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Thu, 17 Aug 2017
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Al Aqsa Protests: A popular mass movement has once again taken hold in Palestine

© Muammar Awad / Reuters
It was supposed to be a moment of celebration and reflection for one of those too-rare occurrences in the Mideast - popular protests by Palestinians had stymied the imposition of a new facet of Israel's 50-year-long occupation. Instead, even after Israel backed down on the changes it had imposed at the Al Aqsa Mosque compound, the situation in Jerusalem continued to spiral into familiar scenes of security forces chasing scrambling demonstrators.

Throngs of Palestinian worshippers flooded through the gates to Al Aqsa Mosque in Occupied East Jerusalem's Old City last Thursday. They reveled in victory after almost two weeks of boycotting Islam's third holiest site to oppose new Israeli security measures on the compound.

After a brazen assault on July 14, using weapons smuggled into the holy site by three Palestinian citizens of Israel and leaving two Israeli border police dead, Israel had installed CCTV cameras, turnstiles, and metal detectors. The mosque compound is under Jordanian control and administered by the Jerusalem Islamic Waqf, a Jordanian-Palestinian Islamic trust. The Waqf had called for the boycott and protests sprang up opposing Israel's changes to the delicate - and perpetually tense - status quo.

Bad Guys

As ISIS abandons Mosul they leave behind chronicles of 'life under the Caliphate'

© REUTERS/ Alaa Al-Marjani
The militants of the Islamic State terrorist group (Daesh), who fled from the Iraqi city of Mosul, have not had enough time or desire to pack a huge amount of printed materials - books, pamphlets, newspapers - thus leaving a lot of information about the so-called caliphate's lifestyle.

Apparently, the terrorists were most annoyed by people shopping during prayers time and wearing sandals. They also tried to hide their failures behind the veil of news about their caliphate's alleged successes.


Among the ruins of Mosul there are scattered books with fictitious Daesh justifications for various prohibitions. The locals were not allowed to watch satellite TV channels because they were allegedly "from the devil." They were also forbidden to sell cigarettes because it was "a manifestation of corruption."


One killed and many injured in Hamburg knife attack - UPDATE: German police tried recruiting attacker as informant

© Bernd Thissen / DPA / AFP
One person has been killed and several others injured in a bloody knife attack at a supermarket in Hamburg, Germany, according to local police. The suspect has been arrested, however, officials have declined to comment on a possible motive.

"We have no clear information as to the motive or the number of wounded," police said in a tweet.

The attack took place between Fuhlsbüttler and Hermann Kauffmann in the district of Barmbek, Hamburg just after 3pm local time on Friday, reports BILD.

Armed police have set up a security cordon and urged the public to avoid the area as traffic diversions are in place.

The suspect was captured by police a short time after the attack on Hellbrookstraße.

Comment: Previously known to authorities, documented radicalization, mentally unstable, "not considered dangerous". This story is getting old:
Hamburg State Interior Minister Andy Grote said that the knife attacker who fatally stabbed one person and wounded several others in Germany's largest port city on Friday, was actually known to authorities as an Islamist.

Grote told a press conference on Saturday that the man, whose asylum claim had been rejected, was known to have been radicalized.

For some reason, he had not been considered dangerous. The 26-year-old suspect, born in the United Arab Emirates, was "mentally unstable," the minister said.

He had come to Germany as a refugee, but his asylum application was rejected and he should have been deported in the following days, as soon as his papers arrived, Tagesspiegel reported.

Hamburg Police Chief Ralf Martin Meyer said initial findings showed the attacker had acted alone, adding that it could not be completely ruled out that he had accomplices, Reuters reported.

On Friday evening, police searched a refugee camp in the district of Langenhorn, where the attacker is thought to have lived.
Update (July 31): Officials say the suspect, named "Ahmad A.", likely had "radical Islamist motives", but wasn't part of any wider group. The Prosecutor General has opened an investigation, and Ahmad faces charges of murder and attempted murder:
Authorities confirmed after the attack that the suspect was known to have been radicalized, but said that the 26-year-old hadn't been considered dangerous. The investigation now states the man decided two days prior to the attack to launch an assault, hoping to die as a martyr.

According to the latest findings of the investigation, "there is likely a radical Islamist motive" for the assailant, authorities announced.

"According to the investigation so far, it is to be assumed that the suspect radicalized himself. According to [the suspect], he has been dealing with radical Islamist themes for quite some time. Two days before the event, he finally decided to adopt a respective lifestyle. On the day of attack, he had resolved to commit an assault, coupled with the hope of dying as a martyr."

The suspect entered the Edeka chain supermarket at around 3pm on Friday, took a knife with a 20cm blade from the shelves and attacked the nearest customer, who later died from the injuries sustained. Before leaving the supermarket he injured one more person and continued the attack outside, stabbing three others.

With earlier claims stating that the man acted alone and was "mentally unstable," the prosecution says there's so far no evidence to conclude Ahmad A. belonged to Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) or any other terrorist group, or had accomplices.

The man, of Palestinian origin, was born in the United Arab Emirates and sought asylum in Germany in 2015. Having had his application rejected, Ahmad A. was supposed to be deported as soon as the papers would arrive, according to German media.
Update (August 5): Why are we not surprised?
German authorities were allegedly aware of Ahmad A.'s extremist tendencies for at least a year and tried to recruit him as an informant before the 26-year-old refugee went on a supermarket stabbing spree in Hamburg last week, killing one and injuring several others.

While investigators had earlier admitted that Ahmad A. was known to have been radicalized, a report in Der Spiegel claims that authorities apparently knew a lot more about the attacker's radicalization tendencies prior to the July 28 attack at the Edeka supermarket.

In June 2016, the State Criminal Police Office (KLA) allegedly tried to recruit the 26-year-old as an informant.

A KLA officer visited the asylum shelter in Hamburg to talk about potential radicalization within the migrant community, Der Spiegel reports. The head of the asylum shelter reportedly informed the officer of Ahmad's odd and potentially dangerous behavior.

The officer allegedly tried to approach the 26-year-old to find out about the "Islamist situation" in Hamburg. However, the attempt proved futile as the man refused to become an informant.

Furthermore, after talking with Ahmad, staff members of the Legato advisory center, which deals with cases of "religious-based radicalization," said they were "overburdened" with the Palestinian who was suffering from "psychological problems."

Der Spiegel further revealed that in September 2016, city authorities received information that the suspect was trying to ascertain the best way to make it into Syria, where he allegedly wanted to join the Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) terrorist group. Following the tip, federal police and border police were alerted of Ahmad's motives.

The publication also said the man did not follow Islam's code of ethics, and was drinking alcohol and smoking cannabis. The attacker also allegedly told an employee of the local café that "terror will come here."
Germany's migration office discovered earlier this week that authorities missed a deadline to deport the suspect two years ago. Ahmad, who is of Palestinian origin but born in the in the United Arab Emirates, arrived in Germany via Norway in 2015. The investigation also noted that Ahmad A. claimed that he decided to carry out an attack to die as a "martyr."


Spies over Seattle? US Air Force conducts mystery flights

© The Drive
The mysterious Seattle spy plane. What's in your skies?
A US Air Force spy plane has been flying circles above Seattle for over a week. The military says it is on a routine training mission, while aviation analysts speculate it could be testing new surveillance technologies.

The plain gray CN-235-300, with a call sign 'SPUD21' and serial number 96-6042, has been flying over Seattle since late July, according to FlightAware data pointed out by analysts Tyler Rogoway and Joseph Trevithick.

Aside from a weekend stop in Portland, it appears to be based out of Boeing Field International (BFI). Rather than from Boeing's military ramp, however, the plane is operating out of Clay Lacy Aviation, the high-end private jet center often used by military aircraft.

The US Northern Command (NORTHCOM) and its subordinate Joint Task Force-North (JTF-N) both told Rogoway and Trevithick they were not tracking the aircraft or its mission. They received the same answer from the US Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC), while the US Special Operations Command (SOCOM) forwarded yet another query on the issue back to AFSOC, they said.

On Friday, AFSOC public affairs officer Matt Durham told RT America that the plane is one of theirs, and that its activity was "just a training mission."

Rogoway and Trevithick describe the mystery spy plane as "covered in a dizzying array of blisters, protrusions, humps and bumps," including missile warning detectors, flare dispensers, and microwave and ultra-high-frequency antennae. Another antenna array on the bottom of the plane suggests the presence of a communications intelligence suite, while a rectangular structure mounted on the left side of the plane appears to be a visual intelligence-gathering installation.

Comment: Whatever the reason for the military flights, it is doubtful we will get the whole story.


'Nobody kill anybody': Baltimore activist calls for a ceasefire

© Jim Bourg / Reuters
A resident in the neighborhood where Freddie Gray was arrested and where residents rioted over his death in April looks on at the scene of a shooting in West Baltimore.
A woman, who witnessed her first murder on the streets of Baltimore when she was 12, has started a 72-hour event aimed at creating conditions of non-violence in her Baltimore neighborhood.

Erricka Bridgeford came up with the idea for a weekend ceasefire called 'Nobody Kill Anybody' when her 19-year-old son alerted her to the recent spike in violence in Baltimore. Bridgeford knows the violence on Baltimore's streets all too well, as her brother and step-son were both victims of murder.

"We have created a system where you arrest and punish people, but you do not heal the traumas that you caused," Bridgeford said in an interview with RT. "America has a system that only believes that you can lock away problems and so that strategy does not really work. People need to be healed from inside out and locking them up does not do that."

Bridgeford, joined by other activists, handed out flyers about peace to residents of the city. She asked them to commit to the 'Nobody Kill Anybody' truce and to pledge not to accelerate the violence that already exists in Baltimore.

Some laughed at her upon hearing the idea, but the majority of people were interested, she said. Many people spread the word, and soon gang leaders and members started to call her to tell her they would participate.

Cloud Grey

Burn ban in effect amid Seattle's smoky haze - charcoal grills, firepits temporarily prohibited

© The Seattle Times
Even grilling with charcoal is banned in King, Kitsap, Pierce and Snohomish counties as the region's air quality dips into unhealthy levels.

On Wednesday afternoon, the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency issued the "Stage 1 air quality burn ban" until further notice.

Here's what you can't do under the ban:

- No charcoal barbecues
- No fire pits, chimineas, fire bowls or similar free-standing devices
- No campfires or bonfires
- No fireplaces, uncertified wood stoves, or uncertified inserts*
- No agricultural fires (as described in the agricultural burn permit)
- Native American ceremonial fire permits outside of tribal lands are not granted from the
local fire district during air quality burn bans.

Natural-gas and propane stoves are OK to use during a Stage 1 ban.


How immigration and affirmative action will ultimately destroy each other

Mass immigration and widespread affirmative action are deeply in tension, and ultimately set to destroy one another.

In the past week, the Trump administration threw its weight behind two frontal assaults on flagship liberal social policies. First, as the New York Times reported on Tuesday, Jeff Sessions' Justice Department will scrutinize affirmative action in higher education with the aim of gutting policies that it sees as discriminating against white or Asian applicants. Second, Trump gave a press conference endorsing a Senate bill, co-sponsored by Senators Tom Cotton of Arkansas and David Perdue of Georgia, that would significantly reduce legal immigration into the United States.

The media has mostly treated these two stories as distinct and unrelated, except insofar as they both represent the Trump Administration's consistently right-wing approach to racial issues. In reality, the relationship goes much deeper than that. Mass immigration, and America's proliferating racial and ethnic categories generally, represent the most vexing issue for proponents of race-based affirmative action, which was of course invented in a far less diverse country and aimed specifically at remedying the country's enslavement and oppression of native blacks, but now arguably discriminates against a different minority group. Meanwhile, affirmative action for ethnic minorities likely heightens white resistance to mass immigration due to the perception that newcomers won't only compete with natives for finite resources but will get a head start in that competition. If affirmative action goes down, it will be in no small part due to the influence of mass immigration; if immigration levels are slashed, the pervasiveness of affirmative action will probably have played a role.


Hacker who disabled WannaCry arrested and charged in connection with malware targeting banks - UPDATE: Bail set at $30k

© Steve Marcus / Reuters
A British-based malware researcher has been indicted in connection to the "Kronos" malware which targets banks. The hacker was arrested during a conference in Las Vegas. His friends and associates are concerned as they do not know where he was taken to.

On Thursday an indictment filed in the US District Court in Wisconsin accused Marcus Hutchins, 23, of advertising, distributing and profiting from a malware code called "Kronos." The indictment states that Hutchins allegedly took part in the illegal activity from July 2014 to July 2015.

Hutchins, also known as "MalwareTech" online, gained prominence in May for finding a "kill switch" which disabled the WannaCry bug. He was detained by the FBI in Las Vegas Wednesday.

Hutchins faces six counts, including conspiracy to commit offense or to defraud US; fraud and related activity in connection with computers; interception and disclosure of wire,oral, or electronic communications prohibited; manufacture, distribution, possession and advertising of wire, oral, or communication intercepting devices prohibited.

He was indicted with an unnamed co-defendant on July 12. However, the case remained under seal until Thursday, according to a US Justice Department spokesman and reported by Reuters.

Comment: Ex-spy chief lambastes Microsoft for leaving Windows XP users vulnerable to cyberattacks

Update (July 5): Bail for Hutchins has been set at $30,000:
The bail was set by Judge Nancy Koppe in a Las Vegas court after she dismissed a federal prosecutor's claim that Hutchins, 23, poses a "danger to the public." The hacker was ordered to stay in the US with GPS monitoring as the case against him unfolds. He was also ordered to surrender his passport and is now banned from using any devices with internet access.

"He admitted he was the author of the code of Kronos malware and indicated he sold it," prosecutor Dan Cowhig told the federal court.

Hutchins will apparently plead not guilty on all six counts of the Wisconsin-issued indictment, which accuses the Brit of distribution of, and profiteering from, Kronos malware between July 2014 and July 2015.

"He fights the charges and we intend to fight the case," Hutchins' lawyer, Adrian Lobo, noted after Friday's hearing, according to the Telegraph. "He has dedicated his life to researching malware, not trying to harm people. Use the internet for good is what he has done."

The prosecution, on the other hand, believes that the Kronos malware, developed by Hutchins and another unnamed conspirator, was used to steal banking passwords from infected computers in the US, Canada, the UK, and several other European countries.

After examining what he called a "weak" indictment, former CIA analyst John Kiriakou told RT that he does not see a crime there. He also doubted that Hutchins had ever visited Wisconsin, where the indictment was filed on Thursday.

"He is a guy who provided a great public service to the British people in the earlier hacking incident, and the United States turns it around and arrests him. I think that some questions need to be answered," Kiriakou told RT.
See also: WannaCry researcher arrest sends chills through the cybersecurity community

Eye 1

"The most hated man in America," Martin Shkreli guilty of fraud

© Spencer Platt / AFP
Eccentric former pharmaceutical CEO Martin Shkreli, dubbed "the most hated man in America," has been convicted of fraud for deceiving investors in a pair of failing hedge funds. His defense team argued that his investors made hefty profits.

A New York jury deliberated for five days before finding Shkreli guilty of three out of eight counts against him. He was found guilty of securities fraud but not of conspiracy to commit securities fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud, AP reported.

Prosecutors in the five week trial accused Shkreli of repeatedly misleading investors about what he was doing with their money.

Comment: Lock him up and throw away the key!


'I want my money back!': Republican donor sues GOP, accuses party of fraud for failing to repeal Obamacare

© Steve Earley - The Virginian-Pilot
Bob Heghmann, a retired attorney in Virginia Beach is so incensed Republicans couldn't repeal the Affordable Care Act that he's suing the GOP for fraud and racketeering.
A retired attorney in Virginia Beach is so incensed that Republicans couldn't repeal the Affordable Care Act that he's suing to get political donations back, accusing the GOP of fraud and racketeering.

Bob Heghmann, 70, filed a lawsuit Thursday in U.S. District Court, saying the national and Virginia Republican parties and some GOP leaders raised millions of dollars in campaign funds while knowing they weren't going to be able to overturn the law also known as Obamacare.

The GOP "has been engaged in a pattern of Racketeering which involves massive fraud perpetrated on Republican voters and contributors as well as some Independents and Democrats," the suit said. Racketeering, perhaps better known for use in prosecuting organized crime, involves a pattern of illegal behavior by a specific group.

The lawsuit lists as defendants the Republican National Committee and Virginia's two national GOP committee members, Morton Blackwell and Cynthia Dunbar, as well as the Republican Party of Virginia and state party Chairman John Whitbeck.