Cryptocurrency-related crime will surpass all other cyber attacks in 2018

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL NEWSPAPER)

 

Cryptocurrency-related crime will surpass all other cyberattacks in 2018: expert

Leading experts at Tel Aviv cybersecurity conference weigh pros and cons of cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, and the risks of blockchain technology in financial transactions

Illustrative image of bitcoins (Courtesy BitsofGold)

Illustrative image of bitcoins (Courtesy BitsofGold)

Cryptocurrency-related attacks will surpass all other types of cyberattacks in 2018, a leading expert warned.

Issuing the bleak prediction, Lotem Finkelsteen, a threat intelligence analyst with the Israeli cybersecurity company Check Point Software Technologies, said “not a day goes by without our hearing about a new ICO [initial coin offering] scam or mining attack.”

By “cryptocurrency-related cyberattacks,” he appeared to be referring to any form of cybercrime involving or related to cryptocurrencies, including financial scams and hacking.

Blockchain, the technology that underpins cryptocurrencies, “is suffering from reputational damage,” said Finkelsteen. “And that is one of the main obstacles for blockchain technology to move forward.”

Lotem Finkelsteen (Twitter)

Finkelsteen was speaking on a panel at an event entitled “Blockchain, The New Digital Age” at Tel Aviv University’s annual Cyber Week cybersecurity conference. Other panelists at the event were more optimistic about the positive potential for blockchain and cryptocurrency technology.

“There are real projects rolling out,” said John Velissarios, Principal Director and Global Blockchain Technology Lead at Accenture, a global management consulting company. “We’re seeing blockchain applications for capital markets, exchanges, clearing and settlement systems and payment systems. The technology is evolving and the applications are becoming more significant.”

Blockchain technology is the underlying technology of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. A blockchain is a database that is maintained by numerous collaborators, like a Google document. The computers of the collaborators decide through a consensus mechanism how to update the database. Once they decide, the update is rendered immutable through cryptography. The resulting record can be used as proof of ownership without the need for a central authority deciding who owns what.

Many entrepreneurs and computer scientists see enormous potential in blockchain, and believe that the fact that money and other assets can be transferred from person to person without going through a central authority has many real-world applications.

But Haim Pinto, the CTO of Bank Hapoalim, Israel’s largest bank, asserted that there are no blockchain applications that are dependably usable at present, least of all for a trusted institution like a major commercial bank.

“Blockchain is still in a hype cycle,” he said in the panel discussion, arguing that the technology is not yet ready for widespread adoption. “We can’t just take it and use it.”

Pinto said cryptocurrencies present problems for banks seeking to comply with anti-money laundering and privacy regulation.

“As long as we are under anti-money laundering and FATCA rules, we have to know the source of customers’ money,” he said. This requirement, he said, does not jibe with the nature of cryptocurrencies, which can be transferred anonymously.

In addition, said Pinto, cryptocurrencies present a challenge for banks seeking to comply with the EU’s “right to be forgotten” laws, which require that businesses erase clients’ sensitive personal data if they are asked to do so.

“Distributed general ledgers cannot erase anything,” he said, referring to the fact that most blockchains are immutable. “That’s just one of the challenges. In addition, there are mathematical challenges. Distributed general ledgers can’t scale up to the volume of transactions we need to serve.”

Pinto said that most banks around the world are running mainframe computers as their core platforms. Before they can adopt blockchains or distributed general ledgers, they will probably first adopt “open banking,” a new trend in the banking world that refers to the practice of allowing third-party developers to build applications around the bank.

In recent years in Israel, some experts have touted cryptocurrency and blockchain as the next major driver of the Israeli economy, but as The Times of Israel has reported, it is unclear how much of the activity in this new high-tech field is legitimate, how much is mere hype, and how much is outright fraud perpetrated by malevolent actors, including transnational criminal organizations.

A second panel at the event dealt with the non-financial applications of the blockchain.

At that session, Gideon Lichfield, the editor-in-chief of the MIT Technology Review, described enthusiasm about using blockchain technology for supply-chain management.

Gideon Lichfield (Courtesy Cyber Week)

“Businesses see it as a way to track bananas or lettuce from the supplier to the supermarket shelf.”

If some lettuce turns out to be bad, he said, blockchain technology can be used to find out which farm the lettuce came from.

Lichfield questioned why blockchain is a good solution for this, as opposed to a centralized database or some other solution. Nevertheless, he said, if blockchain is an adequate solution, it could become the de facto standard, simply because there is so much hype around, and money being poured into, blockchain technology.

“Big companies don’t want to be left behind,” said Lichfield, ”They jump into this.”

Steve Bassi, the CEO of the cybersecurity company Polyswarm, agreed with the other panelists that blockchain is often proposed as a solution to a problem where a centralized database might work just as well.

Attempting to distill the circumstances under which blockchain could be useful, he asked, “Where do we always cheat each other unless someone else is watching? That is where blockchain might be applicable.”

Another speaker at the final session of the conference on Thursday, Tel Aviv University Economics professor Neil Gandal, presented a paper called “Price Manipulation in the Bitcoin Ecosystem” that he and his colleagues first published in January.

Tel Aviv University Economics Professor Neil Gandal speaks at Cyber Week, June 21, 2018 (Simona Weinglass/Times of Israel)

Gandal contended that Bitcoin’s first major price spike, when it rose from $150 to over $1,000 in late 2013, was likely caused by a single person using trading robots.

Gandal argued that if this could happen once it could happen again, and cited a recent paper by University of Texas economists arguing that Bitcoin’s more recent price spike, when it reached close to $20,000 last year, was also caused by price manipulation.

“It’s possible for a small number of actors to manipulate things,” he said. “We need some sort of regulation [of cryptocurrencies],” he said. “There is a loss of confidence in the system.”

READ MORE:
COMMENTS

The West is ill-prepared for the wave of “deep fakes” From AI

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE BROOKINGS INSTITUTE)

 

ORDER FROM CHAOS

The West is ill-prepared for the wave of “deep fakes” that artificial intelligence could unleash

Chris Meserole and Alina Polyakova

Editor’s Note:To get ahead of new problems related to disinformation and technology, policymakers in Europe and the United States should focus on the coming wave of disruptive technologies, write Chris Meserole and Alina Polyakova. Fueled by advances in artificial intelligence and decentralized computing, the next generation of disinformation promises to be even more sophisticated and difficult to detect. This piece originally appeared on ForeignPolicy.com.

Russian disinformation has become a problem for European governments. In the last two years, Kremlin-backed campaigns have spread false stories alleging that French President Emmanuel Macron was backed by the “gay lobby,” fabricated a story of a Russian-German girl raped by Arab migrants, and spread a litany of conspiracy theories about the Catalan independence referendum, among other efforts.

Europe is finally taking action. In January, Germany’s Network Enforcement Act came into effect. Designed to limit hate speech and fake news online, the law prompted both France and Spain to consider counterdisinformation legislation of their own. More important, in April the European Union unveiled a new strategy for tackling online disinformation. The EU plan focuses on several sensible responses: promoting media literacy, funding a third-party fact-checking service, and pushing Facebook and others to highlight news from credible media outlets, among others. Although the plan itself stops short of regulation, EU officials have not been shy about hinting that regulation may be forthcoming. Indeed, when Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg appeared at an EU hearing this week, lawmakers reminded him of their regulatory power after he appeared to dodge their questions on fake news and extremist content.

The problem is that technology advances far more quickly than government policies.

The recent European actions are important first steps. Ultimately, none of the laws or strategies that have been unveiled so far will be enough. The problem is that technology advances far more quickly than government policies. The EU’s measures are still designed to target the disinformation of yesterday rather than that of tomorrow.

To get ahead of the problem, policymakers in Europe and the United States should focus on the coming wave of disruptive technologies. Fueled by advances in artificial intelligence and decentralized computing, the next generation of disinformation promises to be even more sophisticated and difficult to detect.

To craft effective strategies for the near term, lawmakers should focus on four emerging threats in particular: the democratization of artificial intelligence, the evolution of social networks, the rise of decentralized applications, and the “back end” of disinformation.

Thanks to bigger data, better algorithms, and custom hardware, in the coming years, individuals around the world will increasingly have access to cutting-edge artificial intelligence. From health care to transportation, the democratization of AI holds enormous promise.

Yet as with any dual-use technology, the proliferation of AI also poses significant risks. Among other concerns, it promises to democratize the creation of fake print, audio, and video stories. Although computers have long allowed for the manipulation of digital content, in the past that manipulation has almost always been detectable: A fake image would fail to account for subtle shifts in lighting, or a doctored speech would fail to adequately capture cadence and tone. However, deep learning and generative adversarial networks have made it possible to doctor imagesand video so well that it’s difficult to distinguish manipulated files from authentic ones. And thanks to apps like FakeApp and Lyrebird, these so-called “deep fakes” can now be produced by anyone with a computer or smartphone. Earlier this year, a tool that allowed users to easily swap faces in video produced fake celebrity porn, which went viral on Twitter and Pornhub.

Deep fakes and the democratization of disinformation will prove challenging for governments and civil society to counter effectively. Because the algorithms that generate the fakes continuously learn how to more effectively replicate the appearance of reality, deep fakes cannot easily be detected by other algorithms—indeed, in the case of generative adversarial networks, the algorithm works by getting really good at fooling itself. To address the democratization of disinformation, governments, civil society, and the technology sector therefore cannot rely on algorithms alone, but will instead need to invest in new models of social verification, too.

At the same time as artificial technology and other emerging technologies mature, legacy platforms will continue to play an outsized role in the production and dissemination of information online. For instance, consider the current proliferation of disinformation on Google, Facebook, and Twitter.

A growing cottage industry of search engine optimization (SEO) manipulation provides services to clients looking to rise in the Google rankings. And while for the most part, Google is able to stay ahead of attempts to manipulate its algorithms through continuous tweaks, SEO manipulators are also becoming increasingly savvy at gaming the system so that the desired content, including disinformation, appears at the top of search results.

For example, stories from RT and Sputnik—the Russian government’s propaganda outlets—appeared on the first page of Google searches after the March nerve agent attack in the United Kingdom and the April chemical weapons attack in Syria. Similarly, YouTube (which is owned by Google) has an algorithm that prioritizes the amount of time users spend watching content as the key metric for determining which content appears first in search results. This algorithmic preference results in false, extremist, and unreliable information appearing at the top, which in turn means that this content is viewed more often and is perceived as more reliable by users. Revenue for the SEO manipulation industry is estimated to be in the billions of dollars.

On Facebook, disinformation appears in one of two ways: through shared content and through paid advertising. The company has tried to curtail disinformation across each vector, but thus far to no avail. Most famously, Facebook introduced a “Disputed Flag” to signify possible false news—only to discover that the flag made users more likely to engage with the content, rather than less. Less conspicuously, in Canada, the company is experimenting with increasing the transparency of its paid advertisements by making all ads available for review, including those micro-targeted to a small set of users. Yet, the effort is limited: The sponsors of ads are often buried, requiring users to do time-consuming research, and the archive Facebook set up for the ads is not a permanent database but only shows active ads. Facebook’s early efforts do not augur well for a future in which foreign actors can continue to exploit its news feed and ad products to deliver disinformation—including deep fakes produced and targeted at specific individuals or groups.

Although Twitter has taken steps to combat the proliferation of trolls and bots on its platform, it remains deeply vulnerable to disinformation campaigns, since accounts are not verified and its application programming interface, or API, still makes it possible to easily generate and spread false content on the platform. Even if Twitter takes further steps to crack down on abuse, its detection algorithms can be reverse-engineered in much the same way Google’s search algorithm is. Without fundamental changes to its API and interaction design, Twitter will remain rife with disinformation. It’s telling, for example, that when the U.S. military struck Syrian chemical weapons facilities in April—well after Twitter’s latest reforms were put in place—the Pentagon reported a massive surge in Russian disinformation in the hours immediately following the attack. The tweets appeared to come from legitimate accounts, and there was no way to report them as misinformation.

Blockchain technologies and other distributed ledgers are best known for powering cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin and ethereum. Yet their biggest impact may lie in transforming how the internet works. As more and more decentralized applications come online, the web will increasingly be powered by services and protocols that are designed from the ground up to resist the kind of centralized control that Facebook and others enjoy. For instance, users can already browse videos on DTube rather than YouTube, surf the web on the Blockstack browser rather than Safari, and store files using IPFS, a peer-to-peer file system, rather than Dropbox or Google Docs. To be sure, the decentralized application ecosystem is still a niche area that will take time to mature and work out the glitches. But as security improves over time with fixes to the underlying network architecture, distributed ledger technologies promise to make for a web that is both more secure and outside the control of major corporations and states.

If and when online activity migrates onto decentralized applications, the security and decentralization they provide will be a boon for privacy advocates and human rights dissidents. But it will also be a godsend for malicious actors. Most of these services have anonymity and public-key cryptography baked in, making accounts difficult to track back to real-life individuals or organizations. Moreover, once information is submitted to a decentralized application, it can be nearly impossible to take down. For instance, the IPFS protocol has no method for deletion—users can only add content, they cannot remove it.

For governments, civil society, and private actors, decentralized applications will thus pose an unprecedented challenge, as the current methods for responding to and disrupting disinformation campaigns will no longer apply. Whereas governments and civil society can ultimately appeal to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey if they want to block or remove a malicious user or problematic content on Twitter, with decentralized applications, there won’t always be someone to turn to. If the Manchester bomber had viewed bomb-making instructions on a decentralized app rather than on YouTube, it’s not clear who authorities should or could approach about blocking the content.

Over the last three years, renewed attention to Russian disinformation efforts has sparked research and activities among a growing number of nonprofit organizations, governments, journalists, and activists. So far, these efforts have focused on documenting the mechanisms and actors involved in disinformation campaigns—tracking bot networks, identifying troll accounts, monitoring media narratives, and tracing the diffusion of disinformation content. They’ve also included governmental efforts to implement data protection and privacy policies, such as the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation, and legislative proposals to introduce more transparency and accountability into the online advertising space.

While these efforts are certainly valuable for raising awareness among the public and policymakers, by focusing on the end product (the content), they rarely delve into the underlying infrastructure and advertising marketsdriving disinformation campaigns. Doing so requires a deeper examination and assessment of the “back end” of disinformation. In other words, the algorithms and industries—the online advertising market, the SEO manipulation market, and data brokers—behind the end product. Increased automation paired with machine learning will transform this space as well.

To get ahead of these emerging threats, Europe and the United States should consider several policy responses.

First, the EU and the United States should commit significant funding to research and development at the intersection of AI and information warfare. In April, the European Commission called for at least 20 billion euros (about $23 billion) to be spent on research on AI by 2020, prioritizing the health, agriculture, and transportation sectors. None of the funds are earmarked for research and development specifically on disinformation. At the same time, current European initiatives to counter disinformation prioritize education and fact-checking while leaving out AI and other new technologies.

As long as tech research and counterdisinformation efforts run on parallel, disconnected tracks, little progress will be made in getting ahead of emerging threats.

As long as tech research and counterdisinformation efforts run on parallel, disconnected tracks, little progress will be made in getting ahead of emerging threats. In the United States, the government has been reluctant to step in to push forward tech research as Silicon Valley drives innovation with little oversight. The 2016 Obama administration report on the future of AI did not allocate funding, and the Trump administration has yet to release its own strategy. As revelations of Russian manipulation of digital platforms continue, it is becoming increasingly clear that governments will need to work together with private sector firms to identify vulnerabilities and national security threats.

Furthermore, the EU and the U.S. government should also move quickly to prevent the rise of misinformation on decentralized applications. The emergence of decentralized applications presents policymakers with a rare second chance: When social networks were being built a decade ago, lawmakers failed to anticipate the way in which they could be exploited by malicious actors. With such applications still a niche market, policymakers can respond before the decentralized web reaches global scale. Governments should form new public-private partnerships to help developers ensure that the next generation of the web isn’t as ripe for misinformation campaigns. A model could be the United Nations’ Tech Against Terrorism project, which works closely with small tech companies to help them design their platforms from the ground up to guard against terrorist exploitation.

Finally, legislators should continue to push for reforms in the digital advertising industry. As AI continues to transform the industry, disinformation content will become more precise and micro-targeted to specific audiences. AI will make it far easier for malicious actors and legitimate advertisers alike to track user behavior online, identify potential new users to target, and collect information about users’ attitudes, beliefs, and preferences.

In 2014, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission released a report calling for transparency and accountability in the data broker industry. The report called on Congress to consider legislation that would shine light on these firms’ activities by giving individuals access and information about how their data is collected and used online. The EU’s protection regulation goes a long way in giving users control over their data and limits how social media platforms process users’ data for ad-targeting purposes. Facebook is also experimenting with blocking foreign ad sales ahead of contentious votes. Still, the digital ads industry as a whole remains a black box to policymakers, and much more can still be done to limit data mining and regulate political ads online.

Effectively tracking and targeting each of the areas above won’t be easy. Yet policymakers need to start focusing on them now. If the EU’s new anti-disinformation effort and other related policies fail to track evolving technologies, they risk being antiquated before they’re even introduced.

A how-to guide for managing the end of the post-Cold War era. Read all the Order from Chaos content »

What The World Needs To Do After Venezuela’s Vote

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF NPR AND THE BROOKINGS INSTITUTE)

 

What The World Needs To Do After Venezuela’s Vote

Marcos Carbono (center) joins a protest against the weekend’s election in Venezuela in front of that country’s consulate in Miami. President Nicolás Maduro may have won the vote count but in the process lost the legitimacy to govern, one expert writes.

Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Ted Piccone (@piccone_ted) is a senior fellow in foreign policy at the Brookings Institution.

Venezuela’s latest electoral affair only worsened the country’s continued slide from a relatively stable middle-income democracy to a socialist authoritarian system stricken with hyperinflation, rising poverty, declining oil production and record levels of violent crime. Rather than boost President Nicolás Maduro’s standing after five years in power, the low voter turnout — down from 80 percent in 2013 to 46 percent on Sunday — coupled with a clear rejection of the results by the United States, Canada and a group of 13 Latin American nations, leaves the protégé of former President Hugo Chávez with a crisis of governability. Maduro may have won the vote count but in the process lost the legitimacy to govern.

Venezuela’s deterioration toward despotism and despair comes as little surprise. For years, experts have warned that increasing executive control of the country’s democratic institutions alongside gross mismanagement of its oil-dominated economy would lead to worsening conditions for its 30 million citizens. Hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans have left the country in the past two years, many of them desperate to escape the confluence of food and medicine shortages, lack of decent jobs, terrible crime and political repression.

The situation today is a tragic reversal of the heady days when Chávez first launched his Bolivarian revolution in 1998, promising to spread Venezuela’s vast petroleum wealth more fairly among the majority poor. For years, the charismatic revolutionary rode the wave of high oil prices to deliver social benefits to his constituents, helping him not only to overcome general strikes, mass protests and a coup attempt, but also to win relatively free and fair elections multiple times. He abused that electoral popularity and government largesse to rewrite the constitution in his favor, create paramilitary “Bolivarian circles,” stack the courts and electoral council with his loyalists, control the state-owned oil firm, and stifle free media.

Chávez also effectively used the country’s oil reserves, the world’s largest, to insulate his regime from U.S. pressure, securing favorable loans from China and new military equipment and energy deals from Russia.

By the time Chávez died in March 2013, the winning formula for an elected authoritarian was well-entrenched. His hand-picked successor, Maduro, narrowly won elections a month later and quickly consolidated control by digging even deeper into the trough of state resources to buy off the military, nationalize industries and woo enough voters to stave off electoral defeat.

This strategy, however, has probably run its course. With mounting foreign debt, falling oil production, increased sanctions, diplomatic isolation and a spreading humanitarian crisis on his hands, Maduro can survive only by taking painful steps to reform a system that fuels his regime’s authority. Since this is unlikely, we should expect to see an increasingly desperate hardening of his administration’s tactics against his opponents, domestic and foreign, and an intensified reliance on China and Russia for support.

For the United States and the international community, Venezuela presents a particularly tricky case. The goals are relatively clear — weaken Maduro enough to force him to negotiate a peaceful exit while preventing a worsening humanitarian crisis that is already destabilizing neighboring Colombia and fragile Caribbean states and could bring thousands of desperate Venezuelans to U.S. borders.

Washington, however, is not well-positioned politically to lead the charge. Threats of military intervention, already uttered by President Trump, are a non-starter. Support for a military coup likewise would seriously set back U.S. standing in the region. For the past three decades, the U.S. has mostly stood firm in support of democratic and negotiated solutions to the Latin America’s internal political crises. That leaves expanding the list of targeted economic sanctions, coordinated with partners in the region and Europe, to pressure Maduro and his allies to come to the negotiating table in a serious way.

Up until now, Maduro has managed to avoid such a negotiated pact with the opposition, which remains divided and demoralized. They are not, however, defeated. They will likely return to the streets to protest the government’s abuses and economic malfeasance. As the country becomes more ungovernable, moderates in the ruling socialist party may realize that the benefits of the current system can only be preserved through compromise.

A new mediation process should be launched as soon as possible, facilitated by the United Nations under the secretary-general’s banner of conflict prevention, and supported by a coalition of states that includes not only key South American countries like Peru, Chile and Argentina, but also the United States, France, Germany, China and the Vatican. An early agreement should be reached to allow international agencies to deliver humanitarian assistance to malnourished and sick Venezuelans before they attempt to leave the country. And a package of economic incentives should be assembled to prepare for a post-Maduro scenario.

In sum, while Maduro may claim a historic victory that solidifies his hold on power, the reality is just the opposite. If the domestic opposition can rally, it will signal to the international community that a coordinated plan of increased sanctions and facilitated talks is feasible.

So, Trump Is Mad At The FBI For Them Doing Their Job, Are You Mad At Them Too?

So, Trump Is Mad At The FBI For Them Doing Their Job, Are You Mad At Them Too?

 

I am not a fan of Donald Trump nor am I a fan of Hillary Clinton, personally I believe that these two should have gotten married, they are just alike. In November of 2016 we the people of the U.S. knew going in to election day that we were all going to end up with an habitual liar as our next President, the only question was, male of female. I have no doubts at all that both of these people as well as several of the people who are close to them are nothing but liars and crooks. It is my personal belief that Hillary, Bill, Donald, Donald Jr, Erick, Jarred Kushner and Ivanka should all be forced to live out the rest of their lives in one 4×8 jail cell in the basement of Leavenworth Prison in Kansas. In that last election I voted for the third-party candidate Gary Johnson, not because I thought that he could win, I never even knew what he said he stands for, I just couldn’t drag myself to have to say that I voted for Donald or for Hillary.

 

Now to the main part of this article. As most everyone who lives here in the States probably knows President Trump is very mad at the FBI because he strongly feels that they should never ever have been investigating reported crimes being committed during the election cycle by himself and his indentured whores. Yet he does feel that they should have been investigating crimes he says that the Hillary Campaign were/are guilty of. I have no doubt that Hillary and her campaign committed many federal, state and local crimes, yet Trump feels that his campaign should get a free pass from the FBI for their crimes. It appears to me that Donald and his henchmen committed about every election crime that is possible to be committed including treason with several foreign and even hostile governments. Personally I would be very upset if the FBI and several of the other ‘Policing Agency’s’ weren’t still investigating Hillary and Donald’s crimes, after all, that is their job! How do you feel about this issue? Should the FBI just give political campaigns a free hand to do any thing with anyone no matter how many laws they are breaking?I still strongly believe that the Special Council should be working hard on ‘the money trail’ and this would include the filed taxes of these fore mentioned players. Remember, Donald still has not made his taxes public, there is a reason for his lies on this matter. On just one issue, one business, his golf club in Ma-largo Florida shows how crooked his is and how willing he is to commit tax fraud. He tells his visitors and golfing buddies that this business is worth over a 100 million dollars yet when he filed his property taxes on it he reported that it was only worth 1 million dollars so that he would only have to pay 1% of the taxes due. Folks, almost all of the houses around this club are valued at more than one million dollars. Donald, just like Hillary, is nothing but a fraud a thief and a liar and he should be in prison, not the Oval Office!

Following the Money in Trumpland Leads Ugly Places

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE ‘NEW YORKER’ MAGAZINE)

 

 / THE NATIONAL CIRCUS

Following the Money in Trumpland Leads Ugly Places

By 

Michael Avenatti is doing what Woodward and Bernstein did: exposing the money trail. Photo: MSNBC

Most weeks, New York Magazine writer-at-large Frank Rich speaks with contributor Alex Carp about the biggest stories in politics and culture. Today, the meaning of Michael Avenatti’s disclosures, Trump’s decision to kill the Iran deal, and Rudy Giuliani’s media tour.

With Michael Avenatti’s revelation that the shell company Michael Cohen used for the Stormy Daniels payoff also received money tied to Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg (as well as payments from other companies with government business), it looks like the two main threads of Donald Trump’s legal troubles may be part of the same story. Has Avenatti found the “collusion” that Trump has spent so much energy denying?

Avenatti, whose revelations have since been verified by the Times and others, is doing exactly what Woodward and Bernstein did in Watergate — following the money. By doing so he has unveiled an example of collusion so flagrant that it made Trump and Rudy Giuliani suddenly go mute: a Putin crony’s cash turns out to be an essential component of the racketeering scheme used to silence Stormy Daniels and thus clear Trump’s path to the White House in the final stretch of the 2016 election. Like the Nixon campaign slush fund that Woodward and Bernstein uncovered, this money trail also implicates corporate players hoping to curry favor with a corrupt president. Back then it was the telecommunications giant ITT, then fending off antitrust suits from the government, that got caught red-handed; this time it’s AT&T. Both the Nixon and Trump slush funds were initially set up to illegally manipulate an American presidential election, hush money included. But the Watergate burglars’ dirty tricks, criminal as they were, were homegrown. Even Nixon would have drawn the line at colluding with Russians — or, in those days, the Soviets — to sabotage the Democrats.

5 of the Most Blatantly Unethical Moves by the Trump Administration

I know some accuse Avenatti of being a media whore, but he’s the one media whore I can’t get enough of. He knows what he’s doing, he has the goods, and he is playing high-stakes poker, shrewdly, with what appears to be a winning hand. It is also entertaining to imagine how crazy he is driving Trump. In personality and presence he’s exactly the kind of take-no-prisoners television defender that Trump would want appearing with Sean Hannity in his defense. That was the point of the Mooch. That is the point of Rudy. Apparently that was even once the point of Michael Cohen. If Avenatti, as others have noted, is Billy Flynn from the musical Chicagothen Trump is left with Larry, Curly, and Moe.

Donald Trump’s decision to pull the U.S. from the Iran deal has drawn condemnation from European alliesBarack Obama, and scores of other experts. Will Trump face any political penalty for his choice?

Honestly, I doubt Trump will still be in office when the full fallout of this blunder is felt. The blunder, one should add, is not only to pull out of a deal that was working but also to have no “better deal” (or policy at all) to take its place. But the interesting political piece about both this decision and the onrushing summit with Kim Jong-un is that Trump has persuaded himself that big bold foreign policy moves, however harmful to America and its allies, will rescue him from the rampaging scandal at home. This, again, has a Watergate echo: As the revelations of White House horrors piled up during the midterm election season of 1974, Nixon decided to travel to Moscow, ostensibly a diplomatic mission in the cause of détente. This stunt didn’t stave off the wolves closing in on him in Washington, and the current regurgitation of this tactic won’t save Trump either.

At least Nixon had foreign-policy expertise. He wouldn’t have given away the store to the Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev. By contrast, there’s every reason to fear that Trump’s ignorant foray into Korea will make Neville Chamberlain’s performance at Munich look Churchillian. Kim is not an idiot; he will keep playing the American president for all he can, knowing that Trump needs a “win” abroad to counterbalance all his losses at home. And Trump’s desperation to make a “deal” with North Korea for his own personal political salvation gets visibly greater with every Michael Avenatti television appearance. Witness the president’s decision to turn up at Andrews Air Force Base at 2 a.m. tomorrow to personally greet the three American detainees that North Korea released today. That Trump thinks this photo op will be effective counterprogramming to Stormy Daniels suggests he’s now lost one talent he unassailably did possess, an intuitive knack for show business.

Even in non-corrupt modern presidencies, there’s little evidence that foreign-policy achievements sway voters. (Foreign-policy debacles — wars that devolve into quagmires, for instance — do move voters, but not in a good way.) In Trump’s case, his America First base could not care less if he wins one of those suspect foreign Nobel Prizes as meaningless as the one awarded Obama. The majority of Americans who are not in Trump’s base won’t care either. Meanwhile, nuclear proliferation and possibly war hang in the balance.

After subjecting the country to a week of the Rudy Giuliani media tour, Donald Trump is now considering sidelining the lawyer. Has Giuliani done more damage to his own reputation or to Trump’s defense?

Both Trump’s legal strategy (if there is one) and Rudy’s reputation were in tatters well before this frequently hilarious and wholly unhinged media tour. It’s an indicator of how much the Trump defense is in disarray that the White House thought it was a good idea to send Giuliani to last weekend’s Sunday shows even after nearly a full week of screwups. And the debacle just keeps rolling along: Just hours before Avenatti posted his bombshell yesterday, Rudy was firmly declaring that Michael Cohen “possesses no incriminating information about the president.”

There’s clearly not just a screw loose in Giuliani but a missing link in his story with Trump. Rudy was a fierce Trump defender during the campaign and lobbied vociferously for a Cabinet position during the transition. Twice he was considered for both secretary of State and secretary of Homeland Security, and twice he was rejected. What does that say about him when you consider that those who did make the cut to top Trump administration jobs included Michael Flynn, Ben Carson, Tom Price, Scott Pruitt, Betsy DeVos, and Ryan Zinke? What does Giuliani have for — or on — Trump that brought him into the fold now? Inquiring minds would like to know.

In any case, Trumpism has bequeathed America not merely a post-fact but post-rule-of-law culture. Rudy, like his boss, claims nonexistent extralegal privileges for presidents, dismisses FBI agents as “stormtroopers,” and endorses “rumor” as a legal strategy. I’d say his record for mad-dog lunacy is perfect were it not for the moment when he told Hannity that Jared Kushner is “disposable” — a judgment that no doubt reflects the view of Kushner’s father-in-law and is surely correct. That is our national Godfather replay at its best.

Zimbabwe

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE ‘CIA FACT BOOK’)

 

Zimbabwe

Introduction The UK annexed Southern Rhodesia from the [British] South Africa Company in 1923. A 1961 constitution was formulated that favored whites in power. In 1965 the government unilaterally declared its independence, but the UK did not recognize the act and demanded more complete voting rights for the black African majority in the country (then called Rhodesia). UN sanctions and a guerrilla uprising finally led to free elections in 1979 and independence (as Zimbabwe) in 1980. Robert MUGABE, the nation’s first prime minister, has been the country’s only ruler (as president since 1987) and has dominated the country’s political system since independence. His chaotic land redistribution campaign, which began in 2000, caused an exodus of white farmers, crippled the economy, and ushered in widespread shortages of basic commodities. Ignoring international condemnation, MUGABE rigged the 2002 presidential election to ensure his reelection. The ruling ZANU-PF party used fraud and intimidation to win a two-thirds majority in the March 2005 parliamentary election, allowing it to amend the constitution at will and recreate the Senate, which had been abolished in the late 1980s. In April 2005, Harare embarked on Operation Restore Order, ostensibly an urban rationalization program, which resulted in the destruction of the homes or businesses of 700,000 mostly poor supporters of the opposition. President MUGABE in June 2007 instituted price controls on all basic commodities causing panic buying and leaving store shelves empty for months. General elections held in March 2008 contained irregularities but still amounted to a censure of the ZANU-PF-led government with significant gains in opposition seats in parliament. MDC opposition leader Morgan TSVANGIRAI won the presidential polls, and may have won an out right majority, but official results posted by the Zimbabwe Electoral Committee did not reflect this. In the lead up to a run-off election in late June 2008, considerable violence enacted against opposition party members led to the withdrawal of TSVANGIRAI from the ballot. Extensive evidence of vote tampering and ballot-box stuffing resulted in international condemnation of the process. Difficult negotiations over a power sharing agreement, allowing MUGABE to remain as president and creating the new position of prime minister for TSVANGIRAI, were finally settled in February 2009.
History By the Middle Ages, there was a Bantu civilization in the region, as evidenced by ruins at Great Zimbabwe and other smaller sites, whose outstanding achievement is a unique dry stone architecture. Around the early 10th century, trade developed with Phoenicians on the Indian Ocean coast, helping to develop Great Zimbabwe in the 11th century. The state traded gold, ivory and copper for cloth and glass. It ceased to be the leading Shona state in the mid 15th century. From circa 1250–1629, the area that is known as Zimbabwe today was ruled under the Mutapa Empire, also known as Mwene Mutapa, Monomotapa or the Empire of Great Zimbabwe, which was renowned for its gold trade routes with Arabs. However, Portuguese settlers destroyed the trade and began a series of wars which left the empire in near collapse in the early 17th century. In 1834, the Ndebele people arrived while fleeing from the Zulu leader Shaka, making the area their new empire, Matabeleland. In 1837–38, the Shona were conquered by the Ndebele, who arrived from south of the Limpopo and forced them to pay tribute and concentrate in northern Zimbabwe. In the 1880s, the British arrived with Cecil Rhodes’s British South Africa Company. In 1898, the name Southern Rhodesia was adopted.

Colonial era (1888–1965)

In 1888, British colonialist Cecil Rhodes obtained a concession for mining rights from King Lobengula of the Ndebele peoples. Cecil Rhodes presented this concession to persuade the government of the United Kingdom to grant a royal charter to his British South Africa Company (BSAC) over Matabeleland, and its subject states such as Mashonaland. Rhodes sought permission to negotiate similar concessions covering all territory between the Limpopo River and Lake Tanganyika, then known as ‘Zambesia’. In accordance with the terms of aforementioned concessions and treaties, Cecil Rhodes promoted the colonisation of the region’s land, and British control over labour, precious metals and other mineral resources. In 1895 the BSAC adopted the name ‘Rhodesia’ for the territory of Zambesia, in honour of Cecil Rhodes. In 1898 ‘Southern Rhodesia’ became the official denotation for the region south of the Zambezi, which later became Zimbabwe. The region to the north was administered separately by the BSAC and later named Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia).

The Shona staged unsuccessful revolts (known as Chimurenga) against encroachment upon their lands, by clients of BSAC and Cecil Rhodes in 1896 and 1897. Following the failed insurrections of 1896–97 the Ndebele and Shona groups became subject to Rhodes’s administration thus precipitating European settlement en masse which led to land distribution disproportionately favouring Europeans, displacing the Shona, Ndebele, and other indigenous peoples.

Southern Rhodesia became a self-governing British colony in October 1923, subsequent to a 1922 referendum. Rhodesians served on behalf of the United Kingdom during World War II, mainly in the East African Campaign against Axis forces in Italian East Africa.

In 1953, in the face of African opposition, Britain consolidated the two colonies of Rhodesia with Nyasaland (now Malawi) in the ill-fated Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland which was dominated by Southern Rhodesia. Growing African nationalism and general dissent, particularly in Nyasaland, admonished Britain to dissolve the Union in 1963, forming three colonies. As colonial rule was ending throughout the continent and as African-majority governments assumed control in neighbouring Northern Rhodesia and in Nyasaland, the white-minority Rhodesia government led by Ian Smith made a Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI) from the United Kingdom on 11 November, 1965. The United Kingdom deemed this an act of rebellion, but did not re-establish control by force. The white-minority government declared itself a “republic” in 1970. A civil war ensued, with Joshua Nkomo’s ZAPU and Robert Mugabe’s ZANU using assistance from the governments of Zambia and Mozambique. Although Smith’s declaration was not recognised by the United Kingdom nor any other significant power, Southern Rhodesia dropped the designation ‘Southern’, and claimed nation status as the Republic of Rhodesia in 1970.

UDI and civil war (1965–1979)

After the Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI), the British government requested United Nations economic sanctions against Rhodesia as negotiations with the Smith administration in 1966 and 1968 ended in stalemate. The Smith administration declared itself a republic in 1970 which was recognised only by South Africa, then governed by its apartheid administration. Over the years, the guerrilla fighting against Smith’s UDI government intensified. As a result, the Smith government opened negotiations with the leaders of the Patriotic Fronts — Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU), led by Robert Mugabe, and the Zimbabwe African People’s Union (ZAPU), led by Joshua Nkomo.

Bishop Abel Muzorewa signs the Lancaster House Agreement seated next to British Foreign Minister Lord Peter Carrington.

In March 1978, with his regime near the brink of collapse, Smith signed an accord with three African leaders, led by Bishop Abel Muzorewa, who offered safeguards for white civilians. As a result of the Internal Settlement, elections were held in April 1979. The United African National Council (UANC) party won a majority in this election. On 1 June, 1979, the leader of UANC, Abel Muzorewa, became the country’s prime minister and the country’s name was changed to Zimbabwe Rhodesia. The internal settlement left control of the country’s police, security forces, civil service and judiciary in white hands. It assured whites of about one-third of the seats in parliament. However, on June 12, the United States Senate voted to end economic sanctions against Zimbabwe Rhodesia.

Following the fifth Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), held in Lusaka, Zambia from 1–7 August, 1979, the British government invited Muzorewa and the leaders of the Patriotic Front to participate in a constitutional conference at Lancaster House. The purpose of the conference was to discuss and reach agreement on the terms of an independence constitution and that elections should be supervised under British authority to enable Rhodesia to proceed to legal independence and the parties to settle their differences by political means. Lord Carrington, Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs of the United Kingdom, chaired the conference. The conference took place from 10 September–15 December 1979 with 47 plenary sessions. On 1 December 1979, delegations from the British and Rhodesian governments and the Patriotic Front signed the Lancaster House Agreement, ending the civil war.

Independence (1980–1999)

Britain’s Lord Soames was appointed governor to oversee the disarming of revolutionary guerrillas, the holding of elections and the granting of independence to an uneasy coalition government with Joshua Nkomo, head of ZAPU. In the elections of February 1980, Mugabe and his ZANU won a landslide victory.

There was however opposition to a Shona win in Matabeleland. In November 1980 Enos Nkala made remarks at a rally in Bulawayo, in which he warned ZAPU that ZANU would deliver a few blows against them. This started the first Entumbane uprising, in which ZIPRA and ZANLA fought for two days.

In February 1981 there was a second uprising, which spread to Glenville and also to Connemara in the Midlands. ZIPRA troops in other parts of Matabeleland headed for Bulawayo to join the battle, and ex-Rhodesian units had to come in to stop the fighting. Over 300 people were killed.

These uprisings led to what has become known as Gukurahundi (Shona: “the early rain which washes away the chaff before the spring rains”) or the Matabeleland Massacres, which ran from 1982 until 1985. Mugabe used his North Korean trained Fifth Brigade to crush any resistance in Matabeleland. It has been estimated that 20,000 Matabele were murdered and buried in mass graves which they were forced to dig themselves and hundreds of others were allegedly tortured. The violence ended after ZANU and ZAPU reached a unity agreement in 1988 that merged the two parties, creating ZANU-PF.

Elections in March 1990 resulted in another victory for Mugabe and his party, which won 117 of the 120 election seats. Election observers estimated voter turnout at only 54% and found the campaign neither free nor fair.

During the 1990s students, trade unionists and workers often demonstrated to express their discontent with the government. Students protested in 1990 against proposals for an increase in government control of universities and again in 1991 and 1992 when they clashed with police. Trade unionists and workers also criticised the government during this time. In 1992 police prevented trade unionists from holding anti-government demonstrations. In 1994 widespread industrial unrest weakened the economy. In 1996 civil servants, nurses, and junior doctors went on strike over salary issues. The general health of the civilian population also began to significantly founder and by 1997 25% of the population of Zimbabwe had been infected by HIV, the AIDS virus.

Decline (1999–present)

Land issues, which the liberation movement had promised to solve, re-emerged as the main issue for the ruling party beginning in 1999. Despite majority rule and the existence of a “willing-buyer-willing-seller” land reform programme since the 1980s, ZANU (PF) claimed that whites made up less than 1% of the population but held 70% of the country’s commercially viable arable land (though these figures are disputed by many outside the Government of Zimbabwe). Mugabe began to redistribute land to blacks in 2000 with a compulsory land redistribution.

The legality and constitutionality of the process has regularly been challenged in the Zimbabwean High and Supreme Courts; however, the policing agencies have rarely acted in accordance with court rulings on these matters. The chaotic implementation of the land reform led to a sharp decline in agricultural exports, traditionally the country’s leading export producing sector. Mining and tourism have surpassed agriculture. As a result, Zimbabwe is experiencing a severe hard-currency shortage, which has led to hyperinflation and chronic shortages in imported fuel and consumer goods. In 2002, Zimbabwe was suspended from the Commonwealth of Nations on charges of human rights abuses during the land redistribution and of election tampering.

Following elections in 2005, the government initiated “Operation Murambatsvina”, a purported effort to crack down on illegal markets and homes that had seen slums emerge in towns and cities. This action has been widely condemned by opposition and international figures, who charge that it has left a substantial section of urban poor homeless. The Zimbabwe government has described the operation as an attempt to provide decent housing to the population although they have yet to deliver any new housing for the forcibly removed people.

Zimbabwe’s current economic and food crisis, described by some observers as the country’s worst humanitarian crisis since independence, has been attributed in varying degrees, to a drought affecting the entire region, the HIV/AIDS epidemic, and the government’s price controls and land reforms.

Life expectancy at birth for males in Zimbabwe has dramatically declined since 1990 from 60 to 37, among the lowest in the world. Life expectancy for females is even lower at 34 years. Concurrently, the infant mortality rate has climbed from 53 to 81 deaths per 1,000 live births in the same period. Currently, 1.8 million Zimbabweans live with HIV.

On 29 March, 2008, Zimbabwe held a presidential election along with a parliamentary election. The three major candidates were Robert Mugabe of the Zimbabwe African National Union – Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF), Morgan Tsvangirai of the Movement for Democratic Change – Tsvangirai (MDC-T), and Simba Makoni, an independent. The results of this election were withheld for several weeks, following which it was generally acknowledged that the MDC had achieved a significant majority of seats. However, Mugabe retained control and has not conceded the election results that would otherwise put him out of power.

In late 2008, problems in Zimbabwe reached crisis proportions in the areas of living standards, public health (with a major cholera outbreak in December) and various public considerations. Production of diamonds at Marange became the subject of international attention as more than 80 people were killed by the military and the World Diamond Council called for a clampdown on smuggling.

In September 2008, a power-sharing agreement, between Mugabe and Tsvangirai was reached, in which, while Mugabe remained president, Tsvangirai will become prime minister. However, due to ministerial differences between their respective political parties, the agreement was not fully implemented until February 13, 2009, two days after the swearing of Tsvangirai as Prime Minister of Zimbabwe.

Geography Location: Southern Africa, between South Africa and Zambia
Geographic coordinates: 20 00 S, 30 00 E
Map references: Africa
Area: total: 390,580 sq km
land: 386,670 sq km
water: 3,910 sq km
Area – comparative: slightly larger than Montana
Land boundaries: total: 3,066 km
border countries: Botswana 813 km, Mozambique 1,231 km, South Africa 225 km, Zambia 797 km
Coastline: 0 km (landlocked)
Maritime claims: none (landlocked)
Climate: tropical; moderated by altitude; rainy season (November to March)
Terrain: mostly high plateau with higher central plateau (high veld); mountains in east
Elevation extremes: lowest point: junction of the Runde and Save rivers 162 m
highest point: Inyangani 2,592 m
Natural resources: coal, chromium ore, asbestos, gold, nickel, copper, iron ore, vanadium, lithium, tin, platinum group metals
Land use: arable land: 8.24%
permanent crops: 0.33%
other: 91.43% (2005)
Irrigated land: 1,740 sq km (2003)
Total renewable water resources: 20 cu km (1987)
Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural): total: 4.21 cu km/yr (14%/7%/79%)
per capita: 324 cu m/yr (2002)
Natural hazards: recurring droughts; floods and severe storms are rare
Environment – current issues: deforestation; soil erosion; land degradation; air and water pollution; the black rhinoceros herd – once the largest concentration of the species in the world – has been significantly reduced by poaching; poor mining practices have led to toxic waste and heavy metal pollution
Environment – international agreements: party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Desertification, Endangered Species, Law of the Sea, Ozone Layer Protection
signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements
Geography – note: landlocked; the Zambezi forms a natural riverine boundary with Zambia; in full flood (February-April) the massive Victoria Falls on the river forms the world’s largest curtain of falling water
Politics Zimbabwe is a semi-presidential system republic, which has a parliamentary government. Under constitutional changes in 2005, an upper chamber, the Senate, was reinstated. The House of Assembly is the lower chamber of Parliament.

President Robert Mugabe’s Zimbabwe African National Union – Patriotic Front (commonly abbreviated ZANU-PF) has been the dominant political party in Zimbabwe since independence. In 1987 then-prime minister Mugabe revised the constitution and made himself president. His ZANU party has won every election since independence. In particular, the elections of 1990 were nationally and internationally condemned as being rigged, with the second-placed party, Edgar Tekere’s Zimbabwe Unity Movement, winning only 16% of the vote. Presidential elections were again held in 2002 amid allegations of vote-rigging, intimidation and fraud. The 2005 Zimbabwe parliamentary elections were held on March 31 and multiple claims of vote rigging, election fraud and intimidation were made by the MDC and Jonathan Moyo, calling for investigations into 32 of the 120 constituencies. Jonathan Moyo participated in the elections despite the allegations and won a seat as an independent member of Parliament.

General elections were again held in Zimbabwe on 30 March 2008. The official results required a runoff between Mugabe and Morgan Tsvangirai, the opposition leader, however the MDC challenged these results, claiming widespread election fraud by the Mugabe government. The runoff was scheduled for June 27, 2008. On 22 June, however, citing the continuing unfairness of the process and refusing to participate in a “violent, illegitimate sham of an election process”, Tsvangirai pulled out of the presidential run-off, effectively handing victory to Mugabe.

The MDC-T led by Morgan Tsvangirai is now the largest parliamentary party. The MDC was split into two factions. One faction (MDC-M), now led by Arthur Mutambara contested the elections to the Senate, while the other, led by Morgan Tsvangirai, opposed to contesting the elections, stating that participation in a rigged election is tantamount to endorsing Mugabe’s claim that past elections were free and fair. However, the opposition parties have resumed participation in national and local elections as recently as 2006. The two MDC camps had their congresses in 2006 with Morgan Tsvangirai being elected to lead MDC-T, which has become more popular than the other group. Mutambara, a robotics professor and former NASA robotics specialist has replaced Welshman Ncube who was the interim leader of MDC-M after the split. Morgan Tsvangirai did not participate in the Senate elections, while the Mutambara faction participated and won five seats in the senate. The Mutambara formation has however been weakened by defections from MPs and individuals who are disillusioned by their manifesto. As of 2008, the Movement for Democratic Change – Tsvangirai has become the most popular, with crowds as large as 20,000 attending their rallies as compared to between 500–5,000 for the other formation.

On 28 April 2008, Tsvangirai and Mutambara announced at a joint news conference in Johannesburg that the two MDC formations were cooperating, enabling the MDC to have a clear parliamentary majority. Tsvangirai said that Mugabe could not remain President without a parliamentary majority. On the same day, Silaigwana announced that the recounts for the final five constituencies had been completed, that the results were being collated and that they would be published on 29 April.

In mid-September, 2008, after protracted negotiations overseen by the leaders of South Africa and Mozambique, Mugabe and Tsvangirai signed a power-sharing deal which would see Mugabe retain control over the army. Donor nations have adopted a ‘wait-and-see’ attitude, wanting to see real change being brought about by this merger before committing themselves to funding rebuilding efforts, which are estimated to take at least five years. On 11 February 2009 Tsvangirai was sworn in as Prime Minister by President Mugabe.

In November, 2008, the government of Zimbabwe spent $7.3 million donated by the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. A representative of the organization declined to speculate on how the money was spent, except that it was not for the intended purpose, and the government has failed to honor requests to return the money.

People Population: 11,392,629
note: estimates for this country explicitly take into account the effects of excess mortality due to AIDS; this can result in lower life expectancy, higher infant mortality, higher death rates, lower population growth rates, and changes in the distribution of population by age and sex than would otherwise be expected (July 2009 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 43.9% (male 2,523,119/female 2,473,928)
15-64 years: 52.2% (male 2,666,928/female 3,283,474)
65 years and over: 3.9% (male 194,360/female 250,820) (2009 est.)
Median age: total: 17.6 years
male: 16.3 years
female: 18.8 years (2008 est.)
Population growth rate: 1.53% (2009 est.)
Birth rate: 31.62 births/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Death rate: 17.29 deaths/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Net migration rate: NA
note: there is an increasing flow of Zimbabweans into South Africa and Botswana in search of better economic opportunities (2009 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.03 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.02 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 0.81 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.78 male(s)/female
total population: 0.9 male(s)/female (2009 est.)
Infant mortality rate: total: 32.31 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 34.9 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 29.64 deaths/1,000 live births (2009 est.)
Life expectancy at birth: total population: 45.77 years
male: 46.36 years
female: 45.16 years (2009 est.)
Total fertility rate: 3.69 children born/woman (2009 est.)
HIV/AIDS – adult prevalence rate: 15.3% (2007 est.)
HIV/AIDS – people living with HIV/AIDS: 1.3 million (2007 est.)
HIV/AIDS – deaths: 140,000 (2007 est.)
Major infectious diseases: degree of risk: high
food or waterborne diseases: bacterial and protozoal diarrhea, hepatitis A, and typhoid fever
vectorborne disease: malaria
water contact disease: schistosomiasis
animal contact disease: rabies (2008)
Nationality: noun: Zimbabwean(s)
adjective: Zimbabwean
Ethnic groups: African 98% (Shona 82%, Ndebele 14%, other 2%), mixed and Asian 1%, white less than 1%
Religions: syncretic (part Christian, part indigenous beliefs) 50%, Christian 25%, indigenous beliefs 24%, Muslim and other 1%
Languages: English (official), Shona, Sindebele (the language of the Ndebele, sometimes called Ndebele), numerous but minor tribal dialects
Literacy: definition: age 15 and over can read and write English
total population: 90.7%
male: 94.2%
female: 87.2% (2003 est.)
School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education): total: 9 years
male: 9 years
female: 9 years (2003)
Education expenditures: 4.6% of GDP (2000)
Government Country name: conventional long form: Republic of Zimbabwe
conventional short form: Zimbabwe
former: Southern Rhodesia, Rhodesia
Government type: parliamentary democracy
Capital: name: Harare
geographic coordinates: 17 50 S, 31 03 E
time difference: UTC+2 (7 hours ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)
Administrative divisions: 8 provinces and 2 cities* with provincial status; Bulawayo*, Harare*, Manicaland, Mashonaland Central, Mashonaland East, Mashonaland West, Masvingo, Matabeleland North, Matabeleland South, Midlands
Independence: 18 April 1980 (from UK)
National holiday: Independence Day, 18 April (1980)
Constitution: 21 December 1979
Legal system: mixture of Roman-Dutch and English common law; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction
Suffrage: 18 years of age; universal
Executive branch: chief of state: Executive President Robert Gabriel MUGABE (since 31 December 1987); Vice President Joseph MSIKA (since December 1999) and Vice President Joyce MUJURU (since 6 December 2004)
head of government: Prime Minister Morgan TSVANGIRAI (since 11 February 2009);
cabinet: Cabinet appointed by the president; responsible to the House of Assembly
elections: presidential candidates nominated with a nomination paper signed by at least 10 registered voters (at least one from each province) and elected by popular vote for a five-year term (no term limits); elections last held 28 March 2008 followed by a run-off on 27 June 2008 (next to be held in 2013); co-vice presidents appointed by the president
election results: Robert Gabriel MUGABE reelected president; percent of vote – Robert Gabriel MUGABE 85.5%, Morgan TSVANGIRAI 9.3%, other 5.2%; note – first round voting results – Morgan TSVANGIRAI 47.9%, Robert Gabriel MUGABE 43.2%, Simba MAKONI 8.3%, other 0.6%; first-round round polls were deemed to be flawed suppressing TSVANGIRAI’s results; the 27 June 2008 run-off between MUGABE and TSVANGIRAI were severely flawed and internationally condemned
Legislative branch: bicameral Parliament consists of a Senate (93 seats – 60 elected by popular vote for a five-year term, 10 provincial governors nominated by the president, 16 traditional chiefs elected by the Council of Chiefs, 2 held by the president and deputy president of the Council of Chiefs, and 5 appointed by the president) and a House of Assembly (210 seats – all elected by popular vote for five-year terms)
elections: last held 28 March 2008 (next to be held in 2013)
election results: Senate – percent of vote by party – MDC 51.6%, ZANU-PF 45.8%, other 2.6%; seats by party – MDC 30, ZANU-PF 30; House of Assembly – percent of vote by party – MDC 51.3%, ZANU-PF 45.8%, other 2.9%; seats by party – MDC 109, ZANU-PF 97, other 4
Judicial branch: Supreme Court; High Court
Political parties and leaders: African National Party or ANP [Egypt DZINEMUNHENZVA]; Movement for Democratic Change or MDC [Morgan TSVANGIRAI, Arthur MUTAMBARA, splinter faction]; Peace Action is Freedom for All or PAFA; United Parties [Abel MUZOREWA]; United People’s Party or UPP [Daniel SHUMBA]; Zimbabwe African National Union-Ndonga or ZANU-Ndonga [Wilson KUMBULA]; Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front or ZANU-PF [Robert Gabriel MUGABE]; Zimbabwe African Peoples Union or ZAPU [Agrippa MADLELA]; Zimbabwe Youth in Alliance or ZIYA
Political pressure groups and leaders: Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition [Xolani ZITHA]; National Constitutional Assembly or NCA [Lovemore MADHUKU]; Women of Zimbabwe Arise or WOZA [Jenny WILLIAMS]; Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions or ZCTU [Wellington CHIBEBE]
International organization participation: ACP, AfDB, AU, COMESA, FAO, G-15, G-77, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICCt (signatory), ICRM, IDA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, ILO, IMF, IMO, Interpol, IOC, IOM, IPU, ISO, ITSO, ITU, ITUC, MIGA, NAM, OPCW, PCA, SADC, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UNMIL, UNMIS, UNOCI, UNWTO, UPU, WCL, WCO, WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTO
Diplomatic representation in the US: chief of mission: Ambassador Machivenyika MAPURANGA
chancery: 1608 New Hampshire Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20009
telephone: [1] (202) 332-7100
FAX: [1] (202) 483-9326
Diplomatic representation from the US: chief of mission: Ambassador James D. MCGEE
embassy: 172 Herbert Chitepo Avenue, Harare
mailing address: P. O. Box 3340, Harare
telephone: [263] (4) 250-593 and 250-594
FAX: [263] (4) 796-488, or 722-618
Flag description: seven equal horizontal bands of green, yellow, red, black, red, yellow, and green with a white isosceles triangle edged in black with its base on the hoist side; a yellow Zimbabwe bird representing the long history of the country is superimposed on a red five-pointed star in the center of the triangle, which symbolizes peace; green symbolizes agriculture, yellow – mineral wealth, red – blood shed to achieve independence, and black stands for the native people
Culture Zimbabwe first celebrated its independence on 18 April, 1980. Celebrations are held at the National Sports Stadium in Harare where the first independence celebrations were held in 1980. At these celebrations doves are released to symbolise peace and fighter jets fly over and the national anthem is sung. The flame of independence is lit by the president after parades by the presidential family and members of the armed forces of Zimbabwe. The president also gives a speech to the people of Zimbabwe which is televised for those unable to attend the stadium.

Football and cricket are the most popular sports in Zimbabwe. The citizens of Zimbabwe have won eight medals in the Olympic Games, one in field hockey at the 1980 Summer games in Moscow, three in swimming at the 2004 Summer games in Athens and another four at the 2008 Summer games .

Zimbabwe has also done well in the Commonwealth Games and All-Africa Games in swimming with Kirsty Coventry obtaining 11 gold medals in the different competitions. Zimbabwe has also competed at Wimbledon and the Davis Cup in tennis, most notably with the Black family, which comprises Wayne Black, Byron Black and Cara Black.

Traditional arts in Zimbabwe include pottery, basketry, textiles, jewelry and carving. Among the distinctive qualities are symmetrically patterned woven baskets and stools carved out of a single piece of wood. Shona sculpture has become world famous in recent years having first emerged in the 1940s. Most subjects of carved figures of stylised birds and human figures among others are made with sedimentary rocks such as soapstone, as well as harder igneous rocks such as serpentine and the rare stone verdite. Shona sculpture in essence has been a fusion of African folklore with European influences. Internationally famous artists include Henry Mudzengerere and Nicolas Mukomberanwa. A recurring theme in Zimbabwean art is the metamorphosis of man into beast. Zimbabwean musicians like Thomas Mapfumo, Oliver Mtukudzi, the Bhundu Boys and Audius Mtawarira have achieved international recognition.

Several authors are well known within Zimbabwe and abroad. Charles Mungoshi is renowned in Zimbabwe for writing traditional stories in English and in Shona and his poems and books have sold well with both the black and white communities. Catherine Buckle has achieved international recognition with her two books African Tears and Beyond Tears which tell of the ordeal she went through under the 2000 Land Reform. Prime Minister of Rhodesia, the late Ian Smith, has also written two books — The Great Betrayal and Bitter Harvest. The book The House of Hunger by Dambudzo Marechera won an award in the UK in 1979 and the Nobel Prize-winning author Doris Lessing’s first novel The Grass Is Singing is set in Rhodesia.

Economy Economy – overview: The government of Zimbabwe faces a wide variety of difficult economic problems as it struggles with an unsustainable fiscal deficit, an overvalued official exchange rate, hyperinflation, and bare store shelves. Its 1998-2002 involvement in the war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo drained hundreds of millions of dollars from the economy. The government’s land reform program, characterized by chaos and violence, has badly damaged the commercial farming sector, the traditional source of exports and foreign exchange and the provider of 400,000 jobs, turning Zimbabwe into a net importer of food products. The EU and the US provide food aid on humanitarian grounds. Badly needed support from the IMF has been suspended because of the government’s arrears on past loans and the government’s unwillingness to enact reforms that would stabilize the economy. The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe routinely prints money to fund the budget deficit, causing the official annual inflation rate to rise from 32% in 1998, to 133% in 2004, 585% in 2005, passed 1000% in 2006, and 26000% in November 2007, and to 11.2 million percent in 2008. Meanwhile, the official exchange rate fell from approximately 1 (revalued) Zimbabwean dollar per US dollar in 2003 to 30,000 per US dollar in September 2007.
GDP (purchasing power parity): $2.292 billion (2008 est.)
GDP (official exchange rate): $4.548 billion
note: hyperinflation and the plunging value of the Zimbabwean dollar makes Zimbabwe’s GDP at the official exchange rate a highly inaccurate statistic (2008 est.)
GDP – real growth rate: -6.2% (2008 est.)
GDP – per capita (PPP): $200 (2008 est.)
GDP – composition by sector: agriculture: 18.1%
industry: 22.6%
services: 59.3% (2008 est.)
Labor force: 4.039 million (2008 est.)
Labor force – by occupation: agriculture: 66%
industry: 10%
services: 24% (1996)
Unemployment rate: 80% (2005 est.)
Population below poverty line: 68% (2004)
Household income or consumption by percentage share: lowest 10%: 2%
highest 10%: 40.4% (1995)
Distribution of family income – Gini index: 50.1 (2006)
Investment (gross fixed): 17.5% of GDP (2008 est.)
Budget: revenues: $153,700
expenditures: $179,300 (2008 est.)
Fiscal year: calendar year
Public debt: 241.2% of GDP (2008 est.)
Inflation rate (consumer prices): 11.2 million% (2008 est.)
Central bank discount rate: 975% (31 December 2007)
Commercial bank prime lending rate: 578.96% (31 December 2007)
Stock of money: $14.18 billion
note: This number reflects the vastly overvalued official exchange rate of 30,000 Zimbabwe dollars per US dollar. At an unofficial rate of 800,000 Zimbabwe dollars per US dollar, the stock of Zimbabwe dollars would equal only about US$500 million and Zimbabwe’s velocity of money (the number of times money turns over in the course of a year) would be nine, in line with the velocity of money for other countries in the region. (31 December 2007)
Stock of quasi money: $5.349 billion (31 December 2007)
Stock of domestic credit: $24.91 billion (31 December 2007)
Market value of publicly traded shares: $5.333 billion (31 December 2007)
Agriculture – products: corn, cotton, tobacco, wheat, coffee, sugarcane, peanuts; sheep, goats, pigs
Industries: mining (coal, gold, platinum, copper, nickel, tin, clay, numerous metallic and nonmetallic ores), steel; wood products, cement, chemicals, fertilizer, clothing and footwear, foodstuffs, beverages
Industrial production growth rate: -6% (2008 est.)
Electricity – production: 9.467 billion kWh (2006 est.)
Electricity – consumption: 11.59 billion kWh (2006 est.)
Electricity – exports: 34 million kWh (2006 est.)
Electricity – imports: 2.867 billion kWh (2006 est.)
Electricity – production by source: fossil fuel: 47%
hydro: 53%
nuclear: 0%
other: 0% (2001)
Oil – production: 0 bbl/day (2007 est.)
Oil – consumption: 14,590 bbl/day (2006 est.)
Oil – exports: 0 bbl/day (2005 est.)
Oil – imports: 15,800 bbl/day (2005 est.)
Oil – proved reserves: 0 bbl (1 January 2006 est.)
Natural gas – production: 0 cu m (2007 est.)
Natural gas – consumption: 0 cu m (2007 est.)
Natural gas – exports: 0 cu m (2007 est.)
Natural gas – imports: 0 cu m (2007 est.)
Natural gas – proved reserves: 0 cu m (1 January 2006 est.)
Current account balance: -$597 million (2008 est.)
Exports: $1.806 billion f.o.b. (2008 est.)
Exports – commodities: platinum, cotton, tobacco, gold, ferroalloys, textiles/clothing
Exports – partners: South Africa 33.8%, Democratic Republic of the Congo 8.3%, Japan 8.1%, Botswana 7.4%, Netherlands 5.2%, China 5.2%, Italy 4.1%, Zambia 4.1% (2007)
Imports: $2.337 billion f.o.b. (2008 est.)
Imports – commodities: machinery and transport equipment, other manufactures, chemicals, fuels
Imports – partners: South Africa 50.7%, China 8.4%, US 4.5%, Botswana 4.3% (2007)
Economic aid – recipient: $367.7 million (2005 est.)
Reserves of foreign exchange and gold: $100 million (31 December 2008 est.)
Debt – external: $5.255 billion (31 December 2008 est.)
Stock of direct foreign investment – at home: $NA
Stock of direct foreign investment – abroad: $NA
Currency (code): Zimbabwean dollar (ZWD)
Currency code: ZWD
Exchange rates: Zimbabwean dollars (ZWD) per US dollar – NA (2008 est.), 30,000 (2007), 162.07 (2006), 77.965 (2005), 5.729 (2004)
note: these are official exchange rates; non-official rates vary significantly
Communications Telephones – main lines in use: 344,500 (2007)
Telephones – mobile cellular: 1.226 million (2007)
Telephone system: general assessment: system was once one of the best in Africa, but now suffers from poor maintenance; more than 100,000 outstanding requests for connection despite an equally large number of installed but unused main lines
domestic: consists of microwave radio relay links, open-wire lines, radiotelephone communication stations, fixed wireless local loop installations, and a substantial mobile-cellular network; Internet connection is available in Harare and planned for all major towns and for some of the smaller ones
international: country code – 263; satellite earth stations – 2 Intelsat; 2 international digital gateway exchanges (in Harare and Gweru)
Radio broadcast stations: AM 7, FM 20 (plus 17 repeater stations), shortwave 1 (1998)
Radios: 1.14 million (1997)
Television broadcast stations: 16 (1997)
Televisions: 370,000 (1997)
Internet country code: .zw
Internet hosts: 19,157 (2008)
Internet Service Providers (ISPs): 6 (2000)
Internet users: 1.351 million (2007)
Transportation Airports: 341 (2007)
Airports – with paved runways: total: 19
over 3,047 m: 3
2,438 to 3,047 m: 2
1,524 to 2,437 m: 4
914 to 1,523 m: 10 (2007)
Airports – with unpaved runways: total: 322
1,524 to 2,437 m: 4
914 to 1,523 m: 152
under 914 m: 166 (2007)
Pipelines: refined products 270 km (2008)
Railways: total: 3,077 km
narrow gauge: 3,077 km 1.067-m gauge (313 km electrified) (2006)
Roadways: total: 97,267 km
paved: 18,481 km
unpaved: 78,786 km (2002)
Waterways: on Lake Kariba (2008)
Ports and terminals: Binga, Kariba
Military Military branches: Zimbabwe Defense Forces (ZDF): Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA), Air Force of Zimbabwe (AFZ), Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) (2009)
Military service age and obligation: 18-24 years of age for compulsory military service; women are eligible to serve (2007)
Manpower available for military service: males age 16-49: 3,264,258
females age 16-49: 3,048,049 (2008 est.)
Manpower fit for military service: males age 16-49: 1,198,727
females age 16-49: 1,436,232 (2009 est.)
Manpower reaching militarily significant age annually: male: 149,592
female: 149,717 (2009 est.)
Military expenditures: 3.8% of GDP (2006)
Transnational Issues Disputes – international: Botswana built electric fences and South Africa has placed military along the border to stem the flow of thousands of Zimbabweans fleeing to find work and escape political persecution; Namibia has supported, and in 2004 Zimbabwe dropped objections to, plans between Botswana and Zambia to build a bridge over the Zambezi River, thereby de facto recognizing a short, but not clearly delimited, Botswana-Zambia boundary in the river
Refugees and internally displaced persons: refugees (country of origin): 2,500 (Democratic Republic of Congo)
IDPs: 569,685 (MUGABE-led political violence, human rights violations, land reform, and economic collapse) (2007)
Trafficking in persons: current situation: Zimbabwe is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children trafficked for the purposes of forced labor and sexual exploitation; large scale migration of Zimbabweans to surrounding countries – as they flee a progressively more desperate situation at home – has increased; rural Zimbabwean men, women, and children are trafficked internally to farms for agricultural labor and domestic servitude and to cities for domestic labor and commercial sexual exploitation; young men and boys are trafficked to South Africa for farm work, often laboring for months in South Africa without pay before “employers” have them arrested and deported as illegal immigrants; young women and girls are lured abroad with false employment offers that result in involuntary domestic servitude or commercial sexual exploitation; men, women, and children from neighboring states are trafficked through Zimbabwe en route to South Africa
tier rating: Tier 2 Watch List – Zimbabwe is on the Tier 2 Watch List for its failure to provide evidence of increasing efforts to combat severe forms of human trafficking, and because the absolute number of victims of severe forms of trafficking is significantly increasing; the trafficking situation in the country is worsening as more of the population is made vulnerable by declining socio-economic conditions (2008)
Illicit drugs: transit point for cannabis and South Asian heroin, mandrake, and methamphetamine’s en route to South Africa.

(Robert Mugabe was finally deposed from the office of the President on November 17th of 2017 and his Vice President Mr. Emmerson Mnangagwa was given the office of the President of Zimbabwe at that time.)

He promised people paradise — and sent them to their deaths

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK POST)

 

He promised people paradise — and sent them to their deaths

In September 1822, about 250 largely impoverished Scots uprooted their lives to embark on what appeared to be the journey of a lifetime, sailing to a prosperous Central American country called Poyais to start anew.

But rather than finding a land overflowing with vegetation, livestock, workable soil and opportunities galore as they were promised, “Poyais” was a barren nightmare of unfarmable land and hostile natives. Expecting to build new and better lives, they had instead fallen victim to one of the most audacious and deadly swindles in history, one that most didn’t survive.

The new book “Hoax: A History of Deception” by Ian Tattersall and Peter Nevraumont (Black Dog & Leventhal), out now, features 50 tales of frauds and cons from throughout history. Perhaps none, though, was more brazen than Gregor MacGregor’s Poyais scam.

MacGregor, a descendant of famed Scottish hero Rob Roy, was a warrior who had fought on Venezuela’s behalf during their war for independence.

“He had a very high public profile,” Tattersall says. “He had great military credentials stemming from his time as a mercenary in South America. He was a person of impeccable credentials . . . with an aura of authority about him.”

Modal Trigger
Gregor MacGregorGetty Images

In the early 1820s, upon returning from battle, MacGregor claimed he had been made prince of a territory called Poyais, near the Honduran coast, and that it was perfect for new settlers. He began selling bonds to help develop the area, as well as plots of Poyaisian land and packages that included promises of employment there. While he had been there and did own the land in question, “Poyais” and his title were fictions he invented.

Between hard economic times in Scotland and MacGregor’s sterling reputation, Poyais could not have sounded more inviting to impoverished Scots.

“He told them it was a land of milk and honey where you could get several harvests of crops a year, and there were gold nuggets in the river and game abounding on the landscape,” says Tattersall. “He really made it sound like a nirvana.”

MacGregor convinced seven shiploads of Scots to tear up their lives and relocate, raising around 200,000 pounds in the process, the equivalent of around $25 million in current US dollars.

The first two ships departed for Poyais in September 1822, carrying around 250 passengers total on a two-month journey. The Guardian newspaper reported the following in October 1823: “When the emigrants arrived at [Honduras], nothing could exceed their anguish at finding, where they expected a fine flourishing town with nearly 2,000 inhabitants, only two or three ruined huts.”

Despondent but trapped, the settlers tried to build a town and plant crops, but they had no resources. The soil was unsuitable and there was scant livestock, leaving them little access to food.

Over the next two years, most of the 250 residents died.

“[One of the] particularly heart-wrenching things was an account in the newspaper of a shoemaker called Hellie who shot himself, having been promised the position of shoemaker to the Princess of Poyais, and then finding nothing when he got there,” Tattersall says. “That sort of experience was repeated over and over again with, like, 200 people.”

Why he took these people’s lives and transported them to this insect-infested hell, nobody really understands

A small group of survivors (there is no record of how many — Tattersall guesses “a couple dozen at most”) were eventually rescued by a passing timber trading boat and brought to Belize. By this point, five more Scottish ships filled with people had embarked toward Poyais. Word of the catastrophe got back to Scotland, and the Royal Navy was sent to recall the ships.

Making the tragedy especially senseless was that MacGregor sold his scam bonds and plots in several stages, and had already brought in a fortune before the first ships sailed. He could have easily absconded with his ill-gotten gains and not destroyed all those lives.

“He did this bond scam, then organized the expedition. Why he took these people’s lives and transported them to this insect-infested hell, nobody really understands,” Tattersall says.

When word of the hoax spread throughout Scotland, MacGregor fled to France, where he immediately attempted a similar scam. He was arrested but eventually acquitted. He tried other cons over the next decade, then relocated to Venezuela, where he was regarded a returning hero. He lived there until his death in 1845 at age 58.

Even after profiling 50 fraudsters in his book, Tattersall says he can’t begin to comprehend what might have driven MacGregor to such behavior, especially given that the Scot could have become extremely wealthy from his crime without causing so much tragedy.

“The only suggestion that makes any sense is that he came to believe his own propaganda [about Poyais],” Tattersall says. “It seems unbelievable that [he] could do something so cynical, heartless and unfeeling. It is not a dynamic I could possibly understand.”

FILED UNDER     

SHARE THIS ARTICLE:

Palestinian President Abbas Shows The World Again That He Is A Hate Filled Ass

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TIME NEWS)

 

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas speaks during a meeting of the Palestinian National Council at his headquarters in Ramallah on Apr. 30, 2018
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas speaks during a meeting of the Palestinian National Council at his headquarters in Ramallah on Apr. 30, 2018
Majdi Mohammed—AP

By IAN DEITCH / AP

May 2, 2018

(JERUSALEM) — Remarks by the Palestinian president about the causes of 20th century anti-Semitism in Europe were sharply condemned as anti-Semitic and drew widespread condemnations from Israel and around the world on Wednesday.

In rambling remarks that were part of a lengthy speech to the Palestine Liberation Organization parliament on Monday, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said it was the Jews’ “social function,” including money lending, that caused animosity toward them in Europe. He also portrayed the creation of Israel as a European colonial project, saying “history tells us there is no basis for the Jewish homeland.”

The comments drew criticism that Abbas perpetuated anti-Semitic stereotypes and ignored the deep Jewish historical connections to the Holy Land.

The Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial said in a statement that Abbas’ speech was “replete with antisemitic tropes and distortions of historical facts” and accused the Palestinian president of “blatantly falsifying history to the point of accusing the Jewish victims as being responsible for their own murder.”

The U.N.’s special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, Nickolay Mladenov, said in a statement that “leaders have an obligation to confront anti-Semitism everywhere and always, not perpetuate the conspiracy theories that fuel it.”

“Denying the historic and religious connection of the Jewish people to the land and their holy sites in Jerusalem stands in contrast to reality,” he said.

The U.S. ambassador to Israel lashed out at Abbas over his remarks.

“Abu Mazen has reached a new low,” Ambassador David Friedman tweeted, referring to Abbas by his nickname. “To all those who think Israel is the reason that we don’t have peace, think again.”

The rhetoric reflects the escalating tensions between the Palestinians and the Trump administration. Ties have been strained since Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital last year, prompting the Palestinians to suspend contacts with the administration.

Friedman and Abbas have sparred before. In March, Abbas called Friedman a “son of a dog” in an angry rant.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Abbas’ remarks were “the pinnacle of ignorance” and that the Palestinian leader was “again reciting the most disgraceful anti-Semitic slogans.”

The European Union said in a statement that the Palestinian president’s speech “contained unacceptable remarks concerning the origins of the Holocaust and Israel’s legitimacy.”

Abbas’ office declined to comment.

Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations Danny Danon sent a letter to the U.N. Security Council demanding condemnation of Abbas’ remarks and accusing the Palestinian president of trying to rewrite history with conspiracy theories.

China’s People’s Only Chance For Truth In History Is To Eliminate The Communist Party

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE)

 

China criminalizes the slander of its ‘heroes and martyrs,’ as it seeks to control history

Simon Denyer Washington Post

China’s Communist Party has always understood the importance of policing its history.

On Friday, it tightened the screws another notch with a new law banning the slander of “heroes and martyrs” – figures drawn from wartime propaganda said to have given their lives in defense of the Communist Party or the nation.

Chinese schoolchildren are taught about the heroic deeds of figures who fought against the Japanese during the World War II, or who gave their lives for the Communist Party in its civil war with the Nationalists. Memorials to some of the most famous dot the country.

Now, it will be illegal to suggest those tales might not be wholly factual.

“Only the official narrative is allowed to exist,” said historian and critic Zhang Lifan. “But ‘What is the historical truth?’ – is not a question we ask now.”

The law is part of a much broader and long-standing attempt by the Communist Party to mold or rewrite history in its interests, that extends from obfuscating the causes and extent of the famine that killed tens of millions of people during the disastrous Great Leap Forward that began in 1958, or the chaos of the Cultural Revolution that followed, through to the determined attempt to erase from history the 1989 pro-democracy movement and subsequent deaths of many demonstrators.

The “Heroes and Martyrs Protection Act” was passed by the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, China’s largely rubber-stamp parliament, and goes into effect on May 1. It threatens unspecified “administrative penalties” or even “criminal sanctions” against those who damage memorials or “insult or slander heroes and martyrs.”

Yue Zhongming, a member of the standing committee, told a news conference the law was not intended to restrict academic freedom, but that this should not be used to harm the honor of the nation’s heroes.

“We often say there is no banned area of academic research, while there is a bottom line of law,” he told a news conference.

Zhang, for his part, maintained the law was largely meant to emphasize and protect the legitimacy of the Communist Party, and to tie up the idea of “loving the country” with “loving the party.”

The law was first submitted for deliberation last December, with its final draft expanded to include a provision to punish people who “glorify acts of war or invasion.”

State media said that provision referred to a handful of Chinese who have taken to dressing up in Japanese World War II army uniforms, and photographing themselves at famous wartime sites or memorials. The so-called “spiritually Japanese” movement is thought to be a small group of people fascinated with that country’s war-era militarism: a group that Foreign Minister Wang Yi referred to as “scum” at a recent news conference.

But the law’s genesis lies in the protection of the Communist Party’s version of history, experts say.

“In recent years, a few people in China have slandered or derogated heroes and martyrs via the Internet, magazines and other media in the name of ‘academic freedom,’ ‘restoring history’ or ‘probing into details,’ which provoked anger from all walks of life,” state news agency Xinhua wrote.

In 2016, for example, historian Hong Zhenkuai was ordered by a court to issue a public apology after questioning the veracity of the much celebrated tale of the “five heroes of Langya Mountain” in which five Communist soldiers killed dozens of Japanese soldiers before leaping off the mountain shouting “long live the Community Party,” rather than surrender.

The pressure to sanitize history has intensified under President Xi Jinping, who has repeatedly warned about what he calls “historical nihilism,” a term that essentially means any attempt to question the Communist Party’s glorious account of its own past.

China also passed a law last year threatening 15 days in detention for any disrespect of its national anthem, the March of the Volunteers, a law that is now being extended to cover Hong Kong after fans there booed the anthem at international football matches.

One historian, who declined to be named for fear of inviting problems with the authorities, said there was growing pressure on his profession within China, with public security officials warning historians not to write anything critical about any aspect of history since the 1949 Communist takeover, under the threat of losing jobs, pensions or access to social services, for them and their family members.

Perry Link, Chancellorial Chair at the University of California at Riverside and Emeritus Professor of East Asian Studies at Princeton, said the law’s main aim is to protect the Communist Party’s version of history.

“We should also note that protecting history has nothing to do with empathy for people in a bygone time and everything to do with maintaining the party’s power and control today,” he wrote in an email.

Link cited the writings of Liu Xiaobo, China’s Nobel Peace Prize-winning pro-democracy activist who died in captivity last year, noting the inspiration he drew from people such as Lin Zhao, Yu Luoke and Zhang Zhixin – all of whom were executed during China’s Cultural Revolution “for expressing truths the party did not want to hear,” Link wrote.

“The fact that the present law will have nothing to do with protecting the reputations of those (true) martyrs says all one needs to know about the purpose of the law,” Link wrote.

The Washington Post’s Shirley Feng contributed to this report.

In The Holy Land: Land For Peace Has Always Been A Con Job

In The Holy Land: Land For Peace Has Always Been A Con Job

In 1948 the United Nations recreated the State of Israel that was just a small sliver of its former God-given borders. The Jewish people had to fight for every inch of that ground as the people living there did not wish to be removed from the land and I don’t believe that they can be blamed for that. If the United States government decided to  give the state of New Mexico back to the native population I am rather sure that the people currently living there would fight to keep from being removed, wouldn’t you? In the 7th century A.D. when the creation of Islam occurred the land of the Middle-East was dominated by the Jewish and Christian people and their religions. The military forces of Islamic believing people took these people’s land and their lives taking all of their possessions as spoils of war. The people of Islam held this land until 1948 then they were removed by force. The Jewish/Hebrew people had possessed this land for about 2,100 years before losing it to the Arab/Islamic people and these people and their faith have ruled the Middle-East for about 1,400 years now.  It is easy to see why all the people of ‘The Holy Land’ claim the land as their own.

 

The first paragraph was a 200 word attempt at encapsulating about 3,500 years of human history of ‘The Holy Lands’. There is no way to give the people and the land a totally fair shake in this one short article but I am going to do my best to be honest and fair in what I write. The reason I side with Israel on the land issue is because I am a Christian who happens to believe that the Bible is the Holy Spirit inspired word of God, all of it. When Moses led the Hebrew people up out of Egypt in about the year 1,500 B.C. He (God) specified to Moses and his successor Joshua exactly what Israels boundaries were to be.  The Israel of 1948 and indeed the Israel of 1967 and the Israel of 2018 are only a sliver of the God-given boundaries of what is supposed to be the nation of Israel.

 

In 1967 the Arab nations around Israel attacked the people of Israel from every direction in an attempt to remove Israel from the map but they failed completely. The 1967 war was called the 6 day war because Israel dominated their attackers and in the process Israel more than doubled their size via the land they captured from their neighbors during those 6 days. This is the land that the idiots at the U.N. and some in D.C. still refer to as “occupied land.” In 1972 Israel gave the whole Sinai back to Egypt when they signed a peace deal with their President Anwar Sadat from an agreement with President Carter of the U.S. which was called the Camp David Accord. This peace accord cost President Sadat his life at the hands of his own military. Twelve years ago Israel gave up land for peace when they gave up the Gaza Strip and The West Bank to the PLO and their leader President Arafat and his Fatah military wing. I stated at that time that the Prime Minister of Israel, Ariel Sharon had made a horrible mistake in giving away what God himself had given and I was proven totally correct on this issue. About 4 months after this land give away Mr. Sharon suffered a massive stroke that he never woke up from, laying in a coma for almost exactly 8 years before he died in January of 2014.

 

I know that I am not the only person who knew that once the people who were now called ‘the Palestinians’ would only use this land they were given to stage more attacks on the people of Israel from a now closer range. Here in America when we elected our first Islamic Shiite President in Mr. Obama on his first official visit to Israel he without consulting the government or the people declared that Israel was going to revert back to the pre 1967 borders, as though he was some kind of King of the world. Mr. Obama has been mad at the leaders of Israel ever since they said no to his ‘decree’. Think about this issue for a moment, in 1967 prior to the Arab nations attack these same Arab nations and people were trying to end Israel as a nation. They did not and do not want there to be such a thing as a nation of Israel. If this current government of Israel did as King Obama wanted there is no reason to believe that the people who believe that Allah is God would do anything other than continue to attack the Jewish nation in an attempt to do as they tried to do in 1967. When it comes to land for peace, and treaties with Islamic believers there is no such thing as creating peace with them by giving them more of your land. This illusion of peace has never been true since the days that Muhammad walked the Earth, it is not true today and it will never ever be true.