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

Cleveland Facebook Killer Steve Stephens Tortured Pets as a Teen, Neighbor Says

The self-described ‘monster’ was ‘not normal’ even as a child, according to someone who grew up around him. Across town, a family heard the shot that rang across social media.

DANIEL MCGRAW

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CLEVELAND—Soon after he shot 74-year-old Robert Godwin—who was walking down the street and picking up cans after eating Easter Sunday dinner with his family— Steve Stepehens posted video to facebook of the murder that he just committed.

Then he kept posting his personal reasoning for his deranged behavior, explanations showed that there was a deep anger within this man that suddenly snapped.

“I fucked up,” he said, with little emotion on his face. “I’m at the point where I snapped… I got a lot of built up anger and frustration.”

“All my life,” Stephens continued, “I’ve been a monster.”

That line by the man now known as the “Facebook Killer” was shocking to many who heard him say it on social media, but not so much so for Tony Henderson. He lived across the street from Stephens for decades—that line that this man was a “monster” didn’t seem that crazy. The kid always seemed somewhat “out there,” Henderson said.

“I never quite understood that kid through his entire life, because on some days he would talk to you, and then on others he would be mean and staring at you and very quiet,” Henderson said. “It’s not like he was running around the street scaring old people when he was a teenager, but what he did on Easter Sunday doesn’t surprise me.”

On the Monday after the shooting that was getting worldwide attention, Henderson was cleaning up the vacant property next to his house, which is directly across the street from Stephens’s mother’s home. Police in two cars were staked out on the street to keep media and angry residents from causing trouble for the killer’s family. But for Henderson, 55, what he saw on television shows and online media reporting over the past day made more sense to him than most anyone.

“How can I put this?” he said, as he paused. “That kid was not normal as we as normal people know it from the beginning. He was in his early teens when the family moved in there, and I was in my late twenties, but I could see something wasn’t right. He was smart, but some days he seemed OK with talking to people on the street, but on other days he was staring off into space with a blank face. He was very up and down.”

Then Henderson told a somewhat disturbing story.

“He asked me to come in and see his pet bird, so I went in their house. He had a parakeet and he had that bird crawl from the cage and on to his finger. Then he slapped the bird as hard as he could with his other hand, and the bird was lying on the floor. The bird looked dead to me. I looked at him and he was smiling and laughing as he looked at me and that bird.”

“Hey, animals don’t make you weird like that,” Henderson said. “He was that way before he got that bird. Heard he used to torture other pets he had. He was like that from the time I first met him.”

An aggravated murder warrant has been issued, and police said early Monday that Stephens may have fled Ohio. Police warned residents of Pennsylvania, New York, Indiana, and Michigan to be on the lookout. The FBI is providing assistance to the Cleveland police and taking over the national manhunt. A $50,000 reward has been offered for information leading to his whereabouts.

Stephens has a valid concealed-carry gun permit, Cleveland police said at a news conference Monday morning. Police Chief Calvin Williams said guns were seized from a home in the city of Twinsburg, a suburb of Cleveland, that is listed in court records as the home occupied by Stephens and his girlfriend at the time, Joy Lane. Williams said he was unsure how many guns were seized and whether they were registered to Stephens.

Though Stephens also said on Facebook postings that his need to kill people came because of a breakup with Lane (who treats youths with various mental disorders for a company different from the one Stephens works for), it appears he might have been having more problems with his fiancée. The Cleveland Plain-Dealer  reported  that Stephens had been evicted from his suburban apartment this past January for failure to pay rent. Five months before that, he had been evicted from another suburban apartment complex, and the property-management company successfully sued him and began garnishing wages from his paycheck.

Stephens had also declared personal bankruptcy in January 2015, according to the report, and at that time, Stephens said he had worked for Beech Brook, a suburban-based social-services agency for six years. He declared his annual salary to be about $28,800, but his wages were also facing garnishment then as well, for unpaid credit-card debt that he had been sued over in court for.

In another Sunday Facebook posting, Stephens talked of his financial issues, blaming some of it on Cleveland’s Jack Casino, Ohio’s first casino, which opened in 2012.

“The past year’s been really [expletive] up for me,” Stephens said. “You know, being with [his ex-girlfriend] drove me crazy, started making me gamble. I lost everything. I lost everything I have. I don’t have shit. I’m out of options.”

Besides the craziness of this murder—an employed man shooting an elderly man randomly and then posting it for all to see on social media—is how this murder does not fit in with all the other murders in Cleveland in recent years. There were 136 murders in the Cleveland in 2016, the highest number in 10 years. This high number of murders, despite the fact that Cleveland lost about 10 percent of its population (about 43,000) during those 10 years, has been linked to the city’s high poverty rate. Based upon 2016 figures, Cleveland’s poverty rate of 34.7 percent is the 11th highest in the country among cities of at least 65,000 people.

Many of the murders in Cleveland are driven by gangs, which themselves are partly blamed on high inner-city unemployment. One of the most violent and powerful gangs has the ironic name “Heartless Felons.” In some of these killings, children lost their lives because they were playing in a park or on a front lawn when the killers drove by.

The street on which Godwin was killed ends at Interstate 90 about five miles east of downtown. It is an odd place to do a killing, given it’s off-the-beaten path and abutting a crowded highway. “I don’t think there is any rhyme or reason for this happening,” Cleveland’s police chief said at the press conference Monday.

For those living on that street, the killing was not only horrific to see, but so bizarre that many are still shaking their heads. Thea, a 25-year-old who lives directly across the street from where Godwin died, said her family had about 20 people coming over for East Sunday dinner. The killing, which happened at about 2 p.m. Sunday, occurred about a half hour before people started to arrive.

“This is a quiet street,” said Thea, who didn’t want her last name used. “It ends at the freeway. So no one usually drives their cars down here because it is hard to turn around and get out.”

“But it was so weird,” she continued. “My mom was outside talking to our neighbor, and they were just doing what moms do, talking about the recipes they had cooked, and then both went back in their houses. About one minute after she came in, we heard a gun pop and went outside and saw that old man lying dead on the sidewalk right across the street from our house.”

“What would have happened if they were out there one minute later?” Thea asked. “He might have just shot that man and my mom and the neighbor, too. That’s all I’ve been thinking about. How my mom might have been killed, too.”

Spanish authorities reveal details of huge black-market weapons cache

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Police in Spain have released photos of automatic rifles and other weapons covering a warehouse floor. Authorities fear the trove fed criminal and terrorist organizations in Europe.

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After two months of examination and categorization, Spanish police on Tuesday finally revealed the extent of the massive weapons haul they undertook in January 2017.

According to the published police statement, the cache included 9,000 CETME fully automatic rifles, anti-aircraft guns, 400 shells and grenades, pistols, and revolvers.

Photos published by the police show piles of assault rifles, guns and weapons parts lying in stacks and leaning against the walls of a warehouse.

 

Spanish police originally seized the firearms in a raid undertaken on January 12 and 13 in the northern regions of Catalonia, Cantabria and the Basque country. The operation was initiated after the May, 2014 shooting at the Jewish Museum in Belgium that left four dead and spurred authorities across Europe to crack down on black market weapons.


Five suspects were also detained in the January raids.

Europol and Spanish police cooperated on the operation

Police reported the group bought decommissioned weapons that they then reactivated. The pieces needed for such reactivation were found in the trove.

Alongside the thousands of arms, authorities also discovered material needed to falsify arms documentation and tools required to change the weapons’ identification numbers. Europol, the EU police force that worked alongside Spanish authorities in the operation, believe the illegal firearms were intended for sale in Spain, France and Belgium.

“The seized weapons had an easy journey in the black market and posed a significant risk of being acquired by organized crime groups and terrorists,” Europol said in a statement.

Source :DW

Mexico opens legal aid centres to fight US deportations

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Mexico has opened legal aid centres at consulates in 50 US cities, in a move designed to protect its citizens from tougher immigration enforcement.

Mexican Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray reaffirmed concerns about the human rights of Mexicans in the US.

But migrant defence centres would not “promote illegality,” he said.

Mexico is worried about the impact that guidelines issued last month by President Donald Trump will have on the lives of its citizens.

Mr Trump ordered federal agents to join local police and immigration officers to enforce deportation procedures.

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Millions of Mexicans who have lived in the US for many years are suddenly facing the prospect of fighting a lengthy and costly legal battle against deportation.

The new defence centres will provide free legal assistance for Mexican citizens who feel that their rights in the US are being threatened.

‘Concern and irritation’

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Bilateral relations have reached its lowest point in decades.

A week after being sworn in January, Mr Trump reaffirmed his intention to build a wall along his country’s southern border, which extends for 3,200km (2,000 miles).

He insisted that Mexico would have to bear the cost of the proposed wall.

The remarks prompted President Enrique Pena Nieto to cancel a visit to Washington on 31 January and to announce extra funding to protect the rights of Mexican citizens in the US.

During a visit to Mexico by last month by US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Homeland Security Chief John Kelly, Mr Videgaray said President Trump’s policies towards Mexico were a source of “concern and irritation”.

There are an estimated 11 million illegal immigrants in the US. Six million of them are reportedly Mexican citizens.

Source : EIN News

Generals May Launch New ISIS Raids Without Trump’s OK

The commander in chief is taking heat—and hearing cheers—for a raid in Yemen that killed a SEAL. But for the next mission, Trump may take himself out of the loop altogether.

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Kimberly Dozier

The White House is considering delegating more authority to the Pentagon to greenlight anti-terrorist operations like the SEAL Team 6 raid in Yemen that cost the life of a Navy SEAL, multiple U.S. officials tell The Daily Beast. It’s part of an effort to step up the war on the so-called Islamic State.

President Donald Trump has signaled that he wants his defense secretary, retired Marine Gen. Jim Mattis, to have a freer hand to launch time-sensitive missions quickly, ending what U.S. officials say could be a long approval process under President Barack Obama  that critics claimed stalled some missions by hours or days.

In declared war zones, U.S. commanders have the authority to make such calls, but outside such war zones, in ungoverned or unstable places like Somalia, Libya, or Yemen, it can take permissions all the way up to the Oval Office to launch a drone strike or a special-operations team.

Trump’s subsequent defense of the Yemen raid, and discussion of accelerating other counterterrorist operations, shows his White House will be less risk averse to the possibility of U.S.—or civilian—casualties, unlike the Obama White House, which military officials say was extremely cautious to the point of frustrating some military commanders and counterterrorist operators.

Yet that added authority might give Mattis and senior military officers pause, after Trump blamed military leaders Tuesday for the loss of Navy Seal Senior Chief Petty Officer William”Ryan” Owens  during the fraught Jan. 28th raid against al Qaeda in Yemen, instead of accepting responsibility for the raid’s outcome as commander in chief.

“This was a mission that was started before I got here,” Trump said Tuesday during a Fox News interview. “They explained what they wanted to do—the generals—who are very respected, my generals are the most respected that we’ve had in many decades, I believe. And they lost Ryan.”

Owens’s father told Miami Herald  he believes the raid was rushed and unnecessary, and refused to meet Trump at Dover Air Force Base when his son was returned home.

“I can understand people saying that. I’d feel—What’s worse? There’s nothing worse,” Trump said of the father’s reaction. “This was something that they were looking at for a long time… and according to Mattis it was a very successful mission. They got tremendous amounts of information.”

In Trump’s first address to Congress, he saluted Owens’s widow, Carryn, who was there as a guest. Tears streamed down her face as the president hailed the fallen Navy SEAL as “a warrior, and a hero.”

He added that he’d just “reconfirmed” with Mattis that the raid was “highly successful” and “generated large amounts of vital intelligence that will lead to many more victories in the future against our enemies.” The amount of information gathered is still a matter of debate, however, NBC News reported Monday that after a month of examining what was captured on the scene, the raid has yielded little intelligence. The White House subsequently disputed that report.

“Missions of this type provide insights into AQAP’s disposition, capability, and intentions—information we otherwise do not have access to,” said Central Command spokesman Maj. Josh T. Jacques on Wednesday.

Despite the controversy, Trump has signaled that he wants to operate more like the CEO he was in the private sector in such matters, and delegate even more power to Mattis, which may mean rewriting one of President Barack Obama’s classified Presidential Policy Directives on potentially lethal operations in countries where the U.S. is not officially involved in combat.

The National Security Council spokesman was not immediately able to comment.

Former Obama administration officials tell The Daily Beast they’d already streamlined the approvals process for counterterrorism raids, following the failed 2014 mission to rescue U.S. hostages James Foley, Steven Sotloff, and Kayla Mueller, who were being held by ISIS in Syria. The hostages were moved shortly before U.S. special operators arrived on the scene.

“Obama gave a lot of leash to commanders in the field—but not on everything,” said one former senior Obama administration official. “It’s all about controlling escalation. Do I want to give someone else the authority to get me deeper into a war?”

The official explained that in some cases, Obama deemed it necessary to push authority down to his commanders, as when he gave the Navy SEALs the green light to shoot their way out of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden’s Abbottabad compound, though firing on Pakistani troops might have triggered armed conflict with Islamabad.

Obama used to give Mattis pre-delegation authority to act when he was head of Central Command on some issues, but not others, the official said. “Will you delegate authority if an Iranian boat gets close, I can take it out? Most presidents will think carefully about that,” he said. “There’s usually a healthy back-and-forth to come up with the right balance.” The official spoke anonymously to discuss the sensitive discussions on approving raids.

Trump officials believe loosening the permissions process can help turn up the heat against ISIS—and counterterrorist-focused agencies like the military’s Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) are lining up new targets in anticipation of more numerous and more rapid approvals.

One model being considered is pre-delegating authority to Mattis on extremely sensitive operations like hostage rescues; for raids or drone strikes against pre-approved targets, that authority could be pushed much further down the chain of command—all the way down to the three-star general who runs JSOC. If his teams spot a target that’s already on the White House approved high-value target list, the elite force will be able to move into action, informing the national-security apparatus of the operation but not having to wait for permission.

Word of discussions about loosening permissions to strike comes despite criticism that the Jan. 28 raid in central Yemen against al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula was approved so quickly that it was launched without proper planning, and botched when al Qaeda fighters heard the SEALs approaching, kicking off a deadly firefight.

SEAL Owens was killed and six U.S. troops were wounded during the fighting, and the “hard landing” of the would-be medical-evacuation aircraft.

Owens’s father wants the decision process investigated. There are already three Pentagon investigations underway, according to Pentagon spokesman Navy Capt. Jeff Davis: the pro-forma investigation into the combat death; another into the loss of an Osprey rescue helicopter that was so damaged that it had to be left behind and destroyed; and another investigation into the allegations of civilian casualties from the raid.

Yemeni officials reported several women and children were killed. That included the 8-year-old daughter of former AQAP cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, according to the girl’s grandfather in comments to the AP.(Former AOAP cleric Awlaki, a U.S citizen, helped inspire followers with his online sermons until he was killed by a U.S drone strike in 2011.)

The Yemeni government reacted to the raid with a statement, reiterating “its firm position that any counterterrorism operations carried out in Yemen should continue to be in consultation” with Yemen’s civil-war-embattled government, and include “precautionary measures to prevent civilian casualties.”

Special Operations Commander Gen. Tony Thomas pushed back on the notion that the raid was poorly or hastily planned. He told reporters in Washington, D.C., recently that the raid preparation was “absolutely not” rushed or in any way disorganized.

And the SEAL raiders never lost the element of surprise, two U.S. officials said. But the raiders “didn’t expect the whole town to come out armed and fighting,” said one. Pentagon spokesman Davis said women fighters came out firing from several locations as the SEAL team hit its target, contributing to casualties on both sides.

One U.S. official told The Daily Beast that the raid garnered possibly “the most intelligence ever netted” on al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, including information that will help U.S. intelligence map the network of AQAP followers and how they operate. Central Command stumbled when trying to prove that, however, by releasing an al Qaeda training video captured by the SEAL task force during the raid—but didn’t realize it had been disseminated by AQAP nine years earlier.

This story was updated to add comment from Central Command.

Source : The Daily Beast

FULL SPEECH: President Trump’s address to a joint session of Congress

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Mr. Speaker, Mr. Vice President, Members of Congress, the First Lady of the United States, and Citizens of America:

Tonight, as we mark the conclusion of our celebration of Black History Month, we are reminded of our Nation’s path toward civil rights and the work that still remains.  Recent threats targeting Jewish Community Centers and vandalism of Jewish cemeteries, as well as last week’s shooting in Kansas City, remind us that while we may be a Nation divided on policies, we are a country that stands united in condemning hate and evil in all its forms.

Each American generation passes the torch of truth, liberty and justice –- in an unbroken chain all the way down to the present.

That torch is now in our hands.  And we will use it to light up the world.  I am heretonight to deliver a message of unity and strength, and it is a message deeply delivered from my heart.

A new chapter of American Greatness is now beginning.

A new national pride is sweeping across our Nation.

And a new surge of optimism is placing impossible dreams firmly within our grasp.

What we are witnessing today is the Renewal of the American Spirit.

Our allies will find that America is once again ready to lead.

All the nations of the world — friend or foe — will find that America is strong, America is proud, and America is free.

In 9 years, the United States will celebrate the 250th anniversary of our founding — 250 years since the day we declared our Independence.

It will be one of the great milestones in the history of the world.

But what will America look like as we reach our 250th year? What kind of country will we leave for our children?

I will not allow the mistakes of recent decades past to define the course of our future.

For too long, we’ve watched our middle class shrink as we’ve exported our jobs and wealth to foreign countries.

We’ve financed and built one global project after another, but ignored the fates of our children in the inner cities of Chicago, Baltimore, Detroit — and so many other places throughout our land.

We’ve defended the borders of other nations, while leaving our own borders wide open, for anyone to cross — and for drugs to pour in at a now unprecedented rate.

And we’ve spent trillions of dollars overseas, while our infrastructure at home has so badly crumbled.

Then, in 2016, the earth shifted beneath our feet.  The rebellion started as a quiet protest, spoken by families of all colors and creeds -– families who just wanted a fair shot for their children, and a fair hearing for their concerns.

But then the quiet voices became a loud chorus — as thousands of citizens now spoke out together, from cities small and large, all across our country.

Finally, the chorus became an earthquake – and the people turned out by the tens of millions, and they were all united by one very simple, but crucial demand, that America must put its own citizens first … because only then, can we truly MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN.

Dying industries will come roaring back to life.  Heroic veterans will get the care they so desperately need.

Our military will be given the resources its brave warriors so richly deserve.

Crumbling infrastructure will be replaced with new roads, bridges, tunnels, airports and railways gleaming across our beautiful land.

Our terrible drug epidemic will slow down and ultimately, stop.

And our neglected inner cities will see a rebirth of hope, safety, and opportunity.

Above all else, we will keep our promises to the American people.

It’s been a little over a month since my inauguration, and I want to take this moment to update the Nation on the progress I’ve made in keeping those promises.

Since my election, Ford, Fiat-Chrysler, General Motors, Sprint, Softbank, Lockheed, Intel, Walmart, and many others, have announced that they will invest billions of dollars in the United States and will create tens of thousands of new American jobs.

The stock market has gained almost three trillion dollars in value since the election on November 8th, a record.  We’ve saved taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars by bringing down the price of the fantastic new F-35 jet fighter, and will be saving billions more dollars on contracts all across our Government.  We have placed a hiring freeze on non-military and non-essential Federal workers.

We have begun to drain the swamp of government corruption by imposing a 5 year ban on lobbying by executive branch officials –- and a lifetime ban on becoming lobbyists for a foreign government.


We have undertaken a historic effort to massively reduce job‑crushing regulations, creating a deregulation task force inside of every Government agency; imposing a new rule which mandates that for every 1 new regulation, 2 old regulations must be eliminated; and stopping a regulation that threatens the future and livelihoods of our great coal miners.

We have cleared the way for the construction of the Keystone and Dakota Access Pipelines — thereby creating tens of thousands of jobs — and I’ve issued a new directive that new American pipelines be made with American steel.

We have withdrawn the United States from the job-killing Trans-Pacific Partnership.

With the help of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, we have formed a Council with our neighbors in Canada to help ensure that women entrepreneurs have access to the networks, markets and capital they need to start a business and live out their financial dreams.

To protect our citizens, I have directed the Department of Justice to form a Task Force on Reducing Violent Crime.

I have further ordered the Departments of Homeland Security and Justice, along with the Department of State and the Director of National Intelligence, to coordinate an aggressive strategy to dismantle the criminal cartels that have spread across our Nation.

We will stop the drugs from pouring into our country and poisoning our youth — and we will expand treatment for those who have become so badly addicted.

At the same time, my Administration has answered the pleas of the American people for immigration enforcement and border security.  By finally enforcing our immigration laws, we will raise wages, help the unemployed, save billions of dollars, and make our communities safer for everyone.  We want all Americans to succeed –- but that can’t happen in an environment of lawless chaos.  We must restore integrity and the rule of law to our borders.

For that reason, we will soon begin the construction of a great wall along our southern border. It will be started ahead of schedule and, when finished, it will be a very effective weapon against drugs and crime.

As we speak, we are removing gang members, drug dealers and criminals that threaten our communities and prey on our citizens.  Bad ones are going out as I speak tonight and as I have promised.

To any in Congress who do not believe we should enforce our laws, I would ask you this question:  what would you say to the American family that loses their jobs, their income, or a loved one, because America refused to uphold its laws and defend its borders?

Our obligation is to serve, protect, and defend the citizens of the United States.  We are also taking strong measures to protect our Nation from Radical Islamic Terrorism.

According to data provided by the Department of Justice, the vast majority of individuals convicted for terrorism-related offenses since 9/11 came here from outside of our country.  We have seen the attacks at home -– from Boston to San Bernardino to the Pentagon and yes, even the World Trade Center.

We have seen the attacks in France, in Belgium, in Germany and all over the world.

It is not compassionate, but reckless, to allow uncontrolled entry from places where proper vetting cannot occur.  Those given the high honor of admission to the United States should support this country and love its people and its values.

We cannot allow a beachhead of terrorism to form inside America — we cannot allow our Nation to become a sanctuary for extremists.

That is why my Administration has been working on improved vetting procedures, and we will shortly take new steps to keep our Nation safe — and to keep out those who would do us harm.

As promised, I directed the Department of Defense to develop a plan to demolish and destroy ISIS — a network of lawless savages that have slaughtered Muslims and Christians, and men, women, and children of all faiths and beliefs.  We will work with our allies, including our friends and allies in the Muslim world, to extinguish this vile enemy from our planet.

I have also imposed new sanctions on entities and individuals who support Iran’s ballistic missile program, and reaffirmed our unbreakable alliance with the State of Israel.

Finally, I have kept my promise to appoint a Justice to the United States Supreme Court — from my list of 20 judges — who will defend our Constitution.  I am honored to have Maureen Scalia with us in the gallery tonight.  Her late, great husband, Antonin Scalia, will forever be a symbol of American justice.  To fill his seat, we have chosen Judge Neil Gorsuch, a man of incredible skill, and deep devotion to the law.  He was confirmed unanimously to the Court of Appeals, and I am asking the Senate to swiftly approve his nomination.

Tonight, as I outline the next steps we must take as a country, we must honestly acknowledge the circumstances we inherited.

Ninety-four million Americans are out of the labor force.

Over 43 million people are now living in poverty, and over 43 million Americans are on food stamps.

More than 1 in 5 people in their prime working years are not working.

We have the worst financial recovery in 65 years.

In the last 8 years, the past Administration has put on more new debt than nearly all other Presidents combined.

We’ve lost more than one-fourth of our manufacturing jobs since NAFTA was approved, and we’ve lost 60,000 factories since China joined the World Trade Organization in 2001.

Our trade deficit in goods with the world last year was nearly $800 billion dollars.

And overseas, we have inherited a series of tragic foreign policy disasters.

Solving these, and so many other pressing problems, will require us to work past the differences of party.  It will require us to tap into the American spirit that has overcome every challenge throughout our long and storied history.

But to accomplish our goals at home and abroad, we must restart the engine of the American economy — making it easier for companies to do business in the United States, and much harder for companies to leave.

Right now, American companies are taxed at one of the highest rates anywhere in the world.

My economic team is developing historic tax reform that will reduce the tax rate on our companies so they can compete and thrive anywhere and with anyone.  At the same time, we will provide massive tax relief for the middle class.

We must create a level playing field for American companies and workers.

Currently, when we ship products out of America, many other countries make us pay very high tariffs and taxes — but when foreign companies ship their products into America, we charge them almost nothing.

I just met with officials and workers from a great American company, Harley-Davidson.  In fact, they proudly displayed five of their magnificent motorcycles, made in the USA, on the front lawn of the White House.

At our meeting, I asked them, how are you doing, how is business?  They said that it’s good.  I asked them further how they are doing with other countries, mainly international sales.  They told me — without even complaining because they have been mistreated for so long that they have become used to it — that it is very hard to do business with other countries because they tax our goods at such a high rate.  They said that in one case another country taxed their motorcycles at 100 percent.

They weren’t even asking for change.  But I am.

I believe strongly in free trade but it also has to be FAIR TRADE.

The first Republican President, Abraham Lincoln, warned that the “abandonment of the protective policy by the American Government [will] produce want and ruin among our people.”

Lincoln was right — and it is time we heeded his words. I am not going to let America and its great companies and workers, be taken advantage of anymore.

I am going to bring back millions of jobs.  Protecting our workers also means reforming our system of legal immigration.  The current, outdated system depresses wages for our poorest workers, and puts great pressure on taxpayers.

Nations around the world, like Canada, Australia and many others –- have a merit-based immigration system.  It is a basic principle that those seeking to enter a country ought to be able to support themselves financially.  Yet, in America, we do not enforce this rule, straining the very public resources that our poorest citizens rely upon.  According to the National Academy of Sciences, our current immigration system costs America’s taxpayers many billions of dollars a year.

Switching away from this current system of lower-skilled immigration, and instead adopting a merit-based system, will have many benefits:  it will save countless dollars, raise workers’ wages, and help struggling families –- including immigrant families –- enter the middle class.

I believe that real and positive immigration reform is possible, as long as we focus on the following goals: to improve jobs and wages for Americans, to strengthen our nation’s security, and to restore respect for our laws.

If we are guided by the well-being of American citizens then I believe Republicans and Democrats can work together to achieve an outcome that has eluded our country for decades.

Another Republican President, Dwight D. Eisenhower, initiated the last truly great national infrastructure program –- the building of the interstate highway system.  The time has come for a new program of national rebuilding.

America has spent approximately six trillion dollars in the Middle East, all this while our infrastructure at home is crumbling.  With this six trillion dollars we could have rebuilt our country –- twice.  And maybe even three times if we had people who had the ability to negotiate.

To launch our national rebuilding, I will be asking the Congress to approve legislation that produces a $1 trillion investment in the infrastructure of the United States — financed through both public and private capital –- creating millions of new jobs.

This effort will be guided by two core principles:  Buy American, and Hire American.

Tonight, I am also calling on this Congress to repeal and replace Obamacare with reforms that expand choice, increase access, lower costs, and at the same time, provide better Healthcare.

Mandating every American to buy government-approved health insurance was never the right solution for America.  The way to make health insurance available to everyone is to lower the cost of health insurance, and that is what we will do.

Obamacare premiums nationwide have increased by double and triple digits.  As an example, Arizona went up 116 percent last year alone.  Governor Matt Bevin of Kentucky just said Obamacare is failing in his State — it is unsustainable and collapsing.

One third of counties have only one insurer on the exchanges –- leaving many Americans with no choice at all.

Remember when you were told that you could keep your doctor, and keep your plan?

We now know that all of those promises have been broken.

Obamacare is collapsing –- and we must act decisively to protect all Americans.  Action is not a choice –- it is a necessity.

So I am calling on all Democrats and Republicans in the Congress to work with us to save Americans from this imploding Obamacare disaster.

Here are the principles that should guide the Congress as we move to create a better healthcare system for all Americans:

First, we should ensure that Americans with pre-existing conditions have access to coverage, and that we have a stable transition for Americans currently enrolled in the healthcare exchanges.

Secondly, we should help Americans purchase their own coverage, through the use of tax credits and expanded Health Savings Accounts –- but it must be the plan they want, not the plan forced on them by the Government.

Thirdly, we should give our great State Governors the resources and flexibility they need with Medicaid to make sure no one is left out.

Fourthly, we should implement legal reforms that protect patients and doctors from unnecessary costs that drive up the price of insurance – and work to bring down the artificially high price of drugs and bring them down immediately.

Finally, the time has come to give Americans the freedom to purchase health insurance across State lines –- creating a truly competitive national marketplace that will bring cost way down and provide far better care.

Everything that is broken in our country can be fixed.  Every problem can be solved.  And every hurting family can find healing, and hope.

Our citizens deserve this, and so much more –- so why not join forces to finally get it done?  On this and so many other things, Democrats and Republicans should get together and unite for the good of our country, and for the good of the American people.

My administration wants to work with members in both parties to make childcare accessible and affordable, to help ensure new parents have paid family leave, to invest in women’s health, and to promote clean air and clear water, and to rebuild our military and our infrastructure.

True love for our people requires us to find common ground, to advance the common good, and to cooperate on behalf of every American child who deserves a brighter future.

An incredible young woman is with us this evening who should serve as an inspiration to us all.

Today is Rare Disease day, and joining us in the gallery is a Rare Disease Survivor, Megan Crowley.  Megan was diagnosed with Pompe Disease, a rare and serious illness, when she was 15 months old.  She was not expected to live past 5.

On receiving this news, Megan’s dad, John, fought with everything he had to save the life of his precious child.  He founded a company to look for a cure, and helped develop the drug that saved Megan’s life.  Today she is 20 years old — and a sophomore at Notre Dame.

Megan’s story is about the unbounded power of a father’s love for a daughter.

But our slow and burdensome approval process at the Food and Drug Administration keeps too many advances, like the one that saved Megan’s life, from reaching those in need.

If we slash the restraints, not just at the FDA but across our Government, then we will be blessed with far more miracles like Megan.

In fact, our children will grow up in a Nation of miracles.

But to achieve this future, we must enrich the mind –- and the souls –- of every American child.

Education is the civil rights issue of our time.

I am calling upon Members of both parties to pass an education bill that funds school choice for disadvantaged youth, including millions of African-American and Latino children.  These families should be free to choose the public, private, charter, magnet, religious or home school that is right for them.

Joining us tonight in the gallery is a remarkable woman, Denisha Merriweather.  As a young girl, Denisha struggled in school and failed third grade twice.  But then she was able to enroll in a private center for learning, with the help of a tax credit scholarship program.  Today, she is the first in her family to graduate, not just from high school, but from college.  Later this year she will get her masters degree in social work.

We want all children to be able to break the cycle of poverty just like Denisha.

But to break the cycle of poverty, we must also break the cycle of violence.

The murder rate in 2015 experienced its largest single-year increase in nearly half a century.

In Chicago, more than 4,000 people were shot last year alone –- and the murder rate so far this year has been even higher.

This is not acceptable in our society.

Every American child should be able to grow up in a safe community, to attend a great school, and to have access to a high-paying job.

But to create this future, we must work with –- not against -– the men and women of law enforcement.

We must build bridges of cooperation and trust –- not drive the wedge of disunity and division.

Police and sheriffs are members of our community.  They are friends and neighbors, they are mothers and fathers, sons and daughters – and they leave behind loved ones every day who worry whether or not they’ll come home safe and sound.

We must support the incredible men and women of law enforcement.

And we must support the victims of crime.

I have ordered the Department of Homeland Security to create an office to serve American Victims.  The office is called VOICE –- Victims Of Immigration Crime Engagement.  We are providing a voice to those who have been ignored by our media, and silenced by special interests.

Joining us in the audience tonight are four very brave Americans whose government failed them.

Their names are Jamiel Shaw, Susan Oliver, Jenna Oliver, and Jessica Davis.

Jamiel’s 17-year-old son was viciously murdered by an illegal immigrant gang member, who had just been released from prison.  Jamiel Shaw Jr. was an incredible young man, with unlimited potential who was getting ready to go to college where he would have excelled as a great quarterback.  But he never got the chance.  His father, who is in the audiencetonight, has become a good friend of mine.

Also with us are Susan Oliver and Jessica Davis.  Their husbands –- Deputy Sheriff Danny Oliver and Detective Michael Davis –- were slain in the line of duty in California.  They were pillars of their community.  These brave men were viciously gunned down by an illegal immigrant with a criminal record and two prior deportations.

Sitting with Susan is her daughter, Jenna.  Jenna:  I want you to know that your father was a hero, and that tonight you have the love of an entire country supporting you and praying for you.

To Jamiel, Jenna, Susan and Jessica:  I want you to know –- we will never stop fighting for justice.  Your loved ones will never be forgotten, we will always honor their memory.

Finally, to keep America Safe we must provide the men and women of the United States military with the tools they need to prevent war and –- if they must –- to fight and to win.

I am sending the Congress a budget that rebuilds the military, eliminates the Defense sequester, and calls for one of the largest increases in national defense spending in American history.

My budget will also increase funding for our veterans.

Our veterans have delivered for this Nation –- and now we must deliver for them.

The challenges we face as a Nation are great.  But our people are even greater.

And none are greater or braver than those who fight for America in uniform.

We are blessed to be joined tonight by Carryn Owens, the widow of a U.S. Navy Special Operator, Senior Chief William “Ryan” Owens.  Ryan died as he lived:  a warrior, and a hero –- battling against terrorism and securing our Nation.

I just spoke to General Mattis, who reconfirmed that, and I quote, “Ryan was a part of a highly successful raid that generated large amounts of vital intelligence that will lead to many more victories in the future against our enemies.”  Ryan’s legacy is etched into eternity.  For as the Bible teaches us, there is no greater act of love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.  Ryan laid down his life for his friends, for his country, and for our freedom –- we will never forget him.

To those allies who wonder what kind of friend America will be, look no further than the heroes who wear our uniform.

Our foreign policy calls for a direct, robust and meaningful engagement with the world.  It is American leadership based on vital security interests that we share with our allies across the globe.

We strongly support NATO, an alliance forged through the bonds of two World Wars that dethroned fascism, and a Cold War that defeated communism.

But our partners must meet their financial obligations.

And now, based on our very strong and frank discussions, they are beginning to do just that.

We expect our partners, whether in NATO, in the Middle East, or the Pacific –- to take a direct and meaningful role in both strategic and military operations, and pay their fair share of the cost.

We will respect historic institutions, but we will also respect the sovereign rights of nations.

Free nations are the best vehicle for expressing the will of the people –- and America respects the right of all nations to chart their own path.  My job is not to represent the world.  My job is to represent the United States of America. But we know that America is better off, when there is less conflict — not more.

We must learn from the mistakes of the past –- we have seen the war and destruction that have raged across our world.

The only long-term solution for these humanitarian disasters is to create the conditions where displaced persons can safely return home and begin the long process of rebuilding.

America is willing to find new friends, and to forge new partnerships, where shared interests align.  We want harmony and stability, not war and conflict.

We want peace, wherever peace can be found.  America is friends today with former enemies.  Some of our closest allies, decades ago, fought on the opposite side of these World Wars.  This history should give us all faith in the possibilities for a better world.

Hopefully, the 250th year for America will see a world that is more peaceful, more just and more free.

On our 100th anniversary, in 1876, citizens from across our Nation came to Philadelphia to celebrate America’s centennial.  At that celebration, the country’s builders and artists and inventors showed off their creations.

Alexander Graham Bell displayed his telephone for the first time.

Remington unveiled the first typewriter.  An early attempt was made at electric light.

Thomas Edison showed an automatic telegraph and an electric pen.

Imagine the wonders our country could know in America’s 250th year.

Think of the marvels we can achieve if we simply set free the dreams of our people.

Cures to illnesses that have always plagued us are not too much to hope.

American footprints on distant worlds are not too big a dream.

Millions lifted from welfare to work is not too much to expect.

And streets where mothers are safe from fear — schools where children learn in peace — and jobs where Americans prosper and grow — are not too much to ask.

When we have all of this, we will have made America greater than ever before. For all Americans.

This is our vision. This is our mission.

But we can only get there together.

We are one people, with one destiny.

We all bleed the same blood.

We all salute the same flag.

And we are all made by the same God.

And when we fulfill this vision; when we celebrate our 250 years of glorious freedom, we will look back on tonight as when this new chapter of American Greatness began.

The time for small thinking is over.  The time for trivial fights is behind us.

We just need the courage to share the dreams that fill our hearts.

The bravery to express the hopes that stir our souls.

And the confidence to turn those hopes and dreams to action.

From now on, America will be empowered by our aspirations, not burdened by our fears –-

inspired by the future, not bound by the failures of the past –-

and guided by our vision, not blinded by our doubts.

I am asking all citizens to embrace this Renewal of the American Spirit.  I am asking all members of Congress to join me in dreaming big, and bold and daring things for our country.  And I am asking everyone watching tonight to seize this moment and —

Believe in yourselves.

Believe in your future.

And believe, once more, in America.

Thank you, God bless you, and God Bless these United States.

Source : The Hill

Russian Whistleblowers Turn on Putin—But Can They Be Trusted?

A husband and wife who were members of the Russian parliament have defected to Ukraine. The Kremlin calls them ‘enemies of the people.’ Enemies of Putin is more like it.

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Anna Nemtsova

KIEV—Only a few months ago Denis Voronenkov and Maria Maksakova were two of the brightest stars in Moscow’s political firmament, trying to improve the system from inside, but very much a part of it. They rode in luxurious cars, dined with the Kremlin’s elite at expensive restaurants, vacationed in Paris and Cannes. Both were members of the Russian parliament, the Duma. He was a colonel in the Russian military—a veteran of the military prosecutor’s office—as well. She, a classic Russian beauty, was a diva at the Mariinsky (Kirov) opera. The couple lived the good life in President Vladimir Putin’s Russia. But then the system chewed them up and spat them out.

Now they are whistleblowers—defectors hunted by Russia’s Federal Security Service, the FSB, who have found asylum in Ukraine. And they say they are ready to open up in court about the inner workings of the Putin establishment.

For the moment, at least, they say they do not know about Russian’s dealings with Donald Trump or his associates, even if the information they supply to the Ukrainians might help indirectly to find out more about the many questions surrounding the new American president and his team and their contacts with Russian intelligence.  As intel analysts like to say, building a full picture is like putting together a jigsaw puzzle; sometimes the  holes can tell you as  much as the pieces.

“Americans should realize that Putin and his guys are convinced that he spins the planet with his feet,” like a soccer ball, Voronenkov told The Daily Beast in an exclusive interview. “The FSB cyber forces are quite powerful globally. Now they do not just listen to you (they listened and recorded all my phone calls for eight years). They also attack other states.”

Col. Voronenkov said he and his wife had no choice but to flee Russia late last year to “defeat the designs of the FSB,” which had begun to investigate them on a number of alleged criminal charges related to a contentious real estate deal. A favorite strategy for silencing suspected troublemakers is to charge them with corruption in a system rife with it.

Nobody stopped the two Duma deputies when they packed and crossed the border in October 2016, which was before their parliamentary immunity officially expired in early December. But they didn’t go to Germany, the country of Masakova’s second citizenship, and not to Israel, where they had gone for their Russian Orthodox Christian wedding. They came to Ukraine to cooperate with a government many in the Kremlin refer to as “the Junta” or “Obama’s puppets.”

Sitting by a fireplace in the lobby of the Hyatt Hotel in the heart of Kiev, Voronenkov spoke emotionally, and constantly checked messages on his cell phone.

“A group of criminals at the FSB offered to let me pay a bribe of $3 million in exchange for closing the case that they fabricated against me,” Voronenkov said. And he was very specific about the man driving the campaign against him: FSB General Oleg Feoktistov.

The ex-deputy insisted that he was not an enemy of Russia, that he loved his country, but he wanted to name names in court. After the Russian government “stole” the oil company Yukos in 2003 and imprisoned the man who built it, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, “Putin gave the entire team of General Feoktistov a green light to rob and persecute businessmen,” Voronenkov told The Daily Beast. Voronenkov claimed that in 2014 the FSB took over businesses and jailed thousands of people for supposed economic crimes. Vornenkov could see a similar fate awaited him. “Only 0.5 percent of Russia’s court decisions are acquittals. Even Stalin had 20 percent. Putin’s system feels more like the Nazis,” he said.

While Russian officials now call Voronenkov a traitor, the ex-deputy has been meeting with Ukraine’s presidential administration and prosecutors, preparing to testify on the treason case of former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych  in early March.

“Yanukovych called for the Kremlin to send the army to Ukraine and kill the Ukrainian people. He is a criminal and if Putin backs up Yanukovych, I am not going to back up Putin,” Voronenkov declared.

The ex-president won’t be in the courtroom. He is living in exile in Russia. It is conceivable the hearings will shed light on some of the activities of his associates, including American political advisor Paul Manafort who was, until he resigned last summer, Donald Trump’s campaign chairman. But, again, Vornenkov says he knows nothing about Manafort.

Meanwhile, the news that Ukrainian authorities granted Voronenkov citizenship made many in Ukraine wonder what sort of deal the whistleblower has made with the country’s leadership.

“I want to know why our authorities do not prosecute Voronenkov,” Ukrainian journalist Anastasia Magazova told The Daily Beast with marked frustration. As a member of the Russian parliament he had voted for the Russian annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula, she noted, and on Twitter he praised Novorossia, the breakaway state in Eastern Ukraine.

Giving Voronenkov and Maskakov asylum “was a political decision,” Mustafa Nayem, a deputy in Ukraine’s parliament, told The Daily Beast. Voronenkov was seen as a major asset in the upcoming Yanukovych trial—an ex-Russian deputy ready to testify against the Kremlin.

Moscow, in the best NKVD and KGB traditions originally adopted by Vladimir Lenin 100 years ago, has condemned Voronenkov and Masakova as “enemies of the people.”

Russian Deputy Vitaly Milonov, the author of an infamous anti-gay propaganda law, called Masakova “a political prostitute.” The opera- singer-parliament-member spoke strongly against his legislation and in favor of LGBT rights. She was also the only Duma deputy who did not vote for the law that prohibited American families from adopting Russian orphans.

“It is becoming dangerous to even write critical posts on social networks in Russia, but both Voronenkov and Maksakova, very bright public figures in the Russian political elite, criticized certain policies until the system pushed them out,” says Maksakova’s longtime friend, Kremlinologyst Olga Kryshtanovskaya.

But the couple had seemed so very cozy with the top brass at the Kremlin. Not long ago Voronenkov was shaking hands with ideologist of Putin’s Greater Russia policy Vladislav Surkov; the couple also posed for a picture with Sergey Naryshkin, the chief of Russia’s Foreign Intelligence office.

Were they double agents, some in Kiev wondered, sent over for some more complicated role? And even if the Ukrainians can trust them, can they trust the Ukrainians?

“There is no guarantee that our authorities would not give this couple to Russia in some deal or in exchange for prisoners; but for some reason Voronenkov is convinced that he is safe in Ukraine,” Ekaterina Sergatskova, an anchor at the independent Hromadske TV channel told The Daily Beast.

In one recent family portrait Maksakova is proudly hugging her husband and teen son, a student at Suvorov military college. Both men are in their military uniforms. They look like a poster of a patriotic family.

But his former colleague at the Duma, Deputy Milonov said, “He lost his dignity and the right to call himself a Russian officer. This is a betrayal! This man shamed the uniform.”

For his part, Voronenkov says he does not believe Ukrainian authorities will send him and his wife back to Russia. “That would spoil Ukraine’s international reputation,” Voronenkov said.

US: Trump’s Immigration Actions to Harm Millions

Will Return Refugees to Persecution, Devastate Families, Threaten Public Safety

(Washington, DC) – The two executive actions, on immigration and border policy, that United States President Donald Trump signed on January 25, 2017, will severely harm millions of immigrants and US citizens, Human Rights Watch said today.

A young boy holds US flags as immigrants and community leaders rally in front of the U.S. Supreme Court to mark the one-year anniversary of President Barack Obama’s executive orders on immigration in Washington on November 20, 2015.

Trump’s order also seeks to drastically expand the use of the sprawling and abusive US immigration detention system, directing federal agencies to rapidly increase detention capacity and detain nearly all non-citizens pending the outcome of their deportation proceedings. Human Rights Watch has documented how the overuse of immigration detention exposes people to dangerous custody conditions, and negatively affects their right to a fair deportation hearing.

In another executive order, Trump announced border enforcement policies that would threaten the rights of people seeking asylum. These policies expand the use of a fast-track deportation procedure known as expedited removal and promote the criminal prosecutions of people entering the US illegally. Expedited removal and illegal entry prosecutions have already been shown to have a pernicious impact on the rights of asylum-seekers and long term residents of the US, many of whom have families who are US citizens, as well as on individuals, including children, fleeing persecution and violence who seek protection under longstanding US and international law.
Immigrants and community leaders rally in front of the U.S. Supreme Court to mark the one-year anniversary of President Barack Obama’s executive orders on immigration in Washington, November 20, 2015.

Hungarian journalist sentenced to probation for kicking fleeing refugees

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The Hungarian Journalist who was caught on camera in 2015 kicking and tripping over distraught refugees along the border with Serbia, has been sentenced to three years’ probation.

Hungarian media reported that a court in Szeged District found Petra Laszlo guilty of disorderly conduct following the hearing session, in which the defendant testified via video link.

Judge Illes Nanasi said Laszlo’s behavior “ran counter to societal norms,” adding that the facts of the case did not support the journalist’s claim that her aggressive actions were out of self defense.

The incident took place on September 8, 2015 near the Hungarian border town of Roszke, where Laszlo had gone to film violence-stricken asylum seekers from the Middle East trying to pass through the country on their way to Western Europe.

As she was filming, a number of refugees broke through a police cordon and inadvertently shoved her as they ran by.

Laszlo reacted by  kicking two of the refugees as they fled, including a young girl. She also tripped over a male refugee carrying a little child.

The footage went viral over the Internet, triggering widespread criticisms and condemnations from fellow journalists, human rights organizations and ordinary people.

Laszlo said she had been fired by her employer, the internet-based N1 TV, following the incident and the ensuing public outrage.

The camerawoman did not appear in court in person due to her lawyer’s claim that she had received death threats. At the trial session, she mounted a tearful defense, vowing to appeal the sentence.

“It is not a crime if somebody acts to defend herself … she was in danger, and she tried to avert this danger with her actions,” Laszlo’s attorney Ferenc Sipos said.

The court, however, issued the verdict after watching a frame-by-frame examination of her actions during the incident.

Nearly 400,000 refugees and asylum seekers passed through Hungary in 2015 for wealthier European Union states.

The flow, however, slowed dramatically after Prime Minister Viktor Orban ordered the installation of razor-wire fences built along Hungary’s southern border and beefed up laws to block illegal border crossings.

The Hungarian government has on numerous occasions been criticized by international rights groups for adopting tough measures in dealing with refugees.

In a report in September 2016, Amnesty International slammed Hungary for pushing back the refugees arriving in the country to Serbia or detaining in  them unlawfully  detention centers.

“Appalling treatment and labyrinthine asylum procedures are a cynical ploy to deter asylum-seekers from Hungary’s ever more militarized borders,” the report said.

Source : Press TV

Donald Trump Attacks U.S. Spies, Will They Strike Back?

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Ex-intelligence officials say the president-elect calling the CIA “Nazi Germany” is close to a declaration of war.

President Richard Nixon didn’t trust the CIA on the Vietnam War. President George W. Bush didn’t much like what the CIA had to say about the war in Iraq.

But until Donald Trump, no future commander in chief has compared America’s spies to Nazis.

“I think it was disgraceful, disgraceful that the intelligence agencies allowed any information that turned out to be so false and fake out there,” Trump said, implying members of the U.S. intelligence community were behind the leak of a former British spy’s opposition research on Trump.

“That’s something that Nazi Germany would have done,” he said at his first news conference as president elect, just days ahead of his inauguration.

The broadside against the U.S. intelligence community shows Trump’s suspicion that the CIA and other agencies are a tool of the outgoing Obama administration, delivering whatever its political masters want to hear—and leaking material damaging to his future presidency.

“Trump is… pointing to the top of the organization and saying it’s become politicized,” said Peter Hoekstra, a former House Intelligence Committee chairman and current Trump ally.

Hoekstra, who has discussed the intelligence community with the president elect, said Trump blames Obama appointees, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and CIA Director John Brennan.

“He knows that they got Benghazi wrong, they got ISIS wrong, they got Egypt wrong with the Muslim Brotherhood. He’s a very healthy skeptic of intelligence.”

Late Wednesday, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper released a statement saying he’d spoken to the president elect, and expressed dismay over the leaks.

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“We both agreed that they are extremely corrosive and damaging to our national security,” Clapper said, adding that he did not believe the leaks came from his people. Clapper said they discussed the controversial private security company document, which he emphasized was not verified by U.S. intelligence agencies agencies, but had been circulated among the press and Congress for months.

“We did not rely upon it in any way for our conclusions. However, part of our obligation is to ensure that policymakers are provided with the fullest possible picture of any matters that might affect national security,” the emailed statement said.

That may help tamp down bruised feelings in the intelligence community, but several former top intelligence officials told The Daily Beast that Trump’s comments Wednesday moved well beyond skepticism—and closer to a declaration of bureaucratic war.

“I served under seven presidents—I can’t remember it ever being this bad,” John Rizzo, the CIA’s top lawyer after the attacks of 9/11, told The Daily Beast.

Another high-ranking former intelligence officer called Trump’s remarks Wednesday “beyond that pale,” and said if Trump keeps attacking the agency, the message they’ll receive is that they have to tailor the news to what he wants to hear.

“You’re sending bad signals that ‘I’m coming in, and you’re going to speak my truth,’” the former officer said.

The president elect’s latest outburst follows the leak of a salacious 35-page document, which alleges that Russian operatives claim to have “compromising personal and financial information” on Trump. The Wall Street Journal reported it was written by ex-British spy Christopher Steele, of London-based Orbis Business Intelligence Ltd. Calls to the business were not answered.

The document was published by BuzzFeed on Tuesday night without verification, after CNN  first reported that it had been briefed to Trump, President Barack Obama, and lawmakers as part of the intelligence community’s investigation into Russian attempts to influence the U.S. election. Both news organizations came in for by-name criticism by Trump. But at least he didn’t compare them to Hitler’s troops.

“I did find it stunning that he… seemingly equated what he perceived to be the leaks by the intelligence community as something that would happen in Nazi Germany,” Rizzo said.

Rizzo came in for plenty of harsh criticism himself over the years for signing off on Bush-era harsh interrogation methods and black sites, which he described in his memoir Company Man. “Nothing approaching…these kind of gratuitous swipes at the integrity and ascribing political motives to the intelligence community just before taking office,” he told The Daily Beast on Wednesday.

This tension between the future president and his spies is more than just back-room wrangling. It could have a major, real-world impact, said Adam Schiff, D-Calif., one of the few lawmakers willing to comment on the remarks. “At some point he may come before the nation to lay out his case for a specific action he is taking abroad, and do so on the basis of information he has received from the intelligence community,” Schiff said in a statement to The Daily Beast. “By mentioning the intelligence community in the same sentence as Nazi Germany, President-elect Trump is undermining the authority and credibility that he will need as President.”

“We can only go up from here,” said former CIA Deputy Director of Intelligence Carmen Medina. “This tabloid conflict gets in the way of a serious conversation—long overdue—about how the IC [Intelligence Community] should best support the President. I will commit sacrilege and say that Trump isn’t crazy when he says he doesn’t need an intel briefing every day,” referring to the incoming’s preference for fewer spy reports.

“All that said, Trump is demeaning the professional integrity of intelligence professionals,” she added. “Nothing good will come of this.”

“The dialogue is full of misunderstanding:  this is not a real intelligence document and the IC did not ‘ leak’ it,” said former acting CIA Director John McLaughlin, calling Trump’s harsh comments “regrettable.”

None of the seasoned intelligence officials thought much of the 35-page memo, calling it poorly sourced gossip that wouldn’t stand up to the rigors of American or British spy agencies.

“It reads like a high-priced detective gathering evidence for a high-profile divorce case,” sniffed one former senior CIA operator.

“There’s nothing about their reliability levels, nothing about levels of confidence in the sources, so it’s just very raw intelligence,” added another.

“It’s a lot of unsubstantiated allegations that are very explosive and [Trump] has a right to be mad about it. But he’s shooting the wrong target,” another of the former officials said.

Yet every single intelligence professional who read the document said they would likely have made the same call—to share it with Trump and others, if only to inoculate them from the surprise of having the memo break in the media.

“Knowing this was floating around Washington, they had to give him the heads up,” said one of the officials. “If he had not been told, it would look like they were withholding information.”

Trump adviser Hoekstra said the blowback is not aimed at the intelligence rank and file.

“Every time I went anywhere, I met with case officers. They felt the Obama administration was throwing them under the bus,” Hoekstra said, describing how Obama left open the door to prosecute CIA employees. “This is a president that came in in 2009 and let the attorney general begin an investigation of those folks who did enhanced interrogations.”

Hoekstra includes in that former CIA case officer Sabrina de Sousa who is just days away from being extradited from Portugal to Italy, to serve a four-year sentence for a botched CIA extradition operation—a case he hopes the Trump administration will act on.

He said the simmering sense of betrayal is also felt by NSA officers doing the listening programs who felt like they got “hung out to dry” when the Obama administration failed to vigorously defend their actions after the Snowden leaks.

Trump’s choice of former Republican Sen. Dan Coats of Indiana to lead the DNI, and Republican Congressman from Kansas Mark Pompeo to take over the CIA have been welcomed by intelligence professionals, according to multiple current and former officials.

But some said if these verbal attacks continue, that could change.

“They are starting with a reservoir of good will. But their jobs are going to be unnecessarily harder if the commander in chief keeps on with these attacks,” said former CIA lawyer Rizzo. “If these remarks persist it will clearly have a corrosive effect on the morale.”

“I winced when he lodged yet another unsupported accusation regarding the weird Russian dossier,” said Andy Liepman, 30-year CIA veteran and currently RAND senior analyst “Who knows where it came from, what is true and what isn’t, or who leaked it?” He said he was “modestly hopeful” that Pompeo and Coats would quiet his suspicions about the community. “I think we have all been forced to get used to the President Elect’s jarring style of praising in one breath and attacking in the next—that might work in the business world, or even in politics (clearly it worked) but it won’t work as well with the men and women of the intelligence community.”

“I’ve spoken with people at the working level, and at the end of the day, I don’t think it will have much of an impact of how we conduct operations,” said a former CIA official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss conversations with serving officers.

“There are just as many people who are for Trump as are against him in the IC. They may not like Trump’s lack of refinement, but they are still conservatives,” he said.

“They are willing to say it’s growing pains, as long as it doesn’t get in the way of doing our jobs.”

“These bad vibes should die down once everyone’s in place in the new administration and they have to get work on concrete problems,” said McLaughlin. “The breach, if that is what we have, will heal.”

And despite all the name-calling on Wednesday, there was one peaceful sign for the president-elect and his intelligence team. Trump finally accepted the conclusions of the intelligence community that Russia did try to influence the U.S. election—though he quickly added that other nations like China are also guilty of attempting to hack U.S. institutions.

For months, Trump has been trying to blame someone—anyone—other than the Russians for the politically-motivated hacks and leaks. The he got an intelligence briefing late last week. Perhaps that’s what changed his mind.

Source : Daily Beast