The communist regime in China uses healthcare and apps as weapons as part of its playbook, said an expert on China and the Indo-Pacific.
Cleo Paskal, an associate fellow at Chatham House and a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, said that lessons could be learned from China’s neighbors, particularly India and the Solomon Islands, in understanding the threats posed by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), in a recent interview on Epoch TV’s “American Thought Leaders” program.
“It is understanding how invasive and destructive and coercive the mentality of the Chinese Communist Party is—in terms of an individual’s right to think anything they want or believe anything they want, is imperative for understanding what we’re dealing with,” Paskal said.
She added: “In a Chinese-run world or Chinese-influenced world healthcare is used as a weapon to punish political dissidents.”
Paskal pointed to the example of Daniel Suidani, the premier of Malaita Province in the Solomon Islands and a prominent China critic. Since the South Pacific country ended its 36-year diplomatic ties with Taiwan in favor of China in September 2019, Suidani has continued to voice support for the self-ruled island and rejected Chinese investment in Malaita.
Suidani’s continued support for Taiwan—a de facto independent nation that China claims as a part of its territory—has put him at odds with the Solomon Islands’ Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare, who enjoys a close relationship with Beijing.
About six months ago, Suidani came down with a brain disease that required CT scans but the Solomon Islands does not have the medical device. As a result, the premier began seeking foreign medical care but was financially strapped to pay for it.
Suidani approached the Sogavare government for financial aid for his medical care, but he rejected the money after learning that there were strings attached to it—he had to shake the hands of Sogavare in public. Earlier this month, Suidani’s senior advisor Celsus Talifilu told Al Jazeera that the premier refused the offer because “it would be like shaking hands with China.”Current Time 9:43/Duration 52:45 1x
Taiwan offered Suidani medical assistance and the premier arrived in Taiwan on May 26. His trip to Taiwan has angered both the Sogavare government and Beijing—with the former saying that it was an “unauthorized” trip that undermined the South Pacific country’s “one China” policy.
Meanwhile, in a statement issued on May 30, the Chinese embassy in the Solomon Islands said it had “registered concerns” with the Sogavare government over Suidani’s trip, and added that it “opposes any official contacts” between Taiwan and other countries.
“This is a situation where his [Suidani’s] personal position on China meant he was going to be declined healthcare. This is essentially an extraterritorial social credit system type control over the healthcare of an individual person,” Paskal explained.
She added: “If you don’t accept China in your heart, you’re going to be left to die. That’s fundamentally what was happening with Premier Suidani.”
The Chinese regime enforces a social credit system, which assigns each citizen a score of “social trustworthiness.” People can have points taken away from their social credit score by committing behaviors deemed undesirable by the CCP such as jaywalking. Those with low social credit scores are deemed “untrustworthy,” and thus deprived access to services and opportunities. They could be barred from traveling by plane or attending schools, among other things. Critics have slammed the system as a violation of human rights.
Beijing could also weaponize Chinese mobile apps in order to sow divisions within other countries, according to Paskal. She applauded the Indian government for banning Chinese apps, particularly popular video-sharing app TikTok and messaging app WeChat.
India has banned more than 200 Chinese apps, citing the apps’ collection of user data as a national security risk. China’s national intelligence law requires all organizations and citizens to “support, assist, and cooperate with national intelligence efforts.”
Beijing could use the data collected by different Chinese apps for coercion and blackmail, Paskal warned.
Additionally, Paskal explained that since the Chinese apps also curated information, Beijing could try to “manipulate the people who have the app into believing certain things or heading in certain directions politically.”
“If you can create social division or exacerbate social division in another country, and paralyze it socially, damage it socially, China wins. It doesn’t mean countries don’t have social problems. It just means that there is a vested interest from Beijing; making those situations worse. And you can do that through apps like TikTok,” Paskal explained.
On June 9, the Biden administration revoked former President Donald Trump’s executive orders effectively banning TikTok and WeChat, and required the Commerce Department to conduct its own review of both apps.
Paskal warned that ultimately the CCP wants to influence the mind of every individual.
“So, be very aware. You are targeted. … The goal now of the Chinese Communist Party is political warfare—which is the front line of its attempt to achieve that number one position in terms of comprehensive national power is your mind,” she explained. Follow Frank on Twitter: @HwaiDerFollow Jan on Twitter: @JanJekielek
Portland Police deploy in Portland, Oregon on Nov. 4, 2020, during a demonstration called by the “Black Lives Matter” movement, a day after the US Presidential Election. (Kathryn Elsesser/AFP via Getty Images) Regional News
The entire Portland Police Bureau’s Rapid Response Team (RRT) has left their voluntary positions after an officer was indicted on a protest assault charge.
The team, which is responsible for providing public safety at crowd events when there was a threat of harm to the community, consisted of approximately 50 officers, all of whom resigned on June 16, the bureau announced.
Despite no longer serving as volunteers with RRT, the officers will continue with their regular assignments, the bureau said.
It comes just a day after Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt announced his team had indicted one member, Officer Corey Budworth, on one count of fourth-degree assault for physically injuring someone during an Aug. 18, 2020, protest.
“In this case, we allege that no legal justification existed for Officer Budworth’s deployment of force, and that the deployment of force was legally excessive under the circumstances,” Schmidt said in a statement on Tuesday. “My office will continue to do everything we can to ensure justice is done without error or delay and that we make sure our work and practices are rooted in fairness and equity.”
Schmidt noted that other use-of-force incidents are still under review and that his office has referred an investigation into Portland Police Det. Erik Kammerer’s use of force during protests to the Oregon State Department of Justice for review.
The indictment marks the first time a Portland police officer has faced prosecution for striking or firing at someone during a protest, according to The Oregonian.
Budworth was assigned to the Portland Police Bureau’s Rapid Response Team at the time of the alleged assault and prosecutors allege he used an “excessive and unlawful use of force” when he struck activist photographer Teri Jacobs in the head with a baton during a demonstration outside the Multnomah Building.
Multiple videos posted to social media show an officer, identified as Budworth, running after Jacobs and hitting her once in the head from behind, and then hitting her head again after she falls to the ground.
The Portland Police Association claim that Ms. Jacobs fell to the ground and that officer Bedworth had reason to believe she was getting back up to re-engage in her unlawful activities.
“Officer Budworth employed one last baton push to try and keep her on the ground, which accidentally struck Ms. Jacobs in the head. The location of Officer Budworth’s last baton push was accidental, not criminal,” they said in a statement on Wednesday.
“He faced a violent and chaotic, rapidly evolving situation, and he used the lowest level of baton force—a push; not a strike or a jab—to remove Ms. Jacobs from the area.”
However, in February, the city agreed to a $50,000 civil settlement for Jacobs in the case.
The Portland Police Bureau placed Budworth on administrative leave Tuesday, officials said.
“Unfortunately, this decorated public servant has been caught in the crossfire of agenda-driven city leaders and a politicized criminal justice system,” the Portland Police Association said in their statement on Wednesday.
“It is also important to know that Officer Corey Budworth is a committed public servant of the highest integrity. He has spent four of his six years as a PPB officer as a highly trained member of PPB’s Rapid Response Team (RRT). In his service with RRT and his deployment at hundreds of protests and demonstrations, Officer Budworth has never faced any sustained force complaints,” they added.
Portland has dealt with unrest—as riots have regularly taken place—since the spring of 2020. Some of the people who have committed crimes are members of the far-left, anarcho-communist Antifa network. Others have identified as Black Lives Matter activists.
Portlanders who spoke to The Epoch Times anonymously said that the violence is becoming worse and is unacceptable, despite being largely underreported by mainstream media.
One 44-year-old man who lives in a Portland suburb said, “There are brazen shootings and killings in broad daylight which did not happen before this past year. The violence is no longer limited to nights or certain neighborhoods.”
Another 64-year-old woman who works in the information technology field said that companies are also struggling to recruit new employees because Portland is now being perceived as dangerous.
Last week, the Portland Police Association announced it was relocating its headquarters because of repeated attacks by rioters, including members of the far-left network Antifa.
The Epoch Times has reached out to the Portland Police Bureau for comment.
A man kneels to pray in front of seats cordoned off with caution tape due to the CCP virus at the International Church of Las Vegas in Las Vegas, Nev., on May 31, 2020. (Ethan Miller/Getty Images) Constitutional Rights
Elected commissioners in two Nevada counties declared that the Bill of Rights will be upheld in their jurisdictions, even if it means standing against unconstitutional acts by state and federal authorities.
According to a resolution approved in Elko County on June 2, abuse of the constitutionally protected rights of citizens in Elko and Lander counties will be “dealt with as criminal activity.” Officials in Lander County approved a similar effort.
Under the leadership of constitutionally minded sheriffs and elected commissioners, the two rural counties in Nevada have decided to become “constitutional counties,” where the rights of citizens will be protected from all attacks.
That means local authorities intend to uphold the entire Bill of Rights in those jurisdictions, and that even federal and state officials must comply with the U.S. Constitution when there, they said.
As part of the effort to become a constitutional county, the two county governments also became the first in the country to officially join the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association (CSPOA).
The national organization, made up of sheriffs and other law enforcement officials dedicated to upholding their oaths of office to the U.S. Constitution and their state constitutions, has been training sheriffs about their constitutional role for years.
Countless law enforcement officers from across America are individual members. But before 2021, no county government had ever requested to join as a county, and CSPOA didn’t even have that available as a membership option.
Now there are two that joined in the last month.
Sheriff Mack Speaks
“The people of these counties and their elected officials have had it up to here with unconstitutional dictates and mandates,” retired Sheriff Richard Mack, the founder and chief of CSPOA, told The Epoch Times.
Under the measure, county officials, including sheriffs and deputies, are strictly bound by their oath to uphold the U.S. Constitution and protect the rights of constituents—even if that means defying what they view as unconstitutional orders, mandates, decrees, or statutes from state or federal authorities.
The two rural counties in question both overwhelmingly approved the decisions to become official members of CSPOA and warn officials from every level of government to abide by the oath of office.
“The leadership of Elko County is an example to all Nevada and the entire country that tyranny will no longer be acceptable,” Mack said.
He also noted that elected officials in these counties understand they have a duty to protect the liberties of their people against anyone who may seek to undermine them.
For years, Mack has traveled the country educating sheriffs and communities on what he claims is their duty to protect the constitutionally guaranteed liberties of their constituents from efforts to undermine them—even from federal and state governments.
He said that having locally elected officials tell federal and state authorities that the Bill of Rights will be upheld in their jurisdictions helps protect the God-given freedoms that each citizen was born with.
“This is the peaceful and effective solution millions of Americans have been praying for to take back America county by county and state by state,” Mack said.
“These public officials are actually doing something that has been lost in political correctness for a very long time; they are courageously keeping their oaths of office to uphold, defend, and preserve the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of Nevada.
“God bless Elko County.”
Mack has challenged the federal government on constitutional matters himself, famously winning a Supreme Court case against the Clinton administration while still serving as a sheriff.
In his landmark 1997 lawsuit against federal gun-control programs, the Supreme Court delivered a major win for proponents of the U.S. Constitution’s 10th Amendment, which reserves all powers not delegated to the U.S. government for the states or the people.
Constitutional scholars have argued that the case was among the most important Supreme Court rulings protecting states’ rights.
Under what has come to be known as the Constitution’s “anti-commandeering doctrine,” the high court’s opinion in Printz v. United States also reiterated that sheriffs aren’t bound to help enforce federal statutes or regulations.
The Elko County Resolution
The resolution adopted by Elko County included language indicating that county officials will protect the rights of all citizens within their jurisdiction, even if it means going against federal or state authorities.
“The people of these United States are, and have a right to be, free and independent, and these rights are derived from the ‘Law of Nature and nature’s God,’” the resolution states, echoing the language of America’s Founders in the Declaration of Independence.
“As such, they must be free from infringements on the right to keep and bear arms, unreasonable searches and seizures, capricious detainments, and every other natural right whether enumerated or not, pursuant to the 9th Amendment.”
The document, approved unanimously by the Elko County Board of Commissioners, also reaffirms the U.S. Constitution’s 10th Amendment protecting states from the federal usurpation of unauthorized powers.
Next, the resolution notes that no federal agency can create policies that supersede the Constitution and that the executive branch of government isn’t authorized to make law under America’s system of government.
The document then goes on to list a variety of “abuses” that “will not be tolerated.”
At the top of the list are orders infringing on the rights to freedom of speech, religion, assembly, and other liberties guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment.
Other acts that won’t be tolerated include efforts to register firearms, gun confiscation, violations of privacy or property rights without a warrant, and detainment or arrest without following constitutional procedures.
Commissioner Behind the Effort Speaks Out
Speaking to The Epoch Times, Elko County Commissioner Rex Steninger, who proposed the resolution, called on counties across the United States to take similar actions in defense of the Constitution.
“We need a majority of counties in all the freedom-loving states to join,” Steninger said after his resolution passed unanimously last week.
Right now, “the Swamp controls our federal government” and “our nation is in decline,” he said.
Citing Mack, the Elko County commissioner argued that “the only way to take our country back” is to do it “county by county, sheriff by sheriff.”
“My advice to other Americans is that they had better wake up and fight back or we will lose our wonderful country,” Steninger said. “We are slipping quickly from the Republic of our founding into a dictatorship.”
Becoming a “constitutional county” and joining the CSPOA is one way local authorities can resist the escalating abuses, he said.
“I feel joining the CSPOA was needed to signal to our leaders up the ladder that we are tired of their unconstitutional orders and we are not going to obediently follow them anymore,” Steninger said.
According to Steninger, the public has been “overwhelmingly supportive” of the county’s move.
At a meeting last week, the commissioners voted to set up a fund so citizens could voluntarily pay for a patriotic celebration of the effort on June 20. They quickly collected more than what was needed.
“That tells me the citizens of Elko County are eager for some resistance,” he said.
Leaders of Lander County, which approved a similar move last month, have also been receiving a positive response from citizens. All but one of its commissioners voted to join CSPOA and become a constitutional county as well.
In the end, Steninger and other local officials argue that the Constitution must be protected, starting at the local level.
“The Constitution is the framework of our Republic,” he said. “It is what enabled us to rise from a fledgling collection of immigrants into the most powerful nation on Earth in just 150 years – a historical blink of the eye.”
“It was the freedoms enshrined in the Constitution that allowed our citizens to flourish and excel.”
Every elected official swears an oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States, as well as the constitution of his or her state.
But the pandemic “has really illustrated how far we have fallen,” Steninger said in a public speech supporting the initiative, pointing to what he views as government attacks against even the most basic freedoms.
The First Amendment guarantees the right to freely exercise one’s religion and peacefully assemble—among the most fundamental rights protected in the Constitution.
“Yet governors across the nation told us we could not leave our houses or gather with our friends,” Steninger said. “They told us to close our churches and avoid celebrations for Thanksgiving and Christmas. And most of us obeyed.”
The Fifth Amendment “says we shall not be deprived of our property without the due process of law,” he said. “But the governors ordered us to close our businesses and most obeyed.”
That was a mistake, in Steninger’s estimation.
“We should not have obeyed,” said the commissioner, who is reaching out to other elected officials across the state and encouraging them to follow Elko County’s lead. “We should have revolted.
“Adopting this resolution and joining the CSPOA is a first step in reclaiming our Republic and the God-given rights guaranteed by our Constitution.”
Just the Beginning?
Sheriffs from across Nevada were at the rally held in Lander County in support of becoming constitutional counties.
As the word spreads and citizens across the United States get involved, these two counties are likely just the beginning, Mack told The Epoch Times.
CSPOA Operations Manager Sam Bushman, who worked closely with the county officials on the effort, emphasized to The Epoch Times that this is “a citizens push and partnership with all public officials.”
“It’s important to remember that without the people, these efforts would be for naught,” he said.
“This is a peaceful stand for the rule of law. It’s accountability for all—including and especially those who work for the people and take an oath.”
Bushman said he was already working with other elected officials on the issue.
Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak’s office didn’t respond to requests for comment by press time.
Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) speaks during a hearing to examine United States Special Operations Command and United States Cyber Command in review of the Defense Authorization Request for fiscal year 2022 and the Future Years Defense Program, on Capitol Hill in Washington on March 25, 2021. (Andrew Harnik-Pool/Getty Images) Censorship & Socialism
‘Hundreds’ of Whistleblowers Say Military Forcing ‘Anti-American Indoctrination’ on Them: Sen. Cotton
Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) told Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on June 10 that “hundreds” of military whistleblowers have reported being forced to receive “anti-American indoctrination” training, including critical race theory (CRT).
In a Senate hearing with Austin, Cotton claimed that within the military, there’s “plummeting morale, growing mistrust between races and sexes where none existed just six months ago and unexpected retirements and separations based on these trainings alone.
One whistleblower, Cotton alleged, said that military history training was replaced with training about police brutality, “systemic racism,” and “white privilege.” Another said that his unit had to read “White Fragility” by feminist author and critical theory proponent Robin DiAngelo, according to the senator.
In May, the Space Force confirmed it relieved Lt. Col. Matthew Lohmeier, a former instructor and fighter pilot, as commander of the 11th Space Warning Squadron. While it didn’t specifically name the reason why Lohmeier was terminated, the Space Force cited comments made by Lohmeier during a podcast in which he denounced CRT and warned about the spread of Marxism within the Space Force’s ranks.
CRT, which draws heavily upon Marxist critical theory and postmodernist writers, denounces U.S. and Western culture as oppressive, and often claims American culture and institutions are promoting “systemic racism” or “white supremacy.” Some critics have said the ideology’s proponents apply the Marxist tactic of “class struggle” to drive people along the lines of gender, race, and ethnicity, rather than between the “proletariat” and “bourgeoisie.”
In the hearing, Austin told Cotton that some training is designed to make sure that the armed forces are “welcoming to everyone who can qualify and who is fit to serve.”
“We ought to look like the America we support and defend, and senior leadership should look like what’s in the ranks,” Austin said.
But Cotton suggested that claims the military is attempting to foster diversity with such training are incorrect.
“[It’s] about a very specific kind of anti-American indoctrination that is seeping into some parts of our military, based on the whistleblower complaints we have received,” he said.
“The military for decades has been one of the institutions in society where you are most likely to get ahead based on your own performance, your own merit, irrespective of the color of your skin, where you came from, who your parents were.”
Austin agreed with Cotton’s sentiment.
“I absolutely agree with that. I am an example of that,” he said.
Austin went on to state that the military needs to be “a bit better,” be “absolutely inclusive,” and promote “equity.” The terms “inclusive” and “equity” have been used in social justice circles for years.
Austin then argued that by doing so, it’ll be the “most effective and lethal fighting force in the world.”
California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Thursday that the Biden administration and the State of California have reached a deal to restore a bullet traingrant of nearly $1 billion that was revoked by President Donald Trump, who called the project a “disaster.”
The U.S. Department of Transportation and California officials on Thursday finalized settlement negotiations to restore the money for the train, which the Trump administration revoked in 2019, Newsom said in a statement.
“Restoring nearly $929 million in grant funding back to California’s High-Speed Rail project will continue to spur job creation, advance the project and move the state one step closer to getting trains running in California as soon as possible,” Newsom said.
California voters in 2008 approved nearly $10 billion in bond money to build a high-speed rail line connecting Los Angeles and San Francisco that was supposed to be running by 2020. But the project was plagued by cost overruns and delays. Officials now hope to have trains running on a segment through the state’s central valley agricultural region by 2029.
Critics have derided the segment as a “train to nowhere,” while advocates say it’s a necessary test and precursor to linking more populated areas.
Republican candidate for California governor Caitlyn Jenner said Thursday she would take the $929 million grant and spend it on finishing Trump’s border wall.
“Right now we’re spending billions on a high-speed train to nowhere,” she told KABC in an interview. “Take some of that money, go down to the border wall and completely finish on state land. Completely finish the wall. We need protection.”
Her remarks come as U.S. Customs and Border Protection reported it had apprehended 180,034 individuals illegally entering the United States in May, the highest monthly tally in 21 years, fueling calls to tighten border security.
The project’s business plan anticipates environmental approval for the 500 miles between Los Angeles and San Francisco by 2023. Completion of the full line depends on funding and other unknowns. Newsom last month unveiled a budget proposal that includes $4.2 billion for the project, including the bond money approved by voters in 2008.
In February 2019, Newsom announced a scaled back version of the $77 billion high-speed rail project, saying the current plan “would cost too much and take too long,” prompting Trump to demand California return the $3.5 billion it had received from the federal government for the project.
“California has been forced to cancel the massive bullet train project after having spent and wasted many billions of dollars,” Trump wrote in a tweet. “They owe the Federal Government three and a half billion dollars. We want that money back now. Whole project is a ‘green’ disaster!”
Later, the Trump administration pulled the $929 million in outstanding federal grant money from the beleaguered train project. In a letter (pdf), the U.S. Department of Transportation explained its decision, saying California officials had “failed to make reasonable progress” and had not held up their part of the funding agreement.
<Sigh> Just like the 2020 Presidential Election. TRUTH & FACTS DO NOT ALTER A DISINGENUOUS AND MISGUIDED PATH by the SPECIAL INTERESTS WHO RIGGED THIS CALIFORNIA SPECIAL DISTRICT FRAUD AND CONTINUE TO PULL THE STRINGS of “BUSINESS AS USUAL” all the while MR WECS (Merced River Water Entitled Customers of the Lake Don Pedro residential subdivision) continue to pick up the escalating costs of a 40 plus year complete deception of the facts. Where is the ACCOUNTABILITY for those who designed this nightmare?
Yup, business as usual and the public pays more and more yet receives less and less. Sure employee pay raises are just another aspect of the “business as usual facade of credibility”, but fair employee compensation is not the issue which has torn this community apart since the district’s formation, rather, the issue has been the DECADES OF DISHONEST SERVICE BY A CALIFORNIA SPECIAL DISTRICT AND THE BETRAYAL OF THE LEGALLY ENTITLED WATER CUSTOMERS IT WAS SUPPOSED TO SERVE.
Why have PUBLIC RECORDS been withheld (from the public – that’s called a clue) for well over one year regarding how this FRAUD OF A CALIFORNIA SPECIAL DISTRICT was intentionally created and designed by COUNTY LAFCOS
(Local Agency Formation Commissions, ie, STATE POWERS exercised on a LOCAL PLANNING LEVEL)
to exploit STATE WATER LICENSE 11395while simultaneously designating thousands of innocent subdivision property owners as the “DEEP POCKET VICTIMS” to quietly SUBSIDIZE an extremely expensive GROUNDWATER SUBSTITUTION PROGRAM TO CIRCUMVENT WATER LICENSE PLACE OF USERESTRICTIONS – all intended to provide a SPECIAL BENEFIT BLENDED WATER SERVICE FOR THE MANY LAND ANNEXATIONS INTO THE LDPCSD THAT THESE VERY COUNTY LAFCOS HAD APPROVED FOR DEVELOPMENT DESPITE CONTRADICTION OF THEIR OWN REGULATIONS? MARIPOSA COUNTY LAFCO RESOLUTION 76-4. Look it up on the County Website!
<gasp> OOPS! Think I answered the question within the question yeah?
Public records withheld from the public? Yup, a big clue. Just like more ballots being certified than there were actual voters……. or dead people voting? Nothing is too outrageous for those manipulating a system to their benefit while claiming to work “for the people”.
U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo speaks as White House press secretary Jen Psaki looks on during a daily press briefing at the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House in Washington on April 7, 2021. (Alex Wong/Getty Images) Companies
U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo said Sunday that cyberattacks will only increase in the future and that she and the administration are urging all businesses to shore up their own cybersecurity systems, while the federal government works to strengthen national cybersecurity.
“So, I think the first thing we have to recognize is, this is a reality, and we should assume and businesses should assume that these attacks are here to stay and if anything will intensify,” said Raimondo.
Raimondo made the comment during an interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, who questioned her about the eight cyberattacks against companies occurring each day.
The secretary pointed to the White House’s June 3 letter in which the cybersecurity adviser at the National Security Council, Anne Neuberger, warned business leaders about the growing risk of ransomware attacks, urging them to beef up their digital security measures.
“The threats are serious and they are increasing,” Neuberger said in the letter obtained by media outlets.
“All organizations must recognize that no company is safe from being targeted by ransomware, regardless of size or location. Much as our homes have locks and alarm systems and our office buildings have guards and security to meet the threat of theft, we urge you to take ransomware crime seriously and ensure your corporate cyber defenses match the threat.”
Raimondo repeated the White House’s warning for businesses to increase cybersecurity without delay.
“The only good news here George is that some very simple steps, like two-factor authentications, having proper backups and backup technology can be enormously helpful against a wide variety of these attacks,” Raimondo added.
“So, it is clear that the private sector needs to be more vigilant, by the way, including small and medium-sized companies. And also, President Biden has been clear that we are going to do more. In fact, certain components of the American Jobs Plan (AJP), provide for investments to shore up the nation’s cyber infrastructure, which is just another reason why it’s so important that the AJP passes,” she said.
The commerce secretary’s warning comes after a number of recent high-profile cyberattacks, including one targeting Colonial Pipeline last month, leading to a disruptive shutdown and gasoline shortages. Earlier this week, a hack against America’s largest beef producer, JBS, led to a shutdown of many of its meat production plants, sparking fears of food supply interruptions. In late May, Microsoft announced that it believes the Russia-based hackers behind the SolarWinds cyber attack had begun a fresh campaign targeting over 150 government agencies, think tanks, and non-governmental organizations.
To counter the increased cyberattacks on May 12, the Biden administration issued an executive order to bolster the federal government’s ability to “identify, deter, protect against, detect, and respond to these actions and actors.”
The Biden administration said they will take a whole-of-government approach to combatting the security threat by removing barriers to sharing information about these threats, modernizing the federal government’s cybersecurity, enhancing the software supply chain, establishing a cyber safety review board, standardizing how the government responds to attacks, improving the federal government’s ability to detect cyber threats, and improving its ability to investigate and correct the problems.
Raimondo said the Biden administration is leaving the security of each business to itself, instead of mandating anything at this point.
“I think that as I said at this point we are urging businesses … and at the moment we’re going to pursue that versus, what you’re talking about, a little bit more heavy-handed approach.”
Hispanic voters shifting to the GOP stems from former President Donald Trump’s values and the Republican Party can lock in the gains provided GOP officials remain focused on the same values, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) says.
Rubio, a Cuban-American, told Breitbart News that Hispanic voters in Miami swung to Trump in 2020 in part because they’re against socialism.
“These are communities made up of people who value commonsense wisdom and working class values,” Rubio said.
“That’s what their life is built on. Those are two things the left has abandoned. You hear lots of people talk about whether it’s socialism. Socialism is a part of it. Socialism is a part of the commonsense part of it. In their mind, if I were to step in the shoes of someone who maybe voted for Obama in 2012, then voted for Donald Trump in 2020, they would say to you: ‘Look, I came from a socialist country. I fled it. Why the hell would we do that here?’ It makes no sense to them.”
According to exit polls, Trump saw more support from Hispanics in 2020 than 2016. In several key areas, Hispanic votes shifted significantly. For instance, in Florida, 35 percent of Hispanics voted for Trump in 2016; in 2020, that figure was close to 50 percent, according to a CNN exit poll. Overall, Democrat Joe Biden, who won the election, won 65 percent of the Hispanic/Latino vote.
A poll conducted in April (pdf) on behalf of the National Republican Senatorial Committee found that a majority of Hispanic voters said they support capitalism over socialism and worry that America is declining so much that their children will not have the same opportunities that drew them to the country in the first place.
About 50 percent of respondents said that Democrat policies end up hurting Hispanic families and generally aligned with conservatives’ views on biological males playing in women’s sports, cancel culture, and the power Big Tech holds.
“If you look at these poll numbers, Hispanics across the country are Republicans,” Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) told reporters in Washington last month.
New Mexico Democratic political consultant Sisto Abeyta told Axios recently that Democrats need to turn their attention to areas previously believed to be solid blue.
“Democrats need to change the narrative and start talking about jobs,” Abeyta said. “They need to invest and engage and not take these districts for granted. These voters are up for grabs now.”
The shift toward the GOP among Hispanics will be permanent, Rubio told Breitbart, provided Republicans continue to focus on the values that Trump promoted.
“I think President Trump was doing a lot of things based on common sense. In their mind, it made all the sense in the world. They don’t understand why their side is against it. And then working class values—most of these people here don’t care what you do with your life, they don’t want to tell you how to live your life, who to marry, who to love, and so forth—but you’re asking them to abandon three or four thousand years of accumulated human wisdom because a handful of crazy professors have convinced people everything we knew was true is no longer true on things like gender, on this or that,” Rubio said.
“These guys just got turned off by all that, and I think it accelerated through the summer on the pandemic and the rioting and all of that. I think that shift is permanent unless we as Republicans go back to being who we used to be—then we give these people no political home.” Follow Zachary on Twitter: @zackstieberFollow Zachary on Parler: @zackstieber
Hundreds of suspects have been arrested and tons of drugs seized in one of the largest and most sophisticated global law enforcement operations ever, which relied on an FBI-developed encrypted messaging app that became popular with members of criminal networks and used to ensnare them.
In a series of large-scale sting operations across 16 countries over the past few days, European law enforcement agencies, along with the FBI and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), made more than 800 arrests and seized over 32 tons of drugs—chiefly cannabis and cocaine—along with 6 tons of synthetic drug precursors and over $48 million in currencies and cryptocurrencies, Europol said in a release.
The operation, called Greenlight/Trojan Shield, is further expected to lead to “countless spin-off operations” in the weeks to come, Europol said, potentially leading to more seizures and arrests.
“This operation is an exceptional success by the authorities in the United States, Sweden, the Netherlands, Australia, New Zealand and the other European members of the Operational Task Force,” Europol’s Deputy Executive Director Jean-Philippe Lecouffe said in a statement.
The operation relied on an encrypted messaging app developed by the FBI, in close coordination with the Australian Federal Police, called ANOM. Its aim was to target global organized crime, drug trafficking, and money laundering operations. Over time, ANOM grew to service with more than 12,000 encrypted devices used by members of over 300 criminal syndicates operating in over 100 countries—including the Italian mafia, outlaw motorcycle gangs, and international drug trafficking syndicates, Europol said.
The FBI, along with agencies from the 16 other member countries of the coalition, then exploited the intelligence from some 27 million messages obtained by monitoring ANOM as its “criminal users discussed their criminal activities.”
In developing the messaging platform, the FBI took advantage of the huge demand among criminal networks for encrypted communication platforms to facilitate their criminal activities. After law enforcement agencies in 2020 and in 2021 dismantled two encrypted messaging platforms popular with members of criminal organizations, many migrated to the FBI-developed messaging app.
“The goal of the new platform was to target global organized crime, drug trafficking, and money laundering organizations, regardless of where they operated, and offer an encrypted device with features sought by the organized crime networks, such as remote wipe and duress passwords, to persuade criminal networks to pivot to the device,” Europol said.
The high-quality information gathered by way of ANOM is expected to continue to help law enforcement identify operating high-value criminal targets on a global scale, the agency said.
“Encrypted criminal communications platforms have traditionally been a tool to evade law enforcement and facilitate transnational organized crime. The FBI and our international partners continue to push the envelope and develop innovative ways to overcome these challenges and bring criminals to justice,” the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division Assistant Director Calvin A. Shivers, said in a statement.
“We have been in the back pockets of organized crime,” Kershaw said at a media briefing. “All they talk about is drugs, violence, hits on each other, innocent people who are going to be murdered.”
He said the messages were brazen and ANOM users made no attempt to hide behind any kind of code.
“It was there to be seen, including ‘we’ll have a speedboat meet you at this point,’ ‘this is who will do this,’ and so on,” he added.
One murder plot that authorities got to know of involved plans to attack a cafe with a machine gun, while a family of five was also targeted. Authorities said they were able to prevent these attacks.
A total of 525 charges have been laid but authorities expect more in the coming weeks.
Reuters contributed to this report. Follow Tom on Twitter: @OZImekTOM
When Fulton County, Georgia, poll manager Suzi Voyles sorted through a large stack of mail-in ballots last November, she noticed an alarmingly odd pattern of uniformity in the markings for Joseph R. Biden. One after another, the absentee votes contained perfectly filled-in ovals for Biden—except that each of the darkened bubbles featured an identical white void inside them in the shape of a tiny crescent, indicating they’d been marked with toner ink instead of a pen or pencil.
Adding to suspicions, she noticed that all of the ballots were printed on different stock paper than the others she handled as part of a statewide hand recount of the razor-thin Nov. 3 presidential election. And none was folded or creased, as she typically observed in mail-in ballots that had been removed from envelopes.
In short, the Biden votes looked like they’d been duplicated by a copying machine.
“All of them were strangely pristine,” said Voyles, who said she’d never seen anything like it in her 20 years monitoring elections in Fulton County, which includes much of Atlanta.
She wasn’t alone. At least three other poll workers observed the same thing in stacks of absentee ballots for Biden processed by the county, and they have joined Voyles in swearing under penalty of perjury that they looked fake.
Now election watchdogs have used their affidavits to help convince a state judge to unseal all of the 147,000 mail-in ballots counted in Fulton and allow a closer inspection of the suspicious Biden ballots for evidence of counterfeiting. They argue that potentially tens of thousands may have been manufactured in a race that Biden won by just 12,000 votes thanks to a late surge of mail-in ballots counted after election monitors were shooed from State Farm Arena in Atlanta.
“We have what is almost surely major absentee-ballot fraud in Fulton County involving 10,000 to 20,000 probably false ballots,” said Garland Favorito, the lead petitioner in the case and a certified poll watcher who runs VoterGa.org, one of the leading advocates for election integrity in the state.
He said the suspect ballots remain in the custody of the election officials and inaccessible from public view.
“We have confirmed that there are five pallets of shrink-wrapped ballots in a county warehouse,” Favorito said in an interview with RealClearInvestigations.
He and other petitioners were ordered to meet at the warehouse May 28 to settle the terms of the inspection of the absentee ballots. But the day before the scheduled meeting, the county filed a flurry of motions to dismiss the case, delaying the inspection indefinitely.
“We will be in court on June 21 to resolve these motions,” said Favorito, calling them another “roadblock” the county has tried to throw in their way. He expects talks over the logistics of the inspection to resume after the Fourth of July holiday.
As part of his May 21 order, Superior Court Judge Brian Amero requested officials guard the warehouse around the clock until an inspection date can be set. But just eight days later, a breach in security was reported after sheriff’s deputies left their post for a couple of hours.
“The front door was [found] unlocked and wide open in violation of the court order,” Favorito said.
County officials confirmed that a motion-detection alarm was triggered Saturday, May 29, shortly after the deputies drove away from the building in their patrol cars around 4 p.m. But they said a locked room where the ballots are kept “was never breached or compromised.”
Favorito is not convinced, and his lawyer is seeking to obtain the video footage from building security cameras. “How do we know for certain there was no tampering with the ballots?” asked Favorito, who said he did not vote for Trump.
News of the security lapse caught the attention of former President Donald Trump, who has claimed his loss to Biden was marred by fraud. In a statement, he implied election officials in the Democratic-controlled county are trying to hide evidence of fraud. “They are afraid of what might be found,” he asserted.
Trump is also closely monitoring the ongoing election audit in Arizona, another red state that turned blue in 2020. If evidence of fraud is found in these key swing states, it might help confirm suspicions the election was “stolen” from Trump and the 74 million who voted for him—as a recent poll found 61 percent of Republicans believe—as well as provide the proof of voter fraud that Democrats and major media have long claimed doesn’t exist.
The cases could potentially give other battleground states incentive to take steps to tighten election security and root out fraud, including passing legislation to limit the use of controversial mail-in drop boxes and require the verification of signatures on such ballots. In Georgia, relatively few mail-in ballots were rejected for invalid signatures in the November general election, even though several thousand had been disqualified for signature issues in the primary election.
In a move that inspired national boycotts alleging voter “suppression,” Georgia recently passed a law limiting, but not removing, the drop boxes. The state had installed them for the first time in 2020 under pressure from Democratic groups, who argued officials needed to make voting easier for minorities who didn’t trust the mail and feared going to the polls during the COVID scare.
The 38 drop boxes Fulton distributed throughout the county in the November election will be cut to eight in the future. The boxes had been largely unregulated and unattended—located outdoors, open 24 hours a day and available for drop-offs until the evening of Election Day, prompting complaints of ballot stuffing and double voting. But now they have to be located inside election offices or early voting locations, and can only be available during the hours when early voting is permitted. The new law also requires ballots be printed on special security paper.
Voting by mail traditionally was limited to voters who had clearly defined and well-documented reasons to be absent from the polls. But Democrats in key swing states lobbied to relax the rules in the middle of the election and amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Mail-in or drop-off ballots create opportunities for voter error and fraud. In a typical election, one in 20 mailed ballots are rejected, according to recent studies. More than 534,000 mail-in ballots were rejected during the 2020 Democratic primaries alone.
Still, both Republican and Democratic officials in Georgia say they have found no credible evidence of widespread fraud in the general election. Democrats, as well as many major media outlets, have written off Favorito’s group’s allegations of fraud as “conspiracy theories.”
“This is nothing more than a circus that’s being put on by those who promote the ‘big lie’” that Trump won the election, said Robb Pitts, the Democratic chairman of the Fulton County Board of Commissioners. “Where does it end? The votes have been counted. The elections have been certified. It’s over.”
Pitts effectively controls the county elections board through his Democratic appointee Mary Carole Cooney, who runs the board. They are in charge of securing the pallets of disputed Biden mail-in ballots awaiting inspection in the county warehouse.
But Judge Amero, who federal elections records show is a Democratic donor, felt compelled to unseal the ballots for a forensics review after reading the sworn affidavits submitted by election monitors. Here are key witnesses in the case:
Suzi Voyles, a veteran Fulton poll manager who audited the Nov. 14 recount at Georgia World Congress Center, testified she examined several stacks of ballots of about 100 ballots each from a cardboard box marked “Box No. 5—Absentee—Batch Numbers 28-36.” She said these ballots “came from the ballot [drop] boxes that had been placed throughout Fulton County.”
“Most of the ballots had already been handled; they had been written on by people, and the edges were worn. They showed obvious use,” she wrote in her Nov. 17 affidavit. “However, one batch stood out. It was pristine. There was a difference in the texture of the paper,” and these mail-in ballots hadn’t been folded even though they ostensibly had been removed from envelopes.
All but three of the 110 ballots in the bundle—which had been labeled “State Farm Arena”—were marked for Biden and appeared to be “identical ballots.”
The most “alarming peculiarity” was the identically marked ovals next to Biden’s name. In every ballot, “The bubble next to ‘Joseph R. Biden’ had a slight white eclipse in the bubble,” she said, leading her to believe that the batch of 107 Biden ballots had been “copied” from a single ballot.
Voyles speculated that “additional absentee ballots had been added [for Biden] in a fraudulent manner” at the State Farm Arena in Atlanta on election night.
The void she and other auditors witnessed in the exact same spot of the oval filled in on 107 ballots for Biden “was alarming to us,” Voyles said in an RCI interview. “Every single bubble was precisely alike. I had never seen that before in 20 years” of election monitoring.
But when she and other recount workers raised concerns with county election officials, “we were told not to worry about it,” she said. “They seemed uninterested in the [integrity of the] ballots.”
After Voyles later blew the whistle in affidavits and state election hearings, she was fired as a poll manager by the Fulton County Department of Elections. “I got the boot for speaking the truth,” she told RCI.
Robin Hall, a certified Fulton County recount observer, also testified she witnessed a number of boxes of absentee ballots marked “100 percent for Biden” that appeared to be “perfectly filled out as if they were pre-printed with the presidential candidate selected.” She stated: “They did not look like a person had filled this out at home. All of them looked alike.”
Judy Aube also worked at the World Congress Center on Nov. 14 where she observed the same thing: “suspicious batches” of mail-in ballots for Biden whose markings appeared identical, as if they had been duplicated by a machine and not filled out by a voter at home.
Barbara Hartman, another election official auditor, also doubted the authenticity of absentee ballots she handled that she said were never folded, as would normally be the case for ballots returned in an envelope by mail or dropped in a box. “The absentee ballots looked as though they had just come from a fresh stack,” she swore in her affidavit. “I could not observe any creases in the ballots and [it] did not seem like they were folded and put into envelopes or mailed out.” Also, “The majority of the mail-in ballots that I reviewed contained suspicious black perfectly bubbled markings for Biden,” Hartman stated, adding that “they looked as if they were stamped.”
The veteran poll watchers found no plausible explanation for the anomalies other than possible fraud.
However, election officials have offered an explanation for why the mail-in ballots examined in the stacks did not have folds or creases. They say ballots are sometimes copied onto other paper when they are too damaged to be fed through one of the scanning machines during tabulation. The mailed ballots can be torn or crumpled by postal workers during delivery or by poll workers while opening them and removing them from envelopes, which could prevent the machines from reading them.
But Favorito suspects the hundreds, if not thousands, of allegedly duplicate absentee ballots for Biden might be connected to spikes in votes for Biden he observed late on election night in Fulton County after election officials cleared monitors from State Farm Arena and pulled cases full of ballots out from under tables and began scanning them.
“There’s always the chance it was an inside job,” said Favorito, a career IT professional who’s been a leading advocate for Georgia election integrity over the past two decades.
On Nov. 3, Fulton County elections officials informed monitors that they were shutting down the State Farm tabulation center before midnight, only to continue counting throughout the night while no one was watching.
“Election workers don’t bring ballots in after the supervisor has delayed processing until the morning, hide them under a table, and then bring them out for scanning and tabulation after the supervisor tells [monitors] they are done scanning for the evening and they go home,” Favorito said.
“Once scanning [was] completed, an election line feed showed an unprecedented vote spike that turned the election in favor of Biden,” he added. In fact, “just over a half hour after workers scanned the potentially fraudulent ballots, an election line feed showed a 100,000-plus vote spike for Biden.”
“Where did those ballots come from and why did they handle them so suspiciously?” Favorito asked.
Voyles noted that the county elections supervisor who oversaw the secret scanning of the cases full of ballots also helps run the warehouse where the suspect ballots are being stored.
Phone calls and emails to Fulton County went unanswered.
Similar Anomalies, Other Counties
Favorito pointed out that the potential for counterfeit ballots exists in other Georgia counties, not just Fulton.
In fact, two Democrat poll workers blew the whistle on similar anomalies they witnessed in neighboring DeKalb and Cobb counties, where the election process also is controlled by Democrats.
Carlos E. Silva, for one, declared in a Nov. 17 affidavit that he observed a similar “perfect black bubble” in absentee ballots for Biden during the recount he worked in DeKalb County. And while overseeing the Cobb County recount, he swore he “observed absentee ballots being reviewed with the same perfect bubble that I had seen the night before in DeKalb. All of these ballots had the same characteristics: they were all for Biden and had the same perfect bubble.”
Added Silva, a registered Democrat, “There were thousands of [mail-in] ballots that just had the perfect bubble marked for Biden and no other markings in the rest of the ballot.”
Another registered Democrat, Mayra Romera, testified that while monitoring the Cobb County recount, she noticed that “hundreds of these ballots seemed impeccable, with no folds or creases. The bubble selections were perfectly made … and all happened to be selections for Biden.”
In a recent article pooh-poohing complaints of fraud in Georgia, as well as Arizona, The New York Times portrayed Favorito as “a known conspiracy theorist” and suggested he was a 9/11 truther. As evidence, it cited a 2002 book he published “questioning the origin of the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.”
Asked about it, Favorito responded: “My book did not propose any theories on what happened on 9/11. I don’t mention anything about explosives” planted in the World Trade Center, as truthers have speculated. Rather, he said, he questioned Bush family business connections with the bin Laden family and other wealthy Saudis, and argued that the war on terror benefited the Bushes. He also faulted the Bush administration for “obstructing” FBI investigations into the attacks.
Favorito says he is a “constitutionalist” and neither a Republican nor a Trump supporter.