Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Donald Trump’s Many, Many, Many, Many Ties to Russia | TIME

Donald Trump’s Many, Many, Many, Many Ties to Russia | TIME

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Jeff Nesbit was the communications director to former Vice President Dan Quayle (R-IN) at the White House. He is the author of Poison Tea

His dodge is a classic magician’s trick

Russian intelligence agencies have allegedly recently digitally broken into four different American organizations that are affiliated either with Hillary Clinton or the Democratic Party since late May. All of the hacks appear designed to benefit Donald Trump’s presidential aspirations in one fashion or another.
When asked about this, and his affection for Russian president Vladimir Putin, Trump said any inference that a connection exists between the two is absurd and the stuff of conspiracy. “I have ZERO investments in Russia,” he tweeted after the Democratic National Committee was apparently hacked by Russia and the emails released by Wiki Leaks on the eve of the DNC convention to nominate Clinton as its 2016 presidential candidate.
Most of the coverage of the links between Trump and Putin’s Russia takes the GOP presidential nominee at his word—that he has lusted after a Trump tower in Moscow, and come up spectacularly short. But Trump’s dodge—that he has no businesses in Russia, so there is no connection to Putin—is a classic magician’s trick. Show one idle hand, while the other is actually doing the work.
The truth, as several columnists and reporters have painstakingly shown since the first hack of a Clinton-affiliated group took place in late May or early June, is that several of Trump’s businesses outside of Russia are entangled with Russian financiers inside Putin’s circle.
So, yes, it’s true that Trump has failed to land a business venture inside Russia. But the real truth is that, as major banks in America stopped lending him money following his many bankruptcies, the Trump organization was forced to seek financing from non-traditional institutions. Several had direct ties to Russian financial interests in ways that have raised eyebrows. What’s more, several of Trump’s senior advisors have business ties to Russia or its satellite politicians.
“The Trump-Russia links beneath the surface are even more extensive,” Max Boot wrote in the Los Angeles Times. “Trump has sought and received funding from Russian investors for his business ventures, especially after most American banks stopped lending to him following his multiple bankruptcies.”
What’s more, three of Trump’s top advisors all have extensive financial and business ties to Russian financiers, wrote Boot, the former editor of the Op Ed page of the Wall Street Journal and now a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.
Trump’s de facto campaign manager, Paul Manafort, was a longtime consultant to Viktor Yanukovich, the Russian-backed president of Ukraine who was overthrown in 2014. Manafort also has done multimillion-dollar business deals with Russian oligarchs. Trump’s foreign policy advisor Carter Page has his own business ties to the state-controlled Russian oil giant Gazprom. … Another Trump foreign policy advisor, retired Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, flew to Moscow last year to attend a gala banquet celebrating Russia Today, the Kremlin’s propaganda channel, and was seated at the head table near Putin.
But it is Trump’s financing from Russian satellite business interests that would seem to explain his pro-Putin sympathies.
The most obvious example is Trump Soho, a complicated web of financial intrigue that has played out in court. A lawsuit claimed that the business group, Bayrock, underpinning Trump Soho was supported by criminal Russian financial interests. While its initial claim absolved Trump of knowledge of those activities, Trump himself later took on the group’s principal partner as a senior advisor in the Trump organization.
“Tax evasion and money-laundering are the core of Bayrock’s business model,” the lawsuit said of the financiers behind Trump Soho. The financing came from Russian-affiliated business interests that engaged in criminal activities, it said. “(But) there is no evidence Trump took any part in, or knew of, their racketeering.”
Journalists who’ve looked at the Bayrock lawsuit, and Trump Soho, wonder why Trump was involved at all. “What was Trump thinking entering into business with partners like these?” Franklin Foer wrotein Slate. “It’s a question he has tried to banish by downplaying his ties to Bayrock.”
But Bayrock wasn’t just involved with Trump Soho. It financed multiple Trump projects around the world, Foer wrote. “(Trump) didn’t just partner with Bayrock; the company embedded with him. Bayrock put together deals for mammoth Trump-named, Trump-managed projects—two in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, a resort in Phoenix, the Trump SoHo in New York.”
But, as The New York Times has reported, that was only the beginning of the Trump organization’s entanglement with Russian financiers. Trump was quite taken with Bayrock’s founder, Tevfik Arif, a former Soviet-era commerce official originally from Kazakhstan.
“Bayrock, which was developing commercial properties in Brooklyn, proposed that Mr. Trump license his name to hotel projects in Florida, Arizona and New York, including Trump SoHo,” the Times reported. “The other development partner for Trump SoHo was the Sapir Organization, whose founder, Tamir Sapir, was from the former Soviet republic of Georgia.”
Trump was eager to work with both financial groups on Trump projects all over the world. “Mr. Trump was particularly taken with Mr. Arif’s overseas connections,” the Times wrote. “In a deposition, Mr. Trump said that the two had discussed ‘numerous deals all over the world’ and that Mr. Arif had brought potential Russian investors to Mr. Trump’s office to meet him. ‘Bayrock knew the people, knew the investors, and in some cases I believe they were friends of Mr. Arif,’ Mr. Trump said. ‘And this was going to be Trump International Hotel and Tower Moscow, Kiev, Istanbul, etc., Poland, Warsaw.’”
The Times also reported that federal court records recently released showed yet another link to Russian financial interests in Trump businesses. A Bayrock official “brokered a $50 million investment in Trump SoHo and three other Bayrock projects by an Icelandic firm preferred by wealthy Russians ‘in favor with’ President Vladimir V. Putin,’” the Times reported. “The Icelandic company, FL Group, was identified in a Bayrock investor presentation as a ‘strategic partner,’ along with Alexander Mashkevich, a billionaire once charged in a corruption case involving fees paid by a Belgian company seeking business in Kazakhstan; that case was settled with no admission of guilt.”
Trump Soho was so complicated that Bayrock’s finance chief, Jody Kriss, sued it for fraud. In thelawsuit, Kriss alleged that a primary source of funding for Trump’s big projects with Bayrock arrived “magically” from sources in Russia and Kazakhstan whenever the business interest needed funding.
There are other Russian business ties to the Trump organization as well. Trump’s first real estate venture in Toronto, Canada, was a partnership with two Russian-Canadian entrepreneurs, TorontoLife reported in 2013.
“The hotel’s developer, Talon International, is run by Val Levitan and Alex Shnaider, two Russian-Canadian entrepreneurs. Levitan made his fortune manufacturing slot machines and creating bank note validation technology, and Shnaider earned his in the post-glasnost steel trade,” it reported.
Finally, for all of his denials of Russian ties lately, Trump has boasted in the past of his many meetings with Russian oligarchs. During one trip to Moscow, Trump bragged that they all showed up to meet him to discuss projects around the globe. “Almost all of the oligarchs were in the room” just to meet with him, Trump said at the time.
And when Trump built a tower in Panama, his clients were wealthy Russians, the Washington Postreported. “Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets. We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia,” Trump’s son, Donald Jr., said at a real estate conference in 2008, according to a trade publication, eTurboNews.
The only instance that Trump acknowledges any sort of Russian financial connection is a Florida mansion he sold to a wealthy Russian. “What do I have to do with Russia?” Trump said in the wake of the DNC hack. “You know the closest I came to Russia, I bought a house a number of years ago in Palm Beach, Florida… for $40 million and I sold it to a Russian for $100 million including brokerage commissions.”
But it should be obvious to anyone trying to pay attention to these moving targets that Trump is saying one thing and doing something else. When it comes to Trump and Russia, the truth may take awhile to emerge.
Bloomberg reported in June that the Clinton Foundation was breached by Russian hackers. “The Russians may also have acquired the emails that Hillary Clinton sent as secretary of State. Putin might be holding back explosive material until October, when its release could ensure a Trump victory,” it reported.
In the 1970s, burglars broke into the Democratic National Committee headquarters in the Watergate office complex. President Richard Nixon, a Republican, was forced out of office for the White House cover up of its involvement in the DNC break in.
Now, a generation later, a digital break in to the national headquarters of one of our two major parties by a foreign adversary in order to leak information that benefits the other national party’s presidential candidate seems to be just the normal course of doing business. The Trump era, it is safe to assume, is like nothing we’ve ever seen before.
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Donald Trump's Many, Many, Many, Many Ties to Russia - TIME

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Donald Trump's Many, Many, Many, Many Ties to Russia
Russian intelligence agencies have allegedly recently digitally broken into four different American organizations that are affiliated either with Hillary Clinton or the Democratic Party since late May. All of the hacks appear designed to benefit Donald ...
The facts behind Trump's comments on Russia and UkrainePBS NewsHour
Trump Foreign Policy Adviser Traveled To Russia Prior To Changes In GOP PlatformHuffington Post
So What About Trump's Bromance With Putin and Russia?Bloomberg
USA TODAY-Business Insider
all 707 news articles »

Obama says reports that Russia hacked the DNC will not upset his relationship with Putin - Business Insider

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Business Insider

Obama says reports that Russia hacked the DNC will not upset his relationship with Putin
Business Insider
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Barack Obama said on Tuesday if Russia had engaged in hacking Democratic Party organizations it would be an issue he would discuss with President Vladimir Putin, but it would not "wildly" alter the countries' ...
Obama: DNC hack would be on 'long list' of issues with RussiaThe Hill (blog)

all 72 news articles »

Obama Says DNC Hacking Possibly by Russia Adds to Strains - Wall Street Journal

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Wall Street Journal

Obama Says DNC Hacking Possibly by Russia Adds to Strains
Wall Street Journal 

WASHINGTON—President Barack Obama said a potential U.S. determination that Russia was behind the computer breach at the Democratic National Committee wouldn't significantly impact already-strained relations between the two countries. Mr. Obama 

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Anthrax Outbreak in Russia Kills Boy, 12, and Hospitalizes Others - New York Times

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CBS News

Anthrax Outbreak in Russia Kills Boy, 12, and Hospitalizes Others
New York Times
Nikolai I. Vlasov, the deputy head of the country's s agricultural watchdog agency, said that reindeer in northern Russian had not been vaccinated against anthrax in years. He said that many infected animal carcasses were probably frozen in the area ...
Kid dies amid wild-born anthrax outbreak in RussiaCBS News
Russia anthrax outbreak affects dozens in north SiberiaBBC News
Anthrax kills one, infects 21 others as melting permafrost causes outbreak in Russia's far northABC -The Siberian Times
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news articles »

Can Turkey really turn to Russia? - Al-Monitor

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Can Turkey really turn to Russia?
Russia appears to be the main beneficiary of the July 15 attempted coup in Turkey. Moscow clearly sees a strategic opportunity for itself given the sharp increase in anti-American and anti-European sentiments in Turkey, which are being fanned by ...

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Page 2

Hillary, Russia and the consequences of recklessness: Column - USA TODAY

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Hillary, Russia and the consequences of recklessness: Column
The truth is that Russia surged in global influence from the day Barack Obama assumed the presidency and appointed Hillary Clinton as secretary of State. Their strategy of “leading from behind” enabled the Russian bear to forcefully assert itself in ...

With Russia a campaign issue, Clinton gains on foreign affairsCNN

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Glenn Beck: 'Russia Is Trying to Take Down Hillary Clinton' to 'Foment Revolution' Here - Mediaite

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Glenn Beck: 'Russia Is Trying to Take Down Hillary Clinton' to 'Foment Revolution' Here
Glenn Beck appeared on Fox News tonight to declare that America should not be underestimating what Russia is trying to do in the United States. Beck told Megyn Kelly, “Russiais trying to destabilize our political system.” “I do believe, based on their ...

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Syria Aleppo siege: Fighting rages as Russian jets strike - BBC News

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BBC News

Syria Aleppo siege: Fighting rages as Russian jets strike
BBC News
They set off a huge tunnel bomb underneath army positions in the strategic Ramouseh district. The army has been fighting back with the help of Russian air strikes to stop the rebels breaking through. Around a quarter of a million civilians are living ...
Why Did Russia Send The Terminator on a Humanitarian Mission in Syria?Daily Beast
5 dead as Russian helicopter shot down in SyriaCNN
Russia sustains its greatest loss in Syrian conflict as helicopter is shot down with five aboardLos Angeles Times
New York Times -RT
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Russia Denies Involvement in Syrian Gas Attacks - Voice of America

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Voice of America

Russia Denies Involvement in Syrian Gas Attacks
Voice of America
Russia is denying claims from Syrian rebels and human rights groups that it was behind a reported chlorine gas attack Tuesday in the same area where a Russian helicopter was shot down a day before, according to a Russian state media report. "I don't ...

Russia's operation in Syria shows military reform success - JapanRussia Beyond the Headlines
Russia rejects US criticism of Aleppo strikesAl-Arabiya
Russian Foreign Ministry Rules Out Offensive on Syria's AleppoSputnik International

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Russia's President Fights to Keep Control - STRATFOR

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Russia's President Fights to Keep Control
Russian helicopter circles the Kremlin in central Moscow. A power play is underway by elements of the security services that could jeopardize Russian President Vladimir Putin's hold on power. (VASILY MAXIMOV/AFP/Getty Images) ...

It's Obama's Fault Russia Is Now A Major Threat - The Federalist

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The Federalist

It's Obama's Fault Russia Is Now A Major Threat
The Federalist

Just as the Democratic convention in Philadelphia was being gaveled in last week, leaders of that party were exposed, through the hostile act of Russian cyber-espionage (and their partners at Wikileaks), to have worked to ensure Clinton had the backing ...

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Page 3

Russia Is Probably Meddling in the US Election—And That's No Surprise - Newsweek

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Russia Is Probably Meddling in the US Election—And That's No Surprise
Start with Russia's Chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov , who wrote that, “The role of nonmilitary means of achieving political and strategic goals has grown, and, in many cases, they have exceeded the power of weapons in their effectiveness ...
What the DNC Hack Could Mean for DemocracyThe Atlantic
Editorial: Call out Russia on cyberattacksThe Detroit News
Obama says reports that Russia hacked the DNC will not upset his relationship with PutinBusiness Insider
USA TODAY -Reuters -Slate Magazine (blog)
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American Companies Thriving In Russia: Is There Something To Be Ashamed About? - Forbes

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American Companies Thriving In Russia: Is There Something To Be Ashamed About?
Ever since the Democratic National Committee decided to turn their disdain for Bernie Sanders into disdain for Russians and Donald Trump, the New York billionaire has been seen as being in bed with Russian oligarchs and longing to cut deals in Moscow.

Senate Dems Demand That Ted Cruz Hold Hearings On Trump's Russia Comments - TPM

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Senate Dems Demand That Ted Cruz Hold Hearings On Trump's Russia Comments
Senate Democrats are urging Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) to hold hearings on comments made by Donald Trump urging Russia to hack into Hillary Clinton's email. Judiciary Committee members Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE) and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) sent ...
Dems want Cruz to investigate Trump's Russian hacking pleaPolitico
Dems ask Cruz to hold hearing on Trump's Russian hacking remarksThe Hill (blog)

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Russia may be meddling in US politics. Where is the leftwing outrage? - The Guardian

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The Guardian

Russia may be meddling in US politics. Where is the leftwing outrage?
The Guardian
The idea that Russia is meddling in the US elections on behalf of Donald Trump – fueled by reports that Russians may have hacked and leaked Democratic National Committee emails via WikiLeaks – has reignited debates about US-Russian relations.

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What's in Trump's tax returns: Russia ties, the Mob? - The Hill (blog)

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What's in Trump's tax returns: Russia ties, the Mob?
The Hill (blog)
Trump has in recent days come out in favor of abandoning America's commitments of mutual defense under our treaty with NATO, encouraged Russian intelligence services to conduct cyber warfare operations against our country in order to manipulate a ...

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A US-Russia deal in Syria would maintain a bloody status quo - New Statesman

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New Statesman

A US-Russia deal in Syria would maintain a bloody status quo
New Statesman
The shooting down of a Russian helicopter by Syrian rebels has resulted in the largest Russianloss in the war to date. A video circulated on social media purports to show locals dragging the body of one of the five crewmembers killed. Though no one ...
Russia Denies Involvement in Syrian Gas AttacksVoice of America
Syrian 'moderate rebels' used toxic gas in Aleppo attack – Russian militaryRT
Russia rejects US criticism of Aleppo strikesAl-Arabiya
Sputnik International
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Page 4

How the Coup Attempt Has Strained U.S.-Turkey Relations

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After last month's attempted military coup, the Turkish government is accusing the United States of supporting the military's failed takeover. Ceylan Yeginsu, The New York Times's Istanbul reporter, explains the tension between the countries.

Trump taunts GOP, refusing to back Ryan, McCain

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WASHINGTON (AP) - Donald Trump is openly taunting the leaders of his own party by refusing to endorse House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin and Sen. John McCain of Arizona in their GOP primaries. Yet thus far, McCain, Ryan and other Republicans who've reluctantly declared that they plan to back ...

In Libya, a New Front in the War on ISIS

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The new phase of the military campaign against the terrorist group must include a viable long-term plan to help stabilize Libya.

33 U.S. Service Members Have Contracted Zika, Pentagon Says

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Military officials said the disease had been found in men and women serving abroad, including a pregnant woman.

White House vs. ‘Homegrown Extremists’ 

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The White House press secretary, Josh Earnest, said the federal government was working to combat the recruiting efforts of organizations like the Islamic State.

Montenegro Joins NATO, Promptly Sells Saudis 300 Tonnes of Weapons For Syria 

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An arms broker who sold almost 300 tonnes of aging Yugoslav-era weapons and ammunition to Saudi Arabia says “It’s no concern of mine” if the Gulf kingdom later diverts them to Syria.

Dusica Tomovic BIRN Podgorica
Saudi Arabia’s state-of-the-art military has emerged as an unlikely buyer of Montenegro’s vast stockpiles of surplus arms and ammunition. The deals were arranged through a powerful, Montenegrin arms broker, already embroiled in controversy surrounding a questionable privatisation and allegations of sanctions-busting in Libya.
Since August 2015, Montenegro Defence Industry (MDI) has exported 250 tonnes of ammunition and 10,000 anti-tank systems to Saudi Arabia, which has no history of buying or using second-hand Eastern European and Soviet-style equipment.
The arms exported match weapons and ammunition bought by MDI in 2015 from stockpiles deemed “outdated and of no future use” for Montenegro’s small army.
Stockpile of surplus arms
With some 2.7 million euros worth of arms and ammunition exported toSaudi Arabia since 2015, Montenegro is the latest country to join a 1.2 billion-euro Central and Eastern European arms pipeline supplying weapons to countries sponsoring Syria’s opposition.
Saudi Arabia is by far the largest buyer, with more than 829 million euros in export licenses from eight European countries including Montenegro. Other buyers since the escalation of the Middle Eastern conflict in 2012 include the United Arab Emirates, Turkey and Jordan.
But arms experts believe equipment such as that sold by MDI is not destined for Saudi Arabia and is likely being diverted to Syria and, to a lesser extent, Libya or Yemen.
Pieter Wezeman of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, a leading non-governmental organisation that tracks arms exports, said: “When Saudi buys, in particular, old munition(s) in Central Europe, I would assume it is not for their own forces.”
Zoran Damjanovic, director of MDI, told reporters for Balkan Investigative Reporting Network, BIRN, and the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, OCCRP, that his firm had the necessary paperwork in place to export to Saudi Arabia. When asked if he was worried that the weapons could have been diverted to Syria, he responded: “It’s no concern of mine what happened later.”
Countries exporting weapons are supposed to verify the shipment will not end up in the hands of terrorists or others who violate human rights, but ministries interviewed by BIRN and OCCRP appear to have made little effort to complete such checks. Some experts call the shipments illegal because of the well-documented diversions in this pipeline.
Emptying Stockpiles
Formally state-owned MDI is Montenegro’s biggest arms exporter, and it is mainly involved in the sale of the country’s military stockpiles to international buyers.
The trade database of the UN reveals that between August 2015 and May 2016, Saudi Arabia received 32 tonnes of anti-tank weapons and 250 tonnes of ammunition from Montenegro, including mortar shells and bullets for anti-aircraft guns.
The shipment from MDI included 10,000 Yugoslav-era Zolja anti-tank rocket launchers, 56 mortars and nearly 500,000 mortar shells and other ammunition.
Stockpile of surplus arms
The identical equipment was bought at the Montenegrin Ministry of Defense’s yearly surplus auctions. Of the € 4.5 million worth of equipment auctioned off in 2015, MDI bought € 3.2 million.
When BIRN and OCCRP asked what checks were made to verify the weapons exported to Saudi Arabia would not be diverted to conflicts in Syria or Yemen, the Ministry of Economy, which grants arms export licences, responded that the Foreign Ministry checks the validity of end-user certificates “on the basis of the available diplomatic and consular ties.” Exports are also approved by the Interior Ministry.
The response said export licences are either approved or denied based on verification and due diligence checks, but, when asked, they did not provide details of any assessments that were carried out in the 2015 exports. The Foreign Ministry did not respond to a request for comment.
Damjanovic, director of MDI, told BIRN and OCCRP that Western countries, mainly NATO and European Union members, had exported weapons worth billions to Saudi Arabia in the past six months. He said Montenegrin exports are a “statistical error” compared to other countries.
Montenegro’s Ministry of the Economy also confirmed that Nikolas, a second arms based in the coastal town of Herceg Novi, obtained one license to export 2,200 mortar shells to Saudi Arabia.
Nikolas did not respond to requests for a comment.
“Destined for Syria, Yemen and Libya”
Jeremy Binnie, arms expert and Middle East and Africa editor at Jane’s Defence Weekly magazine, said that weapons of the type sold by MDI are likely diverted to Syria, and to a lesser extent Yemen and Libya.
“With a few exceptions, the militaries of Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and the UAE and Turkey use Western infantry weapons and ammunition, rather than Soviet-designed counterparts,” said Binnie. “It, consequently, seems likely that large shipments of such materiel being acquired by – or sent to – those countries are destined for their allies in Syria, Yemen, and Libya.”
Questionable Privatisation
In February of 2015, MDI was sold to a consortium of two controversial companies –Israel’s ATL Atlantic Technology and Serbia’s CPR Impex.
Muller was arrested on a Belgium-issued Interpol Red Notice just hours after leaving the MDI privatisation ceremony in March 2015, in the Montenegrin capital Podgorica. He has since been extradited to Antwerp on charges of drug smuggling and money laundering. He denies the charges.
The privatisation prompted MANS, a non-governmental organisation based in Podgorica, to file a criminal complaint in May 2015 asking for an investigation into suspected violations of laws and procedures.
As for CPR Impex, one of the region’s most important arms brokers, it has been a major player in sales to Saudi Arabia. It is owned by Serbian businessman Petar Crnogorac.
Crnogorac was arrested in July 2014 by Serbian police on charges of abuse of office over a series of military tenders for surplus military equipment his company participated in between 2011 and 2013. He was accused of receiving inside information about competing bids.
The charges were subsequently dropped, but he has since been investigated by the UN for allegedly violating arms sanctions by trading with Libya.
In April of last year, the UN’s sanctions panel for Libya began probing whether Tehnoremont, a CPR Impex subsidiary, had sold weapons to Islamist fighters in Libya via MDI. The deal was allegedly brokered in December 2014 while the company was still under the auspices of the Montenegrin government. Crnogorac told BIRN that while discussions had been held on exports to Libya, no deal had been signed and as a result there had been no reason to ask permission from the UN.
In March 2016, the UN panel reported that the Montenegrin and Serbian government had received no request for exports to Libya and appears to have closed the case.
Crnogorac declined to comment on MDI’s recent exports from Montenegro to Saudi Arabia, although BIRN and OCCRP have learned that his Belgrade firm, CPR Impex, is involved in a number of deals that include selling Serbian-made arms to Saudi Arabia.
Montenegro: Stricter Rules
In June this year, Montenegro, a candidate for EU membership, adopted a new law to tighten restrictions on the arms trade in response to demands from Brussels. As a result, delivery certificates – documents that are supposed to prove equipment has reached its end user – will be subject to mandatory checks.
The law was passed, the government said, to prevent weapons ending up in conflict zones around the world.
It seems the new legislation will soon be put to the test by Saudi Arabia’s hunger for cheap Central and Eastern European arms.
This investigation is produced as a part of Paper Trail to Better Governance project.
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Page 5

Trump’s GOP has a soft spot for LGBT

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In Cleveland there was a Republican rebirth. This rebirth was not political, but principled — one that altered the soul of the GOP.

The Early Edition: August 3, 2016 

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Before the start of business, Just Security provides a curated summary of up-to-the-minute developments at home and abroad. Here’s today’s news.
Another round of US airstrikes on Tuesday has aided Libyan forces’ advance on Surt, according to US officials. This time, armed drones were used to strike Islamic State targets in the coastal city, which for the first time were launched from Jordan, report Helene Cooper and Eric Schmitt for the New York Times.
Despite US airstrikes on Surt, the battle to remove the Islamic State from Libya is likely to be long and difficult, Hassan Moraje, Maria Abi-Habib, and Paul Sonne report in the Wall Street Journal. The Islamists are entrenched in pockets throughout the country, including in Libya’s second-largest city, Benghazi, and the fight is further complicated by the competing militias and centers of power that have fueled Libya’s civil war.
The US “has compelling reasons” to engage militarily in Libya, but “the long-term effects of this latest escalation in the war against ISIS … are uncertain,” writes the New York Times editorial board.  Stabilizing Libya will require a long-term commitment, and will require dismantling militias, establishing legitimate security forces, and helping the new government to assert greater authority – a “viable goal” as Libya is “an oil-rich nation of only six million people.”
A suicide car bomb in Benghazi killed 23 and wounded dozens more yesterday. The explosion struck the al-Guwarsh area in the west of the city, an area that has seen fighting between Islamist militias and troops loyal to Libya’s eastern government. Islamist group the Shura Council of Benghazi Revolutionaries has said it was behind the explosion in a statement posted to its Twitter account. [AP;BBC]
With U.S. airstrikes in Libya representing an expansion of US military operations against the Islamic State, NBC News has obtained a map showing the global expansion of the terror group. The “heat map” is part of a classified briefing document prepared by the National Counterterrorism Center.
Syrian opposition groups are planning to escalate their offensive against government forces in Aleppo, a fighter telling Al Jazeera that a coalition of armed groups will launch shells and car bomb attacks on government-held neighborhoods in the hope of advancing and reopening a supply route into the city.
At the same time, Russian jets are intensifying their bombing, according to a rebel commander. [BBC]
Dozens of people in Syria’s northern town of Saraqeb have been affected by a suspected chemical attackgas cylinders filled with what is suspected to have been chlorine having been dropped by – according to locals – a helicopter, which would fit with the modus operandi of previous chemical attacks that were blamed on the Assad regime. This latest attack comes almost a year after a UN Security Council resolution setting a 12-month deadline to identify those responsible for chemical attacks in Syria, reports Kareem Shaheen for the Guardian.
“Once again, the Obama administration appears to have been blindsided by Mr. Putin.” Just as it was when Russia dispatched its forces to Syria last September, Russia has taken advantage of America’s “trust” in turning from the US-Russia proposal for cooperation in Syria and opting instead to join Assad in a new campaign to drive all anti-regime forces from Aleppo, in violation of a UN Security Council resolution and with disregard for the ongoing UN-sponsored political process. As usual, the US has responded “not with consequences but with new appeals for cooperation and more US concessions,” says the Washington Post editorial board.
A Czech man has been charged with trying to travel to Syria to join the Islamic State, authorities calling it the first known case of an individual from the Czech Republic attempting to do so. [New York Times’ Dan Bilefsky and Jan Richter]
British RAF jets have bombed an Islamic State training center in Mosul, Iraq, located in a palace formerly belonging to ousted dictator Saddam Husseinpart of a coordinated coalition attack on the compound, the UK’s Ministry of Defense has said, adding that initial indications suggest that the mission was successful. [BBCThe Guardian]
US-led airstrikes continue. US and coalition forces carried out seven airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Syria on August 1. Separately, partner forces conducted seven strikes against targets in Iraq. [Central Command]
“The West is supporting terrorism and taking sides with coups,” Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said yesterday during a speech before foreign investors in Ankara, once more accusing Western countries of supporting the July 15 failed coup attempt. [AP’s Suzan Fraser and Elena Becatoros; Hürriyet Daily News]
Turkey’s pro-government media seems certain that the US was responsible for the coupYeni Şafa News claims it is “evident that the CIA was playing a huge role behind the July 15 coup attempt,” and even accuses the US of attempting to assassinate President Erdoğan on the night of the coup. In a deeply polarized country, the one thing Turks across all sections of society seem to unite around is that the US is somehow implicated in the coup, report Tim Arango and Ceylan Yeginsu for the New York Times.
The head of the Council of Europe Thorbjorn Jagland arrived in Turkey today for talks with leaders and opposition officials. He is the first high-ranking European official to visit Turkey since the coup. [AP]
The offices of the national science research council were raided by Turkish police today, widening the post-coup purge of so-called Gulenists yet further, reports Reuters. Many were detained, according to local news.
The scale of Turkey’s purge is “nearly unprecedented,” report Josh Keller et al for the New York Times, who demonstrate its size by making comparison with how it would look if Americans were targeted on a similar scale.
The FBI failed to inform the Democratic National Committee it suspected it was the target of a Russian government-backed cyberattack when it first contacted the party last fall, or warn party officials that the attack was being investigated as potential Russian espionage, sources close to the issue tell Reuters. They added that the lack of disclosure prevented staffers from taking measures to reduce the amount of confidential material that was stolen.
“Prove it:” this is the Kremlin’s typical response to accusations of cyberattacks from its geopolitical foes, writes Andrew Roth in the Washington Post, pointing out that plausible deniability is one of cyberespionage’s key attractions, including for the U.S. government.
Accusations by Japan that China’s military is upsetting the military balance in the East and South China Seas have been roundly rejected by China’s defense ministry. Japan’s annual defense report makes “irresponsible remarks on China’s normal and legal national defense and military development [and] hypes up the East and South China Sea issues,” China’s defense ministry said yesterday. [AP]
The Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen’s status in relation to a UN blacklist for violating children’s rights was discussed during a UN Security Council meeting Tuesday. Reports of the outcome of the meeting are conflicting: Edith M. Lederer for the AP suggests that Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon indicated that the coalition’s removal from the list in June would be permanent, despite his “strong concerns” about the protection of children in Yemen.  Rick Gladstone at the New York Times, however, reports that Mr. Ban insisted that the review of Saudi Arabia’s original inclusion in the report was still incomplete, leaving the matter uncertain.
North Korea fired a ballistic missile into waters near Japan todaythe South Korean military has stated. A midrange Rodong missile was fired from Eunyul, in the North’s southwest, at 7:50 am. [New York Times’ Choe Sang-Hun]  Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told reporters the missile “poses a serious threat to Japan’s security and it is an unforgivable act of violence toward Japan’s security.” [NBC News’ Phil Helsel]
Bangladeshi authorities have offered cash bounties for two men suspected of planning recent Islamist terror attacks on the city, including Tamim Ahmed Chowdhury, believed to have planned the July 1 attack on the Holey Artisan Bakery. Maher Sattar and Ellen Barry report for the New York Times.
There is little to prevent governments from purchasing so-called “lawful intercept” tools – commercial spyware – to track their citizens, report Frank Bajak and Jack Gillum for the AP. A prime example is the purchase from Israeli-American company Verint Systems by the Peruvian spy service of the “Pisco” program – capable of intercepting voice calls, text messages and emails – even after a national scandal following revelations that the service had collected data on hundreds of influential Peruvians.
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Stop trusting Putin on Syria - Washington Post

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Washington Post

Stop trusting Putin on Syria
Washington Post
This cave-in to Mr. Putin would be so sweeping that some senior Obama administration officials have not concealed their doubts: In an interview with The Post's David Ignatius, Director of National Intelligence James RClapper Jr. questioned whether ...

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Obama Says Republicans Should Withdraw Support for Trump - New York Times

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Washington Post

Obama Says Republicans Should Withdraw Support for Trump
New York Times
President Obama said on Tuesday that Donald J. Trump was “woefully unprepared” to serve as president, and asked why Republicans kept distancing themselves from the candidate while still supporting him. By CBS, VIA REUTERS on Publish Date August 2 ...
Barack Obama says Donald Trump is 'unfit' to serve as presidentThe Australian Financial Review

all 628 news articles »

Donald Trump supporters firmly behind him despite feud with Muslim family - Washington Times

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Washington Times

Donald Trump supporters firmly behind him despite feud with Muslim family
Washington Times
He hammered her for continuing to claim she didn't send classified email on her private account as secretary of state, despite FBI Director James BComey recently testifying under oath that she did. “She lied, pure and simple. She only knows to lie ...
Khan confrontation keys in on human decency — and that could haunt TrumpWashington Post

Election Buzz | U.S. ELECTIONSus elections - Associated Press

Ghazala Khan: Trump criticized my silence. He knows nothing about true sacrifice.Washington Post
ABC News
all 3,620 news articles »

Turkey arrests nine Caribbean islanders attempting to join ISIS in Syria 

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Turkish police have detained nine citizens of Trinidad and Tobago who were on their way to Syria, allegedly to join the Islamic State.
Next Page of Stories
Page 6

London’s police force puts more armed officers on streets

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London's police force is putting more armed officers on the streets — a visible response to attacks by Islamic State-inspired groups in Europe.

Kremlin Dismisses Claims of Using Toxic Gas Bombs at Mi-8 Downing Site in Syria

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Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov dismissed on Tuesday accusations of toxic gas dropped in the Syrian province where a Russian helicopter was downed the previous day as an unfounded information attack.

Report: FBI was silent on Russian threat in warnings to DNC - The Hill

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The Hill

Report: FBI was silent on Russian threat in warnings to DNC
The Hill
The Federal Bureau of Investigation was quiet that the threat was Russian espionage when it warned the Democratic National Committee it should watch for unusual network activity last fall, reports say. Reuters cites anonymous sources that say the FBI ...

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Washington D.C. Transit Officer Arrested by FBI, Charged With Aiding ISIS: Officials - KTLA

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Washington D.C. Transit Officer Arrested by FBI, Charged With Aiding ISIS: Officials
A police officer with the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority was arrested Wednesday and charged with providing material support to ISIS, according to two law enforcement officials. Nicholas Young was arrested by the FBI following more than ...

FBI: 1st US Law Enforcement Officer Charged in Terror Sting - ABC News

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FBI: 1st US Law Enforcement Officer Charged in Terror Sting
ABC News
According to an FBI affidavit, Young bought nearly $250 in gift cards last month that he intended for the Islamic State to use to purchase mobile apps that would facilitate communication. But Young actually gave the gift cards to an undercover FBI source. 

Washington D.C. Transit Officer Arrested by FBI, Charged With Aiding ISIS: OfficialsKTLA
FBI Arrests Law Enforcement Officer for Material Support of ISILFederal Bureau of Investigation (press release) (blog)
DC Metro Transit Cop Arrested in FBI ISIS StingMediaite
Deutsche Welle-
 Yeshiva World News 
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 Washington DC policeman 'charged with trying to help Isis' after FBI stingThe Independent

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DNC staffers: FBI didn't tell us for months about possible Russian hack - Ars Technica

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Ars Technica

DNC staffers: FBI didn't tell us for months about possible Russian hack
Ars Technica
A report by Reuters suggests that the FBI was aware of a possibly Russian-sponsored intrusion into the network of the Democratic National Committee as early as last fall. But investigators from the FBI only initially told DNC staff that they should be ...
FBI Took Months to Tell the DNC About the RussiansGizmodo
Report: FBI Sat on Russia Suspicions in DNC Hack for MonthsLawNewz
FBI Didn't Bother Telling DNC About Russian HackDaily Caller
The Hill -Politico
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Page 7

American policeman arrested on suspicion of assisting ISIS

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August 3, 2016, 6:45 PM (IDT)
The US Justice Department announced Wednesday morning that the FBI had arrested Nicholas Young, a member of the U.S. capital's metro transit police, on suspicion of providing material support to ISIS. It did not specify what he had allegedly given to the terrorist organization, but sources close to the investigation said he had provided "stored-value cards" enabling entry to control centers of the metro, the city's subway. Young served in a unit of the Washington police responsible for the subway's security.

Telegram explains what really happened from its 'massive' hacker attack - VentureBeat

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Telegram explains what really happened from its 'massive' hacker attack
Cyber researchers shared with Reuters that Iranian hackers were able to access more than a dozen accounts on Telegram and ultimately identify phone numbers of 15 million users in the country. It's been claimed that Rocket Kitten was behind the attack, ...

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July 15 tweets pose questions on 'shadow CIA' Stratfor -

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July 15 tweets pose questions on 'shadow CIA' Stratfor
A 2012 Atlantic magazine profile of the group said, “Stratfor is not the shadow-CIA that WikiLeaks seems to believe it is,” adding, “A friend who works in intelligence once joked that Stratfor is just The Economist [magazine] a week later and several ...

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Obama's CIA Director Wants to Stick Around for Clinton - Bloomberg

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Obama's CIA Director Wants to Stick Around for Clinton
Brennan first suggested he wanted to stay on as CIA director during an NPR interview in February. He was asked what he'd like to accomplish before the next president takes office. "Well, I don't know when I will leave CIA," he answered. "There are ...

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Former CIA director fears Trump 'crisis in civil-military relationships' - Politico

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BuzzFeed News

Former CIA director fears Trump 'crisis in civil-military relationships'
The nuclear chain of command is not built for debate, former CIA Director Michael Hayden said Wednesday, warning of the consequences of a Donald Trump presidency should the Republican nominee get elected and decide to push the button. Echoing ...
Former Bush CIA Chief: Military Won't Obey Illegal Orders From TrumpBuzzFeed News

all 4 news articles »

Pentagon Claims That It Has “Lost” Over $18 Trillion, Which Probably Paid Foreign Army Payrolls 

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An increasingly impatient Congress has demanded that the Army achieve “audit readiness” for the first time by Sept. 30, 2017, so that lawmakers can get a better handle on military spending. But Pentagon watchdogs think that may be mission impossible, and for good reason.
A Department of Defense inspector general’s report released last week offered a jaw-dropping insight into just how bad the military’s auditing system is.
The Defense Finance and Accounting Service, the behemoth Indianapolis-based agency that provides finance and accounting services for the Pentagon’s civilian and military members, could not provide adequate documentation for $6.5 trillion worth of year-end adjustments to Army general fund transactions and data.
The DFAS has the sole responsibility for paying all DOD military and personnel, retirees and annuitants, along with Pentagon contractors and vendors. The agency is also in charge of electronic government initiatives, including within the Executive Office of the President, the Department of Energy and the Departing of Veterans Affairs.
There’s nothing in the new IG’s report to suggest that anyone has misplaced or absconded with large sums of money. Rather, the agency has done an incompetent job of providing written authorization for every one of their transactions – so-called “journal vouchers” that provide serial numbers, transaction dates and the amount of the expenditure.
In short, the DFAS has lagged far behind in providing the tracking information essential to performing an accurate audit of Pentagon spending and obligations, according to the IG’s report.
“Army and Defense Finance and Accounting Service Indianapolis personnel did not adequately support $2.8 trillion in third quarter adjustments and $6.5 trillion in year-end adjustments made to Army General Fund data during FY 2015 financial statement compilation,” wrote Lorin T. Venable, the assistant inspector general for financial management and reporting. “We conducted this audit in accordance with generally accepted government auditing standards.”
A further mystery is what happened to thousands of documents that should be on file but aren’t. The IG study found that DFAS “did not document or support why the Defense Departmental Reporting System . . . removed at least 16,513 of 1.3 million records during Q3 FY 2015. As a result, the data used to prepare the FY 2015 AGF third quarter and year-end financial statements were unreliable and lacked an adequate audit trail,” the IG’s report stated.
The long march-Pentagon audit chart
The troubling findings emerged from a wide-ranging audit of the capital funds and financial statements across the military services, including the Navy, the Marine Corps and the Army.
The problem is no secret to investigative reporter Scot Paltrow at Reuters, who exposed outrageous fraud and abuse in a three-part series in 2013 called, “Unaccountable.”
He wrote:
“For two decades, the U.S. military has been unable to submit to an audit, flouting federal law and concealing waste and fraud totaling billions of dollars.
Linda Woodford spent the last 15 years of her career inserting phony numbers in the U.S. Department of Defense’s accounts.
Every month until she retired in 2011, she says, the day came when the Navy would start dumping numbers on the Cleveland, Ohio DFAS…. Using the data they received, Woodford and her fellow accountants there set about preparing monthly reports to square the Navy’s books with the U.S. Treasury’s…. And every month, they encountered the same problem. Numbers were missing. Numbers were clearly wrong. Numbers came with no explanation of how the money had been spent or which congressional appropriation it came from.”
The IG has cautioned in the past that journal voucher adjustments should comply with applicable regulations, which require adequate documentation for each transaction. The June 26 IG’s report made a number of requests and suggestions that DFAS officials and the Pentagon have agreed to go comply with.
The top suggestion is the most obvious one: that DFAS enforce “the applicable guidance” periodically issued by the Under Secretary of Defense Comptroller “regarding journal voucher category identification codes and metric reporting.”
“Until the Army and DFAS Indianapolis correct these control deficiencies, there is considerable risk that AGF financial statements will be materially misstated and the Army will not achieve audit readiness by the congressionally mandated deadline of September 30, 2017,” the report warned.
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Page 8

FBI: 1st US law enforcement officer charged in terror sting

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Prosecutors have brought the first-ever federal terrorism charges against a U.S. law enforcement officer, charging a DC Metro officer with assisting ISIS.

Venezuela's Maduro Promotes General Indicted by U.S. on Drug Charges

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In an act of defiance, Venezuela’s President Nicolás Maduro appointed as the nation’s top cop a general indicted by the U.S. the day before on drug-trafficking charges.

U.K. Prepares for Possible Terror Attacks With More Armed Police

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More armed police officers will patrol the streets of London as part of a string of measures taken by the U.K. aimed at ensuring the country is prepared for the types of attacks by Islamic extremists seen elsewhere in Europe.

London Luxury House Prices Keep Falling After Brexit Vote

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High-end house prices in central London have continued to fall after the Brexit vote, according to property broker Knight Frank.

Twenty Missing After India Bridge Collapse

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About 20 people were missing after two buses plunged into a river following the collapse of an around 100-year-old bridge on one of India’s busiest roads, the latest example of the rickety state of the country’s infrastructure.

Obama administration denies Iran cash payment was ransom for prisoners

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Obama administration said on Wednesday that $400 million in cash paid to Iran soon after the release of five Americans detained by Tehran was not ransom for them as some Republicans have charged.
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Page 9

A Troll With A Cause

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One story made global headlines. One only made it onto the radar of the most obsessive Kremlin-watchers.
The solidifying consensus that Kremlin-backed Russian hackers broke into the Democratic National Committee's server -- and the subsequent data dump of embarrassing e-mails last week -- led to an avalanche of speculation that Vladimir Putin's regime was attempting to influence, or sabotage, the U.S. presidential election. 
Meanwhile, the recent announcement that Moscow was planning to host a Kremlin-sponsoredconference of separatists, and separatist wannabes, from Europe and the United States largely met with snickers and derision -- by those who even noticed it.
One story was Huge with a big capital H and sparked an FBI investigation. Slate magazine's Franklin Foer went so far as to compare the DNC hack and leak to Watergate.
The other was a footnote. Not many people were all that worried about some Texas and California separatists getting an all-expenses-paid trip to Moscow.
But despite the differences in magnitude, both are examples of the how the Putin regime is trolling the West in ways big and small. 
The Kremlin has long been using what it calls "active measures" in Europe and the United States to undermine faith in Western values and democratic institutions. It has long had a strategy of sowing chaos, division, and confusion in the West. And it has long sought to propagate nihilism.
Putin is a "wily opportunist who knows how to seize and exploit openings when they present themselves," said Jason Willick in The American Interest
"He does what he can to move democratic opinion in Western countries whenever possible towards the forces that are most divisive, in a bid to divide Western allies and weaken Western institutions."
But this is not just trolling for trolling's sake. It's trolling with a cause.
I Know You Are But What Am I?
At one level, the Putin regime is doing what it believes the West is doing.
Russian officials say -- and appear to truly believe -- that the the West has been meddling in its internal affairs, sponsoring and provoking anti-Kremlin street protests, and backing separatism.
Putin has said -- and appears to truly believe -- that the massive street protests that erupted in late 2011 and early 2012 were the result of a "signal" from Hillary Clinton, then the U.S. Secretary of State.
The mainstream view among Kremlin officials is that the Panama Papers revelations and the Olympic doping scandal were parts of a Western plot to weaken and discredit Russia.
Several Russian officials, including most recently Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev, have repeated a bizarre and erroneous claim that former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said Russia should not be allowed to have control over Siberia's natural resources.
And of course, it is an article of faith in Moscow that Ukraine's Euromaidan revolution was a Western-backed coup.
It's easy to dismiss all this as cynical propaganda. But it appears to be more than that. Putin's Kremlin appears to believe its own hype.
"In the eyes of Russian elites, Western aggression must be met with a response," Eugene Rumer, director of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace's Russia and Eurasia Program and a former national intelligence officer for Russia and Eurasia at the U.S. National Intelligence Councilwrote in Foreign Affairs.
"Hacking into DNC computers and releasing information on the Democrats’ fundraising practices is simply payback for Western media reports about elite corruption in Russia. It helps boost the Russian narrative that money and politics go hand in hand everywhere and that Russia is no different from the United States or other Western countries whose governments are critical of Russia."
The same could be said for Moscow's tacit support for Brexit, its backing of Marine Le Pen's National Front in France, and its courtship of separatists and extremists in the United States and Europe.
But there is more at work here than just payback.
A Cyber Psy-Op?
One of the things that really jumps out about the DNC hacking case was that the perpetrators apparently wanted to be identified.
According to a report by Reuters, U.S. intelligence officials suspect that Russian hackers deliberately left behind obvious digital fingerprints, including Cyrillic characters.
"Either these guys were incredibly sloppy, in which case it’s not clear that they could have gotten as far as they did without being detected, or they wanted us to know they were Russian," an unidentified U.S. intelligence official told Reuters. 
Another described the hack as 'the cyber equivalent of buzzing NATO ships and planes using fighters with Russian flags on their tails." 
In this sense, Russia's most brazen cyberattack was something of a cyber psy-op.
And at least one of Moscow's goals is apparently to force the United States to treat it as an equal superpower.
"The Russians are messing with the United States," Olga Oliker wrote recently in The National Interest.
 "Russia’s actions are meant to center U.S. policy on itself, to recreate a bipolar global structure reminiscent of that during the Cold War."
And, if it was a big psy-op, it appears to have worked. 
Suddenly, for the first time since the Cold War, Russia occupies center stage in a U.S. election.
Suddenly, there are global headlines about the threat of Russian hackers. 
Suddenly, there are alarmist reports in the media claiming that the Kremlin could hack voting machines and alter the results of elections in Western countries.
But even if the Kremlin's trolling is one part head game, it is also a security threat that is impossible to ignore. 
"Russia’s activities...are elements of an openly stated doctrine -- a resurrection of Soviet-style political warfare, in which intelligence agencies seek to amplify divisions among their enemies, weakening the Western front by sowing discord and dissent whenever the opportunity presents itself," Eerik-Niiles Kross, a member of Estonia's parliament and a former intelligence chief, wrote in Poliitco.
"The political warfare of the Cold War is back -- in updated form, with meaner, more modern tools, including a vast state media empire in Western languages, hackers, spies, agents, useful idiots, compatriot groups, and hordes of internet trolls."
Read the whole story

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Donald Trump's top aide denies reports of campaign turmoil

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Donald Trump's top aide is denying reports of deep divisions within the campaign after a damaging series of missteps by the Republican nominee.

Former Nepal communist rebel leader elected prime minister

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Nepal’s parliament has elected a former communist rebel leader as the country’s new prime minister.

FBI: First US Law Enforcement Officer Charged in Terror Sting

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Authorities say a Washington, D.C.-area transit police officer has been charged in an FBI sting with attempting to support the Islamic State group.   The FBI says he is the first law enforcement officer in the U.S. to be charged with a terror-related crime.   Court documents say 36-year-old Nicholas Young of Fairfax was arrested Wednesday morning. According to an affidavit, Young bought nearly $250 in gift cards he intended for the Islamic State to use to purchase mobile apps...

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