Taliban fighters stormed an army post in northern Kunduz province early Tuesday, setting off a clash that killed more than two dozen people — most of them soldiers, Afghan officials said. At least 23 soldiers and three police officers died, the Associated Press reports, citing Mohammad Yusouf Ayubi, head of the provincial council. Taliban insurgents also attacked a police checkpoint in Baghlan Province Monday night, Tolo news reports. At least 10 police officers, including the outpost's commander, reportedly died in that assault. Today's violence was on the same day as a Taliban meeting with a group of Afghan politicians in Moscow, discussions that followed last month's optimistic talks between US and Taliban representatives. The two-day meeting in the Russian capital between the Taliban and Afghan figures is seen as another step in a process aimed at resolving Afghanistan's 17-year war. Abdullah Abdullah, the country's chief executive, said that the Taliban were the biggest obstacle to peace, but that if the Moscow meeting creates "an opening for real peace talks, it would still be a step forward." But the meeting has sidelined Afghan President Ashraf Ghani's government, which has criticized the gathering. Will peace ever be achieved?
Federal prosecutors in New York on Monday delivered a sweeping request for documents related to donations and spending by President Donald Trump's inaugural committee, a sign of a deepening criminal investigation into activities related to the nonprofit organization. The wide-ranging subpoena served to the inaugural committee seeks an array of documents, including all information related to inaugural donors, vendors, contractors and bank accounts of the inaugural committee and any information related to foreign contributors to the committee, according to a copy reviewed by The Washington Post. One of the things that I find interesting is that the subpoena was issued by the US Attorney's Office in the Southern District of New York. Many of those prosecutors have cut their teeth on mob and racketeering cases. They are investigating crimes related to conspiracy to defraud the United States, mail fraud, false statements, wire fraud and money laundering. This seems to be much clearer than the broader net that spcial counsel Robert Mueller has used. Trump's inaugural committee raised a record $107 million to fund events and parties surrounding his assumption of office in January 2017, more than twice the amount raised to fund President Barack Obama's 2009 inauguration. Contributions were made by a wide array of corporate interests and wealthy Trump supporters, according to filings with the Federal Election Commission. Does the amount raised send a red flag to prosecutors?
President Trump is expected to call for more bipartisan cooperation in his State of the Union address tonight. Pay close attention to how he delivers a message that most likely was not written by him and will be in direct conflict with his rhetoric and actions up to this point. Pay very close attention to his tenor, tone and delivery. Trump has made it clear that he could declare a national emergency if he doesn't get a border wall out of the negotiations with Congress. Will he use the speech to make his case, and if so, how much time will he devote to it? With the February 15 deadline looming, will he use his rhetoric from the bully pulpit as leverage to try to back the bipartisan conference committee into a corner? How will the Democrats respond to his call for bipartisanship? Will they stand and applaud for anything he says, and if they take the stoic approach, could those optics backfire?
A recent Common Dreams article states that "a major tech company is tracking what you do on your phone, even when you're not using any of its services, down to the specific images that you see. It's also tracking all of your network traffic." Many of you might think this is another discussion about Facebook. No, this is about Google and its ScreenWise Meter. So, what's going on here? We had hearings a few months ago. All of these executives from social media companies came before Congress and testified, but nothing really seemed to come from it. Now this. In order to spy on iOS users, Facebook took advantage of Apple's enterprise application program to get around Apple's strict app distribution rules. When news of this Facebook program hit earlier this week, Google scrambled to pull the plug on its own "user research" application, which was taking advantage of the same Apple program. Apple quickly revoked both organizations' Enterprise Certificates, shutting down all of Facebook and Google's internal iOS applications and tooling, leaving the two giants in disarray. Although Google pulled its iOS application, all the other parts of its ScreenWise Meter surveillance program are still in operation — and in some cases, they collect even more data about their "research users" than the Facebook counterpart did.
President Trump's plan to build a wall along the US-Mexico border is held up in a political stalemate with congressional Democrats. But one of Trump's most prominent supporters in the tech industry tells me virtual border security is already here — and rapidly expanding. Palmer Luckey's company, Anduril Industries, is deploying a security system along the border designed to detect illegal crossings, using towers equipped with radar sensors and cameras, as well as artificial intelligence to spot abnormalities human eyes might miss. Anduril's system is known as Lattice. His company is expanding its systems in California this month under a contract with US Customs and Border Protection. The focus here in Washington is on Trump's call for a physical wall — especially as the president considers declaring a national emergency to build it. After the longest government shutdown in US history did not yield a breakthrough in border security negotiations, Democrats who are resistant to building a physical wall have said they are open to funding for a "smart wall," or some other alternative to secure the border using technology.
Elisabeth Myers — Editor-in-Chief of Inside Arabia.
Carmine Sabia — Journalist and writer for Citizen Truth.
Eugene Craig III — Republican strategist, former vice-chair of the Maryland Republican Party and grassroots activist.
Chris Garaffa — Web developer and technologist.
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