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  • AP-NORC poll: Public doubts Senate trial will be revealing

    AP-NORC poll: Public doubts Senate trial will be revealingAmericans are sharply divided along party lines about whether President Donald Trump should be removed from office, and they doubt the Senate impeachment trial will do anything to change their minds, according to a poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. Overall, the public is slightly more likely to say the Senate should convict and remove Trump from office than to say it should not, 45% to 40%. Linda Valenzuela, 46, of Las Cruses, New Mexico, leans Democrat and said she is certain that Trump acted unlawfully in pressuring Ukraine's leader, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, to investigate activities by former Vice President Joe Biden, a Trump political rival, and his son Hunter in the Eastern European nation.


  • U.K.’s Javid Snubs Trump’s Trade Offer, Saying EU Deal Comes First

    U.K.’s Javid Snubs Trump’s Trade Offer, Saying EU Deal Comes First(Bloomberg) -- Terms of Trade is a daily newsletter that untangles a world embroiled in trade wars. Sign up here. U.K. Chancellor of the Exchequer Sajid Javid risked a clash with President Trump’s government after suggesting the U.S. will need to wait in line for a post-Brexit trade deal until Britain finishes negotiating one with the European Union.Appearing side by side in Davos, Switzerland, U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Javid both said reaching a trade agreement between the two countries would be a priority once Britain leaves the EU at the end of the month. The difference was that Javid said a deal with the EU will take precedence over any accord with the U.S.“Our first priority is of course getting the agreement with the EU,” Javid told a finance panel at the World Economic Forum.That wasn’t what his American counterpart wanted to hear. Mnuchin told the event that he was “a little disappointed” the U.S. wasn’t getting top priority. “I thought we’d go first,” he said. “They may be a little harder to deal with than us anyway.'’Once the U.K. has left the European Union on Jan. 31, it will be free to try and make trade deals with other countries outside the bloc. Javid said that after conversations this week with his EU counterparts, there is “a strong belief on both sides” they can strike a deal for goods and services by the end of 2020.Prime Minister Boris Johnson's government has said the EU-U.K. and U.S.-U.K. talks will be held in parallel. Later on Wednesday in London, a British official suggested Javid had gone rogue and said there were no plans to prioritize any one set of trade talks over another.“From February 1 we are free to talk to any country which we like around the world,” Johnson’s spokesman James Slack said. “The EU has obviously said it’s not going to be ready to talk to us until March 1.” The U.K. plans to release a series of documents setting out its aims for trade deals with the EU, U.S. and other countries at the start of February.Javid was the only U.K. minister allowed to break Johnson’s ban on attending the World Economic Forum. On Thursday the Chancellor will address British businesses at an annual lunch in the Swiss alpine resort and is likely to face questions on his warnings they’ll need to adjust to new rules after Brexit because the U.K. won’t align with European regulations.\--With assistance from Lucy Meakin.To contact the reporter on this story: Jessica Shankleman in London at jshankleman@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Tim Ross at tross54@bloomberg.net, Stuart BiggsFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.


  • Canada matching donations to fund for Iran plane families

    Canada matching donations to fund for Iran plane familiesCanada's federal government said Wednesday it will match donations to a fund set up to help families of those who died in the downing of a Ukrainian jetliner in Iran this month. Parliamentary Secretary Omar Algabra said the government will match individual donations to the Canada Strong fund, up to a total of $1.5 million Canadian (US$1.5 million.) Algabra said $600,000 Canadian (US$457,000) has been raised so far. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau already announced his government would immediately give Canadian $25,000 (US$19,122) to the families of each of the 57 citizens and 29 permanent residents of Canada who died.


  • Brexit Deal Clears U.K. Parliament, Ending Years of Deadlock

    Brexit Deal Clears U.K. Parliament, Ending Years of Deadlock(Bloomberg) -- Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal cleared its final hurdles in Parliament, bringing the crisis that has paralyzed British politics since the country voted to leave the European Union almost four years ago to a close.The passage of the law vindicates Johnson’s gamble to call an election last month in which he asked voters to back his blueprint for leaving the bloc on Jan. 31. His 80-seat majority in the elected House of Commons meant he could sweep aside objections from pro-EU politicians in the upper chamber of Parliament, the Lords, and break the deadlock that cost his predecessor, Theresa May, her job last year.“It will stand as a historic piece of legislation,” Brexit Secretary Steve Barclay told members of Parliament as he urged them to reject the Lords’ changes to the bill.Later on Wednesday, members of the unelected House of Lords formally dropped their opposition and accepted the legislation as approved by the Commons. The bill will now go to Queen Elizabeth II who will sign it into law, putting Britain on track to leave the EU in nine days’ time.The agreement with the EU will now need to be formally ratified by the European Parliament on Jan. 29, before the U.K. leaves the bloc at the end of the month. Britain will then enter a transition period, scheduled to last until the end of the year, during which it will continue to be bound by EU laws until it negotiates a new trade deal with the remaining 27 member states.U.K., EU Draw Battle Lines as the Hard Part of Brexit Begins“We’re in a very happy position in that we leave the EU in a position of absolute grace and uniformity,” Johnson said as he answered questions from the public about the future negotiations with Brussels on Facebook. “We are in perfect alignment with our EU friends and partners.”Chancellor of the Exchequer Sajid Javid acknowledged Johnson’s Dec. 31 deadline for reaching a new trade deal with the EU was “tight.”“Both sides recognize that it’s a tight timetable, a lot needs to be put together in the time that we have, but it can be done,” Javid said during a panel discussion at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. “And it can be done for both goods, where we want to see free trade, zero tariffs, zero quotas -- but also on services.”The House of Lords had sought to amend the Brexit legislation to enhance EU citizens’ rights in Britain, allow judges -- rather than ministers -- to decide on the use of rulings by European Courts, and to ensure unaccompanied refugee children can join family in the U.K. All the measures were rejected by the Commons. Johnson’s government rejected these changes and pushed the Lords to back down.\--With assistance from Lucy Meakin, Olivia Konotey-Ahulu and Ian Wishart.To contact the reporter on this story: Thomas Penny in London at tpenny@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Tim Ross at tross54@bloomberg.net, Edward EvansFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.


  • AP FACT CHECK: Trump's false account of Ukraine episode

    AP FACT CHECK: Trump's false account of Ukraine episodePresident Donald Trump gave a false account Wednesday of some of the circumstances that got him impeached. As the Senate impeachment trial wrestled with the fate of his presidency, Trump offered distorted statements about how the episode developed. In a claim easily refuted by the calendar, but often repeated by him nonetheless, Trump said he only released a rough transcript of his phone call with Ukraine's president because a Democrat had misstated the content of the call.


  • Daily Crunch: Saudis probably hacked Bezos' phone

    Daily Crunch: Saudis probably hacked Bezos' phoneUnited Nations experts are calling for an investigation after a forensic report said Saudi officials “most likely” used a mobile hacking tool built by the NSO Group to hack into the phone of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos . The report, carried out by FTI Consulting, said it was “highly probable” that the phone hack was triggered by a malicious video sent over WhatsApp to Bezos’ phone.


  • Russia's Putin remains secretive about his future role

    Russia's Putin remains secretive about his future roleRussian President Vladimir Putin remained tight-lipped about his future role Wednesday as he fast-tracks a set of constitutional changes widely seen as an attempt to maintain his dominance over the nation's political scene after his current term ends in 2024. Asked at a meeting with students if Russia could follow the example of Kazakhstan, where a longtime president stepped down last year but continued calling the shots by assuming another prominent position, Putin shrugged off the idea as unfit for Russia. “The emergence of a position above the presidency would mean a dual power, which is absolutely unacceptable for a country like Russia,” Putin said.


  • Macron grows angry with Israeli security during church visit

    Macron grows angry with Israeli security during church visitFrench President Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday lost his temper with Israeli security agents during a visit to a French church in Jerusalem and angrily ordered one of them to leave the premises. The incident occurred during a spat between Israeli forces and Macron's own security detail as he entered the Church of St. Anne. The church, located in Jerusalem's Old City, is French state property and Macron did not want the Israeli guards leading him inside.


  • Watchdog files FEC complaint against pro-Sanders group

    Watchdog files FEC complaint against pro-Sanders groupThe watchdog group Common Cause filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission on Wednesday, alleging that Our Revolution, a political nonprofit organization founded by Bernie Sanders, violated campaign finance law by accepting donations in excess of federal limits while boosting his White House ambitions. Sanders' campaign also did not respond to a request for comment. The group has paid for some social media ads backing Sanders' campaign and is working to turn out voters who will support the senator in the Democratic presidential primary.


  • DAVOS-Pakistan's Khan calls for U.N. action on India dispute

    DAVOS-Pakistan's Khan calls for U.N. action on India disputePakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan called on Wednesday for the United Nations to help mediate between nuclear armed India and Pakistan over the disputed territory of Kashmir. "This is a potential flashpoint," Khan said during a media briefing at the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, adding that it was time for the "international institutions ... specifically set up to stop this" to "come into action". The Indian government in August revoked the constitutional autonomy of Jammu and Kashmir, India's only Muslim-majority state, splitting it into two federal territories in a bid to integrate it fully with India and to rein in militancy.


  • Crime required for impeachment? Not so, say legal experts

    Crime required for impeachment? Not so, say legal expertsPresident Donald Trump's defense hinges largely on arguments made in the impeachment trial of President Andrew Johnson more than 150 years ago: that impeachment requires a crime. A lawyer for Johnson argued in his opening statement to the Senate that Johnson could not be removed from office because he was not guilty of a crime.


  • Trump meets Iraqi counterpart, first since Soleimani strike

    Trump meets Iraqi counterpart, first since Soleimani strikeU.S. President Donald Trump hinted that sanctions on Iraq were still a possibility in a bilateral meeting with Iraq's president Wednesday, the first since a U.S. drone strike on Iraqi soil killed a top Iranian general, straining Washington-Baghdad ties. Iraq's President Barham Saleh met with Trump on the sidelines of the annual World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland amid threats from Iran-backed militia groups promising to exact revenge should he sit down with the American president. It was the first high-level meeting since the Jan. 3 U.S. drone strike that killed Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani and senior Iraqi militia commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis near Baghdad's airport.


  • Friends of Zion Present Award to Vladimir Putin

    Friends of Zion Present Award to Vladimir PutinMike Evans, on behalf of the Friends of Zion Heritage Center, announced on Wednesday, January 22nd that he will be bestowing the "Friends of Zion Award" to Russian President Vladimir Putin and on behalf of the Russian people, who saved a multitude of Jews during World War II.


  • Trump downplays brain injuries suffered by US troops in Iran missile strike

    Trump downplays brain injuries suffered by US troops in Iran missile strike‘I heard they had headaches … but it’s not very serious,’ Trump said after 11 service members were treated for concussion symptomsDonald Trump has downplayed the brain injuries suffered by US personnel in Iran’s missile attacks on bases where they were stationed earlier this month, as the military announced additional troops were being flown from Iraq for treatment for possible injuries and that more may follow.Though the US president initially said no US troops were harmed in the 8 January attack on two Iraqi bases housing them, the Pentagon announced last week that 11 service members had been flown to medical hospitals in Germany and Kuwait to be “treated for concussion symptoms from the blast”.Asked about the discrepancy on Wednesday, Trump said he learned about the injuries “numerous days later”.“I heard that they had headaches and a couple of other things, but I would say and I can report it is not very serious,” he told a news conference in Davos, Switzerland. “I don’t consider them very serious injuries relative to other injuries I have seen. I’ve seen people with no legs and no arms.”US officials separately announced on Wednesday that several more troops had been “identified as having potential injuries” and were being transported to Germany for further diagnosis and treatment.“Given the nature of injuries already noted, it is possible additional injuries may be identified in the future,” US central command spokesman Bill Urban said.After the attacks on the Ein al-Asad base and another site in Iraqi Kurdistan, Trump said that initial casualty assessments were “so far, so good”.He cited the apparent lack of casualties and minimal damage in a speech the following morning that dismissed the strikes, said Iran appeared to be standing down, and indicated the US would also do so.“I’m pleased to inform you the American people should be extremely grateful and happy,” Trump said. “No Americans were harmed in last night’s attack by the Iranian regime. We suffered no casualties.”Iranian state media has claimed that 80 American personnel were killed or injured and secretly flown from the base before the sun rose on Wednesday morning. Military leaders in the country have said their intention was not to kill US troops but to send a message.Iraqi’s caretaker prime minister has said he was given advance notice of the attacks and passed it on to the US. American commanders at Ein al-Asad have also said they received several hours’ notice of the strikes, which were carried out in retaliation for the killing of top Iranian general Qassem Suleimani five days before.


  • UK lawmakers remove child-migrants promise from Brexit bill

    UK lawmakers remove child-migrants promise from Brexit billBritish lawmakers have overturned changes to the government’s flagship Brexit bill made by Parliament’s House of Lords, removing a promise to reunite child refugees with their families in the U.K. As the bill went through its final stages before becoming law, the House of Commons on Wednesday removed five amendments inserted into the Withdrawal Agreement Bill by the unelected upper chamber. Britain is scheduled to leave the European Union on Jan. 31.


  • Trump's trial opens on fast track, Dems arguing for removal

    Trump's trial opens on fast track, Dems arguing for removalThe U.S. Senate began hearing opening arguments Wednesday in President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial with proceedings now on a fast track. First up: Democratic House managers making their case that Trump abused his presidential power and should be removed from office. After late-night deliberations over the rules almost ensured no new witnesses will be heard, the trial picked up speed.


  • Trump says he doesn't think injuries soldiers suffered in Iranian strike are 'serious'

    Trump says he doesn't think injuries soldiers suffered in Iranian strike are 'serious'President Trump on Wednesday downplayed the injuries suffered by U.S. soldiers following retaliatory Iranian missile strikes on a military base in Iraq earlier this month.Speaking to reporters at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Trump was asked why he has repeatedly said no Americans were hurt in the strikes despite reports that 11 U.S. service members were airlifted for medical reasons. The president said he was told the soldiers had "headaches" and he doesn't consider the injuries to be as serious as others he's seen in the past, such as the loss of limbs.> When asked about the 11 U.S. servicemen injured in the Iran airstrikes, President Trump told @weijia he didn't "consider them serious injuries relative to other injuries I've seen." https://t.co/anmIdCHO6a pic.twitter.com/boSjvDujCS> > -- CBS News (@CBSNews) January 22, 2020The comment quickly stirred up some backlash -- CNN's Chris Cillizza called Trump's description of the injuries "problematic" considering some of the patients are still being evaluated. He also brought up Trump's personal history which includes five deferments from serving in the Vietnam War, four of which were the result of bone spurs in his heels.The president was also chastised by Mark Hertling, a retired Army officer who served as the commanding general of the U.S. Army Europe and the Seventh Army. Hertling said that blasts like the one in Iraq can result in various long-term effects, some of them quite severe. Trump, he said, was "dangerously wrong" in his dismissal. > No longer an "active duty commander," I did spend 3+ yrs commanding large organizations & was personally subjected to multiple IED blasts. These can be serious injuries, they can contribute to death, neurological and psych disorders...and POTUS comment is dangerously wrong. https://t.co/dfVyrwj4Qt> > -- Mark Hertling (@MarkHertling) January 22, 2020More stories from theweek.com Arizona's biggest energy provider is going coal free by 2031 and carbon free by 2050 Trump says he'd 'love' to show up at his Senate impeachment trial and 'stare in their corrupt faces' Cory Booker used his cubby at the impeachment trial for an incredibly corny joke


  • France's Macron cool to Israeli request to criticize ICC

    France's Macron cool to Israeli request to criticize ICCFrench President Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday gave a lukewarm reception to an Israeli request to criticize the International Criminal Court, saying he would study the matter. Macron's response dealt a setback to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's hopes for a strong backlash against the ICC by world leaders gathering in Jerusalem for a memorial service marking the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp. The court's chief prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, said last month that there was a “reasonable basis” to open a war crimes probe into Israeli military actions in Gaza as well as settlement construction in the West Bank.


  • Soleimani killing adds dangerous new dimension to Iraq unrest

    Soleimani killing adds dangerous new dimension to Iraq unrestIranian-backed Shi'ite factions have exhorted Iraqis to turn out for a "million-strong" march on Friday aimed at whipping up anti-American sentiment as the United States' struggle with Iran plays out on the streets of Baghdad. It is likely to end up at the gates of the U.S. Embassy, the seat of U.S. power in Iraq and the scene of violent clashes last month when militia supporters tried to storm the compound. The U.S. killing of Iranian military mastermind General Qassem Soleimani in Baghdad this month has given renewed impetus to Iran's allies in Iraq.


  • UN calls for investigation into alleged Saudi hacking of Jeff Bezos

    UN calls for investigation into alleged Saudi hacking of Jeff BezosThe United Nations is joining the chorus of those concerned about allegations Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was involved in hacking Jeff Bezos' phone. UN experts have issued a statement calling for an "immediate investigation" into claims the Crown Prince's account was used for a WhatsApp hack as well as his reported "continuous, multi-year, direct and personal" role in efforts to target opponents. These allegations are particularly "relevant" in light of looks into the Saudi royal's role in the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, the UN experts said.


  • UN calls for investigation after Saudis linked to Bezos phone hack

    UN calls for investigation after Saudis linked to Bezos phone hackUnited Nations experts are calling for an investigation after a forensic report said Saudi officials "most likely" used a mobile hacking tool, such as one built by the NSO Group, to hack into the phone of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos. Remarks made by U.N. human rights experts on Wednesday said mobile spyware was likely used to exfiltrate gigabytes of data from Bezos' phone in May 2018, about six months after the Saudi government first obtained the spyware. It comes a day after news emerged, citing a forensics report commissioned to examine the Amazon founder's phone, that the malware was delivered from a number belonging to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.


  • President Trump minimizes concussion-like injuries in Iraq attack as merely 'headaches'

    President Trump minimizes concussion-like injuries in Iraq attack as merely 'headaches'President Trump minimizes concussion-like injuries in Iraq attack as merely 'headaches' originally appeared on abcnews.go.comPresident Donald Trump appeared to brush off the traumatic brain injuries (TBI) and concussion-like injuries sustained by U.S. service members after Iran’s missile strike on a military base in Iraq, saying he did not consider them to be "very serious injuries.""I heard that they had headaches. And a couple of other things," Trump said Wednesday at a news conference in Davos, Switzerland. "But I would say and I can report it is not very serious. ...


  • DC sues Trump inaugural committee, alleging abuse of funds

    DC sues Trump inaugural committee, alleging abuse of fundsThe District of Columbia is suing President Donald Trump's inaugural committee and two companies that control the Trump International Hotel in the nation's capital, accusing them of throwing parties for the Trump family with nonprofit funds, and overpaying for event space at the hotel. The district's attorney general, Karl Racine, said the inaugural committee had been “blatantly and unlawfully abusing nonprofit funds to enrich the Trump family.” The lawsuit, announced Wednesday, alleges that the committee abused nonprofit funds and coordinated with the Trump family to “grossly overpay for event space” in the hotel.


  • US bars Iranian investors from certain types of visas

    US bars Iranian investors from certain types of visasThe Trump administration is barring Iranian investors and business people from entering or staying in the United States on certain types of visas. In new regulations published in the Federal Register on Wednesday, the Department of Homeland Security said Iranians and their families are no longer eligible to apply for or extend what are known as E-1 and E-2 visas. The ban will take effect on Thursday, according to the notice from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.


  • U.S. officials were reportedly frustrated by Kenyan security forces after clash with al-Shabab that killed 3 Americans

    U.S. officials were reportedly frustrated by Kenyan security forces after clash with al-Shabab that killed 3 AmericansAn attack on a U.S. military base in Kenya by al-Shabab fighters that killed three Americans earlier this month mostly flew under the radar amid rising tensions between the U.S. and Iran. But it's now raising questions about the effectiveness of the U.S. military's presence on the African continent, The New York Times reports.There's still a lot that's unclear about al-Shabab's breach of the base, and the military's Africa Command has remained tight-lipped in the aftermath. Nobody is sure why the base — which is home to valuable surveillance aircraft — wasn't better protected, and there's also been some criticism of the Kenyan security forces who are being trained by the deployed U.S. troops.At the Manda Bay base, the Kenyan forces are relied upon heavily to protect the airfield since there aren't enough American forces to stand perimeter security, a Defense Department official told the Times. But their performance during the skirmish with al-Shabab reportedly frustrated American officials. For example, the Kenyan forces announced they captured six of the attackers, all of whom were released after it turned out they were bystanders.Some have taken their speculation a bit further. One person briefed on an inquiry into the attack told the Times that investigators are looking into the possibility that the al-Shabab fighters received aid from Kenyan staff on the base, although one American official said the attackers likely made their move after patiently observing the routines of American soldiers. Read more at The New York Times.More stories from theweek.com Arizona's biggest energy provider is going coal free by 2031 and carbon free by 2050 Trump says he doesn't think injuries soldiers suffered in Iranian strike are 'serious' Trump says he'd 'love' to show up at his Senate impeachment trial and 'stare in their corrupt faces'


  • Bezos Hack Rekindles Fears About Saudi Crown Prince

    Bezos Hack Rekindles Fears About Saudi Crown Prince(Bloomberg Opinion) -- The most astonishing revelation in reports about the hacking of Jeff Bezos’s cellphone is that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman may have played a direct, personal role. Bloomberg News reports that two people familiar with the breach say Saudi Arabia’s de-facto ruler, known as MBS, started the process by sending the Amazon.com Inc. chief a WhatsApp message containing hidden malware, which gave the Saudis access to the billionaire’s phone.More damning still, independent United Nations experts say they have information suggesting MBS's involvement in the hack. “The information we have received suggests the possible involvement of the Crown Prince in surveillance of Mr. Bezos, in an effort to influence, if not silence, The Washington Post’s reporting on Saudi Arabia,” wrote independent experts Agnes Callamard, UN Special Rapporteur on summary executions and extrajudicial killings, and David Kaye, UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression, in a statement Wednesday.How the prince responds will reveal whether he has learned any lessons from the killing of Jamal Khashoggi and its fallout.The message to Bezos preceded the grisly murder of the journalist, in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, by five months. The UN investigation into the killing said MBS “has a responsibility in relationship to the killing” and the CIA believes he gave the order. The Saudi government denies this, and went through a form of judicial proceedings to affix blame on people it claims were involved.This saga has done little to dispel the cloud over MBS’s reputation. As I wrote on the anniversary of the murder, the ghost of Khashoggi haunts the prince’s every step. It even attended, Banquo-like, the banquet for bankers that was the Aramco IPO.The story about the hacking of the Washington Post’s owner has the potential to attract as much attention as the killing of the newspaper’s columnist.The allegation that the prince was personally involved is especially damaging, and will lower even further his international standing. In the U.S., it will harden the resolve of many in Congress to hold MBS to account for the murder, despite President Trump’s best efforts to shield him.It won’t end there. That the target was one of the world’s richest men will invite closer scrutiny of other incidents involving less prominent figures — such as the reported hacking of phones belonging to Saudi dissidents, threats against other critics, and the charge that Twitter employees spied for the kingdom.   The first response from the Saudis was true to form. The Saudi embassy in Washington has characterized the reports of the Bezos hack as “absurd,” reprising the posture it adopted in dismissing first reports that Khashoggi was murdered on orders from Riyadh.The wiser course would be to allow a transparent investigation into the hack with a broader mandate than the UN probe — to find out who ordered it as well as who executed it. After the opaque process surrounding the Khashoggi killing, any investigation by Saudi authorities will inevitably give the impression of a cover-up. The best way to avert that reasonable suspicion would be to allow international supervision of the process.If such a probe concludes that the first breach of Bezos’s phone came from MBS’s WhatsApp message, then the prince must make a clear breast of it: a real mea culpa, and not the caveat-laden acknowledgment he belatedly allowed in the Khashoggi affair. Better still, he should forswear the use of such tactics against critics.MBS’s admirers and defenders often point out that the prince has a long reign ahead of him: He could be king for 50 years. That era will go easier without more ghosts and scandals dogging him.To contact the author of this story: Bobby Ghosh at aghosh73@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: James Gibney at jgibney5@bloomberg.netThis column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg LP and its owners.Bobby Ghosh is a columnist and member of the Bloomberg Opinion editorial board. He writes on foreign affairs, with a special focus on the Middle East and the wider Islamic world.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinionSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.


  • Bezos Hack Rekindles Fears About Saudi Crown Prince

    Bezos Hack Rekindles Fears About Saudi Crown Prince(Bloomberg Opinion) -- The most astonishing revelation in reports about the hacking of Jeff Bezos’s cellphone is that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman may have played a direct, personal role. Bloomberg News reports that two people familiar with the breach say Saudi Arabia’s de-facto ruler, known as MBS, started the process by sending the Amazon.com Inc. chief a WhatsApp message containing hidden malware, which gave the Saudis access to the billionaire’s phone.More damning still, independent United Nations experts say they have information suggesting MBS's involvement in the hack. “The information we have received suggests the possible involvement of the Crown Prince in surveillance of Mr. Bezos, in an effort to influence, if not silence, The Washington Post’s reporting on Saudi Arabia,” wrote independent experts Agnes Callamard, UN Special Rapporteur on summary executions and extrajudicial killings, and David Kaye, UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression, in a statement Wednesday.How the prince responds will reveal whether he has learned any lessons from the killing of Jamal Khashoggi and its fallout.The message to Bezos preceded the grisly murder of the journalist, in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, by five months. The UN investigation into the killing said MBS “has a responsibility in relationship to the killing” and the CIA believes he gave the order. The Saudi government denies this, and went through a form of judicial proceedings to affix blame on people it claims were involved.This saga has done little to dispel the cloud over MBS’s reputation. As I wrote on the anniversary of the murder, the ghost of Khashoggi haunts the prince’s every step. It even attended, Banquo-like, the banquet for bankers that was the Aramco IPO.The story about the hacking of the Washington Post’s owner has the potential to attract as much attention as the killing of the newspaper’s columnist.The allegation that the prince was personally involved is especially damaging, and will lower even further his international standing. In the U.S., it will harden the resolve of many in Congress to hold MBS to account for the murder, despite President Trump’s best efforts to shield him.It won’t end there. That the target was one of the world’s richest men will invite closer scrutiny of other incidents involving less prominent figures — such as the reported hacking of phones belonging to Saudi dissidents, threats against other critics, and the charge that Twitter employees spied for the kingdom.   The first response from the Saudis was true to form. The Saudi embassy in Washington has characterized the reports of the Bezos hack as “absurd,” reprising the posture it adopted in dismissing first reports that Khashoggi was murdered on orders from Riyadh.The wiser course would be to allow a transparent investigation into the hack with a broader mandate than the UN probe — to find out who ordered it as well as who executed it. After the opaque process surrounding the Khashoggi killing, any investigation by Saudi authorities will inevitably give the impression of a cover-up. The best way to avert that reasonable suspicion would be to allow international supervision of the process.If such a probe concludes that the first breach of Bezos’s phone came from MBS’s WhatsApp message, then the prince must make a clear breast of it: a real mea culpa, and not the caveat-laden acknowledgment he belatedly allowed in the Khashoggi affair. Better still, he should forswear the use of such tactics against critics.MBS’s admirers and defenders often point out that the prince has a long reign ahead of him: He could be king for 50 years. That era will go easier without more ghosts and scandals dogging him.To contact the author of this story: Bobby Ghosh at aghosh73@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: James Gibney at jgibney5@bloomberg.netThis column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg LP and its owners.Bobby Ghosh is a columnist and member of the Bloomberg Opinion editorial board. He writes on foreign affairs, with a special focus on the Middle East and the wider Islamic world.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinionSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.


  • Iraq Sunni leaders spooked by possible US troop pullout

    Iraq Sunni leaders spooked by possible US troop pulloutSunni Iraqi leaders who spearheaded a bloody insurgency against the 2003 US-led invasion are now the most nervous about a possible withdrawal of American troops, considered a counterweight to Iran. Tensions between Washington and Tehran have boiled over onto Iraqi soil this month, with the US killing top Iranian general Qasem Soleimani in Baghdad and Iran striking back at an Iraqi base hosting American soldiers. Furious at the US hit, Iraq's parliament held a vote on January 5 to oust all foreign troops, including some 5,200 American soldiers deployed alongside local forces.


  • Saudi Crown Prince Appeared to Taunt Jeff Bezos Over Secret Affair Before Enquirer Exposé

    Saudi Crown Prince Appeared to Taunt Jeff Bezos Over Secret Affair Before Enquirer ExposéCrown Prince Mohammed bin Salman sent Jeff Bezos a photograph of woman loosely resembling the one he was having an affair with months before the National Enquirer published a report exposing the liaison, according to a United Nations investigation.Two United Nations special rapporteurs released a statement Wednesday detailing forensic evidence linking MBS to the Bezos hack, which suggests the future king of Saudi Arabia may have been threatening the owner of The Washington Post and founder and CEO of Amazon.Saudi Arabia on Tuesday night denied allegations of a politically motivated hack when it emerged that the UN was expected to formally request a response to the extraordinary claim that malware was sent from MBS’ personal WhatsApp account to Bezos.The alleged hack took place in May 2018, a few months after Jamal Khashoggi began writing columns critical of the Saudi regime for the Post. Four months later, Khashoggi was murdered and dismembered inside a Saudi consulate. The CIA concluded that MBS had personally ordered his assassination.Two UN special rapporteurs released a statement Wednesday laying out forensic evidence personally linking MBS to the hack on Bezos, which would later lead to a special edition of the National Enquirer dedicated to discrediting the newspaper boss.Bezos Investigation Finds the Saudis Obtained His Private DataThe statement was drafted by Agnes Callamard, a UN expert on extrajudicial killings who has been probing the murder of Khashoggi, and David Kaye, who has been investigating violations of press freedom.They wrote: “Mr. Bezos was subjected to intrusive surveillance via hacking of his phone as a result of actions attributable to the WhatsApp account used by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.” In a detailed timeline of the hack, the UN report says MBS messaged Bezos on Nov. 8, 2018, weeks after the murder of his columnist Khashoggi.“A single photograph is texted to Mr. Bezos from the Crown Prince’s WhatsApp account, along with a sardonic caption. It is an image of a woman resembling the woman with whom Bezos is having an affair, months before the Bezos affair was known publicly,” the report read.Bezos’ phone appears to have been compromised on the day that an encrypted video downloader was sent from the prince’s WhatsApp account to Bezos in May 2018.The two men had been chatting on the messaging app after they met at a dinner in Los Angeles and exchanged numbers. Almost immediately after Bezos opened the video file, the report says, “a massive and unauthorized exfiltration of data from Bezos’ phone began, continuing and escalating for months.”The UN report on the hacking was drawn up by Anthony Ferrante, a cybersecurity expert at FTI Consulting who conducted a forensic analysis of Bezos’ phone.In the firm’s technical report, which was obtained Wednesday by Motherboard, analysts wrote that cellular traffic from Bezos’ phone spiked 29,156 percent just hours after he opened the video file. FTI researchers said they found no malware in it, but were unable to determine the contents of the downloader because of encryption.While they were not able to identify the exact malware used, the UN report concludes: “Experts advised that the most likely explanation for the anomalous data egress was use of mobile spyware such as NSO Group’s Pegasus or, less likely, Hacking Team’s Galileo, that can hook into legitimate applications to bypass detection and obfuscate activity.”The FTI report pointedly noted that Saud al-Qahtani, the Saudi spymaster who oversaw the killing of Khashoggi and handled cybersecurity issues for the Saudi government, purchased a 20 percent stake in Hacking Team, a security firm that offers offensive hacking services to authoritarian governments in 2016. “Customers of Hacking Team,” the FTI report said, “had asked the company to create the capability to infect devices via a video sent in WhatsApp.”According to the FTI report, the image of the woman that Bezos received was part of meme with the caption: “Arguing with a woman is like reading the Software License agreement—in the end you have to ignore everything and click I agree.” The analysts reported the Nov. 8, 2018, message was unlike any the Post owner had received from MBS before and “this was after the relationship [with girlfriend Lauren Sanchez] would have been obvious to persons with access to private texts, calls, and images on Bezos’ phone, but months before the relationship was known or reported publicly.“The photo and caption were sent precisely during the period Bezos and his wife were exploring divorce,” it states, adding “Memes such as this were available on the Internet, however the content of the text was not typical of any past communication from MBS, making it likely it was sent with reference to Bezos’ personal life events at that time.”The Bezos hack came to light after private texts showing that he was engaged in an extramarital relationship were published by the National Enquirer. In response, the world’s richest man set out to uncover how the tabloid magazine had gotten access to the most private messages on his phone.American Media Inc. (AMI), which owns the National Enquirer, publicly stated that its source was Michael Sanchez, the estranged brother of the woman dating Bezos, but last March, Bezos’ experienced security consultant Gavin de Becker wrote an op-ed in The Daily Beast explaining that his investigation had found that the Saudi government had obtained access to the phone.Not only that, AMI had threatened to release a trove of embarrassing photos of Bezos—also taken from his phone—unless he agreed to make a public statement claiming that the report about his affair was not “instigated, dictated, or influenced in any manner by external forces, political or otherwise.”The media company was trying to strong-arm Bezos into shutting down reports that the Saudis were somehow involved.“I’ve seen a lot. And yet, I’ve recently seen things that have surprised even me, such as the National Enquirer’s parent company, AMI, being in league with a foreign nation that’s been actively trying to harm American citizens and companies, including the owner of The Washington Post,” De Becker wrote in The Daily Beast.After the bombshell op-ed, AMI doubled down on its claim that Michael Sanchez, an associate of Trumpworld insiders including Roger Stone and Carter Page, had been the “single source” of their midweek special edition, which exposed Bezos’ relationship with the TV host Lauren Sanchez.The targeting of Bezos and The Washington Post fits into a pattern of Saudi aggression against critics, which includes blackmailing, discrediting, and even killing those who speak out against the regime.Iyad El-Baghdadi, founder of the Kawaakibi Foundation and editor in chief of the Arab Tyrant Manual, who lives in exile in Norway, wrote in The Daily Beast early last year that MBS had been targeting Bezos. “There’s mounting evidence that the de facto ruler of the kingdom has been trying to punish Bezos for the fierce coverage by his newspaper, The Washington Post,” he wrote.David Kaye, the UN special rapporteur on freedom of expression, told The Daily Beast that while the allegations about the Bezos hack were inevitably eye-catching, it shouldn’t obscure the threats to political speech posed by the rapidly expanding availability of commercial surveillance tools like the ones made by NSO Group or Hacking Team. “There’s a fundamental problem right now with this industry that can export its technology, sell, and transport it with very little constraint. On the user side, it can be used with very little legal framework [and] little rule-of-law standards,” said Kaye, who in June called for a moratorium on the sale of surveillance tech. “Imagine if you’re Omar Abdulaziz or another activist. What tool do you have to protect yourself?” Kaye said.As well, Kaye said, the UN officials’ statement on Wednesday was no surprise to the Saudi government. Last week, he said, they sent a letter informing the kingdom of the allegations through the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. Then, on Monday—a day before The Guardian broke the story—they sent the Saudis a draft of their Wednesday statement. As far as Kaye knows, Saudi Arabia has yet to formally respond. The procedure Kaye outlined typically allows 60 days for an accused government to issue a response before proposing an investigation. There are different forms an investigation can take, but Kaye said he and Callamard hope it will include both his prior work on the explosion of commercial surveillance and her prior work investigating the Khashoggi slaying. “This is just one incident of an abuse by many, many governments,” Kaye said.Kaye said their involvement started in November, after a source he declined to describe further provided them with the forensic report into the Bezos hack. He said they contacted four infosec experts to stress-test it. “It was a kind of vetting to make sure the allegations are credible enough to raise with the government of Saudi Arabia and to go public with them,” he said. After The Guardian and the Financial Times reported Tuesday night that MBS’ phone was implicated, Saudi Arabia’s U.S. embassy said reports “that suggest the Kingdom is behind a hacking of Mr. Jeff Bezos’ phone are absurd. We call for an investigation on these claims so that we can have all the facts out.”Read more at The Daily Beast.Got a tip? Send it to The Daily Beast hereGet our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.


  • Putin to meet mother of Israeli backpacker jailed over hash

    Putin to meet mother of  Israeli backpacker jailed over hashRussian President Vladimir Putin plans to meet with the mother of an Israeli tourist who was jailed in Russia for carrying a few grams of hashish, the Kremlin said Wednesday. The Russian leader is set to meet with Naama Issachar's mother while he is visiting Israel on Thursday, Putin adviser Yuri Ushakov said. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Theophilos III, the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of the Holy Land, are also taking part in the meeting that will focus on “the humanitarian aspect” of the case, Ushakov told reporters Wednesday.


  • Trump Notches Wins to Fuel Campaign Before Impeachment Trial

    Trump Notches Wins to Fuel Campaign Before Impeachment Trial(Bloomberg) -- Donald Trump has kicked off the 2020 election year with a string of key foreign policy and economic wins that his campaign hopes will overshadow -- and outlast -- the political fallout from his historic impeachment.As the Senate began his impeachment trial on Tuesday in Washington, Trump tried to pull the spotlight to Davos, Switzerland, where he touted his record to an annual gathering of global elites: “America is thriving, America is flourishing, and yes, America is winning again like never before,” he said.Trump’s argument has been bolstered by a series of recent victories. He inked a long-sought “phase one” trade deal with China, the Senate passed his rewrite of Nafta, and he ordered the killing of a top Iranian general without immediately tipping the U.S. into another war in the Middle East.All three events occurred within a two-week period, helping push the stock market to record highs and giving Trump clear talking points for the argument that his confrontational approach to China and Iran is working. Adding to the list, Trump on Tuesday indicated he had secured a truce with French President Emmanuel Macron in their dispute over digital taxes, and said he’s confident he can reach a trade deal with the European Union.Trump’s victories may still sour. His U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement is regarded as a modest revision of Nafta that required considerable concessions to Democrats in order to win the House’s approval. His deal with China includes limited reform commitments by Beijing and what many experts regard as an improbable commitment for $200 billion in purchases of U.S. goods, while leaving tariffs in place on hundreds of billions of dollars of Chinese imports.And while the killing of Iranian general Qassem Soleimani elicited limited retaliation from Tehran, the Islamic Republic may seek further reprisals and is now seen as less likely to enter negotiations with the U.S. over ending its nuclear program and support for militants and terrorists.Confidence BoostNonetheless, the run appears to be boosting Trump’s confidence. Last week, he spoke at length and unscripted during a ceremony to sign the China deal, comparing himself favorably to Ronald Reagan and Abraham Lincoln and gleefully shouting out corporate executives and wealthy supporters in his audience.Speaking to reporters after a dinner with Trump and other business leaders in Davos, Volkswagen AG Chief Executive Officer Herbert Diess said that the president “appeared more confident” and secure following the economy’s recent performance.On Wednesday, Trump also appeared emboldened by his recent deals. Speaking in Davos, Trump put European leaders on notice about reaching a trade deal before the U.S. elections. Trump has threatened to impose tariffs on European auto exports and has already hit $7.5 billion of EU exports with levies over an airline dispute.But Trump’s optimism will be met with the harsh reality of a bitter impeachment fight when he returns to Washington on Wednesday.Senate Democrats and Republicans spent most of Tuesday debating the rules of the trial to determine whether Trump should be removed from office. While Democrats have pushed to include additional witnesses and documents, Republicans -- led by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell -- have indicated they’re intent on a speedy acquittal of the president.“The Senate GOP Leader has chosen a cover-up for the President, rather than honor his oath to the Constitution,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said. Representative Adam Schiff, the Lead House trial manager, said the process proposed by McConnell would lead to a “rigged trial.”Polling suggests Trump’s recent victories are so far having limited impact on public opinion. A survey by CNN released on the eve of the trial showed that a majority of Americans -- 51% -- support the Senate voting to remove the president from office.The trial could still produce surprises, but Trump’s acquittal is almost guaranteed in the majority-Republican chamber. And defeating Democrats’ impeachment efforts could leave Trump emboldened as he heads into Congress to make his State of the Union address next month.Provided he’s acquitted, Trump will surely turn his impeachment saga into more red meat for a political base that thrives on grievance.‘Good One Now’Trump hasn’t wasted any time in claiming victory. He swiftly added the Soleimani killing to his script at campaign events, boasting at a Milwaukee rally Jan. 9 that the general “was responsible for murdering and wounding thousands of Americans and was actively planning new attacks, and we stopped him cold.”He provided details of the killing that previously hadn’t been made public to wealthy donors at a fund-raiser at his Palm Beach, Florida resort on January 17, according to the Washington Post, which obtained a partial recording of the event.Trump seizes any opportunity to talk about the passage of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreement and the China deal, which could together add three-quarters of a percentage point to growth, according to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.He boasted about the deals in Davos to an audience of global business leaders who are generally seen as pro-trade although one critic, Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz, circulated a memo to delegates challenging Trump’s economic record.But the president also took the opportunity to claim credit for the economy last week when he met the 2019 NCAA champion football team from Louisiana State University.As he invited the players and coaches to take photos in the Oval Office, Trump expressed his characteristic disbelief that Democrats have tried to remove him from office despite the soaring U.S. stock market and economic growth.“We’ll take pictures behind the Resolute Desk. It’s been there a long time. A lot of presidents -- some good, some not so good,” Trump said. “But you got a good one now, even though they’re trying to impeach the son of a bitch. Can you believe that?”(Updates with Trump comments in ninth paragraph.)To contact the reporter on this story: Josh Wingrove in Washington at jwingrove4@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Alex Wayne at awayne3@bloomberg.net, Joshua Gallu, Elizabeth WassermanFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.


  • Trump Shrugs Off U.S. Soldiers' Injuries From Iran Attack: 'They Had Headaches'

    Trump Shrugs Off U.S. Soldiers' Injuries From Iran Attack: 'They Had Headaches'At least 11 U.S. service members were airlifted out of Iraq following Iran's missile strikes on the Ain al-Asad air base.


  • Jeff Bezos’s phone may have been hacked after receiving WhatsApp from Saudi crown prince MBS, say UN experts

    Jeff Bezos’s phone may have been hacked after receiving WhatsApp from Saudi crown prince MBS, say UN expertsA pair of United Nations experts have called for an “immediate investigation” by the United States into information that suggests that Amazon CEO and Washington Post owner Jeff Bezos‘ phone was hacked after he receved a file sent from Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman‘s WhatsApp account.Agnes Callamard, the UN special rapporteur on enforced disappearances, and David Kaye, a UN envoy on freedom of expression issues, say information collected suggested that the Mr Bezos’ phone was hacked months before the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, the Washington Post columnist critical of Prince Mohammed.


  • How Iran's military outsources its cyberthreat forces

    How Iran's military outsources its cyberthreat forcesIn the wake of the U.S. killing of a top Iranian general and Iran’s retaliatory missile strike, should the U.S. be concerned about the cyberthreat from Iran? Already, pro-Iranian hackers have defaced several U.S. websites to protest the killing of General Qassem Soleimani. One group wrote “This is only a small part of Iran’s cyber capability” on one of the hacked sites.Two years ago, I wrote that Iran’s cyberwarfare capabilities lagged behind those of both Russia and China, but that it had become a major threat which will only get worse. It had already conducted several highly damaging cyberattacks. Since then, Iran has continued to develop and deploy its cyberattacking capabilities. It carries out attacks through a network of intermediaries, allowing the regime to strike its foes while denying direct involvement. Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-supported hackersIran’s cyberwarfare capability lies primarily within Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, a branch of the country’s military. However, rather than employing its own cyberforce against foreign targets, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps appears to mainly outsource these cyberattacks.According to cyberthreat intelligence firm Recorded Future, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps uses trusted intermediaries to manage contracts with independent groups. These intermediaries are loyal to the regime but separate from it. They translate the Iranian military’s priorities into discrete tasks, which are then bid out to independent contractors. Recorded Future estimates that as many as 50 organizations compete for these contracts. Several contractors may be involved in a single operation.Iranian contractors communicate online to hire workers and exchange information. Ashiyane, the primary online security forum in Iran, was created by hackers in the mid-2000s in order to disseminate hacking tools and tutorials within the hacking community. The Ashiyane Digital Security Team was known for hacking websites and replacing their home pages with pro-Iranian content. By May 2011, Zone-H, an archive of defaced websites, had recorded 23,532 defacements by that group alone. Its leader, Behrouz Kamalian, said his group cooperated with the Iranian military, but operated independently and spontaneously.Iran had an active community of hackers at least by 2004, when a group calling itself Iran Hackers Sabotage launched a succession of web attacks “with the aim of showing the world that Iranian hackers have something to say in the worldwide security.” It is likely that many of Iran’s cyber contractors come from this community.Iran’s use of intermediaries and contractors makes it harder to attribute cyberattacks to the regime. Nevertheless, investigators have been able to trace many cyberattacks to persons inside Iran operating with the support of the country’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. Cyber campaignsIran engages in both espionage and sabotage operations. They employ both off-the-shelf malware and custom-made software tools, according to a 2018 report by the Foundation to Defend Democracy. They use spearfishing, or luring specific individuals with fraudulent messages, to gain initial access to target machines by enticing victims to click on links that lead to phony sites where they hand over usernames and passwords or open attachments that plant “backdoors” on their devices. Once in, they use various hacking tools to spread through networks and download or destroy data. Iran’s cyber espionage campaigns gain access to networks in order to steal proprietary and sensitive data in areas of interest to the regime. Security companies that track these threats give them APT (Advanced Persistent Threat) names such as APT33, “kitten” names such as Magic Kitten and miscellaneous other names such as OilRig.The group the security firm FireEye calls APT33 is especially noteworthy. It has conducted numerous espionage operations against oil and aviation industries in the U.S., Saudi Arabia and elsewhere. APT33 was recently reported to use small botnets (networks of compromised computers) to target very specific sites for their data collection.Another group known as APT35 (aka Phosphoros) has attempted to gain access to email accounts belonging to individuals involved in a 2020 U.S. presidential campaign. Were they to succeed, they might be able to use stolen information to influence the election by, for example, releasing information publicly that could be damaging to a candidate. In 2018, the U.S. Department of Justice charged nine Iranians with conducting a massive cyber theft campaign on behalf of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. All were tied to the Mabna Institute, an Iranian company behind cyber intrusions since at least 2013. The defendants allegedly stole 31 terabytes of data from U.S. and foreign entities. The victims included over 300 universities, almost 50 companies and several government agencies. Cyber sabotageIran’s sabotage operations have employed “wiper” malware to destroy data on hard drives. They have also employed botnets to launch distributed denial-of-service attacks, where a flood of traffic effectively disables a server. These operations are frequently hidden behind monikers that resemble those used by independent hacktivists who hack for a cause rather than money.In one highly damaging attack, a group calling themselves the Cutting Sword of Justice attacked the Saudi Aramco oil company with wiper code in 2012. The hackers used a virus dubbed Shamoon to spread the code through the company’s network. The attack destroyed data on 35,000 computers, disrupting business processes for weeks.The Shamoon software reappeared in 2016, wiping data from thousands of computers in Saudi Arabia’s civil aviation agency and other organizations. Then in 2018, a variant of Shamoon hit the Italian oil services firm Saipem, crippling more than 300 computers.Iranian hackers have conducted massive distributed denial-of-service attacks. From 2012 to 2013, a group calling itself the Cyber Fighters of Izz ad-Din al-Qassam launched a series of relentless distributed denial-of-service attacks against major U.S. banks. The attacks were said to have caused tens of millions of dollars in losses relating to mitigation and recovery costs and lost business.In 2016 the U.S. indicted seven Iranian hackers for working on behalf of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps to conduct the bank attacks. The motivation may have been retaliation for economic sanctions that had been imposed on Iran. Looking aheadSo far, Iranian cyberattacks have been limited to desktop computers and servers running standard commercial software. They have not yet affected industrial controls systems running electrical power grids and other physical infrastructure. Were they to get into and take over these control systems, they could, for example, cause more serious damage such as the 2015 and 2016 power outages caused by the Russians in Ukraine.One of the Iranians indicted in the bank attacks did get into the computer control system for the Bowman Avenue Dam in rural New York. According to the indictment, no damage was done, but the access would have allowed the dam’s gate to be manipulated if it not been manually disconnected for maintenance issues.While there are no public reports of Iranian threat actors demonstrating a capability against industrial control systems, Microsoft recently reported that APT33 appears to have shifted its focus to these systems. In particular, they have been attempting to guess passwords for the systems’ manufacturers, suppliers, and maintainers. The access and information that could be acquired from succeeding might help them get into an industrial control system.Ned Moran, a security researcher with Microsoft, speculated that the group may be attempting to get access to industrial control systems in order to produce physically disruptive effects. Although APT33 has not been directly implicated in any incidents of cyber sabotage, security researchers have found links between code used by the group with code used in the Shamoon attacks to destroy data.While it is impossible to know Iran’s intentions, they are likely to continue operating numerous cyber espionage campaigns while developing additional capabilities for cyber sabotage. If tensions between Iran and the United States mount, Iran may respond with additional cyberattacks, possibly ones that are more damaging than we’ve seen so far.[ Deep knowledge, daily. Sign up for The Conversation’s newsletter. ]This article is republished from The Conversation, a nonprofit news site dedicated to sharing ideas from academic experts.Read more: * The US-Iran conflict and what it means for Indonesia * US and Iran have a long, troubled historyDorothy Denning does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.


  • Democracy-Mongers Should Face Up to an Ugly Reality

    Democracy-Mongers Should Face Up to an Ugly Reality(Bloomberg Opinion) -- We live in an era of political earthquakes; but the Burmese leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s defense of her country’s ethnic-cleansers before the International Court of Justice at The Hague last month still came as a shock.Not so long ago, Suu Kyi was hailed as an icon of democracy in the West. Her apostasy now adds to the growing sense that democracy is in danger worldwide.The mood is certainly bleak at The Journal of Democracy, the house periodical of one of the Beltway institutions promoting democracy around the world. Writing in its 30th anniversary issue, Francis Fukuyama claims that we are living through a “‘democratic recession,’ with reason to worry that it could turn into a full-scale depression.”This jeremiad then opens out to denunciations of various “authoritarian populists” today, and to vague hopes of “rebuilding the legitimate authority of the institutions of liberal democracy.”As in many such dirges these days, it is never asked: What and whose democracy?History has continuously revealed democracy as the most radical idea of the modern world, which more often generates chaos than freedom. Yet the massive infrastructure of democracy-promotion that came into being during the Cold War assumed that it was a guarantor of political stability and economic progress: In other words, it delivered something that totalitarian communism could not.   Ignoring democracy’s tormented history, its ideologues naively reduced it to a magical formula, consisting mostly of elections, that can be applied to any political context and guarantee benign political outcomes. Talking up the ideal of democracy abroad, they overlooked its daily violation at home, as a range of figures from Jawaharlal Nehru to Martin Luther King pointed out. (Abroad, too, avowed democrats expediently supported right-wing or military dictatorships from Congo to Iran, Chile to the Philippines.)Of course, the boosters of democracy who aimed largely at securing a moral advantage against communism were assured of victory. Democracy-mongers, in retrospect, had it far too easy, ranged against regimes that were as inept as they were brutal.Their sense of confidence could only inflate after communism collapsed, and history appeared, in Fukuyama’s own conception, to have reached a safe terminus in liberal democracy.Even Samuel Huntington, Fukuyama’s mentor, set aside his profound reservations in the 1960s about America’s democracy-promoters, to hail a “third wave” of democratization.Such was the complacent mood in 1990 — the year that The Journal of Democracy confidently started publication — that the old and deep problems of democracy that date back to the French Revolution seemed to have disappeared along with the enemies of the West.But in the postcolonial world, the challenges of democracy had long been in plain sight.The teachers of democracy in the West had accomplished high economic growth, partly with the help of imperialism and slavery, well before they began to gradually extend democratic rights to most citizens.But Asian and Africans in the world’s poorest and weakest countries faced the task of instituting democratic rights simultaneously with economic development and political cohesion.Moreover, the new nation-states in which democracy was meant to be implanted lacked some crucial ingredients. The people rather than a monarch or despot are supposed to be sovereign in a democracy. But in racially and ethnically diverse societies, potentially many peoples can claim to be the people.Take, for instance, Iraq. Summarily “democratized” by the American military in 2004, a new “people,” representing the Shia majority staked its claim on power, provoking many among the previously regnant people, the Sunnis, into open and still ongoing rebellion, and another minority into secessionism.For a long time, the promise of growth and general improvement kept many new and artificial nations from damaging struggles over power and sovereignty. In some countries liberated from foreign rule, such as Burma, pitiless local despots kept the lid on the many conflicts and contradictions of nation-building, democracy and economic development.The opening of this Pandora’s box in the third wave of democratization was always likely to plunge much of the world into a prolonged era of instability. Unshackled from great power rivalry, history since 1990 has accelerated crazily, and often calamitously derailed, instead of coming to rest in the terminus of universal democracy.Even in countries with routine elections and peaceful transfers of power, such as India, uneven economic growth and high inequality have corroded the few democratic norms that existed.In 2014, a demagogue rose to power in classic fashion by blaming minorities and immigrants; he is now busy boosting a new people, the apparently neglected Hindu majority, while relegating many Muslims to second-class citizenship.Likewise, the politics of xenophobia in the United States and Britain against a background of stagnant wages and growing inequality has exposed a democratic deficit long covered up by Cold War moralizing and posturing.It is clear now that, with governments shrinking social welfare and marketizing public goods, and moneyed special-interests entrenched in legislatures, many citizens became militantly disaffected with their political representatives and institutions, and vulnerable to demagoguery.Bewildered by their punitive mood, democracy-mongers seek fresh self-validation and moral high ground, this time by counterposing democracy to “authoritarian populism” at home rather than totalitarian communism abroad.  This reheating of the Cold War’s moral oppositions and belated lamentations about “democratic recession” won’t do. The so-called populists, whether you like them or not, have been empowered through democratic processes. They represent, albeit in grossly distorted form, long suppressed and fundamentally democratic aspirations for freedom, equality and dignity.And they serve to remind us that democracy remains a radically destabilizing force, not a magical formula that, for all its repeated failures, keeps its vendors in stable employment.To contact the author of this story: Pankaj Mishra at pmishra24@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: James Gibney at jgibney5@bloomberg.netThis column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg LP and its owners.Pankaj Mishra is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist. His books include “Age of Anger: A History of the Present,” “From the Ruins of Empire: The Intellectuals Who Remade Asia,” and “Temptations of the West: How to Be Modern in India, Pakistan, Tibet and Beyond.” For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinionSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.


  • Democracy-Mongers Should Face Up to an Ugly Reality

    Democracy-Mongers Should Face Up to an Ugly Reality(Bloomberg Opinion) -- We live in an era of political earthquakes; but the Burmese leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s defense of her country’s ethnic-cleansers before the International Court of Justice at The Hague last month still came as a shock.Not so long ago, Suu Kyi was hailed as an icon of democracy in the West. Her apostasy now adds to the growing sense that democracy is in danger worldwide.The mood is certainly bleak at The Journal of Democracy, the house periodical of one of the Beltway institutions promoting democracy around the world. Writing in its 30th anniversary issue, Francis Fukuyama claims that we are living through a “‘democratic recession,’ with reason to worry that it could turn into a full-scale depression.”This jeremiad then opens out to denunciations of various “authoritarian populists” today, and to vague hopes of “rebuilding the legitimate authority of the institutions of liberal democracy.”As in many such dirges these days, it is never asked: What and whose democracy?History has continuously revealed democracy as the most radical idea of the modern world, which more often generates chaos than freedom. Yet the massive infrastructure of democracy-promotion that came into being during the Cold War assumed that it was a guarantor of political stability and economic progress: In other words, it delivered something that totalitarian communism could not.   Ignoring democracy’s tormented history, its ideologues naively reduced it to a magical formula, consisting mostly of elections, that can be applied to any political context and guarantee benign political outcomes. Talking up the ideal of democracy abroad, they overlooked its daily violation at home, as a range of figures from Jawaharlal Nehru to Martin Luther King pointed out. (Abroad, too, avowed democrats expediently supported right-wing or military dictatorships from Congo to Iran, Chile to the Philippines.)Of course, the boosters of democracy who aimed largely at securing a moral advantage against communism were assured of victory. Democracy-mongers, in retrospect, had it far too easy, ranged against regimes that were as inept as they were brutal.Their sense of confidence could only inflate after communism collapsed, and history appeared, in Fukuyama’s own conception, to have reached a safe terminus in liberal democracy.Even Samuel Huntington, Fukuyama’s mentor, set aside his profound reservations in the 1960s about America’s democracy-promoters, to hail a “third wave” of democratization.Such was the complacent mood in 1990 — the year that The Journal of Democracy confidently started publication — that the old and deep problems of democracy that date back to the French Revolution seemed to have disappeared along with the enemies of the West.But in the postcolonial world, the challenges of democracy had long been in plain sight.The teachers of democracy in the West had accomplished high economic growth, partly with the help of imperialism and slavery, well before they began to gradually extend democratic rights to most citizens.But Asian and Africans in the world’s poorest and weakest countries faced the task of instituting democratic rights simultaneously with economic development and political cohesion.Moreover, the new nation-states in which democracy was meant to be implanted lacked some crucial ingredients. The people rather than a monarch or despot are supposed to be sovereign in a democracy. But in racially and ethnically diverse societies, potentially many peoples can claim to be the people.Take, for instance, Iraq. Summarily “democratized” by the American military in 2004, a new “people,” representing the Shia majority staked its claim on power, provoking many among the previously regnant people, the Sunnis, into open and still ongoing rebellion, and another minority into secessionism.For a long time, the promise of growth and general improvement kept many new and artificial nations from damaging struggles over power and sovereignty. In some countries liberated from foreign rule, such as Burma, pitiless local despots kept the lid on the many conflicts and contradictions of nation-building, democracy and economic development.The opening of this Pandora’s box in the third wave of democratization was always likely to plunge much of the world into a prolonged era of instability. Unshackled from great power rivalry, history since 1990 has accelerated crazily, and often calamitously derailed, instead of coming to rest in the terminus of universal democracy.Even in countries with routine elections and peaceful transfers of power, such as India, uneven economic growth and high inequality have corroded the few democratic norms that existed.In 2014, a demagogue rose to power in classic fashion by blaming minorities and immigrants; he is now busy boosting a new people, the apparently neglected Hindu majority, while relegating many Muslims to second-class citizenship.Likewise, the politics of xenophobia in the United States and Britain against a background of stagnant wages and growing inequality has exposed a democratic deficit long covered up by Cold War moralizing and posturing.It is clear now that, with governments shrinking social welfare and marketizing public goods, and moneyed special-interests entrenched in legislatures, many citizens became militantly disaffected with their political representatives and institutions, and vulnerable to demagoguery.Bewildered by their punitive mood, democracy-mongers seek fresh self-validation and moral high ground, this time by counterposing democracy to “authoritarian populism” at home rather than totalitarian communism abroad.  This reheating of the Cold War’s moral oppositions and belated lamentations about “democratic recession” won’t do. The so-called populists, whether you like them or not, have been empowered through democratic processes. They represent, albeit in grossly distorted form, long suppressed and fundamentally democratic aspirations for freedom, equality and dignity.And they serve to remind us that democracy remains a radically destabilizing force, not a magical formula that, for all its repeated failures, keeps its vendors in stable employment.To contact the author of this story: Pankaj Mishra at pmishra24@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: James Gibney at jgibney5@bloomberg.netThis column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg LP and its owners.Pankaj Mishra is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist. His books include “Age of Anger: A History of the Present,” “From the Ruins of Empire: The Intellectuals Who Remade Asia,” and “Temptations of the West: How to Be Modern in India, Pakistan, Tibet and Beyond.” For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinionSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.


  • Putin to Meet Jailed Israeli’s Mother Amid Reports of Release

    Putin to Meet Jailed Israeli’s Mother Amid Reports of Release(Bloomberg) -- President Vladimir Putin is to meet in Jerusalem with the mother of an Israeli woman imprisoned in Russia on drug-smuggling charges, the Kremlin said, amid reports Russian authorities are preparing to free her.Putin, who’ll be a guest of honor Thursday at a ceremony marking the 75th anniversary of the Soviet Red Army’s liberation of the Nazi Auschwitz death camp, spoke with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu by phone last week about 26-year-old Naama Issachar. Netanyahu said after the call that he was optimistic about securing her freedom.Issachar was sentenced to 7 1/2 years in a Russian prison in October for carrying a small amount of hashish on a transit flight via Moscow. Her mother, Yaffa, asked Putin in November to pardon her daughter in a letter handed to him by Theophilos III, the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem. The plight of the U.S.-born Israeli army veteran, who was detained in April, has become a cause celebre in Israel, where she’s widely regarded as a pawn in a political game.Putin will meet Yaffa Issachar together with Netanyahu and the patriarch, Kremlin foreign policy aide Yuri Ushakov told reporters in Moscow on Wednesday. While Ushakov wouldn’t confirm that a release is planned, he said the president’s right to pardon a convicted person is “an important prerogative.”Property DisputeIn another sign of a possible resolution, Ushakov said Russia and Israel are making progress in settling a dispute over the ownership of Russian Orthodox Church property in Jerusalem. Israel’s Haaretz newspaper said resolving the issue could form part of a quid pro quo with Putin for the release of Issachar.Putin will speak at the anniversary ceremony, though there won’t be time for him to meet with other leaders attending the event, including French President Emmanuel Macron and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, according to Ushakov.Issachar’s case for a time became entangled with that of a Russian national, Alexei Burkov, whom Israel extradited to the U.S. in November on charges including hacking and credit card fraud. Russia had offered to swap the two, according to Natan Sharansky, a former Soviet dissident and Israeli politician.Putin rebuffed repeated pleas to free her by Netanyahu, who’s fighting to maintain his 13-year-rule as he battles fraud and bribery charges, with new elections due in March.\--With assistance from Gwen Ackerman and Ivan Levingston.To contact the reporters on this story: Andrey Biryukov in Moscow at abiryukov5@bloomberg.net;Henry Meyer in Moscow at hmeyer4@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Gregory L. White at gwhite64@bloomberg.net, Tony HalpinFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.


  • White House confuses Iraq with Iran and says Trump met with Iranian president

    White House confuses Iraq with Iran and says Trump met with Iranian presidentThe White House appears to have confused Iran and Iraq in a YouTube video, and suggested that Donald Trump met with the Iranian president.A video of a meeting between Trump and Iraq’s president, Barham Salih, was titled “President Trump Participates in a Bilateral Meeting with the President of the Republic of Iran” on the White House’s official YouTube channel.


  • Iran tells Europe not to follow U.S. by undermining nuclear pact

    Iran tells Europe not to follow U.S. by undermining nuclear pactIran's president told European powers on Wednesday not to copy the United States by undermining Tehran's strained nuclear pact with world powers, and said Tehran would not seek nuclear weapons whether or not the deal survived. Britain, France and Germany launched a dispute mechanism in the 2015 nuclear deal this month, accusing Iran of violating the deal that has become increasingly frayed since Washington pulled out in 2018 and then reimposed sanctions on Tehran.


  • Tripoli's main airport resumes flights after shelling

    Tripoli's main airport resumes flights after shellingThe only functioning airport in Libya’s capital reopened Wednesday after coming under attack, despite a tenuous truce that world powers have pushed warring parties to respect. Authorities at Tripoli’s Mitiga airport said six Grad missiles crashed into the tarmac, prompting the airport to briefly suspend some flights and divert others to a northwestern city. As the sole landing strip for the U.N.-backed government based in Tripoli, as well as its major military base, Mitiga is a strategic target for opposition forces based in the country's east.


  • 8 crew members kidnapped from Greek-flagged tanker freed

    8 crew members kidnapped from Greek-flagged tanker freedEight crew members of a Greek-flagged tanker ship have been freed more than 20 days after being kidnapped by gunmen off the coast of Cameroon in West Africa, Greece's merchant marine ministry said Wednesday. The crew had been kidnapped by pirates on Dec. 31 from the Happy Lady tanker, which had been lying at anchor two nautical miles (2.3 miles, 3.7 kilometers) outside the port of Limboh.


  • Jacobs Donates More Than $465,000 to Water For People

    Jacobs Donates More Than $465,000 to Water For PeopleExpanding its commitment to helping end the global water crisis with sustainable solutions, Jacobs (NYSE:J) presented nonprofit organization Water For People with a donation check for $467,230 at Jacobs' January Board of Directors meeting. A combination of corporate and employee funds, the company's inaugural sponsor contribution will ignite Water For People's journey to Destination 2030, a 10-year initiative to help low- and middle-income countries achieve United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 6 – ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.


  • Images of starving lions in Sudan zoo spark global concern

    Images of starving lions in Sudan zoo spark global concernAt an impoverished, forlorn zoo in Sudan’s capital, the park's few remaining lions are starving in rusted cages — their ribs protruding, eyes glassy and skin flaccid, desperate for food and water. The unsettling images, shared on social media by a local animal rights advocate, drew impassioned responses from thousands around the world. With the staff at the destitute Al-Qurashi Park, as the zoo in Khartoum is known, unable to feed and look after the animals, many have died off or were evacuated, leaving only three skeletal lions, including a lioness.


  • Years after SARS, a more confident China faces a new virus

    Years after SARS, a more confident China faces a new virusThe proclamation Tuesday signaled both China's growing confidence and its greater awareness of censorship's pitfalls. The threat headlined an online essay that referred directly to SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome, an epidemic that not only devastated parts of China but also exposed government deception. Nearly two decades later, a more assertive China appears determined not to repeat its past mistakes.


  • 3 African nations meet to draft deal on Nile dam dispute

    3 African nations meet to draft deal on Nile dam disputeEgypt, Ethiopia and Sudan started U.S.-monitored talks on Wednesday in the Sudanese capital to try hammer out a draft deal to resolve their dispute over a Nile dam that Ethiopia is constructing, an Egyptian spokesman said. The $4.6 billion Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam project on the Blue Nile, which promises to provide much-needed electricity to Ethiopia’s 100 million people, has been a contentious point among the three main Nile Basin countries. The issue is critical for Cairo as Egypt seeks to protect its main source of freshwater for its large and growing population, also about 100 million.


  • Turkey's FM urges Russia to halt Syrian government attacks

    Turkey's FM urges Russia to halt Syrian government attacksTurkey's foreign minister urged Russia on Wednesday to halt the Syrian government's attacks in the war-torn Arab country, a day after airstrikes on rebel-held sectors and the shelling of government-held areas killed at least 17 people, including an entire family. In his remarks, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu insisted it was Moscow's responsibility to stop the violence as Russia has been a staunch supporter of Syrian President Bashar Assad's forces in the civil war.


  • Iran will never seek nuclear arms, with or without nuclear deal - Rouhani

    Iran will never seek nuclear arms, with or without nuclear deal - RouhaniIran will never seek nuclear weapons, with or without nuclear deal, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on Wednesday, calling on the European powers to avoid Washington's mistake of violating Tehran's 2015 nuclear deal with major powers. "We have never sought nuclear weapons ... With or without the nuclear deal we will never seek nuclear weapon ... The European powers will be responsible for the consequences of violating the pact," said Rouhani, according to his website President.Ir.


  • DAVOS-Saudi foreign minister calls claim that Crown Prince hacked Bezos phone 'absurd'

    DAVOS-Saudi foreign minister calls claim that Crown Prince hacked Bezos phone 'absurd'Saudi Arabia's Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud said on Wednesday that an allegation the kingdom’s crown prince had been involved in a plot to hack the phone of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos was "absurd". "I think absurd is exactly the right word," Prince Faisal told Reuters in an interview in Davos. Two United Nations officials will report on Wednesday that there is enough evidence suggesting that Saudi Arabia had hacked Bezos' phone and both the kingdom and the United States should investigate, a person familiar with the matter said.


  • Canada prosecutors say fraud at heart of Huawei CFO Meng's U.S. extradition case

    Canada prosecutors say fraud at heart of Huawei CFO Meng's U.S. extradition caseHuawei Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou returned to a Vancouver courtroom on Wednesday where Canadian prosecutors defended a U.S. extradition request, saying Meng's alleged bank fraud is the heart of the case that has strained relations between Ottawa and Beijing. Canadian prosecutors have told the British Columbia Supreme Court that Meng was arrested on charges of bank fraud, which is a crime in both countries, and not because of U.S. allegations she violated U.S. sanctions against Iran.


  • Afghan officials: US airstrike killed 10 civilians in Herat

    Afghan officials: US airstrike killed 10 civilians in HeratA drone attack carried out by U.S. forces earlier this month in western Afghanistan that apparently targeted a splinter Taliban group also killed at least 10 civilians, including three women and three children, an Afghan rights official and a council member said Wednesday. According to the Afghan official, who is on the country's Human Rights Commission, the strike took place in western Herat province, in the district of Shindanad. Five other civilians, including two children, were wounded, he said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to reporters.