Russian Federation

Senate Judiciary approves Mueller protection bill

And yes, I chose this particular Tweet because it's evidence Fran De Luca is against investigating public corruption. Hypocrites-R-Us...

Missouri episode exposes motives and methods of Russian propagandists

Throwing a gas can onto a tiny campfire:

Russian Twitter trolls pounced on the University of Missouri’s woes in 2015 using the same techniques they applied to disrupt the 2016 presidential election, a U.S. Air Force officer wrote in an article published recently in Strategic Studies Quarterly. In the aftermath of the Nov. 9, 2015, resignation of University of Missouri System President Tim Wolfe during protests over racial issues, some feared a violent white backlash.

It was fueled in part by a real post on the anonymous social app Yik-Yak from Hunter Park, then a student at Missouri University of Science and Technology in Rolla, that he would “shoot every black person I see.” The fear was enlarged and spread by a now-suspended Twitter account that warned, “The cops are marching with the KKK! They beat up my little brother! Watch out!” that included a photo of a black child with a severely bruised face and the hashtag #PrayForMizzou.

This might seem like an inappropriate or way off-topic post for BlueNC, but (imo) it is actually critical moving into the 2018 election season. While social media has completely changed the game on organizing and activism, turning out crowds that number in the thousands in just a short period of time, it has also become a minefield of click-bait and disinformation. We (each) have to be our own gatekeepers on Facebook and Twitter, taking that extra ten minutes to vet and verify stories before we aid and abet that disinformation by sharing or re-Tweeting. It's not a conspiracy theory that people are pushing conspiracy theories, there is a concerted effort to undermine and/or redirect the energies of well-meaning activists:

Trump blocks release of Democrats' memo on Carter Page investigation

A blatant effort to conceal damning evidence of Russian involvement with his administration:

In a letter to House intelligence committee Chairman Devin Nunes, R-Calif., the White House said it could not release the Democrats' memo because the Justice Department "has identified portions...which it believes would create especially significant concerns for the national security and law enforcement interests."

That explanation stands in stark contrast to his release of the GOP memo last Friday. The president approved its release over the strong objections of the FBI, which warned that it could jeopardize national security. The president's refusal to release the Democrats' memo also goes against the committee's unanimous, bipartisan decision Monday to make it public.

Trump is playing an extremely dangerous game here, and it's a good bet he doesn't realize it. Mueller is a lot more intelligent than he is, and is likely watching this circus to see which animals might turn on their trainers. Or which animals are performing too well. It's complicated, which means Trump is way out of his depth. In order to understand just how silly and off-topic this dueling memo thing is, you need to grasp the significance of the FBI's target of those investigations, Carter Page himself:

Bumbling towards war: U.S. airstrike targets Syrian government-backed militia

Bringing us that much closer to a clash with Russian forces:

The Russian military says a U.S. strike on government-backed troops in eastern Syria reflects Washington's efforts to make a grab for the nation's economic assets. The overnight attack, which killed about 100 according to a U.S. military, came when hundreds of attackers launched an assault on U.S.-backed forces known as the Syrian Democratic Forces who were accompanied by U.S. advisers in the oil-rich Deir el-Zour province.

The Russian Defense Ministry said Thursday the U.S. strike wounded 25 pro-government Syrian volunteers. It noted that the government-backed Syrian forces had failed to coordinate their action with the Russian military prior to launching the mission.

On the plus side, that last sentence is a tacit admission by the Russians those Syrian troops made a mistake in attacking a group with U.S. advisors in it. But that's not much of a plus. It still leaves two wildly different conclusions that could be drawn, neither of them good: a) The Russians are not exerting a level of control over Syrian forces that might prevent catastrophe, or b) They are lying about that prior coordination and maybe even engineered the attack knowing there were Americans present. You might be tempted to dismiss that second possibility because of its recklessness, but take it from an old Cold Warrior: Russian strategy can be very complex. They might view the deaths of a handful of American military advisors as the best way to get the U.S. *out* of that theater of conflict, especially if it appears to be an unfortunate "accident." And filed under the category, "Sounds great but may be dangerous as hell":

Russia's top spy chiefs meet with US officials days before sanctions (were supposed to be) enforced

Sanctions? We're not worried about any stinking sanctions:

Russia's U.S. ambassador said Sergei Naryshkin, head of the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service, was in the United States to discuss counterterrorism with his American counterparts. Naryshkin was accompanied at the meeting in Washington by Alexander Bortnikov, who directs the top KGB successor agency known as the Federal Security Service.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said the timing of the meeting is suspicious because it came just days before the Trump administration decided not to issue new sanctions against Russian politicians and oligarchs over Russian interference in the election. He released a letter early Thursday demanding that Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats disclose details of the meeting by Feb. 9. Schumer said sanctions against Naryshkin impose severe financial penalties and prohibit his entry into the U.S. without a waiver.

Allowing these two (supposedly) sanctioned Russian spies into the country, not to mention meeting with them, is a message on its own. But what was discussed/conveyed at this meeting is of critical importance, as Schumer said. Keep in mind, even if Trump wasn't immediately informed of the proceedings (I'm sure he was), he gets a daily intelligence briefing after he finishes his cranky Twitter ablutions and crawls out of bed. We'll let Vladimir Putin fill in the missing information in his own words:

The dangers of resistance organizing online

Do not allow yourself to be hijacked:

The Russian troll farm suspected of trying to disrupt U.S. elections last year apparently infiltrated Charlotte during racial protests last year, BuzzFeed News reports. The online news site says the St. Petersburg-based Internet Research Agency recruited U.S. activists to help stage protests in order to help divide the nation ahead of the 2016 elections.

Conrad James of the Raleigh nonprofit Living Ultra-Violet was among four activists who told BuzzFeed they never suspected they were being recruited by the Russians.

A good rule of thumb: If something seems too good to be true, it probably isn't true. That goes for fraud in general, and not just political stuff. The weird (and disturbing) part of this story is it wasn't just online shenanigans, there were a couple of flesh and blood perpetrators involved:

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