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Facebook knew about Russian meddling well before the US election
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US murder rate rose in 2016 but this year’s numbers suggest decline ahead
Murders in the US rose by 8.6% in 2016 following a more than 10% increase the year before, according to new FBI statistics. The violent crime rate increased by 3.4% while property crimes dropped. … With a president and an attorney general who have …
According to the Pew Research Center, only 20 percent of Americans trust their government. The same low percentage has “a lot” of trust in the national news media. It’s impossible to say definitively what causes this mistrust, but its growth has coincided with the rise of both the adrenaline-driven internet news cycle and the dying of local journalism over the past two decades. Without news that connects people to their town councils or county fair, or stories that analyze how federal policies affect local businesses, people are left with news about big banks in New York and dirty politics in Washington.
Readers compare this coverage with their dwindling bank balances and crumbling infrastructure and feel disconnected and disenfranchised, and latch onto something — anything — that speaks to them. That might be President Trump’s tweets. Or dubious “news” from an extreme right- or left-wing site might ring true. Or they might turn to Russian disinformation, which exploits this trust gap.
All is not lost. Disinformation can be defeated without the establishment of a shiny new initiative cased in the language of Cold War 2.0. Instead of “rapid information operations,” the United States should work to systematically rebuild analytical skills across the American population and invest in the media to ensure that it is driven by truth, not clicks.
The fight starts in people’s minds, and the molding of them. In K-12 curriculums, states should encourage a widespread refocusing on critical reading and analysis skills for the digital age. Introductory seminars at universities should include a crash course in sourcing and emotional manipulation in the media. Similar courses could be created as professional development for adults, beginning with state employees. Large corporations could be offered government incentives to participate, too.
Training like this has a proven track record. In Ukraine, IREX, a nongovernmental organization, trained 15,000 people in critical thinking, source evaluation and emotional manipulation. As a result, IREX measured a 29 percent increase in participants who double check the news they consume. Another neighbor of Russia, Finland, has been resistant to Russian influence in part because of its media education program, which begins in childhood.
The American government should also work to level the information playing field, increasing its investment in public broadcasters and demanding a hefty financial commitment from companies like Facebook and Twitter — the unwitting agents of Russia’s information war — to support the proliferation of local, citizen-focused journalism. If social networks are unwilling to be the arbiters of truth (despite 45 percent of American adults’ getting news from Facebook), they should at the very least provide grants to reporters who cover the local issues that most immediately affect people’s lives and donate advertising to small outlets that cannot compete with national media giants.
Finally, under no circumstances should the United States attempt to restrict freedom of the media. The United States might label RT or Sputnik a foreign agent, but it should never ban them. It also need not reinvent the wheel by creating an American version of RT. These would be grave mistakes that would erode America’s position as a beacon of free speech. They would contribute to the crisis of trust that makes Russian disinformation successful in the first place.
Russia has very deftly exploited America’s weaknesses — but these are weaknesses of our own making. Until policy makers start putting people at the heart of their fight against disinformation, they will continue to be easy targets for Russian lies.
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BERLIN (Reuters) – Germany’s Angela Merkel began the tough task of trying to build a government on Monday after securing a fourth term as chancellor, urging the center-left Social Democrats not the shut the door on a re-run of their “grand coalition”.
Damaged by her decision two years ago to allow more than one million migrants into Germany, Merkel’s conservative bloc secured 33 percent of the vote, losing 8.5 points — its lowest level since 1949. Her coalition partners, the center-left Social Democrats, also slumped and said they would go into opposition.
Voters flocked to the anti-immigration Alternative for Germany (AfD), the first far-right party to enter the German parliament in more than half a century. However, the AfD hardly had time to savor its third-place showing before it fell into internal bickering.
Many Germans see the rise of the AfD as a similar rejection of the status quo as votes for Brexit and Donald Trump last year. But Germany’s political center held up better than in Britain and the United States as more voters have benefited from globalization and most shun the country’s extremist past.
Merkel’s party remained the biggest parliamentary bloc and Europe’s most powerful leader sought to keep her coalition options open on Monday, saying she would start talks with the Free Democrats (FDP) and the Greens as well as the SPD.
SPD leader Martin Schulz said earlier his party had no choice but to go into opposition “to defend democracy against those who question it and attack it,” after dropping to a post-war low of 20.5 percent.
“I heard the SPD’s words, nevertheless we should remain in contact,” Merkel told a news conference. “I think all parties have a responsibility to ensure that there will be a stable government.”
Merkel made clear she still intended to serve a full four years as chancellor. But her next coalition could be her toughest yet with her only remaining potential partners, the business-friendly FDP and the pro-regulation Greens, at odds on issues from migrants to tax, the environment and Europe.
The FDP’s leader Christian Lindner set the stage for tricky talks, saying his party would not agree to a coalition with the conservatives and the Greens, dubbed “Jamaica” because the parties’ colors mirror the country’s flag, at any price.
He said changes were needed in Germany’s energy policy and its stance on euro zone fiscal policy. But he struck a more conciliatory tone on Europe, saying Germany had an interest in a strong France. [B4N1JX00B]
The Greens set out climate change, Europe and social justice as their priorities in any coalition talks.
The emergence of the Greens as powerbrokers in any coalition weighed on markets. Shares in carmaker BMW (BMWG.DE) were down 0.2 percent, while those in automotive supplier Continental (CONG.DE) dropped 0.4 percent. RWE (RWEG.DE) — which operates 15.25 gigawatts (GW) of coal-fired plants in Germany, 38 percent of its total European capacity — fell 4.6 percent to a six-week low.
The party campaigned to ban the sale of new combustion-engine cars from 2030 and are calling for a quick phase-out of coal power plants.
Many Germans were alarmed by the rise of AfD who the foreign minister likened to Nazis. Protesters threw stones and bottles at police outside its campaign party in Berlin on Sunday.
But just a day after the election, the AfD showed signs of fracturing as co-leader Frauke Petry, one of its most prominent faces, said she would not sit in parliament with AfD members. It was not immediately clear why she was making such a move.
The election also exposed rifts in Merkel’s conservatives, with her allies the Bavarian Christian Social Union (CSU), who face a regional election next year, demanding a shift to the right to win back voters lost to the AfD.
“They will try their best to recover lost ground on the right side of the political spectrum. Going into a coalition in Berlin with the Greens and the FDP will make this more difficult,” said Janis Emmanouilidis from the European Policy Centre.
Investors were unsettled by the prospect of a weaker Merkel at the head of a potentially unstable “Jamaica” coalition and also worried that months of coalition talks could distract from talks with Britain over its divorce from the European Union.
The euro EUR=D4 and European stocks slipped, while concerns about the emergence of a more hardline stance toward the euro zone in the bloc’s largest economy weighed on Southern European government bonds.
“The weak result could make Angela Merkel a lame duck much faster than international observers and financial markets think,” ING economist Carsten Brzeski said.
Klaus Wohlrabe, economist at the Munich-based Ifo economic institute, said new elections could not be excluded and the result could stoke uncertainty as German business confidence deteriorated unexpectedly in the weeks before the election.
German business also expressed concern.
Matthias Mueller, chief executive of Volkswagen, said he was “shocked” by the AfD’s double-digit showing and said the success of Europe’s largest economy hinged on its tolerance and openness to the world.
“For Germany’s biggest industrial company I say: In the globalized economy, national egoism and protectionism lead to a dead – and in the end a loss of jobs.”
Additional reporting by Madeline Chambers, Michael Nienaber and Maria Sheahan; Editing by Angus MacSwan
Week ahead in tech: Social media giants under scrutiny over Russian interference
Social media companies, including giants Facebook and Twitter, are in the spotlight over Russianefforts to interfere in the 2016 campaign. Twitter will brief the Senate Intelligence Committee next week over Russian influence on its platform. So far …
Before the start of business, Just Security provides a curated summary of up-to-the-minute developments at home and abroad. Here’s today’s news.
The TRAVEL BAN
President Trump issued a new order restricting travel to nationals from eight countries yesterday, replacing the previous order which was due to expire yesterday and imposing indefinite restrictions on travel for most citizens from Iran, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Chad, North Korea, and subjecting Venezuelan citizens to heightened security checks. Devlin Barrett reports at the Washington Post.
“Making America Safe is my number one priority,” Trump tweeted yesterday, linking to a presidential proclamation issued on the same day. It is unclear how the new order will affect the legal challenge by the American Civil Liberties Union (A.C.L.U.), which is due to be considered by the Supreme Court next month. The BBC reports.
The restrictions on the new countries included in the order and the revised waiver policy are set to take effect on Oct. 18; existing visa-holders are exempt from the travel ban and waivers remain available for travelers with ties to the U.S., however the order seems to have narrowed the exemptions. Josh Gerstein and Ted Hesson report at POLITICO.
The new order is more targeted than the president’s previous orders, according to officials, tailoring travel restrictions depending on nationality, with officials expecting that the inclusion of two non-Muslim countries would overcome the charge that it was an unconstitutional ban on Muslims. Laura Meckler reports at the Wall Street Journal.
Critics of the original ban expressed similar concerns about the new order, the executive director of the A.C.L.U. Anthony D. Romero arguing that the inclusion of North Korea and Venezuela “doesn’t obfuscate the real fact that the administration’s order is still a Muslim ban.” Michael D. Shear reports at the New York Times.
The restriction on North Korea is largely symbolic as most North Koreans in the U.S. are based at the United Nations and North Korea generally does not allows its ordinary citizens to travel abroad. The APreports.
Iraqi citizens are no longer included in the travel ban but will face heightened security checks, restrictions on citizens from Sudan were also removed. Jeff Mason and Phil Stewart report at Reuters.
“The State Department will coordinate with other federal agencies to implement these measures in an orderly manner,” Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said in a statement yesterday, Laura Jarrett and Sophie Tatum report at CNN.
The Supreme Court could avoid deciding on the travel ban legal case altogether, according to legal experts, the new order potentially allowing the court to consider the case no longer a live issue. Lawrence Hurley reports at Reuters.
A summary of who is affected by the entry restrictions is provided by Marty Lederman at Just Security.
An attack on the U.S. mainland is “inevitable,” North Korea’s Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho said Saturday during a speech to the U.N., on the same day the U.S. flew eight warplanes close to North Korea’s eastern coastline while remaining in international airspace, according to a statement by the Pentagon. Farnaz Fassihi and Ben Kesling report at the Wall Street Journal.
“This is the farthest north of the Demilitarized Zone (D.M.Z.) any U.S. fighter or bomber aircraft have flown in the 21st century,” Pentagon spokesperson Dana White said Saturday, adding that the mission demonstrates “U.S. resolve” and sends a “clear message that the President has many military options to defeat any threat.” John Bowden reports at the Hill.
A 3.5 magnitude earthquake at the weekend near a North Korean nuclear test site appears to have been natural, according to experts, Simon Denyer reports at the Washington Post.
Diplomats and national security experts have expressed concern about Trump’s belligerent rhetoric, stating that the president has created an ambiguous situation where it is difficult to tell whether he would back up his threats with action, thereby widening the possibility of miscalculation and the Pyongyang regime misreading the likelihood of a U.S. attack. Julie Hirschfeld Davis explains at the New York Times.
China has grown increasingly frustrated with North Korea but its influence over the country has never been weaker, according to experts, leaving the country caught between a war of words between the U.S. and North Korea, but not wanting to precipitate the collapse of the Pyongyang regime. Simon Denyer explains at the Washington Post.
Iran tested a new medium-range ballistic missile at the weekend, prompting Trump to criticize the 2015 nuclear agreement as not reining in Iran’s ballistic missile program in a tweet and accusing the country of working with North Korea. Aresu Eqbali reports at the Wall Street Journal.
The Khorramshahr ballistic missile was displayed at a military parade on Friday, during which Iranian President Hassan Rouhani stated that Iran would continue to develop and strengthen its missile program. Reuters reports.
Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps (I.R.G.C.) unveiled its Russian-made 3-300 air defense system in the capital of Tehran yesterday as part of displays marking the 37th anniversary of the Iran-Iraq war. The AP reports.
The U.S. “is proving that it is unreliable,” Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said in an interview yesterday with Fareed Zakaria at CNN, criticizing the Trump administration’s approach to the 2015 nuclear deal.
Trump’s decision to certify Iran’s compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal by the Oct. 15 deadline could have implications for dealing with the North Korea threat, detractors arguing that the agreement allows North Korea to see what it could get away with, and supporters arguing that walking away from the deal would demonstrate that the U.S. cannot be trusted with negotiations. Rebecca Kheel explains at the Hill.
The president’s senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner used his personal email account for official government business, his lawyer confirmed in a statement yesterday, stating that the emails “usually forwarded news articles or political commentary and most often occurred when someone initiated the exchange.” Maggie Haberman and Sharon LaFraniere report at the New York Times.
Other Trump administration aides have also used their personal email accounts for government business, meaning that the communications could circumvent the requirements of the Presidential Records Act which requires all documents related to the president’s personal and political activities to be archived. Josh Dawsey reports at POLITICO.
Kushner and his wife Ivanka Trump did not set up a private server, according to two sources familiar with their email account, however Kushner’s lawyer declined to answer questions about the possibility of the emails containing classified information. Carol D. Leonnig, Ellen Nakashima and Rosalind S. Helderman report at the Washington Post.
President Obama warned Facebook C.E.O. Mark Zuckerberg about fake news on Nov. 19, two months before Trump’s inauguration, Obama stating that the problem would get worse during the next presidential campaign if not addressed. Adam Entous, Elizabeth Dwoskin and Craig Timberg report at the Washington Post.
IRAQI KURDISTAN REFERENDUM
The Iraqi Kurdistan independence referendum is being held today, with ballots being held across the three provinces in the Kurdish autonomous region and disputed territories, including the city of Kirkuk. The BBC reports.
“We will not recognize the referendum, nor its results,” Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said yesterday, shortly after Barzani made a speech stating that he would be “ready to start the process of dialogue with Baghdad” after today’s vote. Al Jazeera reports.
The Kurdish region was ordered to hand over control of border crossings and airports to Iraq’s central government yesterday, ahead of the referendum. Qassim Abdul-Zahra reports at the AP.
Iran halted flights to and from the Iraqi Kurdistan region yesterday and held military exercises on the border, closing the airspace at the request of Iraq’s central government. Al Jazeera reports.
“We stress again that we will take all measures arising from international law and the Turkish parliament’s authority” in response to the referendum, Turkey’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement today, Reuters reports.
Turkey blocked access at a border gate with northern Iraq, according to the broadcaster N.T.V., Reuters reporting.
Turkey is considering closing its airspace and a border gate to northern Iraq following a formal request from Iraq’s central government, the Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said today, the AP reports.
“We will never go back to the failed partnership” with Baghdad, Iraqi Kurdistan Regional Government President Massoud Barzani said yesterday, defying neighboring countries and other Western nations who oppose the referendum. Maher Chmaytelli and Daren Butler report at Reuters.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Turkish President Reçep Tayyip Erdogan discussed the referendum by phone, Erdogan’s office said yesterday, sharing mutual concern about impact of the vote on the region and emphasized the importance of Iraq’s territorial integrity. Reuters reports.
The referendum is a “strategic mistake” that undermines the Iraqi Kurds’ quest for independence because it lacks constitutional standing, undermines the government in Baghdad, threatens Iraq’s borders and security, and increases the possibility of further destabilizing the region. The Wall Street Journal editorial board writes.
The history and context behind the independence referendum is provided by David Zucchino at the New York Times.
The U.S.-backed Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (S.D.F.) seized a key gas plant from the Islamic State, the S.D.F. said yesterday, marking a significant blow to the extremist group’s ability to generate revenue. Raja Abdulrahim reports at the Wall Street Journal.
The Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (I.R.G.C.) targeted Islamic State group bases with drone strikes yesterday near the Syria-Iraqi border, according to Iranian state television, Reuters reports.
Russia and Syria have intensified their bombing campaigns on rebel-held areas in the Idlib and Hama provinces, rebels and witnesses said yesterday, marking increased violence following six months of relative calm. Suleiman Al-Khalidi reports at Reuters.
Airstrikes hit rural Aleppo in northern Syria yesterday despite a cease-fire in the province, according to activists and a war monitoring group. The AP reports.
A Russian general was killed by mortar shelling near the Syrian city of Deir al-Zour, Russia’s Defense Ministry said yesterday. Reuters reporting.
U.S. drones conducted a series of “precision strikes” in Libya killing 17 Islamic State militants, the U.S. military said yesterday, marking the first airstrikes by the U.S. since January and demonstrating the significant threat posed by the militants in Libya. Eric Schmitt reports at the New York Times.
The Pentagon has been testing systems to destroy Islamic State group drones, launching a $700m program to draw on the knowledge of the armed services, tech experts and defense industry giants. Eric Schmitt reports at the New York Times.
“The two-state solution is today in jeopardy,” Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas said during his speech to the U.N. General Assembly last week – comments that were overshadowed by discussion of the North Korea threat but nevertheless posing a significant and urgent problem for U.S.-led peace efforts. Josef Federman explains at the AP.
A suicide bomb targeted a convoy of international forces in the Afghan capital of Kabul yesterday, wounding three civilians, with no one claiming responsibility for the attack, separately in the Helmand province the Taliban killed a district police chief. The AP reports.
The intense fighting against Islamic State-backed militants in the Philippine city of Marawi demonstrate the serious the extremists could pose to the country and other counties in Southeast Asia. Tom Allard explains at Reuters.
A breakdown of recent developments in the South China Sea is provided by Christopher Bodeen at the AP.
An explosion in Mali killed three U.N. peacekeeping troops and injured five yesterday, demonstrating the security struggles in the country that was destabilized by Islamist militants in 2012. Sewell Chan reports at the New York Times.
Forthcoming Trump administration rules on the trade of U.S.-manufactured guns has the potential to undermine human rights and aid terrorists and international criminal gangs, and Trump should reconsider the move. Josh Rogin writes at the Washington Post.
New York Times
Angela Merkel, Reluctant Leader of the West, ‘Has Gotten the Taste for It’
New York Times
She regularly jousts with President Trump over trade and climate, with President Vladimir V. Putinof Russia over the annexation of Crimea and economic sanctions, and with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey over human rights and migration.
Germany’s ‘Eternal Chancellor’Newsweek Pakistan
With Trump on your mind, explore what makes a jerk a jerk
‘Diagnose’: A narcissist? A psychopath? Such terms are fun to wield. They have the sound of pseudo-objectivity, as though you’re neutrally diagnosing a medical condition. There really arenarcissists and psychopaths but far fewer than get diagnosed.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The FBI has opened a civil rights investigation into the church shooting that left one woman killed and several others injured in Tennessee, the agency said in a statement Sunday.
“The Memphis FBI Field Office’s Nashville Resident Agency, the Civil Rights Division, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Tennessee have opened a civil rights investigation into the shooting at the Burnette Chapel Church of Christ in Antioch, Tennessee,” the statement said.
It added, “The FBI will collect all available facts and evidence. As this is an ongoing investigation we are not able to comment further at this time.”
Sunday’s shooting left one dead and seven others wounded, authorities said. An usher confronted the shooter, who apparently shot himself in the struggle before he was arrested, police said.
No motive was immediately determined. Church members told investigators that the suspect had attended services a year or two ago, said Don Aaron, a spokesman for the Metro Nashville Police Department.
The gunman pulled into the parking lot at the Burnette Chapel Church of Christ as services were ending. He fatally shot a woman who was walking to her vehicle, then entered the rear of the church with two pistols and kept firing, hitting six people, Aaron said. It was unclear whether the self-inflicted wound to the chest was intentional, Aaron said.
Metro Nashville Police Department
Authorities identified the attacker as Emanuel Kidega Samson, 25, of Murfreesboro, who came to the United States from Sudan in 1996 and was a legal U.S. resident.
The gunman was discharged hours later from Vanderbilt University Hospital but remained in police custody. The Metropolitan Nashville police tweeted Sunday night that Samson will be charged with one count of murder and that multiple “additional charges will be placed later.” He was ordered held without bail by a judicial commissioner.
Witness Minerva Rosa said the usher was a hero. “He’s amazing,” said Rosa, a member of the church for eight years. “Without him, I think it could be worse.”
The suspect said nothing as he fired. While the gunman made his way down the aisle, Rosa said, the pastor started shouting, “‘Run! Run! Gunshots!'” Aaron called the usher, 22-year-old Robert Engle, “an extraordinarily brave individual.”
The woman who was killed in the parking lot was identified as Melanie Smith, 39, of Smyrna, Tennessee.
The gunman and six others were treated for gunshot wounds at nearby hospitals, along with Engle, who was pistol-whipped, Aaron said. Witnesses were being interviewed by police.
Among the wounded was Joey Spann, who is the church’s pastor and is a Bible study teacher at Nashville Christian School.
Forty-two people were at the church at the time of the shooting, and that all victims were adults, Aaron said.
Hours before the shooting, a man with the same name and description as Samson published bizarre messages on Facebook, The Associated Press reports.
One read: “Everything you’ve ever doubted or made to be believe as false, is real. & vice versa, B.”
Another read, “Become the creator instead of what’s created . Whatever you say, goes.” And a third post read, “You are more than what they told us.”
Samson also posted several shirtless photos of himself flexing his muscles. In some he wears a tank top that reads “Beast Mode.”
The small brick church describes itself on its website as a “friendly, Bible-based group of folks who love the Lord and are interested in spreading his word to those who are lost.”
Photos on the church’s Facebook page show a diverse congregation with people of various ages and ethnicities.
After the attack, the nearby New Beautiful Gate Church opened its doors to Burnette Chapel churchgoers as they reunited with loved ones.
New Beautiful Gate Pastor Michael Moseby said he is neighbors with Burnette Chapel Pastor Joey Spann.
“As a pastor myself, you come with the expectation of sitting down and having a service and not thinking about what can happen around you,” Moseby said. “You never know who is going to come to the door or what reasons they would come to the door, come to your church and do something like that. We’re always on guard. We just thank God many more weren’t hurt.”
Nashville Mayor Megan Barry said in a statement that the shooting was “a terrible tragedy for our city.” She said her administration “will continue to work with community members to stop crime before it starts, encourage peaceful conflict resolution and promote non-violence.”