Category Archives: Government

Special Apointee To Investigate Trump ties To Russia 

By: Joseph Tanfani, Noah Bierman and Brian Bennett Of L.A Times 

The Justice Department on Wednesday named a special counsel, former FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III, to take over the investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 election and possible collusion between Russian agents and associates of President Trump.
The move heightened the legal and political stakes for the president and his young administration. It came after days of allegations against Trump raised new questions about whether administration officials could oversee an inquiry that has the president at its center.
“My decision is not a finding that crimes have been committed or that prosecution is warranted,” Deputy Atty. Gen. Rod Rosenstein said in announcing the appointment. “I have made no such determination.”
But, he said, a special counsel is necessary in order for the “American people to have full confidence in the outcome” of the investigation.
“The public interest requires me to place this investigation under the authority of a person who exercises a degree of independence from the normal chain of command,” Rosenstein wrote.
The president, in a statement, reiterated his insistence that he is innocent of wrongdoing. 
“As I have stated many times, a thorough investigation will confirm what we already know – there was no collusion between my campaign and any foreign entity,” Trump said.
“I look forward to this matter concluding quickly. In the meantime, I will never stop fighting for the people and the issues that matter most to the future of our country.”
Rosenstein, who is overseeing the Russia investigation because Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions recused himself, did not inform either the White House or Sessions about the decision until after he had signed the order appointing Mueller, according to a Justice Department spokesperson who spoke on condition of anonymity.

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A Cable Survey Shows Majority Of Americans Prefer Net Neutrality 

By: Joe Brodkin of Ars Technica

As US cable companies push to eliminate or change net neutrality rules, the industry’s primary lobby group today released the results of a survey that it says shows “strong bipartisan consensus that the government should let the Internet flourish without imposing burdensome regulations.”
But proponents of keeping the current rules can find plenty to like in the survey conducted by NCTA—The Internet & Television Association. A strong majority of the 2,194 registered American voters in the survey support the current net neutrality rules that prohibit ISPs from blocking, throttling, or prioritizing online content in exchange for payment. While most opposed price regulation, a majority supported an approach in which regulators take action against ISPs on a case-by-case basis when consumers are harmed—the exact same approach the Federal Communications Commission uses under its existing net neutrality regime.

About 61 percent of respondents either “strongly” or “somewhat” support net neutrality rules that say ISPs “cannot block, throttle, or prioritize certain content on the Internet.” Only 18 percent oppose net neutrality, as the rest don’t know what it is or had no opinion.

Technically, this doesn’t contradict the official position of major cable companies like Comcast and Charter. These companies say they support the core net neutrality rules, while merely opposing the FCC’s use of its common carrier authority under Title II of the Communications Act to enforce them. But the net neutrality rules imposed in 2015 depend on Title II because of a 2014 court decision that prevented the FCC from enforcing the rules without reclassifying ISPs as Title II common carriers.
Support for protecting consumers
The first slide in the NCTA survey results trumpets broad support for “light touch” regulation. But instead of signaling broad opposition to Title II, the wording of the question shows that Americans support an approach that’s consistent with the one taken by the FCC’s then-Democratic leadership in 2015 (and which the FCC’s current Republican leadership wants to overturn).
The survey asked, “When it comes to the role of the federal government in regulating access to the Internet, which of the following comes closest to your view, even if none are exactly right?” Just 12 percent answered that “the government should have the ability to set specific prices, terms, and conditions for Internet access,” while 53 percent said, “the government should have a light-touch approach to the Internet that allows regulators to monitor the marketplace and take action if consumers are harmed.” The only other option people could choose was, “the government should not regulate the Internet at all.”

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Trump Claims It Was His Right To Divulge Sensitive Information To Russia 

By: the BBC

US media reports said he had shared material that was passed on by a partner that had not given permission.

The White House refused to comment on reports that Israel was the source.

Though not illegal, Mr Trump’s alleged gaffe is seen as a breach of trust by many in the intelligence community.

Mr Trump met Sergei Lavrov last week in the Oval Office, out of view of the US media.

Leading Republicans and Democrats have voiced concerns over what was said, with top Senate Democrat leader Chuck Schumer calling for the transcripts to be released by the White House.

The US Senate Intelligence Committee has also asked for copies of any notes taken in the meeting. CIA Director Mike Pompeo is due to brief the committee later.

Mr Trump’s alleged disclosures are not illegal, as the US president has the authority to declassify information.

What was the president’s defence?

Mr Trump tweeted: “As President I wanted to share with Russia (at an openly scheduled W.H. meeting) which I have the absolute right to do, facts pertaining to terrorism and airline flight safety.

“Humanitarian reasons, plus I want Russia to greatly step up their fight against [IS] & terrorism.”

It is not clear if Mr Trump was acknowledging having shared intelligence secrets with the Russian officials, thus contradicting White House statements, or whether he was simply trying to explain what had been discussed.

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Is The NSA At fault For The WannaCry Ransom Ware?

By: Chris O’Brien 

A Microsoft executive sharply criticized a U.S. spy agency Sunday for its role in weaponizing a weakness in Windows and allowing it to be stolen by hackers and used to launch history’s largest ransomware attack.

“This attack provides yet another example of why the stockpiling of vulnerabilities by governments is such a problem,” Brad Smith, president and chief legal officer at Microsoft, wrote in the wake of the “WannaCry” computer virus attack, which crippled computers worldwide.

He compared it to the U.S. military having some of its Tomahawk missiles stolen. “And this most recent attack represents a completely unintended but disconcerting link between the two most serious forms of cybersecurity threats in the world today — nation-state action and organized criminal action,” he added.

Smith’s criticism comes as the virus continues to spread around the globe, despite the efforts of companies, governments and security experts. Europe’s leading police agency said Sunday that the computer virus had reached an “unprecedented level,” claiming 200,000 victims and spreading to at least 150 countries.

With employees returning to work Monday, there were fears that more infections will be discovered. And there were also reports that new variations of the virus were appearing.

In an interview with Britain’s ITV, Europol Director Rob Wainwright said a cross-border investigation would be necessary to track down the culprits.

“It is unlikely to be just be one person, I think,” he told ITV.

The fast-moving virus, which first hit Friday, exploits a vulnerability in the Windows operating system that had been discovered by the U.S. National Security Agency. That information was stolen by hackers and published online.
In his response, Smith highlighted the work Microsoft has done to improve the security of its products, long a target of criticism in the security community. He said the company now has 3,500 security engineers, many of whom now act as “first responders” in such cases.

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German Soldier Caught In Plotting False Flag Attempt 

By: The BBC

The man, a soldier, is accused of conspiring with another army officer who had falsely registered as a Syrian refugee, and a student.

The suspected right-wing extremists wanted to frame refugees for the attack, say prosecutors.

Their alleged targets included former German president Joachim Gauck and Justice Minister Heiko Maas.

The affair has sparked a national debate about right-wing extremism in Germany’s armed forces.

On Sunday, inspections were ordered at every army barracks after Nazi-era memorabilia were found at two of them.

But last week German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen provoked anger after using the alleged plot to accuse the army of an attitude problem.

politician flanked by military peopleImage copyrightEPA

Image caption

Last week German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen (C) toured the barracks in France where the two arrested men were stationed together

German authorities have made another arrest linked to an alleged plot to murder a senior public figure.

The man, a soldier, is accused of conspiring with another army officer who had falsely registered as a Syrian refugee, and a student.

The suspected right-wing extremists wanted to frame refugees for the attack, say prosecutors.

Their alleged targets included former German president Joachim Gauck and Justice Minister Heiko Maas.

The affair has sparked a national debate about right-wing extremism in Germany’s armed forces.

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On Sunday, inspections were ordered at every army barracks after Nazi-era memorabilia were found at two of them.

But last week German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen provoked anger after using the alleged plot to accuse the army of an attitude problem.

Germany hate crime: Nearly 10 attacks a day on migrants in 2016

German defence minister von der Leyen under fire for criticising army

On Tuesday, German police detained 27-year-old “Maximilian T” in Kehl, across the Rhine river from the French city of Strasbourg.

“The accused is strongly suspected of planning a severe act of violence against the state out of a right-wing extremist conviction,” the prosecutor’s office said in a statement.

‘Failed policy’

The man was stationed at a barracks in France, alongside another man who was arrested in April, 28-year-old “Franco A”.

He was arrested in April, after police discovered he had registered as a Syrian refugee at a shelter in central Germany in December 2015 and later officially requested political asylum in Bavaria.

A student, 24, named as “Mathias F” has also been arrested.

The three “planned an attack against a high-ranking politician or public figure who was supportive of what the accused saw as the failed immigration and refugee affairs policies”, prosecutors said.

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Grand Jury Subpoenas Issued To Associates Of Michael Flynn

By:  Evan Perez, Shimon Prokupecz and Pamela Brown, of CNN

Washington (CNN)Federal prosecutors have issued grand jury subpoenas to associates of former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn seeking business records, as part of the ongoing probe of Russian meddling in last year’s election, according to people familiar with the matter. CNN learned of the subpoenas hours before President Donald Trump fired FBI director James Comey.

The subpoenas represent the first sign of a significant escalation of activity in the FBI’s broader investigation begun last July into possible ties between Trump campaign associates and Russia.
The subpoenas issued in recent weeks by the US Attorney’s Office in Alexandria, Virginia, were received by associates who worked with Flynn on contracts after he was forced out as director of the Defense Intelligence Agency in 2014, according to the people familiar with the investigation.

Robert Kelner, an attorney for Flynn, declined to comment. The US Attorney’s Office in Alexandria, the Justice Department and the FBI also declined to comment.

Investigators have been looking into possible wrongdoing in how Flynn handled disclosures about payments from clients tied to foreign governments including Russia and Turkey, US officials briefed on the matter have told CNN.

The Flynn inquiry is one piece of the broader investigation, which FBI Director James Comey testified in a Senate hearing last week is led jointly by the Alexandria US Attorney’s Office and the Justice Department’s National Security Division.

Flynn was forced to resign as Trump’s national security advisor in February after failing to disclose the nature of phone discussions with Russia’s ambassador in Washington, Sergey Kislyak.

Congressional investigators have also accused Flynn of possibly breaking the law by not properly disclosing a $45,000 payment for an appearance he made at an event in Moscow to celebrate Russia Today. The Russian government-funded news outlet that US intelligence agencies say played a key role in disseminating stolen emails intended to damage the candidacy of Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election.

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Trump Fires James Comey 

By: MICHAEL D. SHEAR and MATT APUZZO of The New York Times

President Trump has fired the director of the F.B.I., James B. Comey, over his handling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails, the White House said on Tuesday.

Mr. Comey was leading an investigation into whether members of the Trump campaign colluded with Russia to influence the 2016 election.

“While I greatly appreciate you informing me, on three separate occasions, that I am not under investigation, I nevertheless concur with the judgment of the Department of Justice that you are not able to effectively lead the bureau,” Mr. Trump said in a letter to Mr. Comey dated Tuesday.

“It is essential that we find new leadership for the F.B.I. that restores public trust and confidence in its vital law enforcement mission,” Mr. Trump wrote.

Officials at the F.B.I. said they were not immediately aware of Mr. Comey’s dismissal, which Mr. Trump described as effective immediately.

In a separate letter released at the White House, Mr. Spicer said that the president informed the director that he has been “terminated and removed from office.”

Memos released by the White House show that Rod J. Rosenstein, the newly sworn-in deputy attorney general, that recommended Mr. Comey be fired over how he disclosed the investigation into Mrs. Clinton.

Mr. Comey broke with longstanding tradition and policies by discussing the case and chastising the Democratic presidential nominee’s “careless” handling of classified information. Then, in the campaign’s final days, Mr. Comey announced that the F.B.I. was reopening the case, a move that earned him widespread criticism.

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EPA Removes Scientific Board And Seeks To Replace Them With Industry Minded Individual 

By: Oliver Milman of The Guardian 

The Environmental Protection Agency has “eviscerated” a key scientific review board by removing half its members and seeking to replace them with industry-aligned figures, according to the board’s chair.

Scott Pruitt, the EPA administrator, has chosen not to renew the terms of nine of the 18-member board of scientific counselors, which advises the EPA on the quality and accuracy of the science it produces. The group, largely made up of academics, is set to be replaced by representatives from industries that the EPA regulates.

Deborah Swackhamer, chair of the board, said that with other planned departures, the panel was left with five members, including her, in the midst of an EPA hiring freeze.
“The committee has been eviscerated,” she told the Guardian. “We assumed these people would be renewed and there was no reason or indication they wouldn’t be. These people aren’t Obama appointees, they are scientific appointees. To have a political decision to get rid of them was a shock.”

The nine departing members – who worked on matters including toxic water pollution, climate change and chemical safety – all completed three-year terms. The decision to not renew those terms has opened the way for the Trump administration to refashion the scientific board in line with its industry-friendly agenda that has sought to strip away various pollution rules in the name of “regulatory certainty”.

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Asian Influenza Virus Has The Potential Of Being The Next Global Pandemic

By: The CDC ( Center Of Disease Control )

Human infections with an Asian lineage avian influenza A (H7N9) virus (“Asian H7N9”) were first reported in China in March 2013. Annual epidemics of sporadic human infections with Asian H7N9 viruses in China have been reported since that time. China is currently experiencing its 5th epidemic of Asian H7N9 human infections. This is the largest annual epidemic to date. As of May 1, 2017, the World Health Organization (WHO) has reported 623 human infections with Asian H7N9 virus during the 5th epidemic, making it the largest annual epidemic to date. This brings the total cumulative number of human infections with Asian lineage H7N9 reported by WHO to 1,421. Additional infections have been reported, but not yet publically announced by WHO. During epidemics one through four, about 40 percent of people confirmed with Asian H7N9 virus infection died.
Epidemiology
Most human infections with avian influenza viruses, including Asian H7N9 virus, have occurred after exposure to poultry; Asian H7N9 viruses continue to circulate in poultry in China. Most reported patients with H7N9 virus infection have had severe respiratory illness (e.g., pneumonia). Rare instances of limited person-to-person spread of this virus have been identified in China, but there is no evidence of sustained person-to-person spread. Some human infections with Asian H7N9 have been reported outside of mainland China, but most of these infections have occurred among people who had traveled to mainland China before becoming ill. Asian H7N9 viruses have not been detected in people or birds in the United States.
CDC Risk Assessment
While the current risk to the public’s health posed by Asian H7N9 virus is low, the pandemic potential of this virus is concerning. Influenza viruses constantly change and it is possible that this virus could gain the ability to spread easily and sustainably among people, triggering a global outbreak of disease (i.e., a pandemic). In fact, of the novel influenza A viruses that are of special concern to public health, Asian lineage H7N9 virus is rated by the Influenza Risk Assessment Tool (IRAT) as having the greatest potential to cause a pandemic, as well as potentially posing the greatest risk to severely impact public health.
It is likely that sporadic human infections with Asian H7N9 virus associated with poultry exposure will continue to occur in China. There is also a possibility of Asian H7N9 virus spreading to poultry in neighboring countries and human infections associated with poultry exposure may be detected in neighboring countries. Asian H7N9 infections may continue to be detected among travelers returning from countries where this virus is present. However, as long as there is no evidence of ongoing, sustained person-to-person spread, the public health risk assessment would not change substantially.

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Philippines To Impeach Duterte

By:Llanesca T Panti of Manila Times

Impeachment proceedings against President Rodrigo Duterte are expected to start on May 15 but numbers in the House of Representatives are not yet enough to impeach him, an opposition lawmaker said yesterday.

Rep. Gary Alejano of Magdalo party-list made the admission pending referral of his impeachment complaint to the House Committee on Justice.

Alejano accused Duterte of betrayal of public trust and culpable violation of the Constitution in connection with the allegedly over 7,000 killings committed during the administration’s eight-month long anti-drug war, failure to assert sovereign rights of the country in the South China Sea and ownership of undeclared wealth of P2bn, among others.

“Our impeachment complaint should be referred to the appropriate committee first, and copies (of the complaint) are to be secured for the members of the justice committee. What I have heard around is that the hearing will start on May 15,” Alejano said in a radio interview.

“As of this point, I must be honest, we don’t have the numbers. There are those who expressed their support, and there were lots of them, but it all boils down to how many of them will stand up for their support,” he added.

Under the Philippine Constitution, a verified complaint for impeachment – meaning anything filed by a member of the House of Representatives or by any citizen upon a resolution of endorsement by a House member – should be included in the Order of Business within 10 session days, and referred to the House justice panel within three session days thereafter.

The same Constitution provides that the justice panel, “after hearing and by a majority vote of all its members, will then submit its report to the House within 60 session days from such referral, together with the corresponding resolution. The resolution shall be calendared for consideration by the House within 10 session days from receipt thereof.”

But if at least 98 or one-third of the members of the House would support the impeachment complaint, the respondent, in this case the president, will outrightly face trial before the Senate impeachment court even without conducting committee hearings similar to what happened in the case of then-Chief Justice Renato Corona in 2012.

If the House justice committee finds Alejano’s complaint insufficient in form and substance, all will not be lost for him since majority of the lawmakers, in a plenary vote, must uphold the committee report dismissing the impeachment complaint for the complaint to be officially junked.

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