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A World Divided
Substack Daily Dose 9/14/2023
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Biden admin imposes sanctions on additional 150 foreign entities in effort to break Russian war effort
On Thursday, the State Department announced the latest round of sanctions aimed at weakening the Russian war effort. The extensive lists compiled by the State and Treasury Departments target over 150 entities involved in every aspect of the nation's continued invasion of Ukraine, including a number of foreign firms.
The move is just one of many recently made by the Biden administration as it continues to support Ukraine.
Included on the State Department's list of sanction-worthy targets are entities involved in "expanding Russia's energy production and future export capacity," "operating or having operated in the metals and mining sector of the Russian Federation economy," "provid[ing] repair and maintenance services to the Russian defense sector," and "working to acquire goods in support of Russia’s war effort."
In addition to numerous companies of varying sizes, a slate of individuals were also separately named. They include a member of the Wagner Group, a Georgian-Russian oligarch, and a Russian Intelligence Services officer.
The sanctions did not only target Russian companies. The State Department included in its list of targets a number of Turkish firms, suspected of having "materially assisted, sponsored, or provided financial, material, or technological support for, or goods or services to or in support of persons whose property and interests in property are blocked" in accordance with Executive Order 14024, which authorizes sanctions against "specified harmful foreign activities of the Russian Federation."
The list compiled by the Treasury Department included Turkish-based companies as well as a number of Finnish firms.
“With today’s sanctions, the United States is continuing our relentless work to target Russia's military supply chains and deprive Putin of the equipment, technology, and services he needs to wage his barbaric war on Ukraine," Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said.
"We have also made clear that those individuals and entities who profit from invasion and their proximity to the Kremlin will be held accountable, and today's actions show our global reach in imposing severe costs on Putin’s oligarchs."
-The Post Millennial
DHS Awards $20 Million To Program That Flags Americans As Potential “Extremists” For Their Online Speech
The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has awarded 34 grants to as many organizations, worth a total of $20 million, whose role will be to undergo training in order to flag potential online “extremist” speech of Americans.
The money will be spent from the Targeted Violence and Terrorism Prevention (TVTP) grant program for fiscal year 2023, while the recipients include police, mental health providers, universities, churches and school districts.
According to DHS, this program (administered by its Center for Prevention Programs and Partnerships, CP3, and for some reason, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, FEMA) is the only federal one of its kind whose goal is “helping local communities develop and strengthen their capabilities in combating targeted violence and terrorism.”
Those given the money from the grants fund are expected to develop prevention programming at the community level that would stop “targeted violence and terrorism,” as well as come up with innovative prevention ideas, and “identify prevention best practices that can be replicated in communities nationwide.”
In announcing and explaining the need for such spending, DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas cited the Jacksonville shooting. As he remarked while justifying the awarding of grants, the event was racially motivated, and – “[it] made painfully clear, targeted violence and terrorism can impact any community, anywhere.”
DHS claims that the “current” environment is one of heightened – and lethal – threat, based on ideology or personal grievances of “lone offenders and small groups.”
The DHS announcement came on the anniversary of 9/11, but it showed that the focus is now on Americans rather than some foreign terrorist threat (or even foreign terrorist gangs in the habit of “invading” US soil).
And the way the terrorist threat is defined here looks more like a drive to suppress dissent to dominant narratives pushed by the government and large traditional and social media who work in concert with the federal authorities.
Specifically, what opponents of such policy single out as possible reasons to be branded a violent extremists or (domestic) terrorist could be disagreeing, and expressing that opinion online on anything from Covid, vaccines, gun rights, gender and LGBTQ policies, the war in Ukraine, or immigration.
-Cindy Harper, Reclaim The Net
In a significant development, Hunter Biden, son of President Joe Biden, has been indicted on a felony gun charge by the U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware.
The indictment on Thursday revolves around an incident that took place on October 12, 2018. According to court documents, Hunter Biden is alleged to have made false statements on a federal firearms transaction record during the purchase of a Colt Cobra 38SPL revolver from a licensed firearms dealer in Wilmington, Delaware.
The form requires prospective firearm purchasers to certify several statements, including whether they are “an unlawful user of, or addicted to, any stimulant, narcotic drug, or any other controlled substance.” The indictment alleges that Hunter Biden falsely certified that he was not an unlawful user or addicted to any controlled substance when purchasing the firearm.
The indictment is comprised of three counts:
Count One: alleges that Hunter Biden knowingly made a false and fictitious written statement on the Form 4473, certifying he was not an unlawful user of, or addicted to, any controlled substance, which he knew to be false.
Count Two: charges Hunter Biden with making a false statement and representation to the licensed firearms dealer regarding the same information on the Form 4473.
Count Three: alleges that between October 12, 2018, and October 23, 2018, Hunter Biden, knowing he was an unlawful user of and addicted to controlled substances, possessed the Colt Cobra 38SPL revolver, which had been shipped and transported in interstate commerce.
The indictment is signed by special counsel David C. Weiss. The indictment comes amid a series of controversies surrounding Hunter Biden over the past few years.
Stay tuned for more updates on this developing story.
-Chris, Trending Politics News
Ukraine's Present Volodymyr Zelensky is again expected to pay homage to the hands that feed him, as Bloomberg is reporting that another trip to the White House is imminent.
"President Joe Biden will host Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy at the White House next week, according to a person familiar with the plans," the fresh Thursday report indicates.
Image Credit: Associated Press
The Ukrainian leader's first official visit to Washington had occurred in December 2022, and also had marked his first known trip outside his war-ravaged country since Russia invaded.
But things have changed since he gave that "Christmas season" address in Congress, where then House speaker Pelosi treated him like a rockstar as she and VP Kamala Harris excitedly waived the Ukrainian flag around, hugging Zelensky in the process. Not only is the much-anticipated counteroffensive not going well, or even failing, but his personal 'star status' is waning too.
Bloomberg notes the new context, namely that Republicans are less likely to sign off on massive new aid packages in the federal budget:
For the US president, it also coincides with an upcoming showdown over federal funding. Biden has asked Congress to provide $24 billion for the Ukraine war and related costs, but conservatives in the House are threatening to shut down the US government if they consider any funding bill a “blank check” for Ukraine.
Current funding for government operations runs through Sept. 20. Next week’s meeting was first reported by Reuters.
And a fresh photo op with Zelensky is perhaps what Biden thinks he needs for a boost in domestic approval ratings, given not only is the mainstream media turning on him...
...but he's also newly focused his campaign going into 2024 on being the "tough" commander-in-chief who "protects" democracy around the world:
"He entered Ukraine under the cover of night. And in the morning, Joe Biden walked shoulder to shoulder with our allies in the war-torn streets," the narrator of a new one-minute Biden campaign ad begins.
"Standing up for democracy in a place where a tyrant is waging war to take it away."
On the Ukrainian side, Zelensky could be coming also to bolster support and enthusiasm among GOP hawks and conservative supporters in order to get their fellow Republicans in line. Kiev has also expressed increased impatience and frustration of late when it comes to F-16 delivery timeline, and related to getting more advanced US weapons like long-range missiles.
There's currently talk within the administration of Ukraine getting approval for the MGM-140 Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS), which has a max range of 190 miles. Certainly Zelensky is going to press for this and more. Will Biden make this the focus of a "big" announcement when he greets Zelensky in the White House next week?
-Tyler Durden, Zerohedge
Judge denies Fulton County DA’s request to try all 19 defendants together, Trump will not be tried in October
Donald Trump’s Georgia trial on charges of trying to overturn his 2020 election defeat won’t begin in October, a judge said on Thursday.
Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee issued a new order on Thursday, officially separating the cases of defendants Kenneth Chesebro and Sidney Powell from former President Donald Trump and 16 co-defendants. Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee cited logistical concerns and the array of unsettled legal issues.
Judge McAfee explained that severing the 17 remaining co-defendants is a procedural necessity. He emphasized that Mr. Chesebro’s and Ms. Powell’s cases would remain together, rejecting any request to pause state proceedings during the ongoing removals to federal court.
Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, responsible for prosecuting the case, had previously requested that all 19 defendants be tried together, arguing it was the correct procedure, but the judge’s official severance order changed that.
During an earlier hearing, the prosecution estimated the trial’s duration to be four months, excluding jury selection, and anticipated calling 150 witnesses.
They aimed to begin the trial on October 23, but Judge McAfee expressed doubt, suggesting the case might take longer than expected due to the witness count.
Complicating matters further, some defendants sought to move their cases to federal court and separate them from the group, which could affect the state’s proceedings.
The prosecution argued that, given the racketeering nature of the case, the entire matter should be presented each time a defendant faces trial. If the judge had separated the two defendants’ October 23 trial from the rest, it would have required two full trials with 150 witnesses unless the prosecution changed its approach.
In the September 14 order, Judge McAfee defended the decision, stating that conducting separate trials, even if the state’s case remained the same length, would be less burdensome for jurors and the local criminal justice system.
He stressed the need for severance due to the differing schedules of the defendants and their respective attorneys.
Judge McAfee concluded by indicating that the remaining 17 defendants might face separate trials in the future.
No trial date has been set for the remaining 16 defendants, some of whom claim they have never met the other defendants named in the same indictment and argue against being accused of participating in the same alleged scheme.
Ms. Willis contends that the actions of the 19 defendants challenging the Georgia 2020 election results amount to a conspiracy, and they have all been charged with violating the state’s Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act.
Previously, she requested a trial date for March 4, 2024, but President Trump is already slated to face trial in federal court for a similar case related to his actions on January 6, 2021, where he’s accused of conspiring to defraud citizens of their votes by asking Vice President Mike Pence to halt the vote certification process. This case is being prosecuted by special counsel Jack Smith and is presided over by Judge Tanya Chutkan, who President Trump has requested to recuse herself.
On August 23, Mr. Chesebro requested a speedy trial, prompting Ms. Willis to propose an October 23 trial date for all defendants. President Trump promptly moved to have his case separated from the group, and Judge McAfee granted a speedy trial for Mr. Chesebro alone. Disagreements arose between the defense and prosecution regarding the timeline, with the prosecution arguing that Mr. Chesebro forfeited the 10-day discovery period by requesting a speedy trial, and the defense asserting that Ms. Willis shouldn’t deny Mr. Chesebro his rights if she couldn’t meet the deadline she had originally requested. The judge denied a blanket request to inform all defendants about the implications of a speedy trial, emphasizing the shortened deadlines.
Later, Ms. Powell also requested a speedy trial and filed a motion to have her case separated from Mr. Chesebro’s, citing the unrelated nature of their charges. Mr. Chesebro’s attorneys echoed this sentiment, arguing for separate trials since Ms. Powell’s charges were related to the investigation of voting machines, while Mr. Chesebro’s were related to organizing an alternate slate of electors in Georgia.
The judge denied their requests for separate trials and assigned the October 23 date to Ms. Powell’s case as well. Ms. Willis maintained that the speedy trial timeline should apply to all defendants following the judge’s order in response to Mr. Chesebro’s demand, after a hearing regarding Ms. Powell and Mr. Chesebro’s cases, and reiterated this stance recently, leading President Trump to waive his right to a speedy trial in exchange for severance. The judge’s official order this week clarifies the court’s position on how the defendants may be tried.
A trial date for Trump, the front-runner for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, has not yet been set, and the judge indicated the case may have to be split up further.
Trump and the other defendants have pleaded not guilty.
-Comfort Ogbonna, [your]NEWS
A federal judge in Texas has ruled an Obama-era immigration policy unconstitutional, setting up the potential for hundreds of thousands of deportations to begin.
On Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen ruled that DACA, or the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, policy violated the U.S. Constitution, which requires Congress to manage immigration affairs, not the White House. Former President Barack Obama infamously declared that the children of illegal immigrants, referred to as Dreamers, would be protected from deportation through an executive order.
While Judge Hanen did not call for an immediate end to the program while it works its way through the appeals process, he barred the Biden administration from processing any new applications.
“While sympathetic to the predicament of DACA recipients and their families, this Court has expressed its concerns about the legality of the program for some time,” Hanen wrote in his 40-page ruling. “The solution for these deficiencies lies with the legislature, not the executive or judicial branches. Congress, for any number of reasons, has decided not to pass DACA-like legislation … The Executive Branch cannot usurp the power bestowed on Congress by the Constitution — even to fill a void.”
Eight Republican-led states banded together to overturn the policy, and their attention will now turn to a defense of Hanen’s rulings in appeals courts where they will likely continue to call for an end to the program within two years. Judge Hanen maintained that his ruling does not require the federal government to take any action against Dreamers while the case remains active in the courts.
Immigration advocates criticized the ruling and said a final say would ultimately be up to the Supreme Court.
“Judge Hanen has consistently erred in resolving both of these issues, and today’s ruling is more of the same flawed analysis. We look forward to continuing to defend the lawful and much-needed DACA program on review in higher courts,” said Thomas Saenz, president and general counsel of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund.
White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said the administration is “deeply disappointed” by the ruling.
“We are deeply disappointed in today’s DACA ruling from the District Court in Southern Texas,” press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in a statement Wednesday night. “… As we have long maintained, we disagree with the District Court’s conclusion that DACA is unlawful, and will continue to defend this critical policy from legal challenges. While we do so, consistent with the court’s order, DHS will continue to process renewals for current DACA recipients and DHS (the Department of Homeland Security) may continue to accept DACA applications.”
Judge Hanen, appointed in 2002 by former President George W. Bush, previously ruled against DACA in 2021 saying it had not been subject to public notice and comment periods required under the federal Administrative Procedures Act. Though the president claimed to have revamped the program by including a public comment period, Hanen concluded the underlying nature of DACA had not changed and was still unconstitutional.
The program has faced a roller coaster of court challenges over the years.
In 2016, the Supreme Court deadlocked 4-4 over an expanded DACA and a version of the program for parents of DACA recipients. In 2020, the high court ruled 5-4 that the Trump administration improperly ended DACA, allowing it to stay in place.
There were 578,680 people enrolled in DACA at the end of March, according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, according to the Associated Press.
-Mark Steffen, Trending Politics
US Intelligence officials accused highly popular financial blog Zero Hedge of spreading Russian propaganda.
Zero Hedge has been under attack over the years for daring to publish articles that go against the fake news media’s narrative.
Now the CIA is accusing Zero Hedge of spreading Kremlin propaganda for publishing articles written by people connected to the Strategic Culture Foundation, a foundation sanctioned by Joe Biden for interfering in the 2020 election.
To no one’s surprise, the Associated Press is acting as the CIA’s running dogs.
“They are one of our hundreds of contributors — unlike Mainstream Media, we try to publish a wide spectrum of views that cover both sides of a given story,” Zero Hedge told AP in an email.
The Associated Press also noted that Zero Hedge “has been sharply critical of Biden and posted stories about allegations of wrongdoing by his son Hunter.”
So that’s what this latest attack is all about.
Any journalist who criticizes Joe Biden and goes against the ‘official’ narrative is spreading Russian propaganda.
The Associated Press reported:
U.S. intelligence officials on Tuesday accused a conservative financial news website with a significant American readership of amplifying Kremlin propaganda and alleged five media outlets targeting Ukrainians have taken direction from Russian spies.
The officials said Zero Hedge, which has 1.2 million Twitter followers, published articles created by Moscow-controlled media that were then shared by outlets and people unaware of their nexus to Russian intelligence. The officials did not say whether they thought Zero Hedge knew of any links to spy agencies and did not allege direct links between the website and Russia.
Zero Hedge denied the claims and said it tries to “publish a wide spectrum of views that cover both sides of a given story.”
The officials briefed The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive intelligence sources. It was the latest effort by President Joe Biden’s administration to release U.S. intelligence findings about Russian activity involving Ukraine as part of a concerted push to expose and influence the moves of Russian President Vladimir Putin. U.S. officials previously accused Putin of planning a “false-flag” operation to create a pretext for a new invasion of Ukraine and detailed what they believe are final-stage Russian preparations for an assault.
Zero Hedge responded in a blog post Tuesday morning:
Well, now we’ve done it – we’ve angered the CIA, and for what? For publishing views that challenge the conventional narrative, such as disputing that an invasion of Ukraine is actually “imminent” as the US State Department and its mainstream media conduits repeat day after day, or that the Covid virus was actually created in a Chinese lab, a view which has gained substantial prominence in recent months after it emerged that none other than the UK’s Jeremy Farrar (also known as the UK’s Doctor Fauci) played a pivotal role in stifling suggestions that this new virus might have come from a laboratory rather than emerged through natural zoonotic transmission from animals.
Of course, there is no actual accusation that Zero Hedge works directly with anyone tied to Russia or its intelligence apparatus – as the AP admits “officials did not say whether they thought Zero Hedge knew of any links to spy agencies and did not allege direct links between the website and Russia”, which is correct because – and we will repeat this once again for the record and for all future similar hit piece attempts to smear us – this website has never worked, collaborated or cooperated with Russia, nor are there any links to spy (or any other) agencies; instead all the AP notes, citing some unnamed “intelligence official”, is that the US intelligence apparatus is unhappy that among our hundreds of guest publishing contributors is a website called Strategic Culture Foundation which US intel officials “allege” take direction from the SVR, the Russian foreign intelligence service.
Well, is the Strategic Culture Foundation – which periodically guest posts on this website along with hundreds of other sources of alternative information – taking direction from Russian intel?
Perhaps. We don’t know. What we do know is that Alastair Crooke, one of the most prolific writers on SCF website is a former high ranking MI6 figure and UK diplomat, i.e., a former British spook. Perhaps he is now a double agent working for Putin after spending decades spying for the UK?
We don’t know, and we don’t care: instead what we have cared about since our first day, is to provide a platform, a voice to anyone who has a unique, a different, perspective from the one pushed by the mainstream media. The same mainstream media which we and everyone else now knows for a fact takes direction from both the US intelligence service in particular (see here, here and here) and the US government in general, or the “deep state” as some call it.
Read Zero Hedge’s full response by clicking here.
Zero Hedge also hit back at the Associated Press for cooperating with the Nazis:
-Cristina Laila, Gateway Pundit
GOP lawmakers sent a letter this week to CIA Director William Burns after a whistleblower claimed that analysts probing COVID-19 origins were offered money to alter their stance that the virus likely came from a Wuhan lab leak.
Sens. Rand Paul, R-Ky., Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., Rick Scott, R-Fla., and Ron Johnson, R-Wis., joined their House counterparts in demanding answers from Burns, such as all of the "documents and communications between or among the members of all iterations of the COVID Discovery Team(s) regarding the origins of COVID-19."
Paul told Fox News Digital in a statement Thursday, "This is one of the biggest cover-ups in our nation's history, and we deserve answers."
"Department of Energy scientists concluded COVID-19 came from a lab," Paul wrote. "FBI scientists concluded COVID-19 came from a lab. We've been told six of seven CIA scientists also concluded COVID-19 came from a lab but were paid to change their minds."
Image Credit: Security personnel stand guard outside the Wuhan Institute of Virology in Wuhan, China, as members of the World Health Organization team investigating the origins of COVID-19 make a visit to the facility on Feb. 3, 2021. (Hector Retamal/AFP via Getty Images)
In Tuesday's letter, the senators wrote that the whistleblower allegations "are deeply concerning and raise serious questions about the Agency’s investigation into the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic."
They also demanded to know all "communications regarding the pay history, to include the awarding of any type of financial or performance-based incentive/financial bonus to members of all iterations of the COVID Discovery Team."
The request seeks documents and communications related to the origins of COVID-19 among members of the COVID Discovery Teams as well as exchanges with employees or contractors of various federal agencies, including the State Department, FBI, the Department of Health and Human Services (including NIH and NIAID) and the Department of Energy.
Lawmakers set a Sept. 25 deadline for a response.
The Office of the Director of National Intelligence released a declassified report on COVID-19 origins in June, which analyzed the Wuhan Institute of Virology's role in the lab leak theory.
The intelligence community remains undecided on whether the pandemic resulted from a lab leak or natural animal exposure. Different agencies hold varying opinions, with the National Intelligence Council favoring natural origin while the Energy Department and FBI lean toward a lab leak.
The CIA and other intelligence agencies have not reached a conclusion due to conflicting evidence and assumptions.
Image Credit: Sen. Rand Paul sent a letter with GOP colleagues to CIA Director William Burns to demand answers about the contents of CIA whistleblower allegations. (Joe Raedle / File)
Fox News Digital previously obtained letters that the House Coronavirus Subcommittee Chairman Brad Wenstrup, R-Ohio, and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Turner, R-Ohio, sent to the CIA and a former official with regard to the whistleblower claims.
"The Select Committee on the Coronavirus Pandemic and the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence have received new and concerning whistleblower testimony regarding the Agency’s investigation into the origins of COVID-19," Wenstrup and Turner wrote to CIA Director William Burns on Tuesday.
"A multi-decade, senior-level, current Agency officer has come forward to provide information to the Committees regarding the Agency’s analysis into the origins of COVID-19," they wrote.
The CIA purportedly assigned seven officers to a COVID Discovery Team, the whistleblower said, which included "multi-disciplinary and experienced officers with significant scientific expertise."
"According to the whistleblower, at the end of its review, six of the seven members of the Team believed that intelligence and science were sufficient to make a low confidence assessment that COVID-19 originated from a laboratory in Wuhan, China," the House pair wrote.
Image Credit: Shana Alesi administers a second COVID-19 booster shot to Army veteran Robert Hall at Edward Hines Jr. VA Hospital on April 1, 2022, in Hines, Illinois. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)
"The seventh member of the Team, who also happened to be the most senior, was the one officer to believe COVID-19 originated through zoonosis," or an animal origin.
Fox News’ Digital reached out to the CIA for comment. In a previous statement, spokesperson Tammy Kupperman Thorp said, "At CIA we are committed to the highest standards of analytic rigor, integrity, and objectivity. We do not pay analysts to reach specific conclusions. We take these allegations extremely seriously and are looking into them. We will keep our Congressional oversight committees appropriately informed."
-Jamie Joseph, Fox News
According to a recent NASA report, there are still unidentified objects in our skies that might pose a threat to US airspace. NASA has also named a new head for UFO research to investigate further, The Telegraph reported on Thursday.
NASA’s Search for Life, Report States UFOs Threat to US Airspace, NASA Administrator Nelson Remains Hopeful
NASA is actively searching for indications of life, whether it existed in the past or exists currently, according to Sky News. Bill Nelson, NASA administrator, is optimistic that they will identify another planet suitable for life within the vast universe.
“The NASA independent study team did not find any evidence the UAPs have an extraterrestrial origin, but we don’t know what these UAPs (Unidentified Aerial Phenomena) are,” Nelson said. “The mission of NASA is to find out the unknown. We don’t know what the UAP is, but we are going to try to find out.”
The US Space Agency revealed findings from a 15-month investigation into UAPs. However, the report cautions that the available data doesn’t allow for “definitive scientific conclusions.”
An independent team of 16 researchers shared their early findings in May, News 18 reported. They stated that most UFOs can be attributed to natural occurrences. These include common things like airplanes, balloons, drones, weather patterns, or even problems with the recording equipment.
The report dismissed the 2015 “Go Fast” video captured by a Navy fighter jet pilot aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt. In this video, the pilot described an object zipping across the ocean at great speed. The investigative team determined that there was no evidence of a propulsion system. It suggested that the object was likely drifting with the wind rather than exhibiting extraordinary propulsion capabilities.
However, the report’s authors cautioned that certain UFOs still defy explanation. They emphasized the need to leverage satellite data and crowd participation to delve deeper into these enigmatic occurrences.
NASA’s Stance on UFOs: Investigating Mysterious Events on Earth
While NASA explores distant planets for signs of life and intelligent civilizations, it has traditionally been skeptical of sightings on Earth.
During a May meeting, the report’s authors mentioned that they have compiled over 800 “events” spanning 27 years, News 18 reported. Approximately two to five percent of these events are considered potentially unusual. These anomalies are described as anything not easily explainable by the observer or sensor, or something exhibiting unusual behavior, according to team member Nadia Drake.
In recent years, the US government has started to take UAPs more seriously, partly due to concerns about their possible connection to foreign surveillance activities.
-Bendan Taylor, Insider Paper
Sweden hit with wave of shootings, national police chief warns of unprecedented level of gang warfare
Sweden is witnessing an unprecedented wave of bloody gang warfare and shootings, Swedish National Police Commissioner Anders Thornberg said on Wednesday, following a week of deadly shootings in the Scandinavian country.
“There has been an unprecedented number of murders and bombings in Sweden recently,” Police Commissioner Anders Thornberg stressed at a press conference on Wednesday.
“Several boys aged between 13 and 15 have been killed, a criminal’s mother was murdered in her home, a young man was shot dead on his way to work in Uppsala,” the Swedish police chief said.
“The people who order the murders are often found abroad,” Thornberg added.
There have been several shootings in Sweden this week: four in Uppsala, famous for its university, two of which were fatal, and two in Stockholm, where a 13-year-old boy was killed, according to Hungarian news outlet Magyar Hirlap.
In Sweden, the gang war for control of the arms and drug trade has been going on for years, and Sweden is no stranger to violence from its growing migrant population. The country experienced a record number of shootings and murders in 2022, leading the country to be labeled “the most dangerous country in Europe.”
According to the Swedish police, 90 bombings and 101 attempted bombings were recorded in 2022. As of Aug. 15, 2023, 109 bombings have been recorded in the country this year.
Conflicts between criminal gangs have claimed the lives of many innocent people, Thornberg stressed.
“Citizens are afraid and insecurity is growing. Because of this, we have raised the terror threat level in Sweden,” the Swedish police chief added.
“We have arrested several people and confiscated weapons, including in Uppsala, where the situation is very serious,” Ulf Johansson, a police official in the city 70 kilometers north of the capital, underlined at a press conference on Wednesday.
In 2022, 391 shootings were recorded in Sweden, 62 of which were fatal, compared to 45 people shot dead a year earlier.
Despite Sweden being run by a conservative government that promised to clamp down on crime from Sweden’s powerful criminal clans, which drive most of the violence, so far, the government has proven ineffective.
-John Cody, Remix News
Image Credit: Pixabay
US casino giant Caesars Entertainment said Thursday that hackers acquired data from some loyalty program members — days after fellow entertainment firm MGM Resorts revealed it was grappling with a cybersecurity issue.
After detecting suspicious activity in its network, Caesars determined this month that an “unauthorized actor” acquired a copy of its loyalty program database among other data, it said in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).
The database includes driver’s license numbers and Social Security numbers for “a significant number” of members, the company added.
According to the SEC filing, hackers had made “a social engineering attack” on an outsourced IT support vendor used by the company.
Caesars paid around half of a $30 million ransom demanded by hackers, according to a report by The Wall Street Journal.
The company had no immediate response to AFP queries.
But it maintained in its statement that customer-facing operations had not been hit by the incident, adding that it is still investigating the extent of any other sensitive information that might have been acquired.
The company’s filing came two days after entertainment giant MGM Resorts reported that it “recently identified a cybersecurity issue” affecting some of its systems.
Casinos can be key targets for hackers given that they collect customers’ personal and financial data.
MGM said in a separate statement on Tuesday that after detecting the problem, it launched an investigation and notified law enforcement.
It added that it is taking steps to safeguard systems and data, “including shutting down certain systems.”
Threads, Meta's recent competitor to Twitter, is facing harsh criticism for blocking search results for terms related to the pandemic, including vaccines.
The new text platform, which is linked to Instagram, rolled out its new search function last week, a major step towards giving it more parity with X, formerly known as Twitter.
After Threads' July release, Meta has been rolling out several much needed updates in recent weeks, including a requested desktop version and user search functionality.
However, within 24 hours of the recent update, the social media giant was hit with controversy, as the new search function proved useless for those wanting to look for posts related to the COVID-19, reported The Washington Post.
Threads Users Shocked to Find Search Results Blocked
Many users were upset when their search on Threads for content related to “COVID” and “vaccines” was met with a blank screen and a pop-up redirecting them to the website of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
"Zuck treats users like children. He gets to decide what they will see and talk about. This is reason alone enough to reject Threads and embrace X," said Michael Robertson, a tech CEO, in a post on X.
Meta confirmed its search policy restrictions in a press statement, saying that the text platform is blocking users from searching for words that could bring up “sensitive” posts, for now.
“The search functionality temporarily doesn’t provide results for keywords that may show potentially sensitive content,” it said.
“People will be able to search for keywords such as ‘COVID’ in future updates once we are confident in the quality of the results.”
Meta acknowledged that Threads was intentionally blocking other terms but declined to provide a list of them.
A search by The Washington Post discovered that the words “sex,” “nude,” “gore,” “porn,” “coronavirus,” “vaccines,” and “vaccination” were also among blocked terms.
Health Experts Decry Censorship
Public health experts and workers also were critical of the company’s decision, telling The Post that its timing was poor, especially amid reports of a recent virus uptick.
"Censorship doesn't work. Misinfo still gets circulated by code names & other platforms. Tech companies should invest in real solutions like moderation/education," Lucky Tran, director of science communication at Columbia University, said in a post on X.
Mr. Tran previously told The Post that the decision to censor searches about COVID will make it harder for public health experts and people who work in public health to get out important info to the public about how they can protect themselves.
Hospitalizations in the United States rose nearly 16 percent last week, and have been rising steadily since July, but less than for the same week a year ago, according to the CDC.
CDC statistics show that deaths from the virus are less than a quarter of what they were during the same period in 2022.
The agency said cases of the virus are likely to continue into the winter.
Former National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease Director Dr. Anthony Fauci told ABC’s “This Week” over the weekend that given the current level of immunity in the population, “the chances of this being an overwhelming rush of cases and hospitalizations is probably low.”
Meanwhile, the FDA approved another round of COVID boosters on Sept. 11 that are expected be available in the coming days.
New Meta Platform Sees Decrease in Users Since Launch
Meta's decision to block certain search terms illustrates its desire to avoid encouraging any topics that could be deemed “hard news” on its platform.
“Politics and hard news are inevitably going to show up on Threads—they have on Instagram as well to some extent—but we’re not going to do anything to encourage those verticals,” Adam Mosseri, Instagram's chief who was instrumental in the launch of Threads, wrote this summer.
However, Twitter's ability to share real-time news and information was crucial to its rise to prominance and remains one of its core features.
A 2021 survey by the Pew Research Center showed that about 4 in 10 Americans said that social media was an important source for news about the COVID-19 vaccine and virus.
Ever since Threads launched over the summer in an effort to take advantage of some users' disappointment with X after its take over by Elon Musk, the platform has since failed to maintain its momentum.
Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg boasted after the launch that he was able to get 100 million new sign-ups within five days of it going live.
"Threads reached 100 million sign ups over the weekend. That's mostly organic demand and we haven't even turned on many promotions yet. Can't believe it's only been 5 days!," Mr. Zuckerberg said in a post at the time.
Time spent on the app service has since fallen by 85 percent last month, according to tech blog Similarweb.
The Epoch Times has reached out to Meta for comment.
-Tyler Durden, Zerohedge