Majorityrights News > Category: Australian Politics

A Dispatch From Bonn: “1.5 To Stay Alive”

Posted by DanielS on Friday, 24 November 2017 12:13.

Frontline, “A Dispatch From Bonn: “1.5 To Stay Alive”, 18 Nov 2017:


Faith Debrum, 12, is pictured near her home on the Marshall Islands. The island nation is part of an international coalition fighting to keep global temperatures from rising above 1.5 degrees Celsius. (Michelle Mizner/FRONTLINE)

BONN, Germany — One of 12-year-old Faith Debrum’s favorite hobbies is diving off the seawall in front of her house and swimming to a nearby reef in search of interesting fish. When asked how climate change might affect that hobby, she had a ready answer: “1.5 to stay alive!”

It was a phrase that my reporting partner and I heard again and again while we were in the Republic of the Marshall Islands earlier this year speaking to children like Faith about the risks climate change pose to their country’s future. “One-point-five” refers to the degrees Celsius (2.7 F) that scientists believe world temperatures can afford to rise by 2100 without making life on low-elevation island nations like the Marshall Islands nearly impossible. Researchers believe it would also keep the number of new heatwaves and heavy rains globally in check.

Beach house in Arno Atoll

“In the seminal 2015 Paris Agreement on climate, the world committed to holding global warming below 2 degrees Celsius by 2100 – but also “pursuing efforts to limit” warming to 1.5 degrees. That additional proviso was added under pressure from a “high ambition coalition” of 100 nations, which had spent years advocating for a 1.5-degree goal to be included in the agreement, and, against political odds, succeeded.

By all accounts, staving off the extra half-degree of warming will require radically new efforts – and soon. Climate experts say every year that passes without significant action will make it harder to reach the 1.5 target.

Already, temperatures have risen 1.1 degrees Celsius (2.0 F) since pre-industrial times. And, even with the Paris accord in place, temperatures are on track to surge by 3.2 degrees Celsius (5.8 F) by the end of the century. One study published this year pinned the planet’s odds of achieving 2 degrees at just 5 percent – and of achieving 1.5 at just 1 percent.

Despite seemingly unsurmountable obstacles, those who advocated for 1.5 degrees in Paris were once again advocating for it at this year’s United Nations climate negotiations in Bonn, while preparing for another major push at next year’s conference in Katowice, Poland.

The half-degree between 1.5 and 2 may seem minor, but for low-lying coastal areas, it is imperative: According to climate models, it likely means an extra 10 centimeters (3.9 inches) of sea level rise, perhaps more. Those extra inches are critical for places like the Marshall Islands, where the mean elevation is six feet above sea level.

Researchers and environmental groups insist the goal is achievable.

The train has not left the station,” said Andrew Jones, co-director of the nonprofit climate research group Climate Interactive. “It’s leaving, though, and we need to run faster than we ever have in our lives to catch it.”

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Trump deal imposes Muslim compradors over Indonesian ethnonationalists and what is sacred to them

Posted by DanielS on Tuesday, 08 August 2017 13:16.

At a press conference at Trump Tower in New York to declare his loyalty to the Republican Party, Donald Trump was flanked by guests from Indonesia, and made a big show of announcing one very special guest, Setya Novanto.

“He wants it big, and overlooking the sacred Tanah-Lot.”

Trump deal in Indonesia imposes Islamic compradors over ethno-nationalism and his hotel and business upon what is sacred to Indonesian ethno-nationalists.

FOUR CORNERS, 3 July 2017:

While running for President, Trump was courting the Indonesians over lucrative resort deals in Bali and Java; and lobbying Indonesian MP’s to expedite a toll road that would benefit his development.

The secretive dealings raise new questions about Trump’s corporate interests abroad and about the unholy business and political alliances he’s forged.

While at home, Trump rails against Muslim extremists, in the world’s largest Muslim country, his allies are cozying-up to Islamists who are posing a direct threat the country’s ethno-nationalism.

Donald Trump has entered into two huge deals in Indonesia, and the first of them will land here, on the southern edge of Bali almost on top of one of the Island’s most sacred religious sites, Tanah Lot - an hour or two away from the main tourist areas, the Balanese have fought for decades to protect this temple and its surrounds.

“Not much is known of Trump’s plans but what is known that he wants it big, the biggest in Bali he says,  he wants a tower on an island that bans them, and he wants it over looking the sacred Tahan Lot.”

“It’s one of the island-wide temples that are sacred to the Balanese, its the land, pana, and lot, which means ocean.”

Donald Trump makes deal with Islamic compradors in Indonesia, imposing them against the native stasis of Left ethno-nationalism, and his hotel and business upon what is sacred to native ethno-nationalists.

80,000 Indonesians were killed by Suharto on that beach in 1965, the victims were accused of being Leftists….

When President Suharto exited power in 1998, he took three decades of loot with him, estimated at 30 billion dollars.


Trump’s business partner in the deal, Harry Tanno, was a close friend of Suharto.


Tanno welcomes Trump and Sharia


Hizb-ut-Tahrir’s man is on screen talking after 37 minute mark - his appearance was the biggest thing in the whole video:

“Is it your ambition to impose Sharia Law in Indonesia?” “It is not our ambition, but our duty.”

An abstract kind of wild quid pro quo white America has going on there.

All imagery and story, THE COMPANY HE KEEPS: FOUR CORNERS, 3 July 2017.

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FBI probing far-right news sites and social media platforms.

Posted by Kumiko Oumae on Sunday, 26 March 2017 18:32.

The FBI is now investigating a story that almost everyone intuitively knew was true from the start:

The Hill, ‘FBI probing far-right news sites: report’, 20 Mar 2017:

The FBI is investigating whether far-right news websites contributed to Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election, according to a new report.

The probe is focused on discovering whether Russian operatives used conservative outlets to help spread stories favoring now-President Trump, McClatchy said Monday.

McClatchy confirmed with two people familiar with the inquiry that the FBI’s Counterintelligence Division is driving the investigation.

The sources said Russian operatives seemingly strategically timed computer commands called “bots” to blitz social media with pro-Trump stories.  

The bots were used at times when Trump appeared struggling with 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, they continued.

McClatchy’s sources said the bots mainly created millions of Facebook and Twitter posts linking to articles on far-right websites including Breitbart News, InfoWars and the Kremlin-backed RT News and Sputnik News.

The sources added that some of the stories were false or contained a mixture of fact and fiction.

Federal investigators are now examining whether the far-right news organizations took any actions aiding Russian operatives, they said.

The bots could have amplified pro-Trump news on Facebook and Twitter, regardless of the outlets’ knowledge or involvement, the pair of sources noted.

“This may be one of the most impactful information operations in the history of intelligence,” one former U.S. intelligence official told McClatchy, speaking on the condition of anonymity due to the matter’s sensitivity.

FBI Director James Comey earlier Monday confirmed the Department of Justice (DOJ) is scrutinizing Russia’s meddling in the 2016 race, including any possible ties between Moscow and officials from Trump’s election campaign.

“As you know our practice is not to confirm the existence of an ongoing investigation,” he said during a House Intelligence Committee hearing.

“But in unusual circumstances where it is in the public interest, it may be appropriate to do so,” Comey added, noting the DOJ had authorized him to break bureau policy and publicly disclose the probe.

“This is one of those circumstances. I can promise you we will follow the facts wherever they lead.”

Comey added the FBI’s investigation began in late July and will include an assessment of whether any crimes were committed.

During the campaign itself, Louise Mensch had reported on basically the same thing. You can revisit that at Heatstreet, and I’ll just give you an exerpt from that:

Heatstreet, ‘How Russia’s Twitter Bots And Trolls Work With Donald Trump Campaign Accounts’, 20 Oct 2016:

If you’ve been following the Twitter fiasco that is the Donald Trump campaign, you will be aware of his association with the Alt-right and with Russia bot accounts.
 
Broadly speaking, Trump has two categories of support on Twitter. Alt-right trolls, and Russian bot accounts pretending to be patriotic Americans.*
 
In many cases, these two groups cross over. The altright contains actual humans, such as @prisonplanet, and many, many bots.
 
In this article I shall however examine the way in which Russian bots are created and used to follow and boost Trump online.
 
It is not that Donald Trump does not have widespread support. He does; even at his current polling lows, his support includes millions of Americans. It is, rather, that Trump’s supporters are incredibly unlikely to use Twitter.
 
Broadly speaking ,Trump’s real supporters aren’t on Twitter – and Trump’s Twitter supporters aren’t real.

[...]

Three such bots that I videoed in the act of using this method were @Commander6080, @Sbragusa, and @jamesdgriffin. All have profiles that pretend to be Americans and to live in the USA.
 
How might this affect a twitter trend? What is the point of it? One scientist theorized as follows. It is a “fake trend” theory called “A Handoff”:

Let’s say you had a hashtag you wanted to get trending. You have a thousand bots (or Russian Trolls) and a popular account like Ricky Vaughn. You have the bots start using the hashtag, they start flooding twitter until it gets a high count (but not in the top 20 trends) then have a real person,  Ricky Vaughn, start pitching the hashtag to his followers. Here is where the window of timing kicks in: within minutes, Ricky Vaughn can have something trending, but before he gets the hashtag to the top 15 you have almost all of the bots automatically delete their tweets with the hashtags. You‘ve now started “a trend” quickly and have had it associated with “Ricky Vaughn” and not a 1,000 odd bots or Russian trolls.

[...]

This whole arrangement of social media manipulation is part of the communication operations side of the modern form of Russian Active Measures. The most remarkable thing about this arrangement is how it is tactically innovative and well-timed to exploit a particular weakness in American society specifically, but it is strategically unsophisticated because Russian commanders have also permanently ruined their own country’s reputation among the international journalist community and among most people on social media.

It’s highly abnormal for an entire country to transparently do something like that. Why would they choose to so carelessly and openly abandon even the appearance of any kind of ‘normality’ on national level?

There are a few reasons as to why they would have chosen to behave this way, but all of them seem to be capable of being summarised like this: Russian commanders may have been willing to sacrifice their country’s perceived journalistic integrity in the eyes of most of the world, because they’ve already given up on the idea that they could ever create a narrative that could appeal to a broad audience. Instead, Russia is seeking to cultivate a very particular audience in Europe and North America (excluding the United Kingdom which they seem to be abandoning). They are seeking to cultivate that roughly 20% of the population which is somewhere vaguely in the nationalistic spectrum and is disillusioned about the political situation in their country, but also lacks grounding and experience in how the world actually works. Russian commanders want to shape the media experience through which those people will come to terms with the world around them, and thus, create a long-term ‘following’, even if those followers are not necessarily aware of what it is that they are following.

The utility of this is clear. 20% of a population is enough to seriously impact the operation of political institutions in western democracies which operate in a pluralistic mode. Russian journalism is not seeking to be liked by everyone, or even trusted. Russia just wants 20% of any given European population to be responsive to their input because that is the bare minimum that they need.


The coming US–China trade war will present opportunities for Australia in RCEP & FTAAP.

Posted by Kumiko Oumae on Sunday, 12 March 2017 04:29.

ASPI - The Strategist, ‘Would a US–China trade war pay dividends to Australia?’, 09 Mar 2017:

Among many other colourful characters, Donald Trump’s cabinet appointments include two protectionist and anti-China hardliners, Robert Lighthizer and Peter Navarro, who sit at the helm of US trade and industry policy. That decision confirms a belligerent change of tack in Sino­–American economic relations. But what are the implications for Australia?

A number of monetary economists, including Saul Eslake, have warned that a potential escalation to a full-blown China–US trade war poses the single biggest economic threat to Australia. That position argues that the already struggling global economy can’t face a superpower trade war, likely to be triggered by the Trump administration at the monetary level, when the RMB/USD exchange rate will reach the unprecedented level of 7 to 1 (it’s currently sitting at around 6.9). Furthermore, a falling Chinese currency combined with protectionist measures in the US will dampen the Chinese economy by way of reduced volumes of exports and higher interest rates that will spread across the Asia–Pacific. According to such reasoning, that could have negative impacts for Australia’s economy; prices for iron ore, coal and natural gas could possibly drop—we’ll know by the middle of the year.

However, it’s questionable that such crisis would be detrimental to Australia. In fact, focusing on monetary dynamics alone fails to capture the role of industrial production and regulatory arrangements in the global supply chain.

On the contrary, after triangulating the trade and industrial data of the US, China and Australia and considering the current trade regulatory framework, there are substantial reasons to argue that Australia is well placed to fill the gaps left by a wrecked US–China trade relationship at the best of its industrial capacity. Australia is indeed one of a handful of countries to have solid free trade agreements in place with both the US and China.

As it currently stands, the annual US–China trade balance is worth over US$600 billion—around the yearly value of Australia’s overall trade volumes.

Australia’s rocks and crops economy—in particular the growing productivity potential of its agricultural and mining sectors—is strong enough to rise above global monetary tensions and falling commodity prices, thanks to rising export volumes to both the US and China. It appears that the harder the two superpowers use their trade relations as leverage in their strategic competition, the harder they’ll need to look for other sources to sustain their industrial production levels and corporate supply chain.

In a trade war scenario, the possible initial hiccups in the global supply chain will likely be short-lived. In fact, let’s consider that about half of US imports are estimated to be made of intra-firm trade, and that protectionist measures from abroad tend to have insignificant effects on the production input of Chinese State-owned firms. Thus, multinational corporations are proven to be particularly adept at   quickly replacing the flows of their industrial production and distribution, as is shown by history.

In other words, in the event of a Sino–American crisis, the major trading actors in both countries will be able and willing to promptly move their business somewhere else.

Thanks to the existing spaghetti bowl of international economic partnerships, Australia is in prime position to be this “somewhere else” for both countries. In fact, Australia is the second largest economy and Sino–American trading partner of the only six countries that have in place free trade agreements with both the US and China, including South Korea, Singapore, Chile, Peru and Costa Rica.

The liquefied natural gas (LNG) trade is a significant case study for Australia in this instance. Australia is the world’s second largest LNG exporter, and is set to become the first by 2020. It exports more than $16 billion a year of LNG and by 2020 the LNG industry is expected to contribute $65 billion to the Australian economy, equating to 3.5% of its GDP. 2016 saw the start of LNG exports from the US and an unprecedented boost of Chinese imports. In a trade war scenario, the US would be locked out of China’s thriving market and thus LNG prices would rise even higher than they already have. With sharply rising production capacity, Australia needs to expand and diversify its customer base to keep the lion’s share of the global LNG market. China’s response to Trump’s trade policy is set to dampen the rise of a   strong emerging competitor of Australia’s highly lucrative LNG industry, and thus open up new commercial frontiers.

The LNG example clearly shows that Australia’s economy would benefit from a contained US–China trade crisis. Nevertheless, should that trade crisis escalate beyond the economy, Australia’s luck may run out.

The Chinese leadership doesn’t hide the fact that promoting international economic integration outside of the US control serves the purpose of carving greater geopolitical autonomy and flexibility in the global decision-making processes. Beside Trump’s trade policy, Xi Jinping’s diplomatic strategy may also speed up the end of the US­–China detente initiated by Nixon and Kissinger in the 1970s. It remains to be seen whether China will also pursue hard-line policies to push the US outside of the Asia–Pacific. In that instance, Australia would be caught between a rock and a hard place.

If the US­–China trade war were to escalate to the geopolitical level, the American order in the Asia–Pacific would enter uncharted waters. For one thing, such an unsavoury development may compel Australia to make a clear choice between trading with China and preserving America’s security patronage.

Giovanni Di Lieto lectures International Trade Law at Monash University.

One of the most interesting things about all this is that while Australia is going to be compelled to make that choice, the choice has essentially already been made through the pattern of trade relationships which Australian politicians have chosen to cultivate.

The only way that Australia would choose the United States in that scenario, would be if Australians decided that they would like to deliberately take a massive economic dive so that they can ‘Make America Great Again’ even though that is not their country, and so that they can avoid being called ‘anti-White’ by the legions of anonymous Alt-Right trolls roaming around on Twitter using Robert Whitacker’s ‘mantra’ on anyone who won’t support the geostrategic and geoeconomic intertests of the United States, the Russian Federation, and Exxonmobil specifically. 

Given that we know that Australians don’t care about America or Russia more than they care about the economic prosperity of their own country, the outcome is already baked into the cake. AFR carried an article last year which can be used to forecast what is likely to happen, and I’ll quote it in full here now:

AFR.com, ‘How our free trade deals are helping Australian companies right now’, 17 Nov 2016 (emphasis added):

Free trade should be embraced, not feared.

It has lifted living standards, grown Australia’s economy and created thousands of jobs.

While it is becoming more popular to denounce globalisation and flirt with protectionism, we cannot turn our back on free trade.

Australia’s economy has withstood global challenges and recorded 25 years of continuous growth because we’re open to the world.   Since Australia’s trade barriers came down, we’ve reaped the rewards.

Trade liberalisation has lifted the income of households by around $4500 a year and boosted the country’s gross domestic product by 2.5 per cent to 3.5 per cent, creating thousands of jobs.

One in five jobs now involve trade-related activities. This will grow as liberalised trade gives our producers, manufacturers and services providers better access to billions of consumers across the globe, not just the 24 million who call Australia home.

However, not everyone sees the value of free trade. Some see it, and the forces of globalisation, as a threat to their standard of living, rather than an opportunity to improve it.

When it comes to free trade, we often hear about the bad but not the good.

The nature of news means the factory closing gets more coverage than the one opening.

Chances are you heard about the Ford plant closing, but not the $800 million Boeing has invested in Australia and the 1200 people who work at their Port Melbourne facility.

You may have heard about Cubbie Station, but not heard that its purchase staved off bankruptcy, and has since seen millions of dollars invested in upgrades of water-saving infrastructure, a doubling of contractors, more workers, and of course, money put into the local economy supporting jobs and local businesses.

Key to attracting investment, jobs

The free trade agreements the Coalition concluded with the North Asian powerhouse economies of China, Japan and Korea are key to attracting investment and creating more local jobs.

The Weilong Grape Wine Company has said the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement is the reason it’s planning to build a new plant in Mildura.

This is a story being played out across the country.

Businesses large and small, rural and urban, are taking advantage of the preferential market access the FTAs offer Aussie businesses into the giant, growing markets of North Asia.

Australian Honey Products is building a new factory in Tasmania to meet the demand the trifecta of FTAs has created.

Owner Lindsay Bourke says the free trade agreements have been “wonderful” for  his business. “We know that we are going to grow and it’s enabled us to employ more people, more local people,”  he said.

It is the same story for NSW skincare manufacturer Cherub Rubs, who will have to double the size of their factory. “The free trade agreements with China and Korea really mean an expansion, which means new Australian jobs manufacturing high-quality products,” said Cherub CEO John Lamont.

It is easy to see why the three North Asian FTAs are forecast to create 7,900 jobs this year, according to modelling conducted by the Centre for International Economics.

Australia has a good story when it comes to free trade. In the past three years, net exports accounted for more than half of Australia’s GDP growth.

Exports remain central to sustaining growth and economic prosperity. Last year exports delivered $316 billion to our economy, representing around 19 per cent of GDP.

This underscores the importance of free trade and why it is a key element of the Turnbull Government’s national economic plan.

The Coalition is pursuing an ambitious trade agenda, and more free trade agreements, to ensure our economy keeps growing and creating new jobs.

On Friday I arrive in Peru for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Ministerial Meeting.

Free trade will be at front of everyone’s mind.

With the future of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) looking grim, my ministerial counterparts and I will work to conclude a study on the Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific (FTAAP), which sets out agreed actions towards a future free trade zone.

We will also work to finalise a services road map, which will help grow Australian services exports in key markets including education, finance and logistics.

More to be done

The Coalition has achieved a lot when it comes to free trade, but there is more to do.

Momentum is building for concluding a free trade agreement with Indonesia, work towards launching free trade agreement negotiations with the European Union continues, we’ve established a working group with the United Kingdom that will scope out the parameters of a future ambitious and comprehensive Australia-UK FTA and we’re continuing to negotiate the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), which brings together 16 countries that account for almost half of the world’s population.

The Turnbull government will continue to pursue an ambitious free trade agenda to keep our economy growing and creating more jobs.

Meanwhile Opposition Leader Bill Shorten continues to build the case for Labor’s embrace of more protectionist policies, claiming he will learn the lessons of the US election where it featured heavily.

What Labor doesn’t say though is that by adopting a closed economy mindset, they will close off the investment and jobs flowing from free trade. They’re saying no to Boeing’s $800 million investment in Australia and the Cubbie Station improvements; they’re saying no to businesses like Cherub Rubs and Australian Honey Products building new factories and the many local jobs they will create.

Steven Ciobo is the Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment

Obligatory Taylor Swift
What’s not to love about all this?

I really think I love Anglo-Saxons. This is going to be fun, isn’t it? 

When Mr. Ciobo spoke of ‘a working group with the United Kingdom that will scope out the parameters of a future ambitious and comprehensive Australia-UK FTA’, he was not joking. That is happening and it is likely going to be another window that the UK will have into the formation of both RCEP and FTAAP, even though technically the UK is not physically in the Indo-Asian region.

I wrote an article several days ago called ‘A view of Brexit from Asia: Britain as a Pacific trading power in the 21st century.’ I chose at that time not to mention the Australian or New Zealand interface at all, but that article’s main point should be viewed as being reinforced by the point I’ve presented in here now.

I have also written an article today called, ‘US Government to build American competitiveness atop socio-economic retrogression and misery.’ It’s crucial to understand that time is of the essence, since the Americans are at the present moment in relative disarray compared to the rest of us. The Americans have not yet tamed and pacified the various economic actors in their own country, they are still working on that, and they also have yet to form a coherent internationalist counter-narrative to the one that is being enunciated by the governments of Britain, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, China, and so on.

Some of you may be mystified by that statement. What do I mean that the Americans don’t have a coherent ‘internationalist counter-narrative’? I mean that while they are capable of explaining and rationalising their own position as a narrowly ‘America first’ position in a way that is pleasing to Americans, they are not able to export that view to regular people anywhere else in a way that would induce any other European-demography country to comply with America’s geoeconomic interests.

After all, if the Alt-Right people are going to careen all over the internet essentially screaming, “put America first ahead of your own country’s interests or be accused of White genocide”, and alternately equally absurdly, “you’re an evil Russophobe who supports White genocide if you invested in BP instead of Exxon”, then they should not expect that they are going to win the sympathy of anyone who is neither American nor Russian.

I want to say to British people, to Australians, to New Zealanders, to Canadians, Commonwealth citizens in general, that you know, it’s been a long time since you’ve taken your own side. This coming phase is going to be a time when it will become possible to do precisely that.

The time is fast approaching when it will be possible to choose neither America nor Russia. You’ll be able to finally choose yourselves and your own geoeconomic interests, and you’ll be able to choose to trade and associate with whoever else in the world you want to trade and associate with.

Kumiko Oumae works in the defence and security sector in the UK. Her opinions here are entirely her own.


The ‘Left of Launch’ Strategy: Yet another reason why Iran is not a nuclear threat to America.

Posted by Kumiko Oumae on Wednesday, 08 March 2017 18:27.

An interesting story appeared at ASPI today, regular people have now become aware of the existence of the ‘left of launch’ strategy. Which you can read about at the links included in the Cyber wrap 154 which I’ve reproduced in full below.

The utility of having people know about the ‘left of launch’ strategy is that it even further reduces the credibility of any of Donald Trump’s feigned hyperventilating about the alleged (and in fact non-existent) ‘threat’ of Iran ever attaining a nuclear weapon, much less having the ability to use such a weapon against anyone.

Armed with this information, it is possible for people to go out into the world and make the case that even if one were to entertain the idea that Iran were willing to create some improbable doomsday scenario, there is no need for anyone to send a single American aircraft, tank, or armoured patrol vehicle anywhere near Iran in order to avert such a scenario.

If Donald Trump and his supporters continue to behave like Iran is a ‘major nuclear threat’ despite the existence of the ‘left of launch’ strategy in public view, there is only one place that such a ridiculous narrative can be actually originating from, and that place is Israel. That is the case which should be made over and over again, until it becomes a kind of mantra.

Here’s ASPI’s Cyber wrap:

ASPI - The Strategist, ‘Cyber wrap 154’, 08 Mar 2017 (emphasis added):

Lightbulb

Welcome back to your weekly fix of cyber news, analysis and research.

The New York Times reported last Saturday that, back in 2013, President Barack Obama ordered cyber sabotage operations against Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons program. The persistently high failure rate of the US’s kinetic antimissile weapons, despite significant investment, reportedly prompted Obama to consider a cyber supplement. The project to pre-emptively undermine missiles in their development stages, known as a ‘left of launch’ strategy, receives dedicated resources at the Pentagon and is now President Trump’s to play with. However, experts are concerned that this kind of cyber offensive approach sets a dangerous precedent for Beijing and Moscow, particularly if they believe that US cyber operations could successfully undermine their nuclear deterrence capability.

Staying stateside, the future of the NSA’s spying powers are   under scrutiny this week as elements of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) approach sunset. Section 702 of the Act forms the basis for the NSA’s monitoring of foreign nationals’ communications around the globe in the interests of national security. It was under this FISA authority that the US’s infamous “big brother” program PRISM—revealed in the Snowden disclosures of 2013—was established.

While the legislation is designed for foreign targets, there have long been concerns it could be used to surveil US citizens through their contact with foreigners. Human rights advocates such as the American Civil Liberties Union are protesting the renewal of this legislation in defence of international privacy. The issue also has the trans-Atlantic data-sharing agreement on thin ice, especially given that EU Justice Commissioner Vera Jourova has made it clear that she ‘will not hesitate’ to suspend the painstakingly crafted arrangement should the US fail to uphold its stringent privacy requirements.

That task may be even more difficult after WikiLeaks’ overnight release of a dossier, dubbed ‘Vault 7’, detailing the CIA’s cyber espionage tools and techniques. WikiLeaks released over 8,000 documents it claims were taken from a CIA computer network in the agency’s Center for Cyber Intelligence. The documents detail the agency’s expansive and sophisticated cyber espionage capability, including compromising the security common devices and apps including Apple iPhones, Google’s Android software and Samsung televisions to collect intelligence.

China’s Foreign Ministry and the Cyberspace Administration of China this week launched the country’s first International Strategy of Cooperation on Cyberspace. The Strategy outlines China’s basic principles for cyber diplomacy and its strategic goals in cyberspace. Encouragingly, the Foreign Ministry’s Coordinator for Cyberspace Affairs Long Zhao stated that ‘enhancing deterrence, pursuing absolute security and engaging in a cyber arms race…is a road to nowhere’. Unsurprisingly, the Strategy offers strong support for the concept of cyber sovereignty, stating that ‘countries should respect each other’s right to choose their own path of cyber development’, and emphasises the importance of avoiding cyberspace becoming ‘a new battlefield’. You can read a full English language version of the Strategy here.

The revelation that the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD) was temporarily forced to rely on diesel generators during last month’s heat wave has prompted the government to significantly upgrade to the agency’s infrastructure. The Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Cyber Security told Parliament on Wednesday that it was recommended by ActewAGL and the NSW Department of Environment that ASD switch to back up power on 10 February as part of state-wide load shedding to protect power supplies. The new $75 million project, funded by the Defence Integrated Investment Program, is intended to bolster the intelligence agency’s resilience.

Several cyber incidents have kept the internet on its toes this week. The Amazon Simple Storage Service cloud hosting service went down last week, knocking hundreds of thousands of popular websites and apps offline. The disruptive incident, originally described by the company as ‘increased error rates’, was actually not the result of cyber criminals or hacktivists, but that of an employee’s fat fingers entering a command incorrectly—whoops! Yahoo is in the doghouse (again) with the awkward announcement in its annual report to the Security and Exchange Commission that 32 million customer accounts are thought to have been compromised through forged cookies. This isn’t to be confused with the entirely separate and very embarrassing loss of 1 billion accounts in a 2013 breach, which recently cost the company $350 million in its acquisition deal with Verizon and CEO Marissa Mayer her annual cash bonus. And if you’ve been tracking the #cloudbleed saga, catch up with some post-mortems here, here and here.

Finally we’ve got you covered for your weekly cyber research reads. A new Intel report, written by the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, examines the discrepancies in cyberspace that put defenders at a disadvantage. Titled Tilting the Playing Field: How Misaligned Incentives Work Against Cybersecurity, the report reveals the gaps between attackers vs. defenders, strategy vs. implementation and executives vs. implementers, offering recommendations to overcome such obstacles. And get your fix of statistics from PwC’s annual Digital IQ assessment based on a survey of more than 2,000 executives from across the world. The research reveals that only 52% of companies consider their corporate Digital IQ to be ‘strong,’ a considerable drop from 67% last year.


The Sacred Landing Strip: Is Trumpstein Risking War With China?

Posted by DanielS on Sunday, 12 February 2017 03:49.

TomDispatch: “Is President Trump Headed for a War with China?” All Options Are “On The Table” - Rajan Menon, 12 Feb 2017:

Forget those “bad hombres down there” in Mexico that U.S. troops might take out. Ignore the way National Security Adviser Michael Flynn put Iran “on notice” and the new president insisted, that, when it comes to that country, “nothing is off the table.” Instead, focus for a moment on something truly scary: the possibility that Donald Trump’s Washington might slide into an actual war with the planet’s rising superpower, China. No kidding. It could really happen.

Let’s start with silver-maned, stately Rex Tillerson, Donald Trump’s pick for secretary of state. Who could deny that the former ExxonMobil CEO has a foreign minister’s bearing? Trump reportedly chose him over neocon firebrand John Bolton partly for that reason. (Among other things, Bolton was mustachioed, something the new president apparently doesn’t care for.) But an august persona can only do so much; it can’t offset a lack of professional diplomatic experience.

That became all-too-apparent during Tillerson’s January 11th confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He was asked for his view on the military infrastructure China has been creating on various islands in the South China Sea, the ownership of which other Asian countries, including Taiwan, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Brunei claim as well . China’s actions, he replied, were “extremely worrisome,” likening them to Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula, an infraction for which Russia was slapped with economic sanctions.

The then-secretary-of-state-designate — he’s since been confirmed, despite many negative votes — didn’t, however, stop there. Evidently, he wanted to communicate to the Chinese leadership in Beijing that the new administration was already irked beyond measure with them. So he added, “We’re going to have to send China’s leaders a clear signal: that, first, the island building stops and, second, your access to those islands is not going to be allowed.” Functionally, that fell little short of being an announcement of a future act of war, since not allowing “access” to those islands would clearly involve military moves. In what amounted to a there’s-a-new-sheriff-in-town warning, he then doubled down yet again, insisting, slightly incoherently (in the tradition of his new boss) that “the failure of a response has allowed them to just keep pushing the envelope on this.”

All right, so maybe a novice had a bad day. Maybe the secretary-of-state-to-be simply ad-libbed and misspoke… whatever. If so, you might have expected a later clarification from him or from someone on the Trump national security team anyway.

That didn’t happen; instead, that team stuck to its guns. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer made no effort to add nuance to, let alone walk back, Tillerson’s remarks. During his first official press briefing on January 23rd, Spicer declared that the United States “is going to make sure we defend our interests there” — in the South China Sea, that is — and that “if those islands are in fact in international waters and not part of China proper, then yes, we are going to make sure that we defend international territories from being taken over by one country.”

And what of Trump’s own views on the island controversy? Never one to pass up an opportunity for hyperbole, during the presidential campaign he swore that, on those tiny islands, China was building “a military fortress the likes of which the world has not seen.” As it happened, he wasn’t speaking about, say, the forces that Hitler massed for the ill-fated Operation Barbarossa, launched in June 1941 with the aim of crushing the Red Army and the Soviet Union, or those deployed for the June 1944 Normandy landing, which sealed Nazi Germany’s fate. When applied to what China has been up to in the South China Sea, his statement fell instantly into the not-yet-named category of “alternative facts.”

Candidate Trump also let it be known that he wouldn’t allow Beijing to get away with such cheekiness on his watch. Why had the Chinese engaged in military construction on the islands? Trump had a simple answer (as he invariably does): China “has no respect for our president and no respect for our country.” The implication was evident. Things would be different once he settled into the White House and made America great again. Then — it was easy enough to conclude — China had better watch out.

Standard campaign bombast? Well, Trump hasn’t changed his tune a bit since being elected. On December 4th, using (of course!) his Twitter account, he blasted Beijing for having built “a massive military complex in the middle of the South China Sea.” And it’s safe to assume that he signed off on Spicer’s combative comments as well.

In short, his administration has already drawn a red line — but in the way a petulant child might with a crayon. During and after the campaign he made much of his determination to regain the respect he claims the U.S. has lost in the world, notably from adversaries like China. The danger here is that, in dealing with that country, Trump could, as is typical, make it all about himself, all about “winning,” one of his most beloved words, and disaster might follow.

  Whose Islands?

 
  China claims disputed islands are ‘sacred territory’

A military clash between Trump-led America and a China led by President Xi Jinping? Understanding how it might happen requires a brief detour to the place where it’s most likely to occur: the South China Sea. Our first task: to understand China’s position on that body of water and the islands it contains, as well as the nature of Beijing’s military projects there. So brace yourself for some necessary detail.

As Marina Tsirbas, a former diplomat now at the Australian National University’s National Security College, explains, Beijing’s written and verbal statements on the South China Sea lend themselves to two different interpretations. The Chinese government’s position boils down to something like this: “We own everything — the waters, islands and reefs, marine resources, and energy and mineral deposits — within the Nine-Dash Line.” That demarcation line, which incidentally has had ten dashes, and sometimes eleven, originally appeared in 1947 maps of the Republic of China, the Nationalist government that would soon flee to the island of Taiwan leaving the Chinese Communists in charge of the mainland. When Mao Ze Dong and his associates established the People’s Republic, they retained that Nationalist map and the demarcation line that went with it, which just happened to enclose virtually all of the South China Sea, claiming sovereign rights.

This stance — think of it as Beijing’s hard line on the subject — raises instant questions about other countries’ navigation and overflight rights through that much-used region. In essence, do they have any and, if so, will Beijing alone be the one to define what those are? And will those definitions start to change as China becomes ever more powerful? These are hardly trivial concerns, given that about $5 trillion worth of goods pass through the South China Sea annually.

Then there’s what might be called Beijing’s softer line, based on rights accorded by the legal concepts of the territorial sea and the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). Under the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), which took effect in 1994 and has been signed by 167 states (including China but not the United States), a country has sovereign control within 12 nautical miles of its coast as well as of land formations in that perimeter visible at high tide. But other countries have the right of “innocent passage.” The EEZ goes further. It provides a rightful claimant control over access to fishing, as well as seabed and subsoil natural resources , within “an area beyond and adjacent to the territorial sea” extending 200 nautical miles, while ensuring other states’ freedom of passage by air and sea. UNCLOS also gives a state with an EEZ control over “the establishment and use of artificial islands, installations, and structures” within that zone — an important provision at our present moment.

What makes all of this so much more complicated is that many of the islands and reefs in the South China Sea that provide the basis for defining China’s EEZ are also claimed by other countries under the terms of UNCLOS. That, of course, immediately raises questions about the legality of Beijing’s military construction projects in that watery expanse on islands, atolls, and strips of land it’s dredging into existence, as well as its claims to seabed energy resources, fishing rights, and land reclamation rights there — to say nothing about its willingness to seize some of them by force, rival claims be damned.

 
  Subi Reef, being built into an artificial island-landing strip in 2015

Moreover, figuring out which of these two positions — hard or soft — China embraces at any moment is tricky indeed. Beijing, for instance, insists that it upholds freedom of navigation and overflight rights in the Sea, but it has also said that these rights don’t apply to warships and military aircraft. In recent years its warplanes have intercepted, and at close quarters, American military aircraft flying outside Chinese territorial waters in the same region. Similarly, in 2015, Chinese aircraft and ships followed and issued warnings to an American warship off Subi Reef in the Spratly Islands, which both China and Vietnam claim in their entirety. This past December, its Navy seized, but later returned, an underwater drone the American naval ship Bowditch had been operating near the coast of the Philippines.

There were similar incidents in 2000, 2001, 2002, 2009, 2013, and 2014. In the second of these episodes, a Chinese fighter jet collided with a US Navy EP-3 reconnaissance plane, which had a crew of 24 on board, less than 70 miles off Hainan island, forcing it to make an emergency landing in China and creating a tense standoff between Beijing and Washington. The Chinese detained the crew for 11 days. They disassembled the EP-3, returning it three months later in pieces.

Such muscle flexing in the South China Sea isn’t new. China has long been tough on its weaker neighbors in those waters. Back in 1974, for instance, its forces ejected South Vietnamese troops from parts of the Paracel/Xisha islands that Beijing claimed but did not yet control. China has also backed up its claim to the Spratly/Nansha islands (which Taiwan, Vietnam, and other regional countries reject) with air and naval patrols, tough talk, and more. In 1988, it forcibly occupied the Vietnamese-controlled Johnson Reef, securing control over the first of what would eventually become seven possessions in the Spratlys.

Vietnam has not been the only Southeast Asian country to receive such rough treatment. China and the Philippines both claim ownership of Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal/Huangyang Island, located 124 nautical miles off Luzon Island in the Philippines. In 2012, Beijing simply seized it, having already ejected Manila from Panganiban Reef (aka Mischief Reef), about 129 nautical miles from the Philippines’ Palawan Island, in 1995. In 2016, when an international arbitration tribunal upheld Manila’s position on Mischief Reef and Scarborough Shoal, the Chinese Foreign Ministry sniffed that “the decision is invalid and has no binding force.” Chinese president Xi Jinping added for good measure that China’s claims to the South China Sea stretched back to “ancient times.”

Then there’s China’s military construction work in the area, which includes the building of full-scale artificial islands, as well as harbors, military airfields, storage facilities, and hangars reinforced to protect military aircraft. In addition, the Chinese have installed radar systems, anti-aircraft missiles, and anti-missile defense systems on some of these islands.

These , then, are the projects that the Trump administration says it will stop. But China’s conduct in the South China Sea leaves little doubt about its determination to hold onto what it has and continue its activities. The Chinese leadership has made this clear since Donald Trump’s election, and the state-run press has struck a similarly defiant note, drawing crude red lines of its own. For example, the Global Times, a nationalist newspaper, mocked Trump’s pretensions and issued a doomsday warning: “The U.S. has no absolute power to dominate the South China Sea. Tillerson had better bone up on nuclear strategies if he wants to force a big nuclear power to withdraw from its own territories.”

Were the administration to follow its threatening talk with military action, the Global Times added ominously, “The two sides had better prepare for a military clash.” Although the Chinese leadership hasn’t been anywhere near as bombastic, top officials have made it clear that they won’t yield an inch on the South China Sea, that disputes over territories are matters for China and its neighbors to settle, and that Washington had best butt out.

[...]

READ MORE...


WHITE ghettos in South Africa: 20 years after fall of apartheid - now White people live in squalor

Posted by DanielS on Thursday, 06 October 2016 09:11.

DM, “The WHITE ghettos that blight South Africa: 20 years after the fall of apartheid, how it is now white people who live in squalid camps”, 4 Oct 2016:

There are 42,000 white South Africans living in poverty, a figure which has grown in last 20 years

Munsieville is a squatter camp west of Johannesburg which is home to 300 of them, many of them kids

Under apartheid white South Africans lorded it over blacks and ‘coloureds’ but now there is equality

There are 4.5 million white South Africans and every year thousands emigrate to Australia or New Zealand

 


Former Australian prime minister Abbott: Europe is Being Invaded

Posted by DanielS on Tuesday, 20 September 2016 21:32.

TNO, “Abbott: Europe is Being Invaded”, 20 September 2016:

Former Australian prime minister Tony Abbott has warned that Europe is being “invaded,” that white nations are “losing their character” through mass Third World immigration, and that the invasion needs to be turned back at the borders.

In addition, he said, Turkey’s leaders have urged Muslims to take back parts of Europe and among the invaders are “soldiers of the caliphate bent on mayhem.”


Making the direct comments during a speech to the Alliance of European Conservatives and Reformists—a group of conservative European parties—at their major annual meeting in Prague, Abbott asked, “why shouldn’t each country keep the final say over who can enter?”

“After all,” he said, “a country or a continent that can’t control who enters its territory will eventually lose control of its future.”


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