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Russian move to block Telegram creates wider access problems for Russian Internet users

Clumsy implementation of mass IP bans create a difficulty in accessing global Internet resources, in a move that is NOT based in propaganda

Seraphim Hanisch

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First appeared on RussiaFeed.com

Internet users in the Russian Federation may have noticed something different in the last week or two. Many Internet sites that were available in March are no longer available now, at least not without a VPN in use to set the user’s computer outside the Russian Federation.

Is this government censorship?

Hardly, at least not in the expected sense of sanctioning the West.

It is a very clumsy attempt by the Russian government to restrict access to Telegram. If one wants to call that move censorship it might be legitimate, but it still is not a move that has anything to do with tensions with the West.

In our newspiece dated 14 April, the Russian censorship authority Roskomnadzor (RKN) announced the forthcoming restriction against Telegram, Russian entrepreneur Pavel Durov’s latest messaging enterprise. While the date that the ban was to take effect was not released, it apparently has been put in place now.

On 22 April, Pavel Durov had this to say on Twitter:

Pavel Durov was a co-founder of vKontakte (VK), a social network very similar to the American Facebook, but targeted at the Russian market.

The Russian government has taken issue with Durov’s Telegram network because its ability to encrypt communication end-to-end is so strong that encryption keys are required to crack it. This has created unwitting cover for ISIS personnel. and the point of view of the Russian Federal Security Bureau (FSB) is that this is a threat to the security of the Russian Federation. When the FSB requested decryption keys for Telegram users in Russia, Pavel Durov refused to grant them.

Unfortunately, the FSB’s move to get Rozkomnadzor to restrict Telegram from being used within Russian territorial bounds was further complicated when the messaging network shifted its service to two giant American web hosts, Google Cloud and Amazon Web Services, while at the same time repeatedly changing its IP address to skip ahead of Roskomnadzor. So RKN was unable to restrict Telegram by just blocking one or a few addresses.

 

To try to stop Telegram services from being accessible, RKN then blocked a rather wide range of IP addresses that belong to Google. When this happened, other sites that also use IP addresses in this range were cut off. 

The New York Times reported on some of the effects:

The collateral damage hit a variety of other sites, like Viber, another messaging app, as well as small businesses including a language school and a courier service, all of which suffered financial losses.

Volvo dealershipscould not access their service records, according to press reports, and Kremlin museums had to suspend ticket sales. Roskomnadzor said it unblocked individual sites as soon as the agency became aware of a problem.

The Agora group of human rights lawyers, which represents Telegram in Russian courts, said in a statement that it had received 73 complaints about blocked websites. The organization planned to file a formal complaint with the prosecutor general’s office.

In addition to the virtual warfare, the two sides sparred publicly. Mr. Zharov told the independent Russian news outlet The Bellthat his agency had been able to cut off one-third of the traffic to Telegram, while the company said the figure was 5 percent. The Bell suggested that traffic even rose on the day the initial blocks had been imposed.

Telegram has been sending messages to users encouraging them to use alternative means, including Virtual Private Networks, which effectively connect to the internet outside Russia, to evade the ban.

Mr. Durov is marketing this disputeas “digital resistance”, a move which has gained the support of Edward Snowden, the NSA-turned-political refugee.

However, while the feud between Pavel Durov and the FSB and RKN are making some news stories in the West, the Russian viewpoint is a little less sensational. As assessment by an expert in Internet and IT security in Russia shared this opinion with me:

The situation looks ugly for Russian IT, not because of the blockings themselves, but because the whole picture looks stupid when viewed from outside:

  • Durov fulfills the requirements of other governments but not the requirements of Russian government – for example blocking Telegram channels in Iran in December 2017.
  • There are problems with other IT services due to the mass IP bans set in place
  • Users of Telegram are told in glowing terms about the privacy that they are able to have, but usually do not use, such as the “secret chats” feature, which provides end-to-end encryption.

However, there is some logic here.

For many foreign IT companies, the Russian market is not a primary market; it is small. So, when they decide to adapt their services and products to the local laws and markets, they first try to understand how much this will cost. and then from this, they determine whether or not the market is really that important for them.

Russia in not at the top of the ratings for IT spending.

So, sometimes it is simply not profitable to adapt.

To that end, Durov is acting like an astute businessman. He is not interested in the Russian market (he said this in Twitter recently), the Russian segment of Telegram is just 6~7% of all the Telegram user base. Also, it is risky to be a Russian now while building an international IT company, as we see in similar situations, such as that with Kaspersky Lab.

Durov made a small PR appearance, showing that his office in Dubai.

He is not really aimed at the Russian market. But the hype gave him an international advertising campaign for free–  he is talented entrepreneur. Go to Pavel Durov’s Twitter feed and you can see this campaign in full swing presently.

To offer further perspective, you can find information about banning Telegram channels in Iran. The minister of communication of Iran asked Durov to block the channel in his Twitter and Durov did this.Iranian users number about 50-60% of the whole user base of Telegram, not 6-7% as in Russia.

Even though the unique value proposition of Telegram was the statement that “it is the most secure…”, there are already many popular messengers apps, such as WhatsApp, Viber, and Skype. So, it is impossible for Durov now to give up here – security is the main differentiator of his product. He may use this situation again to try and highlight that “Telegram is secured”, but in reality he is likely to cooperate with other governments.”

In a relevant development, Iranian officials said that their government officials are no longer allowed to use Telegram, They also said if Durov’s messenger app refuses to localize Iranian user data in Iran’s territory and if Telegram does not create a local office in the country, then Telegram will be banned in Iran.

Given that Iranian users form a huge part of the Telegram user base, it will be interesting to see what happens next.

 

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Trump Weighs In On The Single Worst Mistake In American History

Trump hits Bush: Invading Iraq ‘the single worst decision ever made’.

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Via Zerohedge


In a wide ranging interview with The Hill on Tuesday conducted in the Oval Office, President Trump was asked to give his take on the biggest mistake in American history.

Considering just how open-ended a question that is, it’s perhaps surprising that he merely went back less than a couple decades into the Bush presidency, though Trump’s base will certainly welcome it as it hearkens back to his “America First” foreign policy vision of the campaign trail.

“The worst single mistake ever made in the history of our country: going into the Middle East, by President Bush,” the president during his interview with Hill.TV.

“Obama may have gotten them (U.S. soldiers) out wrong, but going in is to me the biggest single mistake made in the history of our country,” he said.

Trump explained the reasoning behind this choice, and why it wasn’t something like the civil war or another defining and devastating event reaching far into American History.

“Because we spent $7 trillion in the Middle East. Now if you wanna fix a window some place they say, ‘oh gee, let’s not do it. Seven trillion, and millions of lives — you know, ‘cause I like to count both sides. Millions of lives,” the president explained.

Some scholars and humanitarian groups estimate that over one million Iraqis were killed in the US invasion and occupation of Iraq starting in 2003. A 2008 Opinion Research Business (ORB) poll, for example, found that approximately 1.03 million people had died as a result of the war.

“To me it’s the worst single mistake made in the history of our country. Civil war you can understand. Civil war, civil war. That’s different. For us to have gone into the Middle East, and that was just, that was a bad day for this country, I will tell you.”

Various estimates on the Iraq war’s cost have put the total taxpayer bill as low as near $2 trillion, but none dispute that it is in the multiple trillions, and estimates will vary widely depending on if veteran care is factored into it.

The comments echo things Trump said on the campaign trail in 2016. For example during one of his first major foreign policy speeches then candidate Trump said, “I will never send our finest into battle unless necessary, and I mean absolutely necessary, and will only do so if we have a plan for victory with a capital V.” And referencing the famous quote of John Quincy Adams, he said during the same speech, “The world must know that we do not go abroad in search of enemies.”

He had previously shocked pundits for being the first Republican nominee for president to trash George W. Bush’s decision to go to war in Iraq, and has more recently likened it to “throwing a big fat brick into a hornet’s nest”.

All of this is a hopeful sign considering the extremely heightened and dangerous tensions over Syria this week, and given Trump seems to have vacillated between “bringing the troops home” and getting more involved. On Monday Trump hinted that a decision on the U.S. role in Syria is coming soon.

Commenting on the over 2,000 troops now in Syria ostensibly as part of the “anti-ISIL” coalition campaign, Trump indicated this mission could end soon: “We’re very close to being finished with that job,” he said. He followed with: “And then we’re going to make a determination as to what we’re going to do.”

We consider it a hopeful and a good sign that Trump is possibly revisiting his “America First” foreign policy pledges by identifying the Iraq War as the worst mistake in US history.

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Brett Kavanaugh eleventh hour smear begins to fall apart (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 112.

Alex Christoforou

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US President Trump is urging the woman accusing Brett Kavanaugh to testify and be heard.

Trump said he wants to hear from Christine Blasey Ford, noting that it would be “unfortunate” if she does not testify before a Senate committee. Trump told reporters Wednesday as he left the White House to view hurricane damage in North Carolina…

“If she doesn’t show up, that would be unfortunate.”

“If she shows up and makes a credible showing, that would be very interesting.”

From Trump’s lips to God’s ear…Blasey Ford came out to issue a statement essentially saying that she will not testify to Congress, either in an open or closed door session.

Furthermore it appears that Ford will not even allow Senate investigators to fly to California and obtain her statement from the comfort of her own home (as Senator Grassley has offered to do).

Ford is demanding an FBI investigation into an allegation with no date, time or place attached to it. 

RT CrossTalk host Peter Lavelle and The Duran’s Alex Christoforou discuss the dangerous game of identity politics being played by the establishment, Democrat left, and their mainstream media minions.

The premise that a four decades old accusation is all that is needed to destroy a person’s entire life, threatens to tear down the most basic foundational values adhered to from within the US Constitution, and propel the United States of America towards a fascist state where censorship, citizen surveillance, and evidence free accusations are used to keep the establishment left in power and the American population cowered in fear.

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According to Zerohedge, Democrats’ Hail Mary play to stymie the confirmation of Trump SCOTUS pick Brett Kavanaugh is beginning to fizzle out. As angry Dems demanded that a Monday hearing on the allegations against Kavanaugh be delayed until the FBI has a chance to investigate, turncoat Republicans (on whom the Dems had been depending for votes) instead withdrew their support and fell in line after Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley declared that he would not honor Democrats’ request. Grassley revealed his intention to stand firm late Tuesday after lawyers for Palo Alto University professor Christine Blasey, who is claiming that Kavanaugh attempted to sexually assault her 35 years ago when the two were 17-year-old high school students, said their client wouldn’t be wiling to appear at Monday’s hearing.

According to the HillGrassley said Tuesday that there was “no reason” to delay the hearing now that Republicans have invited both Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford, his accuser, to testify publicly. However, while Ford’s attorneys have insisted that their client has taken a polygraph test and “deserves to be heard”, Ford has bizarrely insisted that the FBI should have an opportunity to investigate her claims before she appears before the committee in order to spare her the “trauma” of confronting her alleged assailant.

Ford’s lawyers conveyed her request in the form of a letter sent to the committee, a copy of which was obtained by CNN.

Senator Grassley said he would refuse this request as several Republicans who had appeared to be on the cusp of defecting said they wouldn’t support further delays should Ford prove unwilling to testify.

Via the Hill…

“Republicans extended a hand in good faith. If we don’t hear from both sides on Monday, let’s vote,” said GOP Sen. Bob Corker (Tenn.), who was one of the first Republicans to call for the Judiciary Committee to hit pause on Kavanaugh’s nomination on Sunday.

GOP Sen. Susan Collins (Maine) told reporters earlier Tuesday that Ford’s lack of response to the committee about testifying was “puzzling.”

And GOP Sen. Jeff Flake, who had threatened to vote against Kavanaugh if Ford wasn’t given the chance to be heard, told CNN that he expected the committee to move on if she doesn’t appear.

“I think we’ll have to move to the markup,” he told CNN. “I hope she does (appear). I think she needs to be heard.”

Via Zerohedge…

Kavanaugh has denied Ford’s allegations and insisted he didn’t attend the party where the physical assault allegedly took place. Patrick Smyth, a fellow former Georgetown Prep student whom Ford alleges was also in attendance during the party issued a statement via his lawyer standing up for Kavanaugh. And in a separate letter to Grassley and Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein, not only does Smyth repudiate Ford’s allegations, but he adds that he doesn’t remember this party even taking place.

Of course, Feinstein – who admitted last night that she couldn’t say for certain that Ford’s story is entirely truthful – sat on Ford’s allegations for three months before referring them to the FBI and sharing them with other lawmakers (who purportedly “leaked” it to the press). President Trump on Tuesday said that he “feels sorry” for Kavanaugh, adding that he doesn’t want to “play into [Democrats] hands”, presumably by giving them more time to drag out the confirmation process.

“They should have done this a long time ago, three months ago, not now. But they did it now. So I don’t want to play into their hands,” Trump said.

Without the support of their Republican allies, Democrats will lack the votes on the committee to hold up the nomination past Monday. Though bizarrely, Kavanaugh himself hasn’t said yet whether he would or wouldn’t testify, which begs the question: If neither Kavanaugh nor Ford appear at the hearing, what exactly will lawmakers discuss?

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‘Hell on Earth’: MSF doctor tells RT of rape, violence, inhumane conditions in Lesbos refugee camp

One toilet for over 70 people, rape, and mental health issues – a doctor from Doctors Without Borders (MSF) and an aid worker told RT about the dire conditions in the overcrowded Moria refugee camp in Greece.

Alex Christoforou

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Via RT


One toilet for over 70 people, rape, and mental health issues – a doctor from Doctors Without Borders (MSF) and an aid worker told RT about the dire conditions in the overcrowded Moria refugee camp in Greece.

The overcrowded camp on the island of Lesbos, built to accommodate 3,100, houses around 9,000 people. “It’s a kind of hell on Earth in Europe,” Dr. Alessandro Barberio, an MSF clinical psychiatrist, said, adding that people in the camp suffer from lack of water and medical care. “It is impossible to stay there,” he said.

According to Barberio, asylum seekers are subjected to violence “during night and day.””There is also sexual violence”which leads to “mental health issues,” he said, adding that all categories of people at the camp may be subjected to it. “There is rape against men, women and children,” and the victims of sexual violence in the camp often have nightmares and hallucinations, Barberio told RT.

Asylum seekers in Moria “are in constant fear of violence,” and these fears are not groundless, the psychiatrist said. “Such cases [of violence] take place every week.”

There is “one toilet for 72 people, one shower for 84 people. The sanitation is bad. People are suffering from bad conditions,” Michael Raeber, an aid worker at the camp, told RT. They suffer from mental health problems because they are kept for a long time in the camp, according to Raeber.

“There is no perspective, they don’t know how their case will go on, when they will ever be able to leave the island.” The camp is a “place where there is no rule of law,” with rampant violence and drug addiction among the inhabitants, Raeber said.

In its latest report, MSF, which has been working near Moria since late 2017, criticized the unprecedented health crisis in the camp – one of the biggest in Greece. About a third of the camp population consists of children, and many of them have harmed themselves, and have thought about or attempted suicide, according to the group.

Barberio was behind an MSF open letter on the state of emergency in Moria, released on Monday, in which he writes that he has never “witnessed such overwhelming numbers of people suffering from serious mental health conditions.”

Calling the camp an “island prison,” he insisted that many of his patients in the camp are unable to perform basic everyday functions, “such as sleeping, eating well, maintaining personal hygiene, and communicating.”

A number of human rights groups have strongly criticized the conditions at the camp and Greece’s “containment policy”regarding asylum seekers.

Christina Kalogirou, the regional governor of the North Aegean, which includes Lesbos, has repeatedly threatened to shut down the facility unless the government improves the conditions. On Tuesday, government spokesman Dimitris Tzanakopoulos said that Greece will move 2,000 asylum seekers out of the severely overcrowded camp and send them to the mainland by the end of September.

Greece, like other EU states, is experiencing the worst refugee crisis since WWII. According to International Organization for Migration estimates, 22,000 asylum seekers have arrived in Greece since the start of this year alone.

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