position:chief

  • #USS_Fitzgerald : le rapport de l’Amiral Fort sur la collision de juin 2017, produit moins de 6 semaines après l’événement et resté secret, fuite dans le Navy Times depuis le 14 janvier. Une succession d’articles décrit une situation catastrophique : des marins non formés, ne sachant pas utiliser les équipements, les équipements qui dysfonctionnent et sont bricolés ou carrément ignorés, absence de communication et de confiance entre les équipes, commandement dépassé dont un commandant absent de la passerelle…

    Plusieurs articles, tous aussi effrayants les uns que les autres…

    The ghost in the Fitz’s machine : why a doomed warship’s crew never saw the vessel that hit it
    https://www.navytimes.com/news/your-navy/2019/01/14/the-ghost-in-the-fitzs-machine-why-a-doomed-warships-crew-never-saw-the-v


    The warship Fitzgerald returns to Fleet Activities Yokosuka, Japan, following a collision with a merchant vessel on June 17, 2017.
    U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Peter Burghart/Released

    When Navy Rear Adm. Brian Fort stepped aboard the guided-missile destroyer Fitzgerald in the aftermath of the 2017 collision with a commercial cargo ship, everything was off.

    Any warship would seem a little off after a catastrophe that claimed the lives of seven sailors, but this was different.

    It didn’t look right, smell right, sound right,” Fort said during a hearing last year for a Fitzgerald officer facing court-martial in the wake of the June 17, 2017, disaster.

    After gazing at the gash in the hull through which gushed the seawater that drowned the Fitz’s dead, Fort and his team of investigators walked to the destroyer’s electronic nerve center, the combat information center everyone calls the “CIC.”

    It hadn’t taken a direct hit from the bow of the Philippine-flagged ACX Crystal, but it was trashed nonetheless and smelled like urine.

    He found a pee bottle that had tipped and spilled behind a large-screen display. Fort’s eyes started to take over for his nose, and he took it all in.

    There was debris everywhere,” Fort said under oath. “Food debris, food waste, uneaten food, half-eaten food, personal gear in the form of books, workout gear, workout bands, kettlebells, weightlifting equipment, the status boards had graffiti on them.

    I’d never seen a CIC like that in my entire time in the Navy,” the surface warfare officer of more than 25 years recollected.

    The more Fort looked, the worse it got: broken sensors that were reported for repairs but never fixed, schedule changes ordered by superiors high above the Fitz’s command triad that delayed crucial maintenance, taped-up radar controls and, worse, sailors who had no idea how to use the technology.

    About six weeks after the Fitzgerald collision, Fort signed and submitted his damning internal report to superiors.

    Designed in part to help federal attorneys defend against a wave of lawsuits from the owners and operators of the ACX Crystal and, indirectly, the families of the Fitz’s injured, traumatized and drowned, the Navy sought to keep Fort’s findings from the public.

    But Navy Times obtained a copy of it and began stitching his details to a growing body of court testimony by the crew of the Fitzgerald to reveal just how much worse conditions were on the destroyer than the Navy previously shared with the public.

    What it all reveals is that a mostly green crew joined the Fitzgerald shortly after the warship left dry dock maintenance in early 2017.

    They learned to make do with broken equipment, a lack of communication between departments and, especially in the CIC, a world in which failure had become “systemic across the board,” as Fort put it at last year’s hearing.

    Or as his secret report described it, a lack of training in basic seamanship fatally combined with material deficiencies to create “a culture of complacency, of accepting problems, and a dismissal of the use of some of the most important, modern equipment used for safe navigation.

    • A warship doomed by ‘confusion, indecision, and ultimately panic’ on the bridge
      https://www.navytimes.com/news/your-navy/2019/01/14/a-warship-doomed-by-confusion-indecision-and-ultimately-panic-on-the-brid


      The guided-missile destroyer Fitzgerald’s heavily damaged starboard side as the warship made its way back to port following a 2017 collision off the coast of Japan.
      Photo courtesy Sean Babbitt

      The Navy has paraded out a series of public reports addressing both the Fitzgerald tragedy and the Aug. 21, 2017, collision involving the John S. McCain and the Liberian-flagged tanker Alnic MC that killed 10 more American sailors.

      But none of those investigations so starkly blueprinted the cascade of failures at all levels of the Navy that combined to cause the Fitzgerald disaster, especially the way the doomed crew of the destroyer was staffed, trained and led in the months before it the collision.

      Fort’s team of investigators described a bridge team that was overworked and exhausted, plagued by low morale, facing a relentless tempo of operations decreed by admirals far above them, distrustful of their superiors and, fatally, each other.

      And Navy officials knew all of that at least a year before the tragedy.
      […]
      [The Commanding Officer (CO) Commander] Benson was “a little more active” on the bridge than Shu [his predecessor], but “it was not routine for the CO or (executive officer) to come up to the Bridge from (10 p.m. to 6 a.m.),” Fort wrote.

      Out of 78 underway days from February to May of that year, the CO was on the bridge just four times between the dark hours of 10 p.m. to 6 a.m., according to the report.

      Et donc logiquement, absent de la passerelle quand le navire a croisé le “rail” de nuit…

    • A watery hell: how a green crew fought the Fitz to save her
      https://www.navytimes.com/news/your-navy/2019/01/15/a-watery-hell-how-a-green-crew-fought-the-fitz-to-save-her


      The inside of the destroyer Fitzgerald after it collided with a merchant vessel on June 17, 2017, killing seven sailors.
      U.S. Navy photo

      On the day after the Fitzgerald limped back to Yokosuka, a plane carrying Rear Adm. Brian Fort landed in Japan.

      A surface warfare officer with a quarter-century in uniform, Fort had been tasked with creating a report the Navy would use, in part, to defend itself against potential negligence lawsuits brought by ACX Crystal’s owners and operators and, indirectly, by the families of the Fitz’s dead sailors.

      Completed 41 days after the disaster, it remained secret from the public until it was obtained by Navy Times.

      Far more candid than the parade of public pronouncements by senior Navy officials since 2017, Fort’s report details how the the skills of Fitzgerald’s crew had atrophied in the months since it went into dry dock.

      For example, after reporting to the Fitz, sailors were supposed to receive instruction on how to escape flooded berthing areas, a crucial course that was to be followed up by retraining every six months.

      Of the 38 sailors assigned to Berthing 2, which flooded minutes after the ACX Crystal collision, 36 of 39 “were delinquent in the six-month periodic egress training,” Fort wrote.

    • Et si, le rapport de l’amiral Fort est resté secret, c’est parce qu’"il recouvre très largement les informations fournies dans les rapports publiés" (publiés d’ailleurs, nettement plus tard…

      CNO defends hiding scathing internal report on Fitzgerald collision from public
      https://www.navytimes.com/news/your-navy/2019/02/16/cno-defends-hiding-scathing-internal-report-on-fitzgerald-collision-from-

      The Navy’s top officer Friday defended the decision to keep from the public eye a damning internal report on the 2017 warship Fitzgerald collision that killed seven sailors.

      Speaking to reporters after his appearance at the U.S. Naval Institute’s West 2019 conference here, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson said much of the report overlapped with what the service publicly released.

      But much of the probe overseen by Rear Adm. Brian Fort portrayed a far grimmer picture of what the crew of the guided-missile destroyer faced. It also prompted hard questions about the actions taken by the Fitz’s squadron and Navy officials back in the United States.

      First revealed by Navy Times, the Fort report chronicled details that Richardson, other Navy leaders and their public reports never mentioned, such as specifics about the destroyer’s brutal operational tempo, officers who didn’t trust each other, radars that didn’t work and sailors who didn’t know how to operate them.

      The investigators also portrayed the warship’s chiefs mess as ineffective and their sailors plagued by low morale in the months leading up to the June 17, 2017, collision.

      (les 3 expressions en gras sont des liens vers les articles ci-dessus)


  • The Knesset candidate who says Zionism encourages anti-Semitism and calls Netanyahu ’arch-murderer’ - Israel Election 2019 - Haaretz.com
    https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/elections/.premium.MAGAZINE-knesset-candidate-netanyahu-is-an-arch-murderer-zionism-e

    Few Israelis have heard of Dr. Ofer Cassif, the Jewish representative on the far-leftist Hadash party’s Knesset slate. On April 9, that will change
    By Ravit Hecht Feb 16, 2019

    Ofer Cassif is fire and brimstone. Not even the flu he’s suffering from today can contain his bursting energy. His words are blazing, and he bounds through his modest apartment, searching frenetically for books by Karl Marx and Primo Levi in order to find quotations to back up his ideas. Only occasional sips from a cup of maté bring his impassioned delivery to a momentary halt. The South American drink is meant to help fight his illness, he explains.

    Cassif is third on the slate of Knesset candidates in Hadash (the Hebrew acronym for the Democratic Front for Peace and Equality), the successor to Israel’s Communist Party. He holds the party’s “Jewish slot,” replacing MK Dov Khenin. Cassif is likely to draw fire from opponents and be a conspicuous figure in the next Knesset, following the April 9 election.

    Indeed, the assault on him began as soon as he was selected by the party’s convention. The media pursued him; a columnist in the mass-circulation Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper, Ben-Dror Yemini, called for him to be disqualified from running for the Knesset. It would be naive to say that this was unexpected. Cassif, who was one of the first Israeli soldiers to refuse to serve in the territories, in 1987, gained fame thanks to a number of provocative statements. The best known is his branding of Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked as “neo-Nazi scum.” On another occasion, he characterized Jews who visit the Temple Mount as “cancer with metastases that have to be eradicated.”

    On his alternate Facebook page, launched after repeated blockages of his original account by a blitz of posts from right-wing activists, he asserted that Culture Minister Miri Regev is “repulsive gutter contamination,” that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is an “arch-murderer” and that the new Israel Defense Forces chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi, is a “war criminal.”

    Do you regret making those remarks?

    Cassif: “‘Regret’ is a word of emotion. Those statements were made against a background of particular events: the fence in Gaza, horrible legislation, and the wild antics of Im Tirtzu [an ultranationalist organization] on campus. That’s what I had to say at the time. I didn’t count on being in the Knesset. That wasn’t part of my plan. But it’s clear to me that as a public personality, I would not have made those comments.”

    Is Netanyahu an arch-murderer?

    “Yes. I wrote it in the specific context of a particular day in the Gaza Strip. A massacre of innocent people was perpetrated there, and no one’s going to persuade me that those people were endangering anyone. It’s a concentration camp. Not a ‘concentration camp’ in the sense of Bergen-Belsen; I am absolutely not comparing the Holocaust to what’s happening.”

    You term what Israel is doing to the Palestinians “genocide.”

    “I call it ‘creeping genocide.’ Genocide is not only a matter of taking people to gas chambers. When Yeshayahu Leibowitz used the term ‘Judeo-Nazis,’ people asked him, ‘How can you say that? Are we about to build gas chambers?’ To that, he had two things to say. First, if the whole difference between us and the Nazis boils down to the fact that we’re not building gas chambers, we’re already in trouble. And second, maybe we won’t use gas chambers, but the mentality that exists today in Israel – and he said this 40 years ago – would allow it. I’m afraid that today, after four years of such an extreme government, it possesses even greater legitimacy.

    “But you know what, put aside ‘genocide’ – ethnic cleansing is taking place there. And that ethnic cleansing is also being carried out by means of killing, although mainly by way of humiliation and of making life intolerable. The trampling of human dignity. It reminds me of Primo Levi’s ‘If This Is a Man.’”

    You say you’re not comparing, but you repeatedly come back to Holocaust references. On Facebook, you also uploaded the scene from “Schindler’s List” in which the SS commander Amon Goeth picks off Jews with his rifle from the balcony of his quarters in the camp. You compared that to what was taking place along the border fence in the Gaza Strip.

    “Today, I would find different comparisons. In the past I wrote an article titled, ‘On Holocaust and on Other Crimes.’ It’s online [in Hebrew]. I wrote there that anyone who compares Israel to the Holocaust is cheapening the Holocaust. My comparison between here and what happened in the early 1930s [in Germany] is a very different matter.”

    Clarity vs. crudity

    Given Cassif’s style, not everyone in Hadash was happy with his election, particularly when it comes to the Jewish members of the predominantly Arab party. Dov Khenin, for example, declined to be interviewed and say what he thinks of his parliamentary successor. According to a veteran party figure, “From the conversations I had, it turns out that almost none of the Jewish delegates – who make up about 100 of the party’s 940 delegates – supported his candidacy.

    “He is perceived, and rightly so,” the party veteran continues, “as someone who closes doors to Hadash activity within Israeli society. Each of the other Jewish candidates presented a record of action and of struggles they spearheaded. What does he do? Curses right-wing politicians on Facebook. Why did the party leadership throw the full force of its weight behind him? In a continuation of the [trend exemplified by] its becoming part of the Joint List, Ofer’s election reflects insularity and an ongoing retreat from the historical goal of implementing change in Israeli society.”

    At the same time, as his selection by a 60 percent majority shows, many in the party believe that it’s time to change course. “Israeli society is moving rightward, and what’s perceived as Dov’s [Khenin] more gentle style didn’t generate any great breakthrough on the Jewish street,” a senior source in Hadash notes.

    “It’s not a question of the tension between extremism and moderation, but of how to signpost an alternative that will develop over time. Clarity, which is sometimes called crudity, never interfered with cooperation between Arabs and Jews. On the contrary. Ofer says things that we all agreed with but didn’t so much say, and of course that’s going to rile the right wing. And a good thing, too.”

    Hadash chairman MK Ayman Odeh also says he’s pleased with the choice, though sources in the party claim that Odeh is apprehensive about Cassif’s style and that he actually supported a different candidate. “Dov went for the widest possible alliances in order to wield influence,” says Odeh. “Ofer will go for very sharp positions at the expense of the breadth of the alliance. But his sharp statements could have a large impact.”

    Khenin was deeply esteemed by everyone. When he ran for mayor of Tel Aviv in 2008, some 35 percent of the electorate voted for him, because he was able to touch people who weren’t only from his political milieu.

    Odeh: “No one has a higher regard for Dov than I do. But just to remind you, we are not a regular opposition, we are beyond the pale. And there are all kinds of styles. Influence can be wielded through comments that are vexatious the first time but which people get used to the second time. When an Arab speaks about the Nakba and about the massacre in Kafr Kassem [an Israeli Arab village, in 1956], it will be taken in a particular way, but when uttered by a Jew it takes on special importance.”

    He will be the cause of many attacks on the party.

    “Ahlan wa sahlan – welcome.”

    Cassif will be the first to tell you that, with all due respect for the approach pursued by Khenin and by his predecessor in the Jewish slot, Tamar Gozansky, he will be something completely different. “I totally admire what Tamar and Dov did – nothing less than that,” he says, while adding, “But my agenda will be different. The three immediate dangers to Israeli society are the occupation, racism and the diminishment of the democratic space to the point of liquidation. That’s the agenda that has to be the hub of the struggle, as long as Israel rules over millions of people who have no rights, enters [people’s houses] in the middle of the night, arrests minors on a daily basis and shoots people in the back.

    "Israel commits murder on a daily basis. When you murder one Palestinian, you’re called Elor Azaria [the IDF soldier convicted and jailed for killing an incapacitated Palestinian assailant]; when you murder and oppress thousands of Palestinians, you’re called the State of Israel.”

    So you plan to be the provocateur in the next Knesset?

    “It’s not my intention to be a provocateur, to stand there and scream and revile people. Even on Facebook I was compelled to stop that. But I definitely intend to challenge the dialogue in terms of the content, and mainly with a type of sarcasm.”

    ’Bags of blood’

    Cassif, 54, who holds a doctorate in political philosophy from the London School of Economics, teaches political science at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Sapir Academic College in Sderot and at the Academic College of Tel Aviv-Yaffo. He lives in Rehovot, is married and is the father of a 19-year-old son. He’s been active in Hadash for three decades and has held a number of posts in the party.

    As a lecturer, he stands out for his boldness and fierce rhetoric, which draws students of all stripes. He even hangs out with some of his Haredi students, one of whom wrote a post on the eve of the Hadash primary urging the delegates to choose him. After his election, a student from a settlement in the territories wrote to him, “You are a determined and industrious person, and for that I hold you in high regard. Hoping we will meet on the field of action and growth for the success of Israel as a Jewish, democratic state (I felt obliged to add a small touch of irony in conclusion).”

    Cassif grew up in a home that supported Mapai, forerunner of Labor, in Rishon Letzion. He was an only child; his father was an accountant, his mother held a variety of jobs. He was a news hound from an early age, and at 12 ran for the student council in school. He veered sharply to the left in his teens, becoming a keen follower of Marx and socialism.

    Following military service in the IDF’s Nahal brigade and a period in the airborne Nahal, Cassif entered the Hebrew University. There his political career moved one step forward, and there he also forsook the Zionist left permanently. His first position was as a parliamentary aide to the secretary general of the Communist Party, Meir Wilner.

    “At first I was closer to Mapam [the United Workers Party, which was Zionist], and then I refused to serve in the territories. I was the first refusenik in the first intifada to be jailed. I didn’t get support from Mapam, I got support from the people of Hadash, and I drew close to them. I was later jailed three more times for refusing to serve in the territories.”

    His rivals in the student organizations at the Hebrew University remember him as the epitome of the extreme left.

    “Even in the Arab-Jewish student association, Cassif was considered off-the-wall,” says Motti Ohana, who was chairman of Likud’s student association and active in the Student Union at the end of the 1980s and early 1990s. “One time I got into a brawl with him. It was during the first intifada, when he brought two bags of blood, emptied them out in the university’s corridors and declared, ‘There is no difference between Jewish and Arab blood,’ likening Israeli soldiers to terrorists. The custom on campus was that we would quarrel, left-right, Arabs-Jews, and after that we would sit together, have a coffee and talk. But not Cassif.”

    According to Ohana, today a member of the Likud central committee, the right-wing activists knew that, “You could count on Ofer to fall into every trap. There was one event at the Hebrew University that was a kind of political Hyde Park. The right wanted to boot the left out of there, so we hung up the flag. It was obvious that Ofer would react, and in fact he tore the flag, and in the wake of the ruckus that developed, political activity was stopped for good.”

    Replacing the anthem

    Cassif voices clearly and cogently positions that challenge the public discourse in Israel, and does so with ardor and charisma. Four candidates vied for Hadash’s Jewish slot, and they all delivered speeches at the convention. The three candidates who lost to him – Efraim Davidi, Yaela Raanan and the head of the party’s Tel Aviv branch, Noa Levy – described their activity and their guiding principles. When they spoke, there was the regular buzz of an audience that’s waiting for lunch. But when Cassif took the stage, the effect was magnetic.

    “Peace will not be established without a correction of the crimes of the Nakba and [recognition of] the right of return,” he shouted, and the crowd cheered him. As one senior party figure put it, “Efraim talked about workers’ rights, Yaela about the Negev, Noa about activity in Tel Aviv – and Ofer was Ofer.”

    What do you mean by “right of return”?

    Cassif: “The first thing is the actual recognition of the Nakba and of the wrong done by Israel. Compare it to the Truth and Reconciliation Commissions in South Africa, if you like, or with the commissions in Chile after Pinochet. Israel must recognize the wrong it committed. Now, recognition of the wrong also includes recognition of the right of return. The question is how it’s implemented. It has to be done by agreement. I can’t say that tomorrow Tel Aviv University has to be dismantled and that Sheikh Munis [the Arab village on whose ruins the university stands] has to be rebuilt there. The possibility can be examined of giving compensation in place of return, for example.”

    But what is the just solution, in your opinion?

    “For the Palestinian refugees to return to their homeland.”

    That means there will be Jews who will have to leave their home.

    “In some places, unequivocally, yes. People will have to be told: ‘You must evacuate your places.’ The classic example is Ikrit and Biram [Christian-Arab villages in Galilee whose residents were promised – untruly – by the Israeli authorities in 1948 that they would be able to return, and whose lands were turned over to Jewish communities]. But there are places where there is certainly greater difficulty. You don’t right one wrong with another.”

    What about the public space in Israel? What should it look like?

    “The public space has to change, to belong to all the state’s residents. I dispute the conception of ‘Jewish publicness.’”

    How should that be realized?

    “For example, by changing the national symbols, changing the national anthem. [Former Hadash MK] Mohammed Barakeh once suggested ‘I Believe’ [‘Sahki, Sahki’] by [Shaul] Tchernichovsky – a poem that is not exactly an expression of Palestinian nationalism. He chose it because of the line, ‘For in mankind I’ll believe.’ What does it mean to believe in mankind? It’s not a Jew, or a Palestinian, or a Frenchman, or I don’t know what.”

    What’s the difference between you and the [Arab] Balad party? Both parties overall want two states – a state “of all its citizens” and a Palestinian state.

    “In the big picture, yes. But Balad puts identity first on the agenda. We are not nationalists. We do not espouse nationalism as a supreme value. For us, self-determination is a means. We are engaged in class politics. By the way, Balad [the National Democratic Assembly] and Ta’al [MK Ahmad Tibi’s Arab Movement for Renewal] took the idea of a state of all its citizens from us, from Hadash. We’ve been talking about it for ages.”

    If you were a Palestinian, what would you do today?

    “In Israel, what my Palestinian friends are doing, and I with them – [wage] a parliamentary and extra-parliamentary struggle.”

    And what about the Palestinians in the territories?

    “We have always been against harming innocent civilians. Always. In all our demonstrations, one of our leading slogans was: ‘In Gaza and in Sderot, children want to live.’ With all my criticism of the settlers, to enter a house and slaughter children, as in the case of the Fogel family [who were murdered in their beds in the settlement of Itamar in 2011], is intolerable. You have to be a human being and reject that.”

    And attacks on soldiers?

    “An attack on soldiers is not terrorism. Even Netanyahu, in his book about terrorism, explicitly categorizes attacks on soldiers or on the security forces as guerrilla warfare. It’s perfectly legitimate, according to every moral criterion – and, by the way, in international law. At the same time, I am not saying it’s something wonderful, joyful or desirable. The party’s Haifa office is on Ben-Gurion Street, and suddenly, after years, I noticed a memorial plaque there for a fighter in Lehi [pre-state underground militia, also known as the Stern Gang] who assassinated a British officer. Wherever there has been a struggle for liberation from oppression, there are national heroes, who in 90 percent of the cases carried out some operations that were unlawful. Nelson Mandela is today considered a hero, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, but according to the conventional definition, he was a terrorist. Most of the victims of the ANC [African National Congress] were civilians.”

    In other words, today’s Hamas commanders who are carrying out attacks on soldiers will be heroes of the future Palestinian state?

    “Of course.”

    Anti-Zionist identity

    Cassif terms himself an explicit anti-Zionist. “There are three reasons for that,” he says. “To begin with, Zionism is a colonialist movement, and as a socialist, I am against colonialism. Second, as far as I am concerned, Zionism is racist in ideology and in practice. I am not referring to the definition of race theory – even though there are also some who impute that to the Zionist movement – but to what I call Jewish supremacy. No socialist can accept that. My supreme value is equality, and I can’t abide any supremacy – Jewish or Arab. The third thing is that Zionism, like other ethno-nationalistic movements, splits the working class and all weakened groups. Instead of uniting them in a struggle for social justice, for equality, for democracy, it divides the exploited classes and the enfeebled groups, and by that means strengthens the rule of capital.”

    He continues, “Zionism also sustains anti-Semitism. I don’t say it does so deliberately – even though I have no doubt that there are some who do it deliberately, like Netanyahu, who is connected to people like the prime minister of Hungary, Viktor Orban, and the leader of the far right in Austria, Hans Christian Strache.”

    Did Mapai-style Zionism also encourage anti-Semitism?

    “The phenomenon was very striking in Mapai. Think about it for a minute, not only historically, but logically. If the goal of political and practical Zionism is really the establishment of a Jewish state containing a Jewish majority, and for Diaspora Jewry to settle there, nothing serves them better than anti-Semitism.”

    What in their actions encouraged anti-Semitism?

    “The very appeal to Jews throughout the world – the very fact of treating them as belonging to the same nation, when they were living among other nations. The whole old ‘dual loyalty’ story – Zionism actually encouraged that. Therefore, I maintain that anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism are not the same thing, but are precisely opposites. That doesn’t mean, of course, that there are no anti-Zionists who are also anti-Semites. Most of the BDS people are of course anti-Zionists, but they are in no way anti-Semites. But there are anti-Semites there, too.”

    Do you support BDS?

    “It’s too complex a subject for a yes or no answer; there are aspects I don’t support.”

    Do you think that the Jews deserve a national home in the Land of Israel?

    “I don’t know what you mean by ‘national home.’ It’s very amorphous. We in Hadash say explicitly that Israel has a right to exist as a sovereign state. Our struggle is not against the state’s existence, but over its character.”

    But that state is the product of the actions of the Zionist movement, which you say has been colonialist and criminal from day one.

    “That’s true, but the circumstances have changed. That’s the reason that the majority of the members of the Communist Party accepted the [1947] partition agreement at the time. They recognized that the circumstances had changed. I think that one of the traits that sets communist thought apart, and makes it more apt, is the understanding and the attempt to strike the proper balance between what should be, and reality. So it’s true that Zionism started as colonialism, but what do you do with the people who were already born here? What do you tell them? Because your grandparents committed a crime, you have to leave? The question is how you transform the situation that’s been created into one that’s just, democratic and equal.”

    So, a person who survived a death camp and came here is a criminal?

    “The individual person, of course not. I’m in favor of taking in refugees in distress, no matter who or what they are. I am against Zionism’s cynical use of Jews in distress, including the refugees from the Holocaust. I have a problem with the fact that the natives whose homeland this is cannot return, while people for whom it’s not their homeland, can, because they supposedly have some sort of blood tie and an ‘imaginary friend’ promised them the land.”

    I understand that you are in favor of the annulment of the Law of Return?

    “Yes. Definitely.”

    But you are in favor of the Palestinian right of return.

    “There’s no comparison. There’s no symmetry here at all. Jerry Seinfeld was by chance born to a Jewish family. What’s his connection to this place? Why should he have preference over a refugee from Sabra or Chatila, or Edward Said, who did well in the United States? They are the true refugees. This is their homeland. Not Seinfeld’s.”

    Are you critical of the Arabs, too?

    “Certainly. One criticism is of their cooperation with imperialism – take the case of today’s Saudi Arabia, Qatar and so on. Another, from the past, relates to the reactionary forces that did not accept that the Jews have a right to live here.”

    Hadash refrained from criticizing the Assad regime even as it was massacring civilians in Syria. The party even torpedoed a condemnation of Assad after the chemical attack. Do you identify with that approach?

    “Hadash was critical of the Assad regime – father and son – for years, so we can’t be accused in any way of supporting Assad or Hezbollah. We are not Ba’ath, we are not Islamists. We are communists. But as I said earlier, the struggle, unfortunately, is generally not between the ideal and what exists in practice, but many times between two evils. And then you have to ask yourself which is the lesser evil. The Syrian constellation is extremely complicated. On the one hand, there is the United States, which is intervening, and despite all the pretense of being against ISIS, supported ISIS and made it possible for ISIS to sprout.

    "I remind you that ISIS started from the occupation of Iraq. And ideologically and practically, ISIS is definitely a thousand times worse than the Assad regime, which is at base also a secular regime. Our position was and is against the countries that pose the greatest danger to regional peace, which above all are Qatar and Saudi Arabia, and the United States, which supports them. That doesn’t mean that we support Assad.”

    Wrong language

    Cassif’s economic views are almost as far from the consensus as his political ideas. He lives modestly in an apartment that’s furnished like a young couple’s first home. You won’t find an espresso maker or unnecessary products of convenience in his place. To his credit, it can be said that he extracts the maximum from Elite instant coffee.

    What is your utopian vision – to nationalize Israel’s conglomerates, such as Cellcom, the telecommunications company, or Osem, the food manufacturer and distributor?

    “The bottom line is yes. How exactly will it be done? That’s an excellent question, which I can’t answer. Perhaps by transferring ownership to the state or to the workers, with democratic tools. And there are other alternatives. But certainly, I would like it if a large part of the resources were not in private hands, as was the case before the big privatizations. It’s true that it won’t be socialism, because, again, there can be no such thing as Zionist socialism, but there won’t be privatization like we have today. What is the result of capitalism in Israel? The collapse of the health system, the absence of a social-welfare system, a high cost of living and of housing, the elderly and the disabled in a terrible situation.”

    Does any private sector have the right to exist?

    “Look, the question is what you mean by ‘private sector.’ If we’re talking about huge concerns that the owners of capital control completely through their wealth, then no.”

    What growth was there in the communist countries? How can anyone support communism, in light of the grim experience wherever it was tried?

    “It’s true, we know that in the absolute majority of societies where an attempt was made to implement socialism, there was no growth or prosperity, and we need to ask ourselves why, and how to avoid that. When I talk about communism, I’m not talking about Stalin and all the crimes that were committed in the name of the communist idea. Communism is not North Korea and it is not Pol Pot in Cambodia. Heaven forbid.”

    And what about Venezuela?

    “Venezuela is not communism. In fact, they didn’t go far enough in the direction of socialism.”

    Chavez was not enough of a socialist?

    “Chavez, but in particular Maduro. The Communist Party is critical of the regime. They support it because the main enemy is truly American imperialism and its handmaidens. Let’s look at what the U.S. did over the years. At how many times it invaded and employed bullying, fascist forces. Not only in Latin America, its backyard, but everywhere.”

    Venezuela is falling apart, people there don’t have anything to eat, there’s no medicine, everyone who can flees – and it’s the fault of the United States?

    “You can’t deny that the regime has made mistakes. It’s not ideal. But basically, it is the result of American imperialism and its lackeys. After all, the masses voted for Chavez and for Maduro not because things were good for them. But because American corporations stole the country’s resources and filled their own pockets. I wouldn’t make Chavez into an icon, but he did some excellent things.”

    Then how do you generate individual wealth within the method you’re proposing? I understand that I am now talking to you capitalistically, but the reality is that people see the accumulation of assets as an expression of progress in life.

    “Your question is indeed framed in capitalist language, which simply departs from what I believe in. Because you are actually asking me how the distribution of resources is supposed to occur within the capitalist framework. And I say no, I am not talking about resource distribution within a capitalist framework.”

    Gantz vs. Netanyahu

    Cassif was chosen as the polls showed Meretz and Labor, the representatives of the Zionist left, barely scraping through into the next Knesset and in fact facing a serious possibility of electoral extinction. The critique of both parties from the radical left is sometimes more acerbic than from the right.

    Would you like to see the Labor Party disappear?

    “No. I think that what’s happening at the moment with Labor and with Meretz is extremely dangerous. I speak about them as collectives, because they contain individuals with whom I see no possibility of engaging in a dialogue. But I think that they absolutely must be in the Knesset.”

    Is a left-winger who defines himself as a Zionist your partner in any way?

    “Yes. We need partners. We can’t be picky. Certainly we will cooperate with liberals and Zionists on such issues as combating violence against women or the battle to rescue the health system. Maybe even in putting an end to the occupation.”

    I’ll put a scenario to you: Benny Gantz does really well in the election and somehow overcomes Netanyahu. Do you support the person who led Operation Protective Edge in Gaza when he was chief of staff?

    “Heaven forbid. But we don’t reject people, we reject policy. I remind you that it was [then-defense minister] Yitzhak Rabin who led the most violent tendency in the first intifada, with his ‘Break their bones.’ But when he came to the Oslo Accords, it was Hadash and the Arab parties that gave him, from outside the coalition, an insurmountable bloc. I can’t speak for the party, but if there is ever a government whose policy is one that we agree with – eliminating the occupation, combating racism, abolishing the nation-state law – I believe we will give our support in one way or another.”

    And if Gantz doesn’t declare his intention to eliminate the occupation, he isn’t preferable to Netanyahu in any case?

    “If so, why should we recommend him [to the president to form the next government]? After the clips he posted boasting about how many people he killed and how he hurled Gaza back into the Stone Age, I’m far from certain that he’s better.”

    #Hadash

    • traduction d’un extrait [ d’actualité ]

      Le candidat à la Knesset dit que le sionisme encourage l’antisémitisme et qualifie Netanyahu de « meurtrier »
      Peu d’Israéliens ont entendu parler de M. Ofer Cassif, représentant juif de la liste de la Knesset du parti d’extrême gauche Hadash. Le 9 avril, cela changera.
      Par Ravit Hecht 16 février 2019 – Haaretz

      (…) Identité antisioniste
      Cassif se dit un antisioniste explicite. « Il y a trois raisons à cela », dit-il. « Pour commencer, le sionisme est un mouvement colonialiste et, en tant que socialiste, je suis contre le colonialisme. Deuxièmement, en ce qui me concerne, le sionisme est raciste d’idéologie et de pratique. Je ne fais pas référence à la définition de la théorie de la race - même si certains l’imputent également au mouvement sioniste - mais à ce que j’appelle la suprématie juive. Aucun socialiste ne peut accepter cela. Ma valeur suprême est l’égalité et je ne peux supporter aucune suprématie - juive ou arabe. La troisième chose est que le sionisme, comme d’autres mouvements ethno-nationalistes, divise la classe ouvrière et tous les groupes sont affaiblis. Au lieu de les unir dans une lutte pour la justice sociale, l’égalité, la démocratie, il divise les classes exploitées et affaiblit les groupes, renforçant ainsi le pouvoir du capital. "
      Il poursuit : « Le sionisme soutient également l’antisémitisme. Je ne dis pas qu’il le fait délibérément - même si je ne doute pas qu’il y en a qui le font délibérément, comme Netanyahu, qui est connecté à des gens comme le Premier ministre de la Hongrie, Viktor Orban, et le chef de l’extrême droite. en Autriche, Hans Christian Strache. ”

      Le sionisme type-Mapaï a-t-il également encouragé l’antisémitisme ?
      « Le phénomène était très frappant au Mapai. Pensez-y une minute, non seulement historiquement, mais logiquement. Si l’objectif du sionisme politique et pratique est en réalité de créer un État juif contenant une majorité juive et de permettre à la communauté juive de la diaspora de s’y installer, rien ne leur sert mieux que l’antisémitisme. "

      Qu’est-ce qui, dans leurs actions, a encouragé l’antisémitisme ?
      « L’appel même aux Juifs du monde entier - le fait même de les traiter comme appartenant à la même nation, alors qu’ils vivaient parmi d’autres nations. Toute la vieille histoire de « double loyauté » - le sionisme a en fait encouragé cela. Par conséquent, j’affirme que l’antisémitisme et l’antisionisme ne sont pas la même chose, mais sont précisément des contraires. Bien entendu, cela ne signifie pas qu’il n’y ait pas d’antisionistes qui soient aussi antisémites. La plupart des membres du BDS sont bien sûr antisionistes, mais ils ne sont en aucun cas antisémites. Mais il y a aussi des antisémites.


  • JPMorgan Chase Moves to Be First Big U.S. Bank With Its Own Cryptocurrency - The New York Times
    https://www.nytimes.com/2019/02/14/business/dealbook/jpmorgan-cryptocurrency-bitcoin.html

    In 2017, Jamie Dimon, JPMorgan Chase’s chief executive, declared Bitcoin a “fraud” and said that any employee caught trading it would be fired for being “stupid.”

    On Thursday, JPMorgan became the first major United States bank to introduce its own digital token for real-world use, the latest step in Wall Street’s evolving approach to the blockchain technology that underpins cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ether.

    Despite questioning Bitcoin’s legitimacy, Mr. Dimon has said he recognizes blockchain’s potential in the future of the global financial system. And JPMorgan has already released a blockchain platform, Quorum, that several institutions are using to keep track of financial data.

    The bank’s token is unlikely to shake up the financial system anytime soon. Because it will be run by JPMorgan, it lacks the fundamental qualities that have made cryptocurrencies so radical: the freedom from middlemen and from regulatory oversight.

    JPMorgan will control the JPM Coin ledger, and each coin will be backed by a dollar in JPMorgan accounts, giving the coins a stable value. That means JPM Coin will not be subject to the wild price volatility that has drawn speculators to other cryptocurrencies.

    The bank is following in the footsteps of several smaller players that have introduced similar digital coins tied to the dollar. A consortium of European banks has been finalizing a similar product, Utility Settlement Coin, that would make it possible to move money between banks more quickly. Several cryptocurrency exchanges already have their own so-called stablecoins.

    The advantage of such a token, Mr. Farooq said, is speed. Clients that want to move huge sums of money would traditionally need to do so via wire transfer, a process that could take hours or even days. With international transfers, changes in currency exchange rates during the long lag times could end up adding to customers’ costs.

    Mr. Farooq said JPMorgan’s offering would be useful for big clients, but not for the smaller speculators who have typically taken an interest in cryptocurrencies.

    “This is designed specifically for institutional use cases on blockchain,” he said. “It’s not created to be for public investment.”

    #Cryptomonnaies #Banques #Spéculation


  • Le crabe EST une espèce sédentaire, et donc une ressource naturelle. Il est donc protégé par l’exclusivité de la #ZEE.

    Intéressant débat juridique, avec conséquences sur la maîtrise par la Norvège de ses ressources d’hydrocarbures.

    À noter, l’absence de position sur le traité du #Svalbard

    Abide by the claw : Norway’s Arctic snow crab ruling boosts claim to oil | Reuters
    https://www.reuters.com/article/us-norway-eu-snowcrab-idUSKCN1Q3115


    A fisherman holds a snow crab in Kjoellefjord, Norway, November 1, 2017.
    NTB Scanpix/Terje Bendiksby via REUTERS

    A court delivered a painful nip to European Union fishermen on Thursday by tightening Norway’s grip on snow crab catches in the Arctic, a ruling that may also let Oslo claw more control of oil and gas from other nations.

    Fishermen from the European Union must ask permission from Oslo to catch snow crab — whose meat is a delicacy for gourmets from Canada to Japan — in Arctic waters north of Norway, the Norwegian Supreme Court said in a unanimous ruling.

    The court dismissed an appeal by a Latvian fishing firm and its Russian captain against fines imposed by a lower court for catching snow crab around the remote Svalbard Islands in 2017 with only an EU license.

    Latvia’s Foreign Ministry said it would review the decision at a government meeting.

    Norway is tightening its grip,” in the Arctic, said Oeystein Jensen, a researcher in international law at the independent Fridtjof Nansen Institute in Oslo.

    The court clarifies that if you are going to fish, or search for oil and gas, you need permission from the Norwegian authorities,” he told Reuters.

    At issue was whether the snow crab was a sedentary species living on the seabed or moves around like fish, and who gets to control the stocks.

    The court agreed with non-EU member Norway that snow crabs are sedentary, like corals or oysters, and that as such under the U.N. Law of the Sea they are a resource belonging to the continental shelf of Norway extending hundreds of miles (kms) offshore.

    Had Norway lost the case, the EU could have staked a claim over the snow crab and it could have been harder for Oslo to regulate access to potential oil and gas resources beneath the Arctic seabed.

    For the Norwegian coastguard this is a big relief - they can arrest any ships fishing illegally in the Svalbard area,” chief public prosecutor Lars Fause told Reuters.

    The Latvian firm, SIA North Star, argued that the crabs are not sedentary because they scurry around and so should be regulated under regional fisheries accords signed by parties including the European Union, Norway and Russia.

    It argued that it had a valid EU permit.

    We’re very disappointed,” defense lawyer Hallvard Oestgaard told Reuters. He said that his client would consider whether to try to appeal to international tribunals.

    And SIA North Star argued that Norway is obliged under an international 1920 treaty to allow other nations access to the waters around Svalbard.

    That treaty grants sovereignty to Norway but gives other signatories rights to engage in commercial activities on and around Svalbard. Russia, for instance, runs a coal mine on Svalbard.

    But Oslo says rights to exploit resources around Svalbard extend only to a narrow band of just 12 nautical miles offshore. The court ruled that the Latvian catches were illegal under Norwegian law, irrespective of the Svalbard Treaty.


  • Finland’s basic income trial boosts happiness but not employment | Reuters
    https://www.reuters.com/article/us-finland-basic-income/finlands-basic-income-trial-boosts-happiness-but-not-employment-idUSKCN1PX0
    https://s4.reutersmedia.net/resources/r/?m=02&d=20190208&t=2&i=1354502227&w=1200&r=LYNXNPEF170XW

    HELSINKI (Reuters) - Finland’s basic income scheme did not spur its unemployed recipients to work more to supplement their earnings as hoped but it did help their wellbeing, researchers said on Friday as the government announced initial findings.

    The two-year trial, which ended a month ago, saw 2,000 Finns, chosen randomly from among the unemployed, become the first Europeans to be paid a regular monthly income by the state that was not reduced if they found work.

    Finland — the world’s happiest country last year, according to the United Nations — is exploring alternatives to its social security model.

    The trial was being watched closely by other governments who see a basic income as a way of encouraging the unemployed to take up often low-paid or temporary work without fear of losing their benefits. That could help reduce dependence on the state and cut welfare costs, especially as greater automation sees humans replaced in the workforce.

    Finland’s minister of health and social affairs Pirkko Mattila said the impact on employment of the monthly pay cheque of 560 euros ($635) “seems to have been minor on the grounds of the first trial year”.

    But participants in the trial were happier and healthier than the control group.

    “The basic income recipients of the test group reported better wellbeing in every way (than) the comparison group,” chief researcher Olli Kangas said.

    Chief economist for the trial Ohto Kanniainen said the low impact on employment was not a surprise, given that many jobless people have few skills or struggle with difficult life situations or health concerns.
    Owner Sini Marttinen poses for a picture at her coffee shop she founded while benefitting from Finland’s basic income scheme in Helsinki, Finland January 30, 2019. REUTERS/Philip O’Connor

    “Economists have known for a long time that with unemployed people financial incentives don’t work quite the way some people would expect them to,” he added.
    PSYCHOLOGICAL BOOST

    Sini Marttinen, 36, had been unemployed for nearly a year before “winning the lottery”, as she described the trial.

    Her basic income gave her enough confidence to open a restaurant with two friends. “I think the effect was a lot psychological,” the former IT consultant told Reuters.

    “You kind of got this idea you have two years, you have the security of 560 euros per month ... It gave me the security to start my own business.”

    Her income only rose by 50 euros a month compared to the jobless benefit she had been receiving, “but in an instant you lose the bureaucracy, the reporting”, Marttinen said.

    Mira Jaskari, 36, who briefly found a job during the trial but lost it due to poor health, said losing the basic income had left her feeling more insecure about money.

    The center-right government’s original plan was to expand the basic income scheme after two years as it tries to combat unemployment which has been persistently high for years but reached a 10-year low of 6.6 percent in December.

    That followed the imposition of benefits sanctions on unemployed people who refused work.

    The basic income has been controversial, however, with leaders of the main Finnish political parties keen to streamline the benefits system but wary of offering “money for nothing”, especially ahead of parliamentary elections due in April.
    Slideshow (2 Images)
    TAX BIND

    Prime Minister Juha Sipila’s Centre Party has proposed limiting the basic income to poor people, with sanctions if they reject a job offer, while Conservative finance minister Petteri Orpo says he favors a scheme like Britain’s Universal Credit.

    The higher taxes that the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) says would be needed to pay for basic income schemes might also be off-putting for voters.

    In a review of the Finnish scheme last year, the OECD warned that implementing it nationally and cost-neutrally for the state would imply significant income redistribution, especially towards couples from single people, and increase poverty.

    The researchers have acknowledged that the Finnish pilot was less than realistic because it did not include any tax claw-back once participants found work and reached a certain income level.

    Swiss voters rejected a similar scheme in 2016. Italy is due to introduce a “citizens’ wage” in April in a major overhaul of the welfare state, which will offer income support to the unemployed and poor.

    Trial participants were generally positive, however, with Tuomas Muraja, a 45-year-old journalist and author, saying the basic income had allowed him to concentrate on writing instead of form-filling or attending jobseekers’ courses.

    He said the end of the two-year trial, during which he published two books, had made it difficult again for him to accept commissions, because “I ... can earn only 300 euros per month without losing any benefits”.

    “If people are paid money freely that makes them creative, productive and welfare brings welfare,” Muraja told Reuters about his experience of the pilot.

    “If you feel free, you feel safer and then you can do whatever you want. That is my assessment.”

    ($1 = 0.8817 euros)


  • Spotify. It’s Not Just for Music Anymore. - The New York Times
    https://www.nytimes.com/2019/02/06/business/dealbook/spotify-gimlet-anchor-podcasts.html

    No longer does it aim to be a go-to destination for just music fans. It now sees itself as a provider of online audio, period.

    The company’s chief executive, Daniel Ek, emphasized the shift in direction in a blog post on Wednesday. “I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished, but what I didn’t know when we launched to consumers in 2008 was that audio — not just music — would be the future of Spotify,” he wrote.

    With the acquisitions, Spotify becomes the latest player to invest in a medium once considered a low-stakes sandbox in the larger media environment. Now that podcasts have become part of the listening routine for millions of people, major companies have recognized them as an important — but still relatively cheap — source of content.

    In September, the radio giant iHeartMedia bought Stuff Media, another influential producer, and recently Hollywood has begun buying up rights to popular podcasts. “Homecoming,” an Amazon series starring Julia Roberts, is based on a fictional podcast from Gimlet.

    “I don’t think Spotify woke up one day and realized that audio storytelling has some incredible emotional place in the life of their brand,” said Owen Grover, the chief executive of Pocket Casts, a podcast app. “Strategically, if they can get their users to listen to podcasts in place of music, it improves their margins.”

    While podcasts are hardly a new invention — they became part of Apple’s iTunes in 2005 — their popularity has surged in recent years. By some estimates, more than 600,000 podcasts are available through Apple, a number that does not include shows that are exclusive to other providers, like Spotify.

    But while it may seem as if every other person on earth is either a podcast listener or a podcast host, the money thrown off by the boomlet has been relatively modest. According to a study by the Interactive Advertising Bureau and PwC, the podcast industry as a whole generated $314 million in 2017, though that survey also predicts that by 2020 the number will more than double, to $659 million.

    Spotify, which went public in April, announced on Wednesday that it ended 2018 with 207 million active users around the world, 96 million of whom paid for monthly subscriptions. Its revenue for the year was 5.3 billion euros, about $6 billion, an increase of 29 percent from 2017.

    And while in 2018 the company lost €78 million, about $89 million, it had a net income of €442 million, or about $502 million, in its fourth quarter. Spotify’s gross profit margin also grew in that quarter, to 26.7 percent, from 25.3 percent in the previous three months.

    Despite Spotify’s dominance among music listeners (its chief rival, Apple Music, has 50 million paying subscribers), Mr. Ek, the company’s chief executive, predicted that “over time,” about 20 percent of all Spotify listening would involve something other than music.

    #Culture_numérique #Podcast #Spotify


    • Gilets Jaunes strike on 5th February – solidarity action in Bratislava

      5/2/2019

      Several sections of the International Workers‘ Association responded to the call for solidarity from French CNT-AIT. So far we have heard about ZSP in Poland, KRAS in Russia, SolFed in UK and NSF in Norway. In Slovakia, Priama akcia organized a visit to the French embassy in Bratislava.

      We visited the embassy in the morning. Chief of security opened the door and informed us that we cannot meet the ambassador because he was not there. We told him why we had come to protest and delivered a letter for the ambassador (see text below). He promised to translate the letter to French and give it to the ambassador.

      In solidarity with our comrades in France!

      Text of the letter to the ambassador:

      Dear ambassador Christophe Léonzi,

      Hereby we react to the international call of the Confédération Nationale du Travail (CNT-AIT, the French section of the International Workers’ Association) and our expression of solidarity with the movement of so-called Yellow Vests in France.

      We express our support to the strike that has been called by yellow vests and is taking place in France today. We demand that the police violence against the participants at assemblies and demonstrations is stopped, and those who have been imprisoned so far are released immediately.

      We trust that you will inform relevant authorities in France about our protest. We will closely observe the movement of yellow vests and inform about it in Slovakia.

      Workers’ solidarity union PRIAMA AKCIA

      Slovak section of the International Workers’ Association

      In Bratislava, 5th February 2019

      https://www.priamaakcia.sk/Gilets-Jaunes-strike-on-5th-February-solidarity-action-in-Bratislava.htm


  • Gantz, son of Holocaust survivor, mentions Bergen-Belsen but ignores the camp that is Gaza
    If Benny Gantz had the courage, he’d go to The Hague himself
    Amira Hass
    Feb 03, 2019

    https://www.haaretz.com/opinion/.premium-gantz-son-of-holocaust-survivor-mentions-bergen-belsen-but-ignores

    Benny Gantz frequently mentions his mother, a survivor of Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, Anshel Pfeffer wrote in Haaretz on January 30. My mother also survived Bergen-Belsen. The former IDF chief of staff’s mother encouraged him to continue fighting in Gaza, but not to stop sending food to its inhabitants. (To make things straight: Israel did not and does not send food to the Palestinians. The food is bought at full price from Israeli merchants and producers. What Israel can do is to prevent food and other essential products from entering Gaza, as it has done more than once.) My mother was revolted by generals, their wars against the Palestinians and the trafficking in the memory of the murdered Jews.

    If Gantz had the courage, he would go to The Hague himself, to the Dutch district court there. The judge would have to decide whether the Dutch court has the authority to hear a civil suit against the former Israeli chief of staff for war crimes in Gaza in 2014 – the killing of six members of a family in one bombardment. Gantz’s lawyer would argue that the judge should reject the suit because the court has no jurisdiction, and in any case Gantz has immunity because he did what he did for the State of Israel, in the framework of his state-sanctioned role. This is also whyIsrael pays for his legal representation.

    >> Read more: Like Netanyahu, Gantz plays on the anxieties of his would-be voters ■ 180 Palestinian women wounded by live Israeli fire since start of Gaza protests

    Suing for war crimes specific people, who were serving in official capacities, is based on the concept that human beings, even soldiers and certainly their supreme commander, are creatures capable of thinking and are therefore responsible for their actions. They are not just following orders. A civil suit for a war crime committed in another country is based on the concept that universal values exist and that when international law is breached, a third state has the right to adjudicate.

    If Gantz had the courage, he would leave his new Knesset (or cabinet) seat for a day or two and stand in The Hague before the plaintiff Ismail Ziada. But even if Gantz doesn’t go, two tracks of uprootedness, injustice and trauma, will intersect there. Europe made clear to Gantz’s parents, who were born in Hungary and Romania, that they were not wanted there. In fact, that they didn’t deserve to live. They were not killed, and they arrived in this country. In Israel we became the victors, and we continue to take revenge on those who have nothing to do with the expulsion and murder of the Jews.


  • #tzero: Successful migration from an #ico to STO, platform launch awaited |Everything you need to know
    https://hackernoon.com/tzero-successful-migration-from-an-ico-to-sto-platform-launch-awaited-ev

    tZERO: Successful migration from an ICO to STO, platform launch awaitedDisclaimer: This is not financial advice. Article inspired from InWara. For more details visit terms and conditions.tZERO was launched by Overstock.com through an Initial Coin Offering-ICO, with the aim of raising funds for developing an alternate decentralized trading platform. The long-awaited tZERO security token trading platform will go live by the end of this week according to CEO Patrick Byrne. Overstock’s ATS (Alternative Trading System) a precursor to tZERO has been operational for two years but with limited volumes.According to reports from coindesk, “tZERO will be led by Steven Hopkins, who was up until recently the chief operating officer and general counsel at Medici. Hopkins will serve as tZERO’s (...)

    #tzero-analysis #blockchain #cryptocurrency


  • Israel just admitted arming anti-Assad Syrian rebels. Big mistake - Middle East News
    Haaretz.com - Daniel J. Levy Jan 30, 2019 5:03 PM
    https://www.haaretz.com/middle-east-news/.premium-israel-just-admitted-arming-anti-assad-syrian-rebels-big-mistake-1

    In his final days as the Israel Defense Forces’ Chief of Staff, Lieutenant General Gadi Eisenkot confirmed, on the record, that Israel had directly supported anti-Assad Syrian rebel factions in the Golan Heights by arming them.

    This revelation marks a direct break from Israel’s previous media policy on such matters. Until now, Israel has insisted it has only provided humanitarian aid to civilians (through field hospitals on the Golan Heights and in permanent healthcare facilities in northern Israel), and has consistently denied or refused to comment on any other assistance.

    In short, none other than Israel’s most (until recently) senior serving soldier has admitted that up until his statement, his country’s officially stated position on the Syrian civil war was built on the lie of non-intervention.

    As uncomfortable as this may initially seem, though, it is unsurprising. Israel has a long history of conducting unconventional warfare. That form of combat is defined by the U.S. government’s National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2016 as “activities conducted to enable a resistance movement or insurgency to coerce, disrupt or overthrow an occupying power or government by operating through or with an underground, auxiliary or guerrilla force in a denied area” in the pursuit of various security-related strategic objectives.

    While the United States and Iran are both practitioners of unconventional warfare par excellence, they primarily tend to do so with obvious and longer-term strategic allies, i.e. the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance fighters in Afghanistan, and various Shia militias in post-2003 Iraq.

    In contrast, Israel has always shown a remarkable willingness to form short-term tactical partnerships with forces and entities explicitly hostile to its very existence, as long as that alliance is able to offer some kind of security-related benefits.

    The best example of this is Israel’s decision to arm Tehran during the Iran-Iraq War, despite the Islamic Republic of Iran’s strong anti-Zionist rhetoric and foreign policy. During the 1980s, Iraq remained Jerusalem’s primary conventional (and arguably existential) military threat. Aiding Tehran to continue fighting an attritional war against Baghdad reduced the risk the latter posed against Israel.

    Similarly, throughout the civil war in Yemen in the 1960s, Israel covertly supported the royalist Houthi forces fighting Egyptian-backed republicans. Given Egypt’s very heavy military footprint in Yemen at the time (as many as a third of all Egyptian troops were deployed to the country during this period), Israelis reasoned that this military attrition would undermine their fighting capacity closer to home, which was arguably proven by Egypt’s lacklustre performance in the Six Day War.

    Although technically not unconventional warfare, Israel long and openly backed the South Lebanon Army, giving it years of experience in arming, training, and mentoring a partner indigenous force.

    More recently, though, Israel’s policy of supporting certain anti-Assad rebel groups remains consistent with past precedents of with whom and why it engages in unconventional warfare. Israel’s most pressing strategic concern and potential threat in Syria is an Iranian encroachment onto its northern border, either directly, or through an experienced and dangerous proxy such as Hezbollah, key to the Assad regime’s survival.

    For a number of reasons, Israel committing troops to overt large-scale operations in Syria to prevent this is simply unfeasible. To this end, identifying and subsequently supporting a local partner capable of helping Israel achieve this strategic goal is far more sensible, and realistic.

    Open source details of Israel’s project to support anti-Assad rebel groups are sparse, and have been since the outbreak of the Syrian civil war.

    Reports of this first arose towards the end of 2014, and one described how United Nations officials had witnessed Syrian rebels transferring injured patients to Israel, as well as “IDF soldiers on the Israeli side handing over two boxes to armed Syrian opposition members on the Syrian side.” The same report also stated that UN observers said they saw “two IDF soldiers on the eastern side of the border fence opening the gate and letting two people enter Israel.”

    Since then, a steady stream of similar reports continued to detail Israeli contacts with the Syrian rebels, with the best being written and researched by Elizabeth Tsurkov. In February, 2014 she wrote an outstanding feature for War On The Rocks, where she identified Liwaa’ Fursan al-Jolan and Firqat Ahrar Nawa as two groups benefiting from Israeli support, named Iyad Moro as “Israel’s contact person in Beit Jann,” and stated that weaponry, munitions, and cash were Israel’s main form of military aid.

    She also describes how Israel has supported its allied groups in fighting local affiliates of Islamic State with drone strikes and high-precision missile attacks, strongly suggesting, in my view, the presence of embedded Israeli liaison officers of some kind.

    A 2017 report published by the United Nations describes how IDF personnel were observed passing supplies over the Syrian border to unidentified armed individuals approaching them with convoys of mules, and although Israel claims that these engagements were humanitarian in nature, this fails to explain the presence of weaponry amongst the unidentified individuals receiving supplies from them.

    Writing for Foreign Policy in September 2018, Tsurkov again detailed how Israel was supporting the Syrian rebel factions, stating that material support came in the form of “assault rifles, machine guns, mortar launchers and transport vehicles,” which were delivered “through three gates connecting the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights to Syria - the same crossings Israel used to deliver humanitarian aid to residents of southern Syria suffering from years of civil war.” She also dates this support to have begun way back in 2013.

    The one part of Israel’s involvement in the Syrian Civil War which has been enthusiastically publicised, though, has been its ongoing humanitarian operations in the Golan. Dubbed “Operation Good Neighbor,” this was established in June 2016, and its stated aim is to “provide humanitarian aid to as many people as possible while maintaining Israel’s policy of non-involvement in the conflict.”

    Quite clearly, this is - at least in parts - a lie, as even since before its official commencement, Israel was seemingly engaging with and supporting various anti-Assad factions.

    Although Operation Good Neighbor patently did undertake significant humanitarian efforts in southern Syria for desperate Syrian civilians (including providing free medical treatment, infrastructure support, and civilian aid such as food and fuel), it has long been my personal belief that it was primarily a smokescreen for Israel’s covert unconventional warfare efforts in the country.

    Although it may be argued that deniability was initially necessary to protect Israel’s Syrian beneficiaries who could not be seen to be working with Jerusalem for any number of reasons (such as the likely detrimental impact this would have on their local reputation if not lives), this does not justify Israel’s outright lying on the subject. Instead, it could have mimicked the altogether more sensible approach of the British government towards United Kingdom Special Forces, which is simply to restate their position of not commenting, confirming, or denying any potentially relevant information or assertions.

    Israel is generous in its provision of humanitarian aid to the less fortunate, but I find it impossible to believe that its efforts in Syria were primarily guided by altruism when a strategic objective as important as preventing Iran and its proxies gaining a toehold on its northern border was at stake.

    Its timing is interesting and telling as well. Operation Good Neighbor was formally put in place just months after the Assad regime began its Russian-backed counter-offensive against the rebel factions, and ceased when the rebels were pushed out of southern Syria in September 2018.

    But it’s not as if that September there were no longer civilians who could benefit from Israeli humanitarian aid, but an absence of partners to whom Israel could feasibly directly dispatch arms and other supplies. Although Israel did participate in the rescue of a number of White Helmets, this was done in a relatively passive manner (allowing their convoy to drive to Jordan through Israeli territory), and also artfully avoided escalating any kind of conflict with the Assad’s forces and associated foreign allies.

    Popular opinion - both in Israel and amongst Diaspora Jews - was loud and clear about the ethical necessity of protecting Syrian civilians (especially from historically-resonant gas attacks). But it’s unlikely this pressure swung Israel to intervene in Syria. Israel already had a strong interest in keeping Iran and its proxies out southern Syria, and that would have remained the case, irrespective of gas attacks against civilians.

    Although Israel has gone to great lengths to conceal its efforts at unconventional warfare within the Syrian civil war, it need not have. Its activities are consistent with its previous efforts at promoting strategic objectives through sometimes unlikely, if not counter-intuitive, regional partners.

    Perhaps the reason why Eisenkot admitted that this support was taking place was because he knew that it could not be concealed forever, not least since the fall of the smokescreen provided by Operation Good Neighbor. But the manner in which Israel operated may have longer-term consequences.

    Israel is unlikely to change how it operates in the future, but may very well find future potential tactical partners less than willing to cooperate with it. In both southern Lebanon and now Syria, Israel’s former partners have found themselves exposed to dangers borne out of collaboration, and seemingly abandoned.

    With that kind of history and record, it is likely that unless they find themselves in desperate straits, future potential partners will think twice before accepting support from, and working with, Israel.

    For years, Israel has religiously adhered to the official party line that the country’s policy was non-intervention, and this has now been exposed as a lie. Such a loss of public credibility may significantly inhibit its abilities to conduct influence operations in the future.

    Daniel J. Levy is a graduate of the Universities of Leeds and Oxford, where his academic research focused on Iranian proxies in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and Palestine. He lives in the UK and is the Founding Director of The Ortakoy Security Group. Twitter: @danielhalevy

    #IsraelSyrie


  • OxyContin Maker Explored Expansion Into “Attractive”… — ProPublica
    https://www.propublica.org/article/oxycontin-purdue-pharma-massachusetts-lawsuit-anti-addiction-market

    Secret portions of a lawsuit allege that Purdue Pharma, controlled by the Sackler family, considered capitalizing on the addiction treatment boom — while going to extreme lengths to boost sales of its controversial opioid.

    In internal correspondence beginning in 2014, Purdue Pharma executives discussed how the sale of opioids and the treatment of opioid addiction are “naturally linked” and that the company should expand across “the pain and addiction spectrum,” according to redacted sections of the lawsuit by the Massachusetts attorney general. A member of the billionaire Sackler family, which founded and controls the privately held company, joined in those discussions and urged staff in an email to give “immediate attention” to this business opportunity, the complaint alleges.

    The sections of the complaint already made public contend that the Sacklers pushed for higher doses of OxyContin, guided efforts to mislead doctors and the public about the drug’s addictive capacity, and blamed misuse on patients.

    Citing extensive emails and internal company documents, the redacted sections allege that Purdue and the Sackler family went to extreme lengths to boost OxyContin sales and burnish the drug’s reputation in the face of increased regulation and growing public awareness of its addictive nature. Concerns about doctors improperly prescribing the drug, and patients becoming addicted, were swept aside in an aggressive effort to drive OxyContin sales ever higher, the complaint alleges.

    Among the allegations: Purdue paid two executives convicted of fraudulently marketing OxyContin millions of dollars to assure their loyalty, concealed information about doctors suspected of inappropriately prescribing the opioid, and was advised by global consulting firm McKinsey & Co. on strategies to boost the drug’s sales and burnish its image, including how to “counter the emotional messages” of mothers whose children overdosed. Since 2007, the Sackler family has received more than $4 billion in payouts from Purdue, according to a redacted paragraph in the complaint.

    The redacted paragraphs leave little doubt about the dominant role of the Sackler family in Purdue’s management. The five Purdue directors who are not Sacklers always voted with the family, according to the complaint. The family-controlled board approves everything from the number of sales staff to be hired to details of their bonus incentives, which have been tied to sales volume, the complaint says. In May 2017, when longtime employee Craig Landau was seeking to become Purdue’s chief executive, he wrote that the board acted as “de-facto CEO.” He was named CEO a few weeks later.

    After its 1996 launch, OxyContin rapidly became a top seller. But reports of patients abusing the drug soon followed. OxyContin contained more pain relief medication than older drugs, and crushing and snorting it was a simple way to get high fast. In 2007, Purdue pleaded guilty to federal charges of understating the risk of addiction and agreed to pay $600 million in fines and penalties. Still, the company argued publicly that OxyContin has “done far more good than harm,” and it sought to place responsibility for the bad acts on “certain of its supervisors and employees.”

    Privately, the complaint suggests, the Sacklers were concerned about alienating two executives, then-CEO Michael Friedman and then-legal counsel Howard Udell. Friedman and Udell each pleaded guilty in 2007 in U.S. District Court in Abingdon, Virginia, to a misdemeanor charge of misbranding OxyContin, as did a former executive. The board signed off on the three executives’ decisions to plead guilty. No member of the Sackler family pleaded guilty.

    Purdue paid $5 million to Udell in November 2008, and up to $1 million in November 2009, the complaint states. In February 2008, the company paid $3 million to Friedman. The complaint doesn’t mention any payments to the former executive.

    “The Sacklers spent millions to keep the loyalty of people who knew the truth,” the complaint alleges.

    Udell died in 2013. A person answering a phone number listed to Friedman declined comment.

    When sales results disappointed, Sackler family members didn’t hesitate to intervene. In late 2010, Purdue told the family that sales of the highest dose and most profitable opioids were lower than expected, according to the complaint. That meant an expected quarter-end payout to the family of $320 million was at risk of being reduced to $260 million and would have to be made in two installments in December instead of one in November.

    That news prompted a sharp email question from Mortimer D.A. Sackler, whose late father, also named Mortimer, was a Purdue co-founder. “Why are you BOTH reducing the amount of the distribution and delaying it and splitting it in two?” he asked. “Just a few weeks ago you agreed to distribute the full 320 [million dollars] in November.” The complaint doesn’t say how much was ultimately paid.

    In September 2014, Purdue embarked on a secret project to join an industry that was booming thanks in part to OxyContin abuse: addiction treatment medication. Code-named Project Tango, it involved Purdue executives and staff as well as Dr. Kathe Sackler, a daughter of the company co-founder Mortimer Sackler and a defendant in the Massachusetts lawsuit. She participated in phone calls and told staff that the project required their “immediate attention,” according to the complaint.

    Internally, Purdue touted the growth of an industry that its aggressive marketing had done so much to foster.

    “It is an attractive market,” the team working on the project wrote in a presentation. “Large unmet need for vulnerable, underserved and stigmatized patient population suffering from substance abuse, dependence and addiction.”

    While OxyContin sales were declining, the internal team at Purdue touted the fact that the addiction treatment marketplace was expanding.

    “Opioid addiction (other than heroin) has grown by ~20%” annually from 2000 to 2010, the company noted. Although Richard Sackler had blamed OxyContin abuse in an email on “reckless criminals,” the Purdue staff exploring the new business opportunity described in far more sympathetic terms the patients whom it now planned to treat.

    “This can happen to any-one – from a 50 year old woman with chronic lower back pain to a 18 year old boy with a sports injury, from the very wealthy to the very poor,” it said.

    Company documents recommended becoming an “end-to-end pain provider.” Initially, Purdue intended to sell one such medication, Suboxone, which is commonly retailed as a film that melts in the mouth. When Kathe Sackler asked staff members to look into reports that children might be swallowing the film, they reassured her. They responded, according to the complaint, that youngsters were overdosing on pills, but not the films, “which is a positive for Tango.”

    In 2015, Purdue turned its attention to another potential product, the overdose reversing agent known as Narcan, calling it a “strategic fit.” Purdue executives discussed how its sales force could promote Narcan to the same doctors who prescribed the most opioids. Purdue said in the statement Wednesday that it decided against acquiring the rights to sell Suboxone and Narcan.

    While those initiatives appear to have stalled or ended, Richard Sackler received a patent last year for a drug to treat addiction, according to the complaint. The patent application states that opioids are addictive and refers to people who suffer from substance use disorders as “junkies.”

    #Opioides #Sackler


  • Undercover agents target cybersecurity watchdog who detailed Israeli firm NSO’s link to #Khashoggi scandal
    Haaretz.Com
    https://www.haaretz.com/misc/article-print-page/.premium-undercover-agents-target-watchdog-who-detailed-israeli-firm-nso-s-

    Operatives with fake identities are pursuing members of #Citizen_Lab, the group that uncovered the connection between Jamal Khashoggi’s murder and Israel’s surveillance company #NSO
    The Associated Press | Jan. 26, 2019 | 4:19 PM

    The researchers who reported that Israeli software was used to spy on Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s inner circle before his gruesome death are being targeted in turn by international undercover operatives, The Associated Press has found.

    Twice in the past two months, men masquerading as socially conscious investors have lured members of the Citizen Lab internet watchdog group to meetings at luxury hotels to quiz them for hours about their work exposing Israeli surveillance and the details of their personal lives. In both cases, the researchers believe they were secretly recorded.

    Citizen Lab Director Ron Deibert described the stunts as “a new low.”

    “We condemn these sinister, underhanded activities in the strongest possible terms,” he said in a statement Friday. “Such a deceitful attack on an academic group like the Citizen Lab is an attack on academic freedom everywhere.”

    Who these operatives are working for remains a riddle, but their tactics recall those of private investigators who assume elaborate false identities to gather intelligence or compromising material on critics of powerful figures in government or business.

    Citizen Lab, based out of the Munk School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto, has for years played a leading role in exposing state-backed hackers operating in places as far afield as Tibet , Ethiopia and Syria . Lately the group has drawn attention for its repeated exposés of an Israeli surveillance software vendor called the NSO Group, a firm whose wares have been used by governments to target journalists in Mexico , opposition figures in Panama and human rights activists in the Middle East .

    In October, Citizen Lab reported that an iPhone belonging to one of Khashoggi’s confidantes had been infected by the NSO’s signature spy software only months before Khashoggi’s grisly murder. The friend, Saudi dissident Omar Abdulaziz, would later claim that the hacking had exposed Khashoggi’s private criticisms of the Saudi royal family to the Arab kingdom’s spies and thus “played a major role” in his death.

    In a statement, NSO denied having anything to do with the undercover operations targeting Citizen Lab, “either directly or indirectly” and said it had neither hired nor asked anyone to hire private investigators to pursue the Canadian organization. “Any suggestion to the contrary is factually incorrect and nothing more than baseless speculation,” NSO said.

    NSO has long denied that its software was used to target Khashoggi, although it has refused to comment when asked whether it has sold its software to the Saudi government more generally.

    The first message reached Bahr Abdul Razzak, a Syrian refugee who works as a Citizen Lab researcher, Dec. 6, when a man calling himself Gary Bowman got in touch via LinkedIn. The man described himself as a South African financial technology executive based in Madrid.

    “I came across your profile and think that the work you’ve done helping Syrian refugees and your extensive technical background could be a great fit for our new initiative,” Bowman wrote.

    Abdul Razzak said he thought the proposal was a bit odd, but he eventually agreed to meet the man at Toronto’s swanky Shangri-La Hotel on the morning of Dec. 18.

    The conversation got weird very quickly, Abdul Razzak said.

    Instead of talking about refugees, Abdul Razzak said, Bowman grilled him about his work for Citizen Lab and its investigations into the use of NSO’s software. Abdul Razzak said Bowman appeared to be reading off cue cards, asking him if he was earning enough money and throwing out pointed questions about Israel, the war in Syria and Abdul Razzak’s religiosity.

    “Do you pray?” Abdul Razzak recalled Bowman asking. “Why do you write only about NSO?” ’’Do you write about it because it’s an Israeli company?" ’’Do you hate #Israel?"

    Abdul Razzak said he emerged from the meeting feeling shaken. He alerted his Citizen Lab colleagues, who quickly determined that the breakfast get-together had been a ruse. Bowman’s supposed Madrid-based company, FlameTech, had no web presence beyond a LinkedIn page, a handful of social media profiles and an entry in the business information platform Crunchbase. A reverse image search revealed that the profile picture of the man listed as FlameTech’s chief executive, Mauricio Alonso, was a stock photograph.

    “My immediate gut feeling was: ’This is a fake,’” said John Scott-Railton, one of Abdul Razzak’s colleagues.

    Scott-Railton flagged the incident to the AP, which confirmed that FlameTech was a digital facade.

    Searches of the Orbis database of corporate records, which has data on some 300 million global companies, turned up no evidence of a Spanish firm called FlameTech or Flame Tech or any company anywhere in the world matching its description. Similarly, the AP found no record of FlameTech in Madrid’s official registry or of a Gary Bowman in the city’s telephone listings. An Orbis search for Alonso, the supposed chief executive, also drew a blank. When an AP reporter visited Madrid’s Crystal Tower high-rise, where FlameTech claimed to have 250 sq. meters (2,700 sq. feet) of office space, he could find no trace of the firm and calls to the number listed on its website went unanswered.

    The AP was about to publish a story about the curious company when, on Jan. 9, Scott-Railton received an intriguing message of his own.

    This time the contact came not from Bowman of FlameTech but from someone who identified himself as Michel Lambert, a director at the Paris-based agricultural technology firm CPW-Consulting.

    Lambert had done his homework. In his introductory email , he referred to Scott-Railton’s early doctoral research on kite aerial photography — a mapping technique using kite-mounted cameras — and said he was “quite impressed.

    We have a few projects and clients coming up that could significantly benefit from implementing Kite Aerial Photography,” he said.

    Like FlameTech, CPW-Consulting was a fiction. Searches of Orbis and the French commercial court registry Infogreffe turned up no trace of the supposedly Paris-based company or indeed of any Paris-based company bearing the acronym CPW. And when the AP visited CPW’s alleged office there was no evidence of the company; the address was home to a mainly residential apartment building. Residents and the building’s caretaker said they had never heard of the firm.

    Whoever dreamed up CPW had taken steps to ensure the illusion survived a casual web search, but even those efforts didn’t bear much scrutiny. The company had issued a help wanted ad, for example, seeking a digital mapping specialist for their Paris office, but Scott-Railton discovered that the language had been lifted almost word-for-word from an ad from an unrelated company seeking a mapping specialist in London. A blog post touted CPW as a major player in Africa, but an examination of the author’s profile suggests the article was the only one the blogger had ever written.

    When Lambert suggested an in-person meeting in New York during a Jan. 19 phone call , Scott-Railton felt certain that Lambert was trying to set him up.

    But Scott-Railton agreed to the meeting. He planned to lay a trap of his own.

    Anyone watching Scott-Railton and Lambert laughing over wagyu beef and lobster bisque at the Peninsula Hotel’s upscale restaurant on Thursday afternoon might have mistaken the pair for friends.

    In fact, the lunch was Spy vs. Spy. Scott-Railton had spent the night before trying to secret a homemade camera into his tie, he later told AP, eventually settling for a GoPro action camera and several recording devices hidden about his person. On the table, Lambert had placed a large pen in which Scott-Railton said he spotted a tiny camera lens peeking out from an opening in the top.

    Lambert didn’t seem to be alone. At the beginning of the meal, a man sat behind him, holding up his phone as if to take pictures and then abruptly left the restaurant, having eaten nothing. Later, two or three men materialized at the bar and appeared to be monitoring proceedings.

    Scott-Railton wasn’t alone either. A few tables away, two Associated Press journalists were making small talk as they waited for a signal from Scott-Railton, who had invited the reporters to observe the lunch from nearby and then interview Lambert near the end of the meal.

    The conversation began with a discussion of kites, gossip about African politicians, and a detour through Scott-Railton’s family background. But Lambert, just like Bowman, eventually steered the talk to Citizen Lab and NSO.

    “Work drama? Tell me, I like drama!” Lambert said at one point, according to Scott-Railton’s recording of the conversation. “Is there a big competition between the people inside Citizen Lab?” he asked later.

    Like Bowman, Lambert appeared to be working off cue cards and occasionally made awkward conversational gambits. At one point he repeated a racist French expression, insisting it wasn’t offensive. He also asked Scott-Railton questions about the Holocaust, anti-Semitism and whether he grew up with any Jewish friends. At another point he asked whether there might not be a “racist element” to Citizen Lab’s interest in Israeli spyware.

    After dessert arrived, the AP reporters approached Lambert at his table and asked him why his company didn’t seem to exist.
    He seemed to stiffen.

    “I know what I’m doing,” Lambert said, as he put his files — and his pen — into a bag. Then he stood up, bumped into a chair and walked off, saying “Ciao” and waving his hand, before returning because he had neglected to pay the bill.

    As he paced around the restaurant waiting for the check, Lambert refused to answer questions about who he worked for or why no trace of his firm could be found.

    “I don’t have to give you any explanation,” he said. He eventually retreated to a back room and closed the door.

    Who Lambert and Bowman really are isn’t clear. Neither men returned emails, LinkedIn messages or phone calls. And despite their keen focus on NSO the AP has found no evidence of any link to the Israeli spyware merchant, which is adamant that it wasn’t involved.

    The kind of aggressive investigative tactics used by the mystery men who targeted Citizen Lab have come under fire in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein sexual abuse scandal. Black Cube, an Israeli private investigation firm apologized after The New Yorker and other media outlets revealed that the company’s operatives had used subterfuge and dirty tricks to help the Hollywood mogul suppress allegations of rape and sexual assault.

    Scott-Railton and Abdul Razzak said they didn’t want to speculate about who was involved. But both said they believed they were being steered toward making controversial comments that could be used to blacken Citizen Lab’s reputation.

    “It could be they wanted me to say, ’Yes, I hate Israel,’ or ’Yes, Citizen Lab is against NSO because it’s Israeli,’” said Abdul Razzak.
    Scott-Railton said the elaborate, multinational operation was gratifying, in a way.

    “People were paid to fly to a city to sit you down to an expensive meal and try to convince you to say bad things about your work, your colleagues and your employer,” he said.

    “That means that your work is important.”


  • #UNIFIL strongly disapproves of Israeli #violation of Lebanon’s airspace - Xinhua | English.news.cn
    http://www.xinhuanet.com/english/2019-01/25/c_137772098.htm

    BEIRUT, Jan. 24 (Xinhua) — The spokesperson for the United Nations Interim Forces in Lebanon (UNIFIL) Andrea Tenenti said Thursday that the UNIFIL strongly disapproves of the daily Israeli violation of Lebanon’s airspace.

    “Using Lebanon’s airspace violates Lebanon’s sovereignty and UN Resolution 1701. These violation contradict with our goals and efforts of minimizing the level of tension while creating a stable atmosphere in southern Lebanon,” Tenenti was quoted as saying by Elnashra, an online independent newspaper.
    Tenenti said that UNIFIL’s Chief Stefano Del Col has called on #Israel on several occasions to stop its violation of Lebanon’s airspace.

    Israeli warplanes have kept violating Lebanon’s airspace in the past few months, prompting Lebanese President Michel Aoun to call on the United States to pressure Israel to stop such practices.

    #Liban #ONU


  • DAVOS-Big Oil is more talk than action on renewables - Iberdrola | Reuters
    https://uk.reuters.com/article/davos-meeting-iberdrola-idUKL3N1ZO3ZT

    The world’s largest wind-power producer, Iberdrola SA, has brushed off Big Oil’s embrace of renewable energy as “more noise” than action.

    Major oil and gas firms have been venturing into renewable power under pressure from climate-change policy, collectively spending around 1 percent of their 2018 budgets on clean energy, according to a recent study by research firm CDP.

    However, Iberdrola Chief Executive Ignacio Galan, who has led the Spanish utility for 17 years, shrugged when asked in a Reuters interview if Big Oil represented a competitive threat.

    It’s good that they have moved in this direction but they make more noise than the reality,” he said on Thursday on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

    Galan said returns on oil investment still far exceeded those typical of wind and solar projects and he doubted major oil companies would make a meaningful shift until that changed.

    They like to be enthusiastic but if they had to make a choice between a wonderful oil well and a good wind farm, I feel their heart will move in the traditional direction.
    […]
    He said U.S. states were more influential than Washington in terms of energy investment, and that several were looking to develop America’s first offshore wind farms, from Massachusetts down to North Carolina and New York across to California.

    The states are more and more committed to moving to renewables and the same is true of the cities and towns,” he said, adding that falling generation costs of renewable energy was a big driver of the U.S. adoption of wind and solar power.


  • Israeli election ad boasts Gaza bombed back to “stone ages” | The Electronic Intifada
    https://electronicintifada.net/blogs/ali-abunimah/israeli-election-ad-boasts-gaza-bombed-back-stone-ages

    back to “stone ages”

    Ali Abunimah Rights and Accountability 21 January 2019

    Benny Gantz, the former Israeli army chief, is bragging about how much killing and destruction he committed in Gaza in a series of campaign videos for his new political party posted on YouTube and social media over the weekend.

    Gantz hopes to replace Benjamin Netanyahu as Israel’s prime minister in elections scheduled for April.

    One of the videos, above, shows drone footage of a devastated neighborhood in Gaza in August 2014, following Israel’s 51-day assault on the territory.

    The video’s title includes the words “Parts of Gaza were returned to the stone ages.”

    Against the swell of dramatic music, captions on screen announce, “6,231 targets destroyed,” and “1,364 terrorists killed.”

    The ad then claims that this carnage brought “3.5 years of quiet.”

    A second video displays a kill-counter on screen racking up bodies until the number 1,364 is reached. In the background Palestinians are seen conducting funerals.

    The video is another depraved celebration of killing.

    All the videos contain the words “Only the strong win.”

    And they close with Gantz’s campaign slogan “Israel before everything,” which could just as well be translated as the Trumpian “Israel first.”
    Admission of war crimes


  • Palestinian Authority tells U.S. it will stop taking aid to avoid multi-million dollar lawsuits - U.S. News - Haaretz.com

    https://www.haaretz.com/us-news/.premium-pa-informs-u-s-it-will-stop-receiving-aid-to-avoid-multi-million-d

    WASHINGTON – The Palestinian Authority informed the Trump administration that it will stop taking any form of government assistance from the United States at the end of the month, as a result of legislation passed last year by Congress.

    The law that led the PA to make this decision is the “Anti-Terrorism Clarification Act”, known as ATCA, which makes it possible for U.S. citizens to sue foreign entities that receive U.S. assistance for past acts of terrorism.

    The Palestinian decision could lead to the end of the U.S. support for the PA’s security forces. These forces work regularly with the Israeli military to thwart terror attacks. In his last appearance before the Israeli government last week, outgoing IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eizenkot said that the security coordination between Israel and the PA’s forces helps save lives and maintain stability in the region.

    >> Trump’s ’Arab NATO’ push against Iran comes to a head, and he’s the biggest obstacle | Analysis

    During 2018, the Trump administration cut all forms of U.S. civil assistance to the Palestinians, but it did not touch the security assistance, stating that the security coordination between the PA and Israel serves American foreign policy interests. Now, however, U.S. support for the PA security forces could end at the end of January, putting at risk the continuation of efficient security coordination.

    The ATCA bill, which the PA blamed for its decision, was promoted last year in Congress in response to rulings by U.S. courts that rejected multi-million dollar lawsuits against the PA. These lawsuits were filed by American citizens who were injured or lost loved ones in terror attacks committed by Palestinians, mostly during the Second Intifada. The Supreme Court in Washington affirmed a ruling by a lower court that the American legal system does not have jurisdiction to deal with such lawsuits.

    This led members of Congress to promote the ATCA bill, which states that U.S. courts will have jurisdiction to hear terrorism-related lawsuits against any foreign entity reviving U.S. government assistance. This means that if the PA will receive even one dollar of U.S. funding, it could face lawsuits asking for hundreds of millions of dollars in compensation. The law has also created concern in other countries in the Middle East that rely on U.S. assistance. It would not apply to Israel, however, because of the specific sources of funding through which Israel receives U.S. security assistance.
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    Only after the bill passed Congress and was signed into law by President Trump, senior administration officials became aware of its possible impact on security coordination. In recent months, the administration tried to negotiate a “fix” to the law together with lawmakers on Capitol Hill. As reported in Haaretz two weeks ago, these efforts have stalled because of the ongoing government shutdown.

    The PA’s letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, which was first reported over the weekend by NPR, could create a sense of urgency in Washington to solve the security assistance question.

    Two sources who are involved in the negotiations on the subject told Haaretz that a possible solution could emerge with the involvement of the CIA or the Pentagon, but its exact mechanism hasn’t yet been drawn in full. “Everyone wants a fix, but it’s still not clear how we can get it,” explained one of the sources, who asked not to be named in order to discuss politicallly-sensitive negotiations.


  • #cybersecurity Today — Darren Van Booven Interview — an episode of Sensei School’s Meet-A-Pro series
    https://hackernoon.com/cybersecurity-today-darren-van-booven-interview-an-episode-of-sensei-sch

    Cybersecurity Today — An interview with Mr. Darren Van Boovenan episode of Sensei School’s Meet-A-Pro series.Mr. Darren Van Booven is a tech executive with over 20 years of experience. He has served in a number of senior executive positions, both in the US federal government as Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) at the U.S. House of Representatives and the private financial sector, including seven years as a counter-intelligence officer at the Central Intelligence Agency’s (CIA) Directorate of Operations.SENSEI SCHOOL’s MEET-A-PRO interview series with Darren Van Booven.At the #cia he has been responsible for carrying out nation state intrusion investigations, incident response activities, and countering technical threats against operations. He has also worked as a senior staff (...)

    #edtech #education #darren-van-booven


  • Toronto’s Next Billionaire Wants Every Hand to Control a New Reality
    https://hackernoon.com/torontos-next-billionaire-wants-every-hand-to-control-a-new-reality-9fb3

    https://medium.com/media/5378f4b4f2423ec6e98ccdba72eb3db3/hrefTucked away from the humid, subtropical climate of the Nanshan district in Shenzhen, Martin LaBrecque is quietly becoming Toronto’s next billionaire.He’s in the right place. Shenzhen is the premiere incubator for aspiring billionaires in China. Why? It’s where the country’s most elite PhDs choose to manufacture 90% of the world’s electronics.After all, when you’re just 15 minutes away from Hong Kong’s aquarium of savvy VC’s, validated prototypes can become full-fledged products in no time.https://medium.com/media/aa1cf2e94894ffa09422cf4ecb719b02/hrefSo what is the chief executive officer of Breqlabs up  (...)

    #gaming #ar #ai #virtual-reality #nuclear-energy


  • Leaked memo spells out Facebook’s new ’ground rules’ restricting employee discussions about politics and religion
    https://www.businessinsider.fr/us/facebook-new-rules-employee-discussions-politics-bullying-religion-2

    Facebook is introducing new rules limiting the types of discussions about politics and religion allowed within the workplace as the company continues to grapple with the fallout from a string of company scandals and the increasingly fractious political climate emerging within many Silicon Valley companies. In an internal memo to employees seen by Business Insider, Facebook’s chief technology officer, Mike Schroepfer, said on Monday that the company has developed "a set of ground rules for (...)

    #Facebook #travail #surveillance #travailleurs


  • Logistic Regression with #tensorflow and #keras
    https://hackernoon.com/logistic-regression-with-tensorflow-and-keras-83d2487aed89?source=rss---

    Learn logistic regression with TensorFlow and Keras in this article by Armando Fandango, an inventor of AI empowered products by leveraging expertise in deep learning, machine learning, distributed computing, and computational methods. He has also provided thought leadership roles as Chief Data Scientist and Director at startups and large enterprises.This article will show you how to implement a classification algorithm, known as multinomial logistic regression, to identify the handwritten digits #dataset. You’ll use both TensorFlow core and Keras to implement this logistic regression algorithm.Logistic regression with TensorFlowOne of the most popular examples regarding multiclass classification is to label the images of handwritten digits. The classes, or labels, in this example are (...)

    #machine-learning #logistic-regression


  • This Senseless Government #Shutdown Is Harming Coast Guard Families | U.S. Naval Institute
    https://www.usni.org/magazines/proceedings/2019-01/senseless-government-shutdown-harming-coast-guard-families

    By Admiral Thad Allen, U.S. Coast Guard (Retired)

    Today, with the government shutdown in its third week, it is beyond troubling that Coast Guard men and women are being unnecessarily subjected to financial hardship while enduring the operational, mission-related circumstances that are accepted as part of their compact with their country.
    […]
    I am the son of a Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer and brother of a Coast Guard spouse. Our family’s life has revolved around the service my parents revered. A part of the “Greatest Generation”, they emerged from the depression and World War II to raise a family that moved frequently and fearlessly. They were tough and resilient.

    I will turn 70 shortly and have had 47 addresses in my life. And while my parents and later my wife and I treated each new transfer as an adventure, there were tests and challenges. In the early 1950s my father got a no-notice transfer from Mobile, Alabama to Ketchikan, Alaska after it became clear our family was not a good fit in the segregated South. My father left immediately but it took our family months to catch up. We arrived in Ketchikan from a nearby island that had an airport, making the final leg by Coast Guard small boat with our luggage. Despite these and other challenges my mother and father believed until the day they died that the Coast Guard was the best thing that ever happened to our family.
    […]

    I never believed it would be necessary to remind the leaders of all branches of government of their constitutional responsibilities, but it appears they have subordinated the “general welfare” of their fellow citizens to parochial interests. While this political theater ensues, there are junior Coast Guard petty officers, with families, who are already compensated at levels below the national poverty level, who will not be paid during this government shutdown. There is no reasonable answer as to why these families have to endure this hardship in the absence of a national emergency. These leaders should ponder how they would tell a spouse at Arlington that his or her survivor benefits might be at risk—again, for no reason. I’m glad my mother and father are not alive to see it.


  • Pan Am Flight 103 : Robert Mueller’s 30-Year Search for Justice | WIRED
    https://www.wired.com/story/robert-muellers-search-for-justice-for-pan-am-103

    Cet article décrit le rôle de Robert Mueller dans l’enquête historique qui a permis de dissimuler ou de justifier la plupart des batailles de la guerre non déclarée des États Unis contre l’OLP et les pays arabes qui soutenaient la lutte pour un état palestinien.

    Aux États-Unis, en Allemagne et en France le grand public ignore les actes de guerre commis par les États Unis dans cette guerre. Vu dans ce contexte on ne peut que classer le récit de cet article dans la catégorie idéologie et propagande même si les intentions et faits qu’on y apprend sont bien documentés et plausibles.

    Cette perspective transforme le contenu de cet article d’une variation sur un thème connu dans un reportage sur l’état d’âme des dirigeants étatsuniens moins fanatiques que l’équipe du président actuel.

    THIRTY YEARS AGO last Friday, on the darkest day of the year, 31,000 feet above one of the most remote parts of Europe, America suffered its first major terror attack.

    TEN YEARS AGO last Friday, then FBI director Robert Mueller bundled himself in his tan trench coat against the cold December air in Washington, his scarf wrapped tightly around his neck. Sitting on a small stage at Arlington National Cemetery, he scanned the faces arrayed before him—the victims he’d come to know over years, relatives and friends of husbands and wives who would never grow old, college students who would never graduate, business travelers and flight attendants who would never come home.

    Burned into Mueller’s memory were the small items those victims had left behind, items that he’d seen on the shelves of a small wooden warehouse outside Lockerbie, Scotland, a visit he would never forget: A teenager’s single white sneaker, an unworn Syracuse University sweatshirt, the wrapped Christmas gifts that would never be opened, a lonely teddy bear.

    A decade before the attacks of 9/11—attacks that came during Mueller’s second week as FBI director, and that awoke the rest of America to the threats of terrorism—the bombing of Pan Am 103 had impressed upon Mueller a new global threat.

    It had taught him the complexity of responding to international terror attacks, how unprepared the government was to respond to the needs of victims’ families, and how on the global stage justice would always be intertwined with geopolitics. In the intervening years, he had never lost sight of the Lockerbie bombing—known to the FBI by the codename Scotbom—and he had watched the orphaned children from the bombing grow up over the years.

    Nearby in the cemetery stood a memorial cairn made of pink sandstone—a single brick representing each of the victims, the stone mined from a Scottish quarry that the doomed flight passed over just seconds before the bomb ripped its baggage hold apart. The crowd that day had gathered near the cairn in the cold to mark the 20th anniversary of the bombing.

    For a man with an affinity for speaking in prose, not poetry, a man whose staff was accustomed to orders given in crisp sentences as if they were Marines on the battlefield or under cross-examination from a prosecutor in a courtroom, Mueller’s remarks that day soared in a way unlike almost any other speech he’d deliver.

    “There are those who say that time heals all wounds. But you know that not to be true. At its best, time may dull the deepest wounds; it cannot make them disappear,” Mueller told the assembled mourners. “Yet out of the darkness of this day comes a ray of light. The light of unity, of friendship, and of comfort from those who once were strangers and who are now bonded together by a terrible moment in time. The light of shared memories that bring smiles instead of sadness. And the light of hope for better days to come.”

    He talked of Robert Frost’s poem “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” and of inspiration drawn from Lockerbie’s town crest, with its simple motto, “Forward.” He spoke of what was then a two-decade-long quest for justice, of how on windswept Scottish mores and frigid lochs a generation of FBI agents, investigators, and prosecutors had redoubled their dedication to fighting terrorism.

    Mueller closed with a promise: “Today, as we stand here together on this, the darkest of days, we renew that bond. We remember the light these individuals brought to each of you here today. We renew our efforts to bring justice down on those who seek to harm us. We renew our efforts to keep our people safe, and to rid the world of terrorism. We will continue to move forward. But we will never forget.”

    Hand bells tolled for each of the victims as their names were read aloud, 270 names, 270 sets of bells.

    The investigation, though, was not yet closed. Mueller, although he didn’t know it then, wasn’t done with Pan Am 103. Just months after that speech, the case would test his innate sense of justice and morality in a way that few other cases in his career ever have.

    ROBERT S. MUELLER III had returned from a combat tour in Vietnam in the late 1960s and eventually headed to law school at the University of Virginia, part of a path that he hoped would lead him to being an FBI agent. Unable after graduation to get a job in government, he entered private practice in San Francisco, where he found he loved being a lawyer—just not a defense attorney.

    Then—as his wife Ann, a teacher, recounted to me years ago—one morning at their small home, while the two of them made the bed, Mueller complained, “Don’t I deserve to be doing something that makes me happy?” He finally landed a job as an assistant US attorney in San Francisco and stood, for the first time, in court and announced, “Good morning your Honor, I am Robert Mueller appearing on behalf of the United States of America.” It is a moment that young prosecutors often practice beforehand, and for Mueller those words carried enormous weight. He had found the thing that made him happy.

    His family remembers that time in San Francisco as some of their happiest years; the Muellers’ two daughters were young, they loved the Bay Area—and have returned there on annual vacations almost every year since relocating to the East Coast—and Mueller found himself at home as a prosecutor.

    On Friday nights, their routine was that Ann and the two girls would pick Mueller up at Harrington’s Bar & Grill, the city’s oldest Irish pub, not far from the Ferry Building in the Financial District, where he hung out each week with a group of prosecutors, defense attorneys, cops, and agents. (One Christmas, his daughter Cynthia gave him a model of the bar made out of Popsicle sticks.) He balanced that family time against weekends and trainings with the Marines Corps Reserves, where he served for more than a decade, until 1980, eventually rising to be a captain.

    Over the next 15 years, he rose through the ranks of the San Francisco US attorney’s office—an office he would return to lead during the Clinton administration—and then decamped to Massachusetts to work for US attorney William Weld in the 1980s. There, too, he shined and eventually became acting US attorney when Weld departed at the end of the Reagan administration. “You cannot get the words straight arrow out of your head,” Weld told me, speaking of Mueller a decade ago. “The agencies loved him because he knew his stuff. He didn’t try to be elegant or fancy, he just put the cards on the table.”

    In 1989, an old high school classmate, Robert Ross, who was chief of staff to then attorney general Richard Thornburgh, asked Mueller to come down to Washington to help advise Thornburgh. The offer intrigued Mueller. Ann protested the move—their younger daughter Melissa wanted to finish high school in Massachusetts. Ann told her husband, “We can’t possibly do this.” He replied, his eyes twinkling, “You’re right, it’s a terrible time. Well, why don’t we just go down and look at a few houses?” As she told me, “When he wants to do something, he just revisits it again and again.”

    For his first two years at so-called Main Justice in Washington, working under President George H.W. Bush, the family commuted back and forth from Boston to Washington, alternating weekends in each city, to allow Melissa to finish school.

    Washington gave Mueller his first exposure to national politics and cases with geopolitical implications; in September 1990, President Bush nominated him to be assistant attorney general, overseeing the Justice Department’s entire criminal division, which at that time handled all the nation’s terrorism cases as well. Mueller would oversee the prosecution of Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega, mob boss John Gotti, and the controversial investigation into a vast money laundering scheme run through the Bank of Credit and Commerce International, known as the Bank of Crooks and Criminals

    None of his cases in Washington, though, would affect him as much as the bombing of Pan Am 103.

    THE TIME ON the clocks in Lockerbie, Scotland, read 7:04 pm, on December 21, 1988, when the first emergency call came into the local fire brigade, reporting what sounded like a massive boiler explosion. It was technically early evening, but it had been dark for hours already; that far north, on the shortest day of the year, daylight barely stretched to eight hours.

    Soon it became clear something much worse than a boiler explosion had unfolded: Fiery debris pounded the landscape, plunging from the sky and killing 11 Lockerbie residents. As Mike Carnahan told a local TV reporter, “The whole sky was lit up with flames. It was actually raining, liquid fire. You could see several houses on the skyline with the roofs totally off and all you could see was flaming timbers.”

    At 8:45 pm, a farmer found in his field the cockpit of Pan Am 103, a Boeing 747 known as Clipper Maid of the Seas, lying on its side, 15 of its crew dead inside, just some of the 259 passengers and crew killed when a bomb had exploded inside the plane’s cargo hold. The scheduled London to New York flight never even made it out of the UK.

    It had taken just three seconds for the plane to disintegrate in the air, though the wreckage took three long minutes to fall the five miles from the sky to the earth; court testimony later would examine how passengers had still been alive as they fell. Nearly 200 of the passengers were American, including 35 students from Syracuse University returning home from a semester abroad. The attack horrified America, which until then had seen terror touch its shores only occasionally as a hijacking went awry; while the US had weathered the 1983 bombing of the Marine barracks in Beirut, attacks almost never targeted civilians.

    The Pan Am 103 bombing seemed squarely aimed at the US, hitting one of its most iconic brands. Pan Am then represented America’s global reach in a way few companies did; the world’s most powerful airline shuttled 19 million passengers a year to more than 160 countries and had ferried the Beatles to their US tour and James Bond around the globe on his cinematic missions. In a moment of hubris a generation before Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos, the airline had even opened a “waiting list” for the first tourists to travel to outer space. Its New York headquarters, the Pan Am building, was the world’s largest commercial building and its terminal at JFK Airport the biggest in the world.

    The investigation into the bombing of Pan Am 103 began immediately, as police and investigators streamed north from London by the hundreds; chief constable John Boyd, the head of the local police, arrived at the Lockerbie police station by 8:15 pm, and within an hour the first victim had been brought in: A farmer arrived in town with the body of a baby girl who had fallen from the sky. He’d carefully placed her in the front seat of his pickup truck.

    An FBI agent posted in London had raced north too, with the US ambassador, aboard a special US Air Force flight, and at 2 am, when Boyd convened his first senior leadership meeting, he announced, “The FBI is here, and they are fully operational.” By that point, FBI explosives experts were already en route to Scotland aboard an FAA plane; agents would install special secure communications equipment in Lockerbie and remain on site for months.

    Although it quickly became clear that a bomb had targeted Pan Am 103—wreckage showed signs of an explosion and tested positive for PETN and RDX, two key ingredients of the explosive Semtex—the investigation proceeded with frustrating slowness. Pan Am’s records were incomplete, and it took days to even determine the full list of passengers. At the same time, it was the largest crime scene ever investigated—a fact that remains true today.

    Investigators walked 845 square miles, an area 12 times the size of Washington, DC, and searched so thoroughly that they recovered more than 70 packages of airline crackers and ultimately could reconstruct about 85 percent of the fuselage. (Today, the wreckage remains in an English scrapyard.) Constable Boyd, at his first press conference, told the media, “This is a mammoth inquiry.”

    On Christmas Eve, a searcher found a piece of a luggage pallet with signs of obvious scorching, which would indicate the bomb had been in the luggage compartment below the passenger cabin. The evidence was rushed to a special British military lab—one originally created to investigate the Guy Fawkes’ Gunpowder Plot to blow up Parliament and kill King James I in 1605.

    When the explosive tests came back a day later, the British government called the State Department’s ambassador-at-large for combating terrorism, L. Paul Bremer III (who would go on to be President George W. Bush’s viceroy in Baghdad after the 2003 invasion of Iraq), and officially delivered the news that everyone had anticipated: Pan Am 103 had been downed by a bomb.

    Meanwhile, FBI agents fanned out across the country. In New York, special agent Neil Herman—who would later lead the FBI’s counterterrorism office in New York in the run up to 9/11—was tasked with interviewing some of the victims’ families; many of the Syracuse students on board had been from the New York region. One of the mothers he interviewed hadn’t heard from the government in the 10 days since the attack. “It really struck me how ill-equipped we were to deal with this,” Herman told me, years later. “Multiply her by 270 victims and families.” The bombing underscored that the FBI and the US government had a lot to learn in responding and aiding victims in a terror attack.

    INVESTIGATORS MOVED TOWARD piecing together how a bomb could have been placed on board; years before the 9/11 attack, they discounted the idea of a suicide bomber aboard—there had never been a suicide attack on civil aviation at that point—and so focused on one of two theories: The possibility of a “mule,” an innocent passenger duped into carrying a bomb aboard, or an “inside man,” a trusted airport or airline employee who had smuggled the fatal cargo aboard. The initial suspect list stretched to 1,200 names.

    Yet even reconstructing what was on board took an eternity: Evidence pointed to a Japanese manufactured Toshiba cassette recorder as the likely delivery device for the bomb, and then, by the end of January, investigators located pieces of the suitcase that had held the bomb. After determining that it was a Samsonite bag, police and the FBI flew to the company’s headquarters in the United States and narrowed the search further: The bag, they found, was a System 4 Silhouette 4000 model, color “antique-copper,” a case and color made for only three years, 1985 to 1988, and sold only in the Middle East. There were a total of 3,500 such suitcases in circulation.

    By late spring, investigators had identified 14 pieces of luggage inside the target cargo container, known as AVE4041; each bore tell-tale signs of the explosion. Through careful retracing of how luggage moved through the London airport, investigators determined that the bags on the container’s bottom row came from passengers transferring in London. The bags on the second and third row of AVE4041 had been the last bags loaded onto the leg of the flight that began in Frankfurt, before the plane took off for London. None of the baggage had been X-rayed or matched with passengers on board.

    The British lab traced clothing fragments from the wreckage that bore signs of the explosion and thus likely originated in the bomb-carrying suitcase. It was an odd mix: Two herring-bone skirts, men’s pajamas, tartan trousers, and so on. The most promising fragment was a blue infant’s onesie that, after fiber analysis, was conclusively determined to have been inside the explosive case, and had a label saying “Malta Trading Company.” In March, two detectives took off for Malta, where the manufacturer told them that 500 such articles of clothing had been made and most sent to Ireland, while the rest went locally to Maltese outlets and others to continental Europe.

    As they dug deeper, they focused on bag B8849, which appeared to have come off Air Malta Flight 180—Malta to Frankfurt—on December 21, even though there was no record of one of that flight’s 47 passengers transferring to Pan Am 103.

    Investigators located the store in Malta where the suspect clothing had been sold; the British inspector later recorded in his statement, “[Store owner] Anthony Gauci interjected and stated that he could recall selling a pair of the checked trousers, size 34, and three pairs of the pajamas to a male person.” The investigators snapped to attention—after nine months did they finally have a suspect in their sights? “[Gauci] informed me that the man had also purchased the following items: one imitation Harris Tweed jacket; one woolen cardigan; one black umbrella; one blue colored ‘Baby Gro’ with a motif described by the witness as a ‘sheep’s face’ on the front; and one pair of gents’ brown herring-bone material trousers, size 36.”

    Game, set, match. Gauci had perfectly described the clothing fragments found by RARDE technicians to contain traces of explosive. The purchase, Gauci went on to explain, stood out in his mind because the customer—whom Gauci tellingly identified as speaking the “Libyan language”—had entered the store on November 23, 1988, and gathered items without seeming to care about the size, gender, or color of any of it.

    As the investigation painstakingly proceeded into 1989 and 1990, Robert Mueller arrived at Main Justice; the final objects of the Lockerbie search wouldn’t be found until the spring of 1990, just months before Mueller took over as assistant attorney general of the criminal division in September.

    The Justice Department that year was undergoing a series of leadership changes; the deputy attorney general, William Barr, became acting attorney general midyear as Richard Thornburgh stepped down to run for Senate back in his native Pennsylvania. President Bush then nominated Barr to take over as attorney general officially. (Earlier this month Barr was nominated by President Trump to become attorney general once again.)

    The bombing soon became one of the top cases on Mueller’s desk. He met regularly with Richard Marquise, the FBI special agent heading Scotbom. For Mueller, the case became personal; he met with victims’ families and toured the Lockerbie crash site and the investigation’s headquarters. He traveled repeatedly to the United Kingdom for meetings and walked the fields of Lockerbie himself. “The Scots just did a phenomenal job with the crime scene,” he told me, years ago.

    Mueller pushed the investigators forward constantly, getting involved in the investigation at a level that a high-ranking Justice Department official almost never does. Marquise turned to him in one meeting, after yet another set of directions, and sighed, “Geez, if I didn’t know better, I’d think you want to be FBI director.”

    The investigation gradually, carefully, zeroed in on Libya. Agents traced a circuit board used in the bomb to a similar device seized in Africa a couple of years earlier used by Libyan intelligence. An FBI-created database of Maltese immigration records even showed that a man using the same alias as one of those Libyan intelligence officers had departed from Malta on October 19, 1988—just two months before the bombing.

    The circuit board also helped makes sense of an important aspect of the bombing: It controlled a timer, meaning that the bomb was not set off by a barometric trigger that registers altitude. This, in turn, explained why the explosive baggage had lain peacefully in the jet’s hold as it took off and landed repeatedly.

    Tiny letters on the suspect timer said “MEBO.” What was MEBO? In the days before Google, searching for something called “Mebo” required going country to country, company to company. There were no shortcuts. The FBI, MI5, and CIA were, after months of work, able to trace MEBO back to a Swiss company, Meister et Bollier, adding a fifth country to the ever-expanding investigative circle.

    From Meister et Bollier, they learned that the company had provided 20 prototype timers to the Libyan government and the company helped ID their contact as a Libyan intelligence officer, Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi, who looked like the sketch of the Maltese clothing shopper. Then, when the FBI looked at its database of Maltese immigration records, they found that Al Megrahi had been present in Malta the day the clothing was purchased.

    Marquise sat down with Robert Mueller and the rest of the prosecutorial team and laid out the latest evidence. Mueller’s orders were clear—he wanted specific suspects and he wanted to bring charges. As he said, “Proceed toward indictment.” Let’s get this case moving.

    IN NOVEMBER 1990, Marquise was placed in charge of all aspects of the investigation and assigned on special duty to the Washington Field Office and moved to a new Scotbom task force. The field offce was located far from the Hoover building, in a run-down neighborhood known by the thoroughly unromantic moniker of Buzzard Point.

    The Scotbom task force had been allotted three tiny windowless rooms with dark wood paneling, which were soon covered floor-to-ceiling with 747 diagrams, crime scene photographs, maps, and other clues. By the door of the office, the team kept two photographs to remind themselves of the stakes: One, a tiny baby shoe recovered from the fields of Lockerbie; the other, a picture of the American flag on the tail of Pan Am 103. This was the first major attack on the US and its civilians. Whoever was responsible couldn’t be allowed to get away with it.

    With representatives from a half-dozen countries—the US, Britain, Scotland, Sweden, Germany, France, and Malta—now sitting around the table, putting together a case that met everyone’s evidentiary standards was difficult. “We talked through everything, and everything was always done to the higher standard,” Marquise says. In the US, for instance, the legal standard for a photo array was six photos; in Scotland, though, it was 12. So every photo array in the investigation had 12 photos to ensure that the IDs could be used in a British court.

    The trail of evidence so far was pretty clear, and it all pointed toward Libya. Yet there was still much work to do prior to an indictment. A solid hunch was one thing. Having evidence that would stand up in court and under cross-examination was something else entirely.

    As the case neared an indictment, the international investigators and prosecutors found themselves focusing at their gatherings on the fine print of their respective legal code and engaging in deep, philosophical-seeming debates: “What does murder mean in your statute? Huh? I know what murder means: I kill you. Well, then you start going through the details and the standards are just a little different. It may entail five factors in one country, three in another. Was Megrahi guilty of murder? Depends on the country.”

    At every meeting, the international team danced around the question of where a prosecution would ultimately take place. “Jurisdiction was an eggshell problem,” Marquise says. “It was always there, but no one wanted to talk about it. It was always the elephant in the room.”

    Mueller tried to deflect the debate for as long as possible, arguing there was more investigation to do first. Eventually, though, he argued forcefully that the case should be tried in the US. “I recognize that Scotland has significant equities which support trial of the case in your country,” he said in one meeting. “However, the primary target of this act of terrorism was the United States. The majority of the victims were Americans, and the Pan American aircraft was targeted precisely because it was of United States registry.”

    After one meeting, where the Scots and Americans debated jurisdiction for more than two hours, the group migrated over to the Peasant, a restaurant near the Justice Department, where, in an attempt to foster good spirits, it paid for the visiting Scots. Mueller and the other American officials each had to pay for their own meals.

    Mueller was getting ready to move forward; the federal grand jury would begin work in early September. Prosecutors and other investigators were already preparing background, readying evidence, and piecing together information like the names and nationalities of all the Lockerbie victims so that they could be included in the forthcoming indictment.

    There had never been any doubt in the US that the Pan Am 103 bombing would be handled as a criminal matter, but the case was still closely monitored by the White House and the National Security Council.

    The Reagan administration had been surprised in February 1988 by the indictment on drug charges of its close ally Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega, and a rule of thumb had been developed: Give the White House a heads up anytime you’re going to indict a foreign agent. “If you tag Libya with Pan Am 103, that’s fair to say it’s going to disrupt our relationship with Libya,” Mueller deadpans. So Mueller would head up to the Cabinet Room at the White House, charts and pictures in hand, to explain to President Bush and his team what Justice had in mind.

    To Mueller, the investigation underscored why such complex investigations needed a law enforcement eye. A few months after the attack, he sat through a CIA briefing pointing toward Syria as the culprit behind the attack. “That’s always struck with me as a lesson in the difference between intelligence and evidence. I always try to remember that,” he told me, back when he was FBI director. “It’s a very good object lesson about hasty action based on intelligence. What if we had gone and attacked Syria based on that initial intelligence? Then, after the attack, it came out that Libya had been behind it? What could we have done?”

    Marquise was the last witness for the federal grand jury on Friday, November 8, 1991. Only in the days leading up to that testimony had prosecutors zeroed in on Megrahi and another Libyan officer, Al Amin Khalifa Fhimah; as late as the week of the testimony, they had hoped to pursue additional indictments, yet the evidence wasn’t there to get to a conviction.

    Mueller traveled to London to meet with the Peter Fraser, the lord advocate—Scotland’s top prosecutor—and they agreed to announce indictments simultaneously on November 15, 1991. Who got their hands on the suspects first, well, that was a question for later. The joint indictment, Mueller believed, would benefit both countries. “It adds credibility to both our investigations,” he says.

    That coordinated joint, multi-nation statement and indictment would become a model that the US would deploy more regularly in the years to come, as the US and other western nations have tried to coordinate cyber investigations and indictments against hackers from countries like North Korea, Russia, and Iran.

    To make the stunning announcement against Libya, Mueller joined FBI director William Sessions, DC US attorney Jay Stephens, and attorney general William Barr.

    “We charge that two Libyan officials, acting as operatives of the Libyan intelligence agency, along with other co-conspirators, planted and detonated the bomb that destroyed Pan Am 103,” Barr said. “I have just telephoned some of the families of those murdered on Pan Am 103 to inform them and the organizations of the survivors that this indictment has been returned. Their loss has been ever present in our minds.”

    At the same time, in Scotland, investigators there were announcing the same indictments.

    At the press conference, Barr listed a long set of names to thank—the first one he singled out was Mueller’s. Then, he continued, “This investigation is by no means over. It continues unabated. We will not rest until all those responsible are brought to justice. We have no higher priority.”

    From there, the case would drag on for years. ABC News interviewed the two suspects in Libya later that month; both denied any responsibility for the bombing. Marquise was reassigned within six months; the other investigators moved along too.

    Mueller himself left the administration when Bill Clinton became president, spending an unhappy year in private practice before rejoining the Justice Department to work as a junior homicide prosecutor in DC under then US attorney Eric Holder; Mueller, who had led the nation’s entire criminal division was now working side by side with prosecutors just a few years out of law school, the equivalent of a three-star military general retiring and reenlisting as a second lieutenant. Clinton eventually named Mueller the US attorney in San Francisco, the office where he’d worked as a young attorney in the 1970s.

    THE 10TH ANNIVERSARY of the bombing came and went without any justice. Then, in April 1999, prolonged international negotiations led to Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi turning over the two suspects; the international economic sanctions imposed on Libya in the wake of the bombing were taking a toll on his country, and the leader wanted to put the incident behind him.

    The final negotiated agreement said that the two men would be tried by a Scottish court, under Scottish law, in The Hague in the Netherlands. Distinct from the international court there, the three-judge Scottish court would ensure that the men faced justice under the laws of the country where their accused crime had been committed.

    Allowing the Scots to move forward meant some concessions by the US. The big one was taking the death penalty, prohibited in Scotland, off the table. Mueller badly wanted the death penalty. Mueller, like many prosecutors and law enforcement officials, is a strong proponent of capital punishment, but he believes it should be reserved for only egregious crimes. “It has to be especially heinous, and you have to be 100 percent sure he’s guilty,” he says. This case met that criteria. “There’s never closure. If there can’t be closure, there should be justice—both for the victims as well as the society at large,” he says.

    An old US military facility, Kamp Van Zeist, was converted to an elaborate jail and courtroom in The Hague, and the Dutch formally surrendered the two Libyans to Scottish police. The trial began in May 2000. For nine months, the court heard testimony from around the world. In what many observers saw as a political verdict, Al Megrahi was found guilty and Fhimah was found not guilty.

    With barely 24 hours notice, Marquise and victim family members raced from the United States to be in the courtroom to hear the verdict. The morning of the verdict in 2001, Mueller was just days into his tenure as acting deputy US attorney general—filling in for the start of the George W. Bush administration in the department’s No. 2 role as attorney general John Ashcroft got himself situated.

    That day, Mueller awoke early and joined with victims’ families and other officials in Washington, who watched the verdict announcement via a satellite hookup. To him, it was a chance for some closure—but the investigation would go on. As he told the media, “The United States remains vigilant in its pursuit to bring to justice any other individuals who may have been involved in the conspiracy to bring down Pan Am Flight 103.”

    The Scotbom case would leave a deep imprint on Mueller; one of his first actions as FBI director was to recruit Kathryn Turman, who had served as the liaison to the Pan Am 103 victim families during the trial, to head the FBI’s Victim Services Division, helping to elevate the role and responsibility of the FBI in dealing with crime victims.

    JUST MONTHS AFTER that 20th anniversary ceremony with Mueller at Arlington National Cemetery, in the summer of 2009, Scotland released a terminally ill Megrahi from prison after a lengthy appeals process, and sent him back to Libya. The decision was made, the Scottish minister of justice reported, on “compassionate grounds.” Few involved on the US side believed the terrorist deserved compassion. Megrahi was greeted as a hero on the tarmac in Libya—rose petals, cheering crowds. The US consensus remained that he should rot in prison.

    The idea that Megrahi could walk out of prison on “compassionate” ground made a mockery of everything that Mueller had dedicated his life to fighting and doing. Amid a series of tepid official condemnations—President Obama labeled it “highly objectionable”—Mueller fired off a letter to Scottish minister Kenny MacAskill that stood out for its raw pain, anger, and deep sorrow.

    “Over the years I have been a prosecutor, and recently as the Director of the FBI, I have made it a practice not to comment on the actions of other prosecutors, since only the prosecutor handling the case has all the facts and the law before him in reaching the appropriate decision,” Mueller began. “Your decision to release Megrahi causes me to abandon that practice in this case. I do so because I am familiar with the facts, and the law, having been the Assistant Attorney General in charge of the investigation and indictment of Megrahi in 1991. And I do so because I am outraged at your decision, blithely defended on the grounds of ‘compassion.’”

    That nine months after the 20th anniversary of the bombing, the only person behind bars for the bombing would walk back onto Libyan soil a free man and be greeted with rose petals left Mueller seething.

    “Your action in releasing Megrahi is as inexplicable as it is detrimental to the cause of justice. Indeed your action makes a mockery of the rule of law. Your action gives comfort to terrorists around the world,” Mueller wrote. “You could not have spent much time with the families, certainly not as much time as others involved in the investigation and prosecution. You could not have visited the small wooden warehouse where the personal items of those who perished were gathered for identification—the single sneaker belonging to a teenager; the Syracuse sweatshirt never again to be worn by a college student returning home for the holidays; the toys in a suitcase of a businessman looking forward to spending Christmas with his wife and children.”

    For Mueller, walking the fields of Lockerbie had been walking on hallowed ground. The Scottish decision pained him especially deeply, because of the mission and dedication he and his Scottish counterparts had shared 20 years before. “If all civilized nations join together to apply the rules of law to international terrorists, certainly we will be successful in ridding the world of the scourge of terrorism,” he had written in a perhaps too hopeful private note to the Scottish Lord Advocate in 1990.

    Some 20 years later, in an era when counterterrorism would be a massive, multibillion dollar industry and a buzzword for politicians everywhere, Mueller—betrayed—concluded his letter with a decidedly un-Mueller-like plea, shouted plaintively and hopelessly across the Atlantic: “Where, I ask, is the justice?”

    #USA #Libye #impérialisme #terrorisme #histoire #CIA #idéologie #propagande


  • Alex Gladstein on Why #bitcoin Matters for Freedom
    https://hackernoon.com/alex-gladstein-on-why-bitcoin-matters-for-freedom-63b31e79a40e?source=rs

    Audio interview transcription — WBD056Note: the following is a transcription of my interview with Alex Gladstein, Chief Strategy Officer at the Human Rights Foundation. I use Rev.com from translations and they remove ums, errs and half sentences. I have reviewed the transcription but if you find any mistakes, please feel free to email me. You can listen to the original recording here.You can subscribe to the podcast and listen to all episodes here.In this episode, I talk with Alex Gladstein, Chief Strategy Officer at The Human Rights Foundation. We discuss how Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies increase freedom under authoritarian regimes and how Dem Tech could lead to a wave of investment in crypto.https://medium.com/media/6cdcc6193ddb7200387e75b1d96a3689/hrefConnect with What Bitcoin (...)

    #cryptocurrency #why-bitcoin-matters #bitcoin-freedom #alex-gladstein


  • https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/04/us/politics/marriott-hack-passports.html

    Marriott Concedes 5 Million Passport Numbers Lost to Hackers Were Not Encrypted

    On Friday the firm said that teams of forensic and data analysts had identified “approximately 383 million records as the upper limit” for the total number of guest reservations records lost [...]. The revised figure is still the largest loss in history, greater than the attack on Equifax, the consumer credit-reporting agency, which lost the driver’s license and Social Security numbers of roughly 145.5 million Americans in 2017, leading to the ouster of its chief executive and a huge loss of confidence in the firm.

    Taken together, the attack appeared to be part of a broader effort by China’s Ministry of State Security to compile a huge database of Americans and others with sensitive government or industry positions — including where they worked, the names of their colleagues, foreign contacts and friends, and where they travel.

    Marriott said for the first time that 5.25 million passport numbers were kept in the Starwood system in plain, unencrypted data files.

    The company also said that about 8.6 million credit and debit cards were “involved” in the incident, but those are all encrypted — and all but 354,000 cards had expired by September 2018, when the hacking, which went on for years, was discovered.

    #bdd #database #espionnage #surveillance #fichiers #fichage #irresponsable #informatique #intelligence #stupidité


  • Turkey’s gift of a mosque sparks fears of ‘neo-Ottomanism’ in Kosovo | Cities | The Guardian
    https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2019/jan/02/turkey-is-kosovo-controversy-over-balkan-states-new-central-mosque

    It is six years since Islamic leaders and government officials laid the cornerstone of Pristina’s new central mosque – a slab of stone now hidden beneath weeds in a parking lot.

    Pulling back the weeds reveals it is covered with bright red graffiti – death threats to Kosovo’s chief mufti, along with the words: “No Turkish mosque or there will be blood.”

    #turquie #kosovo #mosquée #islam #religion