Senate report criticizes FBI for not warning about Russian meddling in 2016 election

Political News Senate report criticizes FBI for not warning about Russian meddling in 2016 election

krblokhin/iStock(WASHINGTON) — Key findings from a new Senate Committee report published Tuesday state what has already been known: Russian trolls interfered in the 2016 election to help Donald Trump. But the report also details new information regarding the FBI’s handling of the 2016 interference and suggestions on how to combat the same problem in 2020.

Russians hackers at the Internet Research Agency (IRA) in St. Petersburg sought to undermine Hillary Clinton’s campaign, but the report also outlines how they helped discredit Trump’s opponents in the Republican primary race, including Sen. Ted Cruz and former Gov. Jeb Bush. The report cites the testimony of former FBI agent Clint Watts, who said the IRA “may have helped sink the hopes of candidates more hostile to Russian interests long before the field narrowed.”

The other key finding in the report states that African Americans were targeted more than any other group and the disinformation was mainly directed at race issues. Previous reports have already detailed much of this information to the public. Back in September 2017, CNN exposed a black rights Facebook account that was actually linked to Russia — yet had more followers than the official Black Lives Matter account.

The report is damning in the FBI’s handling of what knowledge they had of Russia’s meddling prior to the 2016 election. The report finds it “troubling” that in October 2016, a month before the election, rather than investigating themselves, the FBI tasked a contractor with analyzing a pro-Russian network that promoted U.S. election-related news and leaked Democratic party emails published by WikiLeaks.

“The apparently outsourced nature of this work is troubling: it suggests FBI either lacked resources or viewed work in this vein as not warranting more institutionalized consideration,” the Senate Intelligence Committee report states.

The FBI is also criticized for not immediately alerting Twitter about these accounts. One of the Twitter accounts in question was flagrantly called @TeamTrumpRussia and the 13 accounts cited in the report had a combined following of more than 1.5 million Twitter users — yet no warning was issued.

The 84-page report goes into detail about how the IRA operated and the techniques it used, but also warns of the persistent and incoming threat in 2020. It praises social network companies for the efforts they have made to combat misinformation and disinformation, despite pointing out that bad actors are simply changing their tactics to overcome the roadblocks that have been put in place. Some have taken information warfare from public platforms, like Facebook and Twitter, to private messaging platforms, like WhatsApp, WeChat and Telegram, according to the findings.

“These direct interactions are much harder to detect and if these tactics are scaled, they could have a significant effect on target audiences,” the report warns.

The report also shows concern for deepfakes, sophisticated technology that manipulates video to trick viewers into thinking it’s real.

“Although these capabilities are relatively nascent, they are being perfected at a pace that eclipses the effort to create the technology for detecting and mitigating fraudulent media content,” the report says.

The committee suggests dramatic steps that can be taken to combat the problem.

The report recommends that social media companies flag bot accounts to users; provide more context for users about why they see certain content; disclose the country the content was created in; and expose all disinformation campaigns in a timely manner.

It also calls on the president to set up an interagency task force to continually monitor and assess foreign country’s use of social media platforms for democratic interference. Another suggestion is the establishment of a public service announcement campaign to inform people of these threats to elections.

Congress is urged to examine legislative approaches to ensure that Americans know the sources of online political advertisements, but Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., points out that these restrictions would not apply to custom-targeted campaigns and he calls for the suspension of all targeted campaigns.

“Until Facebook, Google, and Twitter have developed effective defenses to ensure that the micro-targeting systems cannot be exploited by foreign governments to influence American elections, these companies must put the integrity of American democracy over their profits,” Wyden says in the report.

He suggests that the Federal Trade Authority should set the rules for data privacy and be given the power to fine companies that are in violation of those rules.

His comments also suggest criticism of the FBI when he states that the intent of the Russians was not made public before the 2016 elections.

“A dear lesson from 2016 is that the U.S. public needs information about influence campaigns prior to the election itself,” Wyden says. “That includes information about U.S. adversaries’ attempts to undermine some candidates while assisting others.”

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Posted On 09 Oct 2019

Nobel Prize in Chemistry awarded to three scientists who developed lithium-ion batteries

WORLD NEWS Nobel Prize in Chemistry awarded to three scientists who developed lithium-ion batteries

AlexLMX/iStock(NEW YORK) — The 2019 Nobel Prize in Chemistry has been awarded to John B. Goodenough, M. Stanley Whittingham and Akira Yoshino for the development of lithium-ion batteries.

“Lithium-ion batteries have revolutionized our lives and are used in everything from mobile phones to laptops and electric vehicles. Through their work, this year’s Chemistry Laureates have laid the foundation of a wireless, fossil fuel-free society,” the Nobel Committee said.

The three scientists will receive a 9-million kronor ($918,000) award to be shared, a gold medal and a diploma and they will receive the prestigious prize in Stockholm on Dec. 10, the anniversary of Nobel’s death in 1896.

Last year’s Nobel Prize in Chemistry was awarded to Frances Arnold and George Smith, both of the United States, and Gregory Winter of the United Kingdom, for their work on directed evolution, a bio-engineering method that’s been used to make bio fuels, medicine and laundry detergent. Arnold was the fifth woman in history to be awarded the prize.

Nobel prizes will continue to be announced this week, with the most famous prize, the Nobel Peace Prize, announced Friday.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Posted On 09 Oct 2019

American hostage held by ISIS is alive: Niger president

WORLD NEWS American hostage held by ISIS is alive: Niger president

Woodke Family(NEW YORK) — An American missionary abducted by Islamic State-linked terrorists in Africa three years ago is still alive and in captivity, the president of Niger said in a recent interview with ABC News.

Jeffery Ray Woodke, 59, of McKinleyville, California, was kidnapped in October 2016 while doing humanitarian missionary work in Niger. He is believed to be a hostage of a jihadi group affiliated with ISIS, multiple U.S. counterterrorism officials have told ABC News.

“Fortunately — and I had to declare it a few weeks ago — he is alive and he is in good health,” Nigerien President Mahamadou Issoufou told ABC News.

Woodke’s recovery has been a priority for American military and intelligence assets in the Sahel region of Africa since 2016 — valuable resources Issoufou said he’d like more of in order to succeed in defeating Islamist militants who cross into Niger to carry out attacks.

“We will continue in any case to do everything to make conditions for his liberation,” the Nigerien leader said in French through an interpreter.

The interview took place while Issoufou was in New York for the United Nations General Assembly in September.

Woodke had worked in Niger for almost three decades as a humanitarian aid worker when he was kidnapped in Abalak and driven off in the direction of Mali while working for a local aid group called JEMED. Video shot hours earlier showed Woodke meeting with tribal elders in his role of humanitarian aid worker trying to help nomads overcome drought and disease.

The FBI and Woodke’s wife Els have made pleas for the missionary’s safe return. Intelligence has consistently indicated Woodke is alive, U.S. sources have told ABC News.

“He was helping a lot of the Nigerien population,” Issoufou told ABC News, expressing “regret” over Woodke being taken hostage.

A representative of the hostage’s family said Woodke’s wife declined to comment on the remarks by the Nigerien leader to ABC News.

“The U.S. Government continues to work tirelessly to bring all U.S. hostages home, including Mr. Woodke. We welcome President Issoufou’s focus on Mr. Woodke and his humanitarian work. The U.S. government looks for continued cooperation with the Government of Niger to quickly reunite Jeff with his family,” Kieran Ramsey, director of the Hostage Recovery Fusion Cell, said in a statement to ABC News on Tuesday.

The Hostage Recovery Fusion Cell is a joint agency created in 2015 to coordinate all U.S. government efforts to safely recover American hostages worldwide.

Issoufou’s comments came just before the anniversary of an ambush of a joint American and Nigerien patrol on Oct. 4, 2017, which left four U.S. special operations soldiers and at least five Nigerien troops dead outside the village of Tongo Tongo, in northwest Niger near the Mali border. During his interview with ABC News, he expressed his condolences to the four American families several times.

The U.S. Special Forces team caught in the 2017 ambush, Operational Detachment-Alpha 3212, from 2nd Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne), was carrying out three “civil/military reconnaissance” missions between Oct. 3-4, 2017 focused on learning the location of an ISIS subcommander known as Doundoun Cheffou. In the ensuing ambush and gunfight near Tongo Tongo, Sgt. 1st Class Jeremiah Johnson, Staff Sgt. Dustin Wright, Staff Sgt. Bryan Black and Sgt. LaDavid Johnson were killed in action.

An investigation by U.S. Africa Command last year criticized lower-level U.S. Army Special Forces commanders, who all received reprimands for training deficiencies prior to their Africa deployment. The families of the fallen have criticized the investigation for withholding key details, reaching questionable conclusions and for failing to punish senior commanders involved in the ill-fated mission.

On Friday’s anniversary of the ambush, the U.S. Rewards For Justice program offered $5 million for information leading to the capture of Adnan “Abu Walid” al-Sahrawi, the leader of an ISIS affiliate that the U.S. Department of State blames for the 2017 ambush. Unmentioned in the wanted poster is that the group al-Sahrawi leads, ISIS Greater Sahara, is suspected as having kidnapped Woodke three years ago.

In a speech to the U.N. General Assembly last month, Issoufou pleaded for the West to do more to help his country counter the jihadi and criminal groups that have proliferated across the Sahel since the U.S. assisted in the toppling of Libyan leader Moammar Qadhafi in 2011 without any plan for governing the region after he was gone.

“This is not only a mistake … I do think it is a fault committed in Libya, despite those of us who warned (the U.S.) as early as 2011 that if we did not pay attention, Libya could be a new Somalia, that Libya could fall into the hands of terrorist organizations,” Issoufou told ABC News.

The Nigerian leader said that he came to the U.N. to plead for a larger coalition force in the Lake Chad region to deny terrorists a safe haven in parts of Mali, Nigeria and Burkina Faso bordering his country, where both al-Qaeda and ISIS operate. Last year, U.S. Africa Command announced plans to draw down the number of U.S. forces by 10% on the continent.

“What we do think is in order — to face the threat in this region — the international community and especially the United States have to do more in order to prevent the expansion of the threat. Because if we let the threat get stronger — and this is currently the case — it will cost more to stop it afterwards,” he warned. “And of course we do need more resources, more (military) training, from our American friends and the French.”

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Posted On 09 Oct 2019

‘Bachelor’ Peter Weber rushed to hospital after suffering freak accident to his face

Entertainment News  'Bachelor' Peter Weber rushed to hospital after suffering freak accident to his face


The Bachelor/ABC(NEW YORK) — Peter Weber was rushed to the hospital on Monday after a freak accident in Costa Rica.

Radar Online reports that the new Bachelor split his head open and the serious injury required stitches.  A source tells Radar that Weber, who was golfing at the time, “went to step on the cart but fell and and split his face open on two cocktail glasses he was carrying.”

The Bachelor star required 22 stitches.

However, because the injury and subsequent stitches happened on Weber’s handsome face, producers were reportedly worried about the fate of the show.  Radar’s source revealed that, before the accident, the women selected to compete on the show were flying in to start filming.

Show host Chris Harrison has since come forward and is assuring fans that production is on schedule and Pilot Pete is pulling through. 

In a statement to The Hollywood Reporter, Harrison says, “Peter suffered a freak accident. He got a cut on his head, he did get stitches but he’s 100 percent OK and production is already back underway. He’s still the dashing, handsome pilot we’ve all dreamed of.”

Peter finished third in Hannah Brown’s season of The Bachelorette and made a name for himself for what the two did in a windmill.


Posted On 09 Oct 2019

‘The Voice’ recap: John Legend beats the three other coaches out for the night’s biggest artist

Entertainment News  'The Voice' recap: John Legend beats the three other coaches out for the night's biggest artist


Trae Patton/NBC(NEW YORK) — The teams are almost full, and coaches Blake Shelton, Kelly Clarkson, John Legend and Gwen Stefani were being extra picky during Tuesday’s blind auditions on The Voice.

By the end of the night, each coach had picked up at least one artist, but it was Legend beating out the three others for the night’s best performer.

Here are some of the highlights from Tuesday’s show:

At 44-years-old, Los Angeles native Myracle Halloway has seen it all. At 19, a chance meeting with Phillip Bailey of Earth Wind and Fire led to a gig touring with his band. Unfortunately, Myracle couldn’t escape her past. She was born to a drug-addicted mother and an abusive father, leading Miracle to turn to drugs herself. She put her singing career on hold, eventually finding a job working with high-risk children, which proved to be a turning point for her. Myracle’s emotional rendition of Bruno Mars’ “When I Was Your Man” touched off a battle between Blake, who was mesmerized by her voice, which, to him, sounded like she was “about to lose it,” and Gwen, who related to the singer, noting that every song she’d written — until she met boyfriend Shelton — was written about heartache and pain.  Blake correctly guessed that it would have been a “Myracle” if the artist picked him as her coach.  Halloway chose Team Gwen.

Elizabeth City, North Carolina native Ricky Braddy calls Nashville home these days. The openly gay singer’s roots are in the Church, but after coming out, he’s gained a new energy and put it to the test on The Voice. Ricky chose Brandi Carlile’s “The Story,” and got Blake, Gwen and John to spin their chairs around for him. John kicked off the battle by telling Ricky he “felt the spirit” when he sang, and Gwen especially loved the theatrical side of his voice. Blake was impressed with Ricky’s ability to handle such a rangy song. Maybe it was the Nashville connection, but Braddy picked Blake.

Destiny Rayne, a 23-year-old Coral Springs, Florida native currently works at various jobs while chasing a singing career. Destiny had hoped on getting one coach to turn his/her chair, but her take on Adele’s version of the Bob Dylan song “To Make You Feel My Love” drew turns from one of her favorites, John Legend, and Gwen, the latter of whom didn’t think she had a chance against John, but couldn’t pass on Destiny’s “gorgeous” voice. After Legend praised Destiny for “inviting us in” and making us feel like she had a “real point of view” on “a song we’ve heard many times,” she chose Team Legend.

Finally, Khalea Lynee, a 36-year-old single mother of two girls, for whom she put her lifelong dream of a singing career on hold.  Now, she’s back with a passion and looking for The Voice to make her dreams come true. Her performance of “Best Part,” by Daniel Caesar featuring H.E.R., drew the show’s only four-chair turn. Kelly summed up all four coaches’ by describing Khalea — a big Anita Baker fan — as “a little jazz, but…just planted right there in that soulful ‘four chords and the truth’ sound.” However, it was John, launching into a version of Baker’s “Giving You the Best That I Got” that convinced Khalea to pick John as her coach.

The blind auditions conclude, when The Voice returns Monday at 8 p.m. ET on NBC.


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Posted On 09 Oct 2019