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  • UN, Britain to co-host climate summit on December 12

    UN, Britain to co-host climate summit on December 12The United Nations and Britain will co-host a global climate summit on December 12, the fifth anniversary of the landmark Paris Agreement, the world body said Wednesday.


  • In Taylor case, limits of law overcome calls for justice

    In Taylor case, limits of law overcome calls for justice“Arrest the cops who killed Breonna Taylor” became a rallying cry this summer, emblazoned on T-shirts worn by celebrities and sports stars while protesters filled the streets demanding police accountability. In the end, none of the officers were charged with Taylor's killing, although one was indicted for wildly shooting into neighboring apartments. The outcome demonstrates the vast disconnect between the public’s perception of what justice should look like and the limits of the law when police use deadly force.


  • They said it: Leaders at the virtual UN, in their own words

    They said it: Leaders at the virtual UN, in their own wordsHere, The Associated Press takes the opposite approach and spotlights some thoughts you might not have heard — the voices of leaders speaking at the first all-virtual U.N. General Assembly leaders meeting who might not have captured the headlines and the airtime on Wednesday, the second day of the 2020 debate. “We pray to the almighty God that the next meeting can be held in a pandemic-free world.”


  • Virus uptick in Hasidic NYC neighborhoods causes concern
  • The Latest: Kentucky governor authorizes National Guard

    The Latest: Kentucky governor authorizes National GuardKentucky Gov. Andy Beshear says he has authorized a “limited” deployment of the National Guard as hundreds of demonstrators have gathered to protest a grand jury’s decision to not indict police officers on criminal charges directly related to Breonna Taylor’s death. The Democratic governor said Wednesday at a news conference that the deployment is “based on very specific operations,” and is under the sole command of the National Guard.


  • Egypt: 3 police killed as 4 convicts attempt prison bust
  • 'It's self-delusion': Trump's former national security adviser said he wishes the president 'would just realize' that 'Putin is not his friend'

    'It's self-delusion': Trump's former national security adviser said he wishes the president 'would just realize' that 'Putin is not his friend'For years, Trump has been more friendly towards Putin — and other authoritarian leaders — than many top US allies.


  • Coronavirus: Health chief hails Africa's fight against Covid-19

    Coronavirus: Health chief hails Africa's fight against Covid-19Africa has had fewer cases than Europe, Asia or the Americas, with numbers continuing to decline.


  • Editorial Roundup: US
  • Saudi king's rare address to UN showcases monarch in charge

    Saudi king's rare address to UN showcases monarch in chargeSaudi Arabia’s King Salman made a rare address to the U.N. General Assembly on Wednesday, using the moment to highlight the foundational notions of his regime — his steadfast commitment to the Palestinians, his stature as custodian of Islam’s holiest sites and his assertion that Iran is responsible for much of the region’s instability. The prerecorded speech to world leaders suggested that the 84-year-old king, who delivers only a handful of public remarks each year, retains oversight of high-level policies despite the immense powers amassed by his son, the crown prince. In delivering his remarks, he became only the second Saudi king to deliver a speech to the world assembly.


  • He Killed 2 Marines in 2011. It Almost Derailed Peace Talks This Month.

    He Killed 2 Marines in 2011. It Almost Derailed Peace Talks This Month.KABUL, Afghanistan -- He was a young Afghan police officer working alongside American forces in one of the hot spots of the war, with Taliban ambushes all around. Then he turned his weapon on two U.S. Marines, killing them both.Now, he is out of prison.His attack, in Helmand province in 2011, was a serious eruption in a phenomenon that within a year would redefine the American war in Afghanistan: insider killings, often by members of the Afghan security forces who, like the police officer, were not at the time part of the Taliban.But just this month, that officer, Mohammad Dawood, 31, reached the top of the Taliban's list of prisoners they wanted released as they negotiated the opening of peace talks with the Afghan government. And along with just five other men detained after killing Westerners, his fate became a sticking point that nearly derailed the whole process, officials say.While the Taliban made the men's release an ultimatum before they would go to the table, officials for the United States, France and Australia were quietly urging the Afghan government not to let them go -- even as they told the Afghan government to free thousands of other Taliban prisoners with Afghan blood on their hands in order to open the way for the talks.Only a last-minute deal to remand the six to a kind of house arrest in Qatar allowed the opening of peace talks on Sept. 12.Dawood, whose name had not been publicly released but whose identity was confirmed by American and Afghan officials, now stands as a symbol of the difficulty -- and tough choices -- involved in trying to make peace in the middle of a bitter war.Dawood's killings of Lt. Col. Benjamin Palmer and Sgt. Kevin Balduf in 2011 represent only a fraction of more than 40 years of violence. But the Taliban's willingness to go to the brink for him in negotiations, despite his acting only on his own behalf, according to his family and close friends, was a stark demonstration of how even isolated disputes can threaten the peace process."We are not happy about the release of some prisoners, and we know our allies Australia and France are not happy about the release of some," said Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. special envoy for Afghan peace. In all, the Afghan government freed 5,000 prisoners demanded by the Taliban. "But we understand that this difficult step was in the service of something even more important, which is to get the Afghan war to come to an end, and it was a necessary step."The Taliban have consistently made prisoner releases a priority -- most notably in the 2014 exchange of an American soldier held by the Taliban for five years, Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, for five senior Taliban figures who were being held at the Guantanamo Bay prison camp. That deal brought heavy criticism for the Obama administration, and during his campaign for the presidency in 2016, Donald Trump repeatedly called Bergdahl a traitor who should be executed.Both Khalilzad as well as Mutlaq al-Qahtani, the Qatari special envoy for the process, refused to discuss details of the arrangement regarding the six prisoners, including where in Qatar the men are being held and under what circumstances. Amrullah Saleh, Afghanistan's vice president, in a recent interview said the men would not be allowed to leave Qatar -- all the pages on their passports are crossed out except for the one with the Qatari visa.Stopping deadly insider attacks like the one by Dawood was once an urgent imperative for the Obama administration. By the end of President Barack Obama's first term, cultural tensions and increasing pressure from the Taliban had spilled over into violence as Afghan troops turned their guns on their Western allies, threatening to derail the war effort.By the height of the war, Americans were building outposts within outposts to defend themselves from the very people they were supposed to be training and fighting alongside.Insider attacks became a grim feature of the conflict. The deaths of Palmer, 43, and Balduf, 27, came during a flurry of such killings that peaked in 2012, accounting for 15% of coalition troops who were killed or wounded in Afghanistan that year.Of the four U.S. troops killed in combat in 2020, two were killed in an insider attack in February, marking the last U.S. troops to die from hostile fire before the peace agreement between the United States and the Taliban.But as was the case for many such attacks, Dawood was not a part of an insurgent group when he killed the two Marines, according to those close to him and to an Afghan official familiar with his case.Born in Naw Bahar, a small, staunchly anti-Taliban village in Baghlan province, Dawood was one of five brothers and the son of Mohammad Zahir, a poor wheat farmer. He studied at a madrassa in Kunduz and Baghlan, before studying in Pakistan and Iran, where like many Afghans he worked for a brief time.Safdar Mohseni, head of the Baghlan provincial council, said Dawood had most likely turned to the Taliban in prison, looking for support."He was a good person to me in every way -- psychologically, scientifically, religiously -- and was a patriot," said Saqi Mohammad Numani, a religious scholar who taught Dawood for several years. "Like Dawood, I have thousands of students who are not in favor of violence and terror, and Dawood was not in favor of violence."After returning from Iran, Dawood was engaged to be married, but because he was low on money, he joined the Afghan police. He trained in Kabul for six months in 2010 and graduated as a sergeant, according to a senior police official who served alongside him in southern Afghanistan.Not long after Dawood left police training in 2011, he was assigned to the Afghan National Civil Order Police's 5th Brigade, a new unit the U.S. military was training in Afghanistan's volatile Helmand province. As the Taliban began regaining ground, U.S. and NATO forces started a concerted effort to professionalize the police force to hold what districts the Afghan government still controlled.On May 12, 2011, Dawood walked from the Afghan portion of his base in Lashkar Gah, the provincial capital of Helmand, and entered the U.S. side, where his Marine advisers lived, slept and ate.A small group of Marines were outside eating dinner when Dawood lifted his assault rifle and began firing, killing Palmer and Balduf. Marines fired back, wounding Dawood.Cultural misunderstandings and disgust with Westerners were traced to many insider killings. When the attacks began in earnest in 2008, they took a deep toll on the U.S.-Afghan relationship, sowing doubt and distrust that was only exacerbated by the stress of training and combat.In a country rife with anti-Semitism, Dawood appeared to turn to that in an attempt to justify his actions. He told investigators he killed the Americans because he thought they were Jews and he did not want to live among them. He said no one had provoked him, though the senior Afghan official said that Dawood's fundamentalist education in Iran and Pakistan was probably a catalyst for this contempt.This article originally appeared in The New York Times.(C) 2020 The New York Times Company


  • Missouri governor, opponent of mandatory masks, has COVID-19

    Missouri governor, opponent of mandatory masks, has COVID-19Missouri Gov. Mike Parson, a Republican who has steadfastly refused to require residents to wear masks, tested positive for the coronavirus, his office said Wednesday. Parson was tested after his wife, Teresa, tested positive earlier in the day. Teresa Parson had experienced mild symptoms, including a cough and nasal congestion, spokeswoman Kelli Jones said.


  • Lebanon asks world's help 'trying to rise from its rubble'

    Lebanon asks world's help 'trying to rise from its rubble'Facing an economic meltdown and other crises, Lebanon’s president on Wednesday asked for the world's help to rebuild the capital's main port and neighborhoods that were blown away in last month’s catastrophic explosion. President Michel Aoun made the plea in a prerecorded speech to the U.N. General Assembly’s virtual summit, telling world leaders that Lebanon's many challenges are posing an unprecedented threat to its very existence. Most urgently, the country needs the international community’s support to rebuild its economy and its destroyed port.


  • Pence, Ivanka bring law-and-order tour to city of Floyd

    Pence, Ivanka bring law-and-order tour to city of FloydVice President Mike Pence and Ivanka Trump are bringing President Donald Trump’s law-and-order campaign message to Minneapolis on Thursday, showing support for law enforcement in the city where George Floyd's death sparked angry and sometimes violent protests that spread around the world. Pence and President Trump's daughter planned to host a listening session with a “Cops for Trump” group, as well as with residents who the Trump reelection campaign says have been “negatively impacted by crime and violent extremism.”


  • Brazil adds some to force fighting vast wetlands blazes

    Brazil adds some to force fighting vast wetlands blazesBrazil's government on Wednesday said it was adding 43 more firefighters to a small force battling blazes that have charred a Belgium-sized swath of the world's largest tropical wetlands. President Jair Bolsonaro addressed the United Nations this week to fend off criticism of his country's efforts in the Pantanal region as well as the Amazon rainforest to the north — both considered crucial and diverse environments. Satellite images analyzed by the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro indicate this season's fires in the drought-parched Pantanal have covered 3.1 million hectares (nearly 12,000 square miles) — an area the size of Belgium or the U.S. state of Maryland and about a fifth of the entire wetlands.


  • Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny mocked Putin for suggesting that he poisoned himself

    Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny mocked Putin for suggesting that he poisoned himselfPutin's critics and opponents have routinely been poisoned and some have been killed. Navalny is seemingly the latest victim.


  • An ideal of innocence kept alive
  • Beta continues slow trek, bringing rain to several states

    Beta continues slow trek, bringing rain to several statesA weakened Beta continued its slow trek across several Southern states on Wednesday, bringing rainfall to parts of Louisiana, Arkansas and Mississippi after having flooded homes and roadways in Texas. Houston began drying out on Wednesday after some parts of the metro area got nearly 14 inches (35.6 centimeters) of rain over the last three days, according to the National Weather Service. “It’s not nearly as bad as it could have been,” said Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner.


  • China's carbon neutral pledge could curb global warming by 0.3°C -researchers
  • China, the world's biggest polluter, says it will be carbon neutral by 2060
  • Trump, social media, right-wing news stir up antifa scares

    Trump, social media, right-wing news stir up antifa scaresThe group gathered around the town square, waiting for the arrival of what has become a new American boogeyman: antifa. Michael Johnson and others were certain that school buses full of radical left-wing extremists from big cities were coming to Leitchfield, Kentucky, where about 50 of their neighbors had gathered on the courthouse lawn to chant, “Black lives matter!” and wave signs in solidarity with the nation's surging protest movement. It's a scene that has unfolded in many other cities and small towns this year, the product of fear and conflict stoked by bogus posts on social media, right-wing news outlets and even some of the nation's most powerful leaders.


  • Arab leaders voice alarm at UN over Iran tensions

    Arab leaders voice alarm at UN over Iran tensionsArab leaders voiced fears Wednesday before the United Nations of new conflict in the region as tensions soar between Iran and the United States.


  • Police officers not charged for killing Breonna Taylor

    Police officers not charged for killing Breonna TaylorA Kentucky grand jury brought no charges against Louisville police for the killing of Breonna Taylor during a drug raid gone wrong, with prosecutors saying Wednesday that two officers who fired their weapons at the Black woman were justified in using force to protect themselves. The only charges brought by the grand jury were three counts of wanton endangerment against fired Officer Brett Hankison for shooting into Taylor’s neighbors’ homes during the raid on the night of March 13. Ben Crump, a lawyer for Taylor's family, denounced the decision as “outrageous and offensive,” and protesters shouting, “No justice, no peace!” began marching through the streets.


  • Nigerian fuel tanker explosion kills 25 in Lokoja

    Nigerian fuel tanker explosion kills 25 in LokojaA primary school pupil and students are among 25 people killed when the tanker's brakes failed.


  • Seven New Data Center Projects to Add More than 40 Thousand Square Feet Area in the Netherlands
  • FBI warns ‘foreign actors’ likely to spread misinformation on election results

    FBI warns ‘foreign actors’ likely to spread misinformation on election resultsIntelligence bureau encouraged Americans to be patient and ensure they are getting information from trusted sourcesThe FBI has published a public service announcement warning that “foreign actors” and cybercriminals will likely attempt to spread misinformation about the results of the 2020 presidential election.The intelligence bureau encouraged Americans to be patient about the results of the election and ensure they are getting information from trusted sources, amid expectations that there won’t be a definitive result on “election night”, 3 November , because it takes longer to gather and count mailed-in ballots.There is expected to be tens of millions more Americans than usual voting by mail in this election because of precautions about spreading the coronavirus by going to polling stations in person, which could lead to chaos if candidates claim victory prematurely and the verified result takes many days to emerge.“Foreign actors and cybercriminals could create new websites, change existing websites, and create or share corresponding social media content to spread false information in an attempt to discredit the electoral process and undermine confidence in US democratic institutions,” the agency warned on Tuesday.The announcement emphasized that it may take several days for state and local officials to certify votes, meaning results could be incomplete on the night of the election.The announcement came soon after reports first published by the Washington Post that Russian president Vladimir Putin and his aides are “probably directing” an operation to influence the election against Joe Biden, according to two anonymous sources who reviewed a classified CIA assessment.The assessment details attempts by Ukrainian lawmaker Andrii Derkach, who has public connections to Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, to spread discrediting information about Biden to members of Congress, lawmakers and members of the media.While accusations of Derkach’s attempt to spread misinformation about Biden, which Derkach has denied, have been known for some time, the CIA’s assessment was the first indication that Putin could be directly orchestrating the operation.“We assess that President Vladimir Putin and the senior most Russian officials are aware of and probably directing Russia’s influence operations aimed at denigrating the former US Vice President, supporting the US president and fueling public discord ahead of the US election in November,” the first line of the document says, according to the sources.In July, Biden released a comprehensive statement that, if elected, he will hold Russia and other foreign governments accountable for any interference with the election.At the time, Democrats in Congress were raising concerns over foreign election interference and demanded a briefing from the FBI.In his statement, Biden criticized the Trump administration for failing to take actions to deter and counter any foreign interference, refusing to use the president’s authority to sanction certain countries that are accused of trying to influence the American election.Over the last few months, Trump has dismissed concerns about foreign influence coming from online and has said that mail-in ballots are susceptible to foreign interference, a claim that has been overwhelmingly debunked by top intelligence officials and experts who say that mail-in voting is safe from foreign influence.


  • The Latest: Afghan leader urges global help to achieve peace

    The Latest: Afghan leader urges global help to achieve peaceAfghanistan’s president is urging the world to help his war-battered nation achieve peace amid talks with the Taliban aimed at ending nearly two decades of conflict. Ashraf Ghani made the appeal Wednesday in a prerecorded speech to the U.N. General Assembly, saying the country faces “multiple drivers of turmoil all at once” but “peace remains our most urgent and important priority.” A U.S.-led coalition ousted the Taliban from power in Afghanistan in 2001 for harboring Osama bin Laden, the architect of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.


  • Dear Donald, Dear Mr. President: A Trump-Nixon '80s tale

    Dear Donald, Dear Mr. President: A Trump-Nixon '80s taleThe letters between once and future presidents, revealed for the first time in an exhibit that opens Thursday at the Richard Nixon Presidential Library & Museum, show the two men engaged in something of an exercise in mutual affirmation. “I think that you are one of this country’s great men, and it was an honor to spend an evening with you,” Trump writes to Nixon in June 1982, less than eight years after Nixon resigned the presidency during the Watergate scandal. The two had been spotted together at the “21” nightclub and Trump was writing Nixon to thank him for forwarding a photo.


  • U.S. blacklists individuals, entities linked to leader of IRA
  • Greece: EU to ready Turkey sanctions despite crisis thaw
  • Vision 2020: Are the nation's voting systems secure?

    Vision 2020: Are the nation's voting systems secure?Election Question: What steps have been taken to protect the nation’s election systems from potential interference by foreign powers like Russia? Have voting systems been “hardened” in any way? Answer: Federal, state and local officials prioritized securing voting systems after Russia interfered in the 2016 election, breaking down bureaucracy to improve communication of potential threats, conducting security reviews and installing network sentinels to detect known cyberthreats and suspicious activity.


  • Only a quarter of UK businesses say they are ready for Brexit, with less than 4 months to go

    Only a quarter of UK businesses say they are ready for Brexit, with less than 4 months to goStatistics revealed by Michael Gove painted an alarming picture of Britain's readiness for the end of the Brexit transition period.


  • Trump and Xi's dueling U.N. speeches put 'great fracture' on display

    Trump and Xi's dueling U.N. speeches put 'great fracture' on displaySecretary-General António Guterres warned the U.N. General Assembly in New York on Tuesday that the world has become increasingly defined by the "great fracture" between Washington and Beijing. In a doom-laden speech, he said the United States and China are "moving in a very dangerous direction," with divisions based on trade and technology that could easily escalate into a military conflict. Instead Guterres warned world leaders that the "four horsemen" he has previously warned of — geopolitical tensions, the climate crisis, "growing global mistrust" and "the dark side" of the internet — had been joined by a "fifth horseman": the coronavirus.


  • UK's Gove says confident on financial services equivalence after Brexit
  • UN slashes health care in Yemen due to lack of funding

    UN slashes health care in Yemen due to lack of fundingThe United Nations said Wednesday that critical aid had been cut at 300 health centres across war-ravaged Yemen due to a lack of funding, with lifesaving food handouts also reduced.


  • Sustainability Platform AWorld Launches Mobile App in Support of UN ActNow Campaign

    Sustainability Platform AWorld Launches Mobile App in Support of UN ActNow CampaignIn an effort to mobilize individual action on climate change and sustainability, the AWorld platform is today launching a mobile app in support of the United Nations' ActNow campaign.


  • Report: Iran's Guard flew surveillance drone over USS Nimitz
  • Report: Iran's Guard flew surveillance drone over USS Nimitz
  • The Russian Trolls Have a Simpler Job Today. Quote Trump.

    The Russian Trolls Have a Simpler Job Today. Quote Trump.WASHINGTON -- Four years ago, when Russian intelligence agencies engaged in a systematic attempt to influence the American presidential election, the disinformation they fed U.S. voters required some real imagination at the troll farms producing the ads.There was the exaggerated Texas secession movement, a famous ad in which Satan arm-wrestles Jesus while declaring, "If I win, Clinton wins," and an effort to recruit protesters and counterprotesters to the same, invented rally over the rapid spread of Islamic influence in the United States.This year, their task is much easier. They are largely amplifying misleading statements from President Donald Trump, mostly about the dangers of mail-in ballots.In interviews, a range of officials and private analysts said that Trump was feeding many of the disinformation campaigns they were struggling to halt. And rather than travel the back roads of America searching for divisive issues -- as three Russians from the Internet Research Agency did in 2016 -- they are staying home, grabbing screenshots of Trump's Twitter posts, or quoting his misleading statements and then amplifying those messages.That campaign is at the heart of the disinformation efforts that the FBI director, Christopher A. Wray, warned Congress last week was meant "to both sow divisiveness and discord" and "to denigrate" former Vice President Joe Biden, the Democratic nominee. Trump chastised him for his comments on Twitter."But Chris, you don't see any activity from China, even though it is a FAR greater threat than Russia, Russia, Russia," he said. He went on to repeat the kind of statements the Russians have been exploiting, writing that the two countries would take advantage of "our totally vulnerable Unsolicited (Counterfeit?) Ballot Scam."Twitter flagged the president's tweet, urging readers to click on a link to "learn how voting by mail is safe and secure."The FBI and the Department of Homeland Security on Tuesday again warned of the risk of interference in the election, this time by foreigners aiming to exploit the time it will take to sort through mail-in ballots. During that time, the agencies said, hackers could amplify "disinformation that includes reports of voter suppression, cyberattacks targeting election infrastructure, voter or ballot fraud and other problems intended to convince the public of the elections' illegitimacy."The warning made no mention that the president had recently listed several of those techniques as likely to plague the vote.Multiple U.S. officials with access to the intelligence have said Trump has been doing the job of the Russian propagandists for them. Biden's national security adviser when he was vice president, Antony J. Blinken, charged at a U.S. Chamber of Commerce forum Tuesday that as a "leading consumer and purveyor of conspiracy theories," Trump "seems to have suited up for the other side."Clint Watts, a former FBI special agent and a fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute, said his review of the disinformation traffic showed that "the Russians in 2016 had to make false news stories or manipulated truths to power their narratives.""This time they're not writing anything that's not already said in U.S. space," often by Trump himself, Watts added. "They must be flabbergasted and saying, 'We really don't need to work hard this time.' "Much of the Russian traffic echoes Trump's effort to establish an argument for rejecting the election results if he loses in states that are mailing ballots to all voters for the first time. But of the states doing so for the first time this election, only Nevada is seriously in contention.No sooner did Trump begin to contend that the system was ridden with fraud than Russian trolls, bots and news sites joined in. In late May, the state-backed Russian website RT was quick to publish an article claiming that such ballots "are the easiest route to a RIGGED ELECTION."By early August, the Strategic Culture Foundation -- an online journal that the State Department declared recently "is directed by Russian Foreign Intelligence Service" -- had picked up on the same theme, according to analysts at Recorded Future, a group based in Somerville, Massachusetts, that analyzes cyberactivity by foreign governments.An article appearing on the Strategic Culture website concludes: "President Trump has several times claimed that the expected surge in mail-in voting could result in 'the most corrupt vote in our nation's history.' Trump is often wrong when he speaks or tweets spontaneously, but this time he just might be right."And this month, the Russian government news site, Sputnik, published an article headlined, "Trump Again Claims Biden May Be Using Drugs to Enhance His Debate Performances," repeating comments the president made on Fox News. That piece was republished by the right-wing website Infowars, disseminating it more widely in the United States, and readers shared it on social media. That allowed the article to spread without running the risk that it would be removed because it was an "inauthentic" post by a Russian troll in St. Petersburg pretending to be American.The Russia proxy website Newsfront went further, reporting "confirmation of rumors about Biden's incapacity." It is the exact type of disinformation a homeland security intelligence bulletin warned Russian actors have amplified "because they judge this narrative will resonate with some American voters and reduce their confidence in him as a candidate."Feeding the Russian desire to discredit the election system was also what the Republican-led Senate Intelligence Committee warned against in its report on how Moscow tried to manipulate the 2016 election."Sitting officials and candidates should use the absolute greatest amount of restraint and caution if they are considering calling the validity of an upcoming election into question," the committee concluded, without dissent from its Republican majority. "Such a grave allegation can have significant national security and electoral consequences, including limiting the response options of the appropriate authorities, and exacerbating the already damaging messaging efforts of foreign intelligence services."Now, his own bureaucracy finds itself stuck between their intelligence findings and an angry president. The day before Trump scolded his FBI director on Twitter, General Paul M. Nakasone, the director of the National Security Agency and commander of United States Cyber Command, warned of the dangers of Russian disinformation -- which his agency has pledged to counter.Nakasone has vowed to take steps to knock such disinformation offline, as he did in the 2018 midterm elections, when Cyber Command attacked the Internet Research Agency, the digital propaganda shop that operates from St. Petersburg, disabling its systems for a number of days. One veteran of Cyber Command noted that the general's mission in the next six weeks may involve taking down Russian posts that are quoting his boss.Intelligence officials, for their part, are battling an effort by Trump and his top advisers to cast China and Iran as equal threats to the election, which runs counter to their intelligence.A homeland security official, Brian Murphy, said in a whistleblower complaint that the leadership of the Department of Homeland Security, including the agency's acting secretary Chad Wolf, blocked the release of a threat assessment that contained warnings of Russian interference because of how it "would reflect upon President Trump."The senior officials instead directed analysts to highlight threats posed by China and Iran, which have generally targeted Trump, according to Murphy. While both are threats, officials say, their operations are neither as extensive nor as sophisticated as the Russians. They are longer-term concerns, though Trump's national security adviser, Robert C. O'Brien, has sought to portray them on equal footing with Moscow.Former officials say they are concerned that such contradictory assessments play into Russia's hands. "If the adversary's goal is to undermine confidence in the legitimacy of the process, then it's incredibly important we have voices to counter that objective," said Suzanne Spaulding, a former under secretary for cybersecurity and critical infrastructure at the Department of Homeland Security. "And if the credibility of those voices has been undermined, then it makes the adversary's jobs that much easier."In a draft of the assessment from August, homeland security analysts wrote: "Russia probably will be the primary covert influence actor and purveyor of disinformation and misinformation within the homeland."They continued, "We assess that Moscow's primary objective is to increase its global standing and influence by weakening America -- domestically and abroad -- through efforts to sow discord, distract, shape public sentiment and undermine trust in Western democratic institutions and processes."Murphy said he learned in September that Wolf had ordered new drafts to be redesigned by his policy office. Wolf's department has now said it will be released Oct. 1. The Department of Homeland Security has rejected Murphy's allegations.Wolf has seldom highlighted the Russian threat in public remarks without also mentioning China and Iran.Harry Fones, a spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security, said the agency had tracked a growing threat from Russia, China and Iran."As a department it is our duty to defend our nation and critical infrastructure like elections from all threats, not just the one the news is focusing on," he said.This article originally appeared in The New York Times.(C) 2020 The New York Times Company


  • Senate Republicans Release Hunter Biden Hatchet Job Weeks From Election Day

    Senate Republicans Release Hunter Biden Hatchet Job Weeks From Election DaySenate Republicans have released their controversial report on Joe Biden and his son Hunter’s former dealings with Ukraine in a politically-charged move to taint Biden’s campaign weeks out from Election Day.The investigation, which was spearheaded by Sens. Ron Johnson (R-WI) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA) focuses on Hunter Biden’s work for Ukrainian gas company Burisma Holdings—a key issue in last year’s impeachment of President Donald Trump. The probe was launched despite no evidence of any wrongdoing by Hunter Biden ever being established.The report contains little that wasn’t already known. Its headline finding is that two Obama administration officials raised some concerns to the White House in 2015 about Hunter Biden serving on the board of Burisma, but the report does not support Trump’s baseless claim that Joe Biden tried to use his influence as Vice President to remove a Ukrainian prosecutor in order to protect his son’s gas firm. Senate Democrats tried earlier this week to prevent the report from being published, warning that the document would only serve to amplify Russian disinformation about Biden ahead of November’s election. The Treasury department has sanctioned Andriy Derkach, an associate who has pushed similar theories with the help of Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani, because U.S. intelligence services believe he is an active Russian agent. It was reported on Tuesday that the CIA believes President Putin is probably directing the disinformation campaign against the Bidens personally.The GOP investigation, launched after Biden became a frontrunner for the Democratic nomination, has been framed by Johnson as explicitly political—drawing condemnation even from Republican senators. Last week, Johnson said his report would reveal that Biden "is not somebody we should be electing president of the United States."On Wednesday, following the publication, the Biden campaign immediately dismissed the report as politically-motivated nonsense.Biden spokesman Andrew Bates reportedly said: “As the coronavirus death toll climbs and Wisconsinites struggle with joblessness, Ron Johnson has wasted months diverting the Senate Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs Committee away from any oversight of the catastrophically botched federal response to the pandemic, a threat Sen. Johnson has dismissed by saying that ‘death is an unavoidable part of life.’”The report trumpets one quote as its central finding: That a State Department official, George Kent, raised concerns in 2015 with unidentified officials at the White House about Biden’s son working with Burisma. Kent wrote in one email to unidentified colleagues of his: “The presence of Hunter Biden on the Burisma board was very awkward for all U.S. officials pushing an anti-corruption agenda in Ukraine.”However, Kent said as much to congressional investigators during his testimony last year, when he said he was worried that Hunter Biden’s position could appear like a conflict of interest, and that he had raised that issue with the White House.Kent, who was the acting deputy chief of mission at the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine at the time, also said that the U.S. government never made a decision about Burisma that was affected by Hunter Biden’s board position.Kent said in October last year that “in the aggregate (Hunter's job) didn't have any discernible effect.”Generally, the report aims to paint Hunter Biden’s activities as unseemly, and his father as complicit. What’s missing is any fresh new evidence bolstering the notion that Hunter Biden's activities actually subverted U.S. policy in Ukraine, beyond concerning U.S. officials. In the course of the investigation, Johnson’s committee pursued a sweeping set of subpoenas for former Obama-Biden administration officials to appear for testimony. They secured several interviews, including with former State Department official Victoria Nuland and Biden adviser Amos Hochstein. Yet, the report relies just as heavily—if not more so—on media reports that had been in the public realm long before the GOP committees took interviews. A New Yorker profile of Hunter Biden from 2019, in particular, is heavily cited. When it is not attempting to raise the specter of general sketchiness by the Bidens, the GOP report reads as a general airing of grievances by the chairmen, particularly Johnson, who has increasingly bristled at scrutiny of his contentious investigation.A full 10 pages of the 87-page report, slotted in the middle of material about Biden and Ukraine, serves as a venue for the Republicans to vent against Democrats for arguing that the GOP probe advanced Russian disinformation efforts and for “media leaks.”There is plenty of disdain, too, for the media outlets that reported critically on the investigation. “The Democrats’ false narrative has continued to be picked up, amplified, and circulated by a broad network of Democrat-friendly media outlets and Democratic members of Congress,” says the report.Elsewhere in the report, Republicans simply dump assorted dirt on Biden’s son. Hunter, say the Republicans, paid women who were Russian nationals and allegedly linked to a prostitution ring. There’s an entire section of the report devoted to how Hunter Biden received U.S. Secret Service protection on trips abroad while his father was vice president.The GOP also raises Hunter Biden’s China ties—a topic that Team Trump openly encouraged the Chinese government to probe in 2019—and says the connections “raise criminal concerns and extortion threats” without citing any specific evidence other than “records acquired by the committee.” These are cited in the report frequently as “confidential documents.”Those mysterious documents also form the basis of the Republicans’ parting shot: that they may not be done yet with Hunter Biden. Republicans say they will continue to review the documents in their possession. “There remains,” reads the report’s final sentence, “much work to be done.”Read more at The Daily Beast.Get our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.


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    Mueller Failed to Follow Trump’s Money Trail(Bloomberg Opinion) -- Three years ago, as Special Counsel Robert Mueller pushed ahead with his probe of Team Trump’s intersection with Russia, he issued subpoenas to the German financial giant Deutsche Bank AG. Mueller was seeking information about Paul Manafort’s dealings with the bank, and his request for records about Donald Trump’s former campaign manager apparently set off alarms in the White House.Trump had also done lots of business with Deutsche Bank, and although Mueller issued his subpoenas secretly, word somehow leaked to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. When the White House asked Mueller’s team what they were examining, Mueller responded that Manafort, not Trump, was the target.“At that point, any financial investigation of Trump was put on hold,” writes Andrew Weissmann, a veteran federal prosecutor who played a senior role in Mueller’s investigation, in a new book. “That is, we backed down — the issue was simply too incendiary; the risk, too severe.”Weissmann’s book, “Where Law Ends,” is the first insider’s narrative of the Mueller investigation. The book portrays Mueller as an admirable and purposeful prosecutor who was overly deferential to the White House on a number of pivotal matters and was ultimately outmaneuvered by Attorney General William Barr, who was nakedly deceitful. Mueller’s fumbles have been amply documented elsewhere, including his decisions not to depose Trump and not to explicitly recommend obstruction of justice charges against him (even though Mueller’s own public summary of his investigation made it clear obstruction had occurred).By my lights, however, the most unfortunate lapse — one that Weissmann substantiates — is Mueller’s inexplicable failure to follow the money trail. There is abundant and damning evidence of the Trump camp’s coziness with Russia before, during and after the 2016 campaign. That coziness continues to this day. But we still lack a complete understanding of what incentives Trump has had for persistently kowtowing to Russian President Vladimir Putin.Following the money, and determining the extent to which Trump is financially beholden to Russia, would have answered one of the lingering mysteries of Trump’s tenure and clarified why the president has been so cavalier about compromising national security and allowing elections to be corrupted.Trump actively pursued a major real estate deal in Moscow while he was campaigning for president. He worked closely with a career criminal on the Trump SoHo Hotel project before he even ran for president, a development funded in part with lots of murky money from eastern Europe. Didn’t Mueller find all of that a wee bit curious?“We still do not know if there are other financial ties between the president and either the Russian government or Russian oligarchs,” Weissmann writes in his book. “We do not know whether he paid bribes to foreign officials to secure favorable treatment for his business interests, a potential violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act that would provide leverage against the president. We do not know if he had other Russian business deals in the works at the time he was running for president, how they might have aided or constrained his campaign, or even if they are continuing to influence his presidency.”The place to start looking for possible skeletons in Trump’s financial closet is easy to identify: Deutsche Bank. After all, Trump has a long and troubled track record with the bank. After Trump engineered a series of bankruptcies in the early 1990s, most major banks shunned him. But Deutsche took his business, beginning in 1998 with a modest renovation loan for 40 Wall Street, a Manhattan skyscraper Trump controls. In the early 2000s, Deutsche loaned Trump as much as $640 million for a Chicago project — the Trump International Hotel and Tower.More recently, Deutsche’s private banking arm has helped Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and a White House adviser, as well as Kushner’s mother, arrange multimillion-dollar loans and lines of credit. The private bank also has loaned Trump about $300 million, according to Bloomberg News and Trump’s government financial disclosure forms, for such projects as his Washington hotel and the Trump National Doral golf course.And Deutsche hasn’t been a vigilant financial steward. Apart from its dealings with Trump, it’s been mired for the past several years in investigations involving money laundering, market manipulation, bid-rigging and compliance problems that have forced it to cough up billions of dollars in fines and see its reputation tarnished.Steve Bannon, another disgraced former Trump campaign manager, told the author Michael Wolff that the most perilous aspect of Mueller’s probe was the money trail. “This is all about money laundering,” he told Wolff. “Their path to [expletive] Trump goes right through Paul Manafort, Don Jr. and Jared Kushner. … It goes through Deutsche Bank and all the Kushner stuff.”The New York Times reported last year that anti-money-laundering specialists at Deutsche Bank recommended alerting officials at the Treasury Department about multiple transactions involving entities tied to Trump and Kushner in 2016 and 2017, but senior executives blocked them. “Deutsche Bank employees said the decision not to report the Trump and Kushner transactions reflected the bank’s generally lax approach to money-laundering laws,” the Times noted. Bank employees “said it was part of a pattern of the bank’s executives rejecting valid reports to protect relationships with lucrative clients.”The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office appears to have picked up the ball that Mueller dropped and is currently investigating Trump for possible tax fraud and falsification of business records — according to a new filing it submitted to an appeals court on Monday. The DA’s office is seeking eight years of Trump’s tax returns as part of its investigation, which is also examining the president’s payment of hush money to two women who allegedly had sexual encounters with him. And the DA’s office is examining whether Trump inflated the value of his properties and other assets in order to secure funds from lenders and investors. Deutsche would have knowledge of that, as well.In 2006, Trump sued me for libel, claiming that a biography I wrote, “TrumpNation,” lowballed his wealth and misrepresented his track record as a businessman. Trump lost the suit in 2011. He had sought $5 billion in damages, which was, more or less, the difference between what he claimed he was worth at the time — about $6 billion — and what my sources believed him to be worth — $150 million to $250 million.During the litigation, my lawyers got their hands on an assessment of Trump’s wealth that Deutsche Bank had pulled together in 2004. The bank estimated that Trump had a net worth of about $788 million, even though he told them he was worth $3 billion — so Deutsche Bank had firsthand experience with Trump’s efforts to juice the value of his assets.If Trump doesn’t get re-elected, he’ll lose some of the legal insulation the White House provides him and be more vulnerable to the DA’s investigation than he already is. That may not make up for lost time or undo the damage from Mueller’s soft-pedaling, but it is at least a reminder of how important it is to follow the money if the public is going to fully understand who Trump is and what he’s done.This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.Timothy L. O'Brien is a senior columnist for Bloomberg Opinion.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinionSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.


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