Saturday, May 31, 2014

WORLD_ UKRAINE_ Poroshenko vows to punish rebels who shot down Ukraine helicopter

Poroshenko vows to punish rebels who shot down Ukraine helicopter

President-elect pledges to do everything to stop further deaths after attack over Slavyansk kills 14, including army general

Alec Luhn in Donetsk and agencies,
Friday 30 May 2014 18.24 AEST

Black smoke rises from the site where the Ukrainian army helicopter landed near Slavyansk after being shot down. Photograph: Alexander Zemlianichenko/AP

Ukraine's president-elect, Petro Poroshenko, has vowed to punish pro-Russian rebels who shot down an army helicopter in the east of the country, killing 14 people, including a general, in one of the deadliest attacks of the insurgency.

The Mil Mi-8 helicopter gunship was downed over Slavyansk by a sophisticated surface-to-air missile on Thursday, prompting the White House to say the incident raised concerns about the rebels being supplied "from the outside".

"We have to do everything we can to ensure no more Ukrainians die at the hands of terrorists and bandits," said Poroshenko, according to Ukrainian news agencies. "These criminal acts by the enemies of the Ukrainian people will not go unpunished."

The Ukrainian defence minister, Mykhailo Koval, is due to give details on the attack at a press briefing on Friday.

The incident was part of continuing bitter and bloody resistance against government forces in eastern Ukraine on Thursday as Russian volunteer fighters moved to exert greater control over the rebel movement.

Sporadic fighting has continued in Slavyansk following a battle for Donetsk airport last weekend in which at least 50 rebels were killed. The escalation in violence seems to have hardened local opposition to Kiev's "anti-terrorist operation" to retake control of the Donbass, which includes the Luhansk and Donetsk regions.

Rebels also attacked a national guard base in the Luhansk region on Thursday, local news outlet Ostrov reported.

The government has condemned the insurgency in eastern Ukraine as the work of "terrorists" bent on destroying the country, and blames Russia for fomenting it. Moscow denies the accusations, saying it has no influence over rebels, who insist they are only protecting the interests of the Russian-speaking population of the east.

But a group of largely Russian fighters, known as the Vostok (East) battalion, has come to the head of the resistance since the airport battle and on Thursday began to bring its own order to the rebel movement. The unit includes fighters from the battle-hardened region of Chechnya, recently annexed Crimea, and other parts of Russia and Ukraine. It played a large role in the battle for the airport, a battalion member, who identified himself by his nickname Ram, told the Guardian.

Armed and masked men from the Vostok battalion took control of the Donetsk regional administration building on Thursday, the heart of the insurgency where pro-Russian protesters declared a "Donetsk People's Republic" in April. After a tense standoff during which snipers appeared briefly on the roof of a nearby apartment building, the Vostok men began to clear out the building, the different floors of which have previously been occupied by various rebel groups. On their command, bulldozers began to remove barricades outside made up largely of tyres, paving stones and barbed wire.

One of the battalion's commanders, who identified himself only by his nickname Ros, said the barricades were no longer necessary and posed a fire hazard. He said the building would be cleared of various rebel groups so officials of the Donetsk People's Republic could continue their protest.

"Why are there so many groups? We are one country," he said, referring to the Donetsk People's Republic.

Roman Romanenko, a former paratrooper and coal miner who was appointed to head the defence of the building in April, said no rebels would live in the building from now on. Both he and Ros denied there was a power struggle between the Vostok battalion and the Donbass people's militia.

People's republic spokeswoman Klavdia Kulbatskaya said the battalion men were "checking" rebels from the people's militia who had been accused of looting. This followed a trend of Russian commanders implementing harsh order among the rebels in recent days. Specifically, two rebels were shot earlier this week in Slavyansk for "looting, armed robbery, kidnapping, leaving battle positions", at the command of Igor Strelkov, a Russian-born leader whom Kiev authorities accuse of being an agent of the Russian intelligence services.

Ros said the battalion had let the looters go and that "the people will deal with them".

Mark Galeotti, a New York University professor who studies the Russian security services, wrote on his blog this week that the appearance of the Vostok battalion, which has its roots in an erstwhile Chechen unit that fought in the 2008 Georgian war, was a move by Moscow to "reverse the slide towards war-lordism" in eastern Ukraine and exert more control over the uprising it has encouraged. Vladimir Putin has indicated Moscow is ready to negotiate with Poroshenko and the new leadership in Kiev.

The deaths of civilians in east Ukraine has further inflamed hatred toward the Kiev government, which many people already view with deep mistrust. A group of residents gathered outside the Kalinin morgue in Donetsk on Thursday to take the body of Mark Zveryev, a 43-year-old taxi driver killed alongside pro-Russian forces near the airport on Monday, to a cemetery to be buried. Tatiana Kozodavenko, a nursery school teacher who previously taught Zveryev's stepdaughter, said anger was growing among the population.

"First there was bewilderment and disbelief, but it's now turning into anger," she said.

Outside the Donetsk administration building, Rostislav, a telecommunications employee whose company closed last month, said his friend "took up a machine gun" with the rebels after a shell hit his home during the fighting in Donetsk on Monday.

"If the Ukrainian military's aggression continues, many people will join the rebellion," Rostislav said. "If my friends fighting with the rebels are hurt, or if my home is damaged, I won't run away, I'll take up weapons and join."

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SYRIA_ Exclusive: Syria bomber was Florida-born, raised in middle-class family

Exclusive: Syria bomber was Florida-born, raised in middle-class family

By Zachary Fagenson

1 hour ago

SEBASTIAN Fla. (Reuters) - The man believed to be the first American suicide bomber in Syria was born in Florida and loved to play basketball. He was an average student who grew up in a well-kept middle-class neighborhood about 90 minutes south of Orlando.

The family of Moner Mohammad Abu-Salha, 22, on Saturday declined to comment or to open their door as a small group of reporters gathered outside their home in a gated community in Sebastian, on Florida's east coast.

Neighbor Mark Hill, 46, said he knew little about the family across the street, who moved in around 2006 at the same time he did, but they seemed to be "very nice people, always pleasant."

Hill described Abu-Salha as a "normal boy" who wore T-shirts and walked around the neighborhood with a basketball looking for someone to join him in a game.

He said the father wore a long white tunic, but no beard, and the mother wore a headscarf, showing only her face.

The family, who have owned a string of local Middle Eastern grocery stores, were a visible presence in the community and often left the garage doors open, Hill added.

The family are of Jordanian-Palestinian origin, according to people familiar with their grocery business.

The U.S. government was aware before the suicide bombing that Abu-Salha had traveled to Syria to join militants, and believe as many as 70 Americans have been to Syria to fight, U.S. officials say.

Using the nom de guerre Abu Hurayra al-Amriki, Abu-Salha carried out one of four bomb attacks on May 25 in Syria's Idlib province on behalf of Jabhat al-Nusra, an al Qaeda affiliate fighting to oust the government of President Bashar al-Assad.

According to a birth certificate obtained by Reuters, "Moner Mohammad Abusalha" was born Oct. 28, 1991, in Palm Beach County.

In eighth grade he was an average student, failing two of his midterm exams while earning all Bs and Cs at the school year’s midpoint. Teachers said he was “easily distracted” but participated well in some classes and showed good effort.

A school photograph taken in 2006, shows a handsome, smiling, all-American looking boy.

Holly Gorman who managed the Indian River Warriors, the traveling basketball team Abu-Salha played for said he was well liked by coaches and teammates, who nicknamed him “Mo.”

Despite only playing in a handful of games and never scoring more than three or four points in the 2007 season, Abu-Salha was “a coachable kid” and “a diligent worker," she said.

He wore the number 55 and was “short and stocky, built more like a football player,” Gorman said. “Everybody liked him and the coach kept him on the team because he was all heart. He was that kind of player.”

Photographs posted on social media sites show the bearded suicide bomber purportedly in Syria, smiling and cradling a cat.

The photos appear to match a Facebook profile for Abu-Salha, which portray him as an observant Muslim who liked video games, sports and Dunkin’ Donuts.

Hassan Shibly, director of the Florida chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), said he knew nothing about Abu-Sahla.

"It is sad to see any young American would choose to take his life in this manner. There's no justification for this bombing. It's unacceptable," Shibly said.

(Additional reporting by David Adams, Barbara Liston, Mark Hosenball and Kevin Gray; Editing by David Adams and Gunna Dickson)

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WORLD_ American Businesses in China Feel Heat of a Cyberdispute

American Businesses in China Feel Heat of a Cyberdispute

MAY 31, 2014
The New York Times

BEIJING — A top Chinese general was in a combative mood as he presided recently over an international security forum at a historic hotel near the Forbidden City. Among the attendees were a retired American admiral and a former American diplomat.

The general, Sun Jianguo, delivered his message in an interview with the official military newspaper: The United States was “the world’s biggest cyberthief,” he said on Tuesday, and had accused China of state-sponsored hacking simply to draw attention away from itself. He invoked a Chinese saying: “A thief always shouts, ‘Stop, thief!’ ”

Continue reading the main story

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* China’s Army Is Seen as Tied to Hacking Against U.S.FEB. 18, 2013

Chinese officials are ramping up political and economic pressure on the United States government and large technology companies following the Justice Department’s announcement on May 19 of indictments against five members of the Chinese Army on charges of economic cyberespionage. Prominent Chinese officials, agencies and commentators have announced or called for measures that are widely seen as retribution for Washington’s latest charges as well as earlier related accusations, raising the specter of a trade war and stoking anxiety among American companies that do business here.

At the same time, Chinese technology companies are seizing on the tensions to press state agencies to mandate the use of domestic technology.

Some American executives say the Justice Department’s move took them by surprise. They are now nervous over a May 22 announcement by China’s State Internet Information Office that the government has established procedures to gauge potential security risks of Internet technology and services.

Last week, a Communist Party organization published a scathing attack on Cisco Systems, and a Chinese state-owned technology company trumpeted a campaign to oust IBM from the server market.

“Definitely things have changed in terms of the intensity now,” said Duncan Clark, chairman of BDA, which advises investors on the Chinese technology sector. “There’s an element of gamesmanship here. It could get ugly.”

The threat of tit-for-tat retaliation was made explicit in an opinion piece posted Wednesday on the English website of Global Times, a state-run newspaper. It said: “What has happened or what will happen on U.S.-based companies, especially those closely related to information security, is the consequence of China reinforcing its capability and prudence to defend cyber and information security, thanks to the U.S. ratcheting up its espionage against China in recent years.”

On Tuesday, a website of the influential Communist Youth League published the attack on Cisco, which sells high-end routers to government offices and companies throughout China. The editorial, which was carried by major state news organizations, said Cisco “carries on intimately with the U.S. government and military” and was “becoming an important weapon in the U.S. exploiting its power over the Internet.” Cisco denied the charges.

Some Chinese companies are stepping forward as the official backlash against American technology grows. Alibaba Group, one of China’s biggest technology firms, announced Wednesday that it hoped its cloud computing products would replace storage services that big American companies had sold to Chinese financial institutions.

Continue reading the main story A Chinese state-owned company, Inspur Group, announced Wednesday on a social networking platform that it planned to “completely take over” IBM’s main server business in China, and that it had begun a program called “I2I” or “IBM to Inspur” — part of an “irreversible trend of localization.” Inspur also said that it was open to employing any IBM workers and “transferring projects” from rivals, and that it had already hired 80 employees of “a multinational company.” An Inspur employee said that company was IBM.

Inspur, known in Chinese as Langchao, or Wave, has long been trying to usurp IBM as the dominant player in the server market here. IBM servers are used in state-owned banks. But in March 2013, a nationwide financial institution, Postal Savings Bank of China, began a pilot project to use Inspur servers, according to state news reports at the time. Several provincial banks did the same.

Central government agencies, including the People’s Bank of China and the Finance Ministry, are reviewing the use of IBM servers and considering whether to expand the use of Chinese-made servers, Bloomberg News reported last week.

A spokesman for IBM said the company was not aware of any Chinese government policy recommending that the banking industry not use IBM servers.

Analysts say China’s drive to promote domestic technology companies over foreign rivals is decades old, but competition with American interests became acute after the House Intelligence Committee said in October 2012 that two of China’s largest telecommunications businesses, Huawei Technologies and ZTE Inc., were a national security threat. The companies denied the charges, but the bipartisan report dealt a severe blow to their efforts to win contracts and sell equipment in the United States. (In the China router market, Huawei is the main challenger to Cisco.)

Shortly afterward, Chinese officials had serious discussions over establishing a security review process for foreign technology. That was a precursor to the security review procedures announced on May 22.

Tensions between the United States and China over information security escalated early last year when the Obama administration and an American cybersecurity firm, Mandiant, said the Chinese government and military were big players in global cyberespionage. American officials say the five Chinese Army men indicted this month are members of Unit 61398, which was the focus of the Mandiant report.

The published leaks from Edward J. Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor, in the summer of 2013 undercut the Obama administration’s criticisms of China and made Chinese officials even warier of American technology. Chinese news reports talked about the dangers of China being “infiltrated” through technology from big American companies nicknamed the “eight guardian warriors” — Cisco, IBM, Google, Qualcomm, Intel, Apple, Oracle and Microsoft.

Cisco’s sales in China have dropped sharply. And the national procurement office recently barred government offices from using Microsoft’s Windows 8 operating system.

The new emphasis on information security is reflected by the fact that China’s president, Xi Jinping, is the head of a new working group on cybersecurity. Attempts to wean China off foreign technology are consistent with longstanding national policy, said Mark Natkin, managing director at Marbridge Consulting, a technology consultancy in Beijing. “There’s this weird foreign idea that everything should be fair,” he said. “Ultimately, what China is striving towards is promoting domestic champions and buying locally.”

But Mr. Natkin and other industry analysts say there may be pushback by Chinese companies and institutions against government orders here to get rid of foreign technology if the move is costly or a domestic alternative is inferior. “There’s a cost consideration and product life cycle,” Mr. Natkin said. “If they’ve purchased equipment recently from IBM, for example, there would be reluctance to swap out.”

Continue reading the main story Continue reading the main story Advertisement China Central Television, the state network, posted an online report on Thursday that revealed similar skepticism in the banking industry. “Everyone uses IBM,” a senior technology officer at a state bank told the reporter. “We’ve been using them for many years. If you say stop using them, isn’t that ridiculous?”

The mission of some powerful government agencies is the promotion of Chinese businesses and technology. One such agency is the Ministry of Information and Industry Technology. Last year, for example, the agency said in a paper on cellphone technology that Google had overbearing dominance of the market for smartphone operating systems.

“In China’s domestic market, the Android system is in a situation where it has almost absolute advantage,” the agency said. It said the Chinese companies Huawei, Alibaba and Baidu had put a “huge amount of money and human talent” into developing viable alternatives, but that they “face commercial discrimination from Google all the time.”

That sentiment was articulated recently on a much broader level by Fang Binxing, who is credited with creating the system of Internet blocking in China known as the Great Firewall. In remarks published May 23 on the website of People’s Daily, the Communist Party newspaper, Mr. Fang said each country needed to build its own main servers because “the Internet is a world that belongs to the U.S.”

“The ability of Americans to carry out Internet attacks is so strong that other people don’t even know how they are beaten,” Mr. Fang said. “They don’t know when and where they are beaten. They don’t have the capabilities to catch the U.S., and thus the U.S. has nothing to fear.”

Kiki Zhao and Bree Feng contributed research from Beijing.

A version of this article appears in print on June 1, 2014, on page A8 of the New York edition with the headline: American Businesses in China May Feel Retaliatory Sting of Cybershowdown.

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