As the U.S. cracks down on North Korea, Russia is giving the rogue state a cyber lifeline.
Russian state-owned company TransTeleCom has provided a new internet connection to Kim Jong Un’s regime, according to North Korea monitoring project 38 North. Cybersecurity experts have also confirmed the new Russian link.
The move strengthens North Korea’s cybersecurity capabilities at a time of heightened tensions with the U.S. — and also reduces its reliance on China.
Previously, North Korean internet traffic was funneled through one sole link, provided by Chinese telecommunications firm China Unicom, according to experts. Now, it’s got some backup from Russia.
That’s significant at a time when the U.S. is ramping up pressure on Chinese companies to sever business ties with North Korea over its missile and nuclear tests.
“This new link means two companies would have to cut business to cut the country off,” said Martyn Williams, who wrote about the news for 38 North and runs the website North Korea Tech. “As TransTeleCom just started under the current situation, it’s presumably not too worried about doing business.”
TransTeleCom said in a brief statement to CNN that it has telecommunications links with North Korea under a deal signed in 2009. It didn’t elaborate.
The new internet connection also boosts North Korea’s cybersecurity strength.
“By increasing the number of internet connections in and out of the country, it increases its resilience to attacks,” said Bryce Boland, cybersecurity expert with FireEye.
News of the Russian support comes after The Washington Post reported that the U.S. Cyber Command carried out an operation attacking hackers affiliated with North Korea’s military spy agency over the weekend.
North Korea is also believed by cybersecurity experts to have been behind a number of high-profile attacks, including on Sony Pictures and global banks.
With Russia involved in North Korea’s internet, things could get more complicated. Attacks against North Korean hackers or computer servers could now travel through Russia’s internet infrastructure.
A U.S. attack on North Korea “could be seen as a provocative move against Russia,” Boland said. “That could potentially escalate tensions between the U.S. and Russia.”
TransTeleCom is owned by Russia’s state-run railway company and has fiber optic cables that follow all the country’s main train lines, including all the way up to the North Korean border.
By providing internet traffic for Kim’s regime, Russia gains more influence with Pyongyang and the ability to peer into North Korean internet traffic.
“It’s a win-win for Russia,” Boland said.
As if the public needed any more evidence that violence is a central part of Antifa’s mission, conservative comedian Steve Crowder has published footage that he and his producer surreptitiously recorded after infiltrating a local Antifa cell and accompanying it to a protest at the University of Utah.
The shockingly candid footage offers a disturbing glimpse into the inner workings of Antifa – a loosely organized band of far-left agitators – and the central tenant of violent resistance that encapsulates the group’s philosophy. The footage primarily focuses on a transgender woman, the purported leader of a small cell of Antifa protesters, who can be heard telling Crowder’s producer that she’s armed with a handgun, and that she expects reinforcements to arrive later with “two AKs”. The organizer can also be heard recommending that Crowder’s producer buy a small blade at a military surplus store and strap it to his ankle “just in case.”
What they show appears to confirm that the group protesters were planning to disrupt a speaking event hosted by conservative commentator and Daily Wire founder Ben Shapiro, whom Antifa has accused of being a Nazi despite the fact that he is Jewish. Shapiro’s recent appearances at UC Berkeley and other university campuses drew protests, with demonstrators labeling him a “fascist.”
But perhaps the most surprising thing about the footage was the fact that mainstream media reporters AND police essentially told Crowder & Co. to get lost when they shared it with them.
In another shocking excerpt, the Antifa leader – whom Crowder didn’t name because he said he didn’t want to “dox” anybody, though he added that police have confirmed that they have been monitoring her – described a plan to lure right-wing demonstrators to a secluded area where, presumably, they would be attacked by Antifa.
“Plain clothes, hard tactics, I don’t think they’ll know what hit them. Because they’re not prepared for what we’re planning,” the organizer says at one point.
In the video, another unnamed Antifa member who goes by the pseudonym Clark can be heard explaining that the difference between Antifa and other activist groups is a “willingness to respond with violence.”
As we’ve reported time and time again, Antifa protesters have been inciting violence across the country since Trump’s upset victory in November, beginning with protests during Trump’s inauguration that quickly turned violent in destructive.
According to Fox 13 News in Salt Lake City, Crowder published the undercover video Thursday that purports to show far left-wing protesters distributing weapons ahead of the speech. Crowder’s production team presented the video to police moments after it was recorded.
Yet after evaluating the video, the police determined that there was no credible threat.
“Police looked at the video, evaluated other information available to them, and determined the individuals did not pose a credible threat that warranted action,” Nelson told Fox 13 News.
Similarly violent clashes instigated by members of the far-left group erupted on the campus of UC Berkeley in early February, where members of the group hurled Molotov cocktails and attacked “Fascists” and “Nazis” who were attending a speaking event by Milo Yiannopoulos, causing extensive property damage on campus.
While both the mainstream media and more mainstream leftists initially defended the group, public sentiment has soured on the group.
Several media organizations – including the LA Times, Washington Post, the Atlantic, Bloomberg and the Wall Street Journal – have criticized the group’s violent tactics. A month ago, it was reported that the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security classified Antifa as a “domestic terrorist” group in internal communications that described them as “primary instigators of violence at public rallies” going back to at least April 2016 when the reports were first published.”
“The coming pension and unfunded government liabilities storm is so big that many of us simply can’t get out of the way, at least not without great difficulty. This holds true not just for the US but for almost all of the developed world. I did a lot of thinking after we published last week’s Thoughts from the Frontline about the coming pension tsunami (subscribe here for free)- especially as I was reading your comments- and I wished I had made my warning even more alarming. So here I am, banging the same drum.
Getting back to the topic, we’re all trapped on small, vulnerable islands. Multiple storms are coming, and evacuation is not an option. All we can do is prepare and then ride them out. And we all have some very important choices to make.
It Will Be Every Man for Himself: Although I’m known far and wide as “the Muddle Through Guy,” the state and local pension crisis is one that we can’t just muddle through. It’s a solid wall that we’re going to run smack into. Police officers, firefighters, teachers and other public workers who expect to receive the promised retirement benefits will be bitterly turned down. And the taxpayers will complain vigorously if their taxes are raised beyond all reason. Pleasing both those groups is not going to be possible in this universe.
So what will happen? It’s impossible to say, just as we don’t know in advance where a hurricane will make landfall: We just know enough to say the storm will be bad for whoever is caught in its path. But here’s the twist: This financial storm won’t just strike those who live on the economic margins; all of us supposedly well-protected “inland” folk are vulnerable, too. The damage won’t be random, but neither will it be orderly or logical or just. It will be a mess.
Some who made terrible decisions will come out fine. Others who did everything right will sustain severe hits. The people we ought to blame will be long out of office. Lacking scapegoats, people will invent some. Worse, it will be a local mess.
Imagine local elections that pit police officers and teachers against once-wealthy homeowners whose property values are plummeting. All will want maximum protection for themselves, at minimum risk and cost. They can’t all win. Compromises will be the only solution- but reaching those unhappy compromises will be unbelievably ugly. In the next few paragraphs I will illustrate the enormity of the situation with a few more details, some of which were supplied this week by readers.
The Problem Is Reaching a Critical Point: Let’s look at a few more hard facts. Pension costs already consume more than 15% of some big-city budgets, and they will be a much larger percentage in the future. That liability crowds out development and infrastructure improvement, not to mention basic services. It forces city leaders to raise taxes and impose “fees.” Let me quote from the always informative 13d letter (their emphasis): Consider the City of Los Angeles, which Paul Hatfield, writing for City Watch L.A., recently characterized as being in a state of “virtual bankruptcy.” After a period of stability going back to 2010, violent crime grew 38% over the two-year period ending in December 2016. Citywide robberies have increased 14% since 2015. One possible reason for this uptick: the city’s population has grown while its police department has shrunk. As Hatfield explains:
The LAPD ranks have fallen below the 10,000 achieved in 2013. But the city requires a force of 12,500 to perform effectively. A key factor which limits how much can be budgeted for police services is the city’s share of pensions costs. They consume 20% of the general fund budget, up from 5% in 2000. It is difficult to increase the level of service while lugging that much baggage.
What about subway service in New York City? The system is fraying under record ridership, and trains are breaking down more frequently. There are now more than 70,000 delays every month, up from about 28,000 per month five years ago. The city’s soaring pension costs are a big factor here as well. According to a Manhattan Institute report by E.J. McMahon and Josh McGee issued in July, the city is spending over 11% of its budget on pensions. This means that since 2014, New York City has spent more on pensions that it has building and repairing schools, parks, bridges and subways, combined.”
There are many large, older cities where there are more police and teachers on the pension payroll than are now working for the city. That problem is compounding, as those workers will live longer, and the pensioners typically have inflation and other escalation clauses to keep their benefits going up.
Further, most cities do not account for increases in healthcare costs (unfunded liabilities) that they will face in addition to the pensions. Candidly, this is just another “a trillion here, a trillion there” problem. Except for the fact that the trillion dollars must be dug out of state and local budgets that total only $2.5 trillion in aggregate. Now, add in the near certainty of a recession within the next five years (and I really think sooner) and the ongoing gridlock in national politics, plus the assorted other challenges and crises we face. I won’t run down the full list- you know it well. I just have to wonder, WTH are we going to do?”
[ Editor’s Note: As I have been covering in my interviews on the Kurdistan referendum, despite the military huffing and puffing, there will be no hasty moves made, as Iran, Turkey, Baghdad and Syria have a full inventory of economic warfare options via sanctions and virtually no international recognition.
As I watched the Kurdish people dance in the streets with joy, I was astounded to see the unconcern over losing their oil export revenue, or control of their airspace and borders, even for imports. Yes this will cost Turkey a lot of trade revenue, but a lot less than a war would.
And if Turkey needs to use its army, Erdogan will be saving it for the unsettled Kurdish issue in his own country and for the growing Syrian Kurdish issue, with a newly combat-experienced SDF army on his border. Still missing from that risk equation is any movement by Erdogan to reach a permanent diplomatic settlement, which I suggest would be to the benefit of all.
The Iraqi Kurds have been getting 25% of the country’s oil revenues for sending 550,000 barrels of oil a day through Baghdad. But this 650,000 barrels a day figure below, going out through Turkey with a good chunk of it being stolen by the Barzani family and where the international banks are partners in the theft, has gotten little Western media press. Why not?
When some Kurdish government workers are months behind on being paid, how could they be so happy, not only having been robbed like that, but about to have what could be the harshest and most effective sanctions to date on any country? That said, China announced today the closing of all North Korean firms and partnerships in China, showing that it is fully on board the last round of UN sanctions.
On the flip side we see the US coalition, as part of its dying gasp in Syria, is actually using the SDF Kurds to take control of the Iraqi border east of Deir Ezzor. This is a militarily offensive act and is in violation of all kinds of UN-charter agreements, any of which are ignored by the US in the pursuit of “its interests”, which is the magic term used to ignore any international laws it chooses. You just can’t make this stuff up… Jim W. Dean ]
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– First published … September 28, 2017 –
In a major U-turn, Turkey has agreed to solely deal with the central Iraqi government over crude oil exports, following a contentious secession referendum held by Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdistan region, the Baghdad government says.
The office of the Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi reported Ankara’s change of mode on Thursday, following a phone call between Abadi and his Turkish counterpart, Binali Yildirim.
Yildirim “confirmed the support of his country on all decisions” taken by the Iraqi government, said the statement. As part of the measures, Turkey would restrict oil export operations to the Baghdad government, it added.
The Turkish PM also emphasized Ankara’s “commitment to cooperate and coordinate fully with the Iraqi government to implement all necessary steps for imposing of federal authorities at land and air ports,” according to the statement.
Ankara has long been buying oil from the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in defiance of Baghdad’s stiff opposition. Oil exports serve as the KRG’s main source of income. The Kurdistan region exports an estimated 650,000 barrels of oil per day through Turkey’s Ceyhan pipeline.
Turkish government spokesman Bekir Bozdag also said Thursday that Ankara is set to conduct its dealings in Iraq with the central government, and that the two premiers will sit down down for talks soon. Turkey is furious at the Monday referendum, which saw over 90 percent of the voters say ‘Yes’ to secession from Iraq, according to regional Kurdish officials.
The unconstitutional referendum, which went ahead despite Baghdad’s objections, has sparked angry reactions from the international community and Iraq’s neighbors, particularly Turkey.The regime in Israel is the only voice supporting the plebiscite.
In a strong-worded speech on Wednesday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan also said Ankara will seal its border with the Kurdistan region and threatened the Kurdish leaders with blocking their key oil exports to other buyers.
Turkey, which is home to the largest Kurdish population in the region, fears that the Kurdistan plebiscite would embolden the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in its push for autonomy in southeastern areas at home.
In the aftermath of the vote, pressure has been building on officials in Erbil, Kurdistan’s regional capital, over the referendum, with regional carriers, including Turkish Airlines, EgyptAir and Lebanon’s Middle East Airlines submitting to Baghdad’s request to suspend their flights serving Iraqi Kurdistan.
A handout photo made available by South Korea’s Defense Ministry shows a F-15K fighter jet carrying a Taurus missile (in green) during the first live-fire drill of the missile in Taean, South Chungcheong Province, South Korea, on Wednesday. (EPA photo)
TOKYO: North Korea threatened to use a nuclear weapon against Japan, further escalating tensions in North Asia after being hit with fresh United Nations sanctions earlier this week.
“Japan is no longer needed to exist near us,” the state-run Korean Central News Agency said on Thursday, citing a statement by the Korea Asia-Pacific Peace Committee. “The four islands of the archipelago should be sunken into the sea by the nuclear bomb of Juche,” it said, a reference to the regime’s ideology of self-reliance.
Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga called the comments, which sent the Korean won lower, “extremely provocative”.
“If North Korea stays the course that it is on, it will increasingly become isolated from the world,” Mr Suga told reporters on Thursday in Tokyo. “Through implementing the new United Nations Security Council resolution and related agreements, the international community as a whole needs to maximise pressure on North Korea so that it will change its policy.”
The latest UN sanctions follow North Korea’s sixth and most powerful nuclear test earlier this month. In late August, the regime launched a ballistic missile over northern Japan in what it said was “muscle-flexing” to protest annual military drills between the US and South Korea. Leader Kim Jong Un called it a “meaningful prelude” to containing Guam. North Korea previously threatened to launch rockets over Japan into the Pacific and toward the U.S. territory.
“A telling blow should be dealt to them who have not yet come to senses after the launch of our ICBM over the Japanese archipelago,” a spokesman for the Korea Asia-Pacific Peace Committee said in Thursday’s KCNA statement. The committee is an affiliate of the ruling Workers’ Party.
KCNA had previously described the rocket as an intermediate-range strategic ballistic missile.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe condemned the launch at the time, while US President Donald Trump reiterated that “all options” were under consideration in responding to North Korea’s provocations.
The threat comes a day after a Japanese lawmaker said some members of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party were considering visiting Pyongyang for talks with North Korean leaders.
“In the LDP there are some people seeking dialogue,” independent lawmaker Antonio Inoki told reporters in Tokyo following a trip to the North Korean capital. “There’s a change in atmosphere at the moment” about the need for talks rather than pressure, he said.
The government in Tokyo had criticised Mr Inoki’s visit, with Mr Suga saying beforehand that all trips to North Korea by Japanese citizens are discouraged.
Mr Abe has stressed the need for pressure on Mr Kim via sanctions, as opposed to talks. He told the Nikkei newspaper this week that Japan was in agreement with the US and South Korea that dialogue would only be possible when North Korea committed to complete and verifiable denuclearisation.
Still, South Korea’s Unification Ministry is considering providing $8 million in humanitarian aid to North Korea through international organizations such as UNICEF, Yonhap News reported Thursday, citing the ministry.
If the aid is approved by the government it’d be the first time in two years that Seoul has provided such assistance to its northern neighbour. In 2015, the ministry sent 11.7 billion won ($10.3 million) through international bodies.
When South Korean President Moon Jae-in came into power in May he promised a new era of engagement with North Korea. But he’s turned more hawkish in recent weeks, seeking stronger warheads on ballistic missiles, stepping up military drills, and embracing a missile defence system he’d questioned.
North Korea also criticised Seoul for supporting the latest UN resolution.
“The South Korean puppet forces are traitors and dogs of the US as they call for harsher ‘sanctions’ on the fellow countrymen,” KCNA said. “The group of pro-American traitors should be severely punished and wiped out with fire attack so that they could no longer survive.”
A woman by the name of Nasrine told RT that her 10-year-old daughter Mlak has already been engaged to an elderly man, a deal which was apparently arranged by the girl’s father against the Nasrine’s will. The mother and daughter were able to receive help from the Yemen Women’s Union, and the deal did not go through.
However, Nasrine says she is still worried for her daughter, fearing the father will one day kidnap her in another attempt to sell her as a child bride.
“I’m totally against the idea of her marrying so young. It doesn’t matter who the man is, she’s just a child and should go to school. She’s only 10, she wouldn’t survive marriage,” Nasrine told RT.
“I don’t know what will happen to us, but my only goal is my daughter’s education. She hasn’t been going to school for two years, because I’m afraid that one day her father will kidnap her and marry her off. Because of that, she has lost the chance to play and learn,” she continued.
Early marriage has become “alarmingly widespread” in war-struck Yemen, UNICEF said in March, as cited by AP.
The organization conducted a survey in six provinces in September. Some 72 percent of women said they were married by the time they were 18, and 44 percent were married by age 15. Before the war, similar surveys 50 percent would say they were married before 18, UNICEF says.
Hayat al-Kinai, an activist from the Yemen Women’s Union who helped Nasrine and Mlak, told RT that the country is now seeing “many stories on early marriage.”
She said that even if mothers do not want to marry their daughters, they feel they are left with little choice.
“The poverty is very, very high, and so they accept to marry their daughters,” she said.
Meanwhile, UNICEF regional director Geert Cappelaere told RT that the problems that exist in Yemen “do not have to be there.”
“These problems are of human making, and the main issue is that Yemen is at war, and so the simple way of stopping all of this is stopping the conflict, is investing back in a country that requires development, investing in the education of children, investing in the health of the children,” he said.
“What is today invested in fighting each other needs to be invested into the most vulnerable Yemenis, the boys and girls of Yemen.”
However, the war in Yemen shows no signs of stopping, with the Saudi-led coalition’s campaign in its third year.
The Saudi-led coalition, backed by the US, launched an aerial campaign against Shiite Houthi rebels in March 2015, and later launched a ground operation. The coalition is allied to Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi, who fled to Saudi Arabia when the Houthis took power in Yemen.
A senior UN official estimated in January that the death toll in Yemen’s conflict had exceeded 10,000 people, including 4,000 civilians. Some 17 million people in the war-torn country are also at imminent risk of famine, according to UN estimates.
The coalition has long been accused of civilian casualties, with a September report by the Yemen Data Project concluding that one-third of Saudi airstrikes hit hospitals, schools, and other civilian targets. Those figures were denounced as “vastly exaggerated” by Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir, who spoke to the Guardian.
Saudi Arabia has denied targeting innocent Yemenis, instead accusing the Houthis of using civilian installations to conceal weapons and launch missile attacks against Riyadh with help from Iran – claims which Tehran denies.
Meanwhile, the US continues to support Saudi Arabia, with President Donald Trump striking an arms deal with Riyadh last month which totaled $350 billion. The agreement is said to be aimed at bolstering security “in the face of Iranian threats.”