WikiLeaks Releases Docs Detailing Mass CIA Hacking

Jason Ditz reports for Antiwar:

Newly released by WikiLeaks today is a collection of CIA documents referred to as “Vault 7,” detailing the CIA’s hacking and surveillance technology development. The current release spans “Year 0” of the program, with several more years of documents expected to be released.

Officially called “Weeping Angel,” the program sought 0-day exploits in myriad technology, including not just computers and routers, but things like smartphones and even Smart TVs, with documents showing the CIA could make a Samsung-branded TV go into a “fake-off” mode, where it would appear to be turned off, but its microphone was active and the CIA could listen in to everything happening.

The same was true of the phones targeted, with the CIA having what is said to be a large cache of exploits against both Apple and Android-based phones, exploits they carefully kept guarded from the manufacturers of the phones so that the flaws were never properly repaired. The phone breaches were focused in part on having an OS-level exploit that would render security features in encrypted applications useless,

Also among the efforts, the CIA was trying to hack into cars, with an eye toward gaining remote control over cars anywhere in the world, leading to speculation that the cars would be made to “assassinate” the drivers in an undetectable manner.

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If Trump Tower Was Wiretapped, Trump Can Declassify That Right Now

Jon Schwarz writes for The Intercept:

If in fact Trump Tower was wiretapped during the 2016 presidential campaign, as President Trump claimed in several tweets Saturday morning, he can do much more than say so on twitter: Presidents have the power to declassify anything at any time, so Trump could immediately make public any government records of such surveillance.

What Trump is saying seems to be a garbled version of previous reporting by the BBC, among other news outlets.

According to a report in the BBC, citing unnamed sources, a joint government task force was formed in spring of 2016 to look into an intelligence report from a foreign government that Russian money was somehow coming into the U.S. presidential race. In June the Department of Justice, part of the task force, asked the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court for a warrant to intercept electronic communications by two Russian banks.

However, the BBC’s report says, the FISA court turned the application down.. The Justice Department then asked again in July with a more narrowly drawn request, which was again turned down. Justice then made a third request for a warrant on October 15, which was granted.

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How the Feds Could Have Listened to Trump’s Phone Calls

Cory Bennett reports for Politico:

13_donald_trump_10_gty_1160 (2).jpg[…] There are still many ways in which information from Trump Tower phone calls could end up in the hands of intelligence agents or law enforcement officials — even without any knowledge on Obama’s part.

First, they may have come upon Trump Tower phone calls if a targeted foreign agent was on the other end of the line — this method comes from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, or FISA court. Or Trump Tower digital chatter might have shown up while authorities dug through the vast quantities of data hoovered up via more sweeping foreign surveillance programs.

Second, the FBI could also have asked for a so-called “pen register” or “trap and trace device,” which record only the parties involved in a phone call. These requests have a lower bar for approval.

While it’s unknown whether any of these scenarios occurred, it’s “very likely that the people in the Obama administration had access to the communication of senior Trump officials in the run-up to the election, because they have very, very broad authority,” said Cindy Cohn, executive director of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which has advocated for revising surveillance laws.

And given the ongoing FBI-led investigation into potential ties between Trump’s associates and Russian officials, it’s plausible that law enforcement officials and intelligence agencies had an interest in — or simply came across — the communications in Trump Tower, specialists said. The government is also investigating an alleged Russian plot to use cyberattacks and disinformation to help Trump win.

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Peter Thiel: Donald Trump’s ‘Shadow President’ in Silicon Valley

Eliana Johnson reports for Politico:

170224_peter_thiel_trump_gty_1160.jpg[…] “Once Election Day came and went, Peter Thiel was a major force in the transition,” said a senior Trump campaign aide. “When you have offices and you bring staff with you and you attend all the meetings, then you have a lot of power.” At the Presidio, the old Army fort in San Francisco where Thiel’s investment firms are housed, many of his employees have taken to calling him “the shadow president.”

The notion is not entirely absurd. If Steve Bannon, the president’s chief strategist, is one ideological pillar of the Trump White House, Thiel, operating from outside the administration, is the other. Bannon’s ideology is a sort of populist nationalism, while Thiel’s is tech-centric: He believes progress is dependent on a revolution in technology that has been largely stymied by government regulation.

Thiel is a contrarian by nature, and his support for Trump was a signature long-shot bet that is paying big dividends in terms of access to and influence on the new administration.

Trump’s surprise victory in November also gave Thiel a renewed faith in the possibilities of politics, and he has worked around the clock to push friends and associates into positions that will give them sway over science and technology policy, an area he believes has been routinely neglected under previous administrations.

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Want to Win Wars? Fund Soft Power, Trump’s Generals Say

Gayle Tzemach Lemmon reports for Defense One:

President Donald Trump with Marine Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., Joint Chiefs chairman; Army Gen. Joseph Votel, CentCom commander; and Gen. Raymond A. "Tony" Thomas, SOCOM commander; at USCENTCOM headquarters on MacDill Air Force Base Feb. 6, 2017.“We never win, and we don’t fight to win,” President Trump said this week, unveiling a budget that would boost defense spending by double-digits while cutting the State Department by 37 percent.

But those leading America’s military effort have never been more vocal about the need for development dollars and the indispensability of diplomatic efforts working in tandem with kinetic ones.

Take the new plan to to bring the fight to ISIS, delivered to the president this week. “This plan is a political-military plan; it is not a military plan,” said Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. “In the development of the plan, we have been completely engaged at every level with the State Department…Not only will it be a whole-of-government approach,” Dunford said, it’s “about a trans-regional threat.”

“Winning” cannot be simply about the military campaign. It is also about the “and then what?” It is about a solid answer to the question of to whom the military should hand off its stability responsibilities once the fight ends. Right now, the military’s leaders seem to be alone in asking the crucial question of what comes next.

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How Uber Deceives the Authorities Worldwide

Mike Isaac reports for The New York Times:

Image result for How Uber Deceives the Authorities WorldwideUber has for years engaged in a worldwide program to deceive the authorities in markets where its low-cost ride-hailing service was resisted by law enforcement or, in some instances, had been banned.

The program, involving a tool called Greyball, uses data collected from the Uber app and other techniques to identify and circumvent officials who were trying to clamp down on the ride-hailing service. Uber used these methods to evade the authorities in cities like Boston, Paris and Las Vegas, and in countries like Australia, China and South Korea.

Greyball was part of a program called VTOS, short for “violation of terms of service,” which Uber created to root out people it thought were using or targeting its service improperly. The program, including Greyball, began as early as 2014 and remains in use, predominantly outside the United States. Greyball was approved by Uber’s legal team.

Greyball and the VTOS program were described to The New York Times by four current and former Uber employees, who also provided documents. The four spoke on the condition of anonymity because the tools and their use are confidential and because of fear of retaliation by Uber.

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The Myth of the U.S. Immigration Crisis

Noah Smith reports for Bloomberg:

[…] Illegal immigration to the U.S. ended a decade ago and, according to the Pew Research Center, has been zero or negative since its peak in 2007.

About a million undocumented immigrants left the country in the Great Recession. But even after the end of the recession, illegal immigration didn’t resume.

Why? One reason might be economic — even after growth resumed, there was no return to the mania of the bubble years. Another reason is that Mexicans — both undocumented and otherwise — are flocking back to Mexico. Despite the country’s drug-related violence, it’s starting to look more attractive as a place to live. The economy has improved, and the fertility rate has fallen a lot, meaning that young Mexicans are needed back in Mexico to take over family businesses and take care of aging parents.

A third reason is increased border enforcement. For years, many Americans demanded that the border with Mexico be secured in order to stem illegal immigration. Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama did exactly that. Obama, especially, stepped up the pace of deportation.

Even if you think there was an illegal immigration problem in the early 2000s, that issue is greatly diminished. If you’re 45 years old now, net illegal immigration stopped back when you were 35.

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FBI Undercover Stings Foil Terrorist Plots – But How Many Are Agency-Created?

Ian Cummings reports for McClatchy:

Image result for fbi terror plotsAnnouncements of foiled terrorist plots make for lurid reading.

Schemes to carry out a Presidents Day jihadist attack on a train station in Kansas City. Bomb a Sept. 11 memorial event. Blow up a 1,000-pound bomb at Fort Riley. Detonate a weapon of mass destruction at a Wichita airport — the failed plans all show imagination.

But how much of it was real?

Often not much, according to a review of several recent terrorism cases investigated by the FBI in Kansas and Missouri. The most sensational plots invoking the name of the Islamic State or al-Qaida here were largely the invention of FBI agents carrying out elaborate sting operations on individuals identified through social media as being potentially dangerous.

In fact, in terrorism investigations in Wichita, at Fort Riley and last week in Kansas City, the alleged terrorists reportedly were unknowingly following the directions of undercover FBI agents who supplied fake bombs and came up with key elements of the plans.

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How Education Level is the Biggest Predictor of Support for Geert Wilders

Billy Ehrenberg-Shannon and Aleksandra Wisniewska report for the Financial Times:

Image result for How education level is the biggest predictor of support for Geert WildersEducation, rather than exposure to immigrants, is emerging as the clearest nationwide indicator of the likelihood of Dutch voters supporting Geert Wilders’ anti-immigration Party for Freedom, according to an extensive Financial Times survey of demographic and voting data from the most recent general election.

Mr Wilders’ Party for Freedom (PVV) looks on course to win the most seats in the upcoming election on March 15, but is likely to be blocked from power after most parties indicated that they would refuse to join it in a coalition.

The PVV’s resurgence is part of a wave of populism that has swept Europe, capitalising on fears over immigration, growing Euroscepticism and anti-establishment sentiment.

The blond-haired populist paints an idyllic picture of his supporters, labelling them Henk and Ingrid.

In Mr Wilders’ words, they are the “backbone” of Dutch society: “Mr and Mrs Average with their own houses, one nice holiday a year and an active social life.”

In the eyes of Frits Bolkestein, a former mentor turned critic of Mr Wilders, they are something else: “People with a grudge. They’re unemployed, their daughter’s on drugs and their son has run away.” The reality is more complicated.

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Manchester’s Cold War

Tom Fordyce reports for BBC Sport:

Marcus Rashford scored the only goal in United's win at City on 20 March 2016It is a wet winter Saturday on a muddy playing field in an unprepossessing part of south Manchester. The river Mersey slides past behind a row of trees planted to provide shelter from the wind, chill gusts cutting through the gaps where saplings were torn out by local kids to sell on elsewhere.

On the pitches, children of every size are playing football: four- and five-year-olds being taught the game, three teams of under-nines, the same again of under-10s. Dogs are being walked, and dogs are being allowed to do what dogs naturally do. By the changing rooms, a woman collects subs of £2 a child, less if they have brothers or sisters playing and the extra cost would mean one of them missing out.

Old Trafford lies four miles and several worlds away, across the flat suburban streets of Stretford to the north-west. The Etihad Stadium is six miles to the north-east, beyond Rusholme and Ardwick, new oil-money-bright in an old coal town. And yet these council fields are the new front line in the battle for supremacy between United and City, and these kids – shivering, laughing, falling over and pushing past – are the trophies both clubs are fighting for.

The reasons are not hard to find. Inside the squat changing room, away from the damp patch on the ceiling where the flat roof leaks, a trophy cabinet spills its silverware on to shelves and filing cabinets either side. On the opposite wall are photos of the young-boys-made-good who won them.

Marcus Rashford, striker for United and England. Danny Welbeck, United, Arsenal and England. Wes Brown, Jesse Lingard. Ravel Morrison – made good, made bad, as innocent here aged eight as he would ever be.

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Don’t Blame Corbyn for the Sins of Blair, Brown and New Labour

Ken Loach writes for The Guardian:

Image result for Corbyn New Labour[…] Now let’s ask the real questions. What are the big problems people face? What is the Labour leadership’s analysis and programme? Why is Labour apparently unpopular? Who is responsible for the party’s divisions?

The problems are well rehearsed but rarely related to the leadership question. A vulnerable working class that knows job insecurity, low wages, bogus “self-employment”, poverty for many including those in work, whole regions left to rot: these are the consequences of both Tory and New Labour’s free market economics. Employers’ “flexibility” is workers’ exploitation. Public services are being dismembered, outsourced, closed down, the source of profit for a few and an impoverished society for the many. The central fact is blindingly obvious: the Blair, Brown and Peter Mandelson years were central to this degeneration. That is why Labour members voted for Jeremy Corbyn.

Corbyn and the shadow chancellor, John McDonnell, make a different analysis, and are proposing different policies. The market will never provide a secure, dignified life for the vast majority. If there is a need but no profit, the need goes unanswered. Collectively we can plan a secure future, use new technology to benefit everyone, ensure that all regions are regenerated with real industries, and rebuild our public services and the quality of our civic life. It is a vision of a world transformed and a rejection of the bitter, divided and impoverished society we see around us.

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A Visit to the Infowars Studios to Meet Donald Trump’s Propagandist

Veit Medick writes for SPIEGEL:

  Alex Jones, the creator of Infowars.com, a popular radio show and Internet...It’s almost 11 a.m., with three minutes to go before his program goes on the air. It’s a chilly 65 degrees Fahrenheit in the air-conditioned studio, but Alex Jones is sweating. He wipes his forehead and goes through the day’s schedule.

His employees have found a number of magnificent outrages, says Jones, scandals that should have been exposed long ago. They include the alleged “secret plans” of major Internet companies to block conservative websites, and the “truth” about the radioactive contamination at the Fukushima nuclear power plant. “Jesus,” Jones says with a groan, “where should we start?”

The screens light up behind him. A small red light starts to blink. Three, two, one, cameras on, filming. “We are live,” Jones says into his microphone. “It is Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2017, and the Democrats are melting away like a bunch of mentally ill children.”

No, Jones is not an ordinary radio host. The founder of the Infowars website has been living in his own world for the last 20 years. It’s a world of clear friends and clear foes, filled with intrigues and scandals, cover-ups and conspiracies. Jones is convinced that the global elites have formed an alliance against the United States to destroy the country. He disseminates this message five days a week on the Alex Jones Show, broadcast from Austin, Texas. His show is aired on more than 100 radio stations, and his website reaches millions of Americans.

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The New Yorker’s Big Cover Story Reveals Five Uncomfortable Truths About U.S. and Russia

Glenn Greenwald writes for The Intercept:

The New Yorker is aggressively touting its 13,000-word cover story on Russia and Trump that was bylined by three writers, including the magazine’s editor-in-chief, David Remnick. Beginning with its cover image menacingly featuring Putin, Trump, and the magazine’s title in Cyrillic letters, along with its lead cartoon dystopically depicting a UFO-like Red Square hovering over and phallically invading the White House, the article is largely devoted to what has now become standard — and very profitable — fare among East Coast newsmagazines: feeding Democrats the often xenophobic, hysterical Russophobia for which they have a seemingly insatiable craving. Democratic media outlets have thus predictably cheered this opus for exposing “Russian President Vladimir Putin’s influence on the presidential election.”

But featured within the article are several interesting, uncomfortable, and often-overlooked facts about Putin, Trump, and Democrats. Given that these points are made here by a liberal media organ that is vehemently anti-Trump, within an article dispensing what has become the conventional Democratic wisdom on Russia, it is well worth highlighting them.

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UK Refuses to Back UN Statement on Bahrain Rights Abuses

Jamie Merrill reports for Middle East Eye:

The British government has refused to back a joint United Nations statement criticising Bahrain over its deteriorating human rights record, Middle East Eye can reveal.

The Gulf kingdom has been on the receiving end of fierce international criticism after it resumed executions earlier this year, amid warnings the country was on the brink of a “human rights crisis”.

Human rights groups have described prisoners being burned with cigarettes, given electric shock and burned with irons, among other forms of torture, but to the dismay of campaigners, officials from the UK Mission to the UN in Geneva have refused to back a planned statement condemning the country’s actions.

Britain signed the last joint-resolution on Bahrain in 2015, but a foreign office source told MEE that it would refuse to back a new joint motion on the country being proposed by the Swiss government this week.

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As Trump Pushes for Historic $54B Military Spending Hike, Which Programs Will He Cut to Pay for War?

Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez speak to Neta Crawford, co-director of the Costs of War Project and a professor of political science at Boston University, about President Trump proposing to increase the military budget to just over $600 billion—a 10 percent increase—while deeply slashing the budgets of other agencies, likely including the Environmental Protection Agency and the State Department. (Democracy Now!)

U.S. Challenges Kremlin With New Russian TV Channel

AFP reports:

Image result for US challenges Kremlin with new Russian TV channelNearly three decades after it helped topple communist totalitarian regimes in Eastern Europe, US-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty is challenging Moscow again, this time with a new 24-hour TV news channel in Russian.

Officially launched in Prague this month, the “Current Time” channel targets an audience of more than 270 million people, mostly in the former Soviet area, with news and views that provide an alternative to the Kremlin’s version of reality as channelled through state-controlled media.

The new channel’s launch comes as relations between Moscow and the West have hit their lowest point since the Cold War, triggered by Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea from Ukraine and its military campaign in Syria a year later.

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The Dark Side of Liberation: Rape by American Soldiers in World War II France

Jennifer Schuessler wrote for The New York Times in 2013:

Image result for What Soldiers Do: Sex and the American G.I. in World War II FranceThe soldiers who landed in Normandy on D-Day were greeted as liberators, but by the time American G.I.’s were headed back home in late 1945, many French citizens viewed them in a very different light.

In the port city of Le Havre, the mayor was bombarded with letters from angry residents complaining about drunkenness, jeep accidents, sexual assault — “a regime of terror,” as one put it, “imposed by bandits in uniform.”

This isn’t the “greatest generation” as it has come to be depicted in popular histories. But in “What Soldiers Do: Sex and the American G.I. in World War II France,” the historian Mary Louise Roberts draws on French archives, American military records, wartime propaganda and other sources to advance a provocative argument: The liberation of France was “sold” to soldiers not as a battle for freedom but as an erotic adventure among oversexed Frenchwomen, stirring up a “tsunami of male lust” that a battered and mistrustful population often saw as a second assault on its sovereignty and dignity.

“I could not believe what I was reading,” Ms. Roberts, a professor of French history at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, recalled of the moment she came across the citizen complaints in an obscure archive in Le Havre. “I took out my little camera and began photographing the pages. I did not go to the bathroom for eight hours.”

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Rising Ocean Temperatures Could Set Off a Chain Reaction That Threatens Our Food Supply

Laura June reports for The Outline:

Image result for Rising Ocean Temperatures Could Set Off a Chain Reaction That Threatens Our Food SupplyNew research published last week in the journal Elementa suggests that rising temperatures on Earth will cause massive changes in the deepest parts of the ocean. And those changes won’t be good: starvation and “sweeping ecological change,” the report warns, could be on the menu by the year 2100.

The research, conducted by a team at the University of Oregon, suggests that the temperature of the abyssal ocean (depths of 3,000 to 6,000 meters) could rise by about 1 degree Celsius over the next 84 years, which might not sound like a lot to a lay person. But, the research also suggests that this rise in temperature would likely cause massive problems all over the planet, because it is dependent on the deep ocean’s health, which accounts for more than 95 percent of the ocean’s entire volume. “Biodiversity in many of these areas is defined by the meager amount of food reaching the seafloor and over the next 80-plus years — in certain parts of the world — that amount of food will be cut in half,” Andrew Thurber, a marine ecologist at Oregon State University, and co-author of the study, said in a press release about the work.

Temperatures in the bathyal area of the ocean — not quite so deep, at around 200 to 3,000 meters — are expected to rise even more, up to 4 degrees Celsius in the same period. It is, Dr. Thurber said, “the equivalent of having summer for the first time in thousands to millions of years.” The main effect for the ocean in all of this will be an exacerbated lack of food and an increase in the metabolisms of the existing organisms. Increased metabolism leads to a need for more food, which is going to be a problem at a time when there will be an ever-lessening supply. Abyssal waters are already some of the most food-deprived areas of the planet, so the prospect of halving this already minuscule supply would be truly devastating.

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Our Oceans Are Garbage

Tyler Hooper reports for VICE:

[…] Last September, more than 40 tons of garbage was pulled from the beaches of Vancouver Island alone. A good portion of the garbage is alleged to have come from the Japanese tsunami of 2011. However, the problem is not limited to just Vancouver Island; in 2015, a study estimated that the ocean contained 5.25 trillion pieces of garbage and counting. Some even estimate there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean by 2050.

There have been reports from around the globe about the impact plastic pollution is having on both coastal marine environments and the wildlife that inhabits these regions. Recently, a whale off the Norwegian coast was found with more than 30 plastic bags in its stomach. In Canada, researchers have warned that plastic is affecting birds and smaller marine life. For a country with the largest coastline, it’s a problem that’s not getting better.

“The amount of plastic on [the] beaches is getting worse,” said Gillian Montgomery, chapter manager of the Vancouver Island Surfrider. Montgomery elaborated, adding that from what she’s seen plastic pollution has only gotten worse over the past few years and it’s not getting any better. It’s a frustration echoed by her colleague McKay. “The government does not publicly say plastics are a problem,” McKay said. “Because we have recycling, they just assume recycling takes care of everything.”

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WHO: Superbugs That Pose the Greatest Threat to Human Health

Lena H. Sun reports for The Washington Post:

Image result for SuperbugsThe World Health Organization announced its first list of antibiotic-resistant “priority pathogens” on Monday, detailing 12 families of bacteria that agency experts say pose the greatest threat to human health and kill millions of people every year.

The list is divided into three categories, prioritized by the urgency of the need for new antibiotics. The purpose is to guide and promote research and development of new drugs, officials said. Most of the pathogens are among the nearly two dozen antibiotic-resistant microbes that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned in a 2013 report could cause potentially catastrophic consequences if the United States didn’t act quickly to combat the growing threat of antibiotic-resistant infections.

“This list is not meant to scare people about new superbugs,” said Marie-Paule Kieny, an assistant director-general at WHO. “It’s intended to signal research and development priorities to address urgent public health threats.”

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Pentagon Delivers Plan to Escalate ISIS War

Jason Ditz reports for Antiwar:

Image result for Pentagon Delivers Plan to Escalate ISIS WarFull details of the plan have not been released yet, but the long-promised Pentagon proposal to escalate the fight against ISIS in Iraq and Syria has been delivered today, and is said to includes options for large deployments of additional troops to Syria, as well as increased targeting of ISIS the world over.

The plan for the Pentagon is to “rapidly” defeat ISIS, with the assumption that throwing more US troops at the situation will make it go faster. Officials at the Pentagon conceded this strategy might need to be further refined before implemented on the ground.

It is particularly noteworthy that we don’t really know any more about the plan today, beyond the talking points, than we did about it in recent weeks when officials started hyping its upcoming delivery, with the recommendations still apparently boiling down to straightforward additions of a number of combat troops.

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Trump’s Proposed Increase in U.S. Defense Spending Would Be 80% of Russia’s Entire Military Budget

Alex Emmons reports for The Intercept:

Screen-Shot-2017-02-27-at-5.12.20-PM-1488233648The U.S. government already spends $600 billion dollars a year on its military — more money than the next seven biggest spenders combined, including China and Russia.

On Monday, the White House said it would request $54 billion more in military spending for next year. That increase alone is roughly the size of the entire annual military budget of the United Kingdom, the fifth-largest spending country, and it’s more than 80 percent of Russia’s entire military budget in 2015.

If Congress were to follow Trump’s blueprint, the U.S. military budget could account for nearly 40 percent of global military spending next year. The U.S. would be outspending Russia by a margin of greater than 9 to 1.

At a meeting of U.S. governors on Monday, Trump described his forthcoming budget proposal as “a public safety and national security budget.”

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McCain and Thornberry: Trump’s Proposed Defense Spending Hike Not Enough

Travis J. Tritten reports for Stars and Stripes:

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., left, and Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, are pushing for a $640-billion base defense budget. (Stars and Stripes photos)The Republican chairmen of the Senate and House armed services committees said Monday that President Donald Trump‘s proposal to boost defense spending by $54 billion for fiscal year 2018 is not enough.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, are pushing for a $640-billion base defense budget and said the $603-billion proposal unveiled by the White House will not reverse the decline in recent years in spending and military readiness.

The White House released a spending cap-busting, top-line figure following pledges by Trump for a major defense buildup but declined to provide details of how the additional money will be used. It plans to release a fully detailed defense budget in May and that must be passed by Congress.

“With a world on fire, America cannot secure peace through strength with just 3 percent more than President [Barack] Obama’s budget. We can and must do better,” McCain said in a released statement.

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Trump’s Military Buildup Makes Even His Generals Nervous

Rob Garver reports for The Fiscal Times:

[…] We’re now at the point where Trump’s dedication to building up the military at the expense of the civilian national security apparatus is even making the generals nervous. On Monday, 121 retired three- and four-star generals and admirals from all branches of the US military sent a letter to Congressional leaders pleading with them not to allow the defunding of the country’s diplomatic corps or of international aid efforts.

Experience has taught them, they said, that “elevating and strengthening diplomacy and development alongside defense are critical to keeping America safe.”

They added, “We know from our service in uniform that many of the crises our nation faces do not have military solutions alone – from confronting violent extremist groups like ISIS in the Middle East and North Africa to preventing pandemics like Ebola and stabilizing weak and fragile states that can lead to greater instability. There are 65 million displaced people today, the most since World War II, with consequences including refugee flows that are threatening America’s strategic allies in Israel, Jordan, Turkey, and Europe.”

The letter was copied to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Secretary of Defense James Mattis, and National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster (the latter two being a retired Marine Corps general and a serving Army General respectively.)

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Trump’s Defense Topline Faces a Big Hurdle, Just as When Obama Proposed It

Marcus Weisgerber reports for Defense One:

President Donald J. Trump departs from the Pentagon alongside Secretary of Defense James Mattis on Jan. 27, 2017, in Washington, D.C.President Donald Trump has proposed to return Pentagon spending to levels originally proposed by then-President Barack Obama in 2013.

The move has drawn fire from Republicans who say it doesn’t increase defense spending enough and Democrats who decry the cuts it entails for the rest of the federal government.

The proposal was revealed in the top-level spending targets sent by Trump’s Office of Management and Budget to federal departments on Monday. The Pentagon’s share of Trump’s 2018 budget plan is $603 billion, according to Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney.

The figure happens to be near the same amount envisioned for 2018 in a multiyear spending plan approved by the last administration. But Obama’s plan ran afoul of the caps imposed by the Budget Control Act, or BCA. That’s also a problem for Trump, who is proposing to spend $54 billion more, or about 10 percent, than the $549 billion cap allows.

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With the US Distracted by Trump and the UK by Brexit, They’re About to See a Decline in Their Global Power

Patrick Cockburn writes for The Independent:

donald-trump.jpgBoris Yeltsin was making a presidential visit to Washington in 1995 when he was found one night outside the White House dressed only in his underpants. He explained in a slurred voice to US secret service agents that he was trying to hail a cab so he could go and buy a pizza. The following night he was discovered by a guard, who thought he was an intruder, wandering drunkenly around the basement of his official residence.

Drunk or sober, Yeltsin and his escapades became the living symbol for the world, not just of the collapse of the Soviet Union but of a dysfunctional administration in the Kremlin and the decline of Russia as a great power. It was impossible to take seriously a state whose leader was visibly inebriated much of the time and in which policy was determined by a coterie of corrupt family members and officials serving at Yeltsin’s whim.

Donald Trump is often compared to Vladimir Putin by the media which detects ominous parallels between the two men as populist nationalist leaders. The message is that Trump with his furious attacks on the media would like to emulate Putin’s authoritarianism. There is some truth in this, but when it comes to the effect on US status and power in the world, the similarities are greater between Trump and Yeltsin than between Trump and Putin.

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Committee to Protect Journalists: Trump’s Attacks on Media Will Be Felt by Journalists Around World

Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez speak to Robert Mahoney, deputy executive director of the Committee to Protect Journalists, about the White House taking the unprecedented act of barring The New York Times, CNN, Politico, the Los Angeles Times, the BBC and several other news organizations from an off-camera briefing known as a gaggle. Meanwhile several right-wing news outlets were allowed to attend, including Breitbart, The Washington Times and One America News Network. (Democracy Now!)

The Generals Guarding American Democracy

Patrick Granfield reports for Politico:

GettyImages-635627260.jpgDonald Trump promised as a candidate to deliver fundamental change to how Washington works, and in one critical way, he is already delivering. A little more than a month into his presidency, a fundamental shift in civil-military relations is taking hold. Rather than civilian leaders checking military power, it is now military leaders, who represent one of the strongest checks against the overreach of a civilian executive.

Take President Trump’s comments on Thursday, in which he said the deportations of undocumented immigrations would be a “military operation.” Several hours later, the retired Marine general who serves as his secretary of homeland Security, John Kelly, spoke to the press. There would be, “No, I repeat no, use of military forces in immigration operations,” Secretary Kelly said. The White House later said, rather unconvincingly, that the president was merely using the word “military” as an “adjective.”

The incident was just one of several revealing discrepancies between the president and military leaders, active duty and retired, who now serve him and on his Cabinet. It also demonstrated some of the inherent risks in how President Trump understands the role of the military and his relationship to it.

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How US Billionaire Robert Mercer Helped to Back Brexit

Carole Cadwalladr reports for The Observer:

Image result for robert mercer[…] It has emerged that Robert Mercer, a hedge-fund billionaire, who helped to finance the Trump campaign and who was revealed this weekend as one of the owners of the rightwing Breitbart News Network, is a long-time friend of Nigel Farage. He directed his data analytics firm to provide expert advice to the Leave campaign on how to target swing voters via Facebook – a donation of services that was not declared to the electoral commission.

Cambridge Analytica, an offshoot of a British company, SCL Group, which has 25 years’ experience in military disinformation campaigns and “election management”, claims to use cutting-edge technology to build intimate psychometric profiles of voters to find and target their emotional triggers. Trump’s team paid the firm more than $6m (£4.8m) to target swing voters, and it has now emerged that Mercer also introduced the firm – in which he has a major stake – to Farage.

The communications director of Leave.eu, Andy Wigmore, told the Observer that the longstanding friendship between Nigel Farage and the Mercer family led Mercer to offer his help – free – to the Brexit campaign because of their shared goals. Wigmore said that he introduced Farage and Leave.eu to Cambridge Analytica: “They were happy to help. Because Nigel is a good friend of the Mercers. And Mercer introduced them to us. He said, ‘Here’s this company we think may be useful to you’. What they were trying to do in the US and what we were trying to do had massive parallels. We shared a lot of information.”

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Donald Trump Plans to Bypass the Courts to Deport as Many People as Possible

Ryan Devereaux reports for The Intercept:

On Tuesday, the Department of Homeland Security released a pair of memos laying out how the agency intends to implement President Donald Trump’s executive orders on domestic immigration enforcement. In addition to calling for a massive increase in the number of immigration agents and the deputizing of local and state law enforcement across the country — described in the documents as a “force multiplier”— the memos dramatically expand the range of people who can be deported without seeing a judge.

“I see now what the plan is,” Greg Siskind, a Tennessee-based immigration attorney and member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association board of governors, told The Intercept. “Their plan is basically to have everybody thrown out of the country without ever going to court.” Additional immigration attorneys and legal experts who spoke to The Intercept shared Siskind’s concerns, describing various elements of the DHS directives and the executive orders they reflect as “horrifying,” “stunning,” and “inhumane.”

“This is the broadest, most widespread change I have seen in doing this work for more than two decades,” Lee Gelernt, a veteran immigration attorney and deputy director of the ACLU’s national Immigrants’ Rights Project, told The Intercept. “After 9/11 we saw some extreme policies, but they were largely confined to particular areas around the relationship between immigration and national security. Here what we’re seeing are those types of policies but also much broader policies just dealing with immigration generally.”

“I expected bad based on Donald Trump’s campaign rhetoric,” added David Leopold, a Cleveland-based immigration attorney and past president of AILA. “Then when I read the executive order, I expected really bad … but I’m absolutely shocked at the mean-spiritedness of this.”

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