Computers not safe, says Trump

Mon, 2017-01-02

PALM BEACH, Florida: President-elect Donald Trump says that “no computer is safe” when it comes to keeping information private, expressing new skepticism about the security of online communications his administration is likely to use for everything from day-to-day planning to international relations.
Trump rarely uses e-mail or computers, despite his frequent tweeting.
“You know, if you have something really important, write it out and have it delivered by courier, the old-fashioned way. Because I’ll tell you what: No computer is safe,” Trump told reporters during his annual New Year’s Eve bash. “I don’t care what they say.”
Trump has repeatedly cast aside allegations by US intelligence agencies that Russia tried to influence the presidential election through hacking. President Barack Obama earlier this week ordered sanctions on Russian spy agencies, closed two Russian compounds and expelled 35 diplomats the US said were really spies. The Russian government has denied the allegations.
Trump, who has said that he plans to meet with intelligence officials next to week to learn more about the allegations, said he wants US officials “to be sure because it’s a pretty serious charge.” He pointed to intelligence failures over the existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq before the US invasion, and declared himself an expert in the area.
“I know a lot about hacking. And hacking is a very hard thing to prove, so it could be somebody else,” he said.
He added, cryptically, that he also knows “things that other people don’t know. And so they cannot be sure of the situation.”
Trump made the comments during his annual New Year’s Eve bash at his Mar-a-Lago club. Hundreds of guests gathered in the club’s grand ballroom, including action star Sylvester Stallone and romance novel model Fabio. Reporters were invited to watch as guests arrived.
Earlier in the day, Trump ditched his press pool, traveling to play golf at one of his clubs without a pool of journalists on hand to ensure the public has knowledge of his whereabouts.
A member of Trump’s golf club in Jupiter, Florida, posted a photo on Twitter of Trump on the greens Saturday morning and said about 25 US Secret Service agents accompanied the president-elect. Reporters had not been advised of the visit to the club.
Transition aide Stephanie Grisham confirmed that Trump had made a “last-minute trip” to Trump National Golf Club Jupiter, which is about a half-hour drive from Mar-a-Lago, where Trump has been spending the holidays. He returned to the estate at midafternoon.
Grisham said that she and other aides weren’t aware of the trip and “appreciate everyone’s understanding.”
“We are in the home stretch of this transition period and don’t anticipate any additional situations like this between now and inauguration,” she said in a statement.
Before he went golfing Saturday, Trump tweeted an unusual New Year’s message to friends and foes: “Happy New Year to all, including to my many enemies and those who have fought me and lost so badly they just don’t know what to do. Love!“
With the arrival of 2017, another New Year’s message moved on Trump’s Twitter account at about midnight.
This one was decidedly more upbeat, addressed to all Americans, and including an abbreviation for his campaign slogan: Make America Great Again.
“To all Americans- HappyNewYear & many blessings to you all! Looking forward to a wonderful & prosperous 2017 as we work together to #MAGA.”

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‘Bad Boys of Brexit’ headed for screen

Mon, 2017-01-02

LONDON: Three film production companies including Netflix are interested in making a warts-and-all screen dramatization of Nigel Farage’s insurgent Brexit campaign, according to an associate of Farage.
This would be another extraordinary twist for Farage, who from the fringes of British politics achieved his life’s goal when Britons voted to leave the European Union last June, and has since befriended US President-elect Donald Trump.
The project would be based on “The Bad Boys of Brexit,” an account of Farage’s campaign by Arron Banks, a multi-millionaire British insurance tycoon who bankrolled the campaign, according to Andy Wigmore, a spokesman for Banks.
“We have three interested parties in the rights to the book and we will be meeting representatives from three studios including a Netflix representative on Jan. 19 in Washington DC,” Wigmore told Reuters in a text message.
Farage, Banks, Wigmore and others in their circle will travel to Washington for Trump’s inauguration as president, which will take place on Jan. 20.
“We have invited all of them (the studio representatives) to our … party … We have also invited many of Trump’s team to the event,” said Wigmore.
Netflix did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The Sunday Telegraph newspaper earlier reported that Hollywood studio Warner Bros. was also interested, but it was unclear from Wigmore’s texts to Reuters whether those who have approached Banks included representatives of Warner Bros.
The subtitle of Banks’ book is “Tales of Mischief, Mayhem and Guerrilla Warfare in the EU Referendum Campaign.” It is described on its publisher’s website as “an honest, uncensored and highly entertaining diary of the campaign that changed the course of history.”
Asked whether Farage was likely to appear as himself in any screen adaptation of his campaign, Wigmore said: “Yes we all expect to make a Quentin Tarantino appearance,” a reference to the director’s cameo appearances in his own movies.
Despite handing over the reins of the anti-EU party UKIP to a successor in November, Farage, typically pictured with pint of beer in hand, remains the most prominent face of Brexit in the eyes of many Britons and is rarely out of the headlines.
He spoke at a Trump rally during the US presidential election campaign and visited the president-elect at Trump Tower after his election. A picture of the two men smiling broadly in front of a pair of golden doors circulated widely.
Trump later embarrassed Prime Minister Theresa May’s government by tweeting that many people would like to see Farage represent Britain as ambassador to the United States.

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Gambia leader accuses West African bloc of declaring war

Mon, 2017-01-02

BANJUL: Gambian leader Yahya Jammeh accused West African regional body ECOWAS of declaring war, after it said it was putting forces on alert in case he refused to step down at the end of his mandate this month.
Jammeh, who has vowed to stay in power despite losing a Dec. 1 election to rival Adama Barrow, also promised to defend Gambia against any outside aggression, in a New Year’s speech broadcast on state TV.
The veteran leader initially conceded defeat in the vote, then changed his mind days later — raising fears that regional powers might have to intervene to oust him. His mandate runs out on Jan. 19.
Marcel de Souza, commission president for the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), said last week it had put standby forces on alert.
In his speech, Jammeh decried “the resolution of ECOWAS on the current situation to implement the results of Dec 1, 2016 presidential election by whatever means possible,” apparently acknowledging again that the poll did not go in his favor.
“It is in effect a declaration of war and an insult to our constitution,” he said.
“Let me make it very clear that we are ready to defend this country against any aggression.
“My government will never opt for such confrontation but defending our sovereignty is a sacred duty for all patriotic Gambians.”
Barrow’s surprise victory and Jammeh’s initial decision to concede after 22 years in power was initially seen as a moment of hope on continent where autocratic leaders are becoming more entrenched.
“ECOWAS has also disqualified (itself) to provide mediation services as a genuine mediator has to be neutral and impartial and win the trust and confidence of the parties to the conflict,” he said. Jammeh said on Wednesday he would not leave office at the end of his mandate until a court rules on his challenge to the outcome of this month’s election.
“Unless the court decides the case, there will be no inauguration (of Barrow) on the 19 January,” said Jammeh.

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Burundi minister shot dead in capital

Mon, 2017-01-02

NAIROBI: A gunman killed Burundi’s environment and water minister early on Sunday, police said, the first senior government figure to be murdered in nearly two years of political violence.
Emmanuel Niyonkuru, 54, was attacked as he traveled home in the capital Bujumbura, police spokesman Pierre Nkurikiye said in a tweet.
Violent protests erupted early in 2015 after President Pierre Nkurunziza said he would seek a third term — a move opponents said violated the constitution and a peace deal that ended an ethnically charged civil war.
At least 450 people have died in clashes between protesters and security forces, tit-for-tat killings and a failed coup, stoking fears of wider unrest in a region still haunted by the 1994 genocide in neighboring Rwanda.
“The minister of water and environment was shot … as he was getting home,” Nkurikiye said.
Four people had been arrested for questioning, including the owner of a bar that Niyonkuru visited regularly and two security personnel who were guarding his home. The fourth is a woman who was with the minister when he was killed.
President Nkurunziza said on Twitter the minister had been assassinated and offered condolences “to the family and all Burundians.”
Nkurunziza won re-election in July 2015 in a poll largely boycotted by the opposition.
Elsewhere in Burundi, police said seven people were injured when an unknown attacker threw a grenade in a church where people were praying.
That attack occurred on Saturday night in Rugazi district, 40 km (25 miles) north of Bujumbura.
Nkurikiye told Reuters the church where the attack took place was not registered with the government and had been erected illegally. Its leader had been detained for investigation, he said.

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S. Korean president denies wrongdoing in scandal

Mon, 2017-01-02

SEOUL: South Korea’s impeached President Park Geun-hye on Sunday broke a month-long silence over her alleged role in a corruption scandal, publicly denying charges of wrongdoing and saying that the accusations against her were “fabrication and falsehood.”
Park also said that she was set up over allegations that she ordered the government to support a 2015 merger of two affiliates of South Korean conglomerate Samsung, a deal which has become central to the investigation.
“It’s completely framed,” she was quoted by local media as saying, without elaborating.
Park is being investigated over accusations that she gave favors to big businesses in return for financial contributions to entities controlled by her friend, Choi Soon-sil.
On Sunday, Park denied Choi was allowed to wield undue and wide-reaching influence over state affairs.
In a hastily arranged briefing over tea, the leader met reporters from domestic media in her first event since being impeached by Parliament on Dec. 9.
Park’s fate is in the hands of Constitutional Court judges who have up to 180 days to uphold the impeachment or reinstate her.
She last appeared in public on Nov. 29, offering to step down if Parliament could agree on a way for her to leave office.
Opposition parties rejected that offer and led a motion to impeach Park by a wide margin, joined by some members of her own Saenuri Party. The Constitutional Court is set to begin hearing arguments from both sides.
Park has denied wrongdoing previously but apologized for carelessness in her ties with Choi, a friend for four decades, who has also denied wrongdoing. Choi is in detention while on trial.
Park said on Sunday that the decision by the country’s national pension fund to back a merger between two Samsung Group affiliates was “a just policy decision” made for national interest, and that the deal was supported by many brokerage firms at the time.
“I did not have an iota of thinking to help anyone and the thought never crossed my mind,” Park said.
“This is not the place to tell you all the details, but what I can clearly say now is that I did nothing whatsoever to favor anyone or collude with anyone to do that.”
The merger in 2015 of Samsung Group affiliates Cheil Industries Inc. and Samsung C&T Corp. has become a key part of the probe into influence peddling at the pinnacle of South Korean politics.

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Bangladesh ruling party lawmaker shot dead

Mon, 2017-01-02

NEW DELHI: A lawmaker from Bangladesh’s ruling party has been shot dead by masked men in northern Bangladesh, police said Sunday.
Local police chief Atiar Rahman said Manzurul Islam Liton, a national legislator from Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s Awami League party, was shot at his home in Gaibandha district on Saturday evening.
Rahman said family members told police that four masked men arrived on motorcycles, entered the house and shot Liton at close range before running away.
He was declared dead by doctors at a local hospital. Police didn’t immediately give any more details.
Bangladesh has been experiencing threats in recent years from militants possibly inspired by Daesh.
Dozens of atheist and secular bloggers, writers, publishers, members of religious minority groups and foreigners have been attacked and killed in recent years.
In a major attack last July, a group of young men killed 20 hostages, including 17 foreigners, inside a restaurant in Dhaka, Bangladesh’s capital. Daesh claimed responsibility for the attack, but Bangladeshi authorities said it was the work of Jumatul Mujahedeen Bangladesh, a homegrown radical group, and have rejected any Daesh presence in the country.
Since July, some 40 suspected militants have been killed in raids by security officials.

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Head of Indian state bids to wrest party from father

Mon, 2017-01-02

NEW DELHI: The chief minister of India’s most populous state of Uttar Pradesh tried Sunday to seize control of its ruling party from his father in another twist to a family feud that has made headlines for weeks.
The bid by 43-year-old Akhilesh Yadav to take over the Samajwadi Party comes at the end of a turbulent 48 hours.
On Friday he was expelled from the party but taken back into the fold the following day by his father and mentor Mulayam Singh Yadav.
Mulayam, a 77-year-old wrestler-turned-politician, previously served three terms as the state’s chief minister.
Akhilesh, along with one of his uncles Ram Gopal Yadav, has been locked in a dispute with Mulayam and another uncle Shivpal Yadav.
The two factions are vying for control of the party before crucial state polls expected around February.
At a special party meeting in the state capital Lucknow, Ram Gopal announced Akhilesh’s appointment as the party’s new national president.
But Mulayam in a statement to the media declared the meeting “unconstitutional” and warned everyone against attending it.
Observers in New Delhi expect more competing announcements from different party factions over the next few days as the family feud plays out in full public view.
Uttar Pradesh, with a population of more than 200 million, is seen as a critical political player. It sends the biggest single bloc of lawmakers to the 545-seat Parliament.
In 2012 Akhilesh became the youngest-ever chief minister thanks to his soaring popularity with younger voters, who elected him on promises of more jobs and a greater share in India’s economic growth.

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Nigerian ex-militants say lost confidence in Buhari

Mon, 2017-01-02

YENAGOA: A group of former Nigerian militants said on Sunday it had lost confidence in the president’s efforts to end attacks on oil facilities in the Niger Delta, a major goal in efforts to reach a lasting peace settlement.
In its first public criticism of President Muhammadu Buhari, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) said he was “jeopardizing the fragile peace in the region” with public comments about the unrest while reneging on past agreements.
MEND had backed Buhari in his 2015 presidential election campaign and urged militants behind the most recent spate of attacks to pursue peace talks with the government.
The attacks in the OPEC member’s energy hub, coupled with low oil prices, have helped to push Africa’s biggest economy into recession — the first in 25 years. Crude oil sales account for two-thirds of government revenue.
Those behind the attacks, which began in early 2016, say they want a greater share of Nigeria’s energy wealth to go to the southern region. The frequency of attacks has reduced since Buhari held talks with community leaders but there are sporadic attacks, most recently in late November.
MEND, which was one of largest militant groups until it signed up for a government amnesty in 2009, said in a statement e-mailed on Sunday that it had passed “a vote of no confidence” in Buhari’s government.
It said he should tell government agencies to “immediately commence dialogue with the Niger Delta region” but did not say what it would do if the approach to the peace process was not altered.
MEND’s members are influential in the Niger Delta but it is unclear whether this extends to those responsible for the most recent attacks because the militant scene is splintered into small groups which each have their own list of demands.
The presidency declined to comment on MEND’s statement. Buhari said in his New Year’s message on Saturday that he will seek a peace settlement in the oil-producing region.
The attacks cut Nigeria’s oil production, which stood at 2.1 million barrels per day (bpd) at the start of 2016, by more than a third in the summer although the oil minister said repairs to oil facilities lifted output to nearly 1.8 million bpd in December.

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Minister sees threat of Daesh chemical attack in UK

Mon, 2017-01-02

LONDON: Daesh militants have aspirations to launch mass-casualty chemical attacks on targets in Britain and elsewhere in Europe, the British security minister said in a newspaper interview published on Sunday.
Ben Wallace also said British authorities feared that as the militant group was driven out of strongholds in the Middle East such as the Iraqi city of Mosul, Britons fighting for the group would return home and pose a growing domestic threat.
“The ambition of IS or Daesh is definitely mass-casualty attacks,” Wallace told the Sunday Times newspaper.
“They have no moral objection to using chemical weapons against populations and if they could, they would in this country. The casualty figures that could be involved would be everybody’s worst fear.”
The report said no specific chemical plot had been identified but security services had been carrying out exercises to prepare for the possibility.
Daesh used sulfur mustard gas in an attack on the Syrian town of Marea in August 2015, according to global watchdog the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.
Wallace pointed to the dismantlement of a Daesh cell in Morocco in February as evidence of the group’s ambition to carry out chemical attacks elsewhere.
“Moroccan authorities dismantled a cell involving chemical weapons. They recovered toxic chemical and biological substances and a large stock of fertilizer. The substances found could have been used to produce home-made explosives and could have been transformed into a deadly toxin,” he said.
About 800 Britons are thought to have traveled to Syria, many to join Daesh, since the outbreak of the civil war in that country. Around 100 have been killed.
“The big concern is if Mosul collapses and all the other bases of ISIS (Daesh) collapse. We know there are a significant number of fighting for IS in Syria. They will probably want to come home,” said Wallace.
In a separate report, the Sunday Telegraph newspaper quoted the head of Britain’s regulator of charities as saying that reports of links between charities and extremism had trebled over the past three years to reach a record high.
The Charity Commission made 630 referrals to police in 2015/16 over “allegations made … about abuse of charities for terrorist or extremist purposes, including concerns about charities operating in Syria and other higher risk areas,” the report said.

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Britain’s May calls for unity in 2017 after divisive Brexit vote

Sun, 2017-01-01

LONDON: British Prime Minister Theresa May pledged in a New Year message on Sunday to seek a Brexit deal that would work for all Britons, not just those who voted to leave the European Union in a referendum she said had laid bare the nation’s divisions.
Britons voted by 52 to 48 percent last June to leave the EU and the tone of the public debate about what Brexit should look like has remained acrimonious.
May said in her televised message that, despite the divisions, Britons shared a desire to live in a stronger, fairer and more secure country.
“These ambitions unite us, so that we are no longer the 52 percent who voted Leave and the 48 percent who voted Remain, but one great union of people and nations with a proud history and a bright future,” said May.
“So when I sit around the negotiating table in Europe this year, it will be with that in mind — the knowledge that I am there to get the right deal, not just for those who voted to leave but for every single person in this country.”
May has pledged to trigger Article 50 of the EU’s Lisbon Treaty, the formal step that will launch negotiations on the terms of Britain’s exit, by the end of March.
The Brexit process will take years and May has given few details about what deal she will be seeking from the remaining 27 EU members.
May became prime minister and leader of the ruling Conservative Party in July after her predecessor David Cameron resigned following the referendum. Both he and May had backed the ‘Remain’ side.
In her New Year message, May also referred to the “precious union” between the United Kingdom’s four constituent parts, which is under strain since England and Wales voted to leave the EU while Scotland and Northern Ireland voted to remain.
Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said she will do everything she can to ensure the will of the Scottish people is respected and she has raised the possibility of a future referendum on independence from the UK.
In her own New Year message, Sturgeon said: “We are determined that Scotland’s vote to remain in the European Union will be respected and that people in Scotland retain as many of the benefits of EU membership as possible, including the freedom to work, travel and study in other member states”.

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