Steven Seagal says he is Putin’s man, expresses Russian political ambitions

By ethan / September 26, 2018

Martial arts icon and Hollywood star Steven Seagal has described himself as Vladimir Putin’s representative, and announced that he wants to become the governor of Primorsky Krai Region in the Russian Far East.

Seagal has arrived in Primorsky Krai to take part in the Pacific Meridian movie festival, which is currently taking place in the region’s capital Vladivostok. When reporters asked the celebrity if he wanted to become the governor, he answered that he represented President Vladimir Putin’s interests and would take over the gubernatorial seat with pleasure.

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The actor has been a regular visitor to the country since the 90s. © Aleksey Nikolskyi

He proceeded to say that his ancestors on his father’s side came from the Russian Far East, and that he wanted to know more about Primorsky Krai Region and become its governor.

Seagal also told reporters that he had been appointed the Foreign Ministry’s special envoy for relations with Japan, and that he planned to apply maximum effort to strengthening diplomatic relations between Moscow and Tokyo.

Steven Seagal was granted Russian citizenship in November 2016 under a law that allows foreigners to be naturalized in recognition of their services to Russia or just their achievements in general. The actor’s appointment as an envoy for Russo-Japanese relations occurred in early August. Seagal has also worked as the Russian Foreign Ministry’s representative for Russian-US relations since April.

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Votes are being counted by a local elections committee in Russia's Primorsky Krai. © Vitaly Ankov

The movie star was apparently asked about his political aspirations because the situation in Primorsky Krai became complicated after the September 9 gubernatorial elections. The first round of the polls ended in a run-off between the incumbent governor, a representative of the parliamentary majority party United Russia, and a federal MP representing populist opposition party, the LDPR.

The run-off elections took place on September 23 and ended in a near-draw, but the results have been annulled by the local Elections Commission over numerous complaints of violations that came from candidates.

The date for the new vote in Primorsky Krai has not yet been set, but it must take place before December 16, according to electoral laws.

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MSNBC pundit Joy Reid sued for defamation after siccing her followers on Trump supporter

By ethan / September 26, 2018

MSNBC host Joy Reid has been sued by a woman who received a torrent of verbal abuse, including death threats, from Reid’s Twitter base after the host accused her of hurling racial slurs at a 14-year old.

Roslyn La Liberte has become widely known as the screaming woman in a MAGA cap in a notorious photo, in which she appears to shout at a Latin-American teenage boy. In a lawsuit, filed with the New York Eastern District Court, La Liberte says that Reid “used her substantial social media presence, fame, and reputation as a hard-hitting journalist” to peddle false accusations of racism against her.

Reid effectively took out a social-media hit on La Liberte, tweeting the photo, originally posted by Alan Vargas, a March of Our Lives student activist, who called on his followers to spread the post, writing that “this woman needs to be put on blast.” Reid’s re-post gave a powerful boost to the tweet, since she has almost 1.3 million Twitter followers, compared to Vargas’ 14,000.

In separate posts on her social media accounts, including on Facebook and Instagram, Reid claimed that La Liberte screamed “You are going to be the first deported” and “Dirty Mexican” at the boy. She also compared La Liberte’s conduct with that of white supremacists. “Make the picture black and white and it could be the 1950s and the desegregation of a school,” Reid wrote.

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© Joshua Blanchard / Getty Images

Her call to name and shame the woman was promptly answered by her followers, with La Liberte saying in the complaint that she was forced to change her contact details in order to shield herself from harassment by strangers. She saved some 500 disparaging voicemails and emails, while deleting dozens more.

Most importantly, the allegations that Reid so enthusiastically promoted proved to be a hoax. La Liberte pointed out that both the boy and his mother confirmed in interviews and elsewhere that they were having a “civil” discussion. The boy even stated in an interview to Fox News shortly after the incident, that he “felt like [La Liberte] was still trying to keep it civil, which I appreciate.”

There is also a video, linked to the lawsuit, that shows the immediate aftermath of the council meeting, in which La Liberte can be seen hugging the boy while his mother is saying to one of the persons filming the incident that “they are having a civil conversation.”

“Unfortunately, despite Reid thrusting her false accusations in front of the eyes of her approximately 1.5 million social media followers and onto the pages of many media publications, the video showing the truth of this interaction has been viewed just four hundred and forty-five (445) times as of August 29, 2018,” the plaintiff says in the lawsuit.

La Liberte shared several examples of online hate she has received, such as:

“Want Out? Your life is probably becoming a living hell and you don’t know how to handle it. I can offer a way out.”

“Racist c**t! Who the f**k do you think you [a]re? You’re sick and twisted c**t & you’ll end up in hell after you die.”

Lawyers for La Liberte, who is of immigrant background herself, argued that Reid, a well-known member of anti-Trump resistance, “set out to destroy” the woman “because she disagrees with La Liberte’s MAGA hat and the beliefs Reid ascribes to those wearing that hat conflict with her ideology.”

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Roseanne Barr © Valerie Macon and Joy Ann Reid © Dia Dipasupil

Reid eventually deleted the photo and apologized, but La Liberte does not consider this to be enough. She is now seeking damages to the tune of $ 75,000.
Reid has repeatedly found herself in hot water for her troubling online presence, including her tweets. She was forced to apologize for a series of homophobic posts on her old blog, the Reid Report, which resurfaced in April. At first, Reid blamed hackers for adding the disparaging remarks to her dormant blog, but later admitted that there was no evidence of tampering. She continued to insist, though, that she “genuinely” did not remember posting the remarks. She also apologized for calling pundit Ann Coulter ‘a man’ in her tweets from 2010 and 2011.

In June, Reid faced backlash for praising Hamas, fanning 9/11 conspiracy, and insulting John McCain and his 2008 running mate Sarah Palin, when a new portion of her Reid Report posts was scrutinized. Reid was again forced to apologize, this time without conjuring up blog-hacking cybercriminals.

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System-wide glitch briefly grounds all domestic Delta flights

By ethan / September 26, 2018

Delta Air Lines passengers across the US were left stranded for over an hour on Tuesday evening, after a technical issue forced the carrier to ground all domestic flights.

Customers of the Atlanta-based top-tier US airline took to Twitter to report the major system outage, which left incoming planes sitting on taxiways waiting for gates to open, and outbound flights unable to depart.

Delta’s website also appeared to go down briefly, with passengers reporting that they could not log in to the system.

In its initial statement, Delta blamed the disruptions on a “technology issue” affecting some of its systems. In order to restore operations to normal as quickly as possible, the airline said it had to issue a groundstop.

Within an hour of the announcement, Delta said it had resolved the issue and its systems were back up and running as usual.

“During the technology issue, Delta issued a mainline groundstop in the U.S. until systems could be brought back up. There was no disruption or safety impact on any Delta flights in the air,” it stated.

Delta provides flights to over 300 destinations in some 60 countries. However, it was only domestic US flights that were grounded in all 48 contiguous states. “International flights are still ongoing,” Delta said in a response to a customer amid the commotion.

While it is not clear what caused the problem in the first place, it is known that Delta’s computer tracking system had not been working.

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‘Sanctions are weapon of war’: Pompeo’s speech at anti-Iran group interrupted by protesters (VIDEO)

By ethan / September 26, 2018

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s speech at the summit of a neo-conservative pro-Israel pressure group was briefly hijacked by anti-war activists. One of the protesters chanted: “We want peace, we don’t want war!”

Pompeo had just begun his fiery speech at the summit hosted by the United Against a Nuclear Iran (UANI) influence group on Tuesday, when it was disrupted by a series of vocal protests.

The first interruption came as Pompeo gleefully greeted the head of Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency, Yosef “Yossi” Cohen, who was among the audience. As the top US diplomat addressed “my friend Yossi,” a woman approached the podium holding a sign reading “Peace with Iran.” The protester shouted something to Pompeo before two bodyguards escorted her out of the room while attendees booed.

As Pompeo attempted to resume his address, another female protester confronted him. The hijab-clad woman in the back row chanted: “We want peace, we don’t want war!” and “Sanctions are weapon of war!.” The protester also faced a chorus of boos from neocon pundits, with some of them shouting for her to “get out.” The woman was promptly removed from the auditorium.

Pompeo then tried to turn the protest into another lecture on how Iranians should act in their own country.

“This is the second time I’ve had someone interrupt a speech on this topic, and I’ve reminded them all that it would be a wonderful thing if they could protest like that in the country of Iran,” he said to a round of applause.

After the rocky start, Pompeo continued his speech, taking aim at the European Union for its decision on Monday to create special payment channels with Iran.EU signatories are working hard to save the Iran nuclear deal that the US has pulled out of, and is now doing its best to dismantle with sanctions and threats to choke off Iran’s oil exports.

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Trump addresses the UN on Tuesday.

Pompeo said that he was “disturbed and indeed deeply disappointed” by the EU’s move, calling it “one of the most counterproductive measures imaginable for peace and security.”

Pompeo was speaking the same day US President Donald Trump and his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani traded barbs at the UN General Assembly session. Taking the floor, Rouhani accused Washington of trying to topple the Iranian government, saying that it was “ironic” that US authorities are not even trying to conceal their plan to “overthrow” him, while, at the same time, inviting him to join them at the negotiating table.

Earlier, Rouhani had blamed the US for enabling the terrorists behind the deadly attack at the Ahvaz military parade, stating that the US goal was to “cause chaos and unrest in our country.”

Under the Trump administration, Washington has been ramping up hostilities towards Tehran, withdrawing from the internationally-acclaimed 2015 nuclear deal and openly waging a propaganda campaign aimed at whipping up anti-government sentiment.

In July, Pompeo announced that the State Department had launched a 24-hour Farsi-language channel in support  of “the long-ignored voice of the Iranian people,” that would reach out to people in Iran and beyond through all media available, including social media, radio and TV.

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NSA employee who took secret files home sentenced to prison

By ethan / September 26, 2018

A former employee of the National Security Agency (NSA) was sentenced to 66 months in prison and three years of probation over keeping top-secret files at his Maryland home. But that’s just one part of a bigger story.

Nghia Hoang Pho, 68, was sentenced on Tuesday in Baltimore, Maryland by US District Judge George L. Russell, III, the Department of Justice announced. It took nearly a year for Pho to be sentenced, since he pleaded guilty to one count of “willful retention of classified national defense information” in October 2017.

According to the DOJ, the Vietnam-born Pho worked as a developer at the NSA’s Tailored Access Operations (TAO) since April 2006. Starting in 2010 and through March 2015, Pho “removed and retained US government property, including documents and writings that contained national defense information classified as Top Secret and SCI” or sensitive compartmented information, and kept them at his Ellicott City, Maryland home.

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© Dado Ruvic

“Pho knew that he was not authorized to remove the material or store it at his home,” his plea agreement said.

READ MORE: Former NSA worker pleads guilty to snatching classified docs

Here is where things get interesting. According to US Attorney Robert K. Hur, Pho’s actions “compromised some of our country’s most closely held types of intelligence, and forced NSA to abandon important initiatives to protect itself and its operational capabilities, at great economic and operational cost.”

Yet Pho pleaded guilty only to keeping the documents at his home, not letting them fall into the hands of a third party – and Hur’s quote is the only bit in the DOJ release to even hint at such a possibility.

Enter the Russians. Original charges against Pho said he had installed security software on his home computer made by the Russian tech firm Kaspersky Lab. Unnamed DOJ officials then told the media that the government believed Russian hackers – who else? – exploited the antivirus software to steal the top secret NSA files. Kaspersky software was quickly banned from all US government computers based on that suspicion.

The company denied the accusations it was being used as a conduit for Russian government hackers, going so far as to offer its source code to the US government for inspection. However, Kaspersky admitted they had, in fact, found NSA malware on an unidentified user’s computer and dated the discovery to September 2014.

According to a Kaspersky statement from October 2017, the unidentified user – who may or may not have been Pho – “appears to have downloaded and installed pirated software on his machines, as indicated by an illegal Microsoft Office activation key generator…which turned out to be infected with malware.”

Having identified the malware, Kaspersky’s software “scanned the computer multiple times,” which resulted in detection of more suspicious files, including a 7-zip archive.

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© Kirill Kallinikov

“The archive itself was detected as malicious and submitted to Kaspersky Lab for analysis, where it was processed by one of the analysts. Upon processing, the archive was found to contain multiple malware samples and source code for what appeared to be Equation malware,” the company said, referring to the TAO by another name. Kaspersky added that the archive was then deleted from their systems and “not shared with any third parties” on the explicit orders of CEO Eugene Kaspersky himself.

Kaspersky left open the possibility that third-party hackers could have used malware to access those files on their own. Just a few months prior, in April, a group calling itself Shadow Brokers had released the code for many of the NSA’s malware tools, putting the agency into unwelcome spotlight.

Analyzing the hack, NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden confirmed that TAO was the branch of the agency engaged in cyber attacks abroad. Snowden suggested at the time that whoever stole the code had lurked in NSA systems because TAO had not cleaned up after themselves, and that his blowing the whistle in 2013 may have alerted the agency to the breach.

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Chinese national arrested in US for allegedly acting as agent of Beijing

By ethan / September 25, 2018

In a move likely to hit relations already soured by a bitter trade war and election interference accusations, the US has now arrested a Chinese national it accuses of working as an unregistered foreign agent.

Ji Chaoqun, 27, was arrested in Chicago on Tuesday. The Chinese national is suspected of working “at the direction of a high-level intelligence officer in the Jiangsu Province Ministry of State Security,”  the complaint against him claims. The intelligence officer allegedly asked him to provide information on engineers and scientists, including US defense contractors, who might be of interest to the ministry. Ji reportedly collected information on eight such individuals, including his fellow Chinese nationals working in the US. Ji reportedly collected information on eight such individuals, including his fellow Chinese nationals working in the US.

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Chinese propaganda is often more subtle than this © Reuters

The man, who entered the US on a student visa to study electrical engineering, enlisted in the US Army Reserves in 2016 as a foreign specialist “vital to the national interest.” In his application at the time, Ji “specifically denied having had contact with a foreign government within the past seven years,” says the complaint.

Ji has been charged with one count of acting as an agent of a foreign government and will appear before a Chicago court on Tuesday evening.

If found guilty of knowingly acting on behalf of the Chinese government, having failed to notify the US attorney general as required by Section 951 of US Code, Ji faces up to 10 years behind bars.

Jiangsu Province Ministry of State Security is a local subdivision of the Chinese Ministry of State Security, an intelligence agency with a specific focus on counter-intelligence, foreign intelligence and political security.

The news comes amid reports that the US Department of Justice has ordered Xinhua news agency, China’s flagship media, and Global Television Network (CGTN), to register under The Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA). The Act, introduced in 1938 to counter Nazi propaganda and used later during the Cold War, was thrust back into spotlight in November last year, when RT America and Sputnik were forced to register under the controversial legislation.

The FARA, which targets primarily foreign persons and organizations doing political, PR or financial work, has been criticized by rights organization as a veiled attempt to silence dissenting media voices.

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© Getty Images

China has pushed back against the DOJ request, saying last week that countries “need to facilitate rather than obstruct media’s normal work, still less politicizing their role.”

Ji’s arrest also comes as Washington and Beijing are locked in a major trade dispute. The US and China have already slapped import tariffs worth billions of dollars on each other’s goods, while lingering trade negotiations to resolve the row have stalled.

On Tuesday, China’s Vice Commerce Minister Wang Shouwen said that it was impossible for Beijing to negotiate while Washington churns out new punitive measures.

READ MORE:China denies meddling in US mid-term elections

“Now that the US has adopted this type of large-scale trade restrictions, they’re holding a knife to someone’s throat. Under these circumstances, how can negotiations proceed?” Wang said, after US tariffs on $ 200bn of Chinese goods came into force.

US President Donald Trump last week accused China of interfering with US elections “by attacking our farmers, ranchers and industrial workers,” the core of Trump’s vote base. Beijing has vehemently denied the allegations.

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Bolton warns of ‘hell to pay’ if Iran crosses US & allies as Rouhani dares Trump to return to talks

By ethan / September 25, 2018

Hours after the US and Iranian leaders took aim at each other at the UN General Assembly, US National Security Adviser John Bolton said at an anti-Iran summit that Tehran will have “hell to pay” if it crosses the US or its allies.

“The murderous regime and its supporters will face significant consequences if they do not change their behavior. Let my message today be clear: We are watching, and we will come after you,” Bolton told the so-called United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI) summit in New York.

“If you cross us, our allies, or our partners; if you harm our citizens…there will indeed be hell to pay,” Bolton said.

Bolton said the US will be “aggressive and unwavering” when it comes to enforcing sanctions on Iran. He also referenced the European Union’s plan for an Iranian payments channel, accusing Brussels of being strong on rhetoric and weak on follow-through. “We do not intend for our sanctions to be evaded by Europe or anybody else,” he said.

The gathering, also attended by the likes of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Mossad Director Yossi Cohen, was not without incident. Footage emerged from the conference showing activists of the grassroots movement Code Pink disrupting the event while shouting that Americans “want peace” with Iran.

Pompeo responded on stage, saying: “This is the second time I’ve had someone interrupt a speech on this topic, and I’ve reminded them all that it would be a wonderful thing if they could protest like that in the country of Iran.” The comment was met with applause from the audience.

The fresh warnings to Iran come after US President Donald Trump took to the UN General Assembly (UNGA) podium on Tuesday to call Iran a “corrupt dictatorship” that sows “chaos, death, and destruction.”

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Trump also referenced sanctions placed on Iran, saying that Washington has launched a campaign of “economic pressure” to deny Tehran the funds it needs to advance its “bloody agenda.”

“We cannot allow the world’s leading sponsor of terrorism to possess the planet’s most dangerous weapons,” the US president said.

Hours later, it was Rouhani’s turn to take to the stage. The Iranian president took aim at the Trump administration, stating that its behavior in international affairs is “authoritarian.”

Rouhani slammed the US for its “illegal” withdrawal of the Iran nuclear deal, while adding that Tehran is pleased with the fact that the rest of the international community did not follow Washington’s lead. “The government of the United States of America, at least the current administration, seems determined to render all international institutions ineffectual,” Rouhani said.

He also accused the US of believing that “might makes right,” and said it does not attempt to conceal the fact that it wishes to overthrow the very Iranian government that it is inviting to talks.

READ MORE: Rouhani slams US for ‘authoritarian’ foreign policy, calls on Trump to return to talks

Rouhani, however, also called for dialogue, saying it can begin with the US coming “back to the negotiating table” that it walked away from, and with ending threats and “unjust sanctions that negate the principles of ethics and international law.”

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Verizon Wireless suffers massive outage across US

By ethan / September 25, 2018

The largest mobile telecommunications provider in the US, Verizon Wireless, has been experiencing massive outages. East Coast and south of the country have been reportedly hit the hardest by the disruption.

Verizon Wireless is currently experiencing an intermittent voice, text and data services interruption for customers in some markets in the south. Our engineers are aware of the issue and are working diligently to resolve it,” the telecom giant’s Support service posted on Twitter.

The East Coast and the south of the country seem to be affected by the outage the most, according to the website DownDetector.

Verzion Wireless enjoys a solid first place as the US largest telecommunications provider. Last year, it had nearly 150 million subscribers.

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Former Canada-US women’s hockey rivals wed in same-sex marriage after long-term relationship

By ethan / September 25, 2018

After being fierce rivals for two Olympic cycles, enemies have become lovers after US women’s hockey captain Meghan Duggan married her long-time girlfriend Gillian Apps of Canada on Tuesday.

READ MORE: Football’s first transgender referee to renew wedding vows with loyal wife

The couple tied the knot on Saturday in Pownal, Maine, Team USA announced on Tuesday. “True love overcomes even the largest of rivalries. Just ask Meghan Duggan,” the team said in a statement.

Both players shared photos of the ceremony on social media with Duggan calling the wedding “the most incredible day of her entire life.”

The women, who swapped their hockey jerseys for white wedding gowns were seen smiling and hugging each other during the ceremony which converted their long-time rivalry into a family life.

The newlyweds have four Olympic gold medals and 10 world titles between them. Duggan, 31, captained the US team to their first Olympic gold since 1998 beating Canada 3-2 in the 2018 PyeongChang Games. Three-time Olympic gold medallist Apps, 34, played against her now-wife at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics and the 2014 Sochi Games before retiring from sport in 2015.

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