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Italy’s 5-Star breaks ties with UKIP in EU parliament, joins Liberals

Author: 
Gavin Jones | Reuters
Mon, 2017-01-09
ID: 
1483982316360780500

ROME: Italy’s anti-establishment 5-Star Movement voted on Monday to cut its ties with the anti-EU UK Independence Party (UKIP) and to hook up instead with the Liberals in the European Parliament.
That prompted UKIP’s former leader Nigel Farage to say 5-Star and its founder Beppe Grillo had sold out and, by teaming up with the “euro-fanatic” Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE), had “joined the EU establishment.”
Grillo had made the surprise proposal on Sunday, saying UKIP had achieved its political goal when Britain voted last year to leave the EU, and maintaining the alliance in the Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy group now made no sense for 5-Star.
Following its credo of direct democracy, it held an online vote of its members in which 78.5 percent backed his proposal.
Grillo published a letter on his blog, 5-Star’s main mouthpiece, expressing his “affection and esteem” for Farage but saying their path had now divided.
If ALDE accepts 5-Star in its ranks, the switch would see the Italian group enter mainstream politics and move away from the anti-system fringes, a shift that might reassure other EU capitals that have grown uneasy about its rising popularity.
5-Star, Italy’s main opposition party, rejects traditional left-right ideological labels and so has no natural home among the main political families in the European Parliament.
Its policies include holding a referendum on membership of the euro zone, universal income support for the poor, tax cuts for small businesses and clean energy. It attacks the Brussels establishment but does not want Italy to leave the EU.
Grillo said he had also approached the Greens about a possible alliance, but was rebuffed.
ALDE is led by former Belgian prime minister Guy Verhofstadt, a keen European federalist whose strongly pro-EU views previously have been ridiculed by 5-Star.
An ALDE official in Brussels said the group would meet on Tuesday to decide how to react to 5-Star’s move, but the union was likely to go ahead. There had already been “positive feedback” from ALDE members about the proposed tie-up, said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
Verhofstadt has said he will run for the presidency of the European Parliament later this month and, if 5-Star joins ALDE, he can expect to count on the support of its 17 members.
It remains to be seen what impact 5-Star’s move will have on its domestic electoral appeal.
Matteo Salvini, head of the right-wing, euro-skeptic Northern League, also said Grillo had sold out and the League’s “doors are open to all 5-Star voters … who want to continue to fight against this Europe and this euro.”
However, consultancy Policy Sonar’s head of political risk, Francesco Galietti, said 5-Star’s move may make it more attractive to moderates. “5-Star is showing goodwill and making it harder to be dismissed as anti-euro lunatics,” he said.

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Lithuania scraps data center over Russian hacking fears

Author: 
Agence France Presse
Mon, 2017-01-09
ID: 
1483974423930264000

VILNIUS, Lithuania: NATO member Lithuania has blocked plans to build the Baltic state’s largest privately-owned data center after intelligence services warned that Russian spies could hack into it, officials said Monday.
A government-appointed commission last year concluded that the proposed $60 million (57-million-euro) facility poses a national security threat, court documents showed.
Darius Jauniskis, head of Lithuania’s State Security Department, told AFP in a statement that his agency was concerned about the “links” shareholders in the planned data center had to the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB).
A Lithuanian security official, speaking to AFP on condition of anonymity, said Russian agents could gain access to the center through a planned fiber-optic cable.
The threat of Russian cybertattacks has become a major concern following a US intelligence report on Russian meddling in that country’s recent presidential election.
Registered in Lithuania, IT companies Arcus Novus and AmberCore DC which planned to open the data storage center, have denied any links to Russian intelligence and have filed a legal complaint.
Arcus Novus director Vidmantas Tomkus told local news agency BNS he was unaware of Russian FSB links but was ready to cooperate with local authorities.
Two years ago, AmberCore DC said it reached a deal with IBM to design the facility near the Lithuanian capital Vilnius and said it would be “a viable option for worldwide clients wishing to house data in a geographically and politically safe environment.”
Since the start of the Ukraine crisis in 2014, Russia has raised tensions in the Baltic region by staging a series of war games involving tens of thousands of troops in areas bordering NATO states like Lithuania.

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Lithuania scraps data center over Russian hacking fears

Author: 
Agence France Presse
Mon, 2017-01-09
ID: 
1483974423930264000

VILNIUS, Lithuania: NATO member Lithuania has blocked plans to build the Baltic state’s largest privately-owned data center after intelligence services warned that Russian spies could hack into it, officials said Monday.
A government-appointed commission last year concluded that the proposed $60 million (57-million-euro) facility poses a national security threat, court documents showed.
Darius Jauniskis, head of Lithuania’s State Security Department, told AFP in a statement that his agency was concerned about the “links” shareholders in the planned data center had to the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB).
A Lithuanian security official, speaking to AFP on condition of anonymity, said Russian agents could gain access to the center through a planned fiber-optic cable.
The threat of Russian cybertattacks has become a major concern following a US intelligence report on Russian meddling in that country’s recent presidential election.
Registered in Lithuania, IT companies Arcus Novus and AmberCore DC which planned to open the data storage center, have denied any links to Russian intelligence and have filed a legal complaint.
Arcus Novus director Vidmantas Tomkus told local news agency BNS he was unaware of Russian FSB links but was ready to cooperate with local authorities.
Two years ago, AmberCore DC said it reached a deal with IBM to design the facility near the Lithuanian capital Vilnius and said it would be “a viable option for worldwide clients wishing to house data in a geographically and politically safe environment.”
Since the start of the Ukraine crisis in 2014, Russia has raised tensions in the Baltic region by staging a series of war games involving tens of thousands of troops in areas bordering NATO states like Lithuania.

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Graham urges Trump to defend democracy with Russia sanctions

Author: 
LAURIE KELLMAN and JILL COLVIN | AP
Mon, 2017-01-09
ID: 
1483901028994435300

WASHINGTON: A top Senate Republican is urging President-elect Donald Trump to defend democracy in the United States and around the world by punishing Russia for trying to interfere in the American presidential election as US intelligence agencies allege.
“He’s going to be the defender of the free world here pretty soon,” Sen. Lindsey Graham, a frequent Trump critic, said in remarks broadcast Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “All I’m asking him is to acknowledge that Russia interfered, and push back. It could be Iran next time. It could be China.”
Trump has consistently refused to blame Russia in the hacks that American intelligence agencies say were directed by Russian President Vladimir Putin. US intelligence officials on Friday briefed the president-elect on their conclusions that the Kremlin interfered in the 2016 election in order to help him win the White House. An unclassified version of the report directly tied Putin to election meddling and said that Moscow had a “clear preference” for Trump in his race against Hillary Clinton.
Trump has repeatedly sought to downplay the allegations, alarming some who see a pattern of skepticism directed at US intelligence agencies and a willingness to embrace the Russian leader. On Friday after receiving a classified briefing on the matter, Trump tried to change the subject to allegations that hadn’t been raised by US intelligence. “Intelligence stated very strongly there was absolutely no evidence that hacking affected the election results. Voting machines not touched!“
He then declared in a series of tweets on Saturday that having a good relationship with Russia is “a good thing, not a bad thing.” Trump added, “only ‘stupid’ people or fools” would come to a different conclusion.
Trump had earlier urged Americans to get on with their lives. Graham retorted in the broadcast Sunday:
“Our lives are built around the idea that we’re free people. That we go to the ballot box. That we, you know, have political contests outside of foreign interference.”
There has been no official comment from Moscow on the report, which was released as Russia observed Orthodox Christmas.
But Alexei Pushkov, an influential member of the upper house of parliament, said on Twitter that “all the accusations against Russia are based on ‘confidence’ and suppositions. The USA in the same way was confident about (Iraqi leader Saddam) Hussein having weapons of mass destruction.”
Margarita Simonyan, the editor of government-funded satellite TV channel RT who is frequently mentioned in the US report, said in a blog post: “Dear CIA: what you have written here is a complete fail.”
During the election, Trump praised the Russian strongman as a decisive leader, and argued that the two countries would benefit from a better working relationship — though attempts by the Obama administration at a “Russian reset” have proved unsuccessful.
At the same time, intelligence officials believe that Russia isn’t done intruding in US politics and policymaking.
Immediately after the Nov. 8 election, Russia began a “spear-phishing” campaign to try to trick people into revealing their e-mail passwords, targeting US government employees and think tanks that specialize in national security, defense and foreign policy, the unclassified version of the report said.
The report said Russian government provided hacked e-mails from the Democratic National Committee and Clinton’s campaign chairman, John Podesta, to the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks. The website’s founder, Julian Assange, has denied that it got the e-mails it released from the Russian government. The report noted that the e-mails could have been passed through middlemen.
Russia also used state-funded propaganda and paid “trolls” to make nasty comments on social media services, the report said. Moreover, intelligence officials believe that Moscow will apply lessons learned from its activities in the election to put its thumbprint on future elections in the United States and allied nations.
The public report was minus classified details that intelligence officials shared with President Barack Obama on Thursday.
In an interview with The Associated Press after the briefing, Trump said he “learned a lot” from his discussions with intelligence officials, but he declined to say whether he accepted their assertion that Russia had intruded in the election on his behalf.
Trump released a one-page statement that did not address whether Russia sought to meddle. Instead, he said, “there was absolutely no effect on the outcome of the election” and that there “was no tampering whatsoever with voting machines.”
Intelligence officials have never made that claim. And the report stated that the Department of Homeland Security did not think that the systems that were targeted or compromised by Russian actors were “involved in vote tallying.”
Trump has said he will appoint a team within three months of taking office to develop a plan to “aggressively combat and stop cyberattacks.”
On Saturday, he said he wanted retired Sen. Dan Coats to be national intelligence director, describing the former member of the Senate Intelligence Committee as the right person to lead the new administration’s “ceaseless vigilance against those who seek to do us harm.”
Coats, in a statement released by Trump’s transition team, said: “There is no higher priority than keeping America safe, and I will utilize every tool at my disposal to make that happen.”
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Jim Heintz contributed to this report from Moscow. Jill Colvin reported from New York.

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Obama says he underestimated impact of Russian hacking

Author: 
Carlos HAMANN | AFP
Mon, 2017-01-09
ID: 
1483901029034435500

WASHINGTON: President Barack Obama on Sunday admitted that he “underestimated” the impact misinformation and hacking can have on democracies, following an intelligence report on Russian meddling in the US presidential election.
In an interview on ABC’s “This Week,” Obama also warned his Republican successor Donald Trump, who takes office in less than two weeks, about the difference between governing and campaigning, saying the president-elect won’t be able to run his presidency “the way you would manage a family business.”
The interview, which was taped Friday, took place the same day that US intelligence agencies released an unprecedented report saying Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered a campaign of hacking, leaking, and media manipulation aimed at undermining Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and boosting Trump.
Although Obama said he was not taken in by Russian hostility to the United States, “I think that I underestimated the degree to which, in this new information age, it is possible for misinformation for cyberhacking and so forth to have an impact on our open societies, our open systems, to insinuate themselves into our democratic practices in ways that I think are accelerating.”
Obama ordered the intelligence report, released to the public Friday, partly “to make sure that we understand this is something that Putin has been doing for quite some time in Europe, initially in the former satellite states where there are a lot of Russian speakers, but increasingly in Western democracies.”
“We have to pay attention,” he said of upcoming elections in European ally nations, warning of possible interference.
Russia initially aimed its unprecedented cyber campaign at damaging a potential Clinton presidency, and then turned to supporting Trump after his victory appeared possible, the report from the Director of National Intelligence said.
Trump, who met the country’s leading intelligence agency chiefs to hear the full report, has accepted the possibility of Moscow’s involvement in hacking US targets, including the Democratic National Committee, but rejected the conclusion that Russia interfered in the election.
Trump’s transition team on Sunday doubled down on its claim that Democrats are to blame for allowing their e-mail accounts to be hacked, flatly rejecting any notion Russia may have affected the election.
“Any attempt, any aspiration to influence our elections failed,” Trump’s senior aide Kellyanne Conway told CNN.
The president-elect has ridiculed US intelligence agencies over their findings and promised he would establish closer ties to Moscow.
However, Obama urged him “to develop a strong relationship with the intelligence community.”
“If we’re not vigilant foreign countries can have an impact on the political debate in the United States in ways that might not have been true 10, 20, 30 years ago in part because of the way news is transmitted and in part because so many people are skeptical of mainstream news organizations,” he said.
“In that kind of environment, where there’s so much skepticism about information that’s coming in, we’re going to have to spend a lot more time thinking about how do we protect our democratic process.”
Obama also emphasized focusing “a lot more” on cyber security.
Obama described his talks with the incoming president as “cordial.”
“He has been open to suggestions,” he added, describing Trump as “very engaging and gregarious.”
“I’ve enjoyed the conversations that we’ve had. He is somebody who I think is not lacking in confidence,” which is “probably a prerequisite for the job.”
However, Obama believes Trump “has not spent a lot of time sweating the details” of policies, something he said could be “both a strength and a weakness.”
Obama also weighed in on Trump’s constant use of Twitter.
“Clearly this worked for him, and it gives him a direct connection to a lot of the people that voted for him,” he said.
But when Trump becomes president, he cautioned, “there are world capitals and financial markets and people all around the world who take really seriously what he says, and in a way that’s just not true before you’re actually sworn in as president.”
Obama said his hardest choice as president was his 2009 decision to order 30,000 more troops into Afghanistan.
Asked whether he believes he failed to live up to his promise to change the country’s trajectory, Obama said his presidency had inspired a new generation of Americans who value diversity, equality and fairness.
That generation is “not the majority yet, but they’re going to be the majority soon,” he said.
“Part of what I’m interested in doing after I get out of the presidency is to make sure that I’m working with that next generation so that they understand you can’t just rely on inspiration.”

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Zuma calls for end to ANC infighting

Author: 
AFP, REUTERS
Mon, 2017-01-09
ID: 
1483911679365665900

JOHANNESBURG: South Africa’s ruling African National Congress (ANC) needs to end infighting and focus on winning back public support, President Jacob Zuma said on Sunday as he tries to unite an increasingly
divided party.
Zuma denounced corruption within the ruling ANC party and admitted that mistakes had cost the party at the ballot box after a year of damaging scandals.
Zuma is set to step down as leader of the African National Congress in December, before he completes the maximum two terms in office as national president in 2019.
He and other senior ANC figures have been embroiled in a series of graft allegations, as South Africa has struggled with a slowing economy, high unemployment and regular violent protests.
In August, the ANC — which came to power in 1994 under Nelson Mandela after the end of apartheid — recorded its worst-ever election results at local polls.
“The ANC has heard the message that the people delivered in August. We accept that we have made mistakes,” Zuma, 74, said in a speech marking the ANC’s 105th anniversary.
“When leaders and members of the ANC are corrupt and steal they are betraying the values of the ANC, the people and our country. We will not allow this.”
Among Zuma’s possible successors are his ex-wife, African Union chief Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa and ANC treasurer-general Zweli Mkhize.
On Saturday, the ANC’s influential women’s league pledged its support for Dlamini-Zuma.
“The ANC will elect a new national leadership toward the end of the year,” Zuma said.
“Too often, comrades fight for leadership positions as they see leadership as the route to material and personal gain.”
As attacks on his presidency grew last year, Zuma survived an attempt by ANC rivals to oust him in November, shrugging off criticism of his conduct by the official anti-graft watchdog and the Constitutional Court.
The watchdog probe uncovered evidence of possible criminal activity in his relationship with the Guptas, a business family accused of wielding undue political influence.
Zuma, who took power in 2009, retains strong loyalty among many rank-and-file ANC party members, as well as its lawmakers.
He struck a humble note at the ANC celebrations in a sports stadium in Soweto, a hotbed of the struggle that ended white-majority rule more than 20 years ago.
“The people have told us that we are too busy fighting each other and we do not pay sufficient attention to their needs,” he said.
“The ANC must unite so that we are able to unite the people against our common enemies — unemployment, poverty and inequality.”
Zuma gave a shortened version of his published speech as heavy rain lashed the venue.
Ramaphosa, who was once touted as a successor to Nelson Mandela, would be the first choice for many investors because his background in commerce suggests he will support more pro-business policies than many in the ANC.
He will, however, face criticism from opponents for his role at platinum producer Lonmin where he was a director and shareholder when violence led to police shooting dead 34 striking miners in 2012. An investigation has cleared him of wrongdoing.
The Women’s League has a block of votes at the party conference and are a critical lobbying group for the ANC, particularly in galvanizing support among female voters.
“After careful consideration and opening our eyes as wide as possible, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma is the only suitable candidate,” the Women’s League said in a statement.
“Her legacy and influence is known and well documented throughout the history pages of the republic and beyond.”
Many South Africans believe it is time the ANC had a female leader, a rarity on a continent with strong patriarchal heritage.
Zuma has previously said that South Afric a is ready for a female president.

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Streets of Ivory Coast cities calm after soldier mutiny

Author: 
REUTERS
Mon, 2017-01-09
ID: 
1483911679215665300

ABIDJAN: The streets of Ivory Coast’s second-largest city Bouake were calm and the military presence was gone, residents said on Sunday, after a two-day soldiers’ mutiny took over the city before spreading across the country.
The mutiny began early on Friday when rogue soldiers demanding bonus pay seized Bouake. Soldiers at military camps in cities and towns across Ivory Coast, including the commercial capital Abidjan, joined the rebellion.
A deal was reached between the government and the soldiers late on Saturday. A mutineer close to the negotiations said soldiers had returned to barracks.
“We have cleared the corridors everywhere as promised and we have been in barracks since last night,” said Sergeant Mamadou Kone.
“All over the country all our men have returned to barracks and wait for their money. The mutiny is over for us.”
He said the soldiers expect to be paid on Monday under the deal brokered by Defense Minister Alain-Richard Donwahi, raising pressure on a government that faces further unrest if demands are not met. In a sign of tensions, renegade troops on Saturday opened fire outside the house in Bouake where the negotiations took place, temporarily trapping Donwahi, witnesses said.
The terms of the final deal were not made public, but sources said that the soldiers demanded 5 million CFA francs ($8,000) each, which for more than 8,000 soldiers could cost tens of billions of CFA francs.
Ivory Coast — which has French-speaking West Africa’s largest economy — has emerged from a 2002-2011 political crisis as one of the continent’s rising economic stars.
But years of conflict and a failure to reform its army, made up of former rebel fighters and government soldiers, have left it hobbled by division.
The revolt comes two years after a near identical uprising which ended when the government offered mutineers amnesty from punishment and a financial settlement. A repeat of the solution raises the risk soldiers will be encouraged to do it again.
Traffic in Bouake, snarled since Friday by roadblocks and barricades, was clear on Sunday, residents said. The gunfire of recent days had stopped.
Other cities were also calm, residents said, including Abidjan, where a day earlier loyalist troops were deployed at strategic locations and residents rushed to buy bottled water and other provisions.
There was no military on the streets on Sunday.
People were seen walking to church, shops were open and traffic moved as normal, a Reuters reporter said.

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Seychelles’ founding president Mancham dies

Author: 
AFP
Mon, 2017-01-09
ID: 
1483911679295665600

VICTORIA: Seychelles’ founding president James Mancham, who spent only a year in office before being ousted in a coup, died Sunday aged 77, his nephew and staff said.
The former politician and lawyer, who spent his years in retirement writing several books and promoting his island nation, was found dead at home.
“His wife informed us that Mancham was not moving and we did the necessary to get him transported to hospital,” said one of his security guards Philippe Figaro.
“Doctors confirmed he was dead,” said the former president’s nephew Derick Pothin.
Mancham, who initially opposed the Indian Ocean archipelago’s breakaway from British rule, won the country’s first election by a small margin in 1976.
A year later he was overthrown in a bloodless coup by his prime minister, France-Albert Rene, while he was attending a Commonwealth conference in London. Rene set up a one-party socialist state.
In 1981, South African mercenaries led by notorious British soldier-for-hire in Africa Col. “Mad Mike” Hoare planned a coup to return the pro-Western Mancham to power.
The group entered the country disguised as a tourist party called “The Ancient Order of Froth-Blowers.”
Their plan, however, came undone when an airport inspector found a weapon in their luggage and a gunfight broke out.
The men then hijacked an Air India flight and forced the pilot to take them to Durban in South Africa to escape.
South Africa’s post-apartheid Truth and Reconciliation Commission later found the apartheid government — keen to do away with leftist powers on the continent — had been involved in planning the attack.
After his ouster, Mancham fled into exile until 1993, when multi-party democracy was restored in the islands.
Mancham again vied for the presidency in 1998 but lost to Rene.
The Seychelles comprise some 115 islands scattered off the east coast of Africa, whose white sandy beaches and turquoise waters have made it a magnet for wealthy foreigners, some of whom also enjoy the country’s reputation as a tax haven.

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