Category Archives: Uncategorized

China pledges $20 billion in loans for Arab states

China pledges $20 billion in loans for Arab states (Source AFP) China will provide Arab states with $20 billion in loans for economic development, President Xi Jinping told top Arab officials Tuesday, as Beijing seeks to build its influence in the Middle East and Africa. The money will be earmarked for “projects that will produce good employment opportunities and positive social impact in Arab States that have reconstruction needs,” said Xi, without providing further details. It is part of a special Chinese programme for “economic reconstruction” and “industrial revitalisation,” Xi told participants at a China-Arab States forum in Beijing’s Great Hall of the People. Beijing is also prepared to provide another one billion yuan to countries in the region to “build capacity for stability maintenance,” Xi said, using a term commonly associated with policing and surveillance.

Since taking office, Xi has overseen a concerted effort to expand Chinese influence in the Middle East and Africa, including the construction of the country’s first military base in Arab League state Djibouti.

 

 

Spy chiefs from Russia, China, Iran and Pakistan hold high-level meeting

Spy chiefs from Russia, China, Iran and Pakistan hold high-level meeting (Source intelnews.org)

Intelligence directors from Russia, China, Iran and Pakistan met on Tuesday to discuss regional cooperation with particular reference to combating the Islamic State in Afghanistan. Information about the high-level meeting was revealed yesterday by Sergei Ivanov, media spokesman for the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR). Ivanov told Russia’s state-owned TASS news agency that the meeting was held in Pakistan and included the participation of SVR director Sergei Naryshkin. TASS reported that the meeting was held under the auspices of Pakistan’s powerful Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Directorate and was attended by “senior intelligence officials” from Pakistan, Russia, Iran and China.

Ivanov said that discussions during the meeting “focused on the dangers arising from a buildup of the Islamic State on the Afghan territory”. The Islamic State announced the formation of its Afghan province in January 2015, using the term “Khorasan Province”. By July 2016, two of its most prominent leaders had been killed in coordinated drone strikes by the United States, but the group continues to launch operations to this day. Its core is thought to be made up of nearly 100 fighters from the Islamic State’s former strongholds in Syria and Iraq. According to Russian reports, security officials in China, Russia, Pakistan and Iran are concerned that the Islamic State’s Afghan command is becoming stronger as fighters from the group are leaving the Middle East and moving to Afghanistan.

Tuesday’s high-level meeting in Islamabad follows an announcement last month by the Beijing-led Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) that it would adopt a more active stance on security issues in Afghanistan.

 

Merkel responds to Trump: ‘I have witnessed’ Germany under Soviet control

Merkel responds to Trump: ‘I have witnessed’ Germany under Soviet control (Source cnn.com)

German Chancellor Angela Merkel appeared to hit back at US President Donald Trump’s claim that “Germany is a captive of Russia” by drawing on her own upbringing in Soviet-controlled East Germany. “I wanted to say that, because of current events, I have witnessed this myself, that a part of Germany was controlled by the Soviet Union. And I am very happy that we are today unified in freedom as the Federal Republic of Germany,” she said in an arrival statement at the NATO Summit Wednesday, according to an English translation of her remarks.

Merkel, who was born in Hamburg in 1954, has spoken on numerous occasions about her upbringing under Soviet occupation. “The first political event from my childhood that I remember distinctly is the building of the Berlin Wall 50 years ago. I was 7 years old at the time. Seeing grown-ups, even my parents, so stunned that they broke out in tears, shook me to the core. My mother’s family, for example, was divided by the building of the Wall,” she said in remarks upon receiving the US Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2011.

“I grew up in the part of Germany that was not free, the German Democratic Republic. For many years I dreamed of freedom, just as many others did — also of the freedom to travel to the United States,” she said then.

Although she did not mention the US President by name in her NATO statement, Merkel’s comments seemed to be a direct repudiation of Trump’s earlier remarks, in which he maligned Germany for getting natural gas from Russia.

 

Merkel responds to Trump: ‘I have witnessed’ Germany under Soviet control

Merkel responds to Trump: ‘I have witnessed’ Germany under Soviet control (Source cnn.com)

German Chancellor Angela Merkel appeared to hit back at US President Donald Trump’s claim that “Germany is a captive of Russia” by drawing on her own upbringing in Soviet-controlled East Germany. “I wanted to say that, because of current events, I have witnessed this myself, that a part of Germany was controlled by the Soviet Union. And I am very happy that we are today unified in freedom as the Federal Republic of Germany,” she said in an arrival statement at the NATO Summit Wednesday, according to an English translation of her remarks.

Merkel, who was born in Hamburg in 1954, has spoken on numerous occasions about her upbringing under Soviet occupation. “The first political event from my childhood that I remember distinctly is the building of the Berlin Wall 50 years ago. I was 7 years old at the time. Seeing grown-ups, even my parents, so stunned that they broke out in tears, shook me to the core. My mother’s family, for example, was divided by the building of the Wall,” she said in remarks upon receiving the US Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2011.

“I grew up in the part of Germany that was not free, the German Democratic Republic. For many years I dreamed of freedom, just as many others did — also of the freedom to travel to the United States,” she said then.

Although she did not mention the US President by name in her NATO statement, Merkel’s comments seemed to be a direct repudiation of Trump’s earlier remarks, in which he maligned Germany for getting natural gas from Russia.

Donald Trump’s tirades weaken NATO and please Vladimir Putin

Donald Trump’s tirades weaken NATO and please Vladimir Putin (Source usatoday.com)

As NATO leaders gathered in Brussels this week to be severely lectured by America’s mercurial president — who gets some things right about the organization, but a whole lot else wrong — it’s worth recalling what the alliance represents. First and foremost, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization is the largest and most successful assemblage of allies in history, projecting strength from a single, elegant premise: that an attack on one member is an attack on all.

Created from the ashes of World War II as a way to end European wars and serve as a bulwark against a menacing Soviet Union, the original 12-member alliance worked even better than imagined.

For about seven decades, Europe prospered in relative peace. The Soviet Union collapsed. And as NATO grew — to 29 nations, with each new entrant committed to democracy, individual liberty and the rule of law — freedom flourished.

That’s not just good for Europe. It’s also good for the U.S. America no longer rushes troops overseas to die on European battlefields every generation, and the European Union is now our largest trading partner. As Defense Secretary James Mattis put it during his Senate confirmation: “If we did not have NATO today, we would need to create it.”

Someone needs to tell that to Mattis’ boss, President Donald Trump. Despite Trump’s relentless carping about burden-sharing, the alliance has invoked its collective-defense provision just once in almost 70 years: to defend America after 9/11. NATO forces, fighting alongside U.S. troops in Afghanistan, paid their commitment in blood, suffering a thousand battlefield deaths in the years since.

Bipartisan support for NATO is so strong that a Senate resolution supporting the alliance passed 97-2 on Tuesday.

 

Russian Special Forces Just Practiced Invading an Island Near Finland

Russian Special Forces Just Practiced Invading an Island Near Finland (Source defenseone.com)

A group of Russian special operations forces parachuted onto the island of Gogland in a Russian-controlled portion of the Gulf of Finland. They hid their parachutes, journeyed deep into the interior, and destroyed a series of mock communications stations, radars and ASM batteries. They then prepped a landing site for a helicopter escape — despite the fact that the island already has a helipad. The troops jumped from a Mi-8AMTSH helicopter at an altitude of 2,500 meters, and used satellite navigation equipment to guide them to their landing site, notes a July 10 press release on the drill from the Russian Ministry of Defense. The soldiers that took part in the exercise had “not less than a hundred jumps with parachutes of various types,” it said. Aki Heikkinen, who curates Russianmilitarywatch.com, pointed out that Gogland, seized by Russia in 1944, is just 24 miles from the Finnish city of Kotka. “Make no mistake, making this very public is a sure message,” he said on Twitter.

In May, Russia staged a submarine missile exercise off the Finnish coast. It’s one more chapter in the chronicle of worsening relations between Russia and various Baltic states, which have gone downhill since Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea and its attacks on Ukraine. In 2016, Russian President Vladimir Putin threatened that if Finland joined NATO, it might have to “fight with Russia until the last Finnish soldier.”

Last December, the Finnish Defense Ministry accused the Russians of violating its airspace with a Russian transport plane. 

 

HEAVY AFRICAN DUST HAS ARRIVED IN HOUSTON

HEAVY AFRICAN DUST HAS ARRIVED IN HOUSTON AND IT COULD IMPACT YOUR HEALTH (Source dailyhoustonnews.com) A large dust cloud from Africa’s Sahara Desert keeps blowing into Texas, and the thickest part of the cloud is now here in Houston. Satellite imagery shows the cloud stretching 5,000 miles from Africa across the Atlantic and into Texas.

Meteorologists are monitoring the latest NASA projections that predict the flow of this dusty air. The expectation is to see an increase in the dust tonight and Saturday, keeping the sky a hazy gray all day. Meteorologist Travis Herzog says most of these fine dust particles will stay suspended thousands of feet above ground, turning the sky a hazy gray. For most of you, that’s the only difference you’ll notice, but some of you may encounter respiratory issues.

A portion of this microscopic dust, known as particulate matter, does reach the ground and can penetrate deep into our lungs. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, studies have shown chemical contaminants and microorganisms can also survive the trek across the Atlantic, but few studies have been conducted on the impact to human health.

Sensitive individuals with asthma, allergies, and other lung conditions may notice flare ups over the weekend, especially after prolonged outdoor exposure. Other sensitive groups include the elderly, young children, and pets. If you are concerned about the impact to your health, consider limiting your time outside over the weekend, especially Saturday.

Travis says the dust cloud will thin out starting Sunday, with noticeable improvements by July 4th as Gulf moisture generates thunderstorms to help clean out the air.

There is a seasonal cycle to when African dust clouds can reach Houston. Travis says they normally track through our sky in May, June, and July.

 

 

360,000+ Americans with tax debt may be denied passports

360,000+ Americans with tax debt may be denied passports (Source RT) Hundreds of thousands of US citizens may have to scrap their holiday plans, the Internal Revenue Service said, as it is enforcing a law allowing authorities to revoke and deny passports to those owing over $51,000 in unpaid taxes. Some 362,000 people may fall under the scope of the 2015 law as early as the end of this year, the Wall Street Journal reported on Friday, citing an IRS spokesperson.

The Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act, which became a law in December 2015, allows the State Department and the IRS to refuse to issue passports to those with “seriously delinquent” debts that are defined as “an unpaid, legally enforceable federal tax liability” of more than $51,000, including interest and penalties. That rule envisions denying first-time passport applications, as well as the renewal of the travel document. In a worst-case scenario, a valid passport can be revoked by the State Department.

However, an IRS representative told the publication in June that the authorities have not gone that far as of yet and, for now, they have contented themselves with simply denying applications. It’s not known how many tax debtors have already seen their travel plans ruined, with the State Department saying that it has already denied some applications. The IRS, meanwhile, said that the process of alerting the State Department about individuals with outstanding debts is in full swing and should be completed by the end of the year.

China Steals Secrets Behind Apple’s Self-Driving Car

China Steals Secrets Behind Apple’s Self-Driving Car (Source Zero Hedge) The US has arrested a former Apple employee who allegedly tried to leave with sensitive proprietary information from the company’s closely guarded self-driving car project, according to the Financial Times. Xiaolang Zhang, who had recently left his position at Apple under suspicious circumstances, was arrested by FBI agents as he tried to board a plane bound for mainland China. Zhang joined Apple in December 2015, and was arrested on July 7. US prosecutors allege that he had downloaded sensitive information about the company’s self-driving car research without permission. During his time at the company, Zhang worked “to develop software and hardware for use in autonomous vehicles.”

The charges against Zhang represent the latest in a series of arrests made by federal authorities of Chinese spies carrying out what the US government calls “economic espionage” that date back to 2006.

And with President Trump intensifying efforts to stop China from extracting intellectual property from foreign corporate partners trying to gain a foothold in Chinese markets, it’s hardly surprising that China is stepping up its espionage programs.Zhang initially aroused suspicion when he told Apple that he would be returning to China to take a job with Xiaopeng Motors, a Chinese electric-car startup that also has offices in the Bay Area.

The complaint against Mr Zhang said about 5,000 of Apple’s 135,000 full-time employees have security clearance for Titan, although that figure may include staff across the company working on artificial intelligence technology, as well as hundreds of people working on the car project itself.

Mr Zhang allegedly told Apple on April 30 that he intended to resign after returning from paternity leave. He told his supervisor he was moving back to China to be closer to his mother, who he said was ill. Later in the meeting, he said he intended to work for XMotors, according to the filing on Tuesday.

His comments apparently raised the suspicions of his supervisor. Mr Zhang was asked to turn over his Apple-owned devices and escorted from its campus, his network and building access revoked, the filing said.

Apple began an internal investigation and allegedly found he had downloaded information about its autonomous vehicle project. CCTV footage showed he had also taken a large box from Apple’s self-driving car lab shortly before informing his supervisor about his resignation, the US government claimed.

 

First of Its kind University study proves without a doubt that your phone is spying on you

FIRST OF ITS KIND UNIVERSITY STUDY PROVES WITHOUT A DOUBT THAT YOUR PHONE IS SPYING ON YOU (Source blacklistednews.com)

For years, conspiracy theories about smart phones listening to users without their permission to show them advertisements have abounded. While some researchers have shown this could happen, a first of its kind study just found something far more insidious. Academics at Northeastern University have just proven that your phone is recording your screen—as in taking video—and uploading it to third parties. For the last year, Elleen Pan, Jingjing Ren, Martina Lindorfer, Christo Wilson, and David Choffnes ran an Android apps using ten different phones. Their findings were alarming, to say the least.

As Gizmodo points out, during the study, the researchers started to see that screenshots and video recordings of what people were doing in apps were being sent to third party domains. For example, when one of the phones used an app from GoPuff, a delivery start-up for people who have sudden cravings for junk food, the interaction with the app was recorded and sent to a domain affiliated with Appsee, a mobile analytics company. The video included a screen where you could enter personal information—in this case, their zip code.

GoPuff did not disclose in its terms of use that its app was recording users screens and uploading this data to a third party. What’s more, when they were contacted by the researchers GoPuff merely added a disclosure to their policy acknowledging that “ApSee” might receive users PII.

The fact that these apps can record your screen without you knowing and use this data is chilling. It illustrates how easy it would be for a malicious actor to be able to look at your private messages, personal information, passwords, photos, and videos. None of this is stopped by your phone’s security either as it is a function built into the apps and you don’t have an option to disallow it.

According to Gizmodo, the researchers will be presenting their work at the Privacy Enhancing Technology Symposium Conference in Barcelona next month.