China urges US to withdraw ‘sanctions’ on Chinese military

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SHANGHAI SHINE DAILY NEWSPAPER)

(BEIJING KNEW BEFORE THEY PURCHASED WEAPONS FROM RUSSIA THAT THERE WERE SANCTIONS ON RUSSIAN MILITARY EXPORTS YET CHOSE TO BUY THEM ANYWAY. IF THE U.S. HAD NOT PUT SANCTIONS ON CHINA FOR BREAKING THAT EMBARGO THEN BEIJING WOULD HAVE LOOKED AT NOT DOING SO AS A SIGN OF WEAKNESS FROM THE U.S. SO IN REALITY, BEIJING NEEDS TO QUIT WHINING ABOUT EVERYONE WHO DOESN’T KISS THEIR PROVERBIAL ASS!) 

China urges US to withdraw ‘sanctions’ on Chinese military

Xinhua

China’s Foreign Ministry on Friday demanded the United States to immediately correct its wrongdoing and withdraw “sanctions” on the Chinese military.

The US State Department announced Thursday that it would impose sanctions on the Equipment Development Department of the Central Military Commission of China and the department’s director, alleging that China had violated the “Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act.”

“China is strongly indignant at the unreasonable move on the part of the United States and has lodged stern representations to the US side,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang told a routine press briefing.

“The US move seriously breached the basic rules of international relations and severely harmed relations between the two countries as well as the two militaries,” Geng said.

“We strongly urge the US side to immediately correct its mistake and withdraw the so-called sanctions. Otherwise, the US side must bear the consequences caused thereafter.”

Saudi Forces Take Part in US-Led Military Exercises in Egypt

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Saudi Forces Take Part in US-Led Military Exercises in Egypt

Saturday, 8 September, 2018 – 19:00
The Bright Star 2018 military drills kick off in Egypt. (SPA)
Asharq Al-Awsat
Saudi forces took part in US-led military exercises in conducted in Egypt.

The US-Egyptian Bright Star 2018 exercise kicked off on Saturday with the participation of Greece, Britain, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, Italy and France, in addition to observers from 16 countries.

Commanding officer of the participating Saudi force Colonel Nasser bin Hatlin al-Suhaimi said that their involvement is part of a pre-training curriculum prepared for the armed forces to engage in joint exercises, reported the Saudi Press Agency.

The exercise covers anti-terrorism operations and include training on combat, sea landing, diving, medical insurance and the use of live ammunition.

Saudi forces took part in this exercise with paratroopers and special security forces units, which have been assigned to carry out a number of major operational duties, especially combating terrorism and piracy.

North Korea has not stopped nuclear, missile program: confidential U.N. report

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF REUTERS NEWS AGENCY)

 

North Korea has not stopped nuclear, missile program: confidential U.N. report

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – North Korea has not stopped its nuclear and missile programs in violation of United Nations sanctions, according to a confidential U.N. report seen by Reuters on Friday.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un visits the Pyongyang Trolley Bus Factory and the Bus Repair Factory in Pyongyang, North Korea in this photo released August 4, 2018 by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency. KCNA/ via REUTERS

The six-month report by independent experts monitoring the implementation of U.N. sanctions was submitted to the Security Council North Korea sanctions committee late on Friday.

“(North Korea) has not stopped its nuclear and missile programs and continued to defy Security Council resolutions through a massive increase in illicit ship-to-ship transfers of petroleum products, as well as through transfers of coal at sea during 2018,” the experts wrote in the 149-page report.

The North Korean mission to the United Nations did not respond to a request for comment on the report.

The U.N report said North Korea is cooperating militarily with Syria and has been trying to sell weapons to Yemen’s Houthis.

Pyongyang also violated a textile ban by exporting more than $100 million in goods between October 2017 and March 2018 to China, Ghana, India, Mexico, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Turkey and Uruguay, the report said.

The report comes as Russia and China suggest the Security Council discuss easing sanctions after U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un met for the first time in June and Kim pledged to work toward denuclearization.

The United States and other council members have said there must be strict enforcement of sanctions until Pyongyang acts.

The U.N. experts said illicit ship-to-ship transfers of petroleum products in international waters had “increased in scope, scale and sophistication.” They said a key North Korean technique was to turn off a ship’s tracking system, but that they were also physically disguising ships and using smaller vessels.

The Security Council has unanimously sanctioned North Korea since 2006 in a bid to choke off funding for Pyongyang’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs, banning exports including coal, iron, lead, textiles and seafood, and capping imports of crude oil and refined petroleum products.

The experts said “prohibited military cooperation with the Syrian Arab Republic has continued unabated.” They said North Korean technicians engaged in ballistic missile and other banned activities have visited Syria in 2011, 2016 and 2017.

The report said that experts were investigating efforts by the North Korean Ministry of Military Equipment and Korea Mining Development Trading Corporation (KOMID) to supply conventional arms and ballistic missiles to Yemen’s Houthi group.

A country, which was not identified, showed the experts a July 13, 2016 letter from a Houthi leader inviting the North Koreans to meet in Damascus “to discuss the issue of the transfer of technology and other matters of mutual interest,” according to the report.

The experts said that the effectiveness of financial sanctions was being systematically undermined by “deceptive practices” of North Korea.

Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Chris Sanders and Toni Reinhold

Trump keeps claiming credit for fixing things that aren’t fixed

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

(TRUMP: AMERICA’S IDIOTIC FRAUD IN CHIEF, IS HE POSSIBLY THE BIGGEST FOOL IN THE WHOLE WORLD?) (opinion by: oldpoet56)

Trump keeps claiming credit for fixing things that aren’t fixed

(CNN)Never shy about taking credit, President Donald Trump twice recently claimed to have solved a problem that turned out to still be a problem.

He wanted the problem of North Korea’s nuclear weapons to be solved after his historic meeting with Kim Jong Un last month, and he wanted the problem of children separated by the US government from their parents to be solved with the swipe of his pen on an executive order.
But weeks later, the North Korean nuclear threat still very much exists, and the problem of children separated from their parents has worsened as the US government clearly does not know exactly how many children it has or how to get them back to their parents.
These are unrelated stories, obviously, but they share what’s become a truism of White House — which is that Trump likes to take credit for things he hasn’t quite accomplished. The details will come later.
Trump touts North Korea denuclearization

Trump touts North Korea denuclearization
It’s not unlike the famous old quote attributed to Vermont Sen. George Aitken, a Republican, who put forward a plan for the US in Vietnam in 1966. The United States should declare victory and get out, he’s been quoted as saying. Whether Aitken said it that way or not and what exactly he meant has been debated.
Trump actually did sort of declare victory on North Korea immediately upon touching down on US soil after the summit in June with Kim.
“Just landed – a long trip, but everybody can now feel much safer than the day I took office,” Trump said on Twitter. “There is no longer a Nuclear Threat from North Korea.”
Trump was basking in success of his trip at the time and clearly wanted it to seem as historic as possible.
But his declaration was premature. The agreement he signed in North Korea was more of an entree into figuring out the details. And his administration, since his tweet, has reaffirmed that there is still a nuclear threat from North Korea. Obviously. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo shuttles back and forth to hammer out the hard details. Meanwhile, North Korea’s nuclear program continues.
Trump has not been chastened, however. Most recently, he’s sought credit for not being in the middle of a nuclear war.
“Many good conversations with North Korea-it is going well! In the meantime, no Rocket Launches or Nuclear Testing in 8 months. All of Asia is thrilled. Only the Opposition Party, which includes the Fake News, is complaining. If not for me, we would now be at War with North Korea!”
OK! (Set aside that Trump was the one tempting nuclear war with his previous taunting of Kim. He’s asking for credit for avoiding a war he was inching toward.)
On the subject of the immigrant children, the administration was slow to realize its moral mistake in separating the children from parents at the border. The resulting chaos is just becoming clear.
Trump signs executive order to end family separations
Trump signs executive order to end family separations
“We’re going to have strong, very strong borders, but we’re going to keep the families together,” he said. “I didn’t like the sight or the feeling of families being separated.”
“So we’re keeping families together and this will solve that problem,” Trump said. And then, just before he signed the executive order, he added, “You’re going to have a lot of happy people.”
He hasn’t said much at all about the issue since then.
But problems became apparent immediately. The executive order sought to detain undocumented families together and it ran afoul of a law that mandated children not be detained indefinitely. And while the stated purpose was to reunite families, it’s not clear that’s happened much at all. In fact, the government this week made clear it had separated even more children than previously thought.
These are only the most recent examples.
There’s no such thing as Obamacare anymore,” he said after Republicans passed their tax reform bill, even though Republicans’ tax bill only zeroed out the penalty for not obtaining health insurance coverage.
CNN’s Greg Krieg looked at a long list of things Trump has tried to take credit for earlier this year.
But these new examples are something else. They’re Trump taking credit for the efforts of his own administration before his own policies can be enacted, which is why they feel so premature. He’s trying to take credit for things where no credit is yet deserved.

HOW DOES ISRAEL’S MILITARY COMPARE TO IRAN?

(THIS ARTICLE SI COURTESY OF NEWSWEEK)

 

HOW DOES ISRAEL’S MILITARY COMPARE TO IRAN?

Relations between Israel and Iran are at breaking point. The multinational nuclear deal signed with Iran is on the verge of collapsing—partly thanks to Israeli lobbying against it. Iranian leaders have warned that if it fails, the country will resume its uranium enrichment program, a step Israel considers a threat to its very existence.

Meanwhile, multiple Israeli strikes have sought to dislodge Iranian forces from Syria, where Tehran enjoys increasing influence. Israeli leaders are fighting hard to stop Iranian soldiers deploying along its northern border.

Though it would appear that neither nation wants a full-scale war, the potential for miscalculation and escalation remains. Both nations have considerable military clout, and any prolonged confrontation between them would be bloody.

RTS1IFO9Israeli forces are seen near a border fence between the Israeli-occupied side of the Golan Heights and Syria, on November 4, 2017. Israel is wary of Iran’s growing influence across its northern border.REUTERS/AMMAR AWAD

Iran is a much larger country with a far higher population than Israel, but numbers alone do not dictate military capability—combat technology and experience are vital factors too. Technological capability is even more important in an era where technology is changing the way war is waged, allowing nations to hit each other harder, from further away and with less human involvement.

A small nation with a population of just 8.5 million, Israel’s military punches significantly above its weight. Formed amid a war with seven Arab neighbors, the country’s short history is punctuated with conflicts fought for its survival. This tough history combines with a burgeoning technology sphere and close relations with powerful western nations to create one of the world’s most formidable fighting forces.

According to Global Firepower, Israel has approximately 170,000 active personnel with a further 445,000 in reserve. Conscription exists for all non-Arab citizens of Israel over the age of 18, giving the country a large and well-trained pool of fighters to call up in the event of war.

Though less sophisticated than Israel, the Iranian military is a force to be reckoned with. Its large population—around 82 million—enables Tehran to maintain a standing force of around 534,000 soldiers, with a further 400,000 in reserve, making it the largest force in the Middle East.

In a drawn-out engagement, national manpower becomes an important issue. Iranian available manpower is around 47 million compared with just 3 million for Israel. Of course, how important this is will depend on the nature of any war being fought.

RTXYQI5Members of Iranian armed forces march during the Army Day parade in Tehran on April 18, 2013.REUTERS/HAMID FOROOTAN/ISNA/HANDOUT

In 2017, Israel spent $16.5 billion on its armed forces, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. Iran was not far behind on $14.5 billion. Though this does not seem like a big gap, the fact that Israel is spending billions more than Iran on a smaller military indicates the gulf in the quality of equipment used.

Israel fields more tanks than Iran—2,760 compared to 1,650. Israel wins this matchup on quality as well as quantity, the latest version of its Merkava tank being one of the best and most heavily defended in the world. Iran is mostly using second-rate tanks, though it has announced the development of the new Karrar platform, which it claims will be able to compete with top-class opponents.

The Israeli air force is one of the best in the world, equipped and trained to the highest level. Its pilots are experienced too, having regularly conducted missions against targets in Syria, Lebanon, the Gaza Strip and even Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula. Its 250 or so fighters include a handful of Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II aircraft, one of just four fifth-generation fighter planes in the world. Israel will eventually have 50 F-35s.

By contrast, Iran fields around 160 fighter jets, none of which are as advanced as the F-35. Furthermore, its pilots are less well-trained and experienced than their Israeli counterparts.

Neither nation is a significant maritime power. Iran has more than 30 submarines, five frigates, three corvettes and more than 200 patrol craft. Israel currently has five submarines, three corvettes, eight missile boats and 45 patrol boats. Considering the geography, the naval theater is unlikely to play any significant role in a potential conflict.

RTX2UPSIAn Israeli soldier sits inside a F-35 fighter jet after it landed at Nevatim air base in southern Israel on December 12, 2016.REUTERS/AMIR COHEN

In the event of an all-out war, Israel holds the nuclear trump card. Notoriously secretive about its nuclear arsenal, the country is believed to possess between 75 and 400 warheads. The weapons can be delivered using Israel’s Jericho ballistic missiles, submarine-launched cruise missiles or even fighter planes.

Iran has no nuclear capability. Even if talks break down, it will take many years before Tehran joins the nuclear club. Iran is working hard to improve its ballistic missile arsenal, already one of the most potent in the region and well-able to hit Israel.

But Iran has other tricks up its sleeves. Financial and military support for anti-Israeli militant groups across the Middle East give it an unconventional way to hit its rival in the event of conflict. The Shiite Lebanese Hezbollah group, especially, is a worry for Israeli leaders. Hezbollah has a well-trained and well-equipped military, far more powerful than the Lebanese army and able to operate freely.

Hezbollah’s experience fighting alongside regime forces in Syria has given it vital combat exposure. The group maintains a huge rocket arsenal, and its weapons can hit anywhere in Israel. Iran also provides support to the Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad groups in Gaza, which maintain smaller, but still significant, rocket capabilities.

The US may sail a warship around Taiwan in an attempt to back up China

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE BUSINESS INSIDER)

 

The US may sail a warship around Taiwan in an attempt to back up China

US Navy uss lassen
The USS Lassen (DDG 82) patrolling the eastern Pacific Ocean.
US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Huey D. Younger Jr.
  • The United States is considering sending a warship through the Taiwan Strait, US officials say.
  • A US warship passage, should it happen, could be seen in Taiwan as a fresh sign of support by President Donald Trump after a series of Chinese military exercises around the self-ruled island.
  • China has alarmed Taiwan by ramping up military exercises this year, including flying bombers and other military aircraft around the island and sending its carrier through the narrow Taiwan Strait.

WASHINGTON — The United States is considering sending a warship through the Taiwan Strait, US officials say, in a move that could provoke a sharp reaction from Beijing at a time when Sino-US ties are under pressure from trade disputes and the North Korean nuclear crisis.

A US warship passage, should it happen, could be seen in Taiwan as a fresh sign of support by President Donald Trump after a series of Chinese military exercises around the self-ruled island. China claims Taiwan as part of its territory.

US officials told Reuters that the United States had already examined plans for an aircraft carrier passage once this year but ultimately did not pursue them, perhaps because of concerns about upsetting China.

The last time a US aircraft carrier transited the Taiwan Strait was in 2007, during the George W. Bush administration, and some US military officials believe a carrier transit is overdue.

Another less provocative option would be resuming the periodic, but still infrequent, passages by other US Navy ships through the strait, the latest of which was in July.

The Pentagon declined to comment on any potential future operations, and it was unclear how soon a passage might take place.

Speaking in Beijing, Hua Chunying, a spokeswoman for China’s foreign ministry, urged the United States to prudently handle the Taiwan issue so as to avoid harming bilateral ties and peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait region.

“We have repeatedly emphasized that the Taiwan issue is the most important and sensitive core issue in the China-US relationship,” she said at a daily news briefing on Tuesday.

Trump, who in 2016 broke protocol as president-elect by taking a phone call from Taiwan’s president, has toned down his rhetoric about Taiwan in recent months as he seeks China’s aid in the nuclear standoff with North Korea.

The United States and China are also trying to find their way out of a major trade dispute that has seen the world’s two economic heavyweights threaten tit-for-tat tariffs on goods worth up to $150 billion.

China has alarmed Taiwan by ramping up military exercises this year, including flying bombers and other military aircraft around the island and sending its carrier through the narrow Taiwan Strait separating it from Taiwan.

“They’re turning up the heat,” a fourth US official said, speaking on condition of anonymity to describe the US’s view of Chinese activities around Taiwan.

Separately, it now appears unlikely the United States will send top officials to a June 12 dedication ceremony for the new American Institute in Taiwan, America’s de facto embassy in Taiwan. Washington does not have formal ties with Taipei.

US officials told Reuters that the date clashed with the planned June 12 summit between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un but added that there would be another opportunity to commemorate the institute’s unveiling in September.

Case-by-case arms sales

Since taking office, Trump has approved a $1.4 billion arms sale to Taiwan and angered Beijing by signing legislation encouraging visits by senior US officials to Taiwan. Trump also named John Bolton, known as a strong Taiwan supporter, as his national security adviser.

The fourth US official told Reuters that Washington aimed to change the way it approaches arms sales requests from Taiwan to address them on a case-by-case basis, as opposed to bundling them together.

Rupert Hammond-Chambers at the US-Taiwan Business Council trade association said that moving away from bundling — a practice in place for a decade — would be better for Taipei’s defense needs, treating it more like a regular security partner.

“We get into difficulty when we treat Taiwan differently, which opens the door for the politicization of the [arms sales] process,” Hammond-Chambers said.

Military experts say that the balance of power between Taiwan and China has shifted decisively in China’s favor in recent years and that China could easily overwhelm the island unless US forces came quickly to Taiwan’s aid.

The United States is bound by law to provide Taiwan with the means to defend itself, but it is unclear whether Washington would want to be dragged into war with China over the island.

Asked about US obligations to Taiwan, Lt. Col. Christopher Logan, a Pentagon spokesman, noted that Washington had sold Taiwan more than $15 billion worth of weaponry since 2010.

“We have a vital interest in upholding the current rules-based international order, which features a strong, prosperous, and democratic Taiwan,” Logan said.

SEE ALSO: US disregards Beijing’s nonsense, says it can take down South China Sea islands

Russia OKs Israeli strikes on Iranian targets deep inside Syria

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Russia OKs Israeli strikes on Iranian targets deep inside Syria — report

Arabic daily says deal between Moscow and Jerusalem includes removal of Tehran-backed forces from border area, protection for Syrian army

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman meets with Russian Minister of Defense Sergey Shoigu, in Moscow, Russia on May 31, 2018. (Ariel Hermoni/Defense Ministry)

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman meets with Russian Minister of Defense Sergey Shoigu, in Moscow, Russia on May 31, 2018. (Ariel Hermoni/Defense Ministry)

Israel and Russia have reached an agreement green-lighting Israeli strikes on Iranian targets in Syria, as well as the withdrawal of Tehran-backed troops from Syria’s border with Israel, according to an Arabic media report Friday.

According to the Arabic-language daily Asharq al-Awsat, the agreement will see Iranian forces leave southwestern Syria, while allowing Israel to strike Iranian assets deep in the country. Israel agreed not to attack Syrian regime targets, the report said.

A Russian source told Asharq al-Awsat that Russia was tight-lipped about the agreement to maintain “balance” in its diplomatic ties with Israel and Iran.

Israel has repeatedly vowed to prevent Iran establishing a permanent presence in Syria and Lebanon and has carried out dozens of air strikes against Iran-backed forces and attempts to smuggle advanced weapons to Hezbollah.

“Russia is somehow embarrassed because the talks with the Israelis mainly focused on a plan to remove Iran and its forces from southern Syria,” the source told the paper. Russia is a main ally of Iran.

The reported agreement comes after Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman met his Russian counterpart Sergei Shoigu in Moscow on Thursday for talks focused on Syria.

Liberman thanked Russia for “understanding” Israel’s security concerns. However, neither Jerusalem, nor Moscow, publicly acknowledged any agreement between the sides regarding Iran’s military presence in Syria.

A photo released by Iranian media reportedly shows the T-4 air base in central Syria after a missile barrage attributed to Israel on April 9, 2018. (Iranian media)

“It is important to continue the dialogue between us and to keep an open line between the IDF and Russian army,” Liberman told Shoigu.

Before leaving Israel for Russia, Liberman said Israel was committed to “preventing Iran and its offshoots from establishing themselves in Syria.”

The Kremlin said President Vladimir Putin spoke with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Thursday evening to discuss the situation in Syria. Moscow said the conversation focused on “some aspects of the Syrian settlement,” which it didn’t specify, following up on the two leaders’ talks in Moscow earlier this month.

The Liberman-Shoigu meeting came on the heels of Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov‘s demand Wednesday that all foreign forces — including those from Iran, Turkey and the US — leave southwestern Syria as soon as possible, as well as his remarks Monday at a press conference in Moscow that only the Syrian regime should field military forces in the country’s southern border areas.

“As regards the confrontation between Israel and Iran in Syria, we have agreements on the southwestern de-escalation zone. These agreements have been reached between Russia, the United States and Jordan. Israel was informed about them as we were working on them. They [the agreements] stipulate that this de-escalation zone should consolidate stability, while all non-Syrian forces must be withdrawn from this area,” Lavrov said.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov attends a joint press conference with his German counterpart following their talks in Moscow on May 10, 2018. (AFP/Yuri Kadobnov)

Lavrov’s comment apparently referred to areas including the Syrian Golan Heights region abutting the Israeli Golan Heights and the border with Jordan, and indicated that Russia was open to Israeli demands that Iranian forces be kept far from Israel’s borders.

The return of the Syrian army to Israel’s northern border in return for the distancing of Iran and its Lebanon-based proxy Hezbollah from the area has been the subject of back channel discussions between Israel and Russia over recent weeks.

Liberman visited Russia with a defense establishment delegation, hoping to flesh out the understandings to give Syrian President Bashar Assad control over the Syria-Israel border region.

Netanyahu’s office continues to insist publicly that Israel demands the complete ouster of Iran and Hezbollah from the whole of Syria.

A source told the Ynet news site on Thursday that “Israel is uninterested in partial agreements, but rather in an exit of all Iranian forces from Syria.”

On Wednesday, Netanyahu told ministers that he had spoken with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo primarily to urge the US government to demand that an evolving agreement on troop deployment in Syria between the US, Russia and Jordan make clear that Iranian forces must leave the whole of the country.

Israeli soldiers seen beside tanks near the Israeli-Syrian border in the Golan Heights on May 10, 2018 (Basel Awidat/Flash90)

The agreement appears to be slated to demand that Iranian and Iran-backed forces stay 20 kilometers from the Israeli and Jordanian borders.

Amidst a flurry of activity relating to Iran, Meir Ben-Shabbat, Israel’s National Security Adviser, flew to Washington on Wednesday to coordinate positions with the Trump administration.

Next week, Netanyahu will leave for France and Germany to discuss Iran’s role in Syria and the nuclear deal which the Europeans are trying to salvage after the US withdrawal earlier this month. He is due to meet with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron. He may also call on Prime Minister Theresa May in the UK.

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 »

Concerning N. Korea: Are S. Korean People As Clueless As The Trump Administration?

Concerning N. Korea: Are S. Korean People As Clueless As The Trump Administration?

 

President Trump always try’s to play himself off as a macho man when it comes to talking about war issues even though he hid behind his daddy skirts 6 or 7 times in being a coward to stay out of Vietnam. It is no secret that Mr Trump adores ‘strong men’ like Mr Putin, Xi Jinping and Duarte and that he wishes that the U.S. Constitution didn’t exist and that we here in the U.S. should adopt a policy like China has where Xi Jinping is now ‘President For Life.’ You very well know that if Hillary was the President he would not be in favor of such a policy. The issue, just like every thing else in this world (in his eyes) is all about him. What he has proven himself to be over and over again is an habitual liar, ignorant of all reality, a total egomaniac, and a complete fool. I also believe that once the midterm election is over and the Democrats demolish the Republicans in the Congress and the Democrats retake the Senate, probable 51-49 or maybe 52-48, the Republicans will turn on Mr. Trump and he will be impeached. It is not like the Republican establishment likes this crooked fool, but he is the only horse they have in the race so they have chosen to forfeit all semblance of integrity and to stay with him, until after November.

 

 

North Korea’s Vice Minister of the Foreign Ministry, Ms. Cloe who specializes in North Korea-American relations said the following about Vice President Pence’s ‘Libya’ comments. She said “Mr. Pence is a ‘Political Dummy’ for comparing Libya to North Korea. As a person involved in the U.S. affairs, I cannot suppress my surprise at such ignorant and stupid remarks gushing out of the mouth of the U.S. Vice President.” Mr. Adam Mount, the Director of the ‘Defense Posture Project’ at the Federation of American Scientist said he believes that the comments made by Mr. Pence and Mr. Bolton were the “most explicit regime change threat yet” from the Trump Administration.

 

Why I asked the question in the title about if the people of South Korea are as clueless as people like Mr. Trump are is because of the following pieces of reality I would like to share with you now. First, I would like t compare the situation on the Korean Peninsula with the situation in Israel/Gaza/West Bank. The majority of the people of Israel know very well if there was no secured border with the Palestinians this latest “March of Return” that Hamas has instituted would have wiped out all the Jewish people and there would no longer be a Nation of Israel. Reality is that most of Israels neighbors, PA, Hamas, Hezbollah, Syria, Iran, they do not want peace with Israel, they want there to be no such thing as a Nation of Israel. Now, if there is indeed to be only one Korea, that Korea will be under the direct control of Kim Jong Un, the man will accept nothing less as this is his ultimate goal in life. Now concerning the Nuclear Site that North Korea supposedly blew up yesterday. The CIA as well as some of China’s news outlets said over a month ago that this site, the interior of this mountain had caved in, so they had no ‘active’ nuclear site. The only way they could have rebuilt this site with all of the sanctions going on was if China financed them and helped to physically rebuild it, reality is that Xi Jinping told Kim Jong Un no when Kim visited China last month. This event played well into China’s wishes. No nukes on their door step, blow up the nonexistent Nuke site, play nice with South Korea and the U.S. and see what kind of concessions can be obtained from the U.S. and their allies. Trump has spoken lately of removing the 45,000 Marines that we have stationed at the border between the two Korea’s and this past week he also called off some of the military exercise events we have each with the South Korean military in an attempt to please Mr. Kim. If Mr. Kim cannot simply march his army into South Korea at this time he is trying to get a lot of loans or credit so that he can get the South Korean government to open trade with the South. This in a sense is like the China model of keep the government in place but get revenues and technologies from the West to make your Communist government stronger with the influx of revenues. China is and has been using this model to take over all of Asia as they do ‘play the long game.’

 

I’ll make this last paragraph about the ‘Libya stupidity’. Here are the reasons why the tragedy that is Libya of today will not ever happen in North Korea. 1) There is no Islamic insurgency of any kind in North Korea. Libya is and was inundated with believers of Islam, unless a strong Dictator can come into this country and wipe out all of these fundamentalist of Islam, Libya is going to stay a cesspool for many decades to come. 2) The people, the citizens of Libya had/has no strong Super Power backing them on one of their borders like North Korea does with China. President Xi Jinping of China has made it perfectly clear that China will not tolerate a Regime Change in North Korea. He has made it plain that they will not allow a democracy or a ‘friend’ of the United States to occupy the space that is the North Korea of today. Trump has at times made comments about maybe doing a first strike against North Korea to get rid of all of their nukes. These comments were made despite the comments of Xi Jinping that if North Korea is attacked first, China will join in that war to support North Korea, thus creating a nuclear war, world war 3 with China and probably with Russia joining in with their ally, China. China will not tolerate a ‘Libya situation’ on their border so only people who are ignorant of these realities  or someone who is simply a stupid fool (Bolton, Pence, Trump) would make such “ignorant and stupid remarks.” The American people must face up to the fact that all of the rest of the world already knows, we have a Lunatic sitting in Our Oval Office!

Should The Weak, The Poor And The Children Be Left To Be Slaughtered?

Should The Weak, The Poor And The Children Be Left To Be Slaughtered? 

 

I ask, I pray, that you will stay with me as I write my thoughts down on this issue. For your ease of mind, I do not want anyone being or any group of people to ever be slaughtered, as the title shows, this is simply a question. It is a question that I hope that you agree with me on, on my answer. I know that there are people who would have no problem getting rid of all of the old the sick the weak and the poor as they consider them as nothing but a financial drain on society. I am a Christian by faith and ‘by faith’ I believe in the teachings of our Lord Jesus. In Scripture we are taught to love our enemies, to offer them food and drink. Because a group of people are old, weak, sick, poor or just children this should never be a reason to consider them as our enemy. So, if they are a class above what or whom we would consider as an enemy then shouldn’t we then also treat them better?

 

I don’t want this to be a political article yet I guess is some ways it has no choice but to be so. This letter to you today is derived from this latest mass shooting at a high school in south-east Texas this week. Every time these is one of these demonic events you have political activists, movie stars and some politicians who use the event to jump on the ‘anti-gun’ bandwagon. In American politics it does seem that it is mostly people of the Democratic Party persuasion like Hillary Clinton who preach about how guns are bad and how people shouldn’t have them. Illinois, California and New York are states very Democratic in their politics and they are all very anti-gun states, yet, look at the gun violence rates in these state, there horrible. Since this weeks school shooting in Texas I have heard 3 different people say how surprised they were because Texas is quite ‘liberal’ in their gun laws and that they didn’t expect such a thing to happen in a state like Texas.

 

Folks, all of this ideology, in my opinion is quite ignorant. I live in the state of Kentucky and the gun laws here are as open as a person could realistically hope for if you believe in the persons right to carry arms if they wish to. Guns are easy to buy here as long as you are not on the Federal Registry forbidding you to buy one and as far as I know this simply means that as long as you haven’t been convicted of a felony you can buy and take your firearm home with you the same day you pay for it. You are also allowed to open carry in this state, you can strap a holster on and go in just about anywhere you wish. This freedom also goes along with having your concealed carry license like I do and every member of my household does. I carry concealed when it is cold enough to wear a jacket, when it’s not I simply open carry and I have never even seen one time where anyone has had a problem in a store, or any place else, with me or anyone else carrying a firearm. I know that the way I look at it, and I know that people who work in stores have told me that they look at it is that they feel safer with customers in the store having guns. Think about it folks, here in Kentucky if a person comes in to rob a store or a restaurant and lets say there are 10 customers in the store at least 3 or 4 of those customers are going to shoot you if you pull a gun on an employee. People being able to protect themselves is called security, only an idiot is going to pull a gun out on someone here because you are going to be dead if you do, the police will be being called after the fact. I am an NRA Card carrying member yet I have never once ever shot another person or even an animal, I have never ever even pulled a gun on anyone and I hope that I never have to. To me our weapons are simply for defense for myself and my family and no one has the right to take my firearms because I am never going to do anything stupid with them and everyone I know personally who has firearms feels this same way.

 

When you have situations that happen like this week in Texas you have cowards who are going into ‘soft targets’ like a school to cause their carnage. If this young man had any guts he would have went into a Police Station or to a Military Base and started acting like a fool there. The reason people don’t, is because they are cowards, they want soft targets where they know there will be no other guns than the ones they themselves are carrying, or, at the most only one pistol on one Resource Officer. I do not know how some folks think that making gun laws tougher on folks like me are going to have any positive effect what so ever on stopping things like these school shootings. Some Republican Politicians have floated the idea of allowing some teachers to conceal carry while at school as long as they get a lot of training first. Personally I still believe that every school in the nation should now have to have at least 6 National Guard Soldiers, fully armed at each school. One for the north, south, east and west sides of the building plus two inside in a camera room. This would allow there to be one person in the room at all times and there being one extra security person, maybe a local Police Officer with authority to arrest there also. I hate the concept that any Police Officers or National Guardsmen would ever be needed on any school grounds but not having them is to not be facing up to the reality of this world we are all living in. I know that school districts will say that they can’t afford what I am and have been suggesting but the answer is, yes they can. School districts should not be having to pick up any of the cost of having the National Guard personal, this is something that all of the states should have to pay for.

 

Democrats who say they are for the weak and the poor lie a lot. The reason I have included these demographics is the fact that because of their anti weapons propaganda the cost of firearms has gone crazy and because of the efforts of President Bill Clinton the cost of ammunition is so high many people, including myself really can’t afford to buy it. This means that even if people can buy a gun for protection they can’t afford to do any target practicing. Many nations around the world have had the curse of armed groups going into schools and killing as many kids as they can, it will happen here someday. Other nations have also had the reality of multiple gunmen attacking markets. How long do you think it will be before we have gunmen entering a high school gym during a basketball game and start shooting? We live in a sick society and disarming ourselves is totally an idiotic idea.

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