As Congress was considering whether the United States should take military action in Syria against the regime of President Bashar Assad for allegedly using chemical weapons against civilians, Gazette staff writer Christina Pazzanese spoke with R. Nicholas Burns, the Sultan of Oman Professor of International Relations at the Harvard Kennedy School, about the unsettled situation and the military, political, and humanitarian actions that the United States and some allies might undertake in a Mideast nation torn by civil war.A former U.S. ambassador to NATO and a career Foreign Service officer, Burns is also director of the Future of Diplomacy Project and faculty chair for the Programs on the Middle East and on India and South Asia, and he serves on the board of directors of the Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs. In addition, he is a faculty associate at Harvard’s Weatherhead Center for International Affairs.GAZETTE: What’s at stake for Syria in this civil war? And what’s at stake for the world community if tactics such as civilian gassing are allowed?BURNS: Well, it’s of vital interest to the United States to see that chemical weapons are not used in the world. We have adhered to chemical weapons treaties since just after the First World War, and there’s been a prohibition for nearly a century on the use of chemical weapons in peacetime or in war. If Assad has now used chemical weapons — and the evidence is very strong that he has, the administration has mounted a very convincing case of that — then the chemical weapons genie will be out of the bottle. What’s to stop other dictators from using chemical weapons if there’s no effective international response? So, in effect, what President [Barack] Obama is proposing is to enforce international law, the chemical weapons convention, by striking at Syria’s military assets, its airfields, its air force, its command and control, its artillery, to intimidate him and to deter him from ever using chemical weapons again, and warning that should he use chemical weapons, there will be another response. I think that’s the heart of the issue now that President Obama has put before the country. He’s designing this as a very limited series of strikes on a limited issue. He is not proposing an American invasion of Syria. He is not proposing — in fact, he’s said he will not put American ground troops into Syria. Any congressional authorization that’s likely to emerge in the next two weeks will prohibit the use of American ground troops. So we’re looking at a campaign on this very targeted issue: Can we deter future use of chemical weapons against a civilian population? When Secretary [of State John] Kerry made his speech last week, he made the case for the administration that Assad used chemical weapons. He said of the 1,429 people killed on Aug. 21, over 400 were children. So the stakes are very high.The last thing I’d say is that international law is normally enforced by international institutions, in this case, say, the United Nations. But the United Nations is divided. The Russians and Chinese are vetoing action. So it really is left to the United States to enforce international law and to make this prohibition against chemical weapons work.GAZETTE: Why would Assad and his military use poison gas when it’s the one weapon that might bring down the wrath of the world on him, particularly since he seems to be winning the civil war at this point?BURNS: I was shocked when I first saw the reports in August, the third week of August, of a chemical weapons attack, because actually U.N. weapons inspectors were in Syria that week, so it did not stand to reason, it didn’t seem to me, to be in his interest to use chemical weapons. And yet the evidence that the Obama administration has put forward is, I think, convincing that in fact they did. This might have been a decision by military commanders who are outside the political chain of command. It could have been a local commander who ordered the use. We know that Assad has used chemical weapons in the past against civilian populations. So he may think or they may think they can get away with it. They may think the United States and Europe are paper tigers and aren’t going to respond. And that’s why President Obama and Sen. John McCain have both said the credibility of the United States is on the line because we said, as a country — President Obama said a year ago — that if Assad used chemical weapons, we’d respond. Well, he’s used chemical weapons, so we now have to respond.GAZETTE: Is there good reason for Assad to be worried about losing power, or are the rebel factions too fractured to unseat him on their own?BURNS: There’s a standoff right now, and part of the tragedy of this civil war is that it’s gone on so long because the two sides are evenly matched, evenly balanced. The victim of that paralysis and balance has been the civilian population of Syria. One hundred thousand people dead, several million people now homeless. This is a humanitarian crisis that is approaching what we saw in the Balkans in the 1990s, in Bosnia and Kosovo. So it doesn’t seem right now that there’s any way for the rebels to win. They’re not quite strong enough or united enough to win. Assad is just strong enough to survive. Something has to happen to change that balance. It looked earlier in the summer like Assad was on the march. He was gaining ground, but the rebels have struck back and regained some territory, particularly near Aleppo, over the last several weeks. One factor in this is if the United States uses air power, will it affect the balance of power on the ground? The Senate Foreign Relations Committee bill that came out of committee [on Sept. 4] actually has language in it put in by Sen. McCain that hopes the United States’ strike would be significant enough to change the balance of forces on the ground in favor of the rebels.GAZETTE: What is the U.S. interest in this conflict?BURNS: I think we have a combination of moral and strategic interests. Syria really matters to the United States because of where it is. It is in many ways the keystone state of the Levant. Its neighbors are our friends: Israel, Jordan, Turkey, Lebanon, Iraq. So a widening of the war, which many people fear, would have a direct impact on countries that are very, very important to the United States. So strategically, it’s important.It’s also important strategically because the main backers of the Assad regime are Iran, Hezbollah, and Russia, all adversaries of the United States. And so it wouldn’t be in the interest of the United States or Israel or the Arab countries to see an increase in Iranian or Hezbollah power, for instance, in that key part of the Arab world. So that’s one interest.We certainly have a moral imperative at work here. When you have such a significant portion of the Syrian population homeless, living under shelling and artillery barrages, living in tent cities, families separated, a significant number of civilians, women and children killed, we do have to think about the moral imperative. The responsibility to protect doctrine — that was confirmed by the United Nations in 2005 — says that world powers have an obligation sometimes, on a selected basis, to intervene in the affairs of another country if the government of that country is mistreating its civilian population. That was really the doctrine, had it been in place in Rwanda in 1994, that might have saved the nearly 1 million people who died in the holocaust in Rwanda. It might have saved more of the Bosnians and Kosovars who died in those brutal wars.And so, part of the moral imperative is to try to decide, on a national and international basis, what obligations do we have to protect the civilian populations. President Obama has made it very clear: He’s not going to launch a ground invasion; we’re not going to occupy Syria. But if, by limited airstrikes, we can take away the greatest power the Assad government has, and that is air power, that affects the civilian population, that might end up helping some of the civilians who are now subject to these merciless barrages by their own government.GAZETTE: What steps have the U.S. and its allies taken so far, and why haven’t they worked?BURNS: I think the United States government has been ambivalent, both Congress and the executive branch. There was an opportunity for us to intervene much more effectively at the beginning of this civil war, say, if we had armed the rebel factions back in 2011 or even 2012. Now many of the rebel groups have become radicalized. I think also, and this is understandable, as I participate in the debate in my own family and talk to my neighbors and my students here at Harvard, people are really tired of war.Since 9/11, we’ve invaded two Muslim countries, we’ve occupied them for significant periods of time, we’ve lost a lot of soldiers, we’ve made some mistakes. Certainly, we made some big mistakes in Iraq. People are understandably and wisely wary of intervening, like a bull in a china shop, in the affairs of a third Muslim country. And as we debate Syria, you can hear the echoes of 10 years ago from our debate in 2003 on Iraq and what went wrong there. And part of the danger of this debate is that we may be fighting the last war. I think, looking back at it, there’s no question that we made a series of fundamental mistakes and assumptions and mistakes of judgment on Iraq. Syria is very different. And the policy that President Obama is championing is very different than what [President] George W. Bush suggested in 2003. And I think we need to make that distinction, because while we have to be very careful and ask tough questions any time we use force, we can’t be prisoners of inaction. I guess the way I would look at it if I would describe this in the classroom, I would say our responsibility is to look at this objectively and assess the risks of action and be very clear that there are going to be risks if we take military action, but there are also risks of inaction. And those risks are moral, they’re humanitarian, and they’re strategic. And as I look at it, and this is a very tough call, I think the risks of inaction are greater, and that’s why I support what the president is trying to do.GAZETTE: What’s the least that the U.S. might do here and still be effective in trying to change the Assad regime’s course?BURNS: I think the most important thing we can and should do is direct humanitarian support to the population of Syria. The U.S. has taken the lead — and here President Obama and Secretary Kerry deserve a lot of credit — from the start. We’ve put a lot of money and effort into helping the refugees who are now in Jordan and in Iraq and in Turkey, the three countries where most of the refugees have gone. The big battle is to try and get effective humanitarian support — tents, food — to the refugees within Syria. They’re the people who’ve lost their homes. They’ve fled these cities that have been destroyed by the fighting. They’re literally on the run, and these are vulnerable people, these are kids, these are women in a war zone. And the really difficult task is how do you get support to them? So there have been various ideas. Can you create humanitarian exclusion zones just inside the Syrian border along the Turkish or Jordanian borders? I think our most important imperative is to use American financial power and our political influence to try and get the world to respond to this humanitarian crisis first.Second, is there a way to stop the civil war? Because the civil war is destroying Syria. I was in Morocco in the spring, and I met with Lakhdar Brahimi, who is the United Nations’ representative for Syria, trying to end the war, and he said something that I’ve never forgotten. He said, “Syria is melting away as a country.” And so what the United States also has to do is try to figure out: Is there a way for a cease-fire and some kind of political settlement between President Assad and the rebel factions that would allow for either a temporary or complete stop to the fighting to protect the civilian population and to arrange some kind of political compromise so they don’t fight each other to the death? I think if the Obama administration uses force with these selective airstrikes, the next step after that would be to go back to the diplomatic table and to see if there’s a political solution to try and achieve a cease-fire. That would be the humane thing to do because the country’s being torn apart.GAZETTE: Do you think that’s likely to be the plan of action?BURNS: I think that’s what the United States will try to do. I don’t know if that’s achievable because the Russians and Chinese on one side fundamentally disagree with the Americans, British, and French on the other. These are the five permanent members of the Security Council, and they’re vetoing each other right now. So President Obama this week is in St. Petersburg at the G-20 summit, and all those principals are around the table. One would hope that there’s some talk about reviving this diplomatic process for a cease-fire.GAZETTE: What considerations does the U.S. have to make in deciding on a course of action?BURNS: It’s a very tough, tough problem for President Obama and Secretary Kerry because they’ve got to operate at multiple levels. They have to operate at the strategic level. They’ve got to make sure they deter any possibility of Assad using chemical weapons in the future. That’s the reason for the airstrikes, and for the toughness on the part of the United States, and for standing up for this very important international prohibition against chemical weapons, number one.Number two, they also have to keep enough lines open to the Assad government, maybe working through the Russians eventually, to see if this diplomatic process can bear fruit.And number three, most importantly, they’ve also got to operate at this humanitarian level to make sure the civilian population’s needs are taken care of.And so, to do all that in the middle of a war is very difficult, especially in the middle of a national debate. It is betraying, in my view, a very important issue: Are we going to lead in the world and be involved in the world and engage in the world or withdraw from it? Because I certainly see the return of an isolationist sentiment to both political parties, from the Tea Party and the far right of the Republican Party and to the far left of the Democratic Party. And you see that isolationist sentiment: It’s too hard, it’s too difficult, we can’t afford it, why is it our responsibility? You see some of these arguments coming forward from both political parties. And that isolationism is a recipe for failure for us. We live in a globalized 21st century. We can’t shrink from the world’s problems. But that is what some of our political leaders are telling us.I guess one of the only hopeful things I’ve seen this week is that the two contestants for the 2008 presidential race have come together. Barack Obama’s most important partner on Syria is Sen. John McCain. So maybe there’s some hope that moderate Democrats and Republicans can lead the way toward a sensible position and policy for the U.S.GAZETTE: What might be the best- and worst-case outcomes?BURNS: It’s hard to make a case for a best, positive outcome in Syria because all the signs are bad. A best-case outcome would be limited airstrikes targeted against the military in Syria that don’t have an impact on civilians, that would intimidate and deter the Syrian government from using these weapons again. Another best-case outcome was that somehow a show of force by the United States might lead the Syrian government and the Russian government and the Iranian government to conclude that they do need a cease-fire. That’s a best-case outcome. I think the objective probability, however, is that we’re going to see a continuation of the worst case: that the war will continue, the two sides will not be able to gain victory, thus the fighting continues, civilians suffer, the U.S. and Russia remain opposed to each other, and the war goes on. That’s the worst case, and, unfortunately, that’s the likelier outcome, I think.GAZETTE: Why shouldn’t Russia take the lead here, since it’s a world power and Syria is a longtime ally?BURNS: That’s a good question. I would ask that question of President [Vladimir] Putin. I must say, the cynicism of the Russian government over the last six months or so has been really stark. To hear President Putin just not look objectively at what happened: Assad used chemical weapons. This is not like the Iraq debate: “Does he have chemical weapons,” that’s what we were asking about Saddam Hussein. Assad used them. It’s very clear. And the Russian government is just turning blindly away from that and refusing to acknowledge it. Second, Russia has been vetoing efforts to expand and increase the humanitarian relief efforts through the Security Council. I think the Russians have not acted in good faith and have been a big part of the problem in Syria.GAZETTE: What kind of retaliation might the Assad regime and its allies take if confronted?BURNS: I think the prevailing assumption is that if the United States shows toughness and resolve at striking at Assad’s military, that Assad can be intimidated. However, and you have to plan for this, there’s always the chance that they could ask Hezbollah, or one of the other terrorist groups they support, to strike at American targets in the Middle East or at Israel. It could embolden Iran to strike at Israel or the United States, but I think that’s not likely. It’s not in the interest of Iran to take on Israel or the United States right now, particularly given the fact that President Rohani is a reformist, a centrist figure, and he really wants to relieve the sanctions pressure on Iran. And he wants to get into negotiations with the U.S. and Europe on the nuclear issue, so I don’t think the Iranians are going to overreact here. And Assad’s weak and he’s isolated, so my guess is he won’t respond in any effective way. But it is possible that he could choose to embolden some of the terrorist groups to attack our targets, so we’d have to plan for that if we do undertake military action.GAZETTE: Is there anything I haven’t asked that you think is important to consider?BURNS: I think we have to be honest with ourselves. Any time you use military power, you have to be honest that there might be very negative consequences for us. So you have to try as a government to anticipate how the other side is going to react. So there are real risks to military force, this is not going to be easy and it’s not foolproof. But I do think the risks of inaction, of doing nothing — and this is President Obama’s case that he made in Sweden this week and also that he made in asking the Congress to authorize the use of force — if we do nothing, then we’re not upholding the international prohibition against chemical weapons use and we’re not acting to help the civilian population in Syria. In my view, the doing nothing option is far worse for the United States than acting. But these are two bad options in a tempestuous, brutal struggle for power in Syria. So whatever happens, it’s not going to be easy and it’s fraught with difficulties. That’s what makes this difficult and that’s why we’re having this national debate.
COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) — Sri Lanka’s president says he has received the final report of an inquiry commission investigating the 2019 Easter Sunday bomb attacks and vowed he will not allow anyone responsible for the deaths of more than 260 people escape justice. President Gotabaya Rajapaksa did not disclose what’s in the report, saying only that he had already given instructions to implement its recommendations. Two local Muslim groups that had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State were blamed for the coordinated suicide bombings in six places on April 21, 2019. Political infighting leading to a communications breakdown between the then president and prime minister was cited as a cause for the security lapse despite near specific foreign intelligence warnings.
Student government leadership met with members of the Notre Dame administration and Board of Trustees to discuss the results of the Inclusive Campus Climate Survey released in October. Student body president Gates McGavick, student body vice president Corey Gayheart and chief of staff Briana Tucker, all seniors, discussed the problems the survey presented and potential solutions with vice president for student affairs Erin Hoffman Harding and chair of student affairs subcommittee on the board of trustees Anne Thompson. The main survey result that McGavick, Gayheart and Tucker discussed with the administration was that the majority of discrimination that Notre Dame students faced was classified as student-to-student. “It’s a very intangible problem, and we’re trying to come at it with tangible solutions, which is obviously a good thing but we want to do it in an organic way,” Gayheart said. One of the areas that the students want to address is the structure and attributes of the Moreau class, McGavick said. “We talked about some tangible ways that we felt we could improve on the results of the inclusive campus climate survey,” McGavick said. “One idea that we were discussing in senate, then brought to Erin, was having student leaders interact with Moreau in some capacity, maybe not fully teaching but leading some lessons and kind of trying to build more student-to-student connections in important places like Moreau, as opposed to teacher-to-student.”Gayheart added that some of the specific changes they suggested making to the Moreau class include adding a student mentor program to the class, making the class pass/fail, adding bystander training to the class and making sure the class makeup is diverse. “One of the issues that we heard about when we were discussing Moreau with different people was, second semester, there was a university staff member teaching a class with 13 males and one female,” he said. “It’s extremely difficult to have a conversation on gender relations at Notre Dame if you have a class makeup of that. And also we need to be sure that we’re not tokenizing certain people within these classrooms as well and tokenizing their experience, but it still brings up an important point that the classes need to be representative of the student body as a whole.”Gayheart said making Moreau a pass/fail course could help take some of the pressure off students and promotes dialogue between students.“We feel that the grade actually hinders high-quality conversation,” he said. Another issue student government hopes to address in response to the survey is diversity in leadership roles on campus, specifically in regards to residence hall staff.“We also focused a lot on residence life, so diversifying hall staff and working to form more inclusive financial policies that allow students to take advantage of opportunities within the residence hall and not be financially exclusive,” Gayheart said. McGavick said that the time commitment involved with leadership combined with the lack of fiscal support can make it difficult for students who need to have a job on campus. “There are kids here who have a full class load but also have to take a job on campus, and then there’s just not enough hours in the day to do a high-level student government or RA [position],” he said. Tucker echoed McGavick, saying the leaders suggest offering some kind of financial incentive or stipend in order to make it more possible for students from diverse backgrounds to hold leadership or hall staff positions.“Everyone’s not made to have a job, be a student and do this. It’s very taxing,” Tucker added. “That shouldn’t be the standard for you to be able to participate and want to have a seat at the table. And so making sure that there are financial considerations, because we do work a lot and this is very demanding, and it’s a lot to ask of a student to do this full time and also work 20 hours a week but also be a student.”Gayheart said, in addition to diversifying people in leadership roles, it is important to make sure that all students feel welcome in their residence hall communities.“Part of it is financial incentive for socioeconomic inclusivity,” he said. “But another part as well is making sure our residence hall communities are welcoming for all, no matter their race, religion, background and so again, that’s a very intangible concept … but it is important to make sure that everyone feels welcome in these communities and everyone’s voice feels valued, and we feel that a lot of these more tangible steps will make students feel more welcome in these places.”McGavick said that the administration and board seem willing to financially support methods of increasing diversity in leadership roles. “Erin and Ann both agree that there can’t be any financial barriers to kids who want to get involved in extracurricular activities, especially student leadership at Notre Dame,” he said. “I think they really heard us there, and they expressed a willingness repeatedly to spend money on issues that we felt were important, so hopefully we’ll possibly see some movement in that area.”In addition to these measures, Gayheart said student government is committed to increasing club funding, especially for groups that focus on diversity, like the Gender Relations Center and the Office of Student Enrichment.Tucker said the group framed their proposal around three values — accountability, consistency and leadership.“We want the University’s mission and values to be consistent, so it’s not just starting with welcome weekend or just heard one time, it’s continually being reinforced in a way that’s genuine, so that students feel empowered to hold their peers accountable, and that all kind of stems back to leadership,” Tucker said. “We need, obviously, student leaders to help with this, but also leadership from the administration to really walk the walk, if you will, in regards to that.”McGavick added that students will have to work with the administration to truly improve the results of the survey. “We just feel like the community can only be improved by forging stronger relationships between students and the leaders in our administration,” McGavick said. “As the adults and as the people in charge of the administration, they’re the ones that we look to for guidance on what kind of culture and community this should be.”Hoffman-Harding said in an email that the University will be hosting student focus groups in order to gain feedback on ways to improve the campus climate at Notre Dame. “The kind of climate shift we’re aiming for, in which students of all backgrounds and identities feel they belong and no one experiences adverse treatment, will require a campus-wide response and efforts from staff, faculty and students alike,” she said.Gayheart said that students will have to be honest with each other in order to truly understand the varied experiences that make up the Notre Dame community.“Ultimately, it also comes down to honesty,” he said. “Our students have to be honest with each other, they have to be honest if someone doesn’t understand a problem another person faces. That’s okay, but it’s a learning experience, and I think we all have to be honest in our assumptions about people. We have to be honest in our lived experiences, and we have to be honest in addressing problems when we come across them, because that’s what it’s going to take to change this place for the better.”Tags: Board of Trustees, Inclusive Campus Student Survey, Student government
Farming is like a seesaw. You’re going either up or down. And whichever you’re doing,the person on the other end must do the opposite.So now, when feed grain prices are dropping, cutting profits for grain farmers,livestock farmers’ profits are on their way up.”When feed grain prices drop, it costs less for poultry farmers to raise theirchickens,” said Stan Savage, a poultry scientist with the University of GeorgiaExtension Service.In the past two months, feed grain costs have dropped about $1.50 per bushel, Savagesaid.”A good rule is that for every 10-cent-per-bushel drop in grain prices, it coststwo-tenths of a cent less per pound for the consumer to buy chicken,” he said.But since we don’t buy anything in tenths of a cent, you probably won’t see droppinggrain prices reflected at your grocery store’s poultry case.”Until production costs drop 2 cents to 3 cents per pound,” Savage said,”retail prices aren’t likely to drop.” And even then, it will probably take 10to 12 weeks for consumers to see a price decrease.”Savage explained that many poultry companies buy their feed supplies months in advance.So a feed grain price drop today won’t affect the cost of the grain they buy for anothertwo or more months.But the industry will feel it.Georgia ranks a close second in the nation in poultry production. Only Arkansasproduces more poultry products than Georgia farmers, who raise 105 million pounds ofbroilers every week. That pumps more than $1.2 billion into the state’s economy everyyear.Savage said with so much poultry in the state, even a half-cent decrease in per-poundproduction costs can save the industry half a million dollars every week.Georgia invests a lot in poultry production. Although farmers grew 580,000 acres ofcorn, millet and soybeans this year, it isn’t enough to feed Georgia chickens. The state’spoultry farmers here have to ship in grains.Georgia poultry farmers use two and a half million bushels of corn every week inchicken feed.”We have enough land in Georgia to grow only a few weeks’ supply of corn for thechickens in the state,” Savage said.Dewey Lee, an extension feed grains scientist, said Georgia farmers harvested a goodcrop this year.”The dryland areas had low yields,” he said. “But irrigated land –about 35 percent of the acreage — had great yields.”Feed grain prices have been on the rise over the past year as supplies dwindled. Butthis year’s yields were high across the nation. Georgia farmers planted 190,000 acres morecorn in 1996 than last year. Soybean yields are up, too.”The increased supply right now during harvest will give poultry companies theopportunity to buy feed at lower prices,” Savage said. “Lower production costscan help them increase the number of chickens on the market. That drives retail pricesdown, too.”Every week, Georgia poultry farmers produce enough chicken to feed every person in theUnited States about 5 ounces of chicken.”When you’re looking at that much volume every day, all year, even tiny changes inproduction costs make a huge change in the value of the industry to the state,”Savage said. “Sometimes it’s good, as it is now. Sometimes it’s not.”
Tattoo Removals and Restraining OrdersHere’s the thing about blondes: they really do have more fun. Dolly Parton—fun. Miley Cyrus—fun. Bat shit crazy, but fun. This bottle of whiskey sitting in front of me called “Blonde”—Fun. With a capital “F.”Asheville-based Troy and Sons makes Blonde, putting a mixture of heirloom red wheat and corn into the mash—the wheat contributes a softness to the whiskey and the corn adds the sweet element you find in most bourbons.Not that Blonde is a bourbon. There’s no age statement on the bottle, which usually means it isn’t aged the requisite two years to legally claim bourbon status. The good news is, this whiskey doesn’t need “bourbon status,” or a magical age-statement to be worthy of your time.This is an incredibly smooth (thanks wheat), sweet spirit with huge notes of caramel and vanilla. There’s almost no heat, whatsoever—none of that characteristic whiskey burn. Like I said: F.U.N.Troy and Sons uses oak barrels with a honeycomb pattern inside to enhance the aging. They say the result is a whiskey with more vanilla and caramel, and I believe it. This whiskey has a hell of a caramel backbone. It’s there in the nose, in the sip, in the after taste… The more I get into the bottle, the more notes of vanilla come out to play as well. Eventually, I get the feeling like I’m sucking on a candy bar. But that’s probably because I’m four or five glasses in. But whatever. I’m a journalist. This is research.The danger, of course with this whiskey and all blondes, is that at some point, the fun ends. The bottle runs empty, the blonde shows her Miley Cyrus side. After that, it’s just the hangover. Tattoo removals and restraining orders.Still, blondes are worth it.–Beer Blog is a regular column on BlueRidgeOutdoors.com. Sometimes we talk about other things. Email us if you have ideas for this column.
5SHARESShareShareSharePrintMailGooglePinterestDiggRedditStumbleuponDeliciousBufferTumblr,Kevin Ivy Kevin has been working in the IT industry for 14 years performing roles from PC Technician to IT Director. Since joining TraceSecurity he has used his wealth of experience to … Web: www.tracesecurity.com Details On Saturday mornings, especially in the Spring and Fall, I enjoy grabbing a cup of coffee, the newspaper, and heading to the back porch for reading. The newspaper is usually loaded with random stories from world news, local news, local and national sports, classifieds, deaths, and burglaries. Burglary-related articles typically catch my attention because not only can the stories be crazy sometimes, at least where I live, they can also alert on trends in a particular area. For me, reading through these types of stories can elicit feelings of thankfulness or relief, because it wasn’t me or it didn’t happen to me. This happens throughout life when we see things happen to other people or businesses. So much so that we get into a mindset that there is no way that it can happen to us for a multitude of reasons such as “we have the most secure network”, “we are in the middle of nowhere”, and two of my favorites “it has never happened before” and “we are a small fish in a big pond!”. In this time of rapid technology growth and conversion from physical data to digital, there is an adverse, negative effect that has risen – the growth of cyberattacks. Each day, organizations around the world are reporting breaches of their data. What is the number one reason for these breaches? The infamous Ransomware attack. By looking at the word, it can sound like some slap together Hollywood movie, but it isn’t related to that at all. In fact, it has rapidly emerged as the most significant cybersecurity risk to organizations in our nation! We know Ransomware isn’t a Hollywood movie, so what is it?What is Ransomware?Ransomware began gaining traction in 2012 and has grown exponentially since then due to the increase in the number of successful breaches. It is essentially a type of malicious software, or malware, that locks users out of their computers, servers, tablets, laptops, smartphones, and many more gadgets. In addition to being able to lock devices, it can also lock files or business data. The problem is that the only way to unencrypt the devices or files is by paying a ransom to the attacker in the hopes that they provide the encryption key needed to undo the damage. If victims are not willing to pay the ransom, they can rely on data backups or be prepared to start over from scratch. Ransomware is a huge problem that fails to go away due to the number of successful attacks especially involving the use of spear phishing. Spear Phishing is the most successful method of injecting Ransomware into a target’s network and it is accomplished by sending emails that contain malicious links or software to specific individuals or departments within an organization that appear to be from a reputable source. Once the user falls for the phishing email and clicks on the attachment, for example, the Ransomware malware begins encrypting files on the machine and then pivoting to other devices on the network, if possible. Per Cyber Security Ventures, “A new organization will fall victim to ransomware every 14 seconds in 2019, and every 11 seconds by 2021”. The Baltimore City government is the largest entity to make the headlines in 2019 after being hit by a Ransomware attack. In addition to crippling the city’s government for over a month, this attack cost them an estimated $18 million dollars to recover from. The worst part about it is that the attackers only demanded $76,000 to be sent to them via Bitcoin. So, we know that Ransomware is a real threat to American businesses, the damage caused by them is detrimental financially, and that it isn’t going away any time soon!Reducing RisksBy now, we should have an understanding of what ransomware is and its adverse effects on an organization. The best strategy is to get ahead of attacks by reducing the likelihood of their occurrence and implementing a plan should one occur. There exists no way of completely shielding businesses from ransomware attacks, but there are preventative measures that can be taken to reduce the chance of it happening. Let’s go over some of those:Security Awareness Training – Having a secure infrastructure, while integral to business functions, does little to solve the human element of an IT network. Any business is only as secure as the employees who help maintain it. While there are many platforms and solutions available on the market today, we will cover some basic procedures to establish a security-minded workforce. The first step in the right direction is establishing procedures for employees to attend training on common security topics that they will face in their industry. This instruction can be provided in person or online in a digital class. The next step is, of course, to ensure that the newly created procedures get established and that all new employees adhere to it. Once the initial training is completed, establish a periodic training plan to include management and executives, and adhere to it.Backing Up Data – The number one step to recover from a Ransomware attack is restoring data from a backup. To do that, businesses must first have a well-tested and consistent backup plan in place. Identify all the critical data in the environment that the business would not be able to function without and include it in the backup plan. Also, identify all critical systems and ensure that they are backed up as well. Determine a backup frequency that fits the business’s needs and budget and stick with it. Backing up data more frequently reduces the overall gap in time when a restore must be relied on for accessing data and systems after an impacting event. Next, utilize off-site backups to reduce the chance that the backup data is affected during an incident. Many cloud solutions offer secure transmission and storage of backup data. An essential item to discuss when choosing an off-site backup solution is how long it will take to restore if business data has become corrupt, encrypted from a ransomware attack, or affected by any other event. It’s great to have a detailed backup plan that includes cloud storage, but if restoring vital services takes an extensively long time, the restoration process can be just as crippling as the attack itself. Lastly, testing backup processes regularly and identifying a routine schedule will ensure that the procedures and solutions are working as they should. There is no worse situation than having a Ransomware attack lock all of a businesses’ files, and when restoration from data backups is attempted, the business finds out that the backup jobs are corrupt and have been for some time. All of these factors are why it is key to establish a backup plan, execute the backup plan, and test the backup plan.Least Privilege – Exercising least privilege for a company as a whole can be a huge undertaking upfront, but it is very beneficial in the securing of data and eliminating excessive access by only giving users access to what they need to do their jobs. In addition to users, the principles of least privilege should also extend to software applications and services that run in an environment. Without exercising this principle, a successful Ransomware attack could inflict much more damage if all of the accounts and applications on the network have full access throughout For example, if Linda in accounting only had access to the applications and file shares that she needs to perform her job, a successful Ransomware attack may only be able to affect those resources. A great way to start implementing this principle is by grabbing a sample from a department, identifying everything that they use on a regular basis, locking down their accounts to only those items, implementing those levels of access into a security group to be applied to the rest of the department, and moving to the next department. It will not work perfectly at the beginning so expect trial and error, but once the initial implementation has been completed, it should just become an ongoing process that should be evaluated on a regular basis. Patch Management – Patch management is one of those tedious tasks in IT that can have a love-hate relationship with IT staff. We love it when everything goes well and hate it when nothing works like it should, right? Regardless, it is one of the top ways to further secure an environment and the devices operating within it. For most businesses, the word “device” can mean many things, such as servers, workstations, laptops, mobile devices, routers, firewalls, IoT devices, and many more. As vulnerabilities are discovered on these devices, vendors and developers typically release patches to remediate them. To develop an adequate Patch Management program, we must be sure to include all those devices because leaving any device unpatched on a network can increase the chances of a successful attack. The easiest way to start is by inventorying all the devices connected to the network regularly. Once all devices have been identified, procedures for handling both Operating System and third-party application patches should be developed. Depending on the size of an organization, patches can be managed and applied manually or handled with a solution such as Windows Server Update Services (WSUS). There are many solutions today that can make an organization’s “patch management” life bearable and much more manageable. Regardless of the method, determining the best time to check for patches and then applying them regularly is crucial to ensuring that this process does not affect business operations. If budget allows, it is best to test out patches in a separate test environment before rolling them out to the production environment to minimize the chance of a disruption in business functions. The most significant difference between a lackluster patch management program and a great one is staying on top of the latest patches and sticking to established schedules.Incident Response – The best way to prepare for an incident is to have a plan in place that has been tested and agreed upon by internal stakeholders. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has published the Special Publication 800-61 that provides guidance on handling incidents. NIST is an excellent industry-agnostic resource that can be used to assist in creating an organization’s Incident Response Program. This standard for handling incidents follows a four-stage life cycle: Preparation; Detection and Analysis; Containment, Eradication, and Recovery; and Post-incident Activity. The “Preparation” phase is the most time-consuming phase because it is where the specifics of the entire plan are created including defining an IRP team, how to handle different types of incidents from identification to mitigation, the roles of responders, notification procedures, and much more. Additionally, it is also the phase where the business should ensure that all staff has been trained on the documented procedures and that the plan has been approved by management. The “Detection and Analysis” phase is where the incident response team monitors the environment to determine if an event should be treated as an incident. The “Containment, Eradication, and Recovery” phase is first focused on containing an incident once it has been identified. Determining how the incident occurred and remove any of the attacker’s remnants or backdoors to ensure that further damage isn’t caused is essential to this process. The Recovery portion is where backups and recovery plans are utilized to restore data and systems, if necessary. The last phase, Post-Incident Activity, is where all the incident response procedures that were implemented in the actual incident are reviewed to see if there are areas for improvement.Security Testing – A great way to test out an organization’s defense mechanisms and overall security is through the different types of security testing. Since most Ransomware attacks primarily gain access to networks through social engineering attacks such as phishing emails, these simulations are very valuable. With that said, two of the most popular types of security testing are penetration testing and social engineering. Penetration testing is an exercise that primarily targets networks, internal and external, and sometimes targets business applications. The goal for these engagements is to find vulnerabilities and attempt to exploit them to see what data or systems can be compromised or manipulated. Don’t waste time on automated tools or software that claim they can perform thorough penetration tests. Through my personal experience with penetration testing, I have gotten to points during testing engagements, where it isn’t possible programmatically to do so. For example, while performing a penetration test, there are times where information gathering and reconnaissance is key to furthering an attack and being able to make real-time decisions based on that information can oftentimes be the distinguishing factor between a successful and unsuccessful attack. Technology and A.I. have advanced but have not yet surpassed what the human element can provide in this testing. The next type of security testing is Social Engineering. Social Engineering is a broad category of testing because it can be performed onsite or remotely, and each approach has its perks. Onsite Social Engineering is typically where an actor will go to a business’s location and pose as an employee or a local vendor in an attempt to gain access to sensitive areas. The purpose is to test employees’ adherence to established visitor access and escort policies. Remote Social Engineering is the most popular security testing that I see performed at most organizations. Just like Onsite Social Engineering, it uses impersonation for its attack, but instead of being in person using props and disguises, it uses fake emails, SMS messages, and even phone calls. The number one method used in successful Ransomware attacks is email phishing. A phishing email can disguise itself as someone trustworthy in an attempt to deploy malware or gain sensitive information, such as usernames and passwords. Since it is such a highly successful attack vector, all businesses should be running simulated email phishing campaigns to test their staff regularly. There are many security firms and solutions that provide phishing campaign services and solutions, so it just comes down to what fits the budget and exact needs, but at the very least, something should be done. Since phishing attacks account for 90% of all data breaches and the average financial cost to recover from these data breaches is $3.86m, regularly testing the staff through simulated email phishing campaigns should be a priority. With executives being the most targeted individuals at businesses, it is important that they are included in these simulated phishing campaigns as well. Recovering from an IncidentBusinesses can do everything possible in terms of preparing for an attack and securing their business data, but it is impossible to remove the risk of something happening altogether. So when that something does happen, we need to know how to respond and recover. Here are a few simple steps to take:Incident Response – The first step to take once an incident, or more specifically, a Ransomware attack occurs, is to initiate the Incident Response Plan. In the last section, we briefly discussed what this is and what an ideal plan should contain. Now it is time to put that plan to the ultimate test – a real incident. Since the incident has already been detected, the next logical step is to contain and eradicate the attack to reduce the total amount of damage caused. With the primary goal of Ransomware attacks being to encrypt or lock as many files as they can and hold them ransom, the quicker the attack is halted, the fewer files or data that will potentially be lost, for now. Assessing the Damage – An attack was successful, and some data has been encrypted, so what’s next? Go through the entire environment to determine what has been affected and what hasn’t to know how to approach recovery and specifically, what needs to be recovered. One thing that can be forgotten when frantically trying to sift through the rubble is connections that touch our networks such as third-party vendors, business partners, and customers. Knowing that Ransomware attacks can spread, it would be beneficial for all parties involved to take measures to ensure that they haven’t been affected. Once the total damage has been assessed, it is time to initiate recovery efforts based on prioritization from business impact assessments.Restoring Data – Now it is time to start restoring the systems and files that were encrypted during the Ransomware attack. If a well-tested backup plan (like mentioned above) has been established with persistent backups, restoring data and affected systems may take some time, but the amount of file or data loss should be minimal. However, if a business has skimped out on their backup plan due to unknown reasons, restoring data could set them back a bit. That is why it is fundamental to any business to ensure that adequate backup schedules are performed to reduce the overall risk of data loss or system downtime. Lessons Learned – The attack has come, data and systems were encrypted, the Incident Response Plan was initiated, the damage was assessed, and data and systems were restored. Everyone can finally breathe a sigh of relief because it’s over. However, it isn’t over yet! Now is an excellent time to review how the business handled the incident per stated policies to identify how they can better improve the policies and procedures going forward. In addition, identifying how the attack was successful and looking for ways to reduce the chance of reoccurrence is vital. Whether it was Linda clicking on a phishing email or John giving his username and password over the phone, identifying the cause is critical. There is no one-button fix-all solution. However, ensuring that well-tested procedures are followed, having staff trained, and building a hardened environment can reduce the risk of an attack or recurrence.Unfortunately, Ransomware isn’t going anywhere for the foreseeable future due to ever-evolving techniques. The best that we can do is to properly prepare for it as businesses and if we fall victim to an attack, do our best job at containing, mitigating, and recovery from it.
Sign up for our COVID-19 newsletter to stay up-to-date on the latest coronavirus news throughout New York Embed from Getty Images New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has called on President Obama to dismantle the legal framework of a since-shuttered post-9/11 traveler registration system criticized as a redundant and ineffective national security tool that’s discriminatory toward Muslims.Established by the George W. Bush administration after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS) captured the names of non-immigrants entering the US who originated from 24 predominantly Muslim nations as well as North Korea.Enforcement measures included capturing names and fingerprints of males at US points of entry and tracking when they exit the country. The database eventually amassed more than 80,000 names of men and teenagers—none of whom were ever singled out as potential terror suspects.Instead of weeding out potential troublemakers, the program placed 13,000 men in removal proceedings for such infractions as failing to re-register with immigration authorities, despite federal officials themselves admitting the process was confusing. In separate memos, department heads ordered subordinates to use “prosecutorial discretion” when a legitimate excuse was given.The Department of Homeland Security de-listed the countries in April 2011 after concluding automated systems it had adopted made the manual process of registering specific individuals unnecessary. The agency also admitted that NSEERS failed in providing additional security measures.“As you are aware,” Schneiderman told Obama in his letter, dated Dec. 19, “NSEERS sought to track and register non-immigrant males from primarily Arab, Muslim and South Asian countries who were not suspected or accused of any wrongdoing. The program did not achieve its intended purpose of reducing terrorist activity in the United States. Instead, NSEERS undermined the trust and hindered open communications between law enforcement and community members, thus hampering the ability of law enforcement to promote public safety.”Placing 13,000 men in removal proceedings “devastated” communities, Schneiderman added, echoing decade-long criticisms by immigration advocates. Embed from Getty Images Rights groups have in the past lambasted the program as discriminatory because of its focus on two-dozen Muslim nations. The program included a domestic agenda, which stipulated that certain men currently in the US check in at immigration offices. Many of those impacted by the program were in the dark about their periodic registration requirements, leaving them in legal limbo, immigration advocates have said.Schneiderman’s entreaty to Obama, a fellow Democrat, comes after dozens of Muslim and civil rights groups wrote a similar letter to the president on Nov. 21 asking him to rescind NSEERS’ regulatory framework. That letter documented the case of a 19-year-old Algerian athlete who came to the US on a student visa and whose visit to the local immigration office was delayed by one day because of a car accident, yet was still placed in removal proceedings.Additionally, NSEERS’ critics marched to the White House last week armed with a petition that aired similar grievances.Pleas to Obama come amid newfound worry among the program’s critics that President-elect Donald Trump could reinstate NSEERS as part of his hard-line approach to immigration.Margo Schlanger, who once presided over the DHS’ Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties under Obama, previously told the Press that there was “no security case to be made for NSEERS.”“All the people who come in on Visas are interviewed and tracked, and so we don’t have to pick based on generalizations, we can just interview and track everyone,” Schlanger said.Writing to Obama, Schneiderman said the DHS made the correct decision in 2011 to eliminate the countries from the system and now urges Obama “to fully dismantle what is left of NSEERS so that it can longer be used to instill fear and mistrust within the communities we serve.”
“I’m very proud to be a Black woman, very proud to witness this important time in history given the huge divide that we have in our nation right now,” she said. Ms. Hunter added that she was “encouraged that we can continue to have our little Black girls and other girls of color feel encouraged like they can do whatever they want to do and they can be whatever they want to be.” In Atlanta on Saturday, a celebration was underway on Auburn Avenue, the traditional and spiritual heart of the city’s African-American community. It sits beneath a towering mural of John Lewis, the pioneering civil rights leader who represented Congress for 33 years before his death in July. Some rode up on bicycles and toasted glasses of champagne. Others broke into song.- Advertisement – Rick Rojas and Richard Fausset reported from Atlanta, Audra D. S. Burch from Wilton Manors, Fla., and Evan Nicole Brown from Los Angeles. “It’s opened so many doors for so many little girls who feel like they have been silenced or told they couldn’t be who they are,” said Nikema Williams, who has been elected to succeed Mr. Lewis, as she stood in a parking lot below the mural. “So as a Black woman in politics, this means the world.”Of Mr. Lewis, Ms. Williams said: “I know that he is somewhere doing a happy dance.”Ms. Harris, like Ms. Williams, is also a member of the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority. Soon, two dozen other sorority members formed a circle under the mural and burst into one of their sorority’s signature songs:- Advertisement – Hearts that are loyalAnd hearts that are trueBy merit and cultureWe strive and we doThings that are worthwhile …Charisma Deberry, a spokeswoman for the Omega Omicron Omega chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha, in San Diego, said Ms. Harris’s victory “validates the American dream for me.” “Throughout my life, I’ve always been teased for being ‘bossy,’ assertive and ‘talking white,” Ms. Deberry said, “because I had big goals and vision for my life. Today, I am proud to be a bossy Black woman. Just like the vice president of the United States, Senator Kamala Harris.”- Advertisement – – Advertisement –
A younger, more defiant generation of Hong Kong democrats has secured the most votes in unofficial primary elections in the Chinese-ruled city, setting the stage for a battle with pro-Beijing politicians for control of the city’s legislature.The success of young contenders in the primaries organized by the pro-democracy camp on the weekend to pick candidates for a Sept. 6 election for a 70-seat city assembly comes amid widespread resentment of a national security law that Beijing imposed last month.Beijing denounced the vote as illegal and warned it may have violated the new security law, which has raised fears for the freedoms that have underpinned Hong Kong’s open society and success as a financial hub. Full results are expected later in the day.The localists – a term for those who do not see themselves as Chinese and focus on saving the former British colony’s freedoms – tend to be more assertive than traditional democrats.The localists talk of resistance and saving democracy but they do not all have the same vision for Hong Kong’s future. Some dream of independence – anathema for Beijing – but do not speak of it openly, which would see them fall foul of the new security law and face up to life in prison.Their performance in the primaries reflects frustration, especially among younger voters, with Hong Kong’s more moderate, traditional pro-democracy politicians.”Localism has become the mainstream,” said localist candidate Henry Wong. “We will resist against the tyranny.”The new security law punishes what Beijing broadly defines as secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces with up to life in prison and sees Chinese intelligence agents operating officially in the city for the first time.Critics fear it will crush wide-ranging freedoms promised to Hong Kong when it returned to Chinese rule in 1997, while supporters say it will bring stability after a year of often violent anti-government protests.’Difficult to understand’The law has already had a chilling effect on many aspects of life.Earlier on Wednesday, former democracy lawmaker Au Nok-hin said he was pulling out as an organizer of the weekend vote amid accusations from Beijing that it was illegal.”Withdrawal is the only choice … (to) protect myself and others,” Au said in a Facebook post.A spokesman for Beijing’s top office in the city, the Hong Kong Liaison Office, said the pro-democracy camp’s bid for a legislative majority was an attempt to carry out a “color revolution”, referring to uprisings in other parts of the world.In comments that critics said were aimed at instilling fear, the Liaison Office as well as Chinese government’s Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office and the city’s leader, Carrie Lam, have all said the primaries could violate the national security law.Benny Tai, another organizer of the pro-democracy polls, was defiant.”For those who do not recognize democracy, or do not agree with democratic values, it is difficult to understand the meaning of the primary election,” Tai said.Hong Kong police on Wednesday arrested the vice chairman of the city’s Democratic Party, Lo Kin-hei, on charges of unlawful assembly related to a protest in November.The political tension in Hong Kong has alarmed the business community while the new law has raised concern in countries that support the “one country, two systems” formula of government meant to safeguard its freedoms.On Tuesday, US President Donald Trump ordered an end to Hong Kong’s special status under US law to punish China for what he called “oppressive actions” against the city.China said it would impose retaliatory sanctions on US individuals and entities after Trump signed a law penalizing banks doing business with Chinese officials who implement the new law.In an interview with state agency Xinhua, Chief Executive Lam said US sanctions won’t hurt Hong Kong and in time, concern about the security law would prove unfounded.In another blow to the city’s standing, the New York Times said it would shift part of its Hong Kong office to Seoul, as worries grow that the security law will curb media and other freedoms. Prominent pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong won in his district, but he has been disqualified from previous elections and could face similar hurdles this time.Wong warned against any sweeping disqualification of candidates when he held a news conference with 15 other young politicians who won in their districts.”If the government cracks down on us and disqualifies all the candidates who joined the primaries, it will cause more outrage in the international community and encourage more people to vote for the pro-democratic camp in September,” Wong said.The 16 – all but one under 30 and dressed in black T-shirts – are part of a so-called localist or resistance camp, which outshone the cohort of traditional democrats, which had secured 12 candidate slots as of Wednesday afternoon. Topics :
Much of the forecast deficit comes from massive stimulus spending designed to keep the economy afloat and prevent a full-blown economic depression. The government has rolled out around Aus$289 billion in economic stimulus to cushion the country from the virus fallout, Frydenberg said, including support for workers, businesses and retirees.Unemployment – currently at a two-decade high of 7.4 percent – is expected to peak at 9.3 percent in December.The Australian dollar dipped 0.3 percent Thursday, while shares on the S&P/ASX 200 were flat.However, the government is predicting a quick recovery with the economy returning to growth in the third quarter as easing virus restrictions bring increased activity.Frydenberg also predicted GDP would grow 2.5 percent in 2021, partially based on the assumption that international borders would open from January 1.Australia has recorded more than 13,000 cases of COVID-19 and 133 deaths from the virus.The government is expected to deliver its budget in full in October, while economic growth figures are released in September.Topics : Officials said gross domestic product would contract 7 percent in April-June, pushing the economy into recession for the first time in nearly three decades.A recession is defined as two consecutive quarters of contraction and the economy shrank 0.3 percent in the previous three months.Treasurer Josh Frydenberg also said the budget deficit would blow out to Aus$185 (US$132) billion – almost a tenth of GDP – in the year to June 30, 2021, having hit Aus$86 billion in the previous 12 months.”These harsh numbers reflect the harsh reality we face,” Frydenberg said. “The economic outlook remains very uncertain.” Australia warned on Thursday that its economy will shrink at its fastest pace in history during the second quarter, while the budget deficit will be the biggest since the Second World War as the country battles to contain the impact of the coronavirus.The government has stumped up tens of billions of dollars to fight the pandemic, which has ravaged global trade and forced the shutdown of much of the country earlier in the year, crippling the economy.The reimposition of a six-week lockdown on five million people in Melbourne, the second-biggest city, has added to the struggles for a country already reeling from a prolonged drought and massive bushfires before the disease struck.