(I GOT THIS ARTICLE FROM FACEBOOK)
President Trump started his White House press conference by reading from a prepared speech. He should have stayed on script. (Video below.)
“Through the ages, your country has been a beacon of artistic and scientific achievement,” Trump read aloud.
“From Venice to Florence, from Verdi to Pavarotti,” he continued before looking away from his script, and adding “friend of mine. Great friend of mine.”
Many in attendance, along with Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni, certainly knew that Italian opera legend Luciano Pavarotti is not Trump’s friend, as he has been dead for ten years.
Pavarotti, a national treasure for Italians, was considered one of the greatest voices of all times, was a legendary tenor who mastered both opera and popular music. For the President of the United States to claim him as a current friend is the equivalent of Italy’s Prime Minister announcing that he had just had a lovely time with Abraham Lincoln or Muhammad Ali.
Enjoy the latest example of Trump showing the world he doesn’t know what he’s talking about. At least no one got hurt this time.
(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)
It is not strange that Iran is the only country in the Middle East that blocks services which are considered essential now like Twitter, Facebook, and WhatsApp as part of its continuous blackout policy. Tehran even disturbs the signal of several broadcast channels blocking citizens from any external media access.
Of all international social media applications available, Iranians are only left with the messaging application Telegram.
Telegram was formed by two Russian brothers and is headquartered in Germany. Almost 40 million Iranians use its voice messages, while 20 million use the application for texting. Being the only application available, this precious service is in high demand among Iranians who amount up to a quarter of Telegram’s users across the world.
But then the government quelled Iranians’ sole source of joy by blocking most of Telegram’s services, precisely the voice messages under the pretext of protecting national security.
The truth is that the regime blocked the application fearing it would affect the course of the upcoming elections; a course that had already been engineered.
Thousands of local candidates are “filtered” according to the criteria of the “democratic Iranian religious clerics”. In the end, only those whom they are satisfied with are allowed to run for elections. It is not a secret system and, eventually, no one is allowed to win the elections or even run for it if the Supreme Leader doesn’t agree.
The 2009 elections caused a great embarrassment both domestically and internationally because those who diverted from the leadership were figures licensed by the leaders of the regime to run for the elections.
The supreme leadership decided that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad would become president and forged the results accordingly. This angered the candidates who had the best chance in winning and led to the famous “Green Movement” revolution, during which many died or were injured and arrested. The memory of the uprising has been haunting the authorities that believe this massive antagonist movement wouldn’t have been possible, especially in Tehran, hadn’t it been for Twitter and Facebook.
Indeed, back then al-Arabiya Channel relied almost completely on the videos, photos and information it received from those two platforms to cover the Iranian events after the authorities shut down its office and expelled its correspondent. The results were astounding! The regime was in confusion after images of the protests, clashes, and injuries were broadcast on international media outlets.
After reading a report published about a month ago in the Los Angeles Times about the influence of Telegram inside of Iran, I sensed the regime’s fear and anticipated its next move. The report mentioned that the security authorities had already begun warning users of political messages and forced anyone who owned a channel with over 5,000 subscribers to obtain a permit from the Ministry of Culture. The government then began a series of arrests for active users on the application.
Iran has now shut most of Telegram’s services hoping to contain the atmosphere of the parliamentary and presidential elections, which are mostly an encore of the same charade. Results can be partially or completely forged, even after the filtration and suspension done during the early stages of candidacy.
The regime is really concerned with controlling the reactions of the Iranian street to avoid the repetition of the Green Revolution.
No surprises on the level of the presidential elections are expected because the approved candidates are just copies of each other.
Even former President Ahmadinejad, despite his importance and history, was banned by the Supreme Leader from running for this election. Ahmadinejad shocked everyone and announced himself a candidate with a series of clarifications and apologetic statements saying he didn’t disobey the directives of the Supreme Leader. He pledged to withdraw from the elections after the first round and said he only participated to support his friend, a presidential candidate, and give him the media and public attention.
(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST)
JERUSALEM — A British exchange student was fatally stabbed Friday by a Palestinian attacker just steps from Jerusalem’s Old City, where thousands of Jews and Christians gathered for religious holidays at one of the busiest times of the year, officials said.
Thousands of people filled parts of the ancient city: Jews to celebrate Passover, which ends Monday in Israel; and Christian pilgrims for Good Friday. The attack took place inside a car of the city’s light-rail train near the entrance to the Old City’s Christian Quarter.
The woman identified as Hannah Bladon, 21, was treated for stab wounds in a hospital and later died, police said.
Bladon was an exchange student from the University of Birmingham in Britain, and she arrived in Israel in January to spend a semester at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, the latter said in a statement.
Israel’s Shin Bet security agency named the suspected attacker as 57-year-old Jamal Tamimi from East Jerusalem, a mostly Arab area. They said he had mental health issues and had attempted suicide this year while hospitalized. Tamimi was arrested at the scene, the report said.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu compared the attack to other violent acts around the world in recent weeks. “Radical Islam strikes at the capitals of the world and, unfortunately, terrorism has hit the capital of Israel — Jerusalem,” he wrote on Facebook.
Israel considers Jerusalem its united capital, and all of its official offices are based there. Palestinians want part of Jerusalem as the capital of any future state.
Friday’s killing is the latest in a spate of stabbing, shooting and vehicular attacks by Palestinians over the past 18 months.
Israel has been accused internationally of being too heavy-handed in response to the attacks, which have left nearly 50 Israelis and more than 200 Palestinians dead. Israel says most of the Palestinians killed were attempting to carry out attacks against Israeli civilians, soldiers or police officers.
The targeted stabbings and other attacks started in October 2015 with almost daily assaults. Incidents slowed in mid-2016 and, with Israeli forces stepping up their response, fatal attacks are now rare.
The violence contrasts with the first and second intifadas of the 1980s and 2000s, which were centrally organized and included mass unrest.
(THIS ARTICLES IS COURTESY OF CNN)
Arrest made in fatal shooting of 11-year-old Chicago girl
- Atwan Jones, 19, has been charged with murder
- Takiya Holmes,11, died after being struck in the head by a stray bullet
(CNN)A 19-year-old man has been charged with murder in connection with one of three shootings involving children in Chicago during a three-day period, police Superintendent Eddie Johnson said Wednesday.
(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)
Dominican Republic radio hosts killed during Facebook Live broadcast
- Medina and Martinez had been hosting the show “Milenio Caliente”
- Dayanna Garcia de Fernandez was also injured in the shooting
(CNN) As followers of Luis Manuel Medina’s Facebook Live video watched another of his radio monologues on Tuesday, two loud bangs rang out.
(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TIME MAGAZINE)
“This is the biggest prison massacre in our state’s history”
(RIO DE JANEIRO) — At least 60 inmates died during a prison riot in the northern state of Amazonas, including several who were beheaded or dismembered, Brazilian state authorities said Monday.
State public security secretary Sergio Fontes said that in addition to the deaths, some inmates escaped, but he did not say how many. Several prison guards were held hostage.
“This is the biggest prison massacre in our state’s history,” Fontes said during a press conference. The riot began Sunday afternoon and lasted until Monday morning.
Two of the biggest crime gangs of Brazil began fighting last year over control of several prisons and authorities in Amazonas believe that’s the reason behind the first riot of 2017.
Fontes said the inmates made few demands to end the riot, which hints at a killing spree organized by members of a local gang against those of another that is based in Sao Paulo.
The secretary said officers found a hole in a prison wall through which authorities believe weapons entered the building.
Fontes confirmed that many of the dead had been beheaded and Judge Luis Carlos Valois, who negotiated the end of the riot with inmates, said he saw many bodies that were quartered.
“I never saw anything like that in my life. All those bodies, the blood,” Valois wrote on Facebook.
Valois said that during the negotiations, inmates only asked “that we did not transfer them, made sure they were not attacked and kept their visitation.”
The riot ended after the inmates freed the last of the 12 prison staffers they had held hostage, Valois said.
In another prison in Amazonas, 87 inmates escaped in the first hours of Monday, Fonte said.
One of the inmates posted a picture on Facebook as he left the prison.
(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN NEWS)
Pennsylvania state police fatally shoot suspect in trooper’s death
- Nearly 100 law enforcement members sought the suspect
- Trooper Landon Weaver was fatally shot while responding to a call
(CNN)A 32-year-old man suspected of killing a Pennsylvania state trooper was shot to death by law enforcement officers Saturday, Pennsylvania State Police Capt. David Cain said.
(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE PALESTINIAN NEWS PAPER MA’AN)
Israeli ministers approve ‘Facebook bill’ to restrict online ‘incitement’
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — Israel advanced the so-called “Facebook bill” that would allow Israeli officials to force the social media giant to remove certain content through a court order if there are suspicions of “incitement.” after an Israeli ministerial committee approved the bill on Sunday.
(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST)
Two teams of independent researchers found that the Russians exploited American-made technology platforms to attack U.S. democracy at a particularly vulnerable moment, as an insurgent candidate harnessed a wide range of grievances to claim the White House. The sophistication of the Russian tactics may complicate efforts by Facebook and Google to crack down on “fake news,” as they have vowed to do after widespread complaints about the problem.
There is no way to know whether the Russian campaign proved decisive in electing Trump, but researchers portray it as part of a broadly effective strategy of sowing distrust in U.S. democracy and its leaders. The tactics included penetrating the computers of election officials in several states and releasing troves of hacked emails that embarrassed Clinton in the final months of her campaign.
“They want to essentially erode faith in the U.S. government or U.S. government interests,” said Clint Watts, a fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute who along with two other researchers has tracked Russian propaganda since 2014. “This was their standard mode during the Cold War. The problem is that this was hard to do before social media.”
Watts’s report on this work, with colleagues Andrew Weisburd and J.M. Berger, appeared on the national security online magazine War on the Rocks this month under the headline “Trolling for Trump: How Russia Is Trying to Destroy Our Democracy.” Another group, called PropOrNot, a nonpartisan collection of researchers with foreign policy, military and technology backgrounds, planned to release its own findings Friday showing the startling reach and effectiveness of Russian propaganda campaigns.
The researchers used Internet analytics tools to trace the origins of particular tweets and mapped the connections among social-media accounts that consistently delivered synchronized messages. Identifying website codes sometimes revealed common ownership. In other cases, exact phrases or sentences were echoed by sites and social-media accounts in rapid succession, signaling membership in connected networks controlled by a single entity.
PropOrNot’s monitoring report, which was provided to The Washington Post in advance of its public release, identifies more than 200 websites as routine peddlers of Russian propaganda during the election season, with combined audiences of at least 15 million Americans. On Facebook, PropOrNot estimates that stories planted or promoted by the disinformation campaign were viewed more than 213 million times.
Some players in this online echo chamber were knowingly part of the propaganda campaign, the researchers concluded, while others were “useful idiots” — a term born of the Cold War to describe people or institutions that unknowingly assisted Soviet Union propaganda efforts.
The Russian campaign during this election season, researchers from both groups say, worked by harnessing the online world’s fascination with “buzzy” content that is surprising and emotionally potent, and tracks with popular conspiracy theories about how secret forces dictate world events.
Some of these stories originated with RT and Sputnik, state-funded Russian information services that mimic the style and tone of independent news organizations yet sometimes include false and misleading stories in their reports, the researchers say. On other occasions, RT, Sputnik and other Russian sites used social-media accounts to amplify misleading stories already circulating online, causing news algorithms to identify them as “trending” topics that sometimes prompted coverage from mainstream American news organizations.
The speed and coordination of these efforts allowed Russian-backed phony news to outcompete traditional news organizations for audience. Some of the first and most alarming tweets after Clinton fell ill at a Sept. 11 memorial event in New York, for example, came from Russian botnets and trolls, researchers found. (She was treated for pneumonia and returned to the campaign trail a few days later.)
This followed a spate of other misleading stories in August about Clinton’s supposedly troubled health. The Daily Beast debunked a particularly widely read piece in an article that reached 1,700 Facebook accounts and was read online more than 30,000 times. But the PropOrNot researchers found that the version supported by Russian propaganda reached 90,000 Facebook accounts and was read more than 8 million times. The researchers said the true Daily Beast story was like “shouting into a hurricane” of false stories supported by the Russians.
This propaganda machinery also helped push the phony story that an anti-Trump protester was paid thousands of dollars to participate in demonstrations, an allegation initially made by a self-described satirist and later repeated publicly by the Trump campaign. Researchers from both groups traced a variety of other false stories — fake reports of a coup launched at Incirlik Air Base in Turkey and stories about how the United States was going to conduct a military attack and blame it on Russia — to Russian propaganda efforts.
The final weeks of the campaign featured a heavy dose of stories about supposed election irregularities, allegations of vote-rigging and the potential for Election Day violence should Clinton win, researchers said.
“The way that this propaganda apparatus supported Trump was equivalent to some massive amount of a media buy,” said the executive director of PropOrNot, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to avoid being targeted by Russia’s legions of skilled hackers. “It was like Russia was running a super PAC for Trump’s campaign. . . . It worked.”
He and other researchers expressed concern that the U.S. government has few tools for detecting or combating foreign propaganda. They expressed hope that their research detailing the power of Russian propaganda would spur official action.
A former U.S. ambassador to Russia, Michael A. McFaul, said he was struck by the overt support that Sputnik expressed for Trump during the campaign, even using the #CrookedHillary hashtag pushed by the candidate.
McFaul said Russian propaganda typically is aimed at weakening opponents and critics. Trump’s victory, though reportedly celebrated by Putin and his allies in Moscow, may have been an unexpected benefit of an operation that already had fueled division in the United States. “They don’t try to win the argument,” said McFaul, now director of the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies at Stanford University. “It’s to make everything seem relative. It’s kind of an appeal to cynicism.”
The Kremlin has repeatedly denied interfering in the U.S. election or hacking the accounts of election officials. “This is some sort of nonsense,” Dmitry Peskov, press secretary for Putin, said last month when U.S. officials accused Russia of penetrating the computers of the Democratic National Committee and other political organizations.
RT disputed the findings of the researchers in an e-mail on Friday, saying it played no role in producing or amplifying any fake news stories related to the U.S. election. “It is the height of irony that an article about “fake news” is built on false, unsubstantiated claims. RT adamantly rejects any and all claims and insuations that the network has originated even a single “fake story” related to the US election,” wrote Anna Belkina, head of communications.
The findings about the mechanics of Russian propaganda operations largely track previous research by the Rand Corp. and George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs.
“They use our technologies and values against us to sow doubt,” said Robert Orttung, a GWU professor who studies Russia. “It’s starting to undermine our democratic system.”
The Rand report — which dubbed Russian propaganda efforts a “firehose of falsehood” because of their speed, power and relentlessness — traced the country’s current generation of online propaganda work to the 2008 incursion into neighboring Georgia, when Russia sought to blunt international criticism of its aggression by pushing alternative explanations online.
The same tactics, researchers said, helped Russia shape international opinions about its 2014 annexation of Crimea and its military intervention in Syria, which started last year. Russian propaganda operations also worked to promote the “Brexit” departure of Britain from the European Union.
Another crucial moment, several researchers say, came in 2011 when the party of Russian President Vladimir Putin was accused of rigging elections, sparking protests that Putin blamed the Obama administration — and then-Secretary of State Clinton — for instigating.
Putin, a former KGB officer, announced his desire to “break the Anglo-Saxon monopoly on the global information streams” during a 2013 visit to the broadcast center for RT, formerly known as Russia Today.
“For them, it’s actually a real war, an ideological war, this clash between two systems,” said Sufian Zhemukhov, a former Russian journalist conducting research at GWU. “In their minds, they’re just trying to do what the West does to Russia.”
RT broadcasts news reports worldwide in several languages, but the most effective way it reaches U.S. audiences is online.
Its English-language flagship YouTube channel, launched in 2007, has 1.85 million subscribers and has had a total of 1.8 billion views, making it more widely viewed than CNN’s YouTube channel, according to a George Washington University report this month.
Though widely seen as a propaganda organ, the Russian site has gained credibility with some American conservatives. Trump sat for an interview with RT in September. His nominee for national security adviser, retired Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn, traveled to Russia last year for a gala sponsored by the network. He later compared it to CNN.
The content from Russian sites has offered ready fodder for U.S.-based websites pushing far-right conservative messages. A former contractor for one, the Next News Network, said he was instructed by the site’s founder, Gary S. Franchi Jr., to weave together reports from traditional sources such as the Associated Press and the Los Angeles Times with ones from RT, Sputnik and others that provided articles that often spread explosively online.
“The readers are more likely to share the fake stories, and they’re more profitable,” said Dyan Bermeo, who said he helped assemble scripts and book guests for Next News Network before leaving because of a pay dispute and concerns that “fake news” was crowding out real news.
In just the past 90 days — a period that has included the closing weeks of the campaign, Election Day and its aftermath — the YouTube audience of Next News Network has jumped from a few hundred thousand views a day to a few million, according to analytics firm Tubular Labs. In October alone, videos from Next News Network were viewed more than 56 million times.
Franchi said in an e-mail statement that Next News Network seeks “a global perspective” while providing commentary aimed at U.S. audiences, especially with regard to Russian military activity. “Understanding the threat of global war is the first step to preventing it,” he said, “and we feel our coverage assisted in preventing a possible World War 3 scenario.”
Correction: A previously published version of this story incorrectly stated that Russian information service RT had used the “#CrookedHillary” hastag pushed by then-Republican candidate Donald Trump. In fact, while another Russian information service Sputnik did use this hashtag, RT did not.