White extremists turn to a leader to protect Western values: Vladimir Putin

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The New York Times reports: As the founder of the Traditionalist Worker Party, an American group that aims to preserve the privileged place of whiteness in Western civilization and fight “anti-Christian degeneracy,” Matthew Heimbach knows whom he envisions as the ideal ruler: the Russian president, Vladimir V. Putin.

“Russia is our biggest inspiration,” Mr. Heimbach said. “I see President Putin as the leader of the free world.”

Throughout the presidential campaign, Donald J. Trump mystified many on the left and in the foreign policy establishment with his praise for Mr. Putin and his criticism of the Obama administration’s efforts to isolate and punish Russia for its actions in Crimea and eastern Ukraine. But what seemed inexplicable when Mr. Trump first expressed his admiration for the Russian leader seems, in retrospect, to have been a shrewd dog whistle to a small but highly motivated part of his base.

For Mr. Heimbach is far from alone in his esteem for Mr. Putin. Throughout the collection of white ethnocentrists, nationalists, populists and neo-Nazis that has taken root on both sides of the Atlantic, Mr. Putin is widely revered as a kind of white knight: a symbol of strength, racial purity and traditional Christian values in a world under threat from Islam, immigrants and rootless cosmopolitan elites. [Continue reading…]

Reuters reports: U.S. President-elect Donald Trump is a clever man and will quickly understand his new responsibilities, Russian President Vladimir Putin said in an interview with NTV TV.

Putin has spoken previously of his hope that Trump will help restore U.S.-Russia relations, and analysts said he was unlikely to want to dial up anti-Western rhetoric before Trump’s inauguration in January.

“Trump was an entrepreneur and a businessman. He is already a statesman, he is the head of the United States of America, one of the world’s leading countries,” NTV quoted Putin as saying in the interview on www.ntv.ru on Sunday.

“Because he achieved success in business, it suggests that he is a clever man. And if (he is) a clever man, then he will fully and quite quickly understand another level of responsibility. We assume that he will be acting from these positions,” Putin said. [Continue reading…]

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Congress authorizes Trump to arm Syrian rebels with anti-aircraft missiles

Julian Pecquet writes: The House voted for the first time today to explicitly authorize the incoming Donald Trump administration to arm vetted Syrian rebels with anti-aircraft missiles.

While the language in the annual defense bill also creates restrictions on the provision of the controversial weapons, it represents a win for Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain, R-Ariz., a fervent advocate of helping the rebels resist President Bashar al-Assad and his Russian and Iranian allies. The Senate is expected to pass the bill next week.

Until now, the transfer of man-portable air-defense systems, or MANPADs, had been implicitly authorized in the absence of an outright ban. Critics, however, view the new provision as tantamount to a policy recommendation for the president-elect. [Continue reading…]

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Fearing abandonment by Trump, CIA-backed rebels in Syria mull alternatives

The Washington Post reports: Three years after the CIA began secretly shipping lethal aid to rebels fighting against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, battlefield losses and fears that a Donald Trump administration will abandon them have left tens of thousands of opposition fighters weighing their alternatives.

Among the options, say U.S. officials, regional experts and the rebels themselves, are a closer alliance with better-armed al-Qaeda and other extremist groups, receipt of more sophisticated weaponry from Sunni states in the Persian Gulf region opposed to a U.S. pullback, and adoption of more traditional guerrilla tactics, including sniper and other small-scale attacks on both Syrian and Russian targets.

Just over a year ago, the opposition held significant territory inside Syria. Since then, in the absence of effective international pushback, Russian and Syrian airstrikes have relentlessly bombarded their positions and the civilians alongside them. On the ground, Syrian government troops — bolstered by Iran, Lebanon’s Hezbollah, and Shiite militia forces from Iraq — have retaken much of that ground.

From a slow and disorganized start, the opposition “accomplished many of the goals the U.S. hoped for,” including their development into a credible fighting force that showed signs of pressuring Assad into negotiations, had Russia not begun bombing and Iran stepped up its presence on the ground, said one of several U.S. officials who discussed the situation on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly.

The United States estimates that there are 50,000 or more fighters it calls “moderate opposition,” concentrated in the northwest province of Idlib, in Aleppo and in smaller pockets throughout western and southern Syria, and that they are not likely to give up.

“They’ve been fighting for years, and they’ve managed to survive,” the U.S. official said. “Their opposition to Assad is not going to fade away.” [Continue reading…]

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Philippine proponent of vigilante justice says he has ‘good rapport’ with Trump who supports his war on drugs

The Washington Post reports: Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s plan to “kill all” the country’s suspected drug users and dealers has many foreign critics, including the United States, the European Parliament and the International Criminal Court. It now has at least one high-profile supporter: President-elect Donald Trump, at least according to Duterte.

In a statement Saturday, Duterte shared details of a seven-minute conversation that took place Friday. He said that during the call, Trump endorsed his campaign against drug users and dealers — a campaign that has left at least 4,500 Filipinos dead in about five months. Trump told Duterte that he was doing it the “right way,” according to Duterte’s account.

“I could sense a good rapport, an animated President-elect Trump,” he added. “And he was wishing me success in my campaign against the drug problem.” [Continue reading…]

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New forms of fascism are rising east and west as a result of our collective failure in Syria

While addressing the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade in the Irish Parliament, Robin Yassin-Kassab said: Liberated Aleppo is falling. The suburbs of Damascus are falling, or have already fallen, and been cleansed of their recalcitrant population. The families of foreign militiamen are moving in. Silence is returning to a devastated and demographically-changed Syria. This presentation is therefore more a lament for the defeated Syrian revolution, and for our failure to help it, than a policy recommendation.

From spring 2011, in the context of the Arab Spring, millions from all backgrounds protested peacefully against torture, crony capitalism, corruption and poverty, and for freedom, dignity, and social justice. They called for the unity of all sects and ethnicities.

The Assad regime responded with extreme repression, shooting protestors dead, torturing many, including children, to death, and prosecuting a mass rape campaign. By summer 2012 it had provoked an armed uprising of military defectors and civilian volunteers grouped under the umbrella term ‘Free Syrian Army’.

The regime deliberately started a war because it knew a serious reform process would end in its demise. It calculated (correctly) that in a war situation it could count on strong foreign allies – unlike its opponents. And it was following the blueprint laid out by Bashaar al-Assad’s father Hafez. In the late 70s he had met a widely-based challenge with severe repression. This provoked a desperate armed uprising by the Muslim Brotherhood in the city of Hama in 1982. The regime responded by razing the city centre, killing tens of thousands. The memory of this destruction kept Syrians silent for the next three decades. [Continue reading…]

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Trump’s security pick, Michael Flynn, brooks no dissent and has vision of global war

The New York Times reports: More problematic [than his criticisms of the U.S. intelligence community] from the military’s perspective was Mr. Flynn’s willingness to share intelligence with other countries. He returned to Washington at the end of 2010, and found himself under investigation for sharing sensitive data with Pakistan about the Haqqani network, arguably the most capable faction of the Taliban, and for providing highly classified intelligence to British and Australian forces fighting in Afghanistan.

His superiors eventually concluded that he was trying to prod Pakistan to crack down on the Haqqanis (they have yet to do so), and the general remains unapologetic about sharing intelligence with British and Australian forces. “They’re our closest allies! I mean, really, we’re fighting together and I can’t share a single piece of paper?” he said in an interview last year.

Around the same time, he was also getting to know Michael A. Ledeen, a controversial writer and former Reagan administration official. The two men connected immediately, sharing a similar worldview and a belief that America was in a world war against Islamist militants allied with Russia, Cuba and North Korea. That worldview is what Mr. Flynn came to be best known for during the presidential campaign, when he argued that the United States faced a singular, overarching threat, and that there was just one accurate way to describe it: “radical Islamic terrorism.”

He has posted on Twitter that fear of Muslims is rational, written that Islamic law is spreading in the United States, and said that Islam itself is more like a political ideology than a religion. The United States, he wrote in “Field of Fight,” a book about radical Islam he co-wrote with Mr. Ledeen, is “in a world war, but very few people recognize it.”

Mr. Flynn saw the Benghazi attack in September 2012 as just one skirmish in this global war. But it was his initial reaction to the event, immediately seeking evidence of an Iranian role, that many saw as emblematic of a conspiratorial bent. Iran, a Shiite nation, has generally eschewed any alliance with Sunni militants like the ones who attacked the American diplomatic compound.

For weeks, he pushed analysts for evidence that the attack might have had a state sponsor — sometimes shouting at them when they didn’t come to the conclusions he wanted. The attack, he told his analysts, was a “black swan” event that required more creative intelligence analysis to decipher. [Continue reading…]

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Eric Trump assures Palestinian American comedian there will be no registry of Muslims

The Guardian reports: Comedian Mo Amer was glad of his upgrade when it pinged on the board. His tiredness – he had only just arrived back from Australia, and was heading from the US to Scotland – slipped away as he thought of the first-class sleep he would get.

But when he got to the front of the jet bridge, there was a strange atmosphere.

“You know when there’s a celebrity on the flight there’s a different energy on the plane,” Amer said. “I walked to my seat and I could see the lady behind me looked perturbed by something.”

He followed her eyes to the seat next to his, where he saw the famous man, unmistakable, wearing a blue sweater emblazoned with his family crest. “I’m like: are you kidding? Eric Trump?”


Amer was born in Kuwait to Palestinian parents, and came to America as an asylum-seeker after the first Gulf War and became a US citizen in 2009. He saw his assignment as a golden opportunity, both as a Muslim, an American and a comedian.

“I put my bags up, I sat down, introduced myself as Mohammed,” Amer told the Guardian. Then he got straight to the point. “I said: ‘I’m a Muslim. I’m not gonna do that Muslim ID thing. That’s not gonna fly.’”

Eric Trump’s response was not exactly on-message with his father’s campaign. “His exact words were: ‘come on, man, don’t believe everything you read, we’re not going to do that’,” Amer said. Representatives for president-elect Trump did not respond to a request for clarification on the policy, or Trump’s past suggestion of a registry of Muslims. [Continue reading…]

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Trump America: Bystanders watch as drunk white men shouting ‘Donald Trump’ attack American Muslim woman on NYC subway

BuzzFeed reports: A Muslim woman was verbally and physically attacked on a New York City subway Thursday night by three drunk white men who repeatedly yelled “Donald Trump” and attempted to remove her hijab, police said.

According to Yasmin Seweid, a business student at Baruch College in Manhattan, nobody else on the train came to her aid during the incident.

The 18-year-old told the New York Daily News that she had just left an event on campus Thursday night when three men approached her on an uptown 6 subway near the 23rd Street stop.

They yelled President-elect Donald Trump’s name over and over, and said to her, “Look, it’s a fucking terrorist,” Seweid said in a Facebook post on Friday.

She said they also yelled, “Get the hell out of the country!” and, “You don’t belong here!”

Seweid was born in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, to Egyptian immigrant parents, she told the Daily News. [Continue reading…]

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Somali refugees are not a threat

Will Oremus writes: We still don’t know exactly what motivated the Ohio State student who wounded 11 people with his car and a knife on Monday, before a campus police officer shot and killed him. We know that the student, Abdul Razak Ali Artan, was a Somali refugee, and that he felt Muslims were subject to unfair scrutiny in his community, and in the United States in general. We know that he posted a rant on Facebook just minutes before the attack, saying he was “willing to kill a billion infidels in retribution for a single DISABLED Muslim.”

We also know that ISIS claimed credit for the attack on Tuesday, but that doesn’t tell us much. One of the group’s shrewdest strategies has been to embrace violent acts by Muslims around the globe, whether or not it played a direct role in them. The tactic makes the group seem more potent and broad-based than it really is. President-elect Donald Trump readily accepted this claim, highlighting the ISIS link along with Artan’s Somali background in a tweet on Tuesday.


The tweet echoed Trump’s past warnings about the threat posed by Somali refugees in the United States, suggesting they will face increased scrutiny under his presidency. It’s also possible that he will follow through on his campaign proposal to ban refugees from the country, despite the ongoing violence there. Somalis in Columbus, and across the country, are on edge: Many have children and other close relatives in Somalia, or in Kenyan refugee camps, who are in the midst of the already arduous application process for a family reunification visa.

To blame Somalis and ISIS for acts of violence like Artan’s, and to respond with a crackdown on the group as a whole, may strike some as an understandable reaction. But in fact, it is a misdiagnosis of the problem — and a deeply misguided solution. That’s not only because it’s unfair to blame the group for the sins of a tiny number of individuals. It’s also because it’s counterproductive and misses the point.

The time I’ve spent with Columbus’ Somali community, working on a master’s thesis about young Somalis and the threat of radicalization in 2010 and 2011, revealed that its troubles stem not from a lack of scrutiny, but a surfeit of it. Many of its members escaped the armed conflict in Somalia only to face new obstacles in the U.S. heartland: poverty, alienation, and a wholly justified sense of persecution. The reaction from Columbus Somalis in the wake of Artan’s attack was one of horror — at the act itself, but also at the likely consequences for their community. This was Somali Americans’ worst nightmare, and something that many of them have been working for years to prevent. [Continue reading…]

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How to spot fake news: Research by Reuters establishes that ‘a tweet that is entirely in capital letters is less likely to be true’

NiemanLab reports: When it comes to automating the process of spotting breaking news, solving one problem can create several more.

Reuters discovered this firsthand over the past two years as it built Reuters News Tracer, a custom tool designed to monitor Twitter for major breaking news events as they emerge. While reporters curate their own lists of sources to get rapid alerts on stories they’re already looking for, the Reuters tool is designed to solve a different problem: detecting breaking news events while early reports are still coming in.

The development of the tool, which Reuters is speaking about publicly today the first time, emerged out of “an existential question for the news agency,” said Reg Chua, Reuters’ executive editor of data and innovation. “A large part of our DNA is built on the notion of being first, so we wanted to figure out how to build systems that would give us an edge on tracking this stuff at speed and at scale. You can throw a million humans at this stuff, but it wouldn’t solve the problem,” he said.

Once the tool identifies what it thinks are emerging stories, it clusters relevant tweets into events, generating information, and metadata about what that story might be about. Tweets that mention “explosions” and “bombs,” for example, would be clustered into a single story about a potential terrorist attack.

But detection is only the first, and probably easiest, problem to solve. Another challenge was figuring out how to identify which events are actually interesting, newsworthy, and not spam. Added to that is the problem of filtering out assertions of opinions (“I think it’s terrible that this event happened”) from assertions of facts (“This event happened”) and automating the processing of verifying whether reports are actually true.

The verification challenge was the most interesting and most valuable problem to solve, Chua said. Pulling from academic research on the verification of social media reports, Reuters designed its algorithm to assign verification scores to tweets based on 40 factors, including whether the report is from a verified account, how many people follow those who reported the news, whether the tweets contain links and images, and, in some cases, the structure of the tweets themselves. “Amazingly enough, a tweet that is entirely in capital letters is less likely to be true,” Chua said. [Continue reading…]

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NASA’s indispensable role in climate research

Adam Frank writes: On April 1, 1960, the newly established National Aeronautics and Space Administration heaved a 270-pound box of electronics into Earth orbit. In those days, getting anything into space was a major achievement. But the real significance of that early satellite, Tiros-1, was not its survival, but its mission: Its sensors were not pointed outward toward deep space, but downward, at the Earth.

Tiros-1 was the first world’s first weather satellite. After its launch, Americans would never again be caught without warning as storms approached.

This small piece of history says a lot about the call by Bob Walker, an adviser to President-elect Donald J. Trump who worked with his campaign on space policy, to defund NASA’s earth science efforts, moving those functions to other agencies and letting it focus on deep-space research. “Earth-centric science is better placed at other agencies where it is their prime mission,” he told The Guardian.

NASA critics have long wanted to shut the agency out of research related to climate change. The problem is, not only is earth science a long-running part of NASA’s “prime mission,” but it is uniquely positioned to do it. Without NASA, climate research worldwide would be hobbled. [Continue reading…]

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Don’t freak out about Trump’s cabinet full of generals

Rosa Brooks writes: Generals, generals, generals! These days, you can’t shake a stick around Chateau Trump without hitting a retired general — and you can’t shake a stick around America’s major media outlets without hitting an op-ed on the perils of appointing retired generals to cabinet positions.

It’s true that Donald Trump seems to have a fetish for retired generals. Trump has named retired Army Lt. Gen. Mike Flynn as his national security advisor and now retired Marine Gen. James Mattis is the president-elect’s top pick for secretary of defense. A gaggle of other retired four-stars are also under consideration for cabinet-level positions in the Trump administration, including Army Gen. David Petraeus, said to be in the running for secretary of state, and Marine Gen. John Kelly, reportedly on the short list for secretary of homeland security.

With the exception of Flynn, whose inflammatory rhetoric on the campaign trail alienated even many of his onetime fans, the retired officers in the running for cabinet spots are widely respected on both sides of the political aisle. Nonetheless, many commentators have expressed concern about the possibility of a cabinet stocked with former four-stars. Writing in the Washington Post, my friends Phil Carter and Loren DeJonge Schulman argue that “if appointed in significant numbers,” retired officers “could undermine … civilian control of an apolitical military.” Op-eds and articles in the New York Times, The Associated Press, and dozens of other publications — including this one — raise similar objections.

Most of these objections have been articulated by people I know and respect, and as the author of a recent book called How Everything Became War and the Military Became Everything, you might expect me to share these objections. For some reason, though, I’m having trouble getting worked up about the number of generals visiting Trump Tower. (Full disclosure: Both Mattis and Petraeus were kind enough to write nice blurbs for my book, which makes me feel quite fond of them.)

I know I’ll probably get an “F” in Civil-Military Relations Theory for saying this, but I don’t much care if Donald Trump appoints one retired general to his cabinet or 10.

In part, this is because I think we have much bigger problems to worry about right now, such as the resurgent white nationalist movement emboldened by Trump’s victory, the possibility of significant reversals on voter rights, climate change, and a host of other issues. And, more broadly, the simple fact that the White House will soon be occupied by a man who devotes the wee hours of each morning to tweeting insults at Broadway performers, former beauty pageant winners, and random journalists.

Against this backdrop, a cabinet stocked with retired military officers is the least of my worries. (And, frankly, anyone who thinks Rudy Giuliani would make a better secretary of state than David Petraeus needs to have their head examined.) But it’s more than that. I also think that the current outpouring of concern over Trump’s flirtations with retired generals confuses form with substance. [Continue reading…]

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