China: NOTHING About Xi Jinping Is ‘For The People’ Everything Is About His Power

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF ‘THE LONG READ’)

(WHEN IT COMES TO THE INTERNET THE GOVERNMENT OF CHINA AND PRESIDENT XI JINPING SHOW THAT THEY ARE SCARED TO DEATH OF THE PEOPLE HAVING ANY KNOWLEDGE OF THEIR COWARDLINESS AND CRIMES TOWARD THE PEOPLE, IN THIS SENSE XI JINPING IS NO BETTER THAN NORTH KOREA’S KIM JONG UN, COWARDS, LIARS AND MURDERERS WITH NO INTEGRITY AT ALL.)(OPED BY oldpoet56) 

The great firewall of China: Xi Jinping’s internet shutdown

Before Xi Jinping, the internet was becoming a more vibrant political space for Chinese citizens. But today the country has the largest and most sophisticated online censorship operation in the world. By 

In December 2015, thousands of tech entrepreneurs and analysts, along with a few international heads of state, gathered in Wuzhen, in southern China, for the country’s second World Internet Conference. At the opening ceremony the Chinese president, Xi Jinping, set out his vision for the future of China’s internet. “We should respect the right of individual countries to independently choose their own path of cyber-development,” said Xi, warning against foreign interference “in other countries’ internal affairs”.

No one was surprised by what they heard. Xi had already established that the Chinese internet would be a world unto itself, with its content closely monitored and managed by the Communist party. In recent years, the Chinese leadership has devoted more and more resources to controlling content online. Government policies have contributed to a dramatic fall in the number of postings on the Chinese blogging platform Sina Weibo (similar to Twitter), and have silenced many of China’s most important voices advocating reform and opening up the internet.

It wasn’t always like this. In the years before Xi became president in 2012, the internet had begun to afford the Chinese people an unprecedented level of transparency and power to communicate. Popular bloggers, some of whom advocated bold social and political reforms, commanded tens of millions of followers. Chinese citizens used virtual private networks (VPNs) to access blocked websites. Citizens banded together online to hold authorities accountable for their actions, through virtual petitions and organising physical protests. In 2010, a survey of 300 Chinese officials revealed that 70% were anxious about whether mistakes or details about their private life might be leaked online. Of the almost 6,000 Chinese citizens also surveyed, 88% believed it was good for officials to feel this anxiety.

For Xi Jinping, however, there is no distinction between the virtual world and the real world: both should reflect the same political values, ideals, and standards. To this end, the government has invested in technological upgrades to monitor and censor content. It has passed new laws on acceptable content, and aggressively punished those who defy the new restrictions. Under Xi, foreign content providers have found their access to China shrinking. They are being pushed out by both Xi’s ideological war and his desire that Chinese companies dominate the country’s rapidly growing online economy.

At home, Xi paints the west’s version of the internet, which prioritises freedom of information flow, as anathema to the values of the Chinese government. Abroad, he asserts China’s sovereign right to determine what constitutes harmful content. Rather than acknowledging that efforts to control the internet are a source of embarrassment – a sign of potential authoritarian fragility – Xi is trying to turn his vision of a “Chinanet” (to use blogger Michael Anti’s phrase) into a model for other countries.

The challenge for China’s leadership is to maintain what it perceives as the benefits of the internet – advancing commerce and innovation – without letting technology accelerate political change. To maintain his “Chinanet”, Xi seems willing to accept the costs in terms of economic development, creative expression, government credibility, and the development of civil society. But the internet continues to serve as a powerful tool for citizens seeking to advance social change and human rights. The game of cat-and-mouse continues, and there are many more mice than cats.


The very first email in China was sent in September 1987 – 16 years after Ray Tomlinson sent the first email in the US. It broadcast a triumphal message: “Across the Great Wall we can reach every corner in the world.” For the first few years, the government reserved the internet for academics and officials. Then, in 1995, it was opened to the general public. In 1996, although only about 150,000 Chinese people were connected to the internet, the government deemed it the “Year of the Internet”, and internet clubs and cafes appeared all over China’s largest cities.

Yet as enthusiastically as the government proclaimed its support for the internet, it also took steps to control it. Rogier Creemers, a China expert at Oxford University, has noted that “As the internet became a publicly accessible information and communication platform, there was no debate about whether it should fall under government supervision – only about how such control would be implemented in practice.” By 1997, Beijing had enacted its first laws criminalising online postings that it believed were designed to hurt national security or the interests of the state.

China’s leaders were right to be worried. Their citizens quickly realised the political potential inherent in the internet. In 1998, a 30-year-old software engineer called Lin Hai forwarded 30,000 Chinese email addresses to a US-based pro-democracy magazine. Lin was arrested, tried and ultimately sent to prison in the country’s first known trial for a political violation committed completely online. The following year, the spiritual organisation Falun Gongused email and mobile phones to organise a silent demonstration of more than 10,000 followers around the Communist party’s central compound, Zhongnanhai, to protest their inability to practise freely. The gathering, which had been arranged without the knowledge of the government, precipitated an ongoing persecution of Falun Gong practitioners and a new determination to exercise control over the internet.

The man who emerged to lead the government’s technological efforts was Fang Binxing. In the late 1990s, Fang worked on developing the “Golden Shield” – transformative software that enabled the government to inspect any data being received or sent, and to block destination IP addresses and domain names. His work was rewarded by a swift political rise. By the 2000s, he had earned the moniker “Father of the Great Firewall” and, eventually, the enmity of hundreds of thousands of Chinese web users.

Security outside Google’s office in Beijing in January 2010.
 Security outside Google’s office in Beijing in January 2010. Photograph: Diego Azubel/EPA

Throughout the early 2000s, the Chinese leadership supplemented Fang’s technology with a set of new regulations designed to ensure that anyone with access to China’s internet played by Chinese rules. In September 2000, the state council issued order no 292, which required internet service providers to ensure that the information sent out on their services adhered to the law, and that some domain names and IP addresses were recorded. Two years later, Beijing blocked Google for the first time. (A few years later, Google introduced Google.cn, a censored version of the site.) In 2002, the government increased its emphasis on self-censorship with the Public Pledge on Self-Discipline for China’s Internet Industry, which established four principles: patriotic observance of law, equitableness, trustworthiness and honesty. More than 100 companies, including Yahoo!, signed the pledge.

Perhaps the most significant development, however, was a 2004 guideline on internet censorship that called for Chinese universities to recruit internet commentators who could guide online discussions in politically acceptable directions and report comments that did not follow Chinese law. These commentators became known as wu mao dang, or “50-cent party”, after the small bonuses they were supposedly paid for each post.

Yet even as the government was striving to limit individuals’ access to information, many citizens were making significant inroads into the country’s political world – and their primary target was corrupt local officials.


In May 2009, Deng Yujiao, a young woman working in a hotel in Hubei province, stabbed a party official to death after she rejected his efforts to pay her for sex and he tried to rape her. Police initially committed Deng to a mental hospital. A popular blogger, Wu Gan, however, publicised her case. Using information gathered through a process known as ren rou sousuo, or “human flesh search engine”, in which web users collaborate to discover the identity of a specific individual or organisation, Wu wrote a blog describing the events and actions of the party officials involved.

In an interview with the Atlantic magazine at the time, he commented: “The cultural significance of flesh searches is this: in an undemocratic country, the people have limited means to get information … [but] citizens can get access to information through the internet, exposing lies and the truth.” Deng’s case began to attract public support, with young people gathering in Beijing with signs reading “Anyone could be Deng Yujiao.” Eventually the court ruled that Deng had acted in self-defence.

During this period, in the final years of Hu Jintao’s presidency, the internet was becoming more and more powerful as a mechanism by which Chinese citizens held their officials to account. Most cases were like that of Deng Yujiao – lodged and resolved at the local level. A small number, however, reached central authorities in Beijing. On 23 July 2011, a high-speed train derailed in the coastal city of Wenzhou, leaving at least 40 people dead and 172 injured. In the wake of the accident, Chinese officials banned journalistsfrom investigating, telling them to use only information “released from authorities”. But local residents took photos of the wreckage being buried instead of being examined for evidence. The photos went viral and heightened the impression that the government’s main goal was not to seek the true cause of the accident.

A Sina Weibo poll – later blocked – asked users why they thought the train wreckage was buried: 98% (61,382) believed it represented destruction of evidence. Dark humour spread online: “How far are we from heaven? Only a train ticket away,” and “The Ministry of Railways earnestly requests that you ride the Heavenly Party Express.” The popular pressure resulted in a full-scale investigation of the crash, and in late December, the government issued a report blaming poorly designed signal equipment and insufficient safety procedures. As many as 54 officials faced disciplinary action as a result of the crash.

The internet also provided a new sense of community for Chinese citizens, who mostly lacked robust civil-society organisations. In July 2012, devastating floods in Beijing led to the evacuation of more than 65,000 residents and the deaths of at least 77 people. Damages totalled an estimated $1.9bn. Local officials failed to respond effectively: police officers allegedly kept ticketing stranded cars instead of assisting residents, and the early warning system did not work. Yet the real story was the extraordinary outpouring of assistance from Beijing web users, who volunteered their homes and food to stranded citizens. In a span of just 24 hours, an estimated 8.8m messages were sent on Weibo regarding the floods. The story of the floods became not only one of government incompetence, but also one of how an online community could transform into a real one.


While the Chinese people explored new ways to use the internet, the leadership also began to develop a taste for the new powers it offered, such as a better understanding of citizens’ concerns and new ways to shape public opinion. Yet as the internet increasingly became a vehicle for dissent, concern within the leadership mounted that it might be used to mobilise a large-scale political protest capable of threatening the central government. The government responded with a stream of technological fixes and political directives; yet the boundaries of internet life continued to expand.

The advent of Xi Jinping in 2012 brought a new determination to move beyond deleting posts and passing regulations. Beijing wanted to ensure that internet content more actively served the interests of the Communist party. Within the virtual world, as in the real world, the party moved to silence dissenting voices, to mobilise party members in support of its values, and to prevent foreign ideas from seeping into Chinese political and social life. In a leaked speech in August 2013, Xi articulated a dark vision: “The internet has become the main battlefield for the public opinion struggle.”

Early in his tenure, Xi embraced the world of social media. One Weibo group, called Fan Group to Learn from Xi, appeared in late 2012, much to the delight of Chinese propaganda officials. (Many Chinese suspected that the account was directed by someone in the government, although the account’s owner denied it.) Xi allowed a visit he made to Hebei to be liveblogged on Weibo by government-affiliated press, and videos about Xi, including a viral music video called How Should I Address You, based on a trip he made to a mountain village, demonstrate the government’s increasing skill at digital propaganda.

Xi Jinping at the World Internet Conference in Jiaxing, China, in 2015.
 Xi Jinping at the World Internet Conference in Jiaxing, China, in 2015. Photograph: Aly Song/Reuters

Under Xi, the government has also developed new technology that has enabled it to exert far greater control over the internet. In January 2015, the government blocked many of the VPNs that citizens had used to circumvent the Great Firewall. This was surprising to many outside observers, who had believed that VPNs were too useful to the Chinese economy – supporting multinationals, banks and retailers, among others – for the government to crack down on them.

In spring 2015, Beijing launched the Great Cannon. Unlike the Great Firewall, which has the capacity to block traffic as it enters or exits China, the Great Cannon is able to adjust and replace content as it travels around the internet. One of its first targets was the US coding and software development site GitHub. The Chinese government used the Great Cannon to levy a distributed denial of service attack against the site, overwhelming it with traffic redirected from Baidu (a search engine similar to Google). The attack focused on attempting to force GitHub to remove pages linked to the Chinese-language edition of the New York Times and GreatFire.org, a popular VPN that helps people circumvent Chinese internet censorship.

But perhaps Xi’s most noticeable gambit has been to constrain the nature of the content available online. In August 2013, the government issued a new set of regulations known as the “seven baselines”. The reaction by Chinese internet companies was immediate. Sina, for example, shut down or “handled” 100,000 Weibo accounts found to not comply with the new rules.

The government also adopted tough restrictions on internet-based rumours. In September 2013, the supreme people’s court ruled that authors of online posts that deliberately spread rumours or lies, and were either seen by more than 5,000 individuals or shared more than 500 times, could face defamation charges and up to three years in jail. Following massive flooding in Hebei province in July 2016, for example, the government detained three individuals accused of spreading “false news” via social media regarding the death toll and cause of the flood. Some social media posts and photos of the flooding, particularly of drowning victims, were also censored.

In addition, Xi’s government began targeting individuals with large social media followings who might challenge the authority of the Communist party. Restrictions on the most prominent Chinese web influencers, beginning in 2013, represented an important turning point in China’s internet life. Discussions began to move away from politics to personal and less sensitive issues. The impact on Sina Weibo was dramatic. According to a study of 1.6 million Weibo users, the number of Weibo posts fell by 70% between 2011 and 2013.


The strength of the Communist party’s control over the internet rests above all on its commitment to prevent the spread of information that it finds dangerous. It has also adopted sophisticated technology, such as the Great Firewall and the Golden Shield. Perhaps its most potent source of influence, however, is the cyber-army it has developed to implement its policies.

The total number of people employed to monitor opinion and censor content on the internet – a role euphemistically known as “internet public opinion analyst” – was estimated at 2 million in 2013. They are employed across government propaganda departments, private corporations and news outlets. One 2016 Harvard study estimated that the Chinese government fabricates and posts approximately 448m comments on social media annually. A considerable amount of censorship is conducted through the manual deletion of posts, and an estimated 100,000 people are employed by both the government and private companies to do just this.

Private companies also play an important role in facilitating internet censorship in China. Since commercial internet providers are so involved in censoring the sites that they host, internet scholar Guobin Yang argues that “it may not be too much of a stretch to talk about the privatisation of internet content control”. The process is made simpler by the fact that several major technology entrepreneurs also hold political office. For example, Robin Li of Baidu is a member of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, an advisory legislature, while Lei Jun, founder and CEO of mobile phone giant Xiaomi, is a representative of the National People’s Congress.

Yet Xi’s growing control over the internet does not come without costs. An internet that does not work efficiently or limits access to information impedes economic growth. China’s internet is notoriously unreliable, and ranks 91st in the world for speed. As New Yorker writer Evan Osnos asked in discussing the transformation of the Chinese internet during Xi’s tenure: “How many countries in 2015 have an internet connection to the world that is worse than it was a year ago?”

Scientific innovation, particularly prized by the Chinese leadership, may also be at risk. After the VPN crackdown, a Chinese biologist published an essay that became popular on social media, entitled Why Do Scientists Need Google? He wrote: “If a country wants to make this many scientists take out time from the short duration of their professional lives to research technology for climbing over the Great Firewall and to install and to continually upgrade every kind of software for routers, computers, tablets and mobile devices, no matter that this behaviour wastes a great amount of time; it is all completely ridiculous.”

More difficult to gauge is the cost the Chinese leadership incurs to its credibility. Web users criticising the Great Firewall have used puns to mock China’s censorship system. Playing off the fact that the phrases “strong nation” and “wall nation” share a phonetic pronunciation in Chinese (qiangguo), some began using the phrase “wall nation” to refer to China. Those responsible for seeking to control content have also been widely mocked. When Fang opened an account on Sina Weibo in December 2010, he quickly closed the account after thousands of online users left “expletive-laden messages” accusing him of being a government hack. Censors at Sina Weibo blocked “Fang Binxing” as a search term; one Twitter user wrote: “Kind of poetic, really, the blocker, blocked.” When Fang delivered a speech at Wuhan University in central China in 2011, a few students pelted him with eggs and a pair of shoes.

Nonetheless, the government seems willing to bear the economic and scientific costs, as well as potential damage to its credibility, if it means more control over the internet. For the international community, Beijing’s cyber-policy is a sign of the challenge that a more powerful China presents to the liberal world order, which prioritises values such as freedom of speech. It also reflects the paradox inherent in China’s efforts to promote itself as a champion of globalisation, while simultaneously advocating a model of internet sovereignty and closing its cyber-world to information and investment from abroad.

Adapted from The Third Revolution: Xi Jinping and the New Chinese State by Elizabeth C Economy, published by Oxford University Press and available at guardianbookshop.com

 Follow the Long Read on Twitter at @gdnlongread, or sign up to the long read weekly email here.

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Living (1) Day Without Committing A Sin

Living (1) Day Without Committing A Sin

What is a sin? I would guess that this isn’t something that most people spend hours each day contemplating. Most people I would think are to busy working and pondering their chores they need to get accomplished each day to spend much time being philosophical about things like what is a sin. I really don’t believe that most folks actually care what a sin is or if they are committing some as they traverse through their day. This is of course unless we feel that someone has sinned against us, then we care, a lot of the time when we fill dissed by someone we tend to get angry about it. But yet, if we don’t consider our own actions as to how others take what we do or don’t do, aren’t we being a bit hypocritical? Sins can be something as simple as us letting someone down, especially if we lied to them. Yet there is a huge difference as to whether we let a person down by accident or if it was on purpose. If I tell my son that I will take him to his baseball game at 5 PM but I get tied up at work and forget all about the game I may have sinned/lied in his eyes, but is that a sin? To me, I say no, it was just an accident, something totally unintended. If I knew when I made the promise that I was not going to be able to get off work to take him to his game, then yes, that is a sin against my son, and against God. I say against God because when we know something is a wrong and we do it anyway, that is a sin counted against us and it is an intentional slap against God.

 

I checked with the online dictionary, Google and the Bible to see what they had to say as far as what a sin is, this way this article will be more than just my opinion alone. 1) The online dictionary says sin is: Transgression of Divine Law. A willful or deliberate violation of some religious or moral principle, a behavioral lapse or a great fault or offense. 2) Google says: An immoral act considered to be a transgression against divine law. I used these two authors of the definition especially for the folks who tend to only believe what secular man has to say about a word or an event. I know that there are some who really don’t believe what the Bible has defined something as, so I wanted you to see how close the online dictionary and Google matched up with the Bible definitions in this case.

 

3) What does the Bible say about what sin is? I got these answers from the index of my King James Version, the first thing it says is: disobedience of God’s law. I am going to forward you a few Scriptures to help you in understanding of the Biblical definition of the word/act of sin.

Omission of known duty.   James 4:17

Comes from mans heart.   Matthew 15:19-20

Kinds of sin: Secret   Psalms   90:8

Shameless   Isiah 3:9

Willfully   Hebrews 10:26

Of Ignorance   Leviticus 4:2

Transgression   1 John 3:4

Unrighteousness   1 John 5:17

 

In the Book of John 8:44 we are told that the sources of sin comes from Satan, the Devil.

Christ’s relationship to sin:

Christ takes away our sins   John 1:29

Christ saves His people from sin   Matthew 1:21

Christ washes (through His blood) us clean from sin   Revelation 1:5

 

Sin: is wrong doing; a transgression against God. We are told to lay aside our sins.   Hebrews 12:1

We are told to resist committing sins.   Hebrews 12:4

To guard the tongue. (To be careful about the words that come out of our mouth) Psalms 39:1

We are told to ‘walk in The Spirit’. This simply means that when we become followers of Christ (Christians) that The Holy Spirit, which is The Spirit of God indwells us and we are supposed to try to walk after the ways of The Spirit of God and not after the carnal ways of the flesh any longer. We all still have the freedom of choice, we can still choose to revert back to ‘living after the flesh’ if we so choose though it will be a very bad decision for our own Soul if we choose to do so.

I am going to close out the ‘Bible part’, (part #3) with something that the Apostle Paul tells us in the Book of Romans 3:28   “Therefore we conclude that a man is justified (cleared of all guilt) by faith without (apart from) the deeds of the Law.” (The Law was the Old Testament which was the “Law” to the Jewish people concerning how they should act, perform their lives.) By the ‘Old Law’ a Jewish person could be saved from Hell simply by following the Laws of God, they did not have to have faith at all to be saved, they just had to follow the Law. With the coming of Christ, upon His resurrection ‘faith’ is required for a person to be saved from the ‘second death’ which is eternal separation from God when a person is condemned to eternal Hell. For without faith it is impossible to please God.

 

Now #4: My thoughts on Sin and why I used the title ‘living (1) day without committing a sin. I know that some people think that it is impossible to go a whole day without committing some kind of a sin just as there are some folks who think that this is a very simple task. People vary on our thoughts even when it is on the same subject matter, even within one family. Sin, sometimes sin can be difficult to define. One person can look at a naked woman and simply think to themselves, ‘beautiful lady’. Yet another person can see a photograph of a woman in a long dress yet it is showing one of her ankles and become overcome with lust, wanting to have sex with her no matter what the cost, physical, financial or spiritual. In these two cases, which one sinned?

 

When I lay down to go to sleep each evening I always take a few moments to say my closing of day prayers. One of the things that I ask the Lord each evening is to please forgive me of any sins that I committed during that day. When I do this I often will think back to the events of my day searching for any know sins that I did, always hoping that I find none. When I do find sins that I know that I am guilty of it embarrasses me that I was so weak, I feel unworthy of even getting to speak with God about asking Him for forgiveness. I try to walk each day without any sin being committed yet the reality is that we often sin and aren’t even aware that we did it. Simple example being that we could do something that was taken wrong by a weaker Christian or a person who was looking at us as a Christian example and this action of ours caused this person to ‘fall away’ from Christ, we didn’t really do anything wrong but there was still a cost paid. Some would call this a sin, some would not. The thing is, the Blood of Christ washes away our sins and keeps us pure, if we are indeed walking after The Spirit and the Heart of Christ. When we are baptized with The Holy Spirit we are a new person, we belong to Jesus Christ, we are no longer our own person, we belong to God.

 

The reason that when the Second Advent (Second Coming OF Christ) happens and we are told that Christs followers will know His voice is because His Spirit indwells us, so of course He knows His own voice. Folks, because The Spirit of Christ (The Holy Spirit) is within us (He, Christ) examines our hearts and our minds to see and to understand why we did or didn’t do as we did in our lives. There is no fooling God. While we are living our life we commit many sins yet God knows when we were trying our best to not sin, He will forgive us, He knows that the flesh is weak. God is not looking for reasons to condemn us, He is looking for reasons to save us.

 

 

Leading Kosovo Serb politician Oliver Ivanovic shot dead outside office

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

Leading Kosovo Serb politician Oliver Ivanovic shot dead outside office

Oliver Ivanovic is pictured casting his ballot during local elections in 2013.

(CNN)A prominent Kosovo Serb politician, Oliver Ivanovic, was shot dead outside his party offices Tuesday morning, halting talks between Kosovar and Serb delegates that had been set to resume that day.

Ivanovic was shot at least five times outside his office in the Serb-run Kosovar city of Mitrovica, doctors told Serbian State TV RTS.
Emergency services were notified of the attack at 8.17 a.m (2.17 a.m. ET). Ivanovic was transferred to hospital and resuscitated for 45 minutes before doctors confirmed him dead at 9.15 a.m (3.15 a.m. ET).
Mitrovica
Map data ©2018 GeoBasis-DE/BKG (©2009), Google
Ivanovic, the 64-year-old head of the Kosovo Serb Freedom, Democracy, Justice party was due to attend EU-mediated talks between delegates from Kosovo and Serbia in Brussels. The talks are aimed at normalizing relations between Kosovo and Serbia.
Kosovo declared independence from Serbia 10 years after the bloody conflict between Serb forces and Kosovar-Albanian rebels. Serbia does not recognize Kosovo as an independent country.
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However after Ivanovic’s death, the Belgrade delegation left Brussels to return to Serbia, the Serbian government said in a statement.
Regional Chief of Police for Northern Kosovo, Zeljko Bojic, said in a statement that at 9:15 a.m. a burned out Opel Astra vehicle was found, with special units conducting an investigation of the site.

Serb President: ‘An act of terror’

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic described the murder as “an act of terror” and vowed to find those responsible.
“Serbia will take all necessary measures, and I promised the same to Oliver Ivanovic’s wife, and we will find the killer or killers,” Vucic said in a statement following an emergency meeting of the National Security Council.
Vucic said that Serbia had made a request to EU and UN missions in Kosovo to participate in the investigation.

Major test for Kosovo’s rule of law

The Head of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Mission in Kosovo, Jan Braathu, said the murder was “profoundly distressing” and a “major test for the rule of law in Kosovo.”
“He (Ivanovic) was among the most prominent Kosovo Serb representatives for almost two decades,” Braathu said. “He demonstrated relentless engagement for the benefit of his community and has been a valued interlocutor in Kosovo.”
“I have had the privilege of knowing him personally over the years and have always admired his intellect, composure, and commitment. To see that a politician can be murdered in cold blood in 2018 in Kosovo is a devastating thought.”
Ivanovic was facing a retrial for alleged war crimes against ethnic Albanians during the Kosovo war.
This story has been updated to clarify the details around Ivanovic’s death.

The History of Dracula’s Castle

(I GOT THIS ARTICLE FROM GOOGLE +, FROM THE POST OF STANLEY OUL)

 

The History of Dracula’s Castle

Everyone knows something about Dracula, the famous character from Bram Stocker’s book that had such a great resonance. What not everyone knows is that Bran Castle is the place that inspired the writer. The truth is that Bram Stocker had never been to Romania, and he built the entire story by inspiring from books and pictures that described Vlad III Dracul, (c. 1431 – 1476), and the Bran Castles’ stories. His character is built following the stories about Vlad Tepes and his cruelty.

Bran Castle was first mentioned in documents in 1377 when it was built by the Saxons of Kronstadt at their own expense and labor force. But this beautiful medieval castle is older than that. Initially, it was built as a wooden castle guarding an important mountain pass by the Teutonic Knights in 1212, when King Andrew II of Hungary invited them into the small but strategically sensitive Burzenland in return for guarding the southeastern border of the Kingdom of Hungary against the Kipchak-Cuman confederation.

The Teutonic Knights had quite a different point of view and planned to establish their own, independent state in the area. King Andrew II, (1175 – 1235, king of Hungary from 1205 until his death), quickly realized what was going on, and in 1225 he expelled the Teutonic Order from his realm, before it managed to grow powerful enough to oppose him. In this tim, this wooden fortified settlement was called Dietrichstein, and it was destroyed by the Mongols in 1242 during the Mongol Invasion.

As time passed, and military conflicts intensified, the castle was heavily fortified and was used over the ages as a defensive position against the invading Ottoman Empire. Despite popular belief, Vlad III Dracul had little to do with the castle, although he passed through the area occasionally. In fact, it has never been the property of Wallachian prince. He may have stayed at Bran for a few days (not even that is so certain, though), but it was definitely not his castle.

Besides playing an important military role, Bran Castle also had a commercial purpose. Being placed at the border of two important regions, it provided safe passage from one location to another, thus improving the relations and economic development of both Wallachia and Transylvania. Bran remained a key military strategic position at the crossroads of the Kingdom of Hungary, the Principality of Moldavia and the Principality of Wallachia up until the 18th century.

In 1917, the town of Brasov donated the castle to the Emperor of Austro-Hungary, Franz Joseph I, (1830 – 1916). After the end of World War I, the castle has been donated once again by the city of Brasov, but this time to Queen Mary Of Romania (1875 – 1938; Marie of Edinburgh). After her death, the castle passed to Princess Ileana’s property, (1909 -1991), Queen Mary’s daughter, and the archduke Anton of Habsburg’s wife, (1901 – 1987).

After the forced abdication of Romania’s Royal Family in 1947, the castle passed into Romanian state property, and in 1950 was granted as National Monument. In 2005, the Romanian government passed a special law allowing restitution claims on properties illegally expropriated, such as Bran, and thus a year later the castle was awarded ownership to Dominic von Habsburg, (born in 1937), the son and heir of Princess Ileana. Nowadays, it is a museum.

The castle has 57 rooms and a secret passageway leading up to the watch towers. It is situated on a cliff at an elevation of 762 meters (2500 feet), and is surrounded by valleys and hills. Much of the furniture and the artwork that hangs from the castle’s walls today belonged to the Queen Marie.

Photo: The Bran Castle, situated near Bran and in the immediate vicinity of Braşov in Romania.

http://www.bran-castle.com/

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:Bran_Castle

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Google Is Tracking Peoples Location Even When You Turn That Service Off

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF ‘THE VERGE’ NEWS)

(OPED: WHY IS THIS NOT CRIMINAL, AND WHY ARE THE GOOGLE EXECUTIVES NOT CHARGED WITH FELONIES FOR DOING THIS? I BELIEVE THAT SERIOUS PRISON TIME IS THE ONLY WAY TO STOP COMPANIES AND GOVERNMENT AGENCIES FROM VIOLATING THE CITIZENS CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS!)(trs)

Android phones gather your location data and send it to Google, even if you’ve turned off location services and don’t have a SIM card, Quartz reported today.

The term “location services” oftentimes refers to exact GPS data for app usage, such as Google Maps finding your best commute route, or Uber figuring out exactly where you’re standing to let drivers know your pickup point. Quartz’s report details a practice in which Google was able to track user locations by triangulating which cell towers were currently servicing a specific device.

Since January, all kinds of Android phones and tablets have been collecting the addresses of nearby cellular towers and sending the encrypted data to Google’s push notifications and messaging management system when connected to the internet. It’s a practice that customers can’t opt out of — even if their phones are factory reset.

A Google spokesperson said in a statement to The Verge that all modern Android phones use a network sync system that requires mobile country codes and mobile network codes, so tower info called “Cell ID” codes were considered an “additional signal to further improve the speed and performance of message delivery.” Google ultimately discarded the cell tower data and didn’t go through with the original plan.

A source familiar with the matter stated that Google added the cell tower data-collecting feature to improve its Firebase Cloud Messaging, where devices have to ping the server at regular intervals in order to receive messages promptly.

The findings are surprising, given that cell tower data is usually held by carrier networks and only shared with outside companies under extreme circumstances. Through Google’s practices this year, an individual’s particular location within a quarter-mile radius or less could be determined with the addresses of multiple cell towers. This has particular security implications for individuals who wish to not be tracked, meaning that the safest way to avoid being tracked at all is probably to stick to burner phones. It could also create a bigger target for hackers looking to obtain personal information.

An update that removes this cell tower data-collecting feature will roll out by the end of this month, according to Google. Google’s terms of service, at the time of publish, still vaguely state, “When you use Google services, we may collect and process information about your actual location” using “various technologies… including IP address, GPS, and other sensors that may, for example, provide Google with information on nearby devices, Wi-Fi access points and cell tower.” Google does offer details on how to control Google’s location access points, though after reading through the instructions, the company could admittedly do a better job of making this clearer and simpler for its general consumers.

So: Ali Khomeini Says Iran Will Set Israel/Jerusalem And The Persian Gulf A Fire?

 

If there is anyone in the whole world that has a bigger ego that Donald Trump it has got to be ‘The Supreme Leader’ of Iran, Mr. Ayatollah Ali Khomeini. Just think of the ego a title like that has to take? I would be embarrassed if for some reason I became known as the supreme ruler of my family Clan, (I am 1/4 Scottish.) To me, when a person has a huge ego, I have always looked at it as a sign of a lack of maturity because it makes a person look quite small. I have learned from Google that in Arabic the word ‘Ayatollah’ means “a sign of Allah.” I have also learned from Google that only the Shiite use this term because it also basically means a “sign or evidence of Allah” and the Sunni (which are about 80% of the Islamic Faith) do not agree with giving this adulation to humans.

 

During this past week there were several headlines in the newspapers and online where Mr. Khomeini said that if Israel messed with Iran that Iran (in other words he himself as he is the Supreme Leader after all and nothing major happens in Iran without his personal approval) would “set Israel and the Persian Gulf a fire.” Now let’s look at a couple of things that is relevant to these statements of his. I do not know how much each readers know about the Middle-East situation and I do not want anyone to think I am talking down to them yet it is important to put in some basic information for those who aren’t up to date on the issues I will be discussing. So, if you already know most of or all of this information please do not take offence because none is meant.

 

Iran is the most powerful of all of the Nations in the Islamic world who believe in the Shiite version of Islam. Saudi Arabia is the most powerful of all of the Sunni Nations, and they hate each other. Being that Sunni Islam is about 4 times larger in population than the Shi’ite, Iran has become very ‘offensive’ with their military and terrorists organizations around the Persian Gulf and the rest of the World. Iran and Saudi Arabia are currently fighting a proxy war in Yemen which is on the southeast border of the Saudi’s. I know that the Shiites and the Sunni hate each other and have since their religion began about 1,400 years ago, yet they both also hate all of us ‘infidels’, meaning everyone who isn’t them. I think that the ones they hate the most are the Jewish people and then the Christian people and then wild dogs, but I am not positive of the exact order of their hate. That is something that may vary with individual Tribes.

 

So, you see, when the Supreme Ruler talks about destroying the Nation of Israel and the Persian Gulf (meaning the Sunni Nations like Saudi Arabia) the whole world needs to pay attention when this Demon talks. Yes I said Demon, would a man of God really wish to kill a billion or more people? So, either he is crazy, or he is infected with a Demon and in case you are wondering, the Bible does plainly back the reality of Demon possession of humans, think of Legion.

 

Now, for those of you whom do not know the Bible Scriptures very well I would like you to read the 24th Chapter of the Book of Matthew please. In the second verse Jesus (Yeshua) as He and His Apostles had just left the Temple in Jerusalem and the Apostles spoke of how beautiful the Temple and the area was, Yeshua (Jesus) told them that  there would be a time when there would not be one stone left upon another in regards to the Temple. In the rest of the chapter the Lord speaks about a time when the “Abomination of Desolation” (v: 15) which is the Antichrist will stand upon the most Holy Place which is upon the Temple Mount, that the end of times are near. Some people think that this ‘sign’ was when the Romans destroyed the Temple in 72 A.D. but there is one thing that they are not realizing about what the Lord said in verse #2, He said not “one stone” shall be left upon another. Today the only thing left of the Temple is the West Wall or as some call it, the Wailing Wall, but think about it, there are many stones one upon another that makes up the Western Wall. Folks, this time is not yet but I do believe that things are getting close. But obviously I do not know for sure as God’s time is not our time. In the Lord’s time it is said that 80 human years is but the ‘blink of the eye’ to God. So when God says something “is near” it can easily be more than one human lifetime.

 

The true believers of Islam know, as do the true believers of Judaism, as do some Christians know that the three religions do not worship the same God. It is more than a name difference, it is a Deity difference folks. Here in the U.S. it seems that most people whether they call themselves Christians or have no belief in any religion tend to think that all religions are worshiping the same God, if you have very much knowledge of the issue, you know that this is not correct. Islam flat-out rejects the concept of the God’s of “The People of The Book.” Those who have spent many years studying these issues and are not believers of Islam know/believe that Allah whom the worshipers of Islam refer to as “God” is not God at all. We believe that the believers of Islam have been totally misled as we believe/know that “Allah” is actually Satan Himself. Now, what is currently upon the Temple Mount? It is a Throne, a temple to Allah! Iran will have nuclear weapons within 10 years, when will they deploy them? Where do you think they will deploy them?

 

Here is my thoughts, I will explain my thoughts to you, what I want you to do is to think about this issue for yourself. Now let us get back to Iran and their ‘Supreme Ruler’ and Iran’s nuclear ambitions. To me, if a person believes that Ali Khomeini only wants nuclear power to help with domestic needs, I honestly believe such a person is delusional. Second, just yesterday he spoke of creating nuclear power for military ships and submarines. Thirdly, there is only one way that Iran could possibly set all of Israel and the Persian Gulf a fire and that is through nuclear bombs. In my beliefs the only way anyone would do such evil is if they are a total Zealot and or Demonically possessed. Who else would be willing to carry through on attacks that would kill a billion plus people? To me this issue describes the egotistical ‘Supreme Ruler’ right down to his toe fungus.

The Perfect Weapon: How Russian Cyberpower Invaded the U.S.

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK TIMES)

WASHINGTON — When Special Agent Adrian Hawkins of the Federal Bureau of Investigation called the Democratic National Committee in September 2015 to pass along some troubling news about its computer network, he was transferred, naturally, to the help desk.

His message was brief, if alarming. At least one computer system belonging to the D.N.C. had been compromised by hackers federal investigators had named “the Dukes,” a cyberespionage team linked to the Russian government.

The F.B.I. knew it well: The bureau had spent the last few years trying to kick the Dukes out of the unclassified email systems of the White House, the State Department and even the Joint Chiefs of Staff, one of the government’s best-protected networks.

Yared Tamene, the tech-support contractor at the D.N.C. who fielded the call, was no expert in cyberattacks. His first moves were to check Google for “the Dukes” and conduct a cursory search of the D.N.C. computer system logs to look for hints of such a cyberintrusion. By his own account, he did not look too hard even after Special Agent Hawkins called back repeatedly over the next several weeks — in part because he wasn’t certain the caller was a real F.B.I. agent and not an impostor.

Continue reading the main story

“I had no way of differentiating the call I just received from a prank call,” Mr. Tamene wrote in an internal memo, obtained by The New York Times, that detailed his contact with the F.B.I.

It was the cryptic first sign of a cyberespionage and information-warfare campaign devised to disrupt the 2016 presidential election, the first such attempt by a foreign power in American history. What started as an information-gathering operation, intelligence officials believe, ultimately morphed into an effort to harm one candidate, Hillary Clinton, and tip the election to her opponent, Donald J. Trump.

Like another famous American election scandal, it started with a break-in at the D.N.C. The first time, 44 years ago at the committee’s old offices in the Watergate complex, the burglars planted listening devices and jimmied a filing cabinet. This time, the burglary was conducted from afar, directed by the Kremlin, with spear-phishing emails and zeros and ones.

What is phishing?

Phishing uses an innocent-looking email to entice unwary recipients to click on a deceptive link, giving hackers access to their information or a network. In “spear-phishing,” the email is tailored to fool a specific person.

An examination by The Times of the Russian operation — based on interviews with dozens of players targeted in the attack, intelligence officials who investigated it and Obama administration officials who deliberated over the best response — reveals a series of missed signals, slow responses and a continuing underestimation of the seriousness of the cyberattack.

The D.N.C.’s fumbling encounter with the F.B.I. meant the best chance to halt the Russian intrusion was lost. The failure to grasp the scope of the attacks undercut efforts to minimize their impact. And the White House’s reluctance to respond forcefully meant the Russians have not paid a heavy price for their actions, a decision that could prove critical in deterring future cyberattacks.

The low-key approach of the F.B.I. meant that Russian hackers could roam freely through the committee’s network for nearly seven months before top D.N.C. officials were alerted to the attack and hired cyberexperts to protect their systems. In the meantime, the hackers moved on to targets outside the D.N.C., including Mrs. Clinton’s campaign chairman, John D. Podesta, whose private email account was hacked months later.

Even Mr. Podesta, a savvy Washington insider who had written a 2014 report on cyberprivacy for President Obama, did not truly understand the gravity of the hacking.

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Charles Delavan, a Clinton campaign aide, incorrectly legitimized a phishing email sent to the personal account of John D. Podesta, the campaign chairman.

By last summer, Democrats watched in helpless fury as their private emails and confidential documents appeared online day after day — procured by Russian intelligence agents, posted on WikiLeaks and other websites, then eagerly reported on by the American media, including The Times. Mr. Trump gleefully cited many of the purloined emails on the campaign trail.

The fallout included the resignations of Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, the chairwoman of the D.N.C., and most of her top party aides. Leading Democrats were sidelined at the height of the campaign, silenced by revelations of embarrassing emails or consumed by the scramble to deal with the hacking. Though little-noticed by the public, confidential documents taken by the Russian hackers from the D.N.C.’s sister organization, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, turned up in congressional races in a dozen states, tainting some of them with accusations of scandal.

In recent days, a skeptical president-elect, the nation’s intelligence agencies and the two major parties have become embroiled in an extraordinary public dispute over what evidence exists that President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia moved beyond mere espionage to deliberately try to subvert American democracy and pick the winner of the presidential election.

Many of Mrs. Clinton’s closest aides believe that the Russian assault had a profound impact on the election, while conceding that other factors — Mrs. Clinton’s weaknesses as a candidate; her private email server; the public statements of the F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, about her handling of classified information — were also important.

While there’s no way to be certain of the ultimate impact of the hack, this much is clear: A low-cost, high-impact weapon that Russia had test-fired in elections from Ukraine to Europe was trained on the United States, with devastating effectiveness. For Russia, with an enfeebled economy and a nuclear arsenal it cannot use short of all-out war, cyberpower proved the perfect weapon: cheap, hard to see coming, hard to trace.

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Following the Links From Russian Hackers to the U.S. Election

The Central Intelligence Agency concluded that the Russian government deployed computer hackers to help elect Donald J. Trump.

OPEN GRAPHIC

“There shouldn’t be any doubt in anybody’s mind,” Adm. Michael S. Rogers, the director of the National Security Agency and commander of United States Cyber Command, said at a postelection conference. “This was not something that was done casually, this was not something that was done by chance, this was not a target that was selected purely arbitrarily,” he said. “This was a conscious effort by a nation-state to attempt to achieve a specific effect.”

For the people whose emails were stolen, this new form of political sabotage has left a trail of shock and professional damage. Neera Tanden, president of the Center for American Progress and a key Clinton supporter, recalls walking into the busy Clinton transition offices, humiliated to see her face on television screens as pundits discussed a leaked email in which she had called Mrs. Clinton’s instincts “suboptimal.”

“It was just a sucker punch to the gut every day,” Ms. Tanden said. “It was the worst professional experience of my life.”

The United States, too, has carried out cyberattacks, and in decades past the C.I.A. tried to subvert foreign elections. But the Russian attack is increasingly understood across the political spectrum as an ominous historic landmark — with one notable exception: Mr. Trump has rejected the findings of the intelligence agencies he will soon oversee as “ridiculous,” insisting that the hacker may be American, or Chinese, but that “they have no idea.”

Mr. Trump cited the reported disagreements between the agencies about whether Mr. Putin intended to help elect him. On Tuesday, a Russian government spokesman echoed Mr. Trump’s scorn.

“This tale of ‘hacks’ resembles a banal brawl between American security officials over spheres of influence,” Maria Zakharova, the spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry, wrote on Facebook.

Democratic House Candidates Were Also Targets of Russian Hacking

Over the weekend, four prominent senators — two Republicans and two Democrats — joined forces to pledge an investigation while pointedly ignoring Mr. Trump’s skeptical claims.

“Democrats and Republicans must work together, and across the jurisdictional lines of the Congress, to examine these recent incidents thoroughly and devise comprehensive solutions to deter and defend against further cyberattacks,” said Senators John McCain, Lindsey Graham, Chuck Schumer and Jack Reed.

“This cannot become a partisan issue,” they said. “The stakes are too high for our country.”

A Target for Break-Ins

Sitting in the basement of the Democratic National Committee headquarters, below a wall-size 2012 portrait of a smiling Barack Obama, is a 1960s-era filing cabinet missing the handle on the bottom drawer. Only a framed newspaper story hanging on the wall hints at the importance of this aged piece of office furniture.

“GOP Security Aide Among 5 Arrested in Bugging Affair,” reads the headline from the front page of The Washington Post on June 19, 1972, with the bylines of Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein.

Andrew Brown, 37, the technology director at the D.N.C., was born after that famous break-in. But as he began to plan for this year’s election cycle, he was well aware that the D.N.C. could become a break-in target again.

There were aspirations to ensure that the D.N.C. was well protected against cyberintruders — and then there was the reality, Mr. Brown and his bosses at the organization acknowledged: The D.N.C. was a nonprofit group, dependent on donations, with a fraction of the security budget that a corporation its size would have.

“There was never enough money to do everything we needed to do,” Mr. Brown said.

The D.N.C. had a standard email spam-filtering service, intended to block phishing attacks and malware created to resemble legitimate email. But when Russian hackers started in on the D.N.C., the committee did not have the most advanced systems in place to track suspicious traffic, internal D.N.C. memos show.

Mr. Tamene, who reports to Mr. Brown and fielded the call from the F.B.I. agent, was not a full-time D.N.C. employee; he works for a Chicago-based contracting firm called The MIS Department. He was left to figure out, largely on his own, how to respond — and even whether the man who had called in to the D.N.C. switchboard was really an F.B.I. agent.

“The F.B.I. thinks the D.N.C. has at least one compromised computer on its network and the F.B.I. wanted to know if the D.N.C. is aware, and if so, what the D.N.C. is doing about it,” Mr. Tamene wrote in an internal memo about his contacts with the F.B.I. He added that “the Special Agent told me to look for a specific type of malware dubbed ‘Dukes’ by the U.S. intelligence community and in cybersecurity circles.”

Part of the problem was that Special Agent Hawkins did not show up in person at the D.N.C. Nor could he email anyone there, as that risked alerting the hackers that the F.B.I. knew they were in the system.

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An internal memo by Yared Tamene, a tech-support contractor at the D.N.C., expressed uncertainty about the identity of Special Agent Adrian Hawkins of the F.B.I., who called to inform him of the breach.

Mr. Tamene’s initial scan of the D.N.C. system — using his less-than-optimal tools and incomplete targeting information from the F.B.I. — found nothing. So when Special Agent Hawkins called repeatedly in October, leaving voice mail messages for Mr. Tamene, urging him to call back, “I did not return his calls, as I had nothing to report,” Mr. Tamene explained in his memo.

In November, Special Agent Hawkins called with more ominous news. A D.N.C. computer was “calling home, where home meant Russia,” Mr. Tamene’s memo says, referring to software sending information to Moscow. “SA Hawkins added that the F.B.I. thinks that this calling home behavior could be the result of a state-sponsored attack.”

Mr. Brown knew that Mr. Tamene, who declined to comment, was fielding calls from the F.B.I. But he was tied up on a different problem: evidence suggesting that the campaign of Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Mrs. Clinton’s main Democratic opponent, had improperly gained access to her campaign data.

Ms. Wasserman Schultz, then the D.N.C.’s chairwoman, and Amy Dacey, then its chief executive, said in interviews that neither of them was notified about the early reports that the committee’s system had likely been compromised.

Shawn Henry, who once led the F.B.I.’s cyber division and is now president of CrowdStrike Services, the cybersecurity firm retained by the D.N.C. in April, said he was baffled that the F.B.I. did not call a more senior official at the D.N.C. or send an agent in person to the party headquarters to try to force a more vigorous response.

“We are not talking about an office that is in the middle of the woods of Montana,” Mr. Henry said. “We are talking about an office that is half a mile from the F.B.I. office that is getting the notification.”

“This is not a mom-and-pop delicatessen or a local library. This is a critical piece of the U.S. infrastructure because it relates to our electoral process, our elected officials, our legislative process, our executive process,” he added. “To me it is a high-level, serious issue, and if after a couple of months you don’t see any results, somebody ought to raise that to a higher level.”

The F.B.I. declined to comment on the agency’s handling of the hack. “The F.B.I. takes very seriously any compromise of public and private sector systems,” it said in a statement, adding that agents “will continue to share information” to help targets “safeguard their systems against the actions of persistent cybercriminals.”

By March, Mr. Tamene and his team had met at least twice in person with the F.B.I. and concluded that Agent Hawkins was really a federal employee. But then the situation took a dire turn.

A second team of Russian-affiliated hackers began to target the D.N.C. and other players in the political world, particularly Democrats. Billy Rinehart, a former D.N.C. regional field director who was then working for Mrs. Clinton’s campaign, got an odd email warning from Google.

“Someone just used your password to try to sign into your Google account,” the March 22 email said, adding that the sign-in attempt had occurred in Ukraine. “Google stopped this sign-in attempt. You should change your password immediately.”

Mr. Rinehart was in Hawaii at the time. He remembers checking his email at 4 a.m. for messages from East Coast associates. Without thinking much about the notification, he clicked on the “change password” button and half asleep, as best he can remember, he typed in a new password.

Why Is The British Government Not Doing All It Can To Stop Homegrown Terrorism

 

Again today I see on my Google News Homepage an article from CNN about Scotland Yard’s concerns about hundreds of Brits who are returning from Syria who have been training with ISIS. Now I know that I am not the brightest bulb in the package but I have a question about this situation? Why is it that Briton or any other country for that matter feel obligated not to cancel these people’s Passports as soon as their feet hit the ground in Syria? Why is it that Briton, your country, or my country, is somehow required to let these traders and mass murders back into their old neighborhoods? Why can’t our government, British government, or yours, be allowed to protect its own citizens by arresting these people the second their repatriated brimstone feet touch OUR soil? You can stop most of the homegrown security risks if you deport and cancel these people’s Visas and Passports. Is the British Government without the legal right to cancel the Passports of these returning traitors or even the right/obligation to protect its own citizens by doing so? Why is it that these people are allowed back into our neighborhoods? Why is it that the Government doesn’t arrest them as soon as they step foot on our soil? Maybe you know the answers to these thoughts, I’m just old and confused I guess.