November 9, 2017

"Senators Push to Abandon Social Security Numbers in Favor of a More Secure, More Digital Form of Identification" -- Now What Might That Be?

Senators Push to Ditch Social Security Numbers in Light of Equifax Hack

November 8, 2017

[TechCrunch] - Eyeing more secure alternatives to social security numbers, lawmakers in the U.S. are looking abroad. Today, the Senate Commerce Committee questioned former Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer, Verizon Chief Privacy Officer Karen Zacharia, and both the current and former CEOs of Equifax on how to protect consumers against major data breaches. The consensus was that social security numbers have got to go.

Rounding out the panel, Entrust Datacard President and CEO Todd Wilkinson offered some context and insight about why the U.S. should indeed move away from social security numbers — a step that the witnesses unanimously agreed was necessary if not wholly sufficient to protect consumers moving forward, in light of the Equifax hack.

"Over 145 million Americans’ insecure identities are now forever at risk, and they have limited ability to protect themselves," Wilkinson said. "A key question for this committee to consider is: What do we do now given these identities are forever compromised?"

Social security numbers are a privacy nightmare. While a consumer who gets hacked can replace credit card numbers and other account details, a social security number is permanent, linked inexorably to a real identity throughout a person's lifespan. In the hearing, Wilkinson and many of the Senators present argued that the U.S. needs to move to a dynamic system of personal identity, one designed with digital security in mind — a stark contrast with an inflexible legacy system that dates back to the 1930s.

"Some combination of digital multi-factor authentication... is the right path," former Equifax CEO Richard Smith said when asked about such a program.

Multiple times throughout the hearing, Brazil's Infraestrutura de Chaves Públicas system of citizen IDs through digital certificates came up as a potential model for the U.S. as it moves forward. In this model, a certificate lasts for three years at maximum and can be used to issue a digital signature much like written signatures are used now. Unlike its counterpart in the U.S., these identity accounts can be revoked and reissued easily through an established national protocol.

Members of the Senate committee also advocated for "rigorous" data security rules, expanding FTC authority to enforce them and stiffer penalties to motivate companies to protect consumers proactively.

"The parade of high profile data breaches seems to have no end," said ranking committee member Bill Nelson. "We can either take action with common sense rules or we can start planning for our next hearing on the issue."

Last month, White House Cybersecurity Coordinator Rob Joyce made it clear that the Trump administration is also interested in abandoning social security numbers in favor of a more secure, more digital form of identification, stating that the form of ID has "outlived its usefulness."

Comments at Yahoo:

Tamper proof, illegal proof hack proof and not to be shared with a company that could duplicate or abuse this form of I.D.666 here we come.

EPA Chief Scott Pruitt Says Carbon Dioxide is NOT a Primary Contributor to Global Warming

"The climate has changed and is always changing. As the Climate Science Special Report states, the magnitude of future climate change depends significantly on 'remaining uncertainty in the sensitivity of Earth's climate to [greenhouse gas] emissions,'" said White House principal deputy press secretary Raj Shah, in a statement.

March 20, 2017

[CNN] - Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt said Thursday he does not believe carbon dioxide is a primary contributor to global warming.

"I think that measuring with precision human activity on the climate is something very challenging to do and there's tremendous disagreement about the degree of impact, so no, I would not agree that it's a primary contributor to the global warming that we see," he told CNBC's "Squawk Box."

"But we don't know that yet. ... We need to continue the debate and continue the review and the analysis."

The statement contradicts the public stance of the agency Pruitt leads. The EPA's webpage on the causes of climate change states, "Carbon dioxide is the primary greenhouse gas that is contributing to recent climate change."

Pruitt's view is also at odds with the conclusion of NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

"The planet's average surface temperature has risen about 2.0 degrees Fahrenheit (1.1 degrees Celsius) since the late 19th century, a change driven largely by increased carbon dioxide and other human-made emissions into the atmosphere," NASA and NOAA said in January.

Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, co-chair of the Senate Climate Action Task Force, slammed Pruitt for his comments, calling his views "extreme" and "irresponsible."

"Anyone who denies over a century's worth of established science and basic facts is unqualified to be the administrator of the EPA. Now more than ever, the Senate needs to stand up to Scott Pruitt and his dangerous views," he said in a statement.

Schatz said lawmakers would hold Pruitt accountable through the appropriations process and oversight of the EPA, and by making sure he follows the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act.

Pruitt previously served as Oklahoma attorney general, where he rose to prominence as a leader in coordinated efforts by Republican attorneys general to challenge President Barack Obama's regulatory agenda. He sued or took part in legal actions against the EPA 14 times.

Democrats and environmentalists opposed Pruitt's nomination to lead the EPA due to his close relationship with fossil fuel companies and his history of casting doubt on climate change. Conservatives and the energy industry have cheered his efforts to push back on what they view as over-regulation under Obama.

Pruitt maintained on Thursday it's possible to be pro-growth, pro-jobs and pro-environment all at once.

"This idea that if you're pro-environment you're anti-energy is just something we've got to change so that attitude is something we're working on very much," he said.

Asked whether he would seek to roll back the EPA's 2009 determination that carbon dioxide and five other greenhouse gases are a danger to public health, Pruitt suggested he would like to see Congress take up the issue.

"I think all those things need to be addressed as we go forward but not least of which is the response by the legislative branch with respect to the issue," he said.

The Supreme Court ruled in 2007 that the EPA has the authority to regulate heat-trapping gases from automobiles. In 2014, it determined the agency could also regulate some sources of greenhouse gases, such as power plants.

Pruitt also called the Paris Agreement, an international accord aimed at mitigating the impacts of climate change, "a bad deal." He said it puts the United States on a different playing field than developing countries like China and India.

The United States has vowed to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025. In comparison, China has committed to reach peak carbon emissions levels by 2030, but will try to reach that point sooner.

"I happen to think the Paris accord, the Paris treaty, or the Paris Agreement, if you will, should have been treated as a treaty, should have gone through senate confirmation. That's a concern," he said.

The Paris Agreement was negotiated by the State Department, and future adherence to U.S. commitments made under Obama will be guided by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

Tillerson, the former chief of Exxon Mobil, said during his Senate confirmation hearing that he believes the United States should remain a party to the Paris Agreement.

White House-approved report concludes humans are behind climate change

Humans activity is behind the accelerated warming of the planet since the mid-20th century, the latest U.S. National Climate Assessment finds.

The report was prepared by 13 federal agencies and approved by the White House.

Its conclusion contradicts public statements by President Donald Trump and top administration officials who have cast doubt on humans' role in climate change.

November 3, 2017

[CNBC.com] - 2016 is likely to have been the hottest year since global temperatures were recorded in the 19th century.

Editorial: Challenge Illinois Public Sector Unions, Go to Jail. Seriously?

November 3, 2017

[Editorial - Chicago Tribune] - We’ve long suspected that many Illinois Democrats would tax sunshine and bakery scents if they could. Look at how Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle went after soda by the ounce. Our advice: Enjoy what you can while you can, because you never know what’s next.
The beverage tax (soon to be history, thankfully) seems a nuisance compared to a nasty corollary we saw recently employed by Democrats in Springfield: What we can’t tax, we’ll threaten with jail time.
It’s a disturbing worldview, but this is the political pattern in Illinois: Do everything to benefit those who can deliver money and campaign muscle. Everyone else, including most taxpayers and employers, can get lost. 
Our example today is a pro-union bill in the Democrat-controlled General Assembly that would prevent Illinois municipalities from setting up right-to-work zones, in which employees in union-protected positions could choose whether to join and pay dues. For legislators who are tightly aligned with organized labor, the proposed ban hits the spot. But it apparently wasn’t enough of a hint to local officials and employers about who really runs Illinois. So the bill’s backers included a stunning clause that said any elected official who defies the state ban on right-to-work zones would be guilty of a Class A misdemeanor. 
A Class A misdemeanor, if you’re wondering, is one step below a felony; it’s punishable by up to a year in jail. The outrageous message this bill sends to the world: Don’t even think of challenging organized labor in Illinois because we lock up troublemakers. 
The threat of jail time is gratuitous. If a local official defies Illinois law, the state can act to enforce compliance. There’s no need to threaten mayors or others with criminal prosecution. We asked around among legislative observers and couldn’t find a similar example. This was a brushback pitch by labor’s pet lawmakers. 
Note that this isn’t just a goofy proposal going nowhere. House and Senate members actually passed it. More in a moment. 
The specific target of the bill, we assume, is suburban Lincolnshire, which passed a right-to-work ordinance in 2015 that is now being challenged by labor unions in federal court. 
Our concern is the damage this proposal does to Illinois’ reputation among employers as an attractive place to do business. States are in constant competition to attract and retain investment and jobs. Chicago hopes to lure Amazon’s second headquarters, which will employ up to 50,000 people. Illinois was bypassed by Foxconn, a tech giant, and Toyota and Mazda. Something scared them off. We wonder what. 
Employers looking to invest and hire want to enter partnerships with local governments. Amazon couldn't be clearer in its request for site proposals: "A stable and business-friendly environment and tax structure will be high-priority considerations.” 
What do employers see in Illinois? High taxes, vast public debts and pension obligations nobody bothered to fund, onerous business regulations and a powerful adversary in the form of unions backed by elected officials. 
Here’s where right-to-work laws enter the picture: They don’t ban unions, they give individuals the freedom-of-association choice of whether to join and pay dues. That puts pressure on labor organizers to justify membership. Employers see right-to-work status as shorthand for a flexible, pro-growth environment that is welcoming to commerce. There are 28 right-to-work states. Illinois isn’t one of them. Wisconsin and Indiana are, and wouldn’t you know it, they are adding manufacturing jobs at a far faster clip than Illinois is. 
Given the politics here, Illinois won’t adopt right-to-work status anytime soon. That’s why Gov. Bruce Rauner initially proposed allowing communities to establish their own zones. The General Assembly saw Lincolnshire’s effort as a threat to kith and kin. So both chambers passed the local-right-to-work ban, which Rauner then vetoed. Two weeks ago, sponsors attempted to override the veto but came up one vote short in the House. The bill could come up for another override attempt within days. Opponents raised enough noise over the jail threat that sponsoring Rep. Marty Moylan, D-Des Plaines, said he would remove the criminal penalty. If so, that’s only because he needs that additional one vote. 
But what will be the next 10 bills in which legislators try to put uncooperative local officials behind bars? 
Illinois’ future won’t be determined by a workplace experiment in Lincolnshire. The economy won’t wither if the state remains a right-to-work holdout. Something has to give, though. Elected officials need to make Illinois more attractive to employers. Reforming tax policy, balancing the budget and addressing the pension crisis are good ways to advertise that Illinois is open for business. Criminalizing an economic development tool is not.

Joliet Illinois Scales Back City Employee Pension Benefits

The new policy comes on the heels of several Joliet Patch articles examining generous payouts for outgoing city staff.

November 2, 2017

[Joliet Patch] - The current administration at Joliet's City Hall has decided that enough is enough when it comes to some of the long-standing generous fringe benefits programs that were in place for city staff. City employees have received a memo from corporation counsel-interim city manager Marty Shanahan informing them the city's payout program is ending for employees choosing to wait until the eve of their retirement to cash out unused sick and vacation banks to pad their retirement pensions. That practice was allowing several employees to increase their retirement pensions, which was impacting city of Joliet finances.

In recent weeks, Joliet Patch published a series of articles examining the retirement payouts for several outgoing city officials including Jim Haller and Dave Mackley. Patch revealed that Mackley, who makes $118,000 annually, is also getting a payout of $104,155 spread out over the next few months for cashing out his bank of unused vacation and sick days that the city allowed him to accrue. March 31 is his last work day.

But that was only half the story. By waiting until the end of his career to cash out his vacation and sick banks, Mackley is able to pad his local government pension in a significant fashion. The city of Joliet determined that Mackley's $104,155 payout will also spike his monthly pension by an extra $1,319 per month. That comes out to be another $15,830 annually for Mackley's city pension.

"The past practice of extending the payouts for accrued vacation, sick and compensatory time over the last four months of employment will no longer be an option," states the Shanahan memo.

"Extending payouts for accrued vacation, sick time and compensatory time over the last four months of employment requires substantial additional city expenditures ... The new policy will continue the efforts of our city to lower long-term liabilities and future indeterminable expenses," Shanahan wrote to his fellow city employees.

For example, the 13 Joliet city employees who have announced their retirements during the past year will receive slightly more than $500,000 for cashing out their banks of unused sick, vacation and compensatory time, led by the $104,155 that is due to Mackley, who worked at City Hall for 33 years.

On top of that, however, Joliet realized it was also on the hook for an additional cost related to the impact that the payouts have upon the retiring city employee's pension.

"For example, to date, the additional city expenditures for the thirteen 2017 retirees totaled just over $900,000. This dollar figure is in addition to the $500,000-plus -- payouts for accrued vacation, sick time and compensatory time. Continuing this practice is clearly unsustainable," Shanahan warned in his memo.

The new city policy takes effect on April 1, the day after Mackley retires. Under the new regulations, the payouts for unused sick, vacation and comp time will be made in one lump-sum at the time of the employee's retirement, but these payouts will not be allowed to spike the retiree's pension. The new policy impacts the city's non-union staff, including upper management. Any changes to union contracts must be made through the collective bargaining process.

In any event, recent Patch articles highlighting Mackley's $104,155 payout struck a chord with readers.

Here are just a few of the many comments from our readers:

October 30, 2017

Anthony Rapp Reveals Kevin Spacey Made Sexual Advance on Him at 14; Corey Feldman Threatens to Release Names of Hollywood Pedophiles



October 30, 2017

[Gossip Cop] - Celebrities are reacting to Anthony Rapp revealing that when he was 14 years old, Kevin Spacey made a sexual advance on the then-teenaged Broadway star.

After Rapp’s allegations were published on Sunday, Spacey apologized to him and also came out as gay. See Hollywood stars’ reactions here to Rapp bravely sharing his harrowing experience, as well as to Spacey seemingly pivoting from his inexcusable behavior to instead acknowledge he’s gay.

Earlier, Rapp shared with Buzzfeed that in 1986, when he was a 14-year-old actor on Broadway, he was invited to a party at Spacey’s New York apartment. At the end of the evening, Rapp recalled Spacey lifted him “like a groom picks up the bride over the threshold,” and put him down on a bed, where he laid on top of the young boy against his will.

Rapp noted that he was encouraged to come forward now because of the sexual assault and harassment scandal surrounding Harvey Weinstein.

He later added on Twitter:

“I came forward with my story, standing on the shoulders of the many courageous women and men who have been speaking out to shine a light and hopefully make a difference, as they have done for me.”

In the wake of Rapp’s allegation, Spacey issued a statement in which he both came out of the closest and apologized to the “Star Trek: Discovery” star for his “deeply inappropriate drunken behavior” that he claims he doesn’t remember from more than three decades ago. After noting that he has “a lot of respect and admiration” for Rapp as an actor, Spacey said, “I am sorry,” and claimed it “encouraged” him to publicly admit, “I have loved and had romantic encounters with men throughout my life, and I choose now to live as a gay man.”

Since Spacey’s statement, a number of celebrities have shared their reactions to both Rapp’s revelation and Spacey’s response. Rose McGowan, who has been vocal about having been sexually assaulted by Weinstein, tweeted:

“Dear fellow media: Keep focus on #AnthonyRapp BE THE VICTIM’S VOICE. Help us level the playing field.” She continued in another message, “Bye bye, Spacey goodbye, it’s your turn to cry, that’s why we’ve gotta say goodbye. #ROSEARMY.” Meanwhile, Debra Messing wrote to Rapp, “You are brave, and my heart breaks for that 14 year old.”

Noting how Spacey pivoted from apologizing to Rapp for the hurt he caused him, and instead the opportunity to come out as gay, Billy Eichner wrote:

“That Kevin Spacey statement. Nope. Absolutely not. Nope.”

He added:

“Kevin Spacey has just invented something that has never existed before: a bad time to come out.”

Wanda Sykes expressed:

“No no no no no! You do not get to “choose” to hide under the rainbow! Kick rocks!”

And Rosie O’Donnell tweeted:

“u don’t remember the incident – 30 years ago? – [expletive] u kevin – like Harvey we all knew about u – i hope more men come forward.”

Gossip Cop will continue to update as more celebrities react to Rapp exposing Spacey’s sexual advance on him when he was just 14, and how the older actor shifted the conversation from taking responsibility for his actions to revealing he’s gay.

October 30, 2017

[Variety] - Corey Feldman sat down on Monday for his first TV interview since launching a campaign to finance a film that would expose a pedophile ring in Hollywood.
  
Speaking to Matt Lauer on the “Today” show, Feldman did not reveal the names of his alleged harassers from his days as a child star, citing legal ramifications, but he did vow to eventually “release every single name that I have any knowledge of.”

Last week, Feldman launched a campaign to raise $10 million to finance a film about pedophiles in the industry. Lauer pressed Feldman on his hefty goal, which has raised eyebrows. “Why do you need $10 million,” Lauer asked.

“It’s not a documentary. It’s a film. I want to make a feature film, which is why I need the budget,” Feldman reasoned. “It will be a very true story. We will have every name … we’re talking about a theatrical release.”
  
Lauer brought up Feldman’s 2013 memoir, “Coreyography,” asking “The Goonies” actor why he didn’t release names in that book.
  
“The publishers prevented me to name names,” Feldman said, “which is why I’m taking the matter into my own hands.”
  
So far, Feldman’s campaign has raised roughly $200,000. Lauer questioned Feldman about why he’s taking time to collect money for a feature film, instead of going to the police and releasing the names sooner. Feldman said he did go to the police back in the early ’90s, and gave the names during in interview investigation Michael Jackson. Feldman says the police never investigated his claims.

“I’ve told the police. In fact, if anybody wants to go back to 1993 when I was interviewed by the Santa Barbara Police Department, I sat there and I gave them the names. They’re on record. They have all of this information, but they were scanning Michael Jackson. All they cared about was trying to find something on Michael Jackson,” Feldman recalled. “Michael is innocent. That’s what the interview was about with the police in 1993. … I told them, ‘He is not that guy. … I know the difference between pedophiles and somebody who is not a pedophile because I’ve been molested. Here’s the names. Go investigate.'”

Feldman also said he’s gone to the police about death threats he’s received. He claims the police have done nothing to protect him. Feldman says in addition to needing the $10 million to fund his film, he needs the money for his attorneys and a security team for his own protection.

“There are thousands of people in Hollywood who have this same information. Why is it all on me?” Feldman said. “I’m the victim here. I’m the one who’s been abused. I’m the one who’s trying to come forward and do something about it. There are thousands of people out there who have this information.”

“There is a statute of limitations in the state of California,” Feldman continued. “It’s that way only where the movie industry, conveniently enough, is in California … if I went to the police, I would be the one getting sued.”

Later, Feldman sat down with “Today’s” Megyn Kelly to speak about the issue again and defend his decision to create a film, rather than naming names on his own sooner.

“Believe me, I would love the pain to stop today. This is about creating a cycle of awareness, this is about opening people’s eyes and minds that this is a problem that exists,” Feldman said. “The soonest that I can have protection, I don’t have to wait until the film is done … the most important thing now is that I have security … this is no joke. I am fearing for my life.”

Kelly further pressed Feldman on why he won’t come forward with the names. “If that was the case, if the law protected me, I would do it,” he responded.

Kelly, a former attorney, showed off her legal expertise during the interview, telling her viewers, “The truth is an absolute defense to any defamation case.”

“My campaign is called ‘The Truth Campaign,'” Feldman said. “All I want is for people to open their eyes and see the light. … I see no one in Hollywood who has stood up and said, ‘I was there, I know he’s telling the truth.'”

When pressed by Kelly to come forward with any of the names, Feldman mentioned youth talent manager Marty Weiss, who he previously had named in his memoir. Then he teased a second name, saying, “The second one ran a child’s club in Hollywood … he’s working for the L.A. Dodgers.” When asked by Kelly again to just name him, Feldman said, “I can’t do that right now until I have legal protection.”

Feldman believes that the domino effect of sex scandals being exposed in Hollywood, most recently with allegations against Kevin Spacey, will help him tell his story.

“There’s a lot of darkness in Hollywood right now and I believe it’s been there for quite some time, and as we’ve seen with the Harvey Weinstein scandal, it continues to unfold every day,” Feldman said. “It’s going to continue unraveling. This is just the beginning, this is just the tip of the iceberg … everything you’re seeing is building up to what I believe is a dam breaking open.” 


October 14, 2017

West Point Alum Posts ‘Communism Will Win’ Photo



September 26, 2017

(The Washington Times) - Photos of a West Point alumnus holding a pro-Colin Kaepernick “Communism Will Win” sign while in uniform is riling up the military community.

Images of U.S. infantry Officer Spenser Rapone reached a popular military news site on Tuesday and set off a robust debate on NFL national anthem protests, the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback that started it all in 2016, and the shock of seeing an unapologetic communist from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.

“I could be wrong, but I’m pretty sure Colin Kaepernick wasn’t protesting in favor of communism. #ThatGuy,” wrote“Doctrine Man,” the moderator of a well-known Facebook page frequented by active military personnel and veterans.

Readers were shocked to see Mr. Rapone, whose Twitter handle is “Commie Bebop,” raising a clenched fist in support of Mr. Kapernick; another photo featured the officer revealing a Che Guevara shirt under his uniform.

LawNewz.com by Dan Abrams confirmed Mr. Rapone’s identity Monday evening with the officer himself, but he said was on a field exercise until Friday and would be unable to comment for the time being.

Gateway Pundit then aggregated a host of photos showing the officer promoting communism with Twitter hashtags like #CommunismWillWin, #Marxwasright, and #VeteransForKaepernick.

“Old school grunt here, I was in Berlin when the Wall fell,” wrote Rick Wynne on the Doctrine Man Facebook page. “I can tell you I would NEVER have expected to see photos like these. Wow! I mean, wow! What the hell has happened to the Army? No body policed this crap up when it happened?”

“This old First Sergeant recommends that this prior enlisted soldier be given UCMJ action, a thunk on the head for being stupid and a one-way ticket to the front gate,” added John Zehmisch.

Reader Stephen Stout concurred, saying, “He needs to be discharged for conduct unbecoming of an officer and failure to uphold his oath to defend the Constitution of the United States. Communist extremism is not compatible with being a Soldier in the U.S. Army. He needs to be punished by UCMJ to the fullest extent.”

An op-ed posted on Medium on Aug. 16 by Mr. Rapone — just days after violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, over Confederate monuments — called for the nation to “come together and dismantle [America’s] racist structures, both in word, but more importantly, in deed.”

West Point issued a statement Thursday afternoon saying the officer’s actions “in no way reflect the values of the U.S. Military Academy or the U.S. Army.”

“As figures of public trust, members of the military must exhibit exemplary conduct, and are prohibited from engaging in certain expressions of political speech in uniform,” the statement read. “Second Lieutenant Rapone’s chain of command is aware of his actions and is looking into the matter. The academy is prepared to assist the officer’s chain of command as required.”



West Point Grad Army Officer is ‘Official Socialist Organizer’ Who Spreads Communist Propaganda Relentlessly

Spenser Rapone is an infantry officer in the U.S. Army and a combat veteran who is gaining attention after posting a photo in support of Colin Kaepernick.

West Point grad Army officer is ‘official Socialist organizer’ who spreads Communist propaganda relentlessly Featured Spenser Rapone

Latest North Korea Earthquake a Sign of Instability at Nuclear Test Site

October 12, 2017

(Reuters) - A series of tremors and landslides near North Korea’s nuclear test base likely mean the country’s sixth and largest blast has destabilized the region, and the Punggye-ri nuclear site may not be used for much longer to test nuclear weapons, experts say.

A small quake was detected early on Friday near the North’s nuclear test site, South Korea’s weather agency said, but unlike quakes associated with nuclear tests, it did not appear to be manmade. The tremor was the latest in a string of at least three shocks to be observed since Pyongyang’s Sept. 3 nuclear test, which caused a 6.3 magnitude earthquake.

Friday’s quake was a magnitude 2.7 with a depth of 3 km in North Hamgyong Province in North Korea, the Korea Meteorological Administration said. The United States Geological Survey (USGS) measured the quake at 2.9 magnitude at a depth of 5 km.

The series of quakes has prompted experts and observers to suspect the last test - which the North claimed to be of a hydrogen bomb - may have damaged the mountainous location in the northwest tip of the country, where all of North Korea’s six nuclear tests were conducted.

“The explosion from the Sept. 3 test had such power that the existing tunnels within the underground testing site might have caved in,” said Kim So-gu, head researcher at the Korea Seismological Institute.

“I think the Punggye-ri region is now pretty saturated. If it goes ahead with another test in this area, it could risk radioactive pollution.”

According to 38 North, a Washington-based project which monitors North Korea, numerous landslides throughout the nuclear test site have been detected via satellite images after the sixth test. These disturbances are more numerous and widespread than seen after any of the North’s previous tests, 38 North said.

The explosion from the sixth test was large enough for residents of the Chinese border city of Yanji, 200 km (125 miles) north of North Korea’s nuclear test site, to feel the ground shake beneath their feet.

How a Nuclear War with North Korea Could Start: Try to Kill Kim Jong-un

October 12, 2017

(The National Interest) - Commentators in Washington—and even sometimes officials in the Pentagon—offer suggestions that among the military options available to Washington in dealing with North Korea is some sort of decapitation strike. However, this is easier said than done—and might not in fact be a viable option. It would also almost certainly start a war on the Korean peninsula.

The first challenge is to locate the elusive North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. Finding Kim is easier said than done inside the secretive North Korean state. Layers of defenses protect the young North Korean dictator inside an already tightly controlled country where the security apparatus has the population on lockdown. Moreover, Kim is thought to use doubles of himself to act as decoys—further compounding the problem.

Technical intelligence gathering means such as spy satellites and signals intelligence can collect information about North Korea, but locating and identifying an individual requires a level of precision that those assets can’t provide. For example, analysts watching footage from drones flying over Syria and Iraq have difficulty identifying friend from foe—ISIS from the Kurdish Peshmerga—without help from ground forces. And, of course, the Kim regime is not Iraq or Syria—drones like the U.S. Air Force RQ-4 Global Hawk or the MQ-9 Reaper would not survive long inside North Korean airspace. Only a stealthy drone like the RQ-170 Sentinel would have any chance of survival.

The real trick would be to get human intelligence assets on the ground inside North Korea. But human intelligence assets inside North Korea are almost non-existent. The typical embassy-based asset recruiting that a Western intelligence agency might conduct inside another country is simply not possible in Pyongyang given the extremely tight North Korea security. Moreover, infiltrating into North Korea covertly is also difficult because the Kim regime uses a system of neighborhood watches similar to the Imperial Japanese Tonarigumi, which would spot anyone who does not belong immediately. That severely impairs human intelligence gathering or infiltrating special operations forces into North Korea.

If the North Korean leader is by some chance found, the next challenge is to eliminate him. However, targets such as Kim are fleeting, and the United States would have to be ready to move immediately. For example, if Kim were found to be reviewing the test launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile, a combat aircraft would have to be orbiting outside North Korean airspace waiting for the order to strike (which is why the North Korean regime takes umbrage at U.S. Air Force B-1B bomber flights north of the 38th parallel). That aircraft would likely have to be stealthy to maintain the element of surprise—and it would probably have to be fast in order to exploit what is likely to be a very short window of opportunity.

Trump Strikes Blow at Iran Nuclear Deal in Major U.S. Policy Shift

October 13, 2017

(Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump struck a blow against the 2015 Iran nuclear agreement on Friday in defiance of other world powers, choosing not to certify that Tehran is complying with the deal and warning he might ultimately terminate it.

Trump announced the major shift in U.S. policy in a speech in which he detailed a more aggressive approach to Iran over its nuclear and ballistic missile programs and its support for extremist groups in the Middle East.

He accused Iran of "not living up to the spirit" of the nuclear agreement and said his goal is to ensure Tehran never obtains a nuclear weapon.

"We will not continue down a path whose predictable conclusion is more violence more terror and the very real threat of Iran’s nuclear breakout," Trump said.

Trump's hardline remarks drew praise from Israel, Iran's arch-foe, but was criticized by European allies.

The move by Trump was part of his "America First" approach to international agreements which has led him to withdraw the United States from the Paris climate accord and the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade talks.

His Iran strategy angered Tehran and put Washington at odds with other signatories of the accord such as Britain, France, Germany, Russia, China and the European Union, some of which have benefited economically on renewed trade with Iran.

Responding to Trump, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on Friday on live television that Tehran was committed to the deal and accused Trump of making baseless accusations.

European allies have warned of a split with the United States over the nuclear agreement and say that putting it in limbo as Trump has done undermines U.S. credibility abroad, especially as international inspectors say Iran is in compliance with the accord.

U.S. Democrats expressed scepticism at Trump's decision. Senator Ben Cardin said: “At a moment when the United States and its allies face a nuclear crisis with North Korea, the President has manufactured a new crisis that will isolate us from our allies and partners.”

October 11, 2017

How a Businessman Struck a Deal with Islamic State to Help Assad Feed Syrians

October 11, 2017

(Reuters) - While Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was accusing the West of turning a blind eye to Islamic State smuggling, a member of his parliament was quietly doing business with the group, farmers and administrators in the militants’ former stronghold said. 

The arrangement helped the Syrian government to feed areas still under its control after Islamic State took over the northeastern wheat-growing region during the six-year-old civil war, they said.

Traders working for businessman and lawmaker Hossam al-Katerji bought wheat from farmers in Islamic State areas and transported it to Damascus, allowing the group to take a cut, five farmers and two administrators in Raqqa province told Reuters.

Katerji’s office manager, Mohammed Kassab, confirmed that Katerji Group was providing Syrian government territories with wheat from the northeast of Syria through Islamic State territory but denied any contact with Islamic State. It is not clear how much Assad knew of the wheat trading.

Cooperation over wheat between a figure from Syria’s establishment, which is backed by Shi‘ite power Iran, and the hardline Sunni Islamic State would mark a new ironic twist in a war that has deepened regional Sunni-Shi‘ite divisions.

Reuters contacted Katerji’s office six times to request comment but was not given access to him.

His office manager Kassab, asked how the company managed to buy and transport the wheat without any contact with Islamic State, said: “It was not easy, the situation was very difficult.” When asked for details he said only that it was a long explanation. He did not return further calls or messages.

Damascus, under U.S. and EU sanctions over the conflict and alleged oil trading with Islamic State, strongly denies any business links with the hardline Islamist militants, arguing that the United States is responsible for their rise to power.

The self-declared caliphate they set up across large parts of Syria and Iraq in 2014 has all but collapsed after Western-backed forces drove them out of their Iraqi stronghold, Mosul and surrounded them in Raqqa, where they are now confined to a small area.

Russian and Iranian-backed Syrian forces are attacking them elsewhere, such as Deir al Zor on Syria’s eastern border, where Kassab says he was speaking from, in a continuing struggle for the upper hand between world powers.

Russia Setting Up Direct Shipping Line to Syria 

October 10, 2017

(Reuters) - Russia is setting up a direct shipping line to Syria and wants its companies to help build an economic recovery in the war-torn Middle Eastern country, the TASS news agency quoted Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin as saying on Tuesday. 

The report did not specify what a direct shipping line would entail, but any increase in agricultural and other supplies from Russia or help in reviving exports would be a boost for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Russia, one of the world’s largest wheat exporters, supports Assad in the long-running civil war in Syria and has previously helped his government with wheat aid.

“A direct shipping line between Russian and Syrian ports is being established,” Rogozin, in charge of the military industrial complex, told a meeting of a Russian-Syrian commission on trade cooperation, according to the agency.

Agricultural goods are currently transported by a company called Oboronlogistika, which is “interested in expanding its services,” he said.

Oboronlogistika says on its website it acts under the jurisdiction of Russia’s defence ministry, organising cargo transportation, customs clearance and warehouse services.

Its fleet includes three ships with loading function for transportation of cargo in trailers and containers.

Syria was once self-sufficient in wheat but continued fighting in the main grain-producing areas in its northeastern regions has reduced its crops in recent years.

Trade between Russia and Syria rose by 42 percent year-on-year to $193 million in the first seven months of 2017, according to Rogozin. However, Syria’s exports to Russia only amounted to $2 million in the period.

“This is mainly related to a lack of necessary infrastructure for exports and commissioning of local agricultural produce, which makes it economically unviable to supply Syrian vegetables and fruits,” he said.

The plan is to create a closed loop to grow, pack, store and export Syrian vegetables and fruit to Russia in the near future, he said.

“We now state that it’s time for economic restoration and expect that Russia’s businesses will play the most active role in this process,” Rogozin added.

Russia Says US Allows ISIS to Operate ‘Under Its Nose’ in Syria

October 11, 2017

(Reuters) — Russia accused the United States on Wednesday of allowing Islamic State to operate “under its nose” in Syria, saying Washington was letting the militant group move about freely in an area abutting a U.S. military base.

The allegations, made by Russia’s Defense Ministry, center on a U.S. military base at Tanf, a strategic Syrian highway border crossing with Iraq in the south of the country.

Russia says the U.S. base is illegal and that it and the area around it have become “a black hole” where militants operate unhindered.

The United States says the Tanf facility is a temporary base used to train partner forces to fight against Islamic State. Pentagon spokesman Colonel Robert Manning on Tuesday said Washington remained committed to killing off Islamic State and denying it safe havens and the ability to carry out strikes.

But Major-General Igor Konashenkov, a spokesman for the Russian Defense Ministry, said Moscow wanted to know how around 300 Islamic State militants in pickup trucks had passed through the U.S.-controlled area and tried to block the highway between Damascus and Deir al-Zor used to supply Syrian forces.

He said the U.S. had not yet given an explanation.

“We suggest the American side also explain about another incidence of their ‘selective blindness’ towards militants operating under their nose,” Konashenkov said in a statement.

He said about 600 militants based in a refugee camp in the U.S. controlled area had driven en masse to a former customs post called Tafas on the Syrian-Jordanian border earlier this month and seized food and medical supplies meant for locals.

“You don’t need to be an expert to now forecast an attempt to rupture the peace agreement in the southern de-escalation zone,” said Konashenkov.

“We issue a warning. All responsibility for sabotaging the peace process will lay exclusively with the American side.”

U.S. Gov't Bans Use of Cybersecurity Products from Russian Company Kaspersky

Kaspersky Lab told The Washington Post Wednesday that it doesn't have improper ties with any government, including Russia's. "The only conclusion seems to be that Kaspersky Lab, a private company, is caught in the middle of a geopolitical fight, and it's being treated unfairly even though the company has never helped, nor will help, any government in the world with its cyberespionage or offensive cyber efforts," the company said.

October 11, 2017

(UPI) - Israeli government hackers were the ones who discovered the Kremlin's use of Kaspersky Lab computer software to steal U.S. intelligence two years ago, according to U.S. sources.

In 2015, Israeli hackers found tools in the Moscow-based computer security firm that could have only come from the U.S. National Security Agency -- a discovery that contributed to the Department of Homeland Security's decision last month to ban all Kaspersky Lab software from U.S. government servers and order existing prducts to be removed within 90 days.

The Israeli discovery was first reported by The New York Times, which cited current and former U.S. officials.

Kaspersky's popular antivirus software gave Russian hackers a reach of over 400 million people, the report said, including over 20 American government agencies. By offering scans for malicious software and reporting the information back to Kaspersky, Russian intelligence could exploit the contents of computers for their own interest.

The Russian operation is believed to have netted classified information from an NSA employee who stored the data on a home computer on which the Kaspersky antivirus was installed. It is not publicly known what information hackers may have uncovered from the breach.

Kaspersky Lab has denied any involvement or knowledge of Russian hackers using the software, saying in a statement, "Kaspersky Lab has never helped, nor will help, any government in the world with its cyberespionage efforts."

"Kaspersky Lab was not involved in, and does not possess any knowledge of, the situation in question," the statement added.

Israeli intelligence said it provided the United States with "solid evidence" of Moscow's role behind the hacking, going as far back as 2014.

The NSA bans its own analysts from using Kaspersky products because using antivirus products for hacking operations is a technique they've used in the past -- a technique now reportedly used by Russian hackers, the Times report said.

"Antivirus is the ultimate backdoor," Blake Darché, a former NSA operator, said. "It provides consistent, reliable and remote access that can be used for any purpose, from launching a destructive attack to conducting espionage on thousands or even millions of users."

North Korea Might Have One Weapon That America Won't Be Able to Stop

October 10, 2017

(The National Interest) - Biological weapons combined with chemical and nuclear weapons attached to long-range missiles would give Kim Jong-un the devastating military tools needed to kill millions of people—and hit the U.S. homeland. Food for thought every time the world’s attention turns to the Korean peninsula.

While the world might be worried about all things North Korea—especially its growing nuclear weapons arsenal—Pyongyang very likely has other nasty weapons of mass destruction that, given the right conditions, could be just as lethal.

What most refer to as biological weapons—stuff right out central casting that always make those ‘end of the world’ movies all so good—might just be North Korea’s real weapon of war to fear.

While they certainly don’t get as much attention as atomic bombs or chemical weapons such as Sarin, biological weapons can kill hundreds of thousands of people, and maybe even millions if deployed over a wide enough area. While exact facts and figures aren’t perfect, there is strong evidence to suggest Pyongyang could possess anthrax weapons as well as possibly cholera, plague and even smallpox. And now that North Korea’s missile arsenal is becoming ever more sophisticated by the day . . . well, you get the idea.

But developing such deadly agents in a controlled lab and deploying them in a war are totally different ball games. To give one a guide on how this could work, a recent report by the RAND corporation lays out the frightening details. And as you will see very quickly, it would not take much to kill thousands and spread mass panic:

“The Republic of Korea Ministry of Defense asserts that “[t]he North may also dare to launch a secret attack in the rear through its SOF [special operations forces] troops armed with biological weapons.” Even a kilogram of many types of biological weapons could disrupt most military targets if delivered properly, and this quantity could easily be delivered by special operations forces. Missiles and aircraft could also deliver this quantity of biological weapons.

“Indeed, North Korea special forces are a likely means for delivering North Korean biological weapons. North Korea has some 200,000 special forces, a small fraction of which could deliver devastating biological attacks against South Korea, Japan, and even the United States. North Korea could use biological agents in isolation, perhaps as an escalated provocation in which it seeks to infect a limited number of people, or it could use biological agents as the leading edge of an invasion of the ROK, hoping for thousands or even more infections to weaken the ROK’s defenses and will to fight. Biological weapon use in the latter context is particularly worrisome.”

From there, things could go from bad to worse:

North Korea Hackers Stole South Korea-U.S. Military Plans to Wipe Out North Korea Leadership

Hackers from North Korea are reported to have stolen a large cache of military documents from South Korea, including a plan to assassinate North Korea's leader Kim Jong-un. [BBC]
October 11, 2017

(Reuters) - North Korean hackers stole a large amount of classified military documents, including South Korea-U.S. wartime operational plans to wipe out the North Korean leadership, a South Korean ruling party lawmaker said on Wednesday. 

Democratic Party representative Rhee Cheol-hee said 235 gigabytes of military documents were taken from the Defense Integrated Data Center in September last year, citing information from unidentified South Korean defense officials.

An investigative team inside the defense ministry announced in May the hack had been carried out by North Korea, but did not disclose what kind of information had been taken.

Pyongyang has denied responsibility in its state media for the cyber attacks, criticizing Seoul for “fabricating” claims about online attacks.

Separately on Wednesday, cyber security firm FireEye said in a statement North Korea-affiliated agents were detected attempting to phish U.S. electric companies through emails sent in mid-September, although those attempts did not lead to a disruption in the power supply.

It did not specify when the attempts had been detected or clarify which companies had been affected.

Rhee, currently a member of the National Assembly’s committee for national defense, said about 80 percent of the hacked data had not yet been identified, but that none of the information was expected to have compromised the South Korean military because it was not top classified intelligence.

Some of the hacked data addressed how to identify movements of members of the North Korean leadership, how to seal off their hiding locations, and attack from the air before eliminating them.

Rhee said the North could not have taken the entire operation plans from the database because they had not been uploaded in full.

These plans had likely not been classified properly but defense ministry officials told Rhee the hacked documents were not of top importance, he said.

“Whatever the North Koreans took, we just need to fix the plans,” Rhee later told Reuters by telephone. “I disclosed this because the military hasn’t been doing that fast enough.”

Chicago Public Schools Raising Property Taxes Eight Percent; About Half the Increase Will Go Toward Teacher Pensions

October 10, 2017

(Chicago Sun Times) - The Chicago Public Schools will raise city property taxes this year by $225 million, officials said Wednesday.

CPS’s share of property taxes will total $2.929 billion in 2018 — up 8.3 percent from 2017’s $2.704 billion. The difference will cost the average homeowner another $177 a year. More than half the increase to taxpayers — $154 million — will go to teacher pensions.

The increase — combined with last year’s $250 million tax increase — means that city taxpayers have ponied up about half a billion dollars just for schools since 2015, and $1.06 billion in total tax hikes.

Still, CPS still has to come up with $146 million more toward a $784 million pension-fund payment due next June, CPS finance official Walter Stock said at one of three public hearings held Tuesday. That’s despite winning more pension money from the state as part of a landmark school funding reform bill that recently passed.

When that law passed in August, Mayor Rahm Emanuel made no apologies for the $125 million in new taxes it would permit the appointed Board of Education to raise on its own, without involvement from the elected City Council.

The school board also will generate more money, as it has every year since 2011, by raising property taxes to the cap allowed under state law, and through a capital improvement tax. That accounts for the other $100 million of the $225 million increase.

A quiet provision in the new state law also required CPS to allocate more money to its privately managed charter schools. Late last week, when it revised its budget with updated figures from state funding reform, CPS pegged that number at $37 million more dollars.

Syria and Lebanon Will Be 'One Front' If War Erupts Against Israel

October 9, 2017

(AFP) - Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman said Tuesday that Lebanon and Syria would constitute "one front" against his country if a new war were to break out.

Hezbollah and Israel fought a devastating conflict in 2006, and the Lebanese Shiite group is currently backing President Bashar al-Assad's regime in the Syrian civil war.

Both countries border Israel to its north.

"In the next war in the north of the country, Lebanon will not be the only front," Lieberman said in a speech to soldiers.

"There is now only one front in the north composed of Lebanon, Syria, Hezbollah, the Bashar al-Assad regime and all those who help his regime."

Lieberman added that the Lebanese army had lost "its independence by becoming an integral part of Hezbollah, which gives it its orders."

Israeli leaders frequently warn Lebanon that the country's army and civilian infrastructure would be overwhelmingly targeted if Hezbollah attacks from civilian areas.

Hezbollah is also supported by Iran, Israel's arch-enemy which backs Assad in Syria as well.

October 9, 2017

Women March Through Desert for Israeli-Palestinian Peace

Thousands of Israeli and Palestinian women arrived in Jerusalem Sunday at the end of a two-week march through Israel and the West Bank to demand a peace deal.

October 9, 2017

(Reuters) - Thousands of Israeli and Palestinian women trekked through a biblical desert landscape on Sunday, converging on the shores of the Jordan River in a march for peace.

The women, many of them dressed in white, descended through the arid hills leading to the river, where they erected a "peace tent" named for Hagar and Sarah, scriptural mothers of Ishmael and Isaac, the half-brother patriarchs of Muslims and Jews.

"We are women from the right, the left, Jews and Arabs, from the cities and the periphery and we have decided that we will stop the next war," said Marilyn Smadja, one of the founders of the organizing group, Women Wage Peace.

The organization was established after the 50-day Gaza war of 2014 when more than 2,100 Palestinians, mostly civilians, were killed. Israel put the number of its dead at 67 soldiers and six civilians.

Some 5,000 women participated in Sunday's march, organizers said. It began last month at several locations across Israel and will culminate in a rally later in the day outside the Jerusalem residence of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

[Video]

EPA Director Pruitt Announces Repeal of Clean Power Plan

[Video]

October 9, 2017

(AP) - The head of the Environmental Protection Agency said Monday that he will sign a new rule overriding the Clean Power Plan, an Obama-era effort to limit carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants.

"The war on coal is over," EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt declared in the coal mining state of Kentucky. He said no federal agency "should ever use its authority" to "declare war on any sector of our economy."

For Pruitt, getting rid of the Clean Power Plan will mark the culmination of a long fight he began as the elected attorney general of Oklahoma. Pruitt was among about two-dozen attorney generals who sued to stop President Barack Obama's push to limit carbon emissions.

Closely tied to the oil and gas industry in his home state, Pruitt rejects the consensus of scientists that man-man emissions from burning fossil fuels are the primary driver of global climate change.

President Donald Trump, who appointed Pruitt and shares his skepticism of established climate science, promised to kill the Clean Power Plan during the 2016 campaign as part of his broader pledge to revive the nation's struggling coal mines.

In his order Tuesday, Pruitt is expected to declare that the Obama-era rule exceeded federal law by setting emissions standards that power plants could not reasonably meet.

Pruitt appeared at an event with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell at Whayne Supply, a Hazard, Kentucky, company that sells coal mining supplies. The store's owners have been forced to lay off about 60 percent of its workers in recent years.

While cheering the demise of the Clean Power Plan as a way to stop the bleeding, McConnell conceded most of those lost jobs are never coming back.

"A lot of damage has been done," said McConnell, a Kentucky Republican. "This doesn't immediately bring everything back, but we think it stops further decline of coal fired plants in the United States and that means there will still be some market here."

Obama's plan was designed to cut U.S. carbon dioxide emissions to 32 percent below 2005 levels by 2030. The rule dictated specific emission targets for states based on power-plant emissions and gave officials broad latitude to decide how to achieve reductions.

October 8, 2017

The US is Now Involved in 134 Wars or None, Depending on Your Definition of 'War'



Updated December 8, 2014
This story was originally published on September 6, 2014

(Public Radio International) - The White House spent much of last week trying to figure out if the word "war" was the right one to describe its military actions against the Islamic State.

"We're engaged in a major counterterrorism operation," he told CBS News on Sept. 11. "I think war is the wrong terminology and analogy but the fact is that we are engaged in a very significant global effort to curb terrorist activity... I don't think people need to get into war fever on this. I think they have to view it as a heightened level of counter terrorist activity."

Kerry said similarly hedgy things during interviews on CNN and ABC.

By the next day, the Obama administration appeared more comfortable with the word war, yet hardly offered any more clarity. White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters, "The United States is at war with ISIL in the same way we are at war with Al Qaeda and its affiliates."

The problem is that our traditional definition of "war" is outdated, and so is our imagination of what war means.

World War II was the last time Congress officially declared war

Since then, the conflicts we've called "wars" — from Vietnam through to the second Iraq War — have actually been congressional "authorizations of military force."

And more recently, beginning with the War Powers Act of 1973, presidential war powers have expanded so much that, according to the Congressional Research Service, it's no longer clear whether a president requires congressional authorization at all.

The recent US wars in Afghanistan and Iraq will likely be the last time, in the foreseeable future, that the United States wages war in the way that's most familiar to us: a lot of combat troops on the ground in a foreign country with lots of money and support and an ostensibly achievable objective.

US troop presence in Iraq peaked at 187,900 in 2008. In Afghanistan, it peaked in 2010 at 100,000.

On paper, it looked like the United States was fighting two wars. But the reality was much more complicated, and it's only gotten more complicated.

So how many wars is the US fighting right now? Somewhere between zero and 134. 

Here's the rationale:

Total # of wars: 0

Congress hasn't declared war since 1942 so there is no war right now. Okay, that makes no sense.

Total # of wars: 5 (Update: 6 as of September 22, 2014)

This maybe sounds more reasonable.

Consider the definition of war put forth by Linda Bilmes (Harvard Kennedy School) and Michael Intriligator (UCLA), who defined war in a 2013 paper as "conflicts where the US is launching extensive military incursions, including drone attacks, but that are not officially 'declared.'"

By that definition, the United States is at war in five places right now: Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen.

(Update: A US-led coalition is now bombing Islamic State targets in Syria. So let's provisionally bump this number up to six.)

Total # of wars: 134

Whoa!

Surprising, right? In 2013, the US Special Operations Command (SOCOM) — one of the nine organizational units that make up the Unified Combatant Command — had special operations forces (SOFs) in 134 countries, where they were either involved in combat, special missions, or advising and training foreign forces. (Mostly this last thing, according to public statements.)

Since most of what SOFs do is classified, all we know about them is what we get told about them. 

Here's what we're told by the Joint Chiefs of Staff:

What are SOFs?

"Special operations forces (SOF) are small, specially organized units manned by people carefully selected and trained to operate under physically demanding and psychologically stressful conditions to accomplish missions using modified equipment and unconventional applications of tactics against strategic and operational objectives. The unique capabilities of SOF complement those of conventional forces."

And what do they do?

"Joint special operations (SO) are conducted by SOF from more than one Service in hostile, denied, or politically sensitive environments to achieve military, diplomatic, informational, and/or economic objectives employing military capabilities for which there is no broad conventional force requirement. These operations may require low visibility, clandestine, or covert capabilities. SO are applicable across the range of military operations. They can be conducted independently or in conjunction with operations of conventional forces or other government agencies and may include operations through, with, or by indigenous or surrogate forces. SO differ from conventional operations in degree of physical and political risk, operational techniques, use of special equipment, modes of employment, independence from friendly support, and dependence on detailed operational intelligence and indigenous assets."

Examples:

These tasks include special reconnaissance (SR), direct action (DA), unconventional warfare (UW), foreign internal defense (FID), counterterrorism, counterproliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD)[.]"

SOCOM admits to having forces on the ground in 134 countries around the world. That doesn't mean its forces are carrying out capture or kill raids in every country, but it's almost impossible to know where and when different operations are taking place.

That's especially true when it comes to the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), an operational command within SOCOM that operates with an enormous amount of autonomy and secrecy — and, some would say, little accountability.

Founded after the failed mission to rescue American hostages in Tehran in 1980 and designed to handle similarly complex operations in the future, JSOC was a classified and little used command on September 11, 2001. 

Since then, it's more than tripled in size, received an ever-increasing share of funding, and has conducted operations in dozens of countries. (Journalist Jeremy Scahill wrote in depth about JSOC in his 2013 book, "Dirty Wars." That's where the following information comes from.)

JSOC was introduced to the world on May 1, 2011, when Navy SEALs killed Osama bin Laden in a nighttime raid on his compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. The raid was a collaboration between the CIA and an agency almost nobody had heard of: JSOC.

"We're the dark matter," a Navy SEAL told the Washington Post of JSOC in 2011. "We're the force that orders the universe but can't be seen."

‘Calm Before the Storm’: Trump Makes Cryptic Remark at Military Dinner

October 6, 2017

(NBC News) - President Donald Trump made a series of cryptic remarks during a pre-dinner photo session with his top military advisers and their spouses Thursday night in the State Dining Room of the White House.

As photographers snapped pictures and recorded video, Trump asked reporters: "You guys know what this represents?"

“Maybe it’s the calm before the storm,” he said, answering his own question.

"What's the storm?" one reporter asked.

“Could be the calm before the storm,” he repeated.

It was not immediately clear whether Trump was referring to one of a handful of thorny military or foreign policy areas — North Korea, the fight against ISIS, Iran's nuclear program, or the recent deaths of three U.S. soldiers in Niger — or simply making a joke about the dinner to follow.

"We have the world's great military people in this room, I will tell you that. And uh, we're gonna have a great evening, thank you all for coming."

"What storm, Mr. President?" NBC News' Kristen Welker asked again.

"You'll find out," Trump replied, before reporters were ushered out of the room.

NBC News has reached out to the White House for comment.

In remarks to military leaders at the event, Trump thanked them and spoke of “pressing national security issues facing our country,” according to an official White House transcript.

“Recently, we have had challenges that we really should have taken care of a long time ago, like North Korea, Iran, Afghanistan, ISIS, and the revisionist powers that threaten our interests all around the world,” Trump said.

“Tremendous progress has been made with respect to ISIS, and I guess the media is going to be finding out about that over the next short period of time.”

The mystery continued into Friday. Trump, asked again during a brief session with U.S. manufacturers what he meant the night before, said only that "you'll find out" and winked.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders wouldn't comment on what Trump meant either.

"As we've said many times before...we're never going to say in advance what the president is going to do," she said during a press briefing Friday. "You'll have to wait and see."

"You can take the president protecting the American people very seriously," Sanders added. "And if he feels that action is necessary, he'll take it."

Trump: I’ll Give Peace ‘a Shot’ Before Moving US Embassy to Jerusalem

October 7, 2017

(The Hill) - President Trump said he would like to attempt to establish peace between the Israel and Palestine before moving the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

“I want to give that a shot before I even think about moving the embassy to Jerusalem,” Trump told former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R) on the Trinity Broadcasting Network's "Huckabee" in an interview that aired on Saturday.

“If we can make peace between the Palestinians and Israel, I think it’ll lead to ultimately peace in the Middle East, which has to happen,” he continued.

Trump renewed a waiver last August to keep the U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv temporarily, despite promising on the 2016 campaign trail that he would move it to Jerusalem.

The location of the embassy has always been a point of contention between the Israelis and the Palestinians.

Israelis see Jerusalem as its capital, however Palestinian want East Jerusalem to be the capital of what they hope will be a future, independent state.

The U.S. does not see Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and former presidents have said the city's final status should be decided in peace negotiations.

Sheldon Adelson: Trump Will Be 'The Best President Ever' for Israel

Adelson's remarks were made during a dinner party attended by top donors of the Republican Jewish Coalition, CNN reports.

February 24, 2017

(Haaretz) - Billionaire Sheldon Adelson said at a private gathering of top Republican donors on Thursday night that based on the Trump administration’s first month in the White House, he believes Donald Trump will be "the best president ever" for Israel.

Adelson, who owns the pro-Netanyahu daily newspaper Israel Hayom, will host the annual leadership conference of the Republican Jewish Coalition this weekend, bringing together hundreds of influential supporters of Israel within the Republican Party at his Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas. CNN reported that Adelson's remarks about Trump and Israel were made during a dinner event at his home, attended by many of the organization's top donors.

On Friday, the main speaker before the conference will be U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, who will also hold a private meeting with Adelson before addressing the entire audience. Pence has been a staunch supporter of Israel for years, and has close ties to right-wing pro-Israeli groups, both Jewish and Christian. Pence will also be a keynote speaker this year at the annual AIPAC conference in Washington, D.C.

Adelson's meeting with Pence will mark the second time in two weeks that he speaks privately with a senior figure in the Trump White House. Two weeks ago, on the eve of Trump's first meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Adelson met the president in Washington for a joint dinner that was also attended by a small number of aides and advisers. Adelson lobbied Trump during the meeting to adopt hard-line positions on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, despite the president's public statements about his will to create a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians.

On Thursday evening, Trump discussed the Israeli-Palestinian issue in an interview with Reuters, and said: "I like the two-state solution. Ultimately, I like whatever makes both parties happy."

It will be interesting to see if Pence will touch upon this issue at his speech in Las Vegas, which will take place before a crowd that mostly opposes Palestinian statehood and Israeli territorial concessions.

Casino Mogul Adelson Met with Trump Hours after Las Vegas Shooting

Pre-arranged meeting was to review policy, but also looked at ways to help victims of massacre

October 4, 2017

(Times of Israel) - Casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson met Monday with US President Donald Trump in the White House, where they discussed how to help victims of a deadly shooting hours earlier at a Las Vegas country music festival that killed 59 people and injured hundreds.

The afternoon meeting had been scheduled before the shooting attack and was aimed at discussing policy, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported on Tuesday, citing a representative from the Sheldon’s Las Vegas Sands casino and resort company.

Adelson, who owns the Review-Journal, was one of Trump’s biggest financial backers during his successful 2016 presidential election campaign, donating millions to the Republican candidate’s cause. The two men both own casinos in Las Vegas.

Adelson is also a major backer of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and owns the widely circulated Israel Hayom free daily.

According to Sands representative Andy Abboud, Trump and Adelson discussed the shooting in Las Vegas the night before and how they might help victims, among other topics, the Review-Journal reported.

Las Vegas on Tuesday was still coping with the aftermath of the Sunday shooting attack on a country music festival. Gunman Stephen Paddock opened fire from his hotel room on the 32nd floor of a casino across the street from the concert, killing 59 people and wounding over 500.

It’s not clear what motivated the shooting, although the actions of Paddock, 64, suggest that he had planned the attacks for at least a period of days.

Adelson, who owns several properties in Las Vegas, has not made any official statement on the shooting and its not known if he has donated any money to recovery efforts or victims funds. His daughter Shelley Adelson donated $10,000 to a GoFundMe page set up to aid victims.

Trump on Tuesday called the gunman “demented” and a “very, very sick individual.” Asked about gun laws, the president said, “We’ll be talking about gun laws as time goes by.”

The president is slated to visit Las Vegas on Wednesday. He was in Puerto Rico on Tuesday to review hurricane recovery efforts.

In the Monday meeting, Adelson was accompanied by his wife Miriam. Trump’s son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner was also present at the meeting and the Adelsons had sought to meet new White House Chief of Staff John Kelly.

It was not immediately known what type of policy Trump and Adelson were set to discuss, but the casino mogul has been critical of the president over some of his stances toward Israel and reluctance to move the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Adelson has also reportedly been critical of National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster due to his positions on Israel.

October 7, 2017

Some Democrats Returning Money They Received from Harvey Weinstein After Revelation of Sexual Harassment Lawsuits

Gay Child Molesters Caught on Tape! Hidden Cam. Explicit Content! By Journalist Ryan Sorba


Corey Feldman charges that the “number one problem in Hollywood was, and is, and always will be, pedophilia.” Hollywood elites abandoned the township of Hollywood a very long time ago. You no longer see stars out in person on the boulevards like you did in the old days. These elite now live all over the world on their private islands, jets, and yachts. I say leave the sign up as a reminder that all that glitters these days is rarely gold. [b0yzero]

<br  width=
Rose McGowan (center) poses with director and then-boyfriend Robert Rodriguez (left) and Harvey Weinstein (right) in 2007. 

October 7, 2017

(AP) — Congressional Democrats, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and potential 2020 presidential contender Sen. Elizabeth Warren among them, are starting to give charities thousands of dollars in donations they had received from disgraced Hollywood titan Harvey Weinstein.

Weinstein and his family have given more than $1.4 million in political contributions since the 1992 election cycle, virtually all of it to Democratic lawmakers, candidates and their allies, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics.

The party's effort to distance itself from the 65-year-old film executive came after The New York Times reported that he settled sexual harassment lawsuits with at least eight women.

Weinstein's contributions are tiny compared with those who donate tens of millions of dollars during a two-year election cycle, easily leaving him out of the top 100 funders, the center's figures show. But he's been a fixture among Democratic supporters and close to party luminaries for decades, making the revelations especially embarrassing for a party that touts itself as pushing progressive policies for women.

The biggest beneficiary of funds from Weinstein and his family was the Democratic National Committee, which received about $800,000 in several of its accounts, according to the center, which analyzes political spending.

Democratic National Committee spokeswoman Xochitl Hinojosa said the party plans to give more than $30,000 to Emily's List, Emerge America and Higher Heights. All three groups work to elect women to office. Hinojosa said the amount was for the funds Weinstein himself donated to the party during the 2016 campaign.

Other major beneficiaries of the Weinstein family's largesse included almost $200,000 to the party's Senate campaign accounts, $23,200 to its House campaign arm senatorial and $46,350 to Hillary Clinton, the 2016 presidential candidate, and to HILLPAC, a committee Clinton used to support other Democrats while senator. The figures include contributions attributed to Weinstein, first wife Eve Chilton and current spouse Georgina Chapman.

Weinstein and Chapman also contributed $10,000 to President Barack Obama.

Weinstein visited the White House during the Obama presidency and helped put on a film workshop in 2013, where then-first lady Michelle Obama described him as a "wonderful human being, a good friend and just a powerhouse."

Aides to Clinton and Obama did not immediately return requests for comment.