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posted by martyb on Monday December 31, @05:27PM   Printer-friendly
from the what-a-wicked-web-we-weave dept.

"Defense Secretary Jim Mattis’ resignation, which shocked Washington’s national security establishment and rattled America’s allies, was sealed in a fateful 18-hour period that saw President Trump resolve to withdraw troops from Syria – alarming Pentagon officials who see America’s role in the region as crucial." foxnews.com/politics/behind-the-scenes-of-the-mattis-bombshell-more-resignations-expected-after-protest-exit


Original Submission

posted by Fnord666 on Thursday December 27, @05:25PM   Printer-friendly
from the didn't-see-that-one-coming dept.

China's 'Belt and Road' Plan in Pakistan Takes a Military Turn

When President Trump started the new year by suspending billions of dollars of security aid to Pakistan, one theory was that it would scare the Pakistani military into cooperating better with its American allies.

The reality was that Pakistan already had a replacement sponsor lined up.

Just two weeks later, the Pakistani Air Force and Chinese officials were putting the final touches on a secret proposal to expand Pakistan's building of Chinese military jets, weaponry and other hardware. The confidential plan, reviewed by The New York Times, would also deepen the cooperation between China and Pakistan in space, a frontier the Pentagon recently said Beijing was trying to militarize after decades of playing catch-up.

All those military projects were designated as part of China's Belt and Road Initiative, a $1 trillion chain of infrastructure development programs stretching across some 70 countries, built and financed by Beijing.

Chinese officials have repeatedly said the Belt and Road is purely an economic project with peaceful intent. But with its plan for Pakistan, China is for the first time explicitly tying a Belt and Road proposal to its military ambitions — and confirming the concerns of a host of nations who suspect the infrastructure initiative is really about helping China project armed might.

Related: China's Xi Jinping Negotiates $46bn Superhighway to Pakistan
China Plans $503 Billion Investment in High-Speed Rail by 2020
Chinese President Xi Jinping Pledges $124 Billion for One Belt, One Road Initiative
Gunmen Attack Chinese Consulate in Pakistan


Original Submission

posted by martyb on Thursday December 20, @05:22AM   Printer-friendly
from the limey-helm dept.

No-deal Brexit plans put 3,500 troops on standby

Emergency no-deal Brexit contingency plans must now be implemented across government, cabinet ministers have agreed, including reserving ferry space for supplies and putting 3,500 armed forces personnel on standby to deal with any disruption.

[...] Downing Street suggested preparations could include reserving space on ferries in order to ensure a supply of food and medicines. Speaking later in the Commons, the defence secretary, Gavin Williamson, said his department "will have 3,500 service personnel held at readiness, including regulars and reserves, in order to support any government department on any contingencies they may need".

Citizens will be informed how to prepare through a "range of channels" that could include TV adverts and social media. Ministers agreed to allocate money from a £2bn contingency fund to departments such as the Home Office and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. HMRC[*] will prepare a 100-page pack for all UK businesses on preparing for no-deal, and will send out about 80,000 emails to businesses.

[*] HMRC = Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs is a non-ministerial department of the UK Government ... HMRC was formed by the merger of the Inland Revenue and Her Majesty's Customs and Excise, which took effect on 18 April 2005.

The service personnel may be called upon to assist in law enforcement, so factor that in to any riot plans you may have.

Also at CNN and CBS.

See also: Now we're facing the sad reality of Brexit — troops on the streets of Britain


Original Submission

posted by martyb on Wednesday December 19, @02:57AM   Printer-friendly
from the "joint"-resolution dept.

Cuomo Moves to Legalize Recreational Marijuana in New York Within Months

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced that he would push to legalize recreational marijuana next year, a move that could generate more than $1.7 billion in sales annually and put New York in line with several neighboring states. The highly anticipated proposal came in a speech in Manhattan on Monday, in which the governor outlined his agenda for the first 100 days of his third term. Mr. Cuomo framed the speech as a reflection on what Franklin Delano Roosevelt — the former president who was once a New York governor himself — would do today, mixing sweeping rhetoric about American ideals with grim warnings about the Trump administration.

The speech, which seemed delivered with a national audience in mind, could prolong slow-burning speculation about Mr. Cuomo's presidential ambitions. It also showed, in striking detail, the governor's leftward evolution in his eight years in office, from a business-friendly centrist who considered marijuana a "gateway drug," to a self-described progressive championing recreational marijuana, taxes on the rich and a ban on corporate political donations.

"The fact is we have had two criminal justice systems: one for the wealthy and the well off, and one for everyone else," Mr. Cuomo said before introducing the cannabis proposal, describing the injustice that had "for too long targeted the African-American and minority communities. "Let's legalize the adult use of recreational marijuana once and for all," he added.

Ten other states and Washington, D.C., have legalized recreational marijuana, spending the new tax revenue on a range of initiatives, including schools and transportation.

Legalizing marijuana is now one of Cuomo's priorities. He's been resisting it for years.

Cuomo's Monday message was his strongest public endorsement of recreational marijuana to date. It marks a substantial shift from his prior opposition, as recently as last year when he called it a "gateway drug." The change in policy stance also follows a bitter battle for the Democratic gubernatorial primary against Cynthia Nixon, who supported legalization.

In 2018, Vermont became the first (and so far, only) U.S. state to legalize recreational use of cannabis by an act of the legislature, following a vetoed attempt in 2017. Lawmakers in New Jersey and Illinois may follow suit, although opposition remains.

Also at CBS.


Original Submission

posted by Fnord666 on Friday December 14, @04:59AM   Printer-friendly
from the 2-for-1 dept.

Canadian Michael Spavor detained in China as Huawei row continues

A second Canadian has been detained in China on accusations of harming national security, as tension continues between the two countries. It was confirmed on Thursday that Michael Spavor, a businessman, had been detained in addition to former diplomat Michael Kovrig.

Canada drew Chinese protests after it arrested an executive at telecoms giant Huawei at the request of the US. Meng Wanzhou has been bailed but may face extradition for fraud.

[...] Michael Spavor is a businessman based in Dandong, near the Chinese border with North Korea. He has ties to the North Korean government and has met its leader Kim Jong-un many times.

Ex-diplomat Michael Kovrig currently works for a think tank, the International Crisis Group (ICG), which has said it is concerned for his health and safety. He is being held officially "on suspicion of engaging in activities that harm China's state security".

However, a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman, Lu Kang, suggested another reason, saying the ICG had not been registered as a non-governmental organisation (NGO) in China and therefore it was unlawful for its staff to work there. Checks by Reuters news agency did not turn up a registration for ICG on government databases for NGOs or social enterprises.

Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland has said Mr Kovrig's case was raised directly with Chinese officials.

The article has a photo of Spavor standing with Dennis Rodman.

Previously: Canada Arrests Huawei's Global Chief Financial Officer in Vancouver
Arrest of Huawei Executive Causing Discontent Among Chinese Elites
China Arrests Former Canadian Diplomat; Chinese Companies Ban iPhones, Require Huawei Phones


Original Submission

posted by Fnord666 on Thursday December 13, @09:19PM   Printer-friendly
from the captain-obvious dept.

Chinese Espionage Poses Growing Threat, U.S. Officials Say

Chinese cyber espionage and theft of intellectual property from U.S. companies is increasing and poses a dire threat to the country's security and economic competitiveness, Trump administration officials told senators on Wednesday.

"What hangs in the balance is not just the future of the United States, but the future of the world," Bill Priestap, assistant director of the FBI's counterintelligence division, told the Senate Judiciary Committee.

[...] John Demers, assistant attorney general for national security, said Chinese espionage against U.S. targets has steadily increased and China has stolen technology ranging from autonomous drones to chemical compounds. "We cannot tolerate a nation that steals the fruits of our brain power," Demers said, "and that is just what China is doing."

The Chinese espionage campaign extends beond[sic] government agents to encompass tourists, technology workers, students and academic researchers, they said. For example, the Chinese government's payment of students' tuition provides leverage to pressure them to bring home intellectual property, Priestap said.

Duh?

Also at The Hill.


Original Submission

posted by martyb on Wednesday December 12, @02:14PM   Printer-friendly
from the LMGTFY dept.

Google's Sundar Pichai was grilled on privacy, data collection, and China during congressional hearing

Google's CEO testified before the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday where lawmakers grilled him on a wide range of issues, including potential political bias on its platforms, its plans for a censored search app in China and its privacy practices.

This is the first time Pichai has appeared before Congress since Google declined to send him or Alphabet CEO Larry Page to a hearing on foreign election meddling earlier this year. That slight sparked anger among senators who portrayed Google as trying to skirt scrutiny.

[...] Tuesday's hearing was titled "Transparency & Accountability: Examining Google and its Data Collection, Use, and Filtering Practices" and many representatives posed questions on whether or not Google's search results were biased against conservative points of view.

[...] Another topic that came up multiple times was Google's plan to launch a censored search engine in China. The Intercept first reported details of the project over the summer, which would block search results for queries that the Chinese government deemed sensitive, like "human rights" and "student protest" and link users' searches to their personal phone numbers. [...] "Right now, we have no plans to launch search in China," Pichai answered, adding that access to information is "an important human right."

Also at Bloomberg and The Hill.

See also: Sundar Pichai had to explain to Congress why Googling 'idiot' turns up pictures of Trump
Google CEO admits company must better address the spread of conspiracy theories on YouTube
Alex Jones, Roger Stone crash Google CEO hearing
Monopoly man watches disapprovingly as Congress yells at Google's CEO

Previously: Google Plans to Launch Censored Search Engine in China, Leaked Documents Reveal
Uproar at Google after News of Censored China Search App Breaks
"Senior Google Scientist" Resigns over Chinese Search Engine Censorship Project
Google Suppresses Internal Memo About China Censorship; Eric Schmidt Predicts Internet Split
Leaked Transcript Contradicts Google's Denials About Censored Chinese Search Engine
Senators Demand Answers About Google+ Breach; Project Dragonfly Undermines Google's Neutrality


Original Submission

posted by martyb on Wednesday December 12, @03:04AM   Printer-friendly
from the communications-issues dept.

Michael Kovrig, former Canadian diplomat, reportedly arrested in China

A former Canadian diplomat has reportedly been arrested in China. The International Crisis Group said Tuesday it's aware of reports that its North East Asia senior adviser Michael Kovrig has been detained.

The Brussels-based non-governmental organization said in a statement it's doing everything possible to obtain additional information about Kovrig's whereabouts and that it will work to ensure his prompt release.

The Globe and Mail in Toronto and the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. reported the arrest, citing unnamed sources.

Reports of Kovrig's detention come after China warned Canada of consequences for its recent arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou at Vancouver's airport. It's unclear if there's any link between the cases.

Some Chinese companies ban iPhones, require Huawei after CFO's arrest: report

Some Chinese companies are banning iPhones and requiring that their employees use Huawei products following the arrest of Huawei's chief financial officer, according to a new Yahoo News report. Meng Wanzhou, the CFO of Chinese telecom giant Huawei, was arrested by Canadian authorities last Saturday at the request of the U.S. after allegedly violating trade sanctions against Iran. Chinese officials have strongly protested Meng's detention.

Now, Chinese companies are promoting Huawei and barring Apple, an American company. Menpad, an LCD display maker and Huawei supplier, on Monday said it will punish employees who buy iPhones with a fine equivalent to the American smartphone's market price, the South China Morning Post reported. It also vowed that the company will no longer buy American products, including office supplies and computers, and will offer a 15 percent subsidy for employees who are buying Huawei phones, according to the Post.

Japan's top three telcos to exclude Huawei, ZTE network equipment: Kyodo

Japan's big three telecom operators plan not to use current equipment and upcoming fifth-generation (5G) gear from China's Huawei Technologies Co Ltd and ZTE Corp, Kyodo News reported on Monday.

The news, for which Kyodo did not cite sources, comes at a time of heightened scrutiny of Chinese tech firms by Washington and some prominent allies over ties to the Chinese government, driven by concerns they could be used by Beijing for spying. Last week sources told Reuters that Japan planned to ban government purchases of equipment from Huawei and ZTE to ensure strength in its defences against intelligence leaks and cyber attacks.

See also: How Meng Wanzhou's Arrest Might Backfire

Previously: Canada Arrests Huawei's Global Chief Financial Officer in Vancouver
Arrest of Huawei Executive Causing Discontent Among Chinese Elites

Related: New Law Bans U.S. Government from Buying Equipment from Chinese Telecom Giants ZTE and Huawei
Australia Bans China's Huawei (and maybe ZTE) from 5G Mobile Network Project
Washington Asks Allies to Drop Huawei


Original Submission

posted by martyb on Tuesday December 04, @11:51AM   Printer-friendly
from the How-much-does-your-vote-count dept.

According to Reuters and The Washington Post:

Two of the Democratic Party’s biggest wins last month occurred in Wisconsin and Michigan, where their candidates won gubernatorial elections, unseating a well-known incumbent in the former and flipping the seat in the latter. In anticipation of having to work with a Democratic governor, state lawmakers are aiming to hurriedly pass legislation that would dilute the executives' powers.

The moves in both states have drawn comparisons to Republican efforts in NC in 2016, when lawmakers pushed through legislation limiting the authority of the state’s Democratic governor, after he defeated the incumbent Republican.

The proposals include preventing the incoming governor from withdrawing Wisconsin from a legal challenge to the federal Affordable Care Act, sidestepping the attorney general’s power to represent the state in litigation and rescheduling a 2020 election to boost the chances of a Republican state Supreme Court Justice, among others.

U.S. Republicans and Democrats have a history of using lame-duck sessions to advance priorities ahead of power shifts. Wisconsin Democrats in 2010 unsuccessfully tried to push through public union contracts after Walker won election while promising to get tough with organized labor.

Meanwhile, in Utah, lawmakers are getting ready to meet in a special lame-duck session on Monday (Dec 3rd) to rewrite a medical marijuana law that voters passed this November. Patient advocates are saying the move is an end run around voters.


Original Submission

posted by takyon on Monday December 03, @03:59AM   Printer-friendly
from the "I-love-Paris-when-it-sizzles" dept.

Thousands of "gilets jaunes" (yellow vest) protesters, often masked, riot in the streets of Paris and other major French cities for a third weekend. Hundreds have been arrested and injured (including police) in the often violent protests. Reuters documents the activities in some detail. This video shows a mob of protesters surround and attack a policeman (it's ok, he gets away, with help from one or more of the protesters).

The protests are over fuel taxes imposed to discourage fossil fuel use and help France meet its carbon emission goals under the Paris Climate Accord (which the U.S. is not party to.)

With the usual nod to common sense:

The U.S. embassy issued a statement urging citizens to be careful, saying that "violent clashes between police and protesters" continued in at least three of Paris's 20 districts, known as arrondissements. "Avoid all demonstrations, seek shelter in the vicinity of clashes, follow instructions of security personnel"

Chants and graffiti sprayed during the protests sometimes expresses frustration with the administration:

[Some] targeted the Arc de Triomphe, chanting "Macron Resign" and scrawling on the facade of the towering 19th-century arch: "The yellow vests will triumph."

And other times simply more general anarchistic statements:

Protesters smashed the windows of a newly opened flagship Apple Store (AAPL.O) and luxury boutiques of Chanel and Dior, where they daubed the slogan "Merry Mayhem" on a wooden board.

French President Emmanuel Macron commented Tuesday on the protests, saying that:

he understood the anger of voters outside France's big cities over the squeeze fuel prices have put on households. But he insisted he would not be bounced into changing policy by "thugs".

Those "conciliatory" words have no doubt improved the situation.

The protests enjoy widespread support inside and outside the major cities, including from many of the police even as they strive to keep order, and show no signs of abating.

Also at NBC.


Original Submission