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Tue, 23 May 2017
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Man who correctly predicted fall of Soviet Union says Donald Trump will cause US power to collapse

© Associated Press
A sociologist credited with predicting the fall of the Soviet Union has warned that US global power is in a phase of accelerated decline under the leadership of Donald Trump — and will collapse while the property mogul is in the White House.

Norwegian professor Johan Galtung is known as the "founding father" of peace studies as a scientific subject and is recognized for correctly predicting numerous historical events, among them the Tiananmen Square uprising in China and the September 11 attacks.

He attracted controversy in 2000 when he predicted US global power would collapse by 2025.

But under the Bush administration he revised his forecast for the collapse to 2020. Now, he says that reality that is materializing following the election of the bombastic billionaire.

Mr Trump's election on an anti-immigrant platform coincides with one of the final phases of the decline predicted in the social scientist's 2009 book The Fall of the American Empire—and then What? where he forecast the rise of facism before the country's power receded.

Георгиевская ленточка

Speculations on why Putin sent "Chechen" special operation forces to Syria

© Wikimedia Commons
Five 19th Century Chechens.
Very interesting news today: according to the journal Izvestia, Russia will be sending operators from the so-called "Chechen" special forces battalions "West" and "East" to Syria to "guard the Russian installations" in Khmeimim and Tartus. According to Russian sources, these two battalions have been converted into a "military police" force which will be fully deployed by the end of December.

This news leaves many fascinating questions unanswered.

First, even though the Russian sources make it sound like we are talking about two full battalions, I suspect that this is not the case and that a few companies will be formed from elements drawn from these battalions. Why? Because these battalions are part of the backbone of the Russian security system in the Caucasus and to use such elite forces just to guard two military installations makes no sense.

Second, this does beg the question of what these "Chechens" (actually a misnomer - see below) will really be doing in Syria. The only circumstance in which it would make sense to send them to protect the Russian bases in Khmeimim and Tartus would be if a massive attack was expected against these installations and no other reinforcements were available, which is clearly not the case.

Third, these two battalions are mostly, but not exclusively, composed of Sunni Muslim operators. That yields obvious advantages. Furthermore, these battalions have had a history of successfully defeating the Wahabi insurgency in Chechnia. This might be crucially important because Wahabi Chechens also compose some of the best forces available to the Daesh/ISIS/US command in Syria.

So what is really happening here?

Comment: More information from Russian Insider:
Russia's Kommersant paper reported yesterday that Russia's Chechen spetsnaz battalions "Vostok" and "Zaped" ("East" and "West" respectively) were being dispatched to Syria.

As Chechnya's Ramzan Kadyrov explained the same day that is complete nonsense since these two units no longer exist having been disbanded in 2008 on Kadyrov's insistence. ("Vostok" was commanded by the Yamadayev clan which was decimated by Kadyrov, and "West" was run by Said-Magomed Kakiyev who despised Kadyrov for having initially fought on the rebel side.)

What seems to have happened instead is that a mainly-Chechen military police unit has been called up to Syria and Kommersant mistook it for the better known Vostok and Zaped battalions.

In fact footage of the military police company in question assembling before the transport has appeared on the internet:

The soldiers are clearly MPs as can be seen by their distinctive red berets. Also they're Chechen seeing how the footage is from Khankala near Grozny and the soldiers are invoking "Allah" in every other sentence. Some of the things that can be heard (in Chechen, ergo the subtitles) in the video are:
  • We aren't going to harm anyone there."
  • "We're just going to help and nothing more."
  • "We do everything with the permission of Allah, trust in him."
  • "Good luck guys, I wish you to come back." (Cameraman)
  • "We will return the same as we are right now."
So that is that then. For the next several months Russian bases in Syria will be guarded by Allah-fearing Chechens! (Just not Spetsnaz.)

Snakes in Suits

Humiliating end: Poroshenko's political career is finished

President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko is on the verge of completely losing his power. A scandal over compromising documents released by the fugitive Ukrainian oligarch Alexander Onishchenko could lead to political collapse in Kiev.

Bloody Business

The documents released by Onishchenko expose the personal financial interests of Petro Poroshenko in conducting the Ukrainian armed forces' punitive operations in Donbass. Companies owned by the president of Ukraine received military contracts. In other words, Kiev spent money from the IMF on the war against its own people. In the end, this money found itself in the accounts of companies belonging to the country's president.


Russian telecom giant repels DDoS attacks on country's 5 largest financial institutions

© Stephen Lam / Reuters
Russian telecom giant Rostelecom has thwarted DDoS-attacks on the five largest banks and financial institutions in the country, the company said in a statement.

All the attacks were recorded on December 5, 2016, the longest of them lasting for over two hours, Rostelecom said on Friday.

"The analysis of the attack sources carried out by Rostelecom specialists revealed that the traffic was generated from the home routers of users who are usually referred to IoT devices," Muslim Medzhlumov, director of the Cybersecurity Center for Rostelecom, said in a statement, published on the company's website.

"A distinctive feature of the attacks was that they were organized with the help of devices that support the CWMP Management Protocol (TR-069). A few weeks ago, a serious vulnerability was revealed in the implementation of this protocol on a number of devices from different manufacturers, which allows attackers [to] organize DDoS-attacks. At the beginning of last week, the largest German operator Deutsche Telecom was subjected to an attack on users' home devices, as well as the Irish provider Eircom," he explained.

The Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) reported on December 2 that it had received intelligence of foreign intelligence services preparing large-scale cyber-attacks in Russia in the period starting from December 5, 2016, aimed at destabilizing Russia's financial system and the activities of a number of major Russian banks.

Comment: FSB reports foreign intel agencies to launch massive cyberattacks on Russian financial system

Eye 2

Khodorkovsky-sponsored neocon Michael Weiss, slimebag-for-hire, tells Trump to carve up Syria

Weiss palling with the moderate, feminist, LGBT Syrian opposition
A fullscale invasion is off the table with Trump but Weiss hopes he can at least chop off a piece of it

The nasty, embarrassing neocon hack, Michael Weiss has spent years calling for people other than himself to wage a fullscale war on Syria. Election of Donald Trump, however, has put a dampener on his hopes to the point he has now been reduced to calling for a mere permanent occupation of a part of Syria (for now):
There exists, however, a narrow window of opportunity for an incoming U.S. administration to achieve minimally defined objectives: defeating the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, guaranteeing that it cannot come back, and making sure that its main rival, al Qaeda, cannot exploit the power vacuum that will come with the collapse of the caliphate.

Based on months of interviews with Syrian opposition figures, ISIS defectors, Sunni Arab tribesmen, U.S. military sources, and intelligence officials, we believe it necessary, as part of this plan, to keep small but effective U.S. garrisons indefinitely in eastern and northeastern Syria and western Iraq.
Holy cow! Illegal US bases on the territory of a nation the US and its allies have funded a jihadi insurgency against -- how is this anything but a recipe for future war?

Not to worry, Weiss tells us, this actually isn't particularly radical:

Comment: Unfortunately this starry-eyed calculus does not take Russian negotiating skills and determination into account. If any sort of Western "sphere of influence" is allowed by Russia and Assad to develop in northeastern Syria, it will likely be in accord with a larger plan where it will not be as beneficial as the West might think. So far, U.S. administrations have not shown the ability to think long-term.


NSA workers leaving in 'increasingly large numbers': Director blames Snowden leaks

© Jason Reed / Reuters
Employees working for the National Security Agency are leaving their posts in "increasingly large numbers" following the scandal caused by whistleblower Edward Snowden, the NSA's former director has revealed.

Keith Alexander, who ran the NSA from 2005 to 2014, said during a talk hosted by the University of Maryland's journalism school on Tuesday that the mass exodus is partly the result of "how the American people see them." He said much of that is due to Snowden's leaks, and how they were reported.

Eye 1

Google, Facebook, Microsoft, and Twitter become the gatekeepers

News that Google, Microsoft, and Facebook will collaborate to censor their definition of terrorism on their collective networks signals Orwellian times to come. New EU legislation, hints at McCarthyism in America and Europe, and the proven collusion in between Silicon Valley and governments should signal a counter-revolution. Here's a look at why.


Hacking attempt from IP address associated with DHS on system containing personal information for millions of Georgians has officials 'mad as hell'

© Larry Downing / Reuters
Department of Homeland Security workers
The state of Georgia's secretary of state has said he is "mad as hell" following an attempted hack on the state's network by a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) IP address. The official has written a strongly worded letter to the DHS, demanding answers.

The unsuccessful hacking attempt took place on November 15 from an IP address associated with the DHS, according to a letter written by Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp to Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson.

"...I am writing you to ask whether DHS was aware of this attempt and, if so, why DHS was attempting to breach our firewall," Kemp wrote, according to The Hill.

The letter reportedly copied to the full Georgia congressional delegation goes on to state that the systems under attack contained the personal information of over 6.5 million Georgians, 800,000 corporate entities, and over 500,000 licensed or registered professionals.

"At no time has my office agreed to or permitted DHS to conduct penetration testing or security scans of our network," the letter reads. "Moreover, your department has not contacted my office since this unsuccessful incident to alert us of any security event that would require testing or scanning of our network."

Heart - Black

UN adviser says U.S., Russia have different agendas on Aleppo

Jan Egeland, the head of the UN humanitarian task force on Syria, told reporters in Geneva on December 8 that months of negotiations over aid plans had produced "nothing."
The United States and Russia are "poles apart" in trying to agree on terms for evacuations from rebel-held areas of Aleppo, UN humanitarian adviser Jan Egeland says.

Egeland told reporters in Geneva on December 8 that months of negotiations over aid plans had produced "nothing," and that it was up to the United States and Russia to pull together to agree an evacuation of besieged eastern Aleppo.

Syrian and Russian leaders have rejected pleas from rebel forces and Western powers for a cease-fire in Aleppo and pressed their campaign to retake the city in its entirety.

In an interview published on December 8, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said victory in the battle for Aleppo would be a "big gain" for his government but that it will not be the end of the war in Syria.


Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt and his many fights against EPA, the agency he's picked to lead

© Brendan McDermid / Reuters
Scott Pruitt Attorney General of Oklahoma arrives to meet with U.S. President-elect Donald Trump at Trump Tower in Manhattan, New York City, U.S., December 7, 2016.
A known ally of the fossil fuel industry, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt has been officially selected to head the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). However, Pruitt previously sued the EPA. Senate democrats promise to block the nomination.

"For too long, the Environmental Protection Agency has spent taxpayer dollars on an out-of-control anti-energy agenda that has destroyed millions of jobs, while also undermining our incredible farmers and many other businesses and industries at every turn. As my EPA administrator, Scott Pruitt, the highly respected Attorney General from the state of Oklahoma, will reverse this trend and restore the EPA's essential mission of keeping our air and our water clean and safe," President-elect Donald Trump said in a statement on Thursday.

Pruitt, 48, has served as Attorney General for Oklahoma since 2011.

The appointment is "like putting an arsonist in charge of fighting fires," Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club,said in a statement.