One Year in, Trump-World Is Drowning in Regret and Chaos With Little to Show for It

It’s been 12 months since an improbable election, and the president’s cheerleaders, former advisers, and friends have things they would have done differently.

Lachlan Markay,  Asawasin Suebsaeng

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It’s been a year since Donald J. Trump  was elected president of the United States, commander in chief, leader of the free world, the most powerful person on the face of the planet.

In those 12 months, the country experienced, well, quite a lot. Federal courts have axed multiple versions of Trump’s travel, a.k.a. Muslim, ban, the White House has been engulfed in a seemingly neverending drip of Russia scandal turmoil, Congress appears deadlocked on every major administration-backed initiative, there’s been a sloppily handled nuclear standoff with North Korea, equivocation over the murder of a protester by a neo-Nazi…

[Deep breath]  

…the president has clashed with the family and friends of a fallen soldier, he accused a top Democrat of facilitating a terror attack in New York, he has relentlessly feuded with various political and personal enemies, and there has been unprecedented staff turnover at the highest levels of the administration.

What the country hasn’t seen is a major legislative achievement or a sign that Trumpism as a political ideology is anything close to bulletproof, certainly not after the drubbing that took place Tuesday night in this  year’s most important election.

The vast majority of White House officials The Daily Beast has spoken to in recent weeks recognize that the West Wing is uniquely, mind-blowingly chaotic and overwhelmed, and that the GOP agenda remains inert.

Despite it all, the president’s allies and advisers have decidedly mixed feelings about Year One of the Trump era. Some proclaim total success, or blame any shortcomings on forces outside of his control.

Others are drowning in regret over the direction the Trump White House has taken or find themselves consumed by grievances relating to their pet issues. Asked what one thing she could change about the Trump’s administration, pro-Trump TV personality Scottie Nell Hughes (who made a name for herself during the 2016 election as one of the most faithful Trump boosters on cable news) replied, “Only one thing? Lol.”

“President Trump and his team should have been ready to introduce and push for the vote almost immediately of his top three campaign promises,” Hughes added. “Tax reform, repeal and replace AHCA & legislation to build the wall (in that order) should have been ready, introduced and voted on before the opposition could organize against. Instead, this administration lost their focus in the fog of the swamp and was swallowed up by the status quo.”

Others pinpointed more specific problems. “Build the wall,” conservative commentator Ann Coulter told The Daily Beast, when asked what one thing she wished Trump and his team had done differently thus far.

“Never fire the FBI director,” bluntly advised Barry Bennett, a Trump campaign adviser turned federal lobbyist. Ed Brookover, a Trump campaign hand and current Bennett colleague at the lobbying firm Avenue Strategies, said he wished Trump had been bolder. “Changing the swamp culture is hard,” he wrote. “Keep pushing on every front.”

Sam Nunberg, a former Trump political adviser who served early on in his campaign before getting sacked, said Trump should not have brought his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, into the White House, since “he”—Kushner— “is an incompetent.” Beyond that, Nunberg added, Trump should have started “with tax reform instead of repealing Obamacare.”

On the other end of the spectrum was Boris Epshteyn, a Trump campaign alumnus and former White House official who is now chief political analyst at the Sinclair Boradcast Group. Of those in Trump-world who spoke to The Daily Beast, he was the only one to offer unvarnished praise for the campaign and the administration as is. “I do not wish for anything to have been done differently,” said Epshteyn, whose contributions to Sinclair invariably praise the president and his agenda items of the day. “I am proud of our winning campaign and the great work the Trump administration is doing for the American people.”

A.J. Delgado, a senior adviser to the 2016 campaign, said that her biggest quibble (at least on the record) was about canines. “Everyone knows I’m a fanatic about dog welfare so I would have liked to see the first family adopt a rescue dog as their pet,” she emailed. “What’s more anti-Establishment-swamp than getting a survivor, all-American rescue as their dog? The world underestimated POTUS’s chance of winning last November—I’d love to see him with a dog that the world underestimated, too.”

While others from Trump’s orbit expressed regret for the distractions that have encumbered the administration, many knew precisely where to place the blame for the failure to move the Trump agenda.

“I think we all trusted the Congress too much,” said Michael Caputo, a Republican operative and another veteran of Trump’s presidential run. “Today we know leaders of both houses have not been able, or even willing, to deliver on the President’s agenda. If I knew we would have so many problems on Capitol Hill, I would have urged the president to move immediately on tax cuts and infrastructure after the Inaugural.”

Darrell Scott, a Cleveland-area pastor and former member of Trump’s presidential transition, said he continues to be a die-hard fan of the president. He also told The Daily Beast he is still mulling a congressional run based largely on a pro-Trump platform and has been texting with Steve Bannon, the former White House chief strategist, and has plans to meet with Corey Lewandowski , Trump’s ousted campaign manager, to talk about it.

Scott said he laments the anti-Trump “back-stabbing” from party stalwarts such as Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and believes the president “should have stayed in campaign mode” after his inauguration.

“[He should have] not [tried] to cooperate with the [Republican] Party as much as he has because they haven’t supported him in return, and [are] not trusted to have his back,” Scott said Monday, reflecting on the supposed strategic blunder.

Rarely, if ever, do the first years of first terms go swimmingly for a president. But Trump’s, by most measures, has been rockier than normal. On the eve of the election anniversary, it is clear that both he and his allies are grappling with a political reality that many did not expect, in part because they never anticipated that they might win. That includes Trump himself.

According to New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman, at least four people in the room with Trump on Election Night “ have said he was stunned to silence” at the news he had actually defeated Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. A senior Trump campaign official confirmed that to The Daily Beast, stating that “yes, he was surprised but virtually everyone [on the campaign] was preparing for the opposite outcome that day.”

In just a few months, Trump will enter the second full year of his administration. And the president’s biggest fans are hopeful that they’re now better suited and situated for the long haul.

“I’ll be give him an ‘A’ [grade], given the obstacles the administration has been facing,”Corey Stewart , former chairman of the Trump campaign in Virginia, told The Daily Beast, as he waited on the results of his state’s gubernatorial  race early Tuesday evening.

“You got all this opposition from inside the Republican Party, like from Sen. McCain, and Sen. Flake, and the others who have been trying to stop the president from implementing his agenda,” Stewart continued. “[But] it’s just beginning. And conservatives and Trump supporters have to have patience. It’s going to take a long time to drain the swamp.”

Source : The Daily Beast

 

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Myanmar: Foreign journalists charged over parliament drone flight

Myanmar police have charged two foreign journalists and two Burmese with breaking import laws after they flew a drone near the country’s parliament.

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They are being held in custody until their first hearing and could face up to three years in jail.

The Malaysian and Singaporean were working for Turkish broadcaster TRT.

Tension has been rising between Myanmar and Turkey over the Rohingya crisis, in which more than 600,000 people have fled Rakhine state for Bangladesh.

Last month the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, said that violence against Rohingya Muslims amounted to genocide. Myanmar says it is fighting insurgents.

Security guards spotted the journalists flying the drone near parliament buildings and pagodas in the capital Naypyidaw, state media reported.

Lau Hon Meng from Singapore and Mok Choy Lin from Malaysia have been detained since Friday.

Their interpreter, Burmese journalist Aung Naing Soe, and their driver were also detained.

A police spokesman said the journalists had “illegally imported the drone”.

TRT said it was in discussions with Myanmar authorities to secure their release.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has informed the Singapore and Malaysian embassies about the journalists’ detention, state media said.

Source : EIN

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Who Murdered Alberto Nisman, the Prosecutor Investigating a President?

CHRISTOPHER DICKEY, NOGA TANROPOLSKY

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What we now know is that the murder was a murder. Argentine federal prosecutor Alberto Nisman was the victim of a homicide—long covered up as a suicide—that took place sometime after 8 p.m. on the night of Saturday, Jan. 17, 2015, in a Buenos Aires high-rise. But the more we know about the death of Alberto Nisman, the more we know we don’t know, and the more sinister appear the implications, because his death, at age 51, and the work to which he devoted the last decade of his life, are inextricably linked to the long, ugly history of terror and assassinations carried out by the Islamic Republic of Iran around the world.

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Nisman was the Argentine special prosecutor whose sole mission was to bring to justice to the Iran-backed terror network that blew up a Jewish cultural center in Buenos Aires in 1994, killing 85 people and wounding hundreds. More than 20 years of fumbled investigations and political resistance had made that job almost impossible. Then, four days before he was found dead, Nisman announced publicly that the government of President Cristina Kirchner had forged a secret agreement with Iran that would effectively terminate efforts to bring the alleged killers and their sponsors to justice.

Nisman’s contorted body was found in the bathroom of his apartment with a bullet in his head, and the initial reports from government agencies and from President Kirchner, who appeared on live television to present her views regarding Nisman’s sudden death, deemed it a suicide. She left office in December 2015, and now a separate, exhaustive report by the country’s Gendarmaría Nacional, extensively covered in the Argentine press, removes any doubt that Nisman was murdered.

According to the report, Nisman was assaulted by two individuals, presumably both men. His nose was broken, his kidney bruised, and he had blows to his left ankle and the back of his head. The .22 caliber bullet travelled from right to left, back to front, bottom to top, at an angle of 10 to 12 degrees. The pattern of blood spattered in the bathroom indicates he was on his knees, not his feet, when he was shot. There was no powder residue found on his hands.

Moreover, the potent anesthetic ketamine, often used on animals and sometimes as a date-rape drug, had been used on him. The Gendarmería report notes that the ketamine had not been metabolized, meaning it was administered a very short time before Nisman’s death and therefore would not have been used for recreational purposes.

Nisman did not own a gun, but Diego Lagomarsino, a young IT guy who worked with him claimed after the death that had lent Nisman his pistol. Lagomarsino said Nisman explained he wanted a gun to protect his daughters, but at the time of his death both girls were vacationing in Europe. Although Nisman was under the protection of police bodyguards, he told friends and journalists he “could end up dead” as a result of his probe.

Lagomarsino has denied any involvement in Nisman’s death, and it appeared that Lagomarsino had a perfect alibi, having been photographed at a toll booth during what was initially the estimated time of Nisman’s death the morning of Sept. 18.

Source : The Daily Beast

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The Streets Are ‘Not Safe’: Puerto Rico Begs U.S. for Help

The island is not just trying to recover, it’s trying to reconnect with the rest of the world. The situation is disastrous and they are begging for more help.

Pablo Venes

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SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico—On this American island still suffering terribly from mighty Hurricane Maria’s devastating impact, the feeling of despair and anxiety is now mixed with fear at night, when looters rule the streets.

Hector Velez owns one of the seven gas station near San German, a municipality on the southwest part of the island. Half of the rooftop of his gas station was stripped away by Hurricane Maria but the storm didn’t cause most of damage he now has to deal with.

“Why would they do that to me? Everyone knows me around here. I’ve always been nice to my clients,” Velez told The Daily Beast as he looked at shattered windows and emptied food racks.

After seeing all the damage his station suffered from looters, Velez decided not to open, punishing everyone in the community, many of whom were looking desperately for gas.

“It breaks my heart, but I need to be calm about this. I can’t believe how people are so harsh. Is this nobody’s land now?” Velez wondered, and estimated that he will have to invest about $17,000 to reopen.

Another business owner who is fed up with the authorities, or the lack of them, is Marcelo Feliciano, who witnessed the looting of his restaurant.

“Since the [CCTV] cameras are not working, I come by often, and yesterday I caught them,” Feliciano said.

Incidents like these are common in the capital, where men carrying bats and clubs have been seen on the streets during curfew hours. The mayor of San Juan, Carmen Yulin Cruz, told WAPA Radio, “We highly advise everyone not to be on the streets at night. It is not safe,” warning that reports of looting are on the rise.

“That is definitely something I don’t want to hear. Especially when the only lighting I have during the night is candlelight,” said Bianca Nevarez, who lives in Bayamon, where the scenario is much more tense since 13 prisoners escaped while they were being transferred to another criminal facility after the Category 5 storm caused severe damage in the prison. “We have captured eight of them, so five are still on the loose,” Ramon Rosario, secretary of Public Affairs of La Fortaleza told The Daily Beast.

Rosario added that 21 arrests have been made across the metropolitan area as a result of those breaking the curfew, which now runs from 7 p.m. to 5 a.m. No expiration date has been set.

“We will leave it active until the emergency period that we are suffering settles,” said Governor Ricardo Rosselló, noting that anyone caught on the streets during curfew hours will face up to six months in prison.

Hurricane Maria snatched away all the green from Puerto Rico’s mountains and it’s projected to do the same with the faith and hopes of those who lived through it. Five days have passed, now, since the unprecedented storm caused mayhem in “La Isla del Encanto.”

Last night, Ricardo Rossello, the governor of the Puerto Rico, called on the Pentagon to provide more help. He said there were helicopters and planes nearby that they need to be allowed to use. “Whatever relief package we have, whatever impact we have, we are U.S. citizens,” Rossello told Politico. “We shouldn’t be the lesser for it.”

Puerto Rico’s non-voting member of Congress, Jennifer Gonzalez, said there are 7,000 federal government officials on the island. FEMA administrator Brock Long is scheduled to visit on Monday and the agency  said it has already provided more than 1 million meals and liters of water, respectively. Two Marine Corps ships that were deployed to Houston and Florida for hurricane relief are also assisting.

Before having their power or running water restored, the vast majority of the 3.4 million residents are asking authorities to prioritize the re-establishment of the communications system.

“Mom, can you hear me?… It’s me Mom, it’s Laura. I’m fine, I made it…” a young woman shouted as she knelt on the ground, listening to the voice of her mother across the line after her family was torn apart, virtually, by the catastrophic Category 5 storm.

This is a culture that has gotten used to being connected—with others on the island and off of it. The internet is ubiquitous, cellphones even more so. And then, suddenly, none of that worked. The storm came, and took with it our contacts in the outside world, and the lack of communication creates a post-apocalyptic feeling on the streets.

In the midst of flooded highways covered with fallen trees, groups of people—sometimes hundreds of them—stop and gather around, holding up their phones to an antenna in hopes of making contact with their loved ones.

The Daily Beast drove through the northern part of the island and found that Dorado, Bayamón, Cataño, Guaynabo, San Juan, and Carolina are the only cities that have reception out of the 78 municipalities.

In the first days after the storm a curfew was in effect from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m., but that didn’t stop people from making a four-hour drive from the southern region of the island up to the north to try to make a call. (It doesn’t help that cops wasted their time getting people off the highways during curfew instead of patrolling the streets where looting was under way.)

With 100 percent of the power grid in ruins, landline phones do not work and the main TV stations have gone off the air. The Department of Energy said it is assisting Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority to restore power.

For those living abroad the anxiety is as bad, if not worse. Family members in the diaspora attempt to make contact with locals via WAPA Radio, the only station that is transmitting at full strength.

“I can’t listen to the radio anymore. It reminds me a lot of when 9/11 occurred in New York and people were asking for a trace of their families,” said one listener, Jonathan Alvarez, as a woman called with a long list of names of people who she hoped would be alive.

As of Saturday, the death toll rose from 7 to 9 fatalities linked directly with Maria, Rosselló confirmed. Among them, two sisters swallowed by water and muck in their backyard in Utuado.

The number is still on the rise. According to the National Weather Service some areas of Puerto Rico received more than 38 inches of rain by Saturday, and the deluge went on, producing harsh conditions and complicating rescue work.

Many prayers were focused on Quebradillas, a coastal municipality whose almost 90-year-old river dam started to crack, provoking the evacuation of 80,000 people who never knew their lives were in danger.

Governor Rosselló had warned early on there might be a blackout for four days. But on the fifth day little had improved.

Truth is, not even the governor has enough signal, making the flow of information with the media scarce. He has not been able to establish communication with all the municipalities.

“To all the mayors, if you are hearing this, please do the best you can to come and see us in the Puerto Rico Convention Center where we have set up an emergency command station,” Rosselló urged via WAPA radio.

“We’ve got a long way to go in terms of getting communication. We were just trying to recover from Irma, now we have to start over and this time is a lot worse,” Sandra Torres, president of the Telecommunications Regulatory Board, said during a news conference. Torres estimated that 85 percent of the system was down. “Since the antennas rely on electricity, we have to wait for a ship from the U.S. to bring us batteries to get them back up,” she said.

Fuel, and a plate of hot food, are also considered rare commodities. As the sun rises, thousands rush to the streets willing to make a line of up to four hours for a bucket of gasoline.

“Tensions are really bad in gas stations. We have reports of fighting and arrests have already been made,” Rosario told WAPA. He also confirmed that reports of looting were on the rise.

Some fast food restaurants are beginning to reopen. People waiting an hour for a hot plate has become a norm.

Source : Daily Beast

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Mend ways, Trump tells U.N.

UNITED NATIONS — President Donald Trump on Monday opened his first visit to the United Nations since taking office with a polite but firm call for the 72-year-old institution to overhaul itself and a veiled threat to pull out of the Iran nuclear agreement.

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In a meeting with counterparts from around the world, Trump said the U.N. had grown too bureaucratic and ineffective and should reorient its approach. He complained that spending and the staff at the U.N. had grown enormously over the years but that “we are not seeing the results in line with this investment.”

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Still, he pledged U.S. support for the world body he had excoriated as a candidate, and his criticisms were more restrained than in years past.

“That’s why we commend the secretary-general and his call for the United Nations to focus more on people and less on bureaucracy,” Trump said, with Secretary-General Antonio Guterres sitting beside him. “We seek a United Nations that regains the trust of the people around the world. In order to achieve this, the United Nations must hold every level of management accountable, protect whistleblowers and focus on results rather than on process.”

He added that any overhaul should ensure that no single member “shoulders a disproportionate share of the burden, and that’s militarily or financially,” a sore point for many American conservatives who bristle at the share of U.N. costs borne by the United States. Trump said nothing about whether he would pursue his proposal to cut U.S. funding for the organization.

The United States is the largest contributor to the U.N. budget, reflecting its position as the world’s largest economy. It pays 25 percent of the U.N.’s regular operating budget and over 28 percent of the separate peacekeeping budget.

The short remarks at a forum on U.N. overhauls were a precursor to today’s main event, when Trump will address the U.N. General Assembly for the first time, a speech awaited by world leaders concerned about what the president’s “America first” vision means for the future of the world body.

Trump riffed on his campaign slogan when asked to preview his central message to the General Assembly, saying: “I think the main message is ‘make the United Nations great’ — not ‘again.’ ‘Make the United Nations great.'”

“Such tremendous potential, and I think we’ll be able to do this,” he added.

But even as the president chastised the U.N., he pledged that the United States would “be partners in your work” to make the organization a more effective force for peace across the globe.

He later met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel in the first of a string of sessions he will conduct with counterparts during four days in New York, and used the occasion to once again hint that he could pull out of the Iran deal negotiated by President Barack Obama, the other four permanent members of the Security Council and Germany. Netanyahu planned to press Trump to either revise the agreement or scrap it.

Asked by reporters whether he would withdraw, Trump said, “You’ll see very soon. You’ll be seeing very soon.” He added: “We’re talking about it constantly. Constantly. We’re talking about plans constantly.”

The meeting with Netanyahu was followed by another with President Emmanuel Macron of France where the two traded warm words and recalled Trump’s visit to a Bastille Day military parade in Paris in July. He mused about ordering up a military parade down Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington to rival the one he witnessed in Paris.

Trump also hosted a dinner Monday night with leaders of Brazil, Colombia, Panama and Argentina. Venezuela’s deepening economic and political crisis was under discussion.

The U.S. president also lashed out against Venezuela’s Nicolas Maduro, calling his presidency “disastrous.” He said that people in Venezuela “are starving and the country is collapsing.”

The U.S. “has taken important steps to hold the regime accountable, and we’re prepared to take further action if the government of Venezuela persists on a path to imposing authoritarian rule,” Trump said. He thanked the Latin American leaders for “condemning the regime.”

Brazil’s President Michel Temer said all leaders “agreed on maintaining pressure on Venezuela’s government” but that further sanctions on the country should be “verbal.”

FOCUS ON IRAN

The president has until mid-October to certify under a U.S. law whether Iran is complying with the deal, a certification he has made twice already this year but that he has told advisers he does not want to make again. If he were to refuse to do so, it could potentially unravel the agreement.

The meeting with Netanyahu focused on Iran, although Trump also repeated his commitment to finding peace between the Israelis and Palestinians. “I think there’s a good chance that it could happen,” he said. “Most people would say there’s no chance whatsoever.” He will meet with President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority on Wednesday.

Trump and Netanyahu discussed Iran’s “malign activities” in the Middle East and spoke about the need to prevent Iran from establishing any deep roots or organizing in Syria, according to a readout provided by Brian Hook of the State Department.

In a harsh message to the International Atomic Energy Agency, which monitors compliance with the nuclear agreement, Trump on Monday warned that the United States could withdraw if the accord is not properly policed. “We will not accept a weakly enforced or inadequately monitored deal,” Trump said in a message read by Rick Perry, the energy secretary, at the agency’s annual meeting in Vienna, according to news reports.

The United States asserts that Iran is obligated to open its military sites to agency inspection on demand if the agency suspects unreported nuclear activities at any of them. That’s something Tehran rejects, and Iranian nuclear chief Ali Akbar Salehi urged the agency and its head, Yukiya Amano, to “resist such unacceptable demands.”

Iran has accused Trump of failing to comply with the deal by undercutting it and slapping sanctions on Tehran for other activities such as ballistic missile tests, an assertion it repeated in Vienna on Monday.

“The American administration’s overtly hostile attitude and actual foot-dragging policies and measures aim at undermining the nuclear deal and blocking Iran’s legitimate benefits from its full implementation,” Salehi said, according to news reports.

The U.S. stance has worried allies such as France, as well as Russia.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said that tearing up the accord would be a blow to efforts to limit nuclear proliferation and “we’re trying to convince President Trump of the pertinence of this view.” All the signs are that Iran is respecting its obligations under the deal, he said at a press conference in New York.

When asked about the U.S. leader and Macron’s meeting with him, Le Drian said France would stress the value of the Iran deal for nuclear nonproliferation and international security. He suggested that France may be open to an extension of nuclear limits on Iran past 2025, one of the main demands of critics of the deal.

“I’ll try to convince President Trump,” that the deal can be rigorously enforced now, Le Drian said. Even if a follow-on deal or other changes are contemplated, “we need to acknowledge the validity of the agreement as it is.”

Russia opposes any renegotiation of the Iranian nuclear agreement, said a senior member of the Russian delegation to the U.N. meeting. “To go back on an agreement that was the result of colossal diplomatic efforts without any justification just because the new U.S. president doesn’t like it would be extremely dangerous,” Konstantin Kosachyov, head of the foreign affairs committee of the Russian upper house of parliament, told reporters in New York.

WORDS TONED DOWN

The president’s comments to the U.N. meeting on Monday morning lasted only four minutes and included none of the criticism he had directed at foreign institutions in the past. As recently as December, after winning the presidential election but before being sworn in, Trump dismissed the U.N. as “just a club for people to get together, talk and have a good time.”

The tension has gone both ways. Last month, the U.N. human rights chief chastised Trump for his repeated attacks on the news media, saying that they could incite violence and set a bad example for other countries.

No mention was made during Trump’s opening appearance Monday of the global crises that the U.N. has rung alarm bells about: attacks on the Rohingya minority in Burma, climate change, the nuclear threat in North Korea, and a record 65 million people displaced from their homes.

Aides have said Trump’s address today will stress “sovereignty and accountability,” a contrast to his predecessors who used the annual occasion to rally joint action on issues like terrorism, weapons proliferation and climate change.

The cooperative relationship — at least in a few key areas — can be attributed to the relationship forged between two seasoned politicians: U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley, a former South Carolina governor, and Guterres, a former Portuguese prime minister who, like Trump, took office in January. While many UN officials watched with horror as the Trump administration vowed to slash spending on foreign aid, including the UN, by about one-third, Guterres and Haley found a way to target troubled peacekeeping efforts.

Those programs, in countries including the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan, had long been criticized for not protecting civilians and, in some cases, sexually exploiting the very populations they were meant to defend.

Source :  Democratic Gazette

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Kenya presidential election cancelled by Supreme Court

Kenya’s Supreme Court has annulled the result of last month’s presidential election, citing irregularities, and ordered a new one within 60 days.

The election commission had declared incumbent Uhuru Kenyatta the winner by a margin of 1.4 million votes.

Raila Odinga, Mr Kenyatta’s opponent, said the commission was “rotten” and demanded resignations and prosecutions.

President Kenyatta said he would respect the court’s decision but also branded the judges “crooks”.

Other elections in Africa have been annulled or cancelled but this appears to be the first time on the continent that an opposition court challenge against a presidential poll result has been successful. Continue reading…….,

South Africa: Statement – Stats Reveal That Cops Are Spying On 70,000+ Mobile Phones Every Year

Press Release

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Today R2K releases statistics from MTN, Vodacom, Cell C and Telkom that show that government accesses tens of thousands of people’s sensitive communications information every year using a loophole in South Africa’s surveillance policies.

These numbers show that, at a minimum, law enforcement agencies are spying on the communications of at least 70,000 phone numbers each year. As our analysis below shows, the actual number could be much higher.

Background to the requests

In May 2017, R2K asked MTN, Telkom, Vodacom and Cell C how many warrants they received in terms of section 205 of the Criminal Procedures Act, in 2015, 2016 and 2017 (statement here).

These requests aimed to understand how a legal loophole has allowed surveillance operations to take place using the Criminal Procedures Act, rather than the RICA law.

RICA is meant to be South Africa’s primary surveillance law. It requires law enforcement and intelligence agencies to get the permission of a special judge, appointed by the president, to intercept a person’s communications. In order to apply for this warrant, they need to provide strong reasons because such interceptions threaten peoples’ right to privacy so much. But policymakers have wrongly assumed that the information about the communication (such as the identity of who you have communicated with, when, and your location) is less sensitive than the content of the communication.

This has led to a ‘loophole’ in our surveillance laws: section 205 of the Criminal Procedures Act allows law enforcement officials to bypass the RICA judge to get access to get your phone records – who you have communicated with, when, and where. According to this law, any magistrate can issue a warrant that forces telecoms companies to give over a customer’s call records and metadata. Policymakers are wrong to assume this information is less sensitive or private than the contents of the communication: metadata can reveal as much, if not more, about a person’s contacts, interests and habits than what they say over the phone or in a text message. When a person’s communications information is handed over using the Criminal Procedures Act, they are never notified, even if the investigation is dropped or if they are found to be innocent.

In one recent case, former SAPS Crime Intelligence officer Paul Scheepers faces charges in the Western Cape for allegedly using this legal loophole to spy on the communications of various people who were not under legitimate investigation.

What Vodacom, MTN, Cell C and Telkom revealed

All four companies complied with R2K’s information requests. Their answers show that law enforcement get call records for a minimum of 70,960 phone numbers every year. Due to incomplete records (only Vodacom and Telkom could say how many phone numbers were contained in the warrants it received) the actual number is estimated to be much higher. Extrapolating from this data, Daily Maverick journalist Heidi Swart points out the estimated total could be as high as 194,820 phone numbers each year.

All together, these numbers tell a staggering story about surveillance practices in South Africa.

In 2016, MTN received 23,762 warrants for customers’ call records, while Vodacom got 18,594 warrants. Cell C got 6455 warrants and Telkom got 1,271. Due to the fact that in some cases, the same warrant will be sent to several service providers, it is not possible to add these numbers together to get the total number of warrants issued across all service providers, as this would result in ‘double counting’ of some warrants.

The most recent statistics from the RICA judge’s office show that in 2014/2015, the RICA judge issued 760 warrants for interception. At a minimum, in the same year magistrates issued 25,808 warrants in terms of s205 of the Criminal Procedures Act.

These statistics confirm for the first time that the vast majority of ‘authorised’ surveillance operations are happening outside of the RICA judge’s oversight, with no transparency or accountability.

R2K’s demands

It is clear that urgent reforms are needed for South Africa’s surveillance policies.

R2K has already pointed out that RICA does not do enough to protect people’s privacy — weak safeguards and a lack of transparency have enabled surveillance abuses. In fact, RICA already faces a legal challenge from investigative journalists whose phones were tapped by government agents.

Among the Right2Know Campaign’s demands for surveillance reform:

1) Call records must be given better protection

Metadata about your communication – information about who you contacted, when and where – must be given the same level of protection as the content of your communication. Interception of this information should only be authorised by a specially appointed judge with special insight on privacy protections and digital rights. The RICA judge is a specialist judge who must be specially positioned to weigh the interests of justice against the right to privacy. Magistrates and ordinary judges, on the other hand, may not be as sensitised to the privacy issues involved in deciding whether or not to release metadata records. This should not be authorized at the lower levels of our court system. The ‘section 205’ loophole should be closed immediately.

2) An end to mass storage of customers’ data

RICA requires telecommunications and internet service providers to store all users’ metadata (a detailed record of all messages and calls sent and received, all internet traffic, etc) for three to five years. This means even people who are not suspected of any crime are already being treated with suspicion.

3) An end to SIM card registration

SIM card registration violates privacy in that it limits the ability of citizens to communicate anonymously. It also facilitates the tracking and monitoring of all users by law enforcement and intelligence agencies.

4) Greater transparency

We should not have to resort to legal action to get this information. Private companies should be publishing regular, detailed transparency reports about their role in interceptions, and the RICA judge must publish a much more detailed report, and it must be tabled in open Parliament.

Users must also be notified when their data has been intercepted. This is a legal requirement of many surveillance laws across the world. The current situation is ripe for abuse, as people who are targeted for surveillance have no way of knowing that their rights have been violated. Only under exceptional circumstances should the judge have the power to delay notifying a user that their data has been intercepted.

Time to end surveillance abuses!

This is no time for half measures and cosmetic reforms. Right2Know Campaign will not relent on challenging surveillance abuses. The people of South Africa can and will take back control of their privacy!

Source : Right2know

Sierra Leone Declares Seven-Day Mourning After Mudslide Tragedy

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Sierra Leone’s government has declared seven days of mourning for victims of Monday’s deadly flooding and mudslide tragedy.

The country’s national flag will fly at half-mast from today to Tuesday (Aug 16 – 22), the government said in a statement in which it also called for a minute of silence at midday on Wednesday in honour of the 300 people who died in the capital Freetown.

Read this from Commission Crowd

According to government figures, the death toll stands at 297 and includes 109 children, 83 women and 105 men. Information deputy minister Cornelius Deveaux said the figure is based on a body count at the city’s main morgue at Connaught hospital.

Aid agencies, assisting in search and rescue operations, put the death toll at over 300.

More than 500 people are still missing with thousands others left homeless after their houses were destroyed.

About 150 people were buried on Tuesday evening with government planning a mass burial on Thursday for those who will not have been identified and claimed by their families.

A prayer vigil at the National Stadium in Freetown will precede the burial.

President Ernest Bai Koroma with his Guinean counterpart Alpha Conde Tuesday visited Regent, the worst-hit area.

Part of Mount Sugar Loaf, where Regent is located, collapsed Monday following torrential rains, submerging houses and sweeping away others, many of which were makeshift settlements.

The two leaders also visited the morgue at Connaught hospital which has been overwhelmed by bodies.

President Conde was in the country in show of solidarity with the Sierra Leoneans following one of the worst natural disaster to hit the capital.

Source : The East African

Ethiopia widens anti-corruption crackdown with asset freezes

Ethiopia has widened an anti-corruption crackdown with asset freezes on 210 individuals and 15 companies.

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The individuals and companies sanctioned are suspected to have links with recently arrested government officials, business people and brokers on allegations of corrupt activities, according to report by state owned Ethiopian News Agency on Friday. Continue reading……..

Read This From Commission Crowd

South Africa: Do Not Open Unknown Emails

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Pretoria — South Africans have been warned not to open any unknown emails and to urgently update their security software as a global cyber ransom attack spread on Friday.

Friday’s global cyber-attack has affected more than 200 000 victims in 150 countries and regions, Europol chief Rob Wainwright said on Sunday.

Hackers reportedly used a tool known as Eternal Blue and a malicious software called WannaCry to lock users’ computers and to demand a payment for the decryption.

The global cyber-attack has so far swept across more than 100 countries including the United States, Britain, Germany and China. Cyber security experts said it could be the biggest cyber-attack of its kind ever.

“Many of those victims were businesses, including large corporations. The global reach is unprecedented,” Wainwright said in an interview with Britain’s ITV.

Wainwright said he was concerned that the numbers of those affected would continue to rise when people returned to work on Monday morning.

“We’re in the face of an escalating threat, the numbers are going up,” he said, adding that the current attack was unprecedented.

Wainwright told ITV that the world faced an escalating threat, and there was concern about the level of potential attacks on Monday morning.

Wainwright warned the healthcare sector “in many countries” was particularly vulnerable, but that all organizations should ensure they prioritise cyber security and update their systems.

The virus took control of users’ files, demanding payments.

Russia and Britain were among the worst hit countries.

Dozens of Russian public institutions including the Bank of Russia said on Saturday that they have thwarted a massive cyber-attack and prevented vital data loss.

The central bank’s security and information protection division, responsible for monitoring computer attacks in the credit and financial sphere, has registered massive spread of malicious programs, but no instances of compromise were detected, said the Bank of Russia, quoted by Sputnik, a major media outlet in Russia

The Russian Interior Ministry and Health Ministry also said earlier in the day that they have “repelled” such attacks as the virus was promptly detected and localized, according to Russian news agencies.

Britain’s official emergency committee, known as Cobra, met in London on Saturday afternoon to discuss the cyber-attack that has caused widespread disruption to the country’s National Health Service (NHS).

Around 45 NHS organisations in England and Scotland, including hospitals, family doctor surgeries, and health services, were hit in the cyber-attack which prevented doctors, nurses and staff from accessing vital patient information.

However, Wainwright said Europol was working on the basis that the cyber-attack was carried out by criminals rather than terrorists, but noted that “remarkably few” payments had been made so far.

“Most people are not paying this, so there are not a lot of money being made with this by criminal organisations so far,” he said. – Xinhua/Sputnik

Source : S.A news