Month: October 2017

  • Trump Administration Will Defend Cuba Embargo In Symbolic UN Vote

    A series of mysterious sonic attacks on US diplomatic personnel (and more than a few spies) working at Washington’s Havana embassy have provided ample justification for the White House to reverse the US-Cuba detente negotiated by the Obama administration. And in a gesture that - though it has no implications for policy - is considered symbolically important, the State Department said Thursday the US will defend America’s decades-old economic embargo on Cuba by voting against a UN resolution condemning it, the Associated Press reported.

    The news comes after at least 24 embassy personnel were targeted by mysterious sonic attacks in Cuba, inspiring the administration last month to withdraw most of its employees from the island nation. While the US hasn’t determined the source of the attacks, the administration kicked out most of the diplomats at Cuba’s embassy in Washington and has accused the Cuban government of not doing enough to keep US citizens safe - though Cuban leader Raul Castro has vehemently condemned the attacks.

    Every year, the UN votes on a resolution condemning the embargo, and for years the US has predictably voted "no." But last year, the US abstained for the first time, as Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro moved forward with the historic warming of relations between the former Cold War foes.

    A "no" vote from U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley on Wednesday will mark a return to formal support for the embargo, which Obama had unsuccessfully urged Congress to end. Although the Obama administration eased travel and commerce restrictions on Cuba and reauthorized direct commercial flights between the countries, the formal embargo remains in place.

    Back in June, Trump said he was going to “cancel” Obama’s detente with Cuba, but - aside from kicking out the diplomats and suspending visa processing - his anti-Cuba rhetoric has mostly been posturing.

    "The Trump administration policy gives greater emphasis to advancing human rights and democracy in Cuba, while maintaining engagement that advances U.S. interests," said State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert.

    General Assembly resolutions are nonbinding and unenforceable. But the annual exercise has given Cuba a global stage to push back against the hated embargo.

    To be sure, the half-century-old US commercial, economic and financial embargo on Cuba is extremely unpopular with other governments, the AP said. Typically, the annual vote to condemn it has received overwhelming support. Voting "no" means the US  will once again be pitted against almost every other nation.

    In 2015, the last year that the US voted "no," close ally Israel was the only country to join in opposition, leading to a 191-2 vote to condemn the embargo - the highest number of votes ever for the measure.

    The United States lost its only other ally in the vote, Palau, in 2013, when the Pacific island nation abstained rather than joining the US in voting "no."

    In late 2014, Obama and Castro announced plans to restore relations, and the following year embassies were re-opened in Washington and Havana. Ties had been cut in 1961 after the communists, led by Fidel Castro, seized power.
     

  • This Is The Huge Anti-Trump Protest That Was Organized By… The Russians

    From November 2016...

    Protesters demonstrating against the election of Donald Trump made their voices heard again Saturday - taking to the streets of New York for the fourth straight day. A crowd of over 5,000 people gathered in Union Square around noon, their ranks rapidly growing and spilling out of the park.

     

    Hand-drawn signs floated above the crowd, carrying messages like “Love Trumps Hate,” “Unacceptable,” and “Dump Trump.”

     

     

    Chants of “black lives matter,” “popular vote,” and “America was never great” rang from the sea of dissenters.

    So which 'leftist', anti-Trump group organized these 1000s of people to protest against their democratically-elected President?

    Simple.

    As The Hill reports, sixteen thousand Facebook users said that they planned to attend a Trump protest on Nov. 12, 2016 organized by the Facebook page for BlackMattersUS.

    The event was shared with 61,000 users.

    “Join us in the streets! Stop Trump and his bigoted agenda!” reads the Facebook event page for the rally.

     

    “Divided is the reason we just fell. We must unite despite our differences to stop HATE from ruling the land.”

    There's just one thing... BlackMattersUS is a Russian-linked group.

    How do we know the organizers are "Russians"?

    Simple, "The Russians" said so...

    The BlackMatters organizing group was connected to the Internet Research Agency (IRA), a Russian “troll farm” with ties to the Kremlin, according to a recent investigation by the Russian Magazine RBC.

     

    Facebook has identified the IRA as the group responsible for purchasing 3,000 political ads on Facebook’s platform and operating 470 accounts that appear to have attempted to influence the perspectives of Americans during the 2016 elections.

    So to clarify...

    The Russians spent $100,000 and created 0.004% of social media content to influence the election... and then the same Russians continued to help President Trump by unifying black and white Americans to protest against him.

  • Watch Live: Social Media Lawyers Explain To Politicians How 0.004% Of Traffic Swung The Election

    Nearly two months after Facebook first confirmed that it had identified some 3,000 paid posts that had been clandestinely financed by purported Russia-linked troll farms, the companys' general counsel, Colin Stretch, and his counterparts at Twitter and Google, are heading down to the Hart Senate Office Building for a long-awaited hearing hosted by the Senate Judiciary Committee’s subcommittee on crime and terrorism. According to the description on the committee's website, the hearing is meant to help lawmakers and the companies “find solutions” that will allow them to filter out attempts by foreign powers like Russia to influence US elections.

    South Carolina Senator and former presidential candidate Lindsey Graham will preside over the hearings, which are expected to begin at 2:30 ET.

    Watch the hearing live below;

    By late Monday night, the contents of the prepared testimony for all three companies had already leaked to the press. And for anybody who’s been following the Russian interference narrative, the testimony contains few surprises.

    As we reported yesterday, Facebook plans to testify that Russia’s $100,000 in ad spending may have helped their posts be seen by as many as 126 million people over more than two years (of course, some of this ads ran after the election).

    Of course, while the 126 million headline number may appear astonishingly large - without context it appears to suggest that the Russian disinformation campaign achieved one of the highest marketing IRRs in human history - in context, it’s actually negligible.

    That’s because Americans were fed a total of 33 trillion stories by Facebook via their news feeds, meaning the tainted Russia content represents just 0.004% of total stories circulated on Facebook’s platform.

    Meanwhile, Google’s director of law enforcement and information security is preparing to testify that he has found 18 English-language channels with 1,108 videos uploaded, totaling about 43 hours of content, that originated with Russian operatives.

    The company also found that two accounts linked to the Russian troll farm spent a total of $4,700 on search and display ads during the 2016 election cycle.

    Meanwhile, Twitter is preparing to tell Congress this week that Russia-linked accounts "generated approximately 1.4 million automated, election-related tweets, which collectively received approximately 288 million impressions" between Sept. 1 and Nov. 15, 2016.

    At one point in the testimony, Twitter's acting general counsel, Sean Edgett, wrote that the company "identified 36,746 accounts that generated automated, election-related content and had at least one of the characteristics we used to associate an account with Russia,” Business Insider reported.

    That is far higher than the number of Russia-linked accounts Twitter initially disclosed to the Senate Intelligence Committee in a closed-door interview last month. Still, like Facebook, Twitter is preparing to emphasize in its prepared remarks that the nearly 37,000 accounts represented "1/100th of a percent (0.012%) of the total accounts on Twitter at the time." Meanwhile, roughly 9% of the tweets from the 2,752 IRA-linked accounts were election-related, Twitter said, and more than 47% of those tweets were automated.

    Of course, Democratic lawmakers who have pushed this latest narrative have been unfazed by these numbers. Instead, they've maintained that any evidence of "interference" is too much. And while Facebook said yesterday that is was devising sophisticated tools to completely filter out disingenuous posts, it might be more effective if they just blocked people with their browser language set to Russian from paying for ads - or posting anything, really - on Facebook's platforms.

    Perhaps the most frustrating aspect of today's hearing is that trio of Silicon Valley lawyers will get to do it all again tomorrow during a hearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee. Ranking member Sen. Mark Warner - who recently introduced a law that would require social media companies to expand ad-related disclosures - has tweeted a series of questions he intends to ask:

    I question whether Russia’s election interference came entirely from 1 troll farm in St Petersburg. Tech firms should help us find the truth https://t.co/jrdK3NHtI8

    — Mark Warner (@MarkWarner) October 31, 2017

     

    Tomorrow some of America’s largest tech companies will testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee. Here’s what I want know:

    — Mark Warner (@MarkWarner) October 31, 2017

     

    2. How susceptible are these platforms to future disinformation campaigns waged by a small group of foreign hackers, trolls & bots?

    — Mark Warner (@MarkWarner) October 31, 2017

     

    1. How did Russia use social media and search platforms to influence the 2016 election? The American people deserve a full explanation.

    — Mark Warner (@MarkWarner) October 31, 2017

     

    3. How do they plan to work with Congress to make sure this doesn’t happen again? Specifically on legislation like the #HonestAds Act.

    — Mark Warner (@MarkWarner) October 31, 2017