Ignoring the lessons of history, the US is considering a partition of Syria

A tentative ceasefire between warring parties in Syria is set to come to force on Saturday (Feb. 27), but the international community remains skeptical that it will hold. John Kerry, the US secretary of state, has warned that if the ceasefire fails, the US might have to consider a Plan B—namely a partition of Syria.
“This can get a lot uglier,” Kerry told the US Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee.“It may be too late to keep it as a whole Syria if we wait much longer.”
It’s the first time Kerry has spoken publicly about partition—which he is not yet advocating—but there have been plenty of murmurings of this so-called last-ditch solution.
Israel has expressed similar doubts that the ceasefire will hold. Defense minister Moshe Ya’alon suggested that Syria is “going to face chronic instability for a very, very long period of time” that could result in a number of enclaves, such as “Alawistan,” “Syrian Kurdistan,” “Syrian Druzistan,” and so on. Ram Ben-Barak, director-general of Israel’s Intelligence Ministry, went as far as to describe partition as “the only possible solution.”

Some suggest a partition plays into Russia’s hands (paywall); Britain has accused Russia of trying to carve out an Alawite mini-state in Syria.
As countries interested in protecting their own interests consider carving up Syria, the history of partition in the region highlights the problem with dividing people along ethno-religious lines.
Syria is no stranger to partition

This year marks the centenary of the Sykes-Picot agreement, where Britain and France secretly split up the Arab provinces of the Ottoman Empire between themselves after World War I. Iraq, Transjordan, and Palestine came under British influence, Syria and Lebanon under French power.

But the preliminary divisions in this treaty highlight the problem of dividing people by sectarian affiliations. For example, the proposals envisioned Lebanon as a haven for Christians and the Druze, while Syria was to be a place for Sunni Muslims. As political economist Tarek Osman points out, these secretion divisions weren’t necessarily a reflection of reality on the ground.
The French and British employed the colonial policy of divide-and-rule for their own economic and ideological purposes. Some go as far as to blame the Sykes-Picot agreement for the current problems in Syria, and the rest of the Middle East, today.
“The artificiality of state formation has caused numerous conflicts over the last few decades,” Henner Fürtig, director of the Institute of Middle East Studies at GIGA research institute in Hamburg, told Deutsche Welle. “These questions haven’t been solved for a century and burst open again and again, in a cycle, like now with the ISIS advance in northern Iraq.”
These divisions would later be quashed under anti-colonialist struggles, which called for a united Arab world against imperialist powers, and then later brutally suppressed in the 1980s and 1990s by what Osman describes as the “Arab world’s strong men,” including Hafez Assad, Saddam Hussein, and Muammar Gaddafi. Osman argues these cracks and divisions didn’t disappear, they came to the forefront at 2011 Arab Spring uprisings.
Ayse Tekdal Fildis, assistant professor in the Department of Political Sciences at Halic University in Istanbul, also blames artificial divisions imposed by French imperialists, arguing: “The process of political radicalization was initiated during the era of the French mandate, the legacy of which was almost a guarantee of Syria’s political instability.” CNN’s Fareed Zakaria used this argument to explain why Syria is imploding, and why Western powers should stay out of Syria.

Others are less convinced with the argument that those borders are the sole factor for the political instability in Syria today.
Sarah El Sirgany, a journalist and fellow at the Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East, told al-Jazeera that “to trace every event, mishap, war, conflict or even agreement back to the Sykes-Picot agreement would be giving it more than it deserves.” She argues a lot has happened since then, governments have been overthrown and world powers have shifted, while others point to other treaties as important contributing factors.
Who will own what?

Advocates for partition point to the relative success of the Dayton accords in 1995, which formally ended the three-and-a-half year war in the Balkans. Leaders of Bosnia, Serbia, and Croatia signed an agreement that preserved Bosnia as a single state, but divided it into two parts. The accord created a federal system; the Muslim-Croat federation would represent 51% of the country, while a Serb republic would hold the remaining 49%.
More than 200,000 died before the peace deal was reached. Bloomberg columnist Marc Champion, who describes the Dayton as an “imperfect solution” to end the bloodshed, calls for a similar temporary partition of Syria. A map created by Columbia University’s Gulf/2000 Project shows how difficult that could be. Each color represents different groups in Syria, which at times overlap.
Syria Ethnic Composition.(Gulf/2000)
Critics warn that a partition of Syria could require the mass displacement of different ethnicities, which could to the kind of horrors during the India-Pakistan partition.

The 1947 partition of colonial India divided it into two separate states; Pakistan, with a Muslim majority, and India, with a Hindu majority. Thomas Carlson, assistant professor of Middle Eastern History at Oklahoma State University, points out that “around 15 million Hindus and Muslims were on the wrong side of the line and were forced to flee for their lives. Hundreds of thousands were killed.”
These borders do not always last. The artificial state of Pakistan could not hold, with isolated East Pakistan becoming Bangladesh in a bloody war of independence. The border between Iraq and Syria, established by Sykes-Picot, lasted a long time—from when when it was created until ISIL established its own so-called Islamic State connecting large areas of the two countries in 2014. The Kurds have had their own autonomous region in Iraq since the US invasion in 2003.
The lessons of past partitions suggest those who have the most to lose are minority groups who don’t wield significant political power. While finding peace in Syria is proving to be very hard, dividing people by ethnicity or sectarian affiliation is no quick fix in the long run, either.

[“source-wordpress”]

Mobile Locked Unless You Pay the Ransom? Could Happen to You in 2016

Mobile Locked Unless You Pay the Ransom? Could Happen to You in 2016

Software security firm Kaspersky Lab is holding the APAC Cyber Security Summit in Malaysia, where it is talking about the current security trends and threats faced by individuals and businesses in the region and across the world.

Gadgets 360 spoke to Vitaly Kamluk, Principal Security Researcher at Kaspersky Lab, who discussed Kaspersky’s predictions for the global security landscape in 2016. Here they are:

1) Ransomware
Ransomware is a relative new online phenomenon, where the victims are locked out of their devices, unless they pay a ransom to the attacker. Since most users don’t back up their devices, many agree to pay to get access to their important data. It a lot more appealing to attackers as well, since the payout is immediate, especially when compared to traditional attacks where they had to steal financial information and then use it to gain access to the money.

According to Kamluk, the amounts involved in ransomware attacks are usually not too huge, and users are also less likely to report such cases, which decreases the possibility of attracting attention from government authorities. As a result, he sees ransomware attacks getting really popular in 2016.

Mobile ransomware is already a reality and Kamluk believes it will be one of the biggest trends in 2016, with users being locked out of their mobiles unless they pay up the ransom. According to Sergey Lozhkin, Senior Security Researcher at Kaspersky, 98 percent of all current mobile malware targets Android, which should tell you which set of users needs to worry the most about this trend.

OS X could also be another target in 2016, and Kamluk believes attackers see Mac users as more affluent, so they could be asked to pay bigger ransoms than their PC counterparts. IoT ransomware will also be on the rise, and it’s hard to disagree with Kamluk on this one – we’d hate to be locked out of our Internet-connected refrigerator, and will happily pay up whatever is necessary to get our hands on the pizza inside come meal time.

kaspersky_lab_summit_ndtv.jpg2) Attacks on researchers and developers
Kamluk believes researchers will be one of the top targets in 2016, as attackers will try to compromise popular tools used for reverse engineering, virtualisation, debugging, and even various PGP implementation themselves. Code repositories like Github and other channels frequented by developers could be another popular target as a way of injecting code into the entire ecosystem. This means we could see more XcodeGhost-like incidents in 2016.

3) Financial attacks
Kamluk hinted that payment systems like Apple Pay and Android Pay are on the radar of hackers and the next big attack could be used to exploit one of more of these systems. He admitted that the company predicated the same for 2015, and as these systems become deployed in more markets, the probability of such an attack increases.

4) Abuse of trust
One of the biggest threats in 2016 will come from the comprise of websites that consumers implicitly trust, for example the Intranet or Sharepoint, which are used to share information within a company.

5) Extortion and shaming
According to Kamluk, 2016 will see more cyber-extortion and shaming attacks similar to this year’sAshley Madison case.

6) The end of APT
This one is for those who track security trends rather closely. Kamluk believes the Advance Persistent Threats – or ATPs as they are known in the security world – will see a decline in 2016. However, don’t go celebrating just yet, as Kaspersky sees newer memory-resident or file-less malware replacing them, which will be even harder to detect.

kaspersky_lab_summit_slide.jpgDisclosure: Kaspersky Lab sponsored the correspondent’s flights and accommodation for the event in Malaysia.

[“Source-Gadgets”]

‘Worst Serial Killer In History,’ Who Fed Prostitutes To Pigs, Sparks Rage By Publishing Book

'Worst Serial Killer In History,' Who Fed Prostitutes To Pigs, Sparks Rage By Publishing Book

The pig farmer mainly preyed upon drug addicts and prostitutes, picking them up in Vancouver’s red light districts. (Representational Image)

Robert Pickton sat in a Vancouver jail cell and lamented that his quest to kill 50 women had come up just short.

“I made my own grave by being sloppy. Doesn’t that just kick you in the ass now,” Pickton told his cellmate, adding that authorities were planning on charging him with murdering 49 women. “I was just gonna [expletive] do one more, make it even.”

That 2002 confession was captured on video (his cellmate was actually an undercover cop), and it would play a role in Pickton’s conviction for killing six women, for which he was sentenced to life in prison.

In a book published 14 years later, however, Pickton now claims that he is innocent: “the fall guy” for a bungled investigation.

“The [Royal Canadian Mounted Police] were desperately failing to do their job properly, while looking for someone to take the fall, which is truly evil,” Pickton writes in the book, “Pickton: In His Own Words,” according to CTV News Vancouver.

The book, which was reportedly smuggled out of prison, has drawn instant and intense outrage from the families of Pickton’s alleged victims.

“It really disgusts me knowing that the worst serial killer in history has the nerve to write that book and reopen wounds,” Sandra Gagnon, whose sister Janet Henry used to go to Pickton’s farm and went missing in 1997, told CBC.

“He’s taunting us – the victims’ families,” added Ricky Papin, the brother of another woman slain by Pickton, in an interview with Global News. “Yeah, there’s no question, he’s taunting us.”

Within hours, a petition calling on Amazon to stop selling the book amassed more than 50,000 signatures. The company pulled the book from its website, although at least one other major online bookseller continued to sell the book as of Tuesday morning.

The controversy has caused a California man and a Colorado company involved in the book’s publication to issue apologies for promoting the serial killer’s 144-page self-defense.

“Outskirts Press apologizes to the families of the victims for any additional heartache this may have caused,” said a statement from a Colorado company that helps authors self-publish their books, according to the Associated Press.

“If I had to do it all over again, I would say ‘no,'” added Michael Chilldres, a California man whose name appears on the front of the book and who said he helped publish it as a favor to a friend locked up with Pickton.

“I didn’t think this book was going to be as big of a deal as it is,” he told the National Post. “I just thought it would be a little deal.”

If the book is a big deal, then it’s because Pickton is considered to be perhaps Canada’s most heinous criminal. Friends testified that he bragged about killing scores of women and feeding their corpses to the pigs he kept on his farm in an attempt to hide the evidence.

In his jailhouse confession, Pickton said he was “a bad dude” and that he had also used a meat rendering plant to hide evidence of his crimes.

“I wanted one more to make the big five-o,” he told the undercover officer, adding that the prosecutors’ list of 49 alleged victims only had “half” the real number.

Pickton bragged of being “bigger than the ones in the States,” he added, in an apparent reference to either John Wayne Gacy or Ted Bundy. “His record was about 42.”

The pig farmer mainly preyed upon drug addicts and prostitutes, picking them up in Vancouver’s red light districts before driving them to his farm, where he had sex with them before murdering them in a variety of horrific ways, prosecutors claimed.

“I filled the syringes up with antifreeze and you inject the stuff and you’re dead in about five to ten minutes,” he told the undercover cop. He allegedly handcuffed and stabbed other victims, including one woman who managed to escape, naked and bleeding, in 1997 after stabbing Pickton with his own knife.

That woman was considered unreliable by police, however, and Pickton was not prosecuted. It would be another half decade before his arrest.

When he was finally arrested in February of 2002, it was almost by chance. Investigators had raided his pig farm looking for illicit weapons, only to find items belonging to long-missing women.

A search of Pickton’s farm revealed DNA evidence of 26 missing women, and the pig farmer was charged with their murders.

During a high-profile trial, both Vancouver Police and the Mounties were accused of missing many chances to stop Pickton’s decades-long murder spree. They even trailed him to the meat rendering plant where he allegedly disposed the bodies, but never stopped him to check what he had in his truck.

Workers at the plant didn’t suspect anything, either. Robert Bayers, the plant’s foreman, testified to seeing Pickton drop off between five and ten loads at the plant, but didn’t see exactly what he was dumping.

“It was just another guy dumping stuff in our pit,” Bayers said in court, according to the Globe and Mail. But Bayers was put off by the filthy man.

“He was handling these old dirty barrels, just with his bare hands, and it was so gross-looking,” Bayers said. “We work in the rendering industry, and it’s, you know, dead animals, right? It’s not a very pretty thing to be working with your bare hands.”

When he offered Pickton gloves, the man refused.

“He was such a dirty guy,” Bayers testified. “He was gross-lookin’, actually. I kind of felt sorry for him.”

Pickton’s method of disposing of his victims’ bodies, either at the plant or by feeding them to his pigs, frustrated investigators, who had been fielding tips about Pickton since 1971.

Lori Shenher, a Vancouver Police officer assigned to investigate women’s disappearances in 1998, received a tip about Pickton on her second day on the job in 1998.

“I was mindful we were not finding bodies. We were not finding bodies because we’re dealing with someone who had the ability to dispose of them,” she later testified, according to the Star. “When I heard grinders, I thought ‘bingo, this is the kind of guy we’re looking for.'”

But Shenher said that even after interviewing the woman who escaped from Pickton in 1997, she couldn’t get her superiors to sign off on arresting the pig farmer.

When Pickton was finally picked up in 2002, Shenher didn’t feel relief. She felt sick.

“I had people coming up to me in the couple of days, weeks after his arrest, saying ‘Oh, wasn’t that your guy? That’s your guy!’ and every time I heard that I just about threw up,” Shenher told CBC’s The Current.

The Vancouver Police Department later admitted that “there were mistakes made and we could have caught Pickton earlier.”

Despite a mountain of DNA evidence against Pickton, his trial was far from open and shut. Although initially charged with 26 counts of first-degree murder, he was convicted of only six counts of second-degree murder. Twenty other charges were later stayed.

Families of Pickton’s other alleged victims were left frustrated that their loved ones had not received justice. Many felt that the victims’ race — some of the murdered women were Native American — drug problems or sex work had again worked against the women.

“I have a friend that went to them [police] in ’98 and told them about the [Pickton] farm,” said CBC’s Audrey Huntley. “They said that she was a ‘junkie ho’.” And they ignored her testimony about the missing native women.”

Now many of those families feel re-victimized by Pickton’s book.

“Rambling” and “interspersed with passages from the Bible,” the book claims that Pickton was set-up by investigators without offering any hint at who might have killed the 26 women or why their DNA was found at the farm, according to CBC.

After family members expressed disgust over the book, which was reportedly offered for sale on Amazon’s Canadian website, officials said they had reached out to the retailer.

“We are taking this very seriously and investigating every means available to ensure that the families involved are protected from further harm and that Robert Pickton will not profit in any way from this book,” said Mike Morris, Minister of Public Safety for British Columbia.

Unlike other Canadian provinces and many American states, British Columbia does not have a law banning convicts from making money by recounting their crimes. After Monday’s events, however, B.C. is now considering such a law, often referred to as “Son of Sam” laws after the infamous New York City serial killer.

Canadian officials are now investigating how, exactly, the book manuscript was smuggled out of the prison where Pickton is being kept.

According to Chilldres, it was another inmate who sent him the pages. Chilldres agreed to publish them as a favor to his friend, a convicted child molester who now shares a cell with Pickton, according to the National Post.

“I’m not sure how he did it, but I got it in the mail,” Chilldres, a pilot and the retired owner of a glass repair shop, told the newspaper. Chilldres said it took about one year and cost $2,500 to publish the book, which features his name prominently on the cover.

“I just published a book!” he posted on his Facebook page on Sunday.

Then came the backlash.

Chilldres admitted, however, that he wasn’t ignorant of Pickton’s identity before publishing the controversial book.

“I got on Wikipedia and looked up his arrest record and stuff, and he was kind of creepy,” he said. But he also hinted that he thought the convicted serial killer might really be innocent, as the book argues.

“If Pickton did it, then he needs to rot in hell and I feel real sorry for the victims and the families,” Chilldres told the National Post. “But if he didn’t do it, then who did do it?”

Chilldres said he hoped to at least recoup his $2,500 from the book’s publication but said none of the money would go to Pickton. Instead, 10 percent would go to an undetermined charity and the rest would go towards the legal defense of his friend, the convicted child molester.

The California man said he hoped Pickton’s victims would not “hold it against me” and that he was “sorry I had to bring it up.”

But he also said he has plans to translate the book into French and Spanish.

As of Tuesday morning, the book was still for sale on Barnes & Noble, but it wasn’t well reviewed.

“Barnes and Noble you need to take this down,” wrote one reviewer. “This is a hurtful and illegally smuggled book. Get it off your site.”

“You will not find any ‘Whys’ in this incoherent, illiterate ranting,” wrote another reviewer. “It is tedious and boring drivel filled with tirades against the police, asinine theories about the Hell’s Angels, and a consistent poor me theme.

“Absolutely no revelations here. Don’t waste your money,” the one-star review continued. “This book has no literary merit, in fact, it has no social merit either. It is not literature, it is not revelatory of the criminal mind, it is not relevant. There is absolutely nothing it has to offer the world.”

[“source-ndtv”]

This Is the Biggest Threat to Apple’s Business Around the World

This Is the Biggest Threat to Apple's Business Around the World

When is selling an iPhone not the same as selling an iPhone?

Easy: when you’re selling it in a country whose currency is declining in value. So how many is that? Well, in the last 18 months, it’s been pretty much all of them other than the United States. Indeed, the dollar has shot up about 22 percent against a trade-weighted basket of other currencies since the middle of 2014. And in Apple’s case, that’s meant what would have been $100 (roughly Rs. 6,800) of foreign sales in September 2014 was just $85 (roughly Rs. 5,779) by the end of 2015.

That’s not good when you get two-thirds of your revenue overseas.

The strong dollar, in other words, has become an earnings albatross for Apple. It’s getting paid in currencies that aren’t worth as much, and, at least up till now, it hasn’t made up for that by raising prices that much lest it lose market share. Even worse, it doesn’t look like any of this is going to get any better anytime soon. That’s because the Federal Reserve has begun raising rates at the same time that the rest of the world is either cutting them or even printing money.

Now there are two things to remember here. The first is that our slow-and-steady recovery really has won the race. Our unemployment rate is pretty much down to normal, and should get there soon considering that the economy has been adding an average of 284,000 jobs a month for the last three. It’s enough that the Fed thinks it has to increase interest rates today to keep inflation in check tomorrow. Everywhere else, though, things are either stagnant or slowing down to the point that policymakers are doing whatever they can to try to jumpstart growth.

And that brings us to point number two. People move their money to where it can get the best returns. So would you rather buy a 10-year German bond that pays 0.45 percent or a U.S. 10-year bond that pays 1.99 percent? Investors, especially big European ones, have been answering that by turning their euros into dollars, which is just another way of saying that there’s been more demand for dollars – so its price is rising. And it should keep doing so.

Consider this: Europe has promised to keep printing money through at least March 2017, Japan is printing its own with no end in sight, and China is facing big capital outflows itself. That means the euro, yen, and yuan would probably fall against the dollar even if we weren’t raising rates – but we are. The Fed says it wants to do so four times this year, which seems far too ambitious, but even just one or two would be enough to send the dollar up, up, up to, well, not quite infinity and beyond. But high enough that our workers and our companies would both see their bottom lines bottom out.

So it’s a great time to take that trip to Europe you’ve been thinking about, well, just as long as you weren’t planning on selling any iPhones.

[“Source-Gadgets”]