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Category Archives: North America

The CIA secretly bought a company that sold encryption devices across the world. Then its spies sat back and listened

For more than half a century, governments all over the world trusted a single company to keep the communications of their spies, soldiers and diplomats secret.

The company, Crypto AG, got its first break with a contract to build code-making machines for U.S. troops during World War II. Flush with cash, it became a dominant maker of encryption devices for decades, navigating waves of technology from mechanical gears to electronic circuits and, finally, silicon chips and software.

The Swiss firm made millions of dollars selling equipment to more than 120 countries well into the 21st century. Its clients included Iran, military juntas in Latin America, nuclear rivals India and Pakistan, and even the Vatican.

But what none of its customers ever knew was that Crypto AG was secretly owned by the CIA in a highly classified partnership with West German intelligence. These spy agencies rigged the company’s devices so they could easily break the codes that countries used to send encrypted messages.

The decades-long arrangement, among the most closely guarded secrets of the Cold War, is laid bare in a classified, comprehensive CIA history of the operation obtained by The Washington Post and ZDF, a German public broadcaster, in a joint reporting project.

The account identifies the CIA officers who ran the program and the company executives entrusted to execute it. It traces the origin of the venture as well as the internal conflicts that nearly derailed it. It describes how the United States and its allies exploited other nations’ gullibility for years, taking their money and stealing their secrets.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2020/world/national-security/cia-crypto-encryption-machines-espionage/

 
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Posted by on February 14, 2020 in North America, Reportages

 

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Trump’s Talk Could Mean War

Even some of Donald Trump’s Republican supporters in the Senate did not doubt that the US president extorted a vulnerable ally to help him get re-elected in November by smearing a political rival. To be sure, they avoided using the word extortion. But, as Lamar Alexander, a senator from Tennessee, put it in a carefully worded statement: “It was inappropriate for the President to ask a foreign leader to investigate his political opponent and to withhold United States aid to encourage that investigation.”

https://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/trump-bluster-triggers-war-with-china-by-ian-buruma-2020-02

 
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Posted by on February 14, 2020 in Asia, North America

 

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The Pundits Wrote Off Bernie’s Candidacy. In Iowa and New Hampshire, He Proved Them Wrong.

Goodbye, Joe Biden.

Bernie Sanders is now the undisputed frontrunner in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Last week, in the Iowa caucuses, Sanders won the popular vote by a clear margin in both the first and second rounds.

On Monday, he took the lead in a national Quinnipiac University poll for the first time in the 2020 Democratic race.

And yesterday, in New Hampshire, Sanders won with a narrow victory over former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg. Biden came in fifth.

What a difference a year makes. When he launched his second presidential campaign, in February 2019, the independent senator from Vermont was mocked and written off by much of the pundit class. The Washington Post’s Henry Olsen called him a “one-hit wonder,” adding: “After a few concerts that attract ever more ‘selective’ audiences, he will likely drop out and retire, his influence consigned to history.” (On Monday night, a whopping 7,500 people turned out for a Sanders rally headlined by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, as well as rock band The Strokes, in Durham, New Hampshire.)

https://theintercept.com/2020/02/12/bernie-sanders-iowa-new-hampshire/

 
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Posted by on February 14, 2020 in North America, Uncategorized

 

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Trump and Netanyahu have made Mideast peace an even more distant prospect

THE MIDEAST peace plan that President Trump unveiled at the White House Tuesday amounts, as a practical matter, to another one-sided gift to the right-wing Israeli government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Mr. Trump promised U.S. recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Jordan Valley and all of the settlements Israel has constructed in the West Bank — a radical shift in a half-century-old American policy.

Mr. Netanyahu, who gleefully pledged to immediately “apply Israeli law to all areas the plan recognizes,” reciprocated by calling Mr. Trump “the greatest friend Israel has ever had in the White House.” Mr. Trump can be expected to flog that endorsement as he seeks reelection this year. Mr. Netanyahu, in turn, will present himself to Israeli voters in a March election as the leader who extracted once-unimaginable concessions from Washington. Both leaders can hope to distract from ongoing scandals: Mr. Trump from his impeachment trial and Mr. Netanyahu from his indictment Tuesday on corruption charges.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/global-opinions/trumps-mideast-peace-plan-is-a-one-sided-gift-to-netanyahu/2020/01/28/43708452-4201-11ea-aa6a-083d01b3ed18_story.html

 
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Posted by on February 4, 2020 in Middle East, North America

 

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Trump’s ‘deal of the century’ is so absurd it’s impossible to take it seriously

When the two old political fraudsters emerged at the White House this week with the most deranged, farcical tragi-comedy in Middle East history, it was difficult to know whether to laugh or cry.

The 80-page “peace” plan from the White House contained 56 references to “Vision” in its first 60 pages – and yes, with a capital V on each occasion to suggest, I guess, that this “deal of the century” was a supernatural revelation. It was not, though it might have been written by a super-Israeli.

It said goodbye to Palestinian refugees – the famous/infamous “right of return” and all who now rot in the camps of the Middle East; farewell to the old city of Jerusalem as a Palestinian capital; adieu to UNRWA, the UN relief agency. But it welcomed a permanent Israeli occupation of the West Bank and the total annexation of almost every Jewish colony built there against all international law.

https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/trump-israel-palestinian-peace-deal-century-netanyahu-middle-east-a9309396.html

 
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Posted by on January 31, 2020 in Middle East, North America

 

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The Truth About the Trump Economy

As the world’s business elites trek to Davos for their annual gathering, people should be asking a simple question: Have they overcome their infatuation with US President Donald Trump?

Two years ago, a few rare corporate leaders were concerned about climate change, or upset at Trump’s misogyny and bigotry. Most, however, were celebrating the president’s tax cuts for billionaires and corporations and looking forward to his efforts to deregulate the economy. That would allow businesses to pollute the air more, get more Americans hooked on opioids, entice more children to eat their diabetes-inducing foods, and engage in the sort of financial shenanigans that brought on the 2008 crisis.

Today, many corporate bosses are still talking about the continued GDP growth and record stock prices. But neither GDP nor the Dow is a good measure of economic performance. Neither tells us what’s happening to ordinary citizens’ living standards or anything about sustainability. In fact, US economic performance over the past four years is Exhibit A in the indictment against relying on these indicators.

https://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/grim-truth-about-trump-economy-by-joseph-e-stiglitz-2020-01

 
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Posted by on January 28, 2020 in Economy, North America

 

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Virginia’s massive pro-gun rally draws big crowds, big weapons, and Alex Jones in a big armored vehicle

It had all the ingredients for a powder keg: Thousands of heavily armed protesters pissed off about proposed gun control laws, troubling online calls for violence and a new civil war, and echoes of a deadly rally that took place in the same state three years ago. But the pro-gun rally in Richmond, Virginia, on Monday did not end in violence, as many had feared. Instead, it ended with the shrill, gravelly baritone of Alex Jones’ voice, as the notorious conspiracy theorist and Infowars founder popped out of a hatch from inside an armored Infowars’ vehicle, cruising around and screaming at passersby through a megaphone.

“If they try to take our firearms,” he yelled, “1776 will commence again!”

Ever since a newly elected Democratic majority took control of Virginia’s state legislature in November, gun owners and 2nd Amendment activists have been preparing for a fight to protect the state’s gun laws, which for years—partially because the headquarters of the National Rifle Association are located in the state—have been some of the loosest in the country. The gun rights group Virginia Citizens Defense League had planned a peaceful pro-gun rally on the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday, which in Richmond happened to fall on Lobby Day, an annual day for residents to lobby lawmakers on all sorts of issues, including gun laws.

https://www.motherjones.com/politics/2020/01/virginias-massive-pro-gun-rally-draws-big-crowds-big-weapons-and-alex-jones-in-a-big-armed-vehicle/

 
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Posted by on January 28, 2020 in North America

 

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100 Women vs. Harvey Weinstein

It is true but incomplete to say that the word of one woman was not enough to bring down the law on Harvey Weinstein. The full truth is uglier; in the spring of 2015, Weinstein’s own admissions of groping a woman without her consent, first overheard by officers and then caught on tape, weren’t enough for prosecutors to bring charges.

Ambra Battilana Gutierrez was 22 when she reported to the NYPD that, earlier that day at a business meeting, the superstar Hollywood producer had grabbed her breasts and put his hands up her skirt. As she sat with special-victims detectives, Weinstein called her and police heard him acknowledge touching her breasts. Gutierrez was distraught, but she agreed to wear a wire to meet Weinstein the next day in the lobby of the Tribeca Grand, where he asked her to come to his hotel room while he took a shower. He said he wanted her to watch him shower. Gutierrez repeatedly said she wanted to leave, then demanded to know why he had groped her breasts. Weinstein replied, “Oh please, I’m sorry, just come on in … I’m used to that.”

He was also used to what happened to him after he was hauled in for questioning, which was nothing. The producer assembled a team of well-connected advocates, from Rudy Giuliani to the former chief of the Manhattan district attorney’s Sex Crimes Unit, Linda Fairstein. Tabloids battered Gutierrez’s reputation. “Page Six” referred to Weinstein as a “married dad of five” and quoted an anonymous source dismissing the case as extortion. Detectives later said prosecutors in Manhattan DA Cyrus Vance’s office grilled Gutierrez about whether she was a sex worker. Days later, they announced they would bring no charges.

https://www.thecut.com/2020/01/harvey-weinstein-case-finally-comes-to-court.html#_ga=2.227717405.1857803562.1579517763-2138284467.1579517763

 
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Posted by on January 20, 2020 in North America

 

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The US and Iran’s perpetual almost-war is unsustainable – and will end badly

Today Iran’s supreme leader Ali Khamenei gave his first Friday sermon in Tehran for eight years to an audience of thousands, as he tried to calm down the furious public reaction to the Revolutionary Guards mistakenly shooting down a Ukrainian plane carrying 176 passengers, then proceeding to lie about their responsibility for three days.

Khameinei spoke of the “cowardly” killing of General Qassem Soleimani by the US, of President Trump using the destruction of the plane to “push a poison dagger” into the backs of the Iranian people. Rhetorical flourishes like this are not going do him a lot of good with critics who see the shootdown as epitomising the incompetence, duplicity and division of his government.

But the nature of the crisis differs markedly from the way it is being portrayed abroad. For more has gone wrong than a series of blunders. Obscured amid the plaudits and denunciations directed at Soleimani and Khamenei is the fact that both men’s policies in the Middle East had become counterproductive.

https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/us-iran-war-trump-soleimani-ali-khameini-middle-east-a9289021.html

 
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Posted by on January 20, 2020 in Middle East, North America

 

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Can the President Just Kill Anyone He Wants Now?

Experts and politicians are debating if the U.S. killing of Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani and a top Iraqi militia commander on Friday was legally justified. But the strike is forcing a bigger question: If Donald Trump can get away with this, what can’t the president do?

The closest thing to a legal justification offered by the U.S. government so far is a Pentagon statement asserting that “This strike was aimed at deterring future Iranian attack plans.” According to Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley, the U.S. had “clear and unambiguous evidence“ that Soleimani was planning a stepped up “campaign of violence.”

The vagueness of that threat falls short of the traditional understanding of self-defense.

https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2020/01/trump-soleimani-iran-strike-legal-justification.html?via=recirc_recent

 
 

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