conducted the attack.


 Image result for syrian aircraft at russian base, photos

Three weeks ago, in a rare departure from that Jerusalem’s policy of ambiguity, Israeli officials did acknowledge they fired missiles at Syrian targets. In Moscow, Kremlin officials publicly denounced that Israeli attack, leading some in Jerusalem to speculate that the tacit understanding between Jerusalem and Moscow could be at an end and that the Kremlin would no longer wink and nod at Israel’s routine incursions into Syria’s airspace, largely dominated by Russian and Syrian government air forces.


On Thursday Russian spokesmen denounced the attack as well, though they were careful not to confirm Israel was behind it. And when asked Thursday whether Israel had notified Moscow in advance of the strike, President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, told Kremlin reporters that “Russia and Israel exchange information using various channels.”

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One likely such channel, according to Jerusalem sources, is Avigdor Liberman, the Russian-speaking, Moldovan-born Israeli defense minister who landed in Moscow on Wednesday for a pre-planned visit. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also speaks to Putin on the phone regularly and often visits Moscow.


“The Russians know that our most important ally is the United States, and we know, of course, that Russia’s clients are Assad, Iran, and Hezbollah,” said an Israeli official who spoke on the condition of anonymity. Yet, he added, “that doesn’t stop us from tightly coordinating with Moscow through well-established work mechanisms.”


The IDF and Russia want to ensure there are no collisions in the skies above Syria, the official added, saying, “And yes, the Russians are very familiar with our red lines.”


Those red lines include “preventing Iran from establishing a military foothold in Syria,” Katz, the intelligence minister, told The Daily Beast last week. Additionally, he said, Jerusalem has made clear it will not allow Iran to transfer heavy armaments through Syria to Hezbollah, which he characterized as “our most formidable non-state enemy.”

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 Hezbollah fighters. Reuters photo

Speaking to the UN Security Council last week, U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley said Washington and its partners will resume their pressure on Tehran, documenting violations of several council resolutions that ban arms transfers from Iran to Hezbollah, as well as to its Yemen-based ally, the Houthis.


Hours after Thursday’s Israeli attack in Damascus, Russian diplomats exchanged barbs with their British and French counterparts at the United Nations, while Haley sharpened her criticism of the Kremlin’s Syria policy.


During a Security Council session on humanitarian aid to Syria, Haley blamed Russia for shielding Assad, even as the Syrian dictator prevents UN aid from reaching its destination and bombs hospitals. “Many of you said we need to put pressure on the Syrian regime,” she said. “That’s actually not the case. We need to put pressure on Russia, because Russia continues to cover for the Syrian regime”—does so even when Assad “uses chemical weapons on his own people.”


The French UN ambassador, François Delattre, told reporters Thursday that Paris has conclusively determined that in a well-publicized April 4 attack at Khan Sheikhun, in Syria’s Idlib province, “sarin was used, and the presence of a substance called hexamine is characteristic of the sarin produced by the Syrian regime.” So, he added, “we have no doubt that the Syrian regime is responsible for this barbaric attack.”


The United States fired 59 Tomahawk missiles in response to that chemical assault, hitting a Syrian airbase that according to Pentagon officials was used to launch the Idlib attack.


On Wednesday, British Foreign Minister Boris Johnson said that if Washington asked London to join in future military attacks against Syria, “It would be difficult for us to say no.”


But Washington has yet to clarify its ultimate goal in Syria—and particularly its policy on Assad’s future, despite the atrocities he has committed. President Trump, who hosted the 15 members of the Security Council at the White House last week, said that while the Syrian dictator is clearly a “bad actor,” his removal “is not a deal breaker” for the U.S., according to an ambassador who attended the session. However, the ambassador, who requested anonymity, said that at a later session National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster told the visiting diplomats, “There can be no stable Syria as long as Assad stays in power.”

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Hezbollah Air Lines? Boeing Deal?

Paris gunman who killed police officer known to security forces — Spent 15 years in prison for shooting officers — On watch list after recent arrest — Informants last month said he was ‘seeking to obtain weapons to kill policemen’

April 21, 2017


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Paris Police secure the Champs-Elysees after one police officer was killed and another wounded in a shooting in Paris, France, April 20, 2017. REUTERS – Christian Hartmann

French security services are today facing troubling questions as to how they failed to prevent an ISIS gunman from slaughtering one policeman and wounding two other officers when he was already on a terror watch list.

Champs-Elysees killer Karim Cheurfi had been detained only last month, it has emerged, after informants said he was ‘seeking to obtain weapons to kill policemen’.

But the 39-year-old, who used the war name ‘Abu Yousuf the Belgian’, had to be released because anti-terror police did not have enough evidence to hold him.

The homegrown fanatic, who officials confirmed was a French national despite his nickname, had also been released early from prison – where it is thought he was radicalised – having been jailed for 20 years in 2005 for trying to kill two policemen.

Cheurfi opened fire five times with a .38 revolver following a car chase in 2001, leaving the officers and a third victim wounded.

He had fled on foot before the driver of the other car and the passenger – a trainee police officer – caught up with him. He fired twice, seriously wounding both men in the chest. All three survived the attack in Roissy-en-Brie, in the Seine-et-Marne department of northern France.

Cheurfi was arrested and placed in custody under a false name. Two days later he seriously injured an officer who was taking him out of his cell, seizing his weapon and firing several times.

Two French officials said this morning that Cheurfi was detained in February for threatening police before being freed, although a warrant for his arrest is dated March 6.

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The killer was known to security services in France, according to reports this evening

The killer was known to security services in France, according to reports this evening

One police officer was shot dead and two more seriously injured by a gunman carrying a Kalashnikov in Paris this evening

One police officer was shot dead and two more seriously injured by a gunman carrying a Kalashnikov in Paris this evening


Pierre-Henry Brandet, spokesman for France's Interior Ministry, confirmed that one police officer was dead and two seriously wounded following the 'targeted attack'

Pierre-Henry Brandet, spokesman for France’s Interior Ministry, confirmed that one police officer was dead and two seriously wounded following the ‘targeted attack’

The arrest warrant issued for Cheurfi before he was detained at the beginning of last month

The arrest warrant issued for Cheurfi before he was detained at the beginning of last month

The ISIS killer is believed to have been released in 2016 following the triple assassination attempt, at a time when he was known for drug offences, car theft and robbery.

Despite having the nickname ‘Abu Yousuf the Belgian’, Cheurfi was a French national, Belgian interior minister Jan Jambon told public broadcaster VRT.

It has been claimed Cheurfi was making dark threats on messaging app Telegram before launching his attack on the Champs Elysees in Paris last night.

ISIS has claimed responsibility for the atrocity, which was carried out with a Kalashnikov weapon. A female foreign terrorist was also injured when a bullet ricocheted off the police car before Cheurfi was shot dead.

The fatal incident unfolded as presidential candidates, including National Front party leader Marine Le Pen, debated on a TV show nearby before Sunday’s election.

French President Francois Hollande said he was convinced it was a terrorist attack, adding that he would hold a security cabinet meeting this morning.

The French-born killer lived in Chelles, a commuter town close to Paris in the Seine-et-Marne department.

In 2003 he was sentenced to 20 years inside a high security prison following the attacks in Roissy-en-Brie, also in Seine-et-Marne.

But he was let out early following an appeal ruling, giving him the freedom to carry out tonight’s attack.

Gunshot-like noise forces BBC crew in Paris to run off the street


The app makers have boasted of security settings which keep messages safe from 'snoopers'

The app makers have boasted of security settings which keep messages safe from ‘snoopers’

Telegram is a messaging app which focuses on speed and security, according to its makers.

It allows users to send messages, photos, videos and files to groups of up to 5,000 and broadcast to unlimited audiences.

A statement on Telegram’s website about security says: ‘Big internet companies like Facebook or Google have effectively hijacked the privacy discourse in the recent years.

‘Their marketers managed to convince the public that the most important things about privacy are superficial tools that allow hiding your public posts or your profile pictures from the people around you. Adding these superficial tools enables companies to calm down the public and change nothing in how they are turning over private data to marketers and other third parties.

‘At Telegram we think that the two most important components of Internet privacy should be instead:

  • Protecting your private conversations from snooping third parties, such as officials, employers, etc
  • Protecting your personal data from third parties, such as marketers, advertisers, etc

‘This is what everybody should care about, and these are some of our top priorities. Telegram’s aim is to create a truly free messenger, without the usual caveats. This means that instead of diverting public attention with low-impact settings, we can afford to focus on the real privacy issues that exist in the modern world.’

Cheurfi was the registered keeper of the grey Audi used in last night’s attack. A raid on his home later found guns and ammunition, intelligence sources said.

He had targeted a parked patrol car full of traffic control officers working to the Paris prefecture.

The officer killed was at the wheel and was having an evening snack at the time of his death.

French television network BFMTV reports that Cheurfi had used the Telegram internet messaging service, which extremists have previously been claimed to favour because of its encryption.

Police are searching the home of the shooter in eastern Paris, and following the attack French presidential candidate Francois Fillon has called for the election campaign to be suspended.

Pierre-Henry Brandet, spokesman for France’s Interior Ministry, confirmed that one police officer was dead and two seriously wounded following the ‘targeted attack’.

He said a ‘car pulled up just after 9pm’ next to a police patrol car which was parked up on the busy avenue.

Police search the car reportedly used in Paris attack

Intelligence sources said the dead assailant was a known radical on a so-called S-file, for 'State-security'

Intelligence sources said the dead assailant was a known radical on a so-called S-file, for ‘State-security’

Police officers searched the home of the suspected gunman in east Paris following the attack in the capital on Thursday 

Police officers searched the home of the suspected gunman in east Paris following the attack in the capital on Thursday

Officers searched the home of the suspected gunman on Thursday evening after they travelled to his home in the east part of the capital 

Officers searched the home of the suspected gunman on Thursday evening after they travelled to his home in the east part of the capital

A man jumped out with a weapon and started firing indiscriminately into the police vehicle, hitting the unidentified officer who died directly in the head.

The assailant then ran off, pursued by other officers. Two of them were wounded as they killed him.

Mr Brandet said ‘all lines of investigation were being pursued’, while intelligence sources said the dead assailant was a known radical on a so-called S-file, for ‘State-security’.

This means he would have been under surveillance, because he was a known risk to the country.

Mr Brandet later said a possible accomplice had turned himself over to Belgian police, but it was ‘too early to say’ if he had played a significant part in the attack.

President Hollande, speaking from the Elysee palace close to the scene of the shooting, said: ‘A national tribute will be paid to this policeman who was killed in such a cowardly way.

‘A passerby was hit. The assailant was neutralised by other police officers. The entire area has been cordoned off. The people present have been evacuated.’

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Updated 9:35 PM ET, Thu April 20, 2017

Paris (CNN)  A man who killed a police officer on the Champs-Elysees Thursday night was known to French security services for radical Islamist activities and had shot and wounded an officer in the past, a source close to the investigation told CNN.

The suspect, who was shot dead by French police, was the subject of a “Fiche S” surveillance file and was on the radar of the French domestic security service DGSI, the source said.
The man was a French national who shot two officers in 2001 after being stopped by a police car, the source said. He was taken into custody but while being questioned grabbed another officer’s gun and shot him three times, the source said. He was convicted in that attack and had a criminal record because of involvement in violent robberies, the source said.
The source said French investigators now believe this was in all likelihood a terrorist attack. They believe there was just one attacker, and the danger is likely over, the source said.
ISIS issued a statement saying an Islamic State “fighter” carried out the attack. The ISIS claim comes via a statement released by the group’s media wing, Amaq. The ISIS statement identified the attacker and called him “the Belgian.” CNN has not confirmed the attacker’s association with Belgium.
Paris Prosecutor Francois Molins said he will reveal the shooter’s identity on Friday at a news conference. He said officers are searching the man’s residence in Chelles, Seine-et-Marne, a Paris suburb, and are trying to determine if he had accomplices.
The shooting has not officially been declared a terrorist act but anti-terrorist forces are leading the investigation, French President Francois Hollande said.
“The people who were present have been evacuated and we are convinced that the leads which point us to this case, and which will allow us to uncover the truth, are of a terrorist nature,” he said.

Elections on Sunday

The shooting happened about 9 p.m. local time (3 p.m. ET) when a car stopped at 102 Champs-Elysees in front of a police van, Interior Ministry spokesman Pierre Henry Brandet said.
A man emerged from the car and opened fire on the van with an “automatic weapon,” killing one officer instantly, he said. The man “then ran away, managing to shoot and wound two other policemen. Other policemen engaged and shot and killed the attacker,” Brandet said.
The slain officer was 30 years old, Molin said. One of the wounded officers was critically injured but is improving, he said. Also wounded was a female tourist.
The shooting shut down the famed Champs-Elysees, one of Paris’ top tourist attractions and home to the iconic Arc de Triomphe monument. The avenue was clear of residents and tourists but teeming with security officers Thursday night.
It comes three days before French voters start elections for a new president. Candidates went ahead with a debate Thursday night.
France has been in a state of emergency since the 2015 Paris attacks, which left 130 people dead. Parliament voted in December to extend the extraordinary provisions to ensure the protection of upcoming presidential and general elections.
Security has been tight because of the vote. Just two days ago French authorities arrested two men in Marseille who were allegedly planning an attack in a run-up to the election.

Police officers block access to the Champs-Elysees.

At least three underground train stations of the Paris Metro — the Champs-Elysees-Clemenceau, George V and F. Roosevelt stations — have been “closed off” near the site of the police operation on the Champs-Elysees in Paris, BFMTV reported.

Trump: ‘What can you say?’

Paris resident Daoud Kal, 29, said he was walking in the area near a metro station when he heard four to five shots. He looked around, but couldn’t identify where the shots were coming from. People panicked and ran away from the scene and he joined them.
The CNN Paris bureau is on this street and staffers reported hearing a dozen shots. At least 20 police vehicles were seen on the street.
Officers could be seen forcibly removing innocent citizens from the area as they attempted to get them to safety.
President Donald Trump, speaking at a news conference in Washington with the visiting Italian Prime Minister, offered condolences to the people of France after the shooting, saying it “looks like another terrorist attack.”
“What can you say? It never ends,” the President said.
The Champs-Elysees is a main road lined with restaurants, cafes, exclusive designer boutiques and tourist shops. At one end is the Arc de Triomphe, surrounded by a several-lane-wide roundabout, and the other end stops at the Place de la Concorde, known for its obelisk monument.
The presidential palace, the Elysee, is a few blocks away.
French police tweeted, “Police intervention underway in the area of the #ChampsElysees avoid the sector and follow the instructions of the police forces.”

French candidates respond

The US State Department put out a cautionary tweet, saying: “If you’re in #Paris, monitor local news. #ChampsElysees has been closed. Authorities are telling people to avoid the area after a shooting.”

One police officer was killed in a shooting on the Champs-Elysees.

The shooting comes three days before French general elections and Paris was already in a state of heightened alert. French politicians immediately reacted on social media.
French far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen tweeted, “My emotions and solidarity for the police, once again targeted.”
Conservative French presidential hopeful Francois Fillon tweeted, “Paying homage to police who give their lives to protect ours, #ChampsElysees.”
Prime Minister Bernard Cazeneuve tweeted: “Paying homage to the policeman killed on the champs elysees. Thoughts are with his family. Solidarity with his injured colleagues and those close to them.”
Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy tweeted: “To our law enforcement: support, strength, courage. They are paying again a heavy price. Our Nation’s tribute must be total NS”
Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo tweeted: “We won’t give up, not bow and remain united facing these odious and insidious threats that weigh on our cities.”
She also extended a message of solidarity and thanks to the retailers on the Champs-Elysees who gave people shelter during the attack.
This developing story has been updated to clarify details about the attacker’s nationality.

Why Facebook blocks porn — but lets you watch a murder

April 19, 2017

Jonathan Taplin — director emeritus of the Annenberg Innovation Lab at USC and author of a new book, “Move Fast and Break Things: How Facebook, Google, and Amazon Cornered Culture and Undermined Democracy” — spoke at a Lotos Club reception for his book on Monday. Here are some of his remarks during a Q&A moderated by Jeffrey Toobin, as well as a subsequent interview with The Post’s Ian Mohr, on the dangers of YouTube and Facebook:

“There is a kind of nefarious block of the ‘safe harbor’ act — the Digital Millennium Copyright Act — that basically says that nobody, no musician, no individual can sue Facebook or Google, or YouTube, for posting stuff that they don’t have permission to. So this is why there are 55,000 ISIS videos on YouTube. Right? They claim, ‘We have no responsibility . . . it’s First Amendment rights. We don’t know.’ The only pushback they’ve gotten is from advertisers. Procter & Gamble said, ‘Hey, we’re not so comfortable with our advertising being on terrorist videos. Stop it, please.’ Now they say, ‘Oh, there’s too many videos being uploaded to YouTube, we can’t control it.’

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“But you notice there’s no porn on YouTube. So why is that? That’s because they have A.I., artificial intelligence algorithms, that when someone tries to upload porn, it sees a bare breast and it stops it and puts it into a separate queue where a human looks at it and says, ‘Well, is this National Geographic video? Or is this porn?’ And if it’s porn, it doesn’t go up, and if it’s National Geographic, it does go up. Well, they could do the same thing with ISIS videos. As you well know — any of you who’ve ever used [the music recognition app] Shazam — they can do the same thing with every tune, every movie, that someone doesn’t want up there, in three seconds the audio signature would tell them, ‘This is something we don’t want’ and stop it.

“But that’s not their business model. Their business model is that, ‘We want everybody on there and we want all the content so we can sell more advertising.’ And of course these are by far the largest advertising companies in the world. Google dwarfs the Walt Disney Company with all its ABC, ESPN networks. Google’s like five times as big. So we just don’t realize that these companies are the giants. Tom [Freston] and I were talking about when he was running Viacom, everyone was worried, ‘There’s only seven media companies in the country. They’re dominating everything.’ Last year, Facebook and Google took 78 percent of all digital advertising money. In the whole year. So that’s a monopoly.”

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Pence Warns North Korea Not to Test Trump

April 17, 2017

In visit to demilitarized zone, Pence calls U.S. alliance with South Korea ironclad

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence stands next to his daughter looking toward North Korea from an observation post inside the demilitarized zone, April 17.

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence stands next to his daughter looking toward North Korea from an observation post inside the demilitarized zone, April 17. PHOTO: KIM HONG-JI/REUTERS

SEOUL—U.S. Vice President Mike Pence warned North Korea not to test President Donald Trump, calling the recent American military strikes on Syria and Afghanistan an example of Washington’s strength.

“North Korea would do well not to test his resolve or the strength of the armed forces of the United States,” Mr. Pence said Monday after he visited the demilitarized zone that divides the Korean Peninsula.

Speaking alongside South Korea’s acting President Hwang Kyo-ahn, Mr. Pence said his unannounced visit to the DMZ underscored the message of resolve that he was bringing to the region.

“America has always sought peace through strength,” he said earlier in the day according to a pool report, warning North Korea that its military “should not mistake the resolve of the United States of America to stand with our allies.”

At the meeting with Mr. Hwang, Mr. Pence called the U.S. alliance with South Korea ironclad and immutable, in words that appeared aimed to reassure a key ally after a weekend in which North Korea paraded at least one new long-range ballistic missile and test-launched another missile.

Mr. Pence also promised to consult with South Korea and its leadership as it made decisions on how to handle North Korea. He also repeated the Trump administration’s position that “all options are on the table” in dealing with North Korea.



7 Apr 2017

Social Media Networks Facilitate Identity Theft and Fraud — Fraudsters need just three details to steal your identity – and most of it can be found on Facebook

April 13, 2017

How Social Media Networks Facilitate Identity Theft and Fraud

Article by:

Kent Lewis EO Portland

Kent Lewis
EO Portland

Recent research reveals that identity theft affects millions of people a year, costing victims countless hours and money in identity recovery and repair. What causes this pattern of online theft and fraud? It’s a combination of factors: a lack of consumer knowledge regarding protecting your identity online; growing comfort with, and trust in, social platform providers; the need for social platforms to generate revenue; and a lack of standards or policing of these standards. Although this issue is not yet in the mainstream consciousness, it likely will be sooner rather than later.

Fueling the Fire

Social media sites generate revenue with targeted advertising, based on personal information. As such, they encourage registered users to provide as much information as possible. With limited government oversight, industry standards or incentives to educate users on security, privacy and identity protection, users are exposed to identity theft and fraud. Additionally, these platforms have a ton of confidential user information, and are likely vulnerable to outside (or inside) attack. On the marketing front, Google recently patented an algorithm to rate individual’s influence within social media. Once publicized, it will likely encourage greater participation by active users in order to boost their influence score.


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Crimes of Opportunity

With the increased global use of social media, there are more opportunities than ever before to steal identities or perpetrate fraud online. For example, status updates posted on Twitter, Facebook and many other social media sites can be used by criminals. If you post that you’re out of town on vacation, you’ve opened yourself up for burglary. If you mention that you’re away on business for a weekend, you may leave your family open to assault or robbery. When it comes to stalking or stealing an identity, use of photo- and video-sharing sites like Flickr and YouTube provide deeper insights into you, your family and friends, your house, favorite hobbies and interests.

That being said, social networking sites have the greatest potential for abuse. While everyone knows they should never share their social security number and driver’s license, many social networking sites ask for, if not require, similar sensitive information that can be used against you in a variety of malicious ways. The following profile elements can be used to steal or misappropriate your identity:

  • Full name (particularly your middle name)
  • Date of birth (often required)
  • Home town
  • Relationship status
  • School locations and graduation dates
  • Pet names
  • Other affiliations, interests and hobbies

A Facebook mural

A third of adults have social media profiles that include their full name and date of birth CREDIT: JEFF CHIU/AP

Horror Stories

You’re probably asking why sharing your pet’s name, high school graduation date and membership to an organization with the public is a potentially dangerous move. There are a variety of reasons why you should keep personal information confidential, or at least closely managed. Below are just a few examples of how this information can be used to compromise your identity:

  • Phishing attempts using this information can be used to gain trust in order to obtain non-public information through online conversations. A Portland, Oregon, USA, company was recently attacked with false Better Business Bureau complaints in order to obtain additional information about the company and its employees.
  • GPS-enabled phones sharing your location can reveal sensitive information like your home address, work address and the places you visit.
  • Ninety-five percent of Facebook profiles have at least one application, many of which are not reviewed and can be used for malicious and criminal purposes.
  • False profiles can be used to fuel resume fraud or defamation of character. A Canadian reporter recently was defamed via a false profile that included misleading posts, poorly considered group memberships and intellectually inconsistent political positions.
  • An American soldier abroad in Iraq discovered his bank account was repeatedly being accessed online and drained. A security expert was able to replicate access with nothing more than his name, e-mail and Facebook profile.

Best Practices

Before you jump online and cancel all of your social media accounts, consider that there are ways to be smart about what you share and who you share it with. By following the best practices outlined below, you can enjoy the benefits of social media without making yourself a target for criminals.

  • Never, ever give out your social security number or driver’s license numbers.
  • Consider unique user names and passwords for each profile.
  • Vary your passwords and change them regularly.
  • Don’t give out your username and password to third parties (even if it helps you connect to others and build your network).
  • Assuming you plan to be active in social media, minimize the use of personal information on your profiles that may be used for password verification or phishing attacks.
  • Avoid listing the following information publicly: date of birth, hometown, home address, year of high school or college graduation, primary e-mail address.
  • Only invite people to your network that you know or have met, as opposed to friends of friends and strangers.
  • For password security verification questions, us a password for all answers (rather than the answer to the specific question, like “What is your mother’s maiden name?”).
  • When age-shifting to protect your real birthday, keep the date close; otherwise, you may expose yourself to age discrimination.
  • Watch where you post and what you say, as it can be used against you later.
  • Google yourself regularly and monitor your credit using the free annual report or monthly monitoring services.

Consumers need to be educated on the proper use of social media as it relates to protecting privacy and security. Social networks need to also understand the impact of not addressing security and privacy issues. If the information becomes corrupted, it not only casts doubt on the social network, but on your real-life personality, as well.​

See also:

Fraudsters need just three details to steal your identity – and most of it can be found on Facebook    (The Telegraph)

Norway’s wealth fund calls for cap on executive pay

April 7, 2017


© AFP/File / by Pierre-Henry DESHAYES | Norway’s sovereign wealth fund, the world’s largest, notched up huge gains in 2016

OSLO (AFP) – Norway’s sovereign wealth fund, the world’s largest, on Friday called for a cap on executive pay and fiscal transparency at the companies in which it invests, further buffing its reputation as an ethical investor.

In every company, “the board should… disclose a ceiling for total remuneration for the coming year” for the chief executive, Norway’s central bank, which manages the fund built on the country’s oil revenues, said in a new policy document.

Image result for Norway flag, oil rig, photos

In an era of fat-cat salaries that have drawn widespread criticism, the stance is all the more significant given that the fund holds stakes in about 9,000 companies worldwide, representing 1.3 percent of the global market capitalisation.

With its weight, and its often-praised management requirements on ethics and transparency, the Scandinavian fund often sets the bar for investment funds worldwide.

The shift comes as challenging a company’s remuneration policies has proven increasingly succesful.

Last year, BP chief executive Bob Dudley saw his overall pay cut by 40 percent after a rebellion by shareholders.

Volkswagen decided last month to cap salaries for members of its board of directors, a hot topic in Germany.

And on Sunday, under pressure from politicians and unions, six top executives at the Canadian engineering group Bombardier agreed to have their promised pay increase reduced by half.

Image result for Norway flag, oil rig, photos

– ‘Say on pay’ –

For many years, the Norwegian wealth fund had little to say about executive pay, but recently it has begun to play a more active role.

Last year, it voted against the executive pay policies at companies including Alphabet (the parent of Google), Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan and Sanofi, according to The Financial Times.

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“We are not in a position any longer as investors to say that this is an issue we are not going to have a view on,” the fund’s director, Yngve Slyngstad, told the newspaper, noting that the principle of “say on pay” was now spreading in a number of countries.

The fund’s policy document said that in order to align a CEO’s interests with those of shareholders, “a substantial proportion of total annual remuneration should be provided as shares that are locked in for at least five and preferably 10 years, regardless of resignation or retirement,” and without any conditions based on a company’s performance.

In another document published Friday, Norway’s central bank also called on companies to implement fiscal transparency.

“Taxes should be paid where economic value is generated,” it said, expressing clear opposition to so-called fiscal optimisation, where companies declare their profits in countries with lower taxes.

In Europe, giants like Apple, Starbucks and Fiat have in recent years been at odds with the European Commission over their fiscal opportunism, which is technically legal.

Image result for starbucks, photos

The Norwegian fund, worth around 7.87 trillion kroner (859 billion euros, $912 billion) at the end of March, grew by 298 billion kroner in the first quarter, its third-best quarterly performance in its 20-year history.

The fund invests in stocks, bonds and real estate.

The policies announced Friday are a signal it wants to set the bar for investor responsibility even higher.

Ethical rules already prohibit the fund from investing in companies accused of serious violations of human rights, the use of child labour or serious environmental damage, as well as in tobacco companies and manufacturers of “particularly inhumane” weapons.

And in line with a 2015 vote in Norway’s parliament, the fund cannot invest in mining or energy companies where coal represents more than 30 percent of their business — a somewhat paradoxical stance for a fund bankrolled by Norway’s oil revenues.

by Pierre-Henry DESHAYES
Image result for Norges bank, photos

Google adds ‘fact check’ to global search results

April 7, 2017


© AFP/File | Google has worked with 115 fact-checking groups worldwide for the initiative

WASHINGTON (AFP) – Google is adding a fact-checking tag to search results globally, its latest initiative to help curb the spread of misinformation and “fake news,” the company said Friday.

The new tags, to be used in all languages for users worldwide, will use third-party fact-checkers to indicate whether news items are true, false or somewhere in-between.

“For the first time, when you conduct a search on Google that returns an authoritative result containing fact checks for one or more public claims, you will see that information clearly on the search results page,” Google said in a blog post.

“The snippet will display information on the claim, who made the claim, and the fact check of that particular claim.”

The information won’t be available for every search result, and there may be conflicting conclusions in some cases, Google said in the blog post, from researcher Cong Yu and Justin Kosslyn of Google’s sister company Jigsaw.

“These fact checks are not Google’s and are presented so people can make more informed judgments,” it said.

“Even though differing conclusions may be presented, we think it’s still helpful for people to understand the degree of consensus around a particular claim and have clear information on which sources agree.”

Google has worked with 115 fact-checking groups worldwide for the initiative, which began last year.

The move came a day after Facebook added a new tool in news feeds to help users determine whether shared stories are real or bogus.

Fake news became a serious issue in last year’s US election campaign, when clearly fraudulent stories circulated on social media, potentially swaying some voters.

Concerns have been raised since then about hoaxes and misinformation affecting elections in Europe this year, with investigations showing how “click farms” generate revenue from online advertising using made-up news stories.

The moves by both firms aim to change the way news is ranked, diminishing the importance of how often a particular story is shared or clicked on.

© 2017 AFP


Why China Can’t Get Enough of Elon Musk — Cult of personality that surrounds Mr. Musk in China

March 30, 2017

Tencent’s $1.8 billion investment in Elon Musk’s Tesla comes as no surprise to China’s tech-industry leaders

The Chinese tech industry’s adulation for Elon Musk seems paradoxical for an industry whose success up to this point has come largely from imitation.

The Chinese tech industry’s adulation for Elon Musk seems paradoxical for an industry whose success up to this point has come largely from imitation. PHOTO: DANNY MOLOSHOK/REUTERS

Updated March 30, 2017 8:59 a.m. ET


Elon Musk’s futuristic ventures and risk-taking often draw mixed receptions in the U.S. In China, tech-industry leaders and investors hail him as a genius and visionary worth cheering on.

They buy Tesla cars and stock, and see investing in his projects as an honor. In the cult of personality that surrounds Mr. Musk in China, tech leaders are proud to be members.

So it comes as no surprise to them that China’s most valuable company by market capitalization, the social-networking and games juggernaut Tencent Holdings Ltd.TCEHY -0.25% , invested $1.8 billion in Mr. Musk’s electric-car maker Tesla Inc.TSLA +0.37%

“He’s not an ordinary genius: There are less than 10 people alive who can do what he does and think what he thinks. He is most likely the next Thomas Edison or Jeff Bezos in this generation,” says Joe Chen, chief executive of social-networking and financial-technology company Renren Inc. RENN -0.30%

—Renren CEO Joe Chen on Elon Musk

Zeng Liqing, a Tencent co-founder and angel investor, says he has built a large position in Tesla stock in the past few years. He spent over $150,000 for a deep-blue Tesla Model S with almost every accessory on offer. He invested in Hyperloop One—a venture that uses a technology conceptualized by Mr. Musk, a levitating pod inside a pipe to zip people and cargo between cities at near-sonic speeds.

When my Wall Street Journal colleague broke the news this week about Mr. Musk launching Neuralink, a startup that aims to connect brains with computers, Mr. Zeng kicked himself. He has had a similar idea for years but only talked about it. With Mr. Musk getting a jump, “now I need to find a channel to invest in this project,” says Mr. Zeng, who retired from Tencent in 2007.

The adulation seems paradoxical for an industry whose success up to this point has come largely from imitation—building the Google of China, the YouTube of China and the Facebook of China. Firewalls, regulations and other barriers kept foreigners from penetrating the Chinese market. Tencent’s first popular product, instant messenger QQ, was a copycat of Israel’s ICQ. QQ was initially named QICQ.

In many cases, these Chinese imitators made notable improvements on the originals.

But market forces are laying bare their innovation deficit and make Mr. Musk’s boldness compelling.

Growth in online users is slowing, and smartphone penetration is already high. Many tech businesses have to work harder to survive. True innovation, not just incremental tweaks in efficiency, is needed for those who want to leave a mark on the world.

Pony Ma, Tencent’s co-founder and CEO, said at a press conference this month that the No.1 thing that keeps him up at night is being left behind technologically.

Tencent’s investment in Tesla is passive, so it doesn’t come with a board seat. Neither company is saying anything about helping each other in technology. (Asked to comment for this column, Tencent didn’t respond and Tesla declined.) Tencent is already invested in several new-energy vehicle ventures.

Pony Ma, Tencent’s co-founder and CEO, has said that the idea of being left behind technologically keeps him up at night.

Pony Ma, Tencent’s co-founder and CEO, has said that the idea of being left behind technologically keeps him up at night. PHOTO: BOBBY YIP/REUTERS

By taking a stake in Tesla, Tencent is signaling to the global tech community its eagerness to invest in cutting-edge technologies, people close to the company say. “The signal is, ‘Come to us if you’ve got an innovative idea,’” a person close to Tencent says.

Besides, that person says, “Pony is known to have a soft spot for geeks.”

Chinese have been obsessed with foreign tech leaders for decades. Bill Gates was treated like a rock star when he visited China in the 1990s and still draws crowds at conferences.

Such admiration is rooted in the Chinese education system’s utilitarian approach to knowledge. Scientists and engineers are considered more useful to society than writers and artists. Scientists and engineers who can make money? They’re the greatest.

Lei Jun, co-founder and chief executive of smartphone maker Xiaomi Corp., idolized Apple Inc. co-founder Steve Jobs and adopted his signature black turtlenecks and bluejeans at product launches.

After meeting with Mr. Musk in Silicon Valley in 2014, Mr. Lei gushed on social media: “Compared with Elon Musk, we’re doing what everybody else can do. He’s doing what nobody can think of.” Mr. Lei was one of the earliest Tesla owners in China.

Xiaomi co-founder Lei Jun, with Elon Musk, visited Tesla in 2014.
Xiaomi co-founder Lei Jun, with Elon Musk, visited Tesla in 2014. PHOTO: XIAOMI

Even Mr. Musk’s wealthy, successful detractors in China’s tech world use their money to be part of an expensive, exclusive club: his investors.

Cai Wensheng, chairman of the popular photo-editing app Meitu Inc., sees Jobs as a greater innovator than Mr. Musk, noting that over a billion iPhones have been sold, compared with a few hundred thousand cars for Tesla.

“Elon Musk has got grand ideas,” Mr. Cai says. “But his products haven’t touched many people’s lives.”

One of Mr. Cai’s companies bought several Teslas, but he found the battery charging inconvenient and the interior design too simple. He prefers his BMW or Porsche SUV.

Still,  Mr. Cai owns Tesla stock because, he says, “It will be a successful business in the future.”



Google Translate app now unblocked in China

March 29, 2017


© AFP | Google’s translation app is now is accessible in China without censor-evading software
SHANGHAI (AFP) – Google on Wednesday made available in China a new version of its translation app that is accessible without censor-evading software, a move likely to fuel speculation that the internet giant was mending fences with Beijing.

Google shut down its website in 2010, moving its Chinese search service from mainland China to Hong Kong in a row over cyberattacks and censorship, and most of its offerings have remained blocked by Beijing.

Chinese have for years been able to utilise a web-based version of Google Translate, but the mobile app has required the use of virtual private network (VPN) software to get around the “Great Firewall”, China’s huge system of online censorship.

“Today we’re releasing version 5.8 of the Google Translate apps for Android and iOS, adding instant visual translation between English and Korean, as well as an improved experience for users in China,” Google announced in a blog post.

It provided a link for Android downloads, while saying iPhone users can search Apple’s app store.

It did not explain why the app was now accessible, and a Google spokesman declined to comment on the matter.

“Google Translate has been available in China for more than eight years,” the spokesman said, referring to the web version.

“Today, we’re making our Translate app work better for Chinese users.”

The move could mark a step forward in China for Google, whose main search engine, its Gmail email service, maps, and other offerings are blocked.

It has maintained a presence in China mainly by helping Chinese companies advertise online overseas and by offering other web ad services within China itself.

The Google-backed Android system powers the majority of the world’s smartphones and is available free for device makers in China and elsewhere.

But the absence of key company offerings in China such as the Google Play app store has allowed a host of Chinese competitors to capitalise on the explosive growth in the country’s online and mobile markets.

China now has a world-leading population of around 700 million mobile Internet users.

Various media reports in recent years have said Google was attempting to negotiate permission to offer Google Play in China, and top company officials including chief executive Sundar Pichai have publicly stated their desire to bring more Google products to Chinese users.

The translation app is potentially less sensitive than some other Google offerings like its search engine, which could allow Chinese users to access content deemed politically sensitive by Beijing.

The translation app, however, offers no search function, nor does it require setting up an account, which means no user data is collected.

“Google has an extremely rich line of products it can offer which are not controversial,” said Fu Liang, an independent telecom analyst based in Beijing.

“It’s not clear if Google can find a reasonable solution in news and web searches, but its other non-controversial services should still have chances to enter China.”

US consumers likely to lose privacy protections for their web browsing history

March 29, 2017

Congress voted to kill rules meant to prevent internet service providers from selling users’ web browsing histories and app storage histories to advertisers

By Olivia Solon

Image may contain: one or more people, people sitting and screen

Without these protections, ISPs are free to track your browsing behavior and sell that data to advertisers without consent. Photograph: Tolga Bozoglu/EPA

US politicians voted Tuesday to kill privacy rules meant to prevent internet service providers (ISPs) from selling users’ web browsing histories and app usage histories to advertisers.

The planned protections, proposed by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and scheduled to take effect by the end of 2017, would have forced ISPs to get people’s consent before hawking their data.

Republicans in the House of Representatives followed their colleagues in the Senate with a vote – of 215 to 205 – to approve a resolution that uses the Congressional Review Act to prevent the privacy rules from taking effect.

Without these protections, ISPs such as Comcast, Verizon and AT&T are free to track your browsing behavior and sell that data to advertisers without consent. This represents a huge treasure trove of personal data, including your health concerns, shopping habits and visits to porn sites. ISPs can find out where you bank, your political views and sexual orientation simply based on the websites you visit. The fact that you’re looking at a website at all can also reveal when you’re at home and when you’re not.

“Give me one good reason why Comcast should know what my mother’s medical problems are,” said congressman Mike Capuano during the hearing before the vote, explaining how he had researched her condition after a trip to the doctor. “Just last week I bought underwear on the internet. Why should you know what size I take? Or the color?”

“Consumers should be in control of their own information,” added congressman Jared Polis. “They shouldn’t be forced to sell it to who knows who simply for the price of admission to access the internet.”

Others argued that repealing the privacy rules would be anti-competitive and give more power to a handful of companies.

Democrat Ro Khanna pointed out that Americans already pay much more for broadband than Europeans thanks to “monopolistic, anti-competitive practices”.

“Instead of making the industry more competitive, what this bill wants to do is give these four or five ISPs even more power,” he said.

“These companies are not going broke,” Capuano added. “The internet is not in jeopardy.”

Those in favor of repealing the privacy rules argued that it levels the playing field for internet service providers who want to get into the advertising business like Google and Facebook. According to ISPs, scrapping the rules will allow them to show the user more relevant advertising and offers, which would give the companies better return on the investment they have made in infrastructure. They argue that web browsing history and app usage should not count as “sensitive” information.

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