GRU Operators Leveraged Blogs, Social Media Accounts and Private Messaging to Reach Audiences Across Europe

This report examines several campaigns manned by Russian military intelligence operators using fake accounts to influence audiences around Russia’s borders, with a primary focus on Ukraine. The accounts were initially identified and taken down by Facebook on February 12, 2020. While most of this activity occurred around 2016 and 2017, some of these accounts were still active in 2020 at the time of the takedown. The content of these campaigns is aligned with narratives traditionally promoted by Russian state-sponsored media, and with the types of content that has been promoted in previous information operations attributed to Russian operators: promoting pro-Kremlin politicians in foreign countries, attacking public figures advocating for closer ties with the West, attacking humanitarian groups involved in documenting war crimes occurring in the Syrian conflict.


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This report covers the 3,795 incidents received by the Stop AAPI Hate reporting center from March 19, 2020 to February 28, 2021. The number of hate incidents reported to our center represent only a fraction of the number of hate incidents that actually occur, but it does show how vulnerable Asian Americans are to discrimination, and the types of discrimination they face.​1

Types of Discrimination

  • ●  Verbal harassment (68.1%) and shunning (20.5%) (i.e., the deliberate avoidance of Asian Americans) make up the two largest proportions of the total incidents reported.
  • ●  Physical assault (11.1%) comprises the third largest category of the total incidents.
  • ●  Civil rights violations — e.g., workplace discrimination, refusal of service, and being barred from transportation — account for 8.5% of the total incidents.
  • ●  Online harassment makes up 6.8% of the total incidents.National Trends
  • ●  Women report hate incidents 2.3 times more than men.
  • ●  Youths (0 to 17 years old) report 12.6% of incidents and seniors (60 years oldand older) report 6.2% of the total incidents.
  • ●  Chinese are the largest ethnic group (42.2%) that report experiencing hate,followed by Koreans (14.8%), Vietnamese (8.5%), and Filipinos (7.9%).
  • ●  Incident reports come from all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
  • ●  Businesses are the primary site of discrimination (35.4%), followed by publicstreets (25.3%), and public parks (9.8%). Online incidents account for 10.8% of the total incidents.

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Warren Wyden DeSaulnie to Venntel re Mobile Phone Location Data

With Americans installing contact-tracing apps as part of the effort to limit the spread of COVID-19, it has become increasingly important to make sure that the American public has a full understanding of who is collecting their location data, how it may be provided to the government, and what the government is doing with it.

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In Praise of Hawala By J. Orlin Grabbe

When I was teaching at Wharton, I remember one student who was amazed that he could “wire” his Treasury bill from a bank in Chicago to a bank in Manhattan. Of course there was no mystery to the process. Treasury bills only exist as accounting entries on the books of the Federal Reserve: there is no physical token or quality printed document involved.

The bank in Chicago was the registered owner of the T-bill on the Fed’s books, and it simply sent instructions to the Fed to turn the T-bill over to the bank in Manhattan — i.e. to attach the Manhattan bank’s name as the owner of the T-bill on the Fed’s books. Meanwhile, the bank in Manhattan handed the student a computer-printed receipt, showing that the student was the owner of the T-bill from the bank’s point of view.

In this Federal Reserve transaction we have the essence of the hawala system, a system currently under frontal assault from the U.S. because it is efficient, low-cost, and unregulated. As in the hawala system, a person in Chicago (the student) goes to an agent (the Chicago bank) and asks for the transfer for something of value (the T-bill). Through a centralized record- keeping system (the Federal Reserve), value is transferred to an agent elsewhere (the bank in Manhattan) and given to a person at the remote location (in this case, the student again, but it could have been anyone). A typical hawala transaction in Dubai, here on the shore of the Persian (Arabian) Gulf, might go like this. Iqbal, a Pakistani working in the Jebel Ali Free Zone, gets paid in cash, in UAE dirhams. He wants to send money to his family in Karachi, so he goes to a hawaladar and gives him 5000 dirham. The hawaladar sends an email or a fax to his uncle in Karachi (who is also a hawaladar), along with an agreed code for collecting the money. Iqbal’s wife picks up 80,000 rupees from the hawaladar in Karachi. The transaction is simple and efficient by comparison to most of the alternatives. Iqbal pays on one day and his wife picks up the money the next day. Iqbal doesn’t need a bank account, no one asks him to fill out elaborate forms or show a government ID number. Nor does he need to deal with an artificial exchange rate set by the Pakistani central bank — a rate of exchange intended to rip off (tax) Pakistanis in foreign countries who are purchasing rupees with their repatriated earnings. Instead, the local hawaladar in Karachi deals on the white market and gets a market-determined exchange rate. (The central bank calls the free market in currencies a “black market,” but since the market involves voluntary exchanges between individuals, it should be referred to as a “white market” — or maybe not, depending on your psychological associations with colors.)

Why does the system work? The hawaladars are reliable and trustworthy. As even Interpol observed, “the delivery associated with a hawala transaction is faster and more reliable than in bank transactions.” And “the components of hawala that distinguish it from other remittance systems are trust and the extensive use of connections such as family relationships . . .” It takes honest people to run this “illegal” business.

Yet Time magazine has called hawala “a banking system built for terrorism.” They accused Dubai of being the hub of the hawala business. But Time gave its game away by ominously noting: “Dubai is a free trade zone with no limitations on the movement of goods or currency.”

Dubai, and the Persian Gulf generally, may be the last refuge of laissez-faire capitalism in the world. Yes, there are pockets elsewhere: Hong Kong seems to have survived the takeover by the PRC. And Costa Rica, for all the government’s boast of offering a “cradle-to-grave” welfare state, probably is host to the largest percentage of self-proclaimed libertarians per capita of any country in the world. But it’s hard to beat Dubai. Here you will find none of the war-mongering socialism of Iraq and Israel.

From the futuristic buildings lining Sheikh Zayed Road to the cozy gold, electronic, linen, you-name-it souks of Deira, this place rocks. I come in at midnight to my apartment overlooking the Gulf, and the Pakistani workers who are constructing a new shop on the ground floor are still hard at work. The main streets are wide, cabs are clean, people are courteous. Dubai has 28 five-star or better hotels, including the top-rated hotel in the world, the Burj Al Arab, which sits in the shape of a large dhow sail on a man-made island offshore, a sail 1000-feet (321 meters) tall, a ship eternally headed inland. There are the free zones of Jebel Ali, with the world’s largest artificial port, and the more recent ones of Internet City and Media City. Dubai is about the size of Las Vegas, but a woman can safely walk alone at night pretty much anywhere. Here in Dubai we are living in a Golden Age, but one which, I suspect, will have disappeared in a decade because of U.S. big brother meddling.

No, everything is not perfect. By contrast to the 1990 census which showed that a majority of Dubai native Arabic women aged 15 to 19 were married, in 2000 over 90 percent were still single. That perhaps accounts for the annoying excess of nubile females running around — especially when you add into the picture those foreign beauties from Eastern Europe, Russia, the Philippines, and South Africa. Native Dubai Arabs comprise less than 25 percent of the population, with foreigners from India, Pakistan, the Philippines, South Africa, and a horde of European countries making up the rest. Signs are written in Arabic and English, with more English spoken than Arabic. Internet City has been invaded with the likes of Microsoft, Oracle, IBM, and Network Associates. Microsoft couldn’t build a secure computer system if you held a gun to Bill Gate’s head; Oracle’s Larry Ellison is a fascist who wants to create a national ID database on all Americans; IBM has forgotten how to make a profit; and Network Associates has discontinued support for PGP. Who needs this kind of progress? With the beginning of the new International Financial Center over by the Emirates Tower (the tallest structure in the Middle East and Europe), we’ll be seeing the likes of Merrill Lynch, NASDAQ, and Goldman Sachs.

There are other problems. The weekend is on the wrong days: Thursday and Friday, instead of the civilized Saturday and Sunday revealed to us by the Gods of Tom DeLay. And while you can smoke in pretty much any restaurant in Dubai, they have a small hang-up about alcohol. Since non-moslem tourists were believed to be desirous of having a pint now and then, hotels were hospitably given an alcohol monopoly — ordinary restaurants can’t sell it. You can buy it at a store, but you have to get a license. I got a liquor license from the Dubai Police Department, but have yet to use it. I find that when I want a drink, I tend to wander over to one of the hotels down the street. Who do they think they are?

What is called hawala in Arabia, is also known as hundi in India and Pakistan, and havala in Iran. The word “hawala” comes from the Arabic root hwl, meaning to “change” or “transform”. A traveler’s check is called a hawala safir. The Arabic word “hawala” has been adopted into both Hindi (India) and Urdu (Pakistan). The alternative term hundi comes from a Sanskrit root meaning to “collect.” A hundi operator is called a hundiwala (recall the dishwalas who sell satellite TV dishes out of corrugated tin shacks in India). In Farsi (Iran) the “w” is pronounced as a “v”: havala. Farsi also uses the word saraf, meaning a “money changer” or “money remitter” (i.e. a hawala dealer).

A few days ago the Gulf News, a local Dubai English-language newspaper, carried a large ad: “HAWALA IS ILLEGAL, DON’T RISK IT!” Now, hawala is not illegal here: the ad was referring to the illegality of persons in India receiving hawala payments from Dubai. Because the Indian central bank has said hawala violates exchange control laws. The ad luridly carried two newspaper headline clippings: “US tells India to regularize hawala transactions” and “US treasury nudges India to tackle hawala networks”. And who was it that took out the ad, all in great concern and alarm that Indians in Dubai might send money to the folks back home in New Delhi, and upset the poor little U.S. Treasury? Western Union. A rival money-transmitting business. The ad represents the classic case of a business attempting to use government regulation as a whip to drive out the competition. (Click here to see the ad.) What is most absurd about the whole thing is Western Union’s invoking of U.S. meddling in India as a behavorial guide for expatriate Indians living in Dubai.

Of course Western Union is just another hawala-type business. In the old days, you took cash to a Western Union office in one city, and had them “telegraph it” to a Western Union office in another city. What happened was the Western Union office in the first city put the cash in its safe. Then they sent a telegram to the second office, with the message: “Give so-and-so this much cash.” The thing that moved between the two cities was not the cash, but rather a message that described the value transfer that was to take place in the remote location. Today Western Union maintains bank accounts, and if they need more cash in one place they take it out of the bank. If they have a cash surplus in another place, they take the cash to the local bank, and then send a wire to the place the cash is needed.

The only thing that distinguishes Western Union from hawala is that Western Union is regulated in India. And they are quite happy to help the Indian central bank rip off expatriate Indians by selling them too few rupees for their foreign-earned dirhams, dollars, and other currencies. This, then, is what makes Western Union a great patriot and supporter of the U.S. Treasury.

The first paragraph of the Time article mentioned above, “A Banking System Built for Terrorism” (Oct. 5, 2001), paints a sinister picture: “In the labrynthine depths of old Delhi, where the lanes are too narrow even for a rickshaw, men drink tea and chat in shabby offices. Nobody seems to be doing any work, until the phone rings. Then, numbers are furiously scribbled, followed by some busy dialing and whispered instruction. Although it’s far from obvious in the innocuous setting, these men are moving money — to exporters, drug traffickers, tax evaders, corrupt politicians. And terrorists.”

Let’s rewrite this paragraph, shall we? “In the labrynthine depths of a nondescript floor in Manhattan’s Citibank tower, where the aisles between cubicles are too narrow even for a rickshaw, men sip coffee long since gone cold and stale, and chat among themselves across their shabby partitions. Nobody seems to be doing any work, until the phone rings. Then, numbers are furiously scribbled, followed by some busy dialing, whispered instruction, and tapping at the computer keyboard. Although it’s far from obvious in the innocuous setting, these men are moving money — to exporters, drug traffickers, tax evaders, corrupt politicians. And terrorists.”

Clearly it’s time to shut down Citibank.

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Russia Threatens To Fine Social Media Giants For Not Deleting Protest-related Posts

Russia said that social media giants including TikTok, Facebook, Twitter and even YouTube “will be fined” for failing to delete the posts regarding protests.

Russia on January 27 said that social media giants including TikTok, Facebook, Twitter and even YouTube “will be fined” for failing to delete the posts that motivated the youngsters to participate in the opposition protests. In a statement, Russia media’s watchdog, Roskomnadzor said that the fines could be as much as 4 million rubles or $53,000 after nationwide rallies were held demanding the immediate release of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s staunch critic and opposition leader Alexei Navalny. On Saturday, tens of thousands of people defied heavy law enforcement presence as they organised demonstrations in freezing temperatures.

“Social networks Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, VKontakte, Odnoklassniki, as well as YouTube video hosting will be fined for failure to comply with the requirements to suppress the spread of appeals to minors to participate in unauthorized rallies on January 23,” said Russia media watchdog.

Watchdog says 170 illegal appeals ‘not removed’

Roskomnadzor also said that the Prosecutor General’s Office and itself had requested the social media platforms to remove “in a timely manner a total of 170 illegal appeals”, but they failed to comply with it. Posts promoting what is reportedly termed as the ‘biggest’ opposition rallies flooded the social media and were watched hundreds of millions of times on TikTok. It was the flurry of videos on social media sites that prompted the Russia media watchdog to demand the applications to take down any information that encouraged “minors to act illegally”. 

“We remind the administrations of social networks that in the event of a repeated offence, the amount of the fine can be increased to one-tenth of the total amount of the annual proceeds. We ask the management of Internet platforms to refrain from disseminating calls for participation in unauthorized public events,” said Russia media watchdog.

The protests were organised in a range of cities across Russia when the temperatures were as low as minus-50 C, highlighting the influence Kremlin’s most prominent foe has built in the nation. Navalny’s wife Yulia was also detained in Moscow. Navalny was arrested on January 17 on returning to Moscow from Germany, where he had spent nearly five months recovering from nerve-agent poisoning that he has blamed on the Kremlin but Russian authorities deny.  – Aanchal Nigam

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How the Kremlin Cracked Down on Online Promotion for The Protests

Russia’s media watchdog Roskomnadzor last week cautioned social media platforms against encouraging minors to join the protests. “[We] will prosecute Internet sites for involving adolescents in illegal activities,” the watchdog said, adding that failure to remove “banned information”—posts encouraging people to join the protests — could result in fines of up to 4 million rubles ($53,000).

The warning came as social media was flooded with videos promoting the protests. TikTok videos using the hashtag “Free Navalny” (#свободунавальному) have brought in more than 120 million views. Russian TikTok users have recorded themselves packing their bags for Saturday’s protest. “I want to live in a free country, I’m not afraid to protest,” one user wrote. Others are seen taking down Putin’s portrait from the walls of their classrooms and replacing it with Navalny’s photo.

According to a report from Roskomnadzor, TikTok has deleted 38% of its content with videos about Saturday’s protest, while YouTube and Russian social media site VKontakte has removed half of their content calling on minors to join the rallies and Facebook-owned Instagram 17%.

The Russian Prosecutor’s Office warned that Internet traffic will be monitored to “restrict access to illegal information,” and that people found in breach “have been warned against breaking the law.” Police are “focused on taking preventive measures, and if there are grounds, bringing the perpetrators to administrative responsibility,” it said in a press release.

Russian police detained more than 3,000 anti-government protesters according to the OVD Info monitoring group, as tens of thousands nationwide responded to jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny’s call to denounce President Vladimir Putin’s rule.

Tens of thousands of people, including teenagers, packed Moscow’s central Pushkin Square and nearby streets as riot police hauled off demonstrators and beat others with batons.

Among those detained were Navalny’s wife Yulia Navalnaya and his prominent aide Lyubov Sobol. AFP journalists saw several protesters 

Navalny had called on Russians to protest after surviving a near-fatal poisoning with Novichok and returning to Moscow following months of treatment in Germany, only to be arrested on arrival.

Russian police have detained more than 3,700 people across the country according to OVD-Info, a Moscow-based NGO monitoring rallies, as anti-government protests surged in about 100 cities and towns on Saturday. 

Thousands of people took to the streets from Moscow to the Far East, battling the bitter cold, in some of the largest protests against Russian President Vladimir Putin in years. 

In Moscow, where Reuters estimated that 40,000 people turned up to protest in Moscow (the Ministry of Internal Affairs said it was about 4,000) riot police were seen beating and dragging protestors away.

Nationwide protests surged this weekend after the arrest of Russian opposition activist and fierce Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny last week. Ahead of the demonstrations, authorities had detained Navalny aides and restricted online information about the protests, which the Kremlin called illegal.

Navalny, head of Russia’s Anti-Corruption Foundation, was immediately detained by Russian authorities when he returned to Moscow on Jan. 17 from Germany, where he had spent five months recovering from a near-fatal nerve agent poisoning that he and some Western governments blamed on the Kremlin. 

Moscow authorities warned last week unauthorized demonstrations will be “immediately suppressed.” Police began showing up at the homes of opposition figures, activists and journalists across Russia to warn them against participating in the rallies, and on Thursday they detained Navalny supporters, including his press secretary, Kira Yarmysh and a top investigator Georgy Alburov who assisted with the palace investigation, for inciting unauthorized protests.

The protests are a defining moment for the opposition as President Vladimir Putin, who has been in power since 2000, increasingly seeks to silence the opposition. Although Navalny remains a polarizing figure in Russia—a September survey by the Levada Center, an independent pollster in Moscow, found that 20% of Russians support Navalny’s work, while 50% disapprove—dissatisfaction against the Putin regime is growing. “[The protests] will speak more about the strength of the opposition against Putin, than Navalny’s popularity,” says Tatiana Stanovaya, founder of Moscow-based political consultancy firm, R. Politik.

The Roskomnadzor (literally the Russian internet police) is monitoring everyone that attends or talks about the protests and is arresting them en masse.

Polite police and disorderly demonstrators How Russian television networks and national news agencies reported Alexey Navalny’s January 31 opposition protests

Andrey Pertsev

On January 31, in the wake of a second round of nationwide protests demanding the release of jailed opposition figure Alexey Navalny, Russian state television networks and news agencies reported a “dramatic decline” in attendance at rallies and aired footage from demonstrations in cities that typically draw small crowds or failed to mobilize for Sunday’s events. “It’s fizzled out,” declared Dmitry Kiselyov, one of the Kremlin’s most prominent TV propagandists. State networks and news agencies offered no explanation, however, for how such supposedly piddling turnout resulted in more than 5,600 arrests on Sunday — a single-day record for the opposition.


On the show “Itogi Nedeli” (Weekly Review), host Irada Zeinalova accused protest organizers of inciting people into the streets in an effort to “make public gatherings the new rule.” She stressed that the state authorities can’t allow such a thing, though “they are open to dialogue,” she said. Most of the broadcast featured footage of demonstrators clashing with police officers, followed by videos of some activists later apologizing for their actions.

“The number of people who want to join the protests has declined sharply. In Blagoveshchensk, there were only a pair of police cars, and there was just a one-person picket in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk,” Zeinalova told viewers, showing scenes from poorly attended rallies in Russia’s Far East. Meanwhile, NTV aired no footage from the bigger rallies in Novosibirsk and Yekaterinburg, and totally ignored Sunday’s massive protest in St. Petersburg. 

Turning to Moscow, Zeinalova’s program showed footage from Sukharevskaya Square at the very start of the demonstrations. Addressing the massive police presence in the capital on Sunday, the show told viewers: “In other locations, the police made sure that protesters didn’t block traffic.” There was no mention of officers using tear gas and tasers against demonstrators in St. Petersburg. NTV did, however, remind viewers about new felony charges against Alexey Navalny’s chief of staff, Leonid Volkov, for “recruiting minors for unlawful assemblies.”

Rossiya 1

“A nothing burger” — that’s how pundit Dmitry Kiselyov summed up Sunday’s protests, after describing the response from law enforcement a week earlier as “perfection.” After all, police had not resorted to water cannons, like in the Netherlands during demonstrations against pandemic lockdown restrictions, or rubber bullets, like in France against the “Yellow Vest” activists. 

Introducing his segment about the protests, Kiselyov spoke so dismissively that some viewers may have wondered why he bothered to discuss them at all: “The [January 31] rallies drew several times fewer people, totally fizzled out, the deception became obvious, and the authorities’ decisive actions were effective against offenders.” 

Kiselyov’s program declared the day’s demonstrations a “complete failure” and aired some of the same footage that appeared on NTV showing largely empty squares in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, Blagoveshchensk, and Birobidzhan. There were also images of “courteous policemen” in Khabarovsk and Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskiy, showing how they informed small groups of protesters that their public assembly was unpermitted.

Instead of showing the large crowd that gathered in Novosibirsk, Rossiya 1 featured comments from a single enthusiastic anarchist. Then there was a segment about “apathy in Vyborg” — a report from a sleepy town outside St. Petersburg, miles from major protest activity. Turning to Yaroslavl, where a demonstrator was arrested with an ax, Rossiya 1’s narrator warned that some activists “came prepared.”

Unlike Irada Zeinalova on NTV, Dmitry Kiselyov did include some scenes from St. Petersburg, airing footage recorded outside Mariinsky Palace — one of Sunday’s rallying points for demonstrators. Just a few hundred people attended the protest, viewers were told, though the footage itself clearly showed several thousand people in attendance. Rossiya 1 even broadcast a video showing a police officer in St. Petersburg brandishing his pistol at a group of protesters, but Kiselyov’s correspondent explained the incident as the result of an attempt by several “aggressive demonstrators” to free detainees from police custody. 

The opposition was apparently in a festive spirit on Sunday, according to Kiselyov’s show. “It’s not immediately apparent that this is a protest; everyone is having fun and hooting and hollering,” says the narrator, though audible chants of “Russia without Putin!” and a demonstrator who says, “He stole my whole childhood” somewhat dampen this mood.

Viewers learned that some people during the protests attacked others and a few particularly “deranged” individuals deliberately frightened families passing by. Members of law enforcement, on the other hand, were courteous and careful. “The police looked after the detainees,” said an anchor narrating footage from the capital showing an officer retrieving a dropped pair of headphones for an arrested protester.

Judging by the footage from Moscow that Kiselyov chose to air on his show, it’s apparent that his editors chose images that make it hard to judge the crowd’s actual size, though it’s clear at certain moments during the segment that thousands of people attended the demonstrations. Ending the report from the capital, Rossiya 1 cites official estimates by the police that “no more than 2,000 people” protested in Moscow on Sunday, before repeating Kisleyov’s claim that “many times fewer” activists turned out than on January 23.

Pervyi Kanal

The evening news program “Vremya” recycled many of the same themes aired on NTV and Rossiya 1, including some identical footage (like the interview with the young anarchist in Novosibirsk). Pervyi Kanal also showed some scenes from the protest in Novosibirsk, selecting videos that depicted only scattered parts of the main crowd.

“The police [in Krasnoyarsk] arrested the offenders, but also tried to help them,” explained the show’s narrator, describing how officers escorted protesters into a police van “so they could warm up” and take refuge from the subzero temperatures outside.

Pervyi Kanal’s reporters said some protesters “openly provoked” members of law enforcement in St. Petersburg, but riot police “never wavered” and officers quickly arrested the “most active perpetrators.” The network didn’t mention any estimates about how many people demonstrated in the city.

Sunday evening’s Vremya broadcast also featured a young protester with a bandaged head in a segment suggesting that the activists who reported police abuse actually staged their injuries. “What liquid covers this person’s head is an open question,” says the show’s narrator, before an older woman appears on screen claiming that the young man “is lying” about being beaten by police officers.

The program concluded with the following summary of Sunday’s demonstration in Moscow: “The [opposition’s] supporters were fewer [than a week ago] and several minors were spotted among them.” The police officers who responded to the unpermitted rally, meanwhile, were “as courteous as possible.”

News agencies 

The state news agency RIA Novosti devoted the most attention to Sunday’s protests. In an op-ed, titled “Navalny Has Killed the Protest [Movement],” Irina Alksnis says, “Alexey Navalny and his organization are collapsing before our eyes, losing the last remnants of their reputation and social influence. Today’s events with their significantly reduced attendance (perhaps by an order of magnitude)….”

Much of RIA Novosti’s coverage of Moscow’s protests was devoted to the noble actions of police officers, with headlines like “Police in Moscow Help Man Who Becomes Ill in Stromynka District” and “Riot Police in Moscow Help Lift Wheelchair Up Ramp.” The news agency did report the use of tasers against demonstrators, but only as unconfirmed information that needed further verification. 

In its evening news summary, the state outlet TASS emphasized that Sunday’s nationwide protests drew fewer people than rallies a week earlier.

Interfax — a nonstate outlet that completes Russia’s trinity of major news outlets — didn’t claim outright that Sunday’s demonstrations attracted fewer protesters, but it did report the crowd size estimates released by the police.

Roskomnadzor, Russia’s federal censor, responded to the demonstrations on January 31 more aggressively than it did a week earlier, warning news outlets and bloggers at the day’s outset that anyone responsible for “disseminating fakes about unpermitted rallies” could face fines as high as 4 million rubles ($52,600) and be blocked immediately. Officials explicitly cautioned Internet users and journalists against sharing “false information with inflated figures about the number of people joining illegal rallies, and about alleged violence and clashes or supposed deaths of demonstrators.”

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Turkish Islamists Call for the Islamization of America

Across the world, Islamists longing for a caliphate increasingly look with admiration to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan – who is popularly described as the “true leader of Ummah [Muslim believers]” – and his AKP’s increasingly obvious agenda of reviving a modern version of the Ottoman Empire. In fact, on the heels of the recent Turkish regime decision to convert the historic Hagia Sophia cathedral into a mosque, a leading pro-regime magazine proclaimed an Islamic caliphate, with Erdoğan at its head.

Members of one prominent Islamist family with ties to the United States are active participants in Erdoğan’s neo-Ottoman and pan-Islamist venture. The patriarch of the family is a globally-known activist named Yusuf Ziya Kavakçi. In a recent interview, Kavakçi called on the Islamic world to better contribute to the “Islamization of America” and declared: “there’s only one thing America needs, and that’s Islam.”

The whole family appears to be working for these ideals. Three of Kavakçi’s daughters, along with two granddaughters, serve the Turkish regime in one capacity or another.

Elif Kavakci works for First Lady, Emine Erdoğan, as a fashion designer. Ravza Kavakci Kan, serves as an AKP deputy chairman for the city of Istanbul. His oldest daughter, Merve Kavakci, became a professor at George Washington University and Howard University, as well as a consultant for the U.S. Congress. She is also the current ambassador of Turkey to Malaysia. In addition, his granddaughter, Mariam Kavakci, was appointed as an advisor to Erdoğan, while another granddaughter, Fatima Gulham Abushanab, was hired as an international relations specialist for the regime.

Considered one of the most influential Muslims in the world, Yusuf Ziya Kavakçimoved his family from Turkey to Texas in 1988 following a visit to the United States and a subsequent invitation from the Islamic Association of North Texas (IANT). Also known as the Dallas Central Mosque, this Muslim place of worship was “[previously] considered to be one of the most active centers of Hamas activity in the United States and hosts the leadership and members of … the primary conduits for Hamas activity and fundraising in the United States.”

Dr. Yusuf Ziya Kavakçi

In recent years, alongside other Turkish scholars, Kavakci has defended Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood, and Yousef al-Qaradawi — the Islamist theologian who has made repeated calls for the deaths of Americans, Christians, and Jews, and was named a terrorist by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt.

Kavakçiwas also a former Shura Council member of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA). Spectacularly, his affiliation with ISNA is oft-overlooked when touting his many achievements — which is likely an effort to downplay his ties to the Muslim Brotherhood-linked organization. Reportedly, Kavakçi has even referred to himself as the “official Spokesperson for Islam of the U.S. Department of State.”

As a resident scholar and imam, Kavakçi went on to serve IANT for 25 years. He was founder of the IANT Quranic Academy (IQA) in Richardson, founding dean of the Suffa Islamic Seminary in Dallas, as well as founder and president of the Islamic Tribunal. The esteemed Islamic author and scholar moved back to Turkey in 2013 at the age of 75.

While his family has maintained substantial connections to the Turkish regime, the former Texas-based imam has left a considerable mark on the spread of Islam throughout the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex and beyond.

Interestingly, the Kavakçi bellwether and his family who is invested in the regime clearly share Erdoğan’s ambitions of an Islamic takeover — both here and abroad.

In 2015, the retired professor attended a conference at Gaziantep University in Turkey as a speaker. He suggested that Muslims have been looking for Turkey to be their leader, compelling “the Islamic world [to] come together around Turkey’s leadership” through efforts of discipline, forward-thinking, and “strategic thinking.”

As mentioned above, five years later, in an interview published in the summer of 2020, Kavakçi honed in on exactly the kind of strategic thinking he may have had in mind.

“The world, especially America, needs Ottoman, Turkish and Islamic knowledge and wisdom” — and according to the Islamic scholar, “the Islamic world is not contributing to the Islamization of America.” He argues, “there’s only one thing America needs, and that’s Islam.”

“There must be an ability to think strategically in the Islamic world,” he adds, perhaps unknowingly invoking the vision and “strategic minded[ness]” of the Bloody Sultan for America. Kavakçi admits, it is a long-term investment, suggesting “a 100 to 150-year program strategy … of spreading Islam in America should be initiated.”

The distinguished imam considers America to be “soft” on Islam, thereby calling upon all Muslims to participate in what he would label the “Strategy of Islamization of the USA.” This is particularly concerning because of the increasing ties between the AKP, organizations linked to the Muslim Brotherhood, and politicians within the United States. There are a growing number of Turkish names emerging on the boards of Islamic NGOs. The attendance of AKP officials at Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) events, for example, is also noteworthy.

Couple a “soft” America with powerful influencers for Islam, and one can see the beginnings of a long-term strategy. Include the demands of CAIR in a Joe Biden-Kamala Harris administration, and there awaits an unavoidable recipe for disaster. Islamists will continue to assert greater control over American communities, finding more and more avenues to disseminate extremist ideologies right under the noses of unsuspecting citizens.

J.M. Phelps is a writer for Islamist Watch.

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Syria thread – Erdoğan edition

Erdogan has met Putin and ironed out the partition of northeastern Syria. He gets to keep everything he conquered and the rest stays with Assad. YPG retreats from a 30km strip along the border, leaving the bulk of Kurdish-populated areas. Russo-Turkish patrols guard the safe zone. The deal shows two things:
By inviting Assad the SDF have completely relinquished their sovereignty. This was why they were so relutanct to receive aid during Olive Branch. As long as Erdogan maintains good relations with Assad and Putin, YPG will no longer bother him. If, however, relations sour then he can even expect a repeat of the 90s, when Hafez sheltered Ocalan and allowed PKK to use Syria as its base of operations.
The deal was discussed with Putin, not Assad. It’s also clear who calls the shots.

For the war as a whole, peace is now closer. Once Idlib is sorted out, a simple deal with Turkey can grant Assad the whole country except for al-Tanf.

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Pixlr: Two Million User Data Leaked On The Dark Web

Pixlr, the popular online photo editing website on the dark web, had suffered significant data exposure. The hacker had leaked the website’s data on a dark web forum that accounts for around 1.9 million. They have also leaked the other stolen data acquired from the other websites. 

The massive data breach has been caused by a hacker who calls himself ShinyHunters. The breached data has been released on the dark web forum named “January 17th”. It has yet not been known how exactly the hacker has gained access to such a considerable amount of data from Pixlr. The stolen database comprises the users’ login ids, email addresses, hashed passwords and user locations. But it is believed that he might have accessed the stored data in an unsecured Amazon Web Services S3 bucket.

ShinyHunters had shared Pixlr user records numbering 1,921,141 for free in the deep web forum and that he accessed the data following the 123RF stock photo breach he had made. The latter is a non-royalty-free image provider which like Pixlr is owned by Inmagine. The hacker has also claimed that he had downloaded the database from the AWS bucket of Pixlr in late 2020.

As Bleeping Computer states, ShinyHunters is famous for hacking websites and selling the humongous amounts of stolen data from the dark web data brokers. ShinyHunters have victimized several companies to date, including Tokopedia, Minted, 123RF, Homechef, Dave, Mathway, Chatbooks, Promo and others. 

VP of Product at CloudSphere, Pravin Rasiah mentions that the possibility of the ShinyHunters hacker accessing an unsecured S3 bucket is incredible as unsecured or improperly secured AWS S3 buckets are one of the leading causes of data theft occurring solely due to misconfiguration. 

“The chances of exposing an S3 bucket are all too great, as inexperienced users can simply choose the ‘access to all users’ option, which makes the bucket publicly accessible. Hackers are invited to misuse personal data entrusted to companies by their customers.

Rasiah had further added that for avoiding such misconfigurations, the businesses must invest in a platform for cloud governance offering real-time and holistic observation in the cloud landscape. This ensures that the stored data is secured and the companies stay on the top of anomalies. The businesses can ensure security for themselves and their customers with the help of comprehensive visibility and the capability to fix problems before they are vulnerable to exploitation.

The CTO and the founder of Cortex Insight, Stephen Kapp says that Pixlr must improve its internal processes to mitigate the damage by storing the users’ information in dedicated SSO systems or application databases, like those that AWS offers. This would enable the dedicated password hashing using a Salt Work Factor that would mitigate the brute force attacks. 

Source: Teiss

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Afghan forces expose Chinese intelligence network, arrest 10 spies with explosives, drugs

Afghan forces have exposed the Chinese intelligence network operating in Afghanistan for at least six months, under which the Chinese spies maintained contacts with Haqqani network and Afghan Taliban.
In mid-December, the National Directorate of Security (NDS) officials conducted a major operation in Kabul, which resulted in the detention of about 10 Chinese intelligence agents.
In an opinion piece in Pajhwok Afghan News, Habiba Ashna, an activist, said the Chinese talk a lot about peace in Afghanistan, while supporting the Pakistani military, who is waging a multi-year hybrid war against the Afghans, using the Taliban terrorists and other groups for this.
“Now, Kabul has made it clear to Beijing that it will no longer tolerate Chinese spies cooperating with Pakistani agents and militants of the Haqqani network on its soil,” she wrote.
According to Afghan security officials, the NDS is about eliminating “a complex and ramified network of agents,” which operated for several months in the interests of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in order to promote “Beijing’s geopolitical influence in the region.”
Among the Chinese intelligence officers arrested by the NDS was Li Yanyang. According to Afghan intelligence officers, he began to actively work in the country in July, becoming an important element of the espionage network.
Li was detained on December 10 at his Kabul office. Afghan forces recovered weapons, ammunition and explosives from his possession.
The NDS officers also arrested another Chinese agent Sha Hong. The forces recovered drugs and explosives during a search at his residence.
In addition to Li Yanyang and Sha Hoon, Afghan counterintelligence officers arrested seven more Chinese intelligence agents (one of them turned out to be a Thai citizen).
Yanyang and Sha Hong were “key players” in a Chinese spy network in Afghanistan, according to the report.
According to leaks released to the Afghan media, the detained Chinese agents were in contact with some of the warlords of the Haqqani terrorist network. Moreover, agents of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence acted as intermediaries between the “Li network” and the “Haqqani network”.
According to the report, Chinese spies regularly met, including with field commanders of various Taliban factions, recruited sources of information among the Taliban, and also, according to some sources, among al-Qaeda terrorists.
One of the main tasks of the group was to collect information about Uyghurs who fled from the territory of China to Afghanistan and neighbouring countries. OSINT

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The Rights of Animals in Islam

Ali Teymoori

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Australia Weighing ‘Extraordinary’ Powers to Identify, Disrupt Dark Web Cybercriminals

Legal experts urge caution as the government proposes new police powers for dark web takedowns, social media takeovers. Australian privacy, legal, and digital rights organisations have just weeks to comment on proposed federal legislation that would, among other things, let federal investigators take over suspects’ social media accounts as part of investigations into cybercriminal activity on the dark web.

Introduced last month by Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton, the proposed Surveillance Legislation Amendment (Identify and Disrupt) Bill 2020 (I&D Bill) introduces three new warrants designed to help Australian Federal Police (AFP) and Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC) investigators to investigate and disrupt malicious online cybercriminal campaigns.

What the new warrants would allow

The new types of warrants outlined by the Department of Home Affairs include the data disruption warrant allowing investigators to access computers and “perform disruption activities [such as modifying, adding, copying, or deleting data on remote systems] for the purpose of frustrating the commission of criminal activity”.

The network activity warrant would allow AFP and ACIC officers to “collect intelligence” about criminal networks operating online, while the account takeover warrant would allow investigators to take over a person’s online account “for the purpose of gathering evidence of criminal activity”.

The new legislation, the government’s explanatory memorandum says, “addresses gaps in the legislative framework to better enable the AFP and the ACIC to collect intelligence, conduct investigations, [and] disrupt and prosecute the most serious of crimes” such as child abuse and exploitation, terrorism, and drug and human trafficking.

Although existing electronic surveillance powers are “useful for revealing many aspects of online criminality”, the memorandum says, they “are not suitably adapted to identifying and disrupting targets where those targets are actively seeking to obscure their identity and the scope of their activities.”

“On the dark web, criminals carry out their activities with a lower risk of identification and apprehension,” the memorandum says, noting that “many anonymising technologies and criminal methodologies can be combined for cumulative effect. … It is technically difficult, and time- and resource-intensive, for law enforcement to take effective action. … Without the critical first step of being able to identify potential offenders, investigations into serious and organised criminality can fall at the first hurdle.”

Australia’s increasingly intrusive laws raise concerns

Australian authorities have long invoked the spectre of online child abuse to justify increasingly intrusive laws in areas such as telecommunications data retention and the mandatory decryption of encrypted communications, as embodied in the troubled Telecommunications Legislation Amendment (Assistance and Access) (TOLA) Act 2018.

Between July 2018 and September 2020, Dutton said in his speech introducing the legislation, AFP investigations have led to 302 arrests and the removal of 229 children—including 113 in Australia and 116 overseas—from harm.

Despite this, the government’s Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation (ACCCE)—which has intercepted more than 250,000 child abuse files in the previous 12 months—had noted a 163% year-on-year increase in downloads of child-abuse material from dark websites during the June 2020 quarter. The AFP received 17,905 reports of child exploitation in 2018, with each potentially containing hundreds or thousands of images and videos.

“This bill will allow the AFP and ACIC to shine a light into the darkest recesses of the online world and hold those hiding there to account”, Dutton said.

Observers were quick to call for caution around the new legislation’s operation, with the Law Council of Australia warning that the “extraordinary” proposed powers provided unprecedented powers for authorities “to engage in offensive cyberactivities and online account takeovers.”

Law Council president Pauline Wright called for close examination of the stated operational case, criteria, thresholds, and process for issuance of warrants, and called for arrangements for independent oversight and review. “There must not be any repetition of the regrettable circumstances that led to the rushed passage of the TOLA,” she said, “where multiple post-enactment reviews of that legislation identified a need for major amendments to fix numerous, serious defects.”

An analysis by law firm Herbert Smith Freehills noted that Australia’s “complex web of overlapping regulations” was due for an overhaul in the wake of the recent Richardson Report, which concluded that the “undue complexity, and lack of inbuilt transparency and oversight” meant Australia’s intelligence-gathering legislation should be thrown out and completely rewritten.

“Even if the Surveillance Bill passes Parliament in its current form, it is likely that this will be further captured and refined as part of these reform processes,” the firm’s analysis noted. “This would be cause for significant concern amongst industry participants, and reinforces the need to engage consistently with the government consultation process in the coming years to ensure that the electronic surveillance legislation in Australia is appropriate, internally consistent and coherent, and adapted to the risks that it seeks to address.”

Submissions to the enquiry are due by 12 February, with Dutton asking the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security to deliver its report by early March.

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The Military Would Not Participate in a Coup. Trump Can’t Understand Why….

Politicians from both parties have called on the armed forces to enforce election outcomes. The generals know better.


The president of the United States considered using the military to overturn an election, according to press reports. Clearly, any president—any person—who would suggest such a thing doesn’t understand the whole point of American democratic politics. But more than that, the president clearly doesn’t understand the American military.

In the months before the election, there were concerns that Donald Trump might refuse to leave office. Some observers suggested that he might use his powers as the commander in chief to retain power. Others, including retired officers, pleaded with the military to enforce the will of the voters and remove him. Joe Biden saidback in June that he was “absolutely convinced” that the military would do so. Former Vice President Al Gore echoed him, as did some congressional candidates.

Since the election, Michael Flynn—retired Army general, Trump’s first national security advisor, a former lobbyist for the government of Turkey, recipient of a recent Trump pardon, and now a crackpot conspiracy theorist—has suggested that the president should invoke martial law (not “marshall law,” Senator Rubio, sheesh). How, in Flynn’s mind, martial law would prevent Biden from taking the oath of office or extend Trump’s term past its constitutionally mandated date of expiry is unclear.

First things first. Senior Defense Department leaders have already expressed that there is no role for the military in domestic political disputes. Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said as much in October—and repeated the point last week: “We do not take an oath to a king or a queen, a tyrant or a dictator. We do not take an oath to an individual. No, we do not take an oath to a country, a tribe or a religion. We take an oath to the Constitution.”

Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy and Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville also issued a joint statement on Friday that “there is no role for the U.S. military in determining the outcome of an American election.”

Granted, none of these three men is in the chain of command between the president and combat troops, but they all represent the view of the military, including the combatant commanders who are in the chain of command.

In the unlikely scenario that Trump were to issue an order to use the military to prevent the transfer of power, the order would go to the secretary of defense. In the unlikely scenario that the secretary were to decide to enforce the order (which, it should go without saying, would be illegal), he would relay the order to commander of the Northern Command, Gen. Glen VanHerck. There, VanHerck would consult with his team of legal advisers, who would inform him that the order was a grotesque violation of the Constitution, and VenHerck would refuse the order and send it back to the secretary of defense. Because, as Gen. Milley said, VenHeck’s loyalty lies with the Constitution, not a king or queen, and certainly not Donald Trump.

At noon on January 20, Biden will be sworn in as president, and the military will immediately recognize him as the commander in chief, even if Trump refuses to concede. Concession is not a constitutional requirement but a ceremonial act, and the transfer of power does not require it.

Americans need not worry about a military coup, and they certainly should stop asking for military intervention either to keep Trump in power or to remove him from office. If he refuses to leave the White House after Biden is inaugurated, he will simply be a trespasser and will be removed by the Secret Service (part of the Department of Homeland Security)—not the military.

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Chinese APT Group Linked to Ransomware Attacks

A well-known Chinese state-backed APT group is believed to have been responsible for multiple ransomware attacks against firms last year, according to new research. A report from Security Joes and Pro reveals how the vendors uncovered the links after investigating an incident in which ransomware encrypted “several core servers” at an unidentified victim organization.

They found samples of malware linked to the DRBControl campaign which targeted major gaming companies and is associated with two well-known Chinese-backed groups, APT27 (aka Emissary Panda) and Winnti. Specifically, they claimed to have detected an older version of the Clambling backdoor used in that campaign, an ASPXSpy webshell previously used by APT27, and the PlugX RAT which is often used in Chinese attacks.

Although Winnti is known for financially motivated attacks, APT27 is generally more focused on data theft. However, the latter has previously been linked to one ransomware attack, featuring the Polar variant.

“There are extremely strong links to APT27 in terms of code similarities and TTPs,” the report noted. “This incident occurred at a time when where COVID-19 was rampant across China with lockdowns being put into place, and therefore a switch to a financial focus would not be surprising.”

The attack itself does not seem to have been particularly sophisticated. The initial vector was a third-party service provider that itself had been infected by a third party, and the attackers used Windows own BitLocker encryption tool to lock down targeted servers.

ASPXSpy was deployed for lateral movement and PlugX and Clambling were loaded into memory using a Google Updater executable vulnerable to DLL side-loading. Popular open source tool Mimikatz was also used in the attack and a publicly available exploit for CVE-2017-0213 was used to escalate privileges.

Gaming firms are an increasingly popular target among financially motivated attackers, according to new research released yesterday by Kela. The threat intelligence firm claimed to have discovered one million compromised internal accounts from gaming companies on the dark web, and 500,000 breached credentials belonging to employees.

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Fake Covid-19 Vaccines are Flooding the Dark Web as Slow Vaccine Rollout Frustrates

Scams include emails promising entry to supposedly secret lists for early vaccine access and robocallers impersonating government agencies. Message boards on the so-called dark web have added Covid-19 vaccines to more traditional illicit goods for sale.

Covid-19 vaccine scams are on the rise, according to European and US government officials who are warning the public of fraudsters out for money and personal data. A Reuters search online, in dark web forums and on messaging app Telegram found seven different offers for alleged Covid-19 vaccines.

Scams include emails promising entry to supposedly secret lists for early vaccine access and robocallers impersonating government agencies. Message boards on the so-called dark web have added Covid-19 vaccines to more traditional illicit goods for sale. The US FBI and Interpol, among others, have warned of emerging pandemic-related fraud schemes, saying false cures and vaccines advertised on fake websites could pose cyber threats and a significant risk to peoples’ health, or even lives.

Website domains containing the word vaccine in combination with Covid-19 or coronavirus more than doubled since October to roughly 2,500 in November, when the first legitimate vaccines were nearing regulatory approval, according to cybersecurity firm Recorded Future, which is tracking Covid-19 fraud online.

“So far a lot of these domains just appear to be opportunistic registrations, but some are going to be used for phishing attempts to have people click on (malicious) links,” said Lindsay Kaye, director of operational outcomes at Recorded Future. Kaye said her team, which also scours the dark web, so far has not come across any legitimate vaccine diverted from healthcare facilities or national stockpiles.

The scams are preying on concerns about the far slower-than-promised rollout of vaccines to protect against the virus that has claimed more than 1.8 million lives worldwide so far. Most people will likely have to wait well into the spring, or even summer, to get their shot.

In the United States, only about 4.5 million people had received their first shot as of Monday, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported. That is a fraction of the 20 million who were supposed to have been vaccinated by the end of 2020, according to earlier government forecasts.

Vaccines, guns, and money

On dark web forum Agartha, fake Covid-19 vaccines were offered next to cocaine, opioid medication, “super high quality fake money,” hand guns and gift cards. Posts showed stock photos of vaccines and offered vials for $500 and $1,000, or the equivalent in Bitcoin.

On another dark web site, a seller claiming to be from the “Wuhan Institute of Science” offered Covid-19 vaccines in exchange for a donation, and asked buyers to provide their medical history. On Telegram, several channels claimed to offer Covid-19 vaccines, accompanied by stock images. One user offered supposed Moderna Inc vaccines for $180, and claimed the vaccine from Pfizer Inc and BioNTech SE could be had for $150 and AstraZeneca’s for $110 per vial.

Asked how the vaccines would be shipped, the account creator said they were transported in “regulated temperature packs” and ice packs within a few days, or overnight for an additional charge.

Actual Covid-19 vaccines, particularly the Pfizer/BioNTech offering, must be temperature controlled to remain effective, with drugmakers equipping shipments with temperature trackers to ensure the cold chain. Vaccine shipments and distribution are also tightly controlled by officials and will be administered at no cost.

The United States has so far authorized two CovidD-19 vaccines for emergency use – the ones from Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna. The European Union to date has authorized the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine and is expected to clear the Moderna vaccine this week.

The UK has already authorized those two and just added the vaccine developed by Oxford University with AstraZeneca. Asked about vaccine scams, Pfizer said it had taken meticulous steps to reduce the risk of counterfeiting and tracked trends very carefully.

“Patients should never try to secure a vaccine online – no legitimate vaccine is sold online – and only get vaccinated at certified vaccination centers or by certified healthcare providers,” a Pfizer spokesman said in a statement. Moderna referred a request for comment to the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), which did not respond. AstraZeneca did not respond to a request for comment.

The HHS, FBI and US Department of Justice have urged the public to report any Covid-19 vaccine scams, including people asking for out-of-pocket payments for the vaccine and online vaccine advertisements. 

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Think tank claims over half of 13L Indian soldiers under severe stress, deletes report later

More than half of the over 13-lakh strong Indian Army personnel “seems to be under severe stress”, according to a study published by the tri-services think tank United Service Institution of India (USI). There have been over 1,100 cases of suicide among varous ranks since 2010.

The study, done by a serving Colonel and published on the USI website last month was, however, removed Friday.

“Prolonged exposure of Indian Army personnel to CI (counter- insurgency)/CT (counter-terrorism) environment has been one of the contributory factors for increased stress levels,” Colonel A.K. Mor, senior research fellow at the USI during 2019-20, noted in his study.

The Army, the study further noted, lost more personnel every year due to suicides, fratricides and untoward incidents than in response to enemy or terrorist activities.

While sources in the Army have debunked the study due to its small sample size of just 400 personnel, they did admit that stress was an issue.

On 14 January last year, the USI had also organised a presentation by Colonel Mor on the topic ‘Occupational Stress in Indian Army Due to Prolonged Exposure to Counter Insurgency/ Counter-terrorism Environment’.

Welcome remarks were made by Maj Gen Rajiv Narayanan, head, Research and Centre for Strategic Studies and Simulation (CS3) at USI, followed by its Chairman, Brig Narender Kumar, SM, VSM (Retd) and distinguished fellow.

“The Director, USI suggested the scholar to focus on a selected sample size and diagnose the role and impact of stress on the unit,” the think tank had noted.

The study, which has now been completed, underlined that there has been a significant increase in stress levels among Indian Army personnel in the last two decades due to operational and non-operational stressors.

‘Stress management measures haven’t achieved results’

Talking about the steps taken by the Army and the defence ministry, the study also noted that various stress management measures implemented in the last 15 years “have not been able to achieve the desired results”.

It said that while operational stressors are well understood and accepted by Army personnel, non-operational stress factors are perceived as avoidable and resented against.

Indian Army officers, it added, experience much higher levels of stress as compared to the junior commissioned officers (JCOs) and other ranks (Ors).

Some of the major organisational causes of stress among Army officers have been identified as inadequacies in the quality of leadership, overburdened commitments, inadequate resources, frequent dislocations, lack of fairness and transparency in postings and promotions, insufficient accommodation and non-grant of leaves.

The main organisational stressors, as perceived by JCOs/ORs, were delay and denial of leaves, excessive engagement, humiliation by seniors, lack of dignity, zero error syndrome, unreasonable restrictions on the use of mobile phones, poor quality of ration and cooked food, besides lack of recreational facilities and conflict with seniors as well as subordinates.

However, the study added, “the overall job satisfaction and pride in uniform still remains high amongst JCOs/ORs. However, at the same time, it seems to be a growing matter of concern amongst officers, requiring urgent interventions from the highest levels of government”.

The study called for an institutionalised approach to stress prevention and management which should be treated “as a leadership role at Unit and Formation level.” The Print

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EU and UK Agreement for Exchanging and Protecting Classified Information

Article 9

For the purposes of this Agreement:
(a) all classified information released to the Union under this Agreement shall be sent through:
the Central Registry of the General Secretariat of the Council, if addressed to the European Council, the Council or the General Secretariat of the Council;
the Secretariat‐General Registry of the European Commission, if addressed to the European Commission;
the European External Action Service Registry, if addressed to the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy or the European External Action Service;
all classified information released to the United Kingdom under this Agreement shall be sent to the United Kingdom via the Mission of the United Kingdom to the Union;
the Parties may mutually agree appropriate methods to ensure the efficient exchange of classified information, in accordance with the arrangements set out in points (a) and (b).

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Americans we lost in 2020

Illustration of baby in top hat sitting next to hourglass and holding calla lilies (State Dept./D. Thompson)
(Illustrations: State Dept./D. Thompson)

In recent days, many thousands of American families have faced holidays without loved ones who succumbed to COVID-19. Also in 2020 many notable Americans died — whether of COVID or another cause — who left an imprint on the world.

David Dinkins — the first African-American mayor of New York City, who died at 93 — had reshaped the U.S. political landscape. Actors Kirk Douglas (age 103) and Olivia de Havilland (104), two of the last surviving film stars from Hollywood’s Golden Age, brought romance and drama to movie screens around the globe. Country music legend Charley Pride (86), the first African American to achieve stardom in his chosen genre, and country/folk singer and songwriter John Prine (73), known for his wry lyrics about life and love, were among those lost to COVID-19. And the death of soul singer Bill Withers (81) was especially poignant as Americans had been posting online their own versions of his song Lean on Mein support of health care workers affected by the pandemic.

Illustration of John Lewis walking on bridge (State Dept./D. Thompson)

Here are 11 other Americans who died in 2020, all of whom led extraordinary lives.

Civil-rights icon John Lewis helped organize the 1963 March on Washington, and in 1965, he led marchers across Alabama’s Edmund Pettus Bridge in support of voting rights for African Americans. At the end of the bridge, he was attacked by state troopers, whose violence shocked the nation and hastened the passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. Serving as a U.S. congressman from Georgia from 1987 to 2020, Lewis was revered as the “conscience of the Congress.” He died July 17 at age 80.

Illustration of Ruth Bader Ginsburg sitting and holding gavel (State Dept./D. Thompson)Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, an advocate for gender equality and women’s rights, was the second woman and the first Jewish woman to serve on the Court. After graduating at the top of her class from Columbia Law School, she ultimately became a leader of the Supreme Court’s liberal wing during her 1993-2020 tenure by authoring passionate dissents in numerous cases. In popular culture, she became known as the “Notorious R.B.G.” (a play on a rapper’s nickname), which she embraced. She died September 18 at age 87.Illustration of Eddie Van Halen holding guitar (State Dept./D. Thompson)

Guitarist Eddie Van Halen co-founded (with brother Alex) the band Van Halen, one of the most successful acts in rock-music history. At age seven, he emigrated with his family from the Netherlands to southern California, taking up the piano before mastering the guitar. A 2007 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductee, he combined a joyful stage presence with a technical virtuosity that made him the most influential guitarist of his generation. He was named the best rock guitarist of all time by Guitar World magazine in 2012. He died October 6 at age 65.

Illustration of Flossie Wong-Staal with microscope (State Dept./D. Thompson)Molecular biologist Flossie Wong-Staal was the first scientist to clone HIV and determine the function of its genes, a major step in proving that HIV causes AIDS. She also completed genetic mapping of the virus, which led to the development of HIV tests. Born in China, she was raised in Hong Kong and left at 18 to attend the University of California, Los Angeles, where she earned degrees in bacteriology and molecular biology. Her work, which was instrumental in introducing new treatments for HIV/AIDS patients, is now being used in the fight against COVID-19. She died July 8 at age 73.

Illustration of Chadwick Boseman in Black Panther costume with arms crossed in front (State Dept./D. Thompson)Actor Chadwick Boseman starred in the groundbreaking superhero movie Black Panther, which smashed box-office records worldwide in 2018. He brought strength and dignity to Black Panther as T’Challa, ruler of a fictional country in Africa. Marvel Studios will release a Black Panther sequel in 2022, but in tribute to Boseman, his role will not be recast. He previously played barrier-breaking icons such as baseball player Jackie Robinson in 42 and Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall in Marshall. He died August 28 at age 43.

Illustration of Chuck Yeager in uniform standing in front of plane (State Dept./D. Thompson)Test pilot Chuck Yeager became in 1947 the first pilot confirmed to have exceeded the speed of sound in level flight. Prior to breaking the sound barrier, he was a U.S. Army flying ace during World War II, at one point shooting down five enemy aircraft during a single mission. He later set several flight speed and altitude records, and his exploits paved the way for space exploration. Retiring from the military as a brigadier general, he was immortalized in Tom Wolfe’s book The Right Stuffand in a movie of the same name. He died December 7 at age 97.

Illustration of Frances Allen with laptop (State Dept./D. Thompson)Computer scientist Frances Allen, one of the few women in her field during the computer industry’s early years, performed pioneering research that laid the groundwork for today’s efficient, lightning-fast apps and other software for computers, smartphones and websites. For decades, she published landmark papers on compiler technology, the software that translates programs written by people into machine-language “code” that computers understand. In 2006, she became the first woman to win the A.M. Turing Award, known as the Nobel Prize of computing. She died August 4 at age 88.

Illustration of Tomie dePaola holding paintbrush and fountain pen (State Dept./D. Thompson)Author and illustrator Tomie dePaola, whose children’s books entertained several generations of readers, wrote or illustrated more than 270 books. Among them were his “Strega Nona” series, whose main character is a kindhearted “grandma witch” in Calabria, Italy, who uses her magic to help local townspeople. The first book in the series won a Caldecott Honor Medal in 1976 and was voted one of the “Top 100 Picture Books” of all time in a 2012 poll sponsored by School Library Journal. A recipient of many honors for his contributions to children’s literature, dePaola died March 30 at age 85.

Illustration of James Wolfensohn in business suit (State Dept./D. Thompson)Lawyer, investment banker and economist James Wolfensohn became known as a champion of the world’s poor, focusing on poverty alleviation during his 1995–2005 tenure as president of the World Bank. He also highlighted the problem of corruption in the area of development financing and carried out several other reforms at the Bank. Years earlier, the Australian-born Wolfensohn helped bring Chrysler Corporation back from the brink of bankruptcy, and he improved the finances of major U.S. cultural institutions, including the Kennedy Center and Carnegie Hall. He died November 25 at age 86.

Illustration of Little Richard at piano (State Dept./D. Thompson)Rock ‘n’ roll pioneer Little Richard, who drew heavily on the sacred (gospel music) and the profane (blues) to forge a distinctive rock style in the 1950s, was one of the first crossover Black artists whose music attracted fans of all races. Born Richard Penniman, he brought an uninhibited, manic energy to his performances and played a role in the formation of the genres of soul and funk. He influenced countless other artists, including James Brown and Prince, and was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1986. He died May 9 at age 87.

Illustration of Christo standing by walkway (State Dept./D. Thompson)Conceptual artist Christo (full name: Christo Vladimirov Javacheff), born in Bulgaria, became famous for his massive, ephemeral public installations around the world. The artist, who used only his first name, spent decades wrapping iconic monuments and landscapes in billowing fabric — including Paris’s Pont Neuf and the islands in Miami’s Biscayne Bay. While Christo’s projects often sparked hostility in the art world, his work was popular, and he ensured that his (mostly self-funded) installations were free to the public. He died May 31 at age 84.

State Department, Staff writer Lenore Adkins contributed to this story.

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Was 5G Invented as a Militarized Weapon to Cause Organ Failure?

Is 5G based on weapon technology? A concerned reader sent in an email to idrop news suggesting that 5G was developed based on military tech that was designed to cause organ failure. Here are the facts.

Let’s put it this way. Telecom companies did not take military technology and adapt it to cell towers. Both technologies rely on the same radio-frequency spectrum, but they were developed separately and concurrently. The U.S. Air Force has been experimenting with millimeter wave since the 1980s, but it doesn’t work with the telecom industry.

It’s also important to note that the military’s Active Denial System is specifically meant to be a non-lethal weapon. Under normal conditions, it’s not meant to cause organ failure or any lasting damage (although, like most non-lethal weapons, the possibility for that is still present during misuse).

Active Denial System

But fear-mongering can spread quickly in the age of misinformation. Maybe you’ve heard of a 5G test in the Netherlands that allegedly caused birds to fall out of the sky en masse? According to independent fact-checking by Snopes, 5G testing did not cause those bird deaths — which aren’t altogether uncommon.

Again, there isn’t enough evidence that cellphones cause cancer. On the flip side, there’s not enough evidence to completely exonerate them, either. But the burden of proof doesn’t work that way. Still, conclusive answers are frustratingly hard to find.

For example, the World Health Organization classifies cellphones are a Class 2B carcinogen. That means they can possibly cause cancer in humans. But pickles and aloe vera are also Class 2B carcinogens.

And in the decade since smartphones have reached ubiquity, brain tumor rates have not been going up. Don’t take our word for it; take the National Cancer Institute’s.

This is all important to note because the level of radio-frequency exposure of 5G networks will be about the same as current 3G and 4G networks, Dr. Eric van Rongen, the Chairman of the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection, wrote in an email to Snopes.

In other words, there just isn’t sufficient peer-reviewed scientific evidence to suggest that 5G millimeter wave is particularly dangerous. Of course, there needs to continual, independent research on the matter. But in the meantime, don’t freak out unnecessarily. – By Mike Peterson

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The Missile War in Yemen

This timeline illustrates Arab coalition intercepts of ballistic missiles launched from within Yemen since the operation began. The Saudi-led coalition is employing PATRIOT ballistic missile defense units to defend against these strikes. Its first reported intercept of a ballistic missile fired by Houthi forces occurred in June 2015. Due to the limited reliability of information concerning the ongoing conflict, there may have been other intercepts or ballistic missile strikes not reflected here. The information on this timeline was obtained from the Saudi Press Agency, Kuwait News Agency, Emirates News Agency, and Al-Arabiya as well as Houthi sources such as Al-Masirah and Saba News. These sources are subject to biases and distortions, requiring the research team’s judgement for classification. – CSIS

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Feds: This Is the Face of a Serial Predator Who Worked in U.S. Embassies

The FBI is on the hunt for potential victims and information about Brian Jeffrey Raymond, a former U.S. embassy employee in Mexico City already accused of drugging and sexually assaulting nearly two dozen women across a decade and several countries.

A notice released this week by the bureau—which has been working with the U.S. Diplomatic Security Service’s Office of Special Investigations and Mexican law enforcement on the case—includes the first public photos of Raymond. It encourages anyone who may have dated Raymond or have information about him to provide details through an online questionnaire.

As The Daily Beast was first to report this fall, Raymond was arrested Oct. 9outside of a gym in La Mesa, California, where he had been staying with his parents after suddenly quitting his job.

Federal prosecutors described Raymond, 44, as an “experienced sexual predator” whose alleged attacks stretch back to at least 2011. He was initially detained in May by Mexico City police who responded to reports of a “naked, hysterical woman desperately screaming for help” from the balcony of an apartment rented by the U.S. Embassy in the well-heeled neighborhood of Poblado. After claiming diplomatic immunity, Raymond—who insisted the encounter had been consensual—was released and returned to the United States the next day.

In a subsequent search of Raymond’s phone, laptop, and iCloud account, agents from the FBI and the Diplomatic Security Service found hundreds of sickening photos and videos they say showed unconscious women being sexually abused. In some, a man holds open the women’s eyelids, waves their limp arms and legs, or puts his fingers in their mouth, eliciting no response, prosecutors said. In others, Raymond can apparently be seen nude and aroused. A number of the women could be heard snoring in the footage. At least nine of the alleged attacks occurred in embassy housing. 

According to investigators, the digital breadcrumbs left behind by Raymond also include “numerous” chats with women apologizing to him for blacking out, asking him if they had sex, or claiming to have no memory of the night before.

The FBI says its investigation has “revealed photographs and videos of additional adult women on Raymond’s devices and electronic accounts,” which could raise the total number of victims even further.

Court filings do not specify Raymond’s exact position at the Mexico City embassy, where he had been posted since 2018, and he has virtually no online presence. Prosecutors say Raymond speaks Spanish and Mandarin Chinese, and has worked in at least six different countries during his government career, including Mexico and Peru.

The Department of State declined to comment or provide further details, referring The Daily Beast to the Department of Justice, which declined to comment.

Raymond, who met the majority of his alleged victims through online dating apps, is charged with one count of coercion and enticement. He is due back in court on Jan. 20. His attorneys did not respond to a request for comment.

If you have information regarding Brian Jeffrey Raymond, you can contact the FBI at, complete a secure online questionnaire, or call 1-800-CALL-FBI.

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Recommendations of The Participants of The Expert Dialogue on NATO-RUSSIA Military Risk Reduction in Europe

The need for dialogue

1.1. Political dialogue should be revitalized at the ambassadorial level in the NATO-Russia Council and include briefings by military experts as appropriate.

1.2. As part of the NATO 2030 reflection process, Russia and NATO member states should analyze relations between NATO and Russia with a view to deve- loping the military-to-military dialogue. At a time when most NATO-Russia coop- eration remains suspended, such a dialogue should not be viewed as a departure from NATO’s “no business as usual” policy, but as a step that is necessary to increase predictability and reduce the risk of military incidents at sea, in the air and on land escalating to the level of military conflict.

1.3 Once Russia and NATO member states reach a formal or informal under- standing or agreement, they could take initial steps in the form of parallel unilat- eral measures that do not necessarily require conclusion of a formal agreement between NATO, or NATO member states, and Russia, which could prove politically difficult to achieve in the present environment.

1.4. Regular meetings should be held between the Chief of General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation, the Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, the NATO Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR) and the Chairman of the NATO Military Committee, reinforced by military experts, to address issues of current concern.

1.5. In addition, NATO member states and Russia should resume contacts at the level of military representatives in the NATO Military Committee and restore the Russian military liaison mission at SACEUR Headquarters.

1.6. Furthermore, NATO member states and Russia should enhance military contacts in OSCE forums to provide a more efficient and inclusive format for dis- cussion and quick decision-making on current issues relating to military activities.

1.7. NATO and Russia should consider the possibility of establishing special NATO-Russia communication channels or hotlines in sensitive regions such as the Baltic, and Black sea regions and the High North area.

1.8. While the recommendations offered in this paper would be developed pri- marily in NATO-Russia channels, a number of them could be opened to discussion with and participation by other countries, such as Sweden and Finland in the Baltic and High North regions, and Ukraine and Georgia in the Black Sea region.

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Inside The GRU’s Psychological Warfare Program

To understand Unit 54777’s remit, it’s first necessary to understand its provenance.
In the Soviet Union, psyops were con- ducted by the Special Propaganda Director- ate, incorporated in the massive directorate of the army, GLAVPUR (Glavnoye Politich- eskoye Upravlenie, or the Main Political De- partment). GLAVPUR was a powerful testi- mony to Bolsheviks’ constant fear of the army going rogue or mutinying. In 2019 the Rus- sian army proudly celebrated the centenary of GLAVPUR, established by the Revolution- ary Military Council of Bolsheviks a year and a half after the October Revolution as the po- litical department to supervise thousands of commissars, Communists attached to military units to spy on and oversee their command- ers (the commissars had the final word in mil- itary operational planning).The Communists never fully trusted their soldiers since soldiers had played a decisive role in all attempted or successful seizures of state power in Russian history. It was the commissars who kept the Red Army loyal to the regime even during the first two disas- trous years of war with nazi Germany, when millions had been killed or captured, thanks to the incompetence of the officers’ corps, which had been hollowed by Stalin’s purges. (Hitler, inspired by Soviet experience, had his own commissars and version of GLAVPUR called the national Socialist Leadership Of- fice, or nSFO, whose officers embedded with the Wehrmacht to kindle a fighting spirit at the late stage of World War II.) After the war, ideological overseers in the Soviet military proliferated. By the late 1980s, there were 20,000 political depart- ments with 80,000 “political workers” – the new designation for commissars – and all were supervised by the ubiquitous and all-powerful GLAVPUR. The Special Propa- ganda Directorate was part of that empire. Then, in the early 1970s, the Soviet military established special propaganda training facilities in the Military Institute of Foreign
Languages, where Golyev studied, and for the faculty of Journalism at Moscow State University, the goals being to train officers in psyops and create a reserve of Soviet jour- nalists in the event of war mobilization, re- spectively.
The fidelity of the Soviet army remained a primary objective of GLAVPUR. The Special Propaganda Directorate was, in theory, busy developing methods of subverting the hostile armies’ morale but was mostly focused on its own military personnel rather than on West- ern soldiers. It was the body that played a largely defensive, not offensive, role.
Unless, of course, actual war broke out again. “As for special propaganda,” Arsen Kasyuk, one of the top authorities on Sovi- et-era special propaganda, told official Rus- sian Defense Ministry newspaper Krasnaya Zvezda in June 2011, “it is present wherev- er there is a conflict, where active hostilities begin. Prior to that, the special propaganda bodies are, so to speak, in a waiting-prepa- ratory mode, they assess the situation, im- prove their methods, their technical base.”
Whether by accident or design, this ex- act doctrine was articulated in a slightly more excitable fashion by Margarita Simonyan, the editor-in-chief of RT, the Kremlin’s En- glish-language propaganda channel. “Right now, we’re not fighting anyone,” Simonyan told the Russian newspaper Kommersant in a 2012 interview. “But in 2008 we were fight- ing. The Defense Ministry was fighting with Georgia, but we were conducting the infor- mation war, and what’s more, against the whole Western world. It’s impossible to start making a weapon only when the war [has] already started! That’s why the Defense Min- istry isn’t fighting anyone at the moment, but it’s ready for defense. So are we.”Golyev observes in his memoir that when the Soviet Union collapsed, the new Russian army, which was still very much the same as the old Red Army, was undergoing the trauma of depoliticization. With the al- mighty Party gone, GLAVPUR was destined to follow it into oblivion. And yet, accord- ing to Golyev, the army wanted to salvage at least some parts of GLAVPUR, especially the Special Propaganda Directorate. Where might it find a powerful and permanent new patron? It was a difficult question for the mil- itary bureaucracy to answer, although they finally did by transferring the directorate to the GRU – to the second floor of the Aquari- um, as the service’s Moscow headquarters is colloquially known, where it was rebranded Unit 54777 in 1994. (Vladimir Putin restored GLAVPUR in 2018, but Unit 54777 remains under GRU control.)

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Muslim Brotherhood IN AMERICA

“The process of settlement is a ‘Civilization-Jihadist Process’ with all the word means. The Ikhwan [Muslim Brotherhood] must understand that their work in America is a kind of grand jihad in eliminating and destroying the Western civilization from within and “sabotaging” its miserable house by their hands and the hands of the believers so that it is eliminated and God’s religion is made victorious over all other religions.” – From the Explanatory Memorandum

The following Muslim Brotherhood document was entered in- to evidence in the U.S. v Holy Land Foundation trial, and is a primary source threat document that provides new insights into global jihad organizations like the Muslim Brotherhood. These documents (cov- ered extensively in chapter four) define the structure and outline of domestic jihad threat entities, associated non-governmental organiza- tions and potential terrorist or insurgent support systems. The Memo- randum also describes aspects of the global jihad’s strategic infor- mation warfare campaign and indications of its structure, reach and activities. It met evidentiary standards to be admissible as evidence in a Federal Court of law .
In the original document, the first 16 pages are in the original Arabic and the second are English translations of the same. It is dated May 22, 1991 and titled “ An Explanatory Memorandum on the General Strategic Goal for the Group in North America” (Memorandum). The document includes an Attachment 1 that contains “a list of our organi- zations and the organizations of our friends.”
The Memorandum expressly recognizes the Muslim Brother- hood (Ikhwan) as the controlling element of these organizations and expressly identifies the Muslim Brotherhood as the leadership element in implementing the strategic goals. The Memorandum is reproduced here in its official Federal Court translation, as Government Exhibit 003-0085 3:04-CR-240-G in U.S. v Holy Land Foundation, et al. with punctuation, line spacing and spelling intact.

A project for an explanatory memorandum for the General Strategic goal for the Group in North America mentioned in the long- term plan.

The Memorandum is derived from:

The general strategic goal of the Group in America which was approved by the Shura Council and the Organizational Conference for the year [1987] is “Enablement of Islam in North America, meaning: establishing an effective and a stable Islamic Movement led by the Muslim Brotherhood which adopts Muslims’ causes domestically and globally, and which works to expand the observant Muslim base, aims at unifying and directing Muslims’ efforts, presents Islam as a civiliza- tion alternative, and supports the global Islamic State wherever it is”.

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UK Military Base Sites Overseas, 2020

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Dark Web Kidnapping: 7-Year-Old Russian Boy Rescued After 52 Days

A seven-year-old Russian boy has finally been rescued after a horrific alleged dark web kidnapping. The boy had been spotted on the dark web. The victim named Savely Rogovtsev was feared to have been murdered after he had vanished from his home.

The Western Intelligence web investigators had done a commendable job as Savely has been reunited with his overjoyed parents. His rescue had been termed as a ‘miracle’ discovery.

The Interpol had tipped off the Russian cops that a website on the dark web had revealed that the boy was with his abductor approximately 14 miles away from his home. He had gone missing in late September this year.

The tip source of the dark web kidnapping case is believed to be an unnamed international intelligence bureau that had been scouring hidden areas of the internet, the darknet, that the criminals use most frequently.

Police have lately detained a 26-year-old man who had allegedly abducted Savely by taking him into a car. But so far, the identity, along with other details of the abductor, had not been revealed. 

The child under the dark web kidnapping case is now receiving “strong psychological help”, as revealed by the cops.

After Savely had suddenly disappeared back in September, a massive search that involved the police, army and volunteers had been unsuccessful in locating him.

The boy’s father Alexander Rogovtsev, 47, told REN-TV: “He was thrilled to see his mother. He hugged and kissed her. We are overwhelmed with feelings…”

“It is an explosion of emotion and relief that the ordeal is over. Finally he is found.”

He added: “We have just left the doctors and he is healthy, he has not lost weight.”

“He is a normal child. He threw himself around our necks, sat on our laps, a happy child.”

“We always believed that we would find him.”

Image: Daily Mail

Savely had gone missing 52 days earlier after getting off his school bus in Gorki village of Vladimir region.

Alexander added: “My son said the man pushed him into his car.

“He has been detained already. We do not know where he kept our son.”

Regional children’s ombudsman Gennady Prokhorichev said: “This is a miracle. Thank God it is a story with a happy ending.”

He had admonished the parents of the victim that they had not escorted the boy to and from the school bus. 

He added: “This is a lesson for us all.”

Savely had gone missing 52 days earlier after getting off his school bus in Gorki village of Vladimir region.

Alexander added: “My son said the man pushed him into his car.

“He has been detained already. We do not know where he kept our son.”

Regional children’s ombudsman Gennady Prokhorichev said: “This is a miracle. Thank God it is a story with a happy ending.”

He had admonished the parents of the victim that they had not escorted the boy to and from the school bus. 

He added: “This is a lesson for us all.”

Savely is the youngest of four children, and now he needs “strong psychological help, according to Gennady.

“For a month and a half (52 days) he was kept in a strange house by a man for some reason – he was separated from his family.”

“Now we need to work with the child. He needs the love of his family.”

Colonel Irina Volk, an employee of the Russian Interior Ministry, said that the tip about the boy under the dark web kidnapping case had been received “from international colleagues via the Interpol channels”.

Irina mentioned that the boy’s whereabouts had become clear from “publications appearing in the shadow segment of the Internet. He was rescued from the village of Makarikha, also Vladimir region.

The man (abductor) aged 26 “had been detained on suspicion of the dark web kidnapping case” by police with military support from the Russian National Guard.

“The wanted boy was found in his private house,” she said.

Source: Mirror

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Money, Money, Money…….

President (Donald Trump) — $400,000
Holding the nation’s highest office comes with some nice financial perks, the most obvious of which is a $400,000 annual salary. Along with that tidy sum, the president also gets a $50,000 expense allowance each year, a $100,000 travel account and $19,000 for entertainment, according to CNBC. Every president since 2001, when George W. Bush took office, has earned this amount.

Jobs in politics aren’t the most lucrative — even at the highest level — but they certainly will keep you comfortable. Since it’s the American taxpayers who cover the paychecks for their elected officials, their salaries are all public record. Here is a look through the salary information for employees of President Trump’s White House staff to see what some of those jobs are worth.

Take a look at some of the pay information for people currently working at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., as well as some comparisons to what the same positions paid during President Obama’s last year in the White House. All salary information was accurate as of July 2020.

Updated Oct. 14, 2020

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A hidden world, growing beyond control

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Syria Regime Change is Necessary To Complete The Plans For The Qatari Oil Pipeline

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The Intelligence Organization of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC)

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Act now for children: How a global pandemic is changing the lives of children in Middle East and Eastern Europe region

New research explores the stress children in World Vision programmes in the Middle East and Eastern Europe region are under due to COVID-19. In addition to their fear that they themselves or their loved ones will catch the disease, children worry about economic hardships, the loss of their education, increased violence and social isolation. But in the midst of it all, a clear message comes through – young people are hopeful about the future, they want to make a contribution and they want their voices to be heard.

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If tomorrow’s media headlines were to announce the demise of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK, aka North Korea), how would Americans react? Would we consider it good news or bad? Arguably, our initial response would be elation and we would rejoice that this volatile and hostile state, which threatens mankind with nuclear catastrophe and has starved millions of its own citizens to death, was no more. The Korean people, the Northeast Asian region, and the world as a whole would certainly feel safer for the loss. Except for the radical fringe, no one would shed a tear, no communist or non- communist, no Korean or non-Korean, no liberal or conservative.

For the past two decades, US decision-makers have molded our policy toward North Korea on two premises: first, the popular notion that North Korea is teetering on the brink of imminent systemic collapse and, second, the unquestioned assumption that such a collapse is in the best interest of the United States. In the mid-1980s, neither government experts nor academic analysts would have entertained the prospect of a DPRK continuing into the year 2005. We were mistaken, for North Korea still exists. Yet, very little effort has been devoted to understanding why we were wrong for twenty years. Even less effort is expended on reassessing US interests in a North Korean collapse, the range of options open to US policy in shaping the future of the DPRK, and the long-term implications for the United States.

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Infected: The impact of the coronavirus on the Middle East and north Africa

The coronavirus has hit the Middle East and north Africa at a time when the region is already burdened with multiple problems, including a series of long-running conflicts, sectarian tension, economic crises, and widespread political unrest. In this survey, experts at the European Council on Foreign Relations analyse the Covid-19 pandemic’s current impact on, and likely implications for, the region.


An economically hamstrung Iran has become the epicentre of the Covid-19 crisis in the Middle East. So far, Iran has announced that more than 18,400 people have tested positive for the virus, and 1,284 have died from the disease – although the real figures are likely to be much higher. The Iranian authorities have struggled to contain the epidemic, and have come under extensive scrutiny at home and abroad for their delayed response and lack of transparency. Health officials say that “50 new cases of infection are detected every hour and one death recorded every 10 minutes”.

The crisis has also highlighted the devastating humanitarian consequences of US sanctions on Iran, which have impeded the flow of urgently needed medical equipment and humanitarian goods into the country. This week, as the death toll climbed, the US administration introduced further sanctions despite European governments’ reported requests for the White House to relax these measures.

Domestically, the critical question facing the Iranian leadership is whether to impose a nationwide lockdown, as some doctors and local authorities have recommended. The authorities have belatedly restricted access to the worst-hit towns and provinces, taken the unprecedented step of closing shrines, launched a campaign to promote social distancing, and rolled out a nationwide online screening survey for the virus (which around 18 million people have reportedly completed). But Iranian leaders seem gravely concerned about the economic implications of measures that would further limit activity in the country. In reaction to the coronavirus outbreak in Iran, many neighbouring states that it relies on for trade have closed their borders. As such, the government in Tehran is eager to minimise any further damage. 

While calling on the United States to lift its sanctions, Iran has also made its first request to the International Monetary Fund in 60 years – asking for a $5 billion emergency loan. The latter move reflects the peril Iran faces as it tries to pay for imported goods at a time when US sanctions have largely blocked its access to foreign currency.

The political leadership has called for unity and evoked a spirit of national resistance against what Iran’s supreme leader has termed a “BiologicalAttack”, but there seems to be some competition between various domestic centres of power. President Hassan Rouhani, who was criticised by local news outlets and on social media for his absence in the early days of the outbreak, has rejected the notion of a nationwide lockdown (in part, perhaps, to avoid further empowering the armed forces). Rouhani’s announcement came shortly after Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces Mohammad Bagheri spoke of “cleaning roads and streets” within 24 hours, after receiving a directive from Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. The directive stressed that the armed forces should fully coordinate these efforts with the Rouhani government and the health ministry – in what was perhaps the supreme leader’s attempt to both assert control over the state response and prevent infighting at a time of national emergency.

As Iran’s health sector struggles to cope with growing infection rates, the United Nations and the US have called for the immediate release of Iranian political prisoners. This week, Iran’s judiciary announced the temporary release of 85,000 inmates and pardons for 10,000 prisoners, aiming to reduce the spread of the virus. According to Iranian officials, 50 percent of those released were “security-related prisoners” (although, in parallel, there have reportedly been several arrests of figures who criticised the state’s response). Among those temporarily released is the British-Iranian Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe – although other dual nationals are reportedly still in detention. The crisis could create a narrow opening for states with nationals detained in Iran (including the United Kingdom, France, and the US) to intensify their concerted diplomatic efforts to secure the prisoners’ permanent release.

Another possible diplomatic opening created by the crisis has been in clear expressions of solidarity with Iran from some members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). Qatar announced that it is sending urgent medical supplies to Iran. The United Arab Emirates has facilitated flights for the World Health Organisation (WHO) to deliver aid to Iran. The Emirati foreign minister has had a rare phone conversation with his Iranian counterpart – about the response to the virus. Kuwait has announced that it will donate $10 million to Iran’s healthcare fight. While it seems unlikely, a similar move by Saudi Arabia – and perhaps a GCC-Iran technical-level dialogue to coordinate medical and scientific efforts to combat the coronavirus – could open up a much-needed avenue for reducing tension between Tehran and Riyadh.

(Ellie Geranmayeh)

The Levant

Already crippled by conflict, as well as political and economic crises, the countries of the Levant – and, above all, the millions of people inhabiting overcrowded and unsanitary refugee camps there – are soon likely to face a brutal confrontation with the coronavirus. While the number of confirmed cases remains low for the moment, the virus seems certain to spread widely in the region, because of the strong links that Syria, Iraq, and Lebanon have with Iran, and because these countries lack the state capacity to contain the disease.

With governments now locking down their populations and suspending international flights, the outlook is particularly grave due to a series of deep, long-running crises across the Levant that have already severely debilitated states’ capabilities. Civil war in Syria and de facto state failure in neighbouring Iraq and Lebanon have emptied these countries of strong and legitimate political leadership, as well as the institutional structures needed to deal with the threat posed by the global pandemic – such as functioning healthcare systems in Syria and Iraq. Syrians, meanwhile, will need to navigate this crisis under the gaze of a government that has long been indifferent to their fate and may see the international community’s distraction as welcome cover to launch a new military offensive in rebel-controlled Idlib. Damascus still seems in denial about the spread of the virus, with officials maintaining there are no cases within government-controlled territory.

This challenging situation will be further exacerbated by economic collapse, whose effects the coronavirus will dramatically intensify as business activity grinds to a halt. The dynamic threatens to push these countries into a vicious cycle. The Lebanese pound and the Syrian lira have undergone dramatic devaluations in the past six months, while widespread dollar shortages in Lebanon have hampered imports of medical supplies. For its part, Iraq is enduring a sharp drop in much-needed oil revenue, due to the oil-price war recently launched by Saudi Arabia. In Syria, the regime’s corruption and economic mismanagement are compounded by international sanctions that restrict the inflow of medical equipment.

Across the Levant, there is particular concern about the welfare of the region’s huge number of refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs). There are now more than 5.5 million Syrian refugees in the region, and more than 6 million Syrian IDPs, including 1 million people who have fled the recent fighting in Idlib. Iraq is home to 1.5 million IDPs. These refugees and IDPs live in overcrowded camps characterised by unsanitary conditions and limited medical facilities, making them deeply vulnerable to the ravages of the coronavirus. The Norwegian Refugee Council has raised the prospect of “carnage” if the virus hits these locations.

(Julien Barnes-Dacey)

The GCC States and Yemen

With more than 1,000 confirmed cases of Covid-19 between them, the monarchies of the GCC have begun applying stringent measures to contain the spread of the pandemic. The countries can rely on their healthcare systems – which are some of the most efficient in the region, and are freely and easily accessible to all citizens. As such, the GCC monarchies will likely be able to manage Covid-19 from a healthcare perspective, in light of the stringent social distancing measures they have applied throughout the crisis. However, the contagion risk is far higher in communities of foreign labourers, many of whom lack access to healthcare and live in conditions in which social distancing is not an option.

A major concern for the GCC authorities is the implications of the virus for international tourism and mega-events. The UAE is anxious about the likely impact of the crisis on Expo 2020, due to begin in Dubai in October. Saudi Arabia is concerned about the potential impact of the virus on its current presidency of the G20, a role of paramount importance to the country’s leadership. Oman, whose strained budget increasingly relies on international tourism, is already counting on major losses from the crisis.

The connection between the pandemic and the collapse of the oil market is even more significant for GCC countries. The fall in demand from a disease-hit China, the top export destination for Saudi Arabia’s oil, was the initial reason that Riyadh sought an agreement to cut production with other energy producers. Russia’s refusal to play along led Saudi Arabia to unilaterally cut its export prices by nearly 10 percent. For a time, this strategy, combined with the economic slowdown caused by the pandemic, caused the oil price to plummet. This is problematic for all GCC monarchies, which rely on energy revenue for the lion’s share of their budgets. The situation presents an especially significant challenge to countries whose public finances are in a dire condition, such as Bahrain and Oman. These two states have not announced stimulus packages to weather the crisis – in contrast to Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE, which have allocated billions in support to private businesses.

While borders remain open to goods and commerce even in countries that have halted all air and land international travel for individuals, any further disruption to trade would be particularly damaging for GCC countries. This is especially true in terms of food security, given that the six monarchies rely on imports for most of their food consumption. Saudi Arabia, which is the only one of the countries with an agrifood industry, has also seen swarms of locusts descend on its crops in the past two months.

The virus also has potential implications for the political and sectarian dimensions of the GCC states’ confrontation with Iran. Kuwait, Qatar, and the UAE have sent medical and humanitarian aid worth millions of dollars to Iran. However, humanitarian cooperation won’t necessarily ease political tension, particularly in light of the position taken by Saudi Arabia, the GCC’s most influential actor. Both Saudi Arabia and Bahrain have strongly condemned Iran for its allegedly reckless response to the coronavirus – pointing to, for example, its failure to stamp the passports of GCC citizens who have defied bans on travel to Iran. There is a widespread narrative in all GCC countries that they imported the virus from either Iran, the regional epicentre of the crisis, or Iraq, via Shia citizens. As a result, on 8 March, Saudi Arabia placed the entirety of Al Qatif – a traditionally restive, Shia-majority province – under lockdown to contain the virus. This could deepen sectarian fault lines within the kingdom, whose Shia citizens have long felt marginalised.

Yemen has not reported any coronavirus cases among its citizens so far. Yet many Yemenis doubt that the country is free of the virus, as it remained open to air traffic and returning migrants until recently. Yemen is not only home to a huge number of IDPs but also hosts almost 300,0000 refugees (most of them Africans). As such, it seems unlikely that the country will be able to isolate itself from the crisis. In the last four years, a cholera outbreak affecting an estimated 2 million people has demonstrated Yemen’s vulnerability to infectious disease. And a major outbreak of Covid-19 would be disastrous in light of Yemen’s continuing conflict, already-precarious humanitarian situation, and dysfunctional healthcare system.

(Cinzia Bianco and René Wildangel)


Covid-19 highlights the extent to which West Bank settlers, Israelis living within Israel, Palestinians, and their respective economies are intertwined. At a time of increasing political tension between them, the virus is forcing Israel, the Palestinian Authority (PA), and Hamas to cooperate with one another to prevent a full-scale outbreak. Such an outbreak could easily spill over from one area into the next, with severe consequences for Israelis and Palestinians alike.

Israel has taken one of the strongest stances against the coronavirus of any country. In addition to adopting containment measures that match those of other states, Israel has – in a similar way to Iran and China – authorised its domestic security service to track the mobile phones of confirmed and potential coronavirus victims. In doing so, Israel is repurposing the surveillance techniques it has long used to control Palestinians in the occupied territories. Crucially, this is happening without any oversight or approval from the Knesset – Israel’s legislative body – which has yet to convene following national elections at the beginning of March.

While many Israelis may feel that Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu is doing a good job of handling the crisis, they are simultaneously concerned that his actions could violate their civil liberties and hurt Israeli democracy. Never one to miss an opportunity, Netanyahu has used the outbreak to delay his trial on corruption charges. All of this has occurred as Israel continues to be governed by a caretaker government. There is growing public pressure on the country’s two main political factions – Netanyahu’s Likud and the opposition, Benny Gantz’s Kahol Lavan – to form a government of national unity, which would avoid the disruption of a fourth election in less than a year and thereby help steer Israel through the Covid-19 crisis.

In the West Bank, the PA has replicated many of the measures taken in Israel and elsewhere. For instance, it has implemented a lockdown in Bethlehem, where the first major outbreak took place. At a time when the PA is seen by many Palestinians as a burden on their national movement, there is relatively strong support for Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh’s handling of the situation. And, despite the strain on their relationship created by the deterioration of the peace process, the Israeli government and the PA have cooperated effectively to contain the spread of the virus on both sides of the 1967 Green Line. This has included the establishment of Joint Command Centre. Nevertheless, the West Bank’s healthcare system may struggle to manage a significant uptick in Covid-19 cases.

It is in Gaza where the virus poses the greatest threat. While Gaza has so far reported no infections – due in part to Israel’s decades-long restrictions on the area, and to limited testing there – its 1.8 million residents are extremely vulnerable. As the most densely populated area in the world, Gaza already suffers from a protracted humanitarian crisis, a debilitated health infrastructure, and restricted electricity supplies. Long-running efforts by the US, the European Union, Israel, and PA to isolate Hamas leaders will complicate an effective response in Gaza. As such, the UN mission based in Jerusalem and the WHO have now taken the lead in helping with contingency planning and coordination between Israel and Hamas.

For Palestinians and Israelis, the virus also poses an economic threat. A near-total collapse in tourism will hurt both Israel and Palestinian cities such as Bethlehem. The Palestinian economy is reliant on the approximately 95,000 Palestinian labourers who commute to Israel from Gaza and the West Bank each day. In addition, access to cheap labour remains important to the well-being of the Israeli economy.

The Israeli government, the PA, and Hamas need to take all this into account as they engage in a collective balancing act: reducing the likelihood of cross-border transmission of the virus while maintaining the flow of Palestinian labour to Israel. One of the options Israel is considering (with the blessing of Hamas and the PA) is to allow Palestinians under the age of 50 who work in the construction industry and healthcare to remain in Israel for two months, in anticipation of a coordinated move to seal Israel’s crossings with Gaza and the West Bank during that time.

(Hugh Lovatt)

North Africa

So far, the coronavirus has had a fairly limited impact on north African countries, most of which have swiftly implemented containment measures. Nevertheless, these countries generally have fragile healthcare systems that may struggle to deal with the spread of the virus. In the long term, Covid-19’s most serious effects on north Africa are likely to be economic, given that the region is dependent on trade and tourism, and already struggles with widespread youth unemployment.

Egypt has been the worst-hit north African country, reporting many cases connected to cruises on the Nile. As of 19 March, Covid-19 had officially infected 210 people in the country (around half of whom were Egyptian nationals), resulting in six deaths. But the true figures could be significantly higher. A Canadian study suggested that at least 6,000 people, and possibly many more, had been infected in Egypt. The Egyptian authorities have reacted strongly to the study, announcing that they would withdraw the press licence of the Guardian journalist who broke the story and threatening to take legal action against her and a New York Times journalist who contributed to the report. There have also been accountsof the authorities arresting Egyptians who circulated rumours about Covid-19. The virus could spread quickly through Egyptian cities (above all, Cairo) due to their high population density. There are also widespread concerns about its possible impact in Egypt’s overcrowded prisons, which are notorious for neglecting the medical needs of their inmates. Egypt suspended all flights to and from its territory on 16 March, initially until the end of the month. Government officials estimate that the country’s loss of income from tourism could reach $1 billion per month – in valuable hard currency – if these measures remain in place.

Libya, which has been protected by the relative lack of foreigners entering the country, has not reported any cases of Covid-19. However, following nine years of state deterioration, a long period of competition between governments, and a year of conflict in the country’s most populated region, people in Libya are highly vulnerable to an outbreak. This is especially true of those who live in precarious conditions in the country, including hundreds of thousands of IDPs housed in makeshift shelters, and an estimated 700,000 migrants and refugees, most of them from sub-Saharan Africa. Both the Government of National Accord (GNA) and its counterpart in eastern Libya have taken measures to encourage social distancing, such as school closures, and launched public information campaigns. The GNA has also announced the creation of a $358 million fund to combat the virus (although the lack of an accompanying strategy suggests that the money could go astray). Covid-19 may spread through Libya as thousands of Libyans return home, and as mercenaries and foreign forces continue to circulate through its territory. Although US and European officials have called for a ceasefire to allow Libyan authorities to better tackle this threat, renegade general Khalifa Haftar has stepped up his offensive in the last few days, as he and his backers look to use the rest of the world’s distraction to their advantage.

In Tunisia, the coronavirus is the first major test for a government that only came to power in February, following an election late in 2019. So far, the new leadership’s actions to combat Covid-19 seem to be effective and to enjoy public support. Despite only reporting a couple of dozen cases, Tunisia has imposed strong containment measures: a curfew, a ban on international flights, and the closure of its land borders. Yet, even if it limits the spread of Covid-19, Tunisia is already struggling with persistent economic problems that the virus will only exacerbate, given the resulting collapse in income from tourism and likely decline in trade with Europe.

Morocco will also take a major economic hit from the virus, at a time when years of economic inequality and regional disparities have generated significant public discontent within the country. Morocco has implemented a series of flight suspensions and containment measures – which are largely voluntary, at this stage, but most Moroccans appear to be observing.

Algeria was identified by the WHO as being at unusually high risk from the coronavirus, because of its extensive links with China. However, only a few dozen cases have been reported in the country. Algeria has instituted a series of containment measures, suspending travel and closing schools and mosques, while importing equipment to support its strained healthcare system. The biggest obstacle to countering the virus in Algeria concerns the government’s lack of political legitimacy. Official measures designed to limit public gatherings are widely seen as an opportunistic attempt to end the year-long protest movement that demands change in Algeria’s political system. However, many people with influence over the protest movement have called for the suspension of the demonstrations to protect public health. And there are signs that protests may at least diminish in the coming months, as the movement’s supporters look for other ways to show their opposition to the regime.

(Anthony Dworkin and Tarek Megerisi)

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Iranian cyber-activities in the context of regional rivalries and international tensions


Iran is a significant actor in the Middle East and also in cyberspace. Because of its history, economy, religion and political ambitions, Iran cannot be ignored as a regional power and is considered as a threat by its neighbors. While access to certain internet content is strictly controlled inside Iran, Iranian Advanced Persistent Threats (APTs)3 have become infamous for targeting energy companies in neighboring countries with destructive malware4and cyberespionage campaigns. However, Iran is also known for being the target of highly sophisticated cyberattacks, the most famous being Stuxnet, which was jointly developed by the US and Israel. This Hotspot Analysis analyzes cyber-activities in relation to Iran in the context of its regional rivalry with its neighbors and its relationship with the US, which has come under renewed strain. In this context, cyberattacks are instruments that states can deploy in case of tensions, whether to defuse heightened tension (e.g. Stuxnet), to harass, to spy on rivals and dissidentsor as a warfare technique. Cyber-activities also enable weaker states to cause damage to more powerful states in asymmetrical warfare. The objective of this Hotspot Analysis is to better understand the dynamics of cyber-activities in regional rivalries and broader international tensions related to Iran.Iranian-related cyber-activities are primarily focused on spear phishing and credential theft with occasional destructive attacks. These cyberattacks, which are relatively low-level, are rooted in the regional rivalry between Iran and its neighbors and in the tensions with the US. Additionally, while current open-source research suggests that Iranian threat actors are highly active, it is in reality more likely that Iranian systems are regularly targeted by Western states. Information on these latter cyberattacks is unfortunately very limited.This Hotspot Analysis is organized in four sections. Section 2 gives an account of the historical and international context of Iranian cyber-activities and cyberattacks against Iran. The goal of the chronology in this section is to place cyber-activities relating to Iran within their political and historical setting.Section 3 describes first some of the multiple actors involved in cyber-activities related to Iran. This section only examines the main APTs from Iran, the main Iranian patriotic hackers, and actors in the US and Israel. It details targets of cyber-activities related to Iran and shows that Iranian APTs have targeted Iranian opposition groups both in Iran and abroad, while alsocarrying out cyberespionage and destructive campaigns against companies in multiple states in the Middle East. Iranian APTs also conducted cyberespionage campaigns 3 Abbreviations are listed in Section 10.against industries, government institutions and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) in Western statesand in the Middle East. Finally, the section looks at tools and techniques used in the Iranian context. This section demonstrates that Iranian patriotic hackers used Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks, that Iranian APTs created fake personas on social media for spear phishing campaigns and used a mix of freely available, commercialand custom-made malware in their cyberattacks, and that Western actors used sophisticated malware against Iranian targets.Section 4 examines the effects of cyber-activities at the national and international levels. The first subsection analyzes the effects of Iranian authorities’ control over internet content and online surveillance of dissidents. The second subsection details the economic effects of destructive cyberattacks on energy companies and the economic effects of DDoS attacks. The third subsection examines the fact that Iranian APTs are not technically sophisticated but still manage to achieve their strategic goals. This subsection also looks at how the discovery of Stuxnet was a wakeup call for the international community. The final subsection looks at the effects of cyber-activities related to Iran on international relations. First, Iran considers cyberspace as a space for asymmetrical warfare against its regional rivals and its more powerful adversaries. Second, proxy wars between Iran and its regional rivals unfold primarily in the physical realm but are also transposed to cyberspace. Third, after the Joint Comprehensive Plan Of Action (JCPOA) between Iran, the US, China, France, Germany, Russia and the UK was signed in 2015, malicious cyber-activities between the US and Iran seemed to diminish but restarted after the US withdrawal. This change in malicious activities shows that cyber-activities evolvetogetherwith the development of relations between the two states.Fourth, Iranian APTs started to conduct online influence campaigns targeting US citizens. They copied Russian tactics and tried to influence political opinion in favor of Iranian interests. Finally, Section 5 contributes some generic policy recommendations for mitigating the risks of being impacted by cyberattacks from the Iranian context. This section recommends that cybersecurity be improved, information about Iranian APTs be shared, awareness about Iranian influence campaigns be raised and US-Iran relations be monitored. This Hotspot Analysis will be updated as new information concerning cyber-activities relating to Iran is published. The goal is to keep the Hotspot Analysis as accurate as possible. This report will also be integrated in a broader study comparing multiple Hotspot Analyses.

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America has a golden opportunity to forge a more stable Middle East – Stephen Horenstein

The Obama Administration’s outlook on the Middle East was to blame past American mistakes, rather than hard-line Islamists for the regions woes. It is an error of perspective that has borne very real consequences today. His presidency was essentially to engage with America’s foes, as seen with the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and the Mullahs in Iran. The price of this was eschewing close relations with traditional U.S. allies in the region and generating greater instability.

Today the Trump administration have been struggling to find a solution to these deep-rooted problems. This has especially proven the case in Syria, where American abandonment of the Kurds left them exposed to Turkish aggression. However, despite a number of missteps, the prospect of stability across the region looks rosier than when he stepped into office just under 4 years ago.

The normalisation deals between the UAE, Bahrain and Israel has created a more stable platform for the region’s like-minded countries to cooperate against Iranian and Turkish backed aggression, in the form of violent proxies such as Hezbollah and Hamas. Whereas Obama cooled relations with these long-standing allies, Trump has recognised that an America less involved in the region needs these nations to band together.

However, the next administration, whoever is at the helm, has some major Middle East issues in the intray that must be dealt with and can help further the slow march to stability breaking out across the region..

Firstly the Kurdish issue. Understandably, they feel let down by American actions last year, however there is still the potential to foster a close alliance with them. America must play carrot and stick, offering greater support for the Self Administration but demand they cut all links and ties to the PKK. A stable, unified and autonomous Kurdish nation is potentially a silver lining of the very dark cloud of violence in Iraq and Syria over the past decade.

An independent Kurdistan would act as a bulwark against Turkish and the Iranian regime, likely forming close parntership with the alliance already blossoming between the Gulf and Israel. Simultaneously the new administration would be able to also curb Russian inflience in the region without a large American troop presence in the region through a strong Kurdish state.

Secondly, countering the narrative of political Islam across the region should be a major strand of American Middle East policy. Obama sought an accommodation with groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood, failing to recognise the harder line, undemocratic societies they sought to implement. Trump has gone some way to rectify this, however his admiration of the increasling Islamist Erdogan shows there is a considerable way to go. Biden or Trump should therefore make repudiating the damaging impacts of Islamism a top priortiy of their Middle East policy.

In this respect, Biden arguably recognises the threat Erdogan and his ideology poses better than his opponent, who has shown a penchant for courting autocratic leaders. The former has labelled him an autocrat and called on them to recommit to their NATO commitments in light of closer partnership with Russia and aggression in the Eastern Mediterranean and Libya.

The difficulty in assessing which candidate is best placed to take the opportunity of building a more stable Middle East which rejects the violent ideology of Islamism is that foreign policy has barely featured in the race for the White House. The two debates we’ve had between the candidates have been dominated by name-calling and mud-slinging. In Biden concerns are that his foreign policy team doesn’t get the true nature of the Islamist threat, given the approach the previous administration took. Conversely Trump’s mistreatment of the Kurds and apparent cozyness with President Erdogan is also an impediment.

The Obama Administration’s outlook on the Middle East was to blame past American mistakes, rather than hard-line Islamists for the regions woes. It is an error of perspective that has borne very real consequences today. His presidency was essentially to engage with America’s foes, as seen with the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and the Mullahs in Iran. The price of this was eschewing close relations with traditional U.S. allies in the region and generating greater instability.

Today the Trump administration have been struggling to find a solution to these deep-rooted problems. This has especially proven the case in Syria, where American abandonment of the Kurds left them exposed to Turkish aggression. However, despite a number of missteps, the prospect of stability across the region looks rosier than when he stepped into office just under 4 years ago.

The normalisation deals between the UAE, Bahrain and Israel has created a more stable platform for the region’s like-minded countries to cooperate against Iranian and Turkish backed aggression, in the form of violent proxies such as Hezbollah and Hamas. Whereas Obama cooled relations with these long-standing allies, Trump has recognised that an America less involved in the region needs these nations to band together.

However, the next administration, whoever is at the helm, has some major Middle East issues in the intray that must be dealt with and can help further the slow march to stability breaking out across the region..

Firstly the Kurdish issue. Understandably, they feel let down by American actions last year, however there is still the potential to foster a close alliance with them. America must play carrot and stick, offering greater support for the Self Administration but demand they cut all links and ties to the PKK. A stable, unified and autonomous Kurdish nation is potentially a silver lining of the very dark cloud of violence in Iraq and Syria over the past decade.

An independent Kurdistan would act as a bulwark against Turkish and the Iranian regime, likely forming close parntership with the alliance already blossoming between the Gulf and Israel. Simultaneously the new administration would be able to also curb Russian inflience in the region without a large American troop presence in the region through a strong Kurdish state.

Secondly, countering the narrative of political Islam across the region should be a major strand of American Middle East policy. Obama sought an accommodation with groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood, failing to recognise the harder line, undemocratic societies they sought to implement. Trump has gone some way to rectify this, however his admiration of the increasling Islamist Erdogan shows there is a considerable way to go. Biden or Trump should therefore make repudiating the damaging impacts of Islamism a top priortiy of their Middle East policy.

In this respect, Biden arguably recognises the threat Erdogan and his ideology poses better than his opponent, who has shown a penchant for courting autocratic leaders. The former has labelled him an autocrat and called on them to recommit to their NATO commitments in light of closer partnership with Russia and aggression in the Eastern Mediterranean and Libya.

The difficulty in assessing which candidate is best placed to take the opportunity of building a more stable Middle East which rejects the violent ideology of Islamism is that foreign policy has barely featured in the race for the White House. The two debates we’ve had between the candidates have been dominated by name-calling and mud-slinging. In Biden concerns are that his foreign policy team doesn’t get the true nature of the Islamist threat, given the approach the previous administration took. Conversely Trump’s mistreatment of the Kurds and apparent cozyness with President Erdogan is also an impediment.

Whatever the outcome, America and the West have a golden opportunity to build a coalition of stability in the Middle East, between like-minded allies. The cost of failing to do so and reverting to the mistakes of the past will be seen in a harder line, more Turkish/Iranian influenced and violent Middle East.

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Europe has lost 60 percent of its Jewish populaton since 1970

Europe has lost 60 percent of its Jewish populaton since 1970 according to a new study by the London-based Institute for Jewish Policy Research. Its key findings were published by The Guardian with the decline attributed to the collapse of the Soviet Union which resulted in many Jews leaving Eastern Europe as borders were opened. Across Eastern Europe, the Jewish population fell 85.3 percent over the past 50 years while Western Europe has experienced an 8.5 percent decline.

It is estimated that 1.3 million Jews live in Europe in 2020 with two-thirds of that total living in France, Germany and the United Kingdom. As this infographic shows, Russia’s Jewish population contracted by 81 percent between 1970 and 2020 while Poland experienced a 44 percent drop. The disappearance of the USSR has led to a considerable increase in Germany’s Jewish population which has climbed 293 percent over the past five decades.

source statista

Infographic: Europe Lost 60% Of Its Jewish Population In 50 Years | Statista
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Forget China: Iran’s Hackers Are America’s Newest Cyber Threat – Defense PK

In March 2012, Ayatollah Ali Khameini, the Supreme Leader of Iran, publicly announced the creation a new Supreme Council of Cyberspace to oversee the defense ofthe Islamic republic’s computer networks and develop news ways of infiltrating or attacking the computer networks of its enemies. Less than two years later, security experts and U.S. intelligence officials are alarmed by how quickly Iran has managed to develop its cyber warfare capabilities — and by how much it’s willing to use them.

For several years, Iran was believed to possess the ambition to launch disruptive attacks on Western, Israeli or Arab computer networks, but not necessarily the technological capability of actually doing so. Those doubts have largely evaporated. In late 2012, U.S. intelligence officials believe hackers in Iran launched a series of debilitating assaults on the Web sites of major U.S. banks. The hackers used a well-honed technique called a denial of service attack, in which massive amounts of traffic are directed at a site’s servers until they crash. But the traffic flow in the bank attack was orders of magnitude greater than anything U.S. security officials had seen up to that point, indicating a remarkable degree of technical sophistication.

Last year, U.S. officials say that Iranian hackers infiltrated a large unclassified computer network used by the Navy and Marine Corps. Officials now say it took the Navy four months to fully clear its systems and recover from thebreach, which was first reported by theWall Street Journal.

“Iran should be considered a first-tier cyber power,” Gabi Siboni, a cyber security expert with Israel’s Institute for National Security Studies, said during a speech in Washington last December.

Western analysts see Iran’s embrace ofcyber attacks as a strategic attempt to counter the conventional military forces ofthe United States and Iran’s regional rivals, particularly Saudi Arabia. Some analysts have blamed Iran for an attack on the computers of Saudi Aramco, the national energy company that supplies about 10 percent oftheworld‘s oil. The attack erased data from 30,000 computers, but it didn’t affect oil and gas production and distribution facilities.

Analysts debate whether Iran should yet be included in the same league as the United States, Israel, or China, which each possess extensive capabilities to launch attacks on computer networks and the critical infrastructure connected to them, including electrical power facilities. But U.S. intelligence agencies now judge that Iran is well on the path to becoming a formidable cyber force. James Clapper, the U.S. director of national intelligence, recently warned that Iran’s “development ofcyber espionage or attack capabilities might be used in an attempt to either provoke or destabilize the United States or its partners.

The heart of Iran’s national cyber efforts is the cyberspace council set up in 2012. It’s chaired by the Iranian president, Hasan Rouhani and its members include senior government officials, including the head of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guard, which controls military units believed to conduct offensive cyber operations and electronic warfare, such as jamming communications systems. Iran was motivated to ramp up its cyber security efforts, particularly the defense of its internal networks and vital infrastructure facilities, after a cyber attack on an Iraniannuclear facility by the United States and Israel that disabled 1,000 centrifuges used to enrich uranium, a key component of a nuclear weapon. Iran’s defensive capabilities today are devoted to preventing another such attack, as well as monitoring and suppressing domestic political opponents who threaten the regime, Siboni wrote in a recentanalysisof Iran’s capabilities.

The Revolutionary Guard now owns and controls the biggest communications company in Iran, Siboni said. Thegovernment restricts access to the public Internet and monitors computers in Internet cafes. A domestic police force, known as FETA is charged with monitoring online activity and speech, as well as combating fraud and theft.

But it’s the offensive side ofthe ledger that worries U.S. officials the most. In the past week, Iranian leaders have threatened to use cyber warfare against Tehran’s enemies. “One ofthe options on the table ofthe U.S. and its allies is a cyber war against Iran. But we are fully prepared to fightcyber warfare,” said Gen. Mohammad Aqakishi, the commander ofthe information technology and communication department ofthe armed forces’ general staff, according to Iran’s Tasnim news agency.

“[Aqakishi] said the U.S. has been making ‘empty threats’ against Iran for several years, noting that Washington itself is mindful ofthe Islamic Republic’s military might in the arena of information technology and communication,” Tasnim reported.

Last week, Khameini, Iran’s supreme leader, reportedly exhorted Iranian students, whom he called “cyber war agents,” to prepare to fight Iran’s enemies in cyberspace. “Get yourselves ready for such war wholeheartedly,” Khameini said.

“If any war is launched against Iran, we won’t give any ground to the enemy and they themselves know this very well,” Iran’s military chief of staff, Gen. Hassan Firouzabadi, said last week, declaring that Iran was prepared for a “decisive battle” with the United States and Israel.

Such provocations haven’t gone unnoticed. And U.S. military officials have acknowledged that if the United States uses cyber weapons against Iran, Americans should expect some retaliation. “That’s a valid assumption,” Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman ofthe Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in an interview in January 2013. “There are reports that destructive cyber tools have been used against Iran. I’m not-I’m neither confirming nor denying any-any part in that. What that should tell you is that that capability exists. And if it exists…whoever’s using those can’t assume that they’re the only smart people in theworld.”

A few days before Dempsey’s remarks, Gen. William Shelton, the commander of Air Force Space Command, warned that Iran was a growing offensive threat in cyberspace. “They’re going to be a force to be reckoned with, with the potential capabilities that they’ll develop over the years and the potential threat that they’ll represent to the United States,” Shelton said. In other words, Chinese hackers aren’t the only ones Washington needs to worry about.

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New-Zealand: Reporting of potential terrorist financing more than doubles

Reporting of potential terrorist financing has more than doubled in New Zealand since the March 15 mosque shootings.

Police said people are far more vigilant when it comes to potential terrorist acts after the Christchurch attacks, which killed 51 and injured scores more.

The organisation has also ramped up its counter-terrorism capabilities but is keeping the details of that improvement secret.

The Financial Intelligence Unit looks into suspicious financial activity when reports are sent through by banks, lawyers, accountants and other entities with access to transactions.

In the 15 months after the March 15 attack, 15,918 reports were sent to the unit about suspicious financial activity that could relate to crime.

Of those, 188 reports were specifically indicated as relating to terrorist financing.

By comparison, in the 15 months before the Christchurch attacks, 74 reports of possible terrorist financing were sent to police.

In response to an Official Information Act request seeking the figures, police director of National Intelligence Dan Wildy said it is unlikely that more people are trying to fund terrorist activities.

“There was a spike on terrorist financing reporting following the March 15, 2019, incident which has been attributed to a general heightened awareness among reporting entities, rather than an actual increase in terrorist-financing-related activity,” he said.

RNZ understands the vast majority of reports are harmless, but there are some reports that need further investigation.

Investigations can be launched if someone is suspected of funding terror organisations, but police said it is hard to prove intent and to work across borders.

Some individuals are simply monitored by police as a result of their transaction histories.

Reports shared worldwide

The Financial Intelligence Unit is also part of the Egmont Group, which is an international organisation which monitors terrorist funding and money laundering.

It has members in almost every country, and police are able to share information with other jurisdictions through an encrypted network.

Meanwhile, police say they have boosted their counter-terrorism capabilities since the Christchurch terror attack, with increased staffing and technology.

But they won’t reveal any further details, saying it could compromise their work. –


Dark web hackers selling 400,000 South Korean & USA credit card data -darkwebmag

“The Planet’s most valuable resource is No more oil, but data,” The Economist. The cyber-criminal community is well aware of the Fact, and that is why every now and then, we read about the trove of personal and financial data being sold on the dark web or arbitrary hacker forum.

From the latest, while taking a break from COVID-19 related scams, Cyber-criminals are caught selling 400,000 payment detail (debit and credit card) records. These documents were identified by Group IB — a cybersecurity business.

According to the company, the database Is being marketed on Joker’s Stash market, which happens to be among the largest marketplaces for Carding online.

Totaling 397,365; the documents are from different financial organizations and could be broken down geographically as the following:

  1. 198,233 records are from South Korea: Around 49.9 percent
  2. 199,132 records are out of the US: Around 49.3 percent 

All These are being sold for a price of $1,985,835, which translates to $5 per document. However, not all these would work as is the case with such stolen info and thus, the hackers themselves have promised only a 30-40% validity rate.

As seen in the above advertisement Found for the database, there’s absolutely not any mention of South Korea that is odd considering that such accounts form most the records.

The importance of the stems from the Fact that usually, we could discover US-based records underground, but the South Korean game is a new one using all the investigators commenting,

How it Is the largest sale of South Korean recordings on the dark web in 2020, which leads to the rising popularity of APAC-issued card dumps from the underground. 

As seen from a photo of the documents obtained below, they are sometimes categorized as containing track two information, which comprises the lender identification number, the account number, expiration date, and sometimes can also contain the card verification value (CVV).

Moreover, although where this information Originated from remains a mystery, it’s very likely that it might have been as a consequence of infected POS programs, from skimmed ATM machines or even infected payment merchant systems.

It’s worth noting that Joker’s Stash is the identical market where countless stolen Wawa credit card data, the largest database of Indian charge card documents, and most recently half a million payment card documents stolen from some of the biggest banks in India were marketed.

As for the latest record, an intelligence analyst in Group-IB has said how,

Although there is not enough information in this ditch to make online purchases, fraudsters who purchase this data can still money out records that are stolen. 

Furthermore, attention should also be paid to how attackers can make cloned cards using the information obtained to withdraw money or make fraudulent purchases.

Concluding, the episode has been reported to the proper authorities, and action is already being taken. A good step for users to employ is to enable two-factor authentication for all online transactions using their credit/debit cards.

But if you are from those Respective countries and believe you might have been compromised, calling your lender and obtaining their information at this time is highly suggested. You can also alter your own card pin or ask the lender to re-issue a new card. All these would keep your money safe.

Posted in DARK WEB | Leave a comment

Blood of supposedly recovered coronavirus patients being sold on dark web

Scammers On the dark web are providing vials of blood they allege belong to recovered coronavirus patients as a vaccine for the deadly virus, a new report has found.

NSW Chief Health Officer Dr. Kerry Chant said she’s been “personally Horrified” by a number of the remedies advertised on Social Media and other casual online platforms.

“People should be very careful when posting or committing information without actually checking it first,” she said.

Dr. Chant urged Australians to follow public health advice and exercise Caution about any treatments not approved by a professional health body.

“They Are a good deal of therapies which have been put forward to take care of COVID-19. I Would urge people to visit the facts and thoroughly explore, talk to Your health practitioner before doing anything that contradicts with Conventional health advice.”

Researchers In the ANU’s Australian Institute of Criminology discovered While studying how cybercriminals are harnessing the health crisis by Selling antiviral medications, items of personal protective equipment (PPE), And, in some instances, what they claim is human blood.

Based On the study, PPE such as sprays, sanitizers, and HAZMAT suits Accounted for two-thirds of listings, with one user requesting more Than $1700 for 10,000 ‘lab analyzed face masks’.

After PPE, the report discovered antiviral and ‘repurposed medicines’ were the Next most common dark web offering, accounting for nearly half of all listings.

These contain antibacterial and malarial medications like the highly publicized, yet widely disproved Hydroxychloroquine medication.

Purported Vaccines and antidotes made around six percent of the listings with ‘human blood’ allegedly given from recovered coronavirus cases one of them.

Virologists Are seeking to antibodies in the bloodstream of coronavirus survivors for Molecular clues that can offer a design of future therapies. Still, There’s absolutely not any evidence that ingesting or injecting human blood can heal the virus.

Research head Professor Rod Broadhurst said the blood was being offered as a Kind of “passive vaccination,” where somebody who thinks they might be At the risk of disease receives antibodies for the virus by injecting the plasma.

“Fake Vaccines could help out with the spread of this virus because users may Behave as though they’re immune but become exposed to the coronavirus,” Prof. Broadhurst said.

“The premature release of vaccines undergoing animal or human trial would Also misguide users concerning immunity but may also affect the success of These clinical trials.

“We Really should close down underground sales of vaccines and experimental Drugs because there are a whole lot of nasty side effects.” – darkwebmagazine

Posted in CORONA VIRUS | Leave a comment

A pragmatic partnership: Why China and Iran try to collaborate

Iran’s rumoured talks with China on a partnership agreement could have significant economic benefits and provide it with valuable geopolitical bargaining chips.

China and Iran are in the spotlight for their reported talks on a long-term partnership agreement even before any details of it have formally emerged. The green light for these negotiations came shortly after the finalisation of the Iran nuclear deal in 2016, when Chinese President Xi Jinping made a historic visit to the country and met with Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. Back then, the two countries issued a broad statement of intent to pursue a more formalised partnership. According to Iranian officials, the partnership road map was approved by the Rouhani government a few weeks ago and further negotiations with China will follow. This reported 25-year deal – which has political, economic, and security dimensions – and the negotiations around it have important economic and geopolitical implications.

It could take months for the details of the agreement to become public. According to speculation in the media and an alleged leaked draft, the deal is designed to pave the way for considerable Chinese investment in Iran’s strategically important sectors, including transport, energy, telecommunications, tourism, and healthcare. The deal is rumoured to involve security cooperation and intelligence sharing. Any Chinese-Iranian military and security collaboration – while viewed as a provocative move by the West – is likely to be a slow-burner. When Iran, China, and Russia took the unprecedented step in 2019 of conducting joint naval drills, one Chinese security expert outlined in discussions with the European Council on Foreign Relations that this was much more about signalling to the United States rather than Beijing’s appetite to engage heavily in security operations with Iran.

Tehran and Beijing largely have a pragmatic, business-oriented, and non-ideological relationship with each other. Iran fully understands the implications of China’s swift rise as a global power. Indeed, in light of the extensive impact of US secondary sanctions on European trade with Iran, Iranian leaders now view China as the only major world power that can challenge US economic dominance – and, therefore, provide their country with economic and political protection against mounting US pressure. China, meanwhile, understands that Iran is a major regional power located at the crossroads of the Middle East and Central Asia – an area that is important to its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). While China ranks as one of its top trade partners, Iran still has a great deal of untapped potential for foreign investment – something that Beijing can capitalise on.

After Xi’s 2016 visit, talks over the partnership agreement were slow to begin. During an ECFR research trip to Beijing last year, Chinese experts discussed how China’s government and commercial actors were disappointed that, following the nuclear deal, Iran seemed fixated on attracting European and US companies at the expense of their Chinese counterparts. This precedent came back to bite Iran when, in 2018, the Trump administration brashly withdrew from the nuclear agreement and reimposed secondary sanctions on Iran.

It was also clear from discussions with Chinese experts and officials that, so far, China has been unwilling to allow Iran issues to jeopardise its delicate trade talks with the US. According to Iranian interlocutors, following the US withdrawal from the nuclear deal, China began to levy heavy commissions on Iranian actors in return for access to its financial networks. Some Chinese state banks reportedly stepped back from most of their business with Iran. In October, China pulled out of a major gas project in Iran. Moreover, after the US attempted to impose an oil embargo on Iran in May 2019, China’s purchases of the product from Iran also nosedived (although China remains the top destination for Iranian oil exports).

It now seems that, in the past year, Iran and China – both of which have been left in a precarious position by the Trump administration – have accelerated their talks. For Iran, formalising its bilateral relations with China in a more concrete fashion can bring tangible economic benefits as well as serving a geopolitical goal. In recent years, Iran has been keenly aware that it has not benefited from the kind of increase in Chinese investment and infrastructure projects seen in Israel and Gulf Cooperation Council countries. A long-term partnership agreement can lock in Chinese commitments in ways that help Tehran demand greater economic cooperation with Beijing and ensure that lofty statements about Iran’s importance to the BRI translate into projects in Iran that create jobs.

The Sino-Iranian deal also has a large political dimension. For Tehran, pursuing this partnership is as much about Beijing as it is about Washington. Iran is clear-eyed about the fact that great power competition between the US and China is likely to intensify in the coming years. Negotiations over the Sino-Iranian deal present Iran with an opportunity to gain Western states’ attention as they debate their economic ties with China. This can provide Iran with some useful bargaining chips in future negotiations with Europe and the US over sanction easing: Tehran can portray itself as a balancing force in Western capitals’ relationships with Beijing and Moscow.

Iran has looked to both China and Russia for protection against US pressure at the United Nations, and will push for a bold response from them if the Trump administration attempts a highly contentious move to snap-back UN sanctions on Iran in the coming months. China has become a more vocal defender of Iran at the International Atomic Energy Agency, even pushing back last month against a European-led resolution that rebuked Iran. And Iran has sought to exchange its observer status in the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation for full membership – a move that requires China’s approval.

Iran’s enthusiasm for a partnership agreement with China also plays heavily into domestic politics. The supreme leader has long been a proponent of forming more strategic alliances with non-Western powers, which he has viewed as more trustworthy than the US or Europe – a sentiment that only became stronger after the US withdrawal from the nuclear deal. President Hassan Rouhani may have pushed for an opening with the West, but he has also supported greater integration with Asian economies such as those of China, Japan, and South Korea. His mentor, former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, was a major advocate of modelling Iran’s economy on that of Deng Xiaoping’s China. And Rouhani has his legacy to consider as he enters the final year of his administration. After the failed attempt to reopen Iran’s economy to the West following the nuclear deal, he is now looking to cement an equitable arrangement with the only major world power whose economic weight can match that of the US or Europe.

After years of attacking him for opening up to the West, Rouhani’s domestic opponents – who are eyeing a run for the presidency in 2021 – are now attacking him for conducting “secret” negotiations with China. Such a major deal will require approval from Iran’s new ultra-conservative parliament – some members of which have already voiced strong opposition to the move. There is also a polarised public debate over deepening relations with China. Ultimately, however, the final call on Iran’s participation in the deal will be made by the supreme leader.

Both Iran and China stand to gain from a formal and long-term framework that organises their bilateral relations. While an overarching agreement will almost certainly make their partnership stronger, it is highly unlikely to develop into a full strategic alliance. Clearly, such a move would face strong resistance from within Iran. China – which has yet to substantively comment on the deal – will also need to carefully balance deepened relations with Iran against the concerns of Israel, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates – which have in recent years become important economic partners in the Middle East. And it is unclear how far China’s commercial and banking sectors will be willing to engage with Iran under the threat of US sanctions. Moreover, the extent to which Beijing and Tehran develop this partnership will be tied to the fate of their respective relations with Washington. Ellie Geranmayeh

Posted in Iran | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

The No Name ATM/Debit & Credit Card

We are pleased to present our offshore card solution – a no-name offshore Visa Electron pre-paid debit card denominated in USD issued by a stable Caribbean based bank. This can be purchased as a separate product or can be a part of any corporation and/or foundation package you order from us.

These cards have the 3 digit CVC code on the back activated so that they can be used like a credit card for internet and mail/telephone order transactions. They are accepted at all merchants anywhere Visa is accepted worldwide so long as the merchant processes their cards electronically which is now almost universal. The card is accepted at all ATM’s with the Plus and/or Visa logo and has a USD 2,500 daily cash withdrawal maximum. There is a USD 1,000 maximum per single swiped ATM transaction, but just about all ATM’s allow multiple transactions in succession with the same card. The POS daily maximum is the same as well, however it is possible to do a single transaction up to the daily USD 2,500limit in this way.

Each card can be loaded with a maximum of USD 25,000 per month and this amount can be loaded in its entirety upon activation if desired. Maximum load on the card at any one time is USD10,000. One card only is allowed per cardholder.

Card fees are as follows: ATM cash withdrawal fee: US$ 3.80, POS transaction fee US$ 1.50, monthly fee US$ 3.80, load fee US$ 3.80 (+ 1% by wire transfer, + 3% by cheque, + 7.5% by Western Union)/

The card cost is US$ 495 PLUS your first load of US$500, total US$995, which is included in your package. One card only per person. Shipping can be by international postal mail which is free but can take quite a few weeks so we strongly recommend paying extra for courier delivery which is US$ 30. You will also need to send US$ 100 per card as an initial card load as the bank will not activate a card account without a minimum deposit just like a regular bank account cannot be opened without an initial deposit.

A minimum US$ 20 balance must be maintained and if the card balance falls below US$ 10 at any time the account is automatically closed and cannot be re-opened without going through the account opening procedure all over again, paying the replacement card fee and obtaining a new card. Due to constantly changing currency exchange rates we advise that the initial minimum load amount be kept on the card as a buffer in case you miscalculate the currency conversion rate from your local currency to US$ and/or forget to take into account ATM and POS transaction fees.

1. Once we receive your order and paid funds, your application will be emailed to you for you to complete and print out.

2. You then send this signed application original and identity document copies – [Please find below a guide] and courier to source direct.

3. The following documents are acceptable forms of KYC: A. Proof of identification: (Please provide us with the following photo identification documents)

A passport is as of now a compulsory piece of ID verification document.In the event that a card applicant can not provide his passport, we will require:

  • A. Two separate and distinct ID verification documents (e.g. drivers license AND id card) or One ID verification document certified by local authorities
  • Other ID allowed:
    • National ID
    • Armed forces ID card
    • Photo credit/debit card issued by a bank
    • Disabled drivers pass or Disability ID
  • B. Proof of address: (Please provide us with an original or a copy of one of the following documents)
    • Current Utility bills (mobile/cell phone bills, internet access bills, cable and Satellite TV bills are not acceptable) (original or copy)
    • Current Bank/Building society/Credit Card statements (original or copy)
    • Current Mortgage statement (original or copy)
    • Current Home or motor insurance certificate or motor vehicle registration documents (copy)
    • Inland Revenue/IRS tax notifications (copy)
    • Current, signed passport (copy of the page showing the Residential address)
    • Current photocard driving license (copy)
    • Current National ID (copy)
    • Current Armed forces ID card (copy)
    • Current Disabled drivers pass or Disability ID (copy)

NOTE: The utility bill must be on an Applicant’s Name and make reference to the RESIDENTIAL ADDRESS, except for family members that live with their parents in which a handwritten note referencing the relationship will suffice.

4. From the time we receive your documents to the time you receive your cards, please allow 3 to 4 weeks for the bank to process and ship your card directly to you.

5. As soon as your card has been received, you will need to send us a confirmation of delivery with your card number so that we can load your card. This means that by that time we should have handy at least the minimum initial loading in order to complete the activation process.

Loading funds and courier fee could be wire to the following coordinates, remembering to include at least 10 US$ to cover incoming bank wire charges.

Loading Options – You can remit loads for your card via a bank wire OR Western Union.

To order please proceed to our on-line order form just Euro 995 including your first Euro 500 load and card delivery!

Thank you for your interest in our products and services.

Bob Williams

Posted in MONEY LAUNDRY | Leave a comment

Shocking Confessions of a Chinese Fentanyl Trafficker

An investigative team from VICE News made a podcast titled Painkiller: America’s Fentanyl Crisis to report on the illegal fentanyl drug business. The team managed to trace the supply chain links that indicated sources in Mexico and China.

The reporters reached out to a host of China-based online vendors who offered fentanyl and other synthetic opioids to interested buyers. In an exclusive interview1, the team caught up with a fentanyl trafficker in China called Mr. Yue (not his real name) who elucidated the nature of his business and confessed the concerns he had about the dangerous nature of drugs he sold.

Dozens of Drug Listings

The VICE team came face-to-face with realities about Yue’s drug business, which included the operation of an online platform with a dozen drug listings. The website advertised various chemicals for sale and, in highlight, the platform promoted methoxyacetyl fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid.

On being questioned about the fentanyl listing, Yue clarified that his website was outdated as he had move on to other ventures. The man is currently training people on fentanyl manufacture through a step-by-step guide he developed – he also teaches people about how they can operate a clandestine fentanyl lab.

As far as his knowledge is concerned, Yue said that there’s a long list of methodologies used by drug manufacturers to synthesize fentanyl. He noted that while some people depend on chemicals banned in both the U.S. and China, a number of basic substances can be used to synthesize the dangerous drug.

Shifting to Coronavirus-Related Supplies

Yue said that he ventured into the drug trade by accident, as he was keen to transform his financial situation at the time. He had succeeded to establish networks online and worked hard to build a foundation for his business, but the government crackdown on fentanyl has scared him off the trade.

According to his confession, the drug trafficker halted his fentanyl production and sales operation in May. The trafficker changed his scope to target the sale of coronavirus-related supplies like COVID-19 testing kits and respirator masks, which have become scarce and in high demand2 across the U.S.

The decision was arrived in response to the Chinese law enforcement move to regulate synthetic opioids as controlled substances. The fentanyl business has become risky owing to the current law enforcement and regulatory circumstances, although Yue confirmed the continued existence of synthetic opioid listings on his website.

Reportedly, synthetic opioids had long been unregulated by the government – which allowed people to manufacture and distribute. In fact, the synthetic opioid industry in China had flourished as some pharmaceutical export firms benefited from government support3 while the U.S. had banned the drug altogether. The Chinese resolution to begin regulating synthetic opioids was therefore considered due to external pressure from the U.S.

In Yue’s view, it appears that the new regulations have caused the desired effect since Chinese sources have been responsible for the fentanyl crisis in the U.S. Statistical data by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection reflect a 45 percent reduction in fentanyl seizures from 2018 figures.





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Two Chinese Charged for Aiding North Korean Crypto Theft

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS), in conjunction with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), recently identified two Chinese individuals involved in the theft of about $250 million worth of digital money from an unknown exchange.

The two individuals were identified as Tian Yinging, and Li Jiadong helped Korean hackers launder funds stolen from crypto exchanges. In a twist, however, the two found themselves in a privileged position given that the US is unable to extradite them from their home country to face the law.

Legal Speed Bump

This legal speed bump has happened despite American agencies providing comprehensive records proving expressly and showing evidence that the two schemers were behind the digital raid. Aside from facilitating the money laundering scheme, the two are also accused of running an exchange platform without any licenses.

How it Happened

The grand scheme involving the Chinese believed to have happened between December 2017 and April 2019. A well designed and highly effective malware rapidly compromising and gaining control of an anonymous exchange platform is confirmed to be the ingenious waft of the wand that triggered the whole process.

After neutralizing the platform’s security protocol, the malware then proceeded to siphon out all the private keys belonging to the users of the exchange. The actors behind the malware then moved to withdraw all the assets through Bitcoin, Ethereum, Litecoin, and Dogecoin.

The entry point of the malware was later identified to be through an email sent to one of the exchange’s employees. A sum of $250 million worth of cryptocurrency was nabbed with the specific units being $94 million in Bitcoin (10,777 BTC), $131 million in Ethereum (218,780 ETH) and the deficit belonging to other digital tokens.

Using specialized mixing and tumbling techniques, the attackers managed to obscure their operation from any external suspicion. They made many consecutive complex transactions through various accounts, thereby blurring the address path of the digital assets.

Celas, the Unregulated Exchange

The hacker group is then traced to have invested half of the stolen digital assets in their exchange platform, which they called Celas.

When cybersecurity experts later investigated the exchange platform, it was discovered to have malicious intent in that it collected private data such as passwords and private keys. It was mainly a smoking mirror for phishing malware.

Celas was not shy in marketing. Reports gather that it sent many potential customers emails in the pretense of being a security download in a bid to lure users.

The attackers operating it even went so far as to register many fake accounts in its database and other social media platforms to make it seem more credible and believable.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS), in conjunction with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), recently identified two Chinese individuals involved in the theft of about $250 million worth of digital money from an unknown exchange.

The two individuals were identified as Tian Yinging, and Li Jiadong helped Korean hackers launder funds stolen from crypto exchanges. In a twist, however, the two found themselves in a privileged position given that the US is unable to extradite them from their home country to face the law.

Legal Speed Bump

This legal speed bump has happened despite American agencies providing comprehensive records proving expressly and showing evidence that the two schemers were behind the digital raid. Aside from facilitating the money laundering scheme, the two are also accused of running an exchange platform without any licenses.

How it Happened

The grand scheme involving the Chinese believed to have happened between December 2017 and April 2019. A well designed and highly effective malware rapidly compromising and gaining control of an anonymous exchange platform is confirmed to be the ingenious waft of the wand that triggered the whole process.

After neutralizing the platform’s security protocol, the malware then proceeded to siphon out all the private keys belonging to the users of the exchange. The actors behind the malware then moved to withdraw all the assets through Bitcoin, Ethereum, Litecoin, and Dogecoin.

The entry point of the malware was later identified to be through an email sent to one of the exchange’s employees. A sum of $250 million worth of cryptocurrency was nabbed with the specific units being $94 million in Bitcoin (10,777 BTC), $131 million in Ethereum (218,780 ETH) and the deficit belonging to other digital tokens.

Using specialized mixing and tumbling techniques, the attackers managed to obscure their operation from any external suspicion. They made many consecutive complex transactions through various accounts, thereby blurring the address path of the digital assets.

Celas, the Unregulated Exchange

The hacker group is then traced to have invested half of the stolen digital assets in their exchange platform, which they called Celas.

When cybersecurity experts later investigated the exchange platform, it was discovered to have malicious intent in that it collected private data such as passwords and private keys. It was mainly a smoking mirror for phishing malware.

Celas was not shy in marketing. Reports gather that it sent many potential customers emails in the pretense of being a security download in a bid to lure users.

The attackers operating it even went so far as to register many fake accounts in its database and other social media platforms to make it seem more credible and believable.

The cybersecurity team managed to beat the hackers and gain access to the website, which was heavily concealed in layers of VPN. This case is just but an additional file on the heap given that the global economy is at risk due to the frequency of such cyber attacks.

Posted in CYBER CRIME | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment


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U.S. Firearm Sales Break All Records Last Month

General Concern over the Proliferation of COVID-19, as well as recent protests, during which there were calls to disband the police, led to increased arms sales. Moreover, most often it was purchased by people, who have never owned guns or rifles before.

This is written by Peter Suchu in an article, published by the American edition of National Interest.

Hard times can cause sales to rise.. At least, this applies to firearms. Unlike many other consumer products, for which demand may fall in bad economic conditions or in times of uncertainty, arms sales remain resistant to downturns.

Mark Oliva from the National Shooting Sports Fund (NSFF) considers, that riots, robberies and calls for the dissolution of the police are motivating factors for the growth in the sale of firearms in the United States. According to the fund, arms sales in June 2020 years exceeded the same figure for June last year by 137,7 percent.

It should also be noted, that the sale of rifles and pistols tends to increase during the presidential election. This is largely fueled by concerns among gun owners, that a new president could limit the Second Amendment to the US Constitution, guaranteeing Americans the right to store and carry weapons.

The recent increase in sales has not only boosted gunsmiths revenue, but also raised the value of shares of such companies, как Smith & Wesson Brands Inc. и Sturm Ruger & Company.

Posted in FIREARMS | Leave a comment