Gujarat Election Insights: Why the fight in north Gujarat will be a tough one for BJP

Supporters wear mask of PM Modi during an election campaign rally in support of BJP candidates, in Sanand. (PTI File Photo)Supporters wear mask of PM Modi during an election campaign rally in support of BJP candidates, in Sanand. (PTI File Photo)
Unlike south and central Gujarat, the story is different in north Gujarat, here the Congress fared better than the BJP in the 2012 assembly elections. Of the 32 seats in the region, the Congress won 17 seats, two more than the BJP.

Can the BJP fare better this time? An analysis of how north Gujarat voted in the 2012 assembly elections coupled with the new political forces in the state throw some insights in what to expect this time round.

2012 Assembly Results: Victory Margins In North Gujarat

north gujarat (1)

First, the Patel factor: Patels are a prominent community in north Gujarat and unlike south and central Gujarat, they have given Hardik Patel and his Patidar agitation unprecedented support. That’s a traditional BJP vote that can be expected to move away.

Next the Thakor vote. Thakors, who comprise of about half the OBC population in the state, are concentrated in north Gujarat. The rise of Alpesh Thakor and his joining hands with the Congress is again expected to influence polling in several north Gujarat districts like Sabarkantha, Banaskantha, Kheda, Mehsana, Anand, Patan, Gandhinagar and Aravalli.

How The Thakor’s Voted In North Gujarat In 2012

thakor

Third, the Dalit vote. Mehsana is Jignesh Mevani’s home ground – his family originates from Meu village in the district. Further, Mevani, is contesting as an independent from Vadgam, a reserved seat for scheduled castes (SCs), in Banaskantha district, and has open support from Congress. Both the Dalit vote and the OBC vote can be expected to move his way giving a further boost to the Congress in north Gujarat.

The fourth deciding factor will be tribal seats in north Gujarat. It almost entirely voted for the Congress in 2012. Though BJP has been going all out to woo them, this is unlikely that a shift will be able to swing the vote their way.

Finally, unlike 2012, in 2017 there is no Gujarat Parivartan Party (GPP) to split the votes.

What does this translate to? Expect a prickly battle, but chances are that new alliances may help the Congress strengthen its presence here.
[“Source-timesofindia”]

Spacewatch: SpaceX reuses rocket to launch north American satellite

The SpaceX Falcon 9 lifting off in Florida on 11 October this year. Photograph: SpaceX/flickr

SpaceX set a brisk pace this week, with two successful launches of the Falcon 9 rocket. The second launch by the company – whose chief executive is its billionaire founder, Elon Musk – re-used a previously flown first stage booster, increasing confidence that SpaceX could deliver re-useable rockets and so drive down launch costs.

The first launch took place on 9 October. The rocket lifted off from the Vandenberg airforce base in California at 05:37 PDT (12:37 GMT). It placed 10 communications satellites in a 400-mile-high orbit for Iridium, the telecommunications company.

Iridium runs a constellation of telecommunications satellites. This launch is the first of eight launches scheduled that will place 75 satellites in orbit for the company.

On 11 October a second Falcon 9 rocket lifted off, this time from Kennedy Space Centre, in Florida. The launch took place at 18:53 EDT (22:53 GMT), and carried a larger communications satellite into orbit for SES and EchoStar.

This second launch was notable because it re-used a previously flown Falcon 9 first stage. This part of the rocket first launched last February when it boosted a Dragon cargo ship to the International Space Station; it then flew back and soft landed in Florida for re-use. This booster has now landed back on Earth again, several hundred miles from Cape Canaveral on a drone ship.

Reusing significant spacecraft components is the key to SpaceX’s business model of reducing launch costs. After each flight this week all the first stages returned safely to Earth.

These launches bring the total of SpaceX launches this year to 15, establishing the company as a leading player in the satellite launch market. In September, Musk declared his intention to use his rockets to colonise Mars.

[“Source-theguardian”]

Social Media and Shopping: Report Provides Potential Insights on North Korean Online Behavior

Image result for Social Media and Shopping: Report Provides Potential Insights on North Korean Online BehaviorA new report offers fascinating insight into Internet activity from North Korea, suggesting that average North Koreans and the upper echelons of the Workers’ Party and military aren’t nearly as cut off as commonly portrayed. However, no definitive conclusions can be drawn from the report about the source, frequency and range of this access because it doesn’t provide hard numbers for many of its conclusions and the raw data isn’t available. That is unfortunate because the findings are counter-intuitive to what we have assumed about North Korean online behavior. Opening the data to peer review may help us better understand the nature and scale of this activity and, if confirmed, could change the way the world deals with North Korea.

Findings

The report was published in July by the Insikt Group, the research arm of Massachusetts-based Recorded Future. The company utilizes machine learning to deliver online security threat intelligence to businesses. The basis for the report was Internet traffic captured outside of North Korea by Team Cymru, a computer security-focused non-profit that acts as Insikt’s “intelligence partner.”

In the report, researcher Priscilla Moriuchi, the director of strategic threat development at Recorded Future and a 12-year veteran of the US intelligence community, writes that users in North Korea spend much of their time online checking social media. Facebook was the most often accessed site with Google, Baidu and Instagram all attracting significant numbers of views. Alibaba, Amazon, Tencent and Apple rounded out the top eight social networking sites over the period of the data, which spanned April 1 to July 6 this year.

Just on April 1, for example, the report notes users accessed 163.com email accounts, streamed Chinese-language video from Youku and checked news on Xinhua and People’s Daily.

Team Cymru was vague about how it captured the data and exactly what it consisted of, but it has previously said it works with “data donors and sources.” It also declined to provide a copy of the North Korean data without subscription to its commercial service. But the report did provide details of how it decided what was “North Korean” traffic and it comes down to three blocks of Internet addresses.

  • The first was a block of 1,024 Internet addresses from 175.45.176.0 to 175.45.179.255. Those are addresses allocated to Star JV, North Korea’s sole Internet provider. All of the country’s websites sit within this range and it’s also used by the Koryolink 3G service for Internet access offered to resident foreigners and tourists.
  • The second was a smaller block of 256 addresses from 210.52.109.0 to 210.52.109.255. These are Chinese addresses but have been allocated to North Korea’s state-run telecom provider through China Netcom since before Star JV existed. North Korean websites sat in these addresses about 15 years ago.
  • The third group was another 256 addresses from 77.94.35.0 to 77.94.35.255. These are allocated to SatNet, a Russian satellite Internet provider and are currently registered as being used in Lebanon. In the past, these were registered as being used by North Korea, but information in the Internet address registration database isn’t verified so it’s unproven whether these were or are legitimate North Korean addresses.

Moriuchi feels sure the SatNet addresses were in use by North Korea during the time the data was collected and points to the similarity in access patterns between the SatNet addresses and the Star JV addresses; she didn’t see any traffic targeted at Lebanese websites, as might be expected. Again, the baseline data wasn’t available to illustrate or support that assertion. Moriuchi told me, however, that the SatNet traffic made up about 40 percent of the data with just 1 percent coming from the China Netcom block. The rest came from the North Korean IP range and that, if taken alone, would still support the general findings of the report.

Among Moriuchi’s research, she found a larger-than-expected amount of traffic from North Korea to India, Malaysia, New Zealand, Nepal, Kenya and Mozambique. She said the amount of access was higher than would typically be expected and directed at sites such as a local news outlets and governments—the kind of sites only someone living there or with a link to the country might access.

In fact, one fifth of all activity observed in the data involved India—a surprising amount. According to the report, the traffic suggests North Korea has students at least seven universities and might be working with several research institutions in the country.

Of the countries mentioned, Malaysia and Indonesia also maintain diplomatic missions in North Korea, although Malaysia brought diplomats home as relations with Pyongyang broke down in the wake of the murder of Kim Jong Nam in Kuala Lumpur.

Perhaps most intriguingly, on May 17, Bitcoin mining traffic was observed. There had been none since the beginning of April but it suddenly spiked. The report notes the close timing with the release of the “WannaCry” malware that hit computers between May 12 and 15. WannaCry demanded a ransom in Bitcoin and was linked to North Korea by computer security companies.

The report also noted the use of at least seven different western VPN (virtual private network) services in traffic among the data. Such services require a credit card subscription, which isn’t impossible for a North Korean to arrange through overseas contacts, but again raises the question of who is behind the traffic.

The report notes, “one VPN was used by an iPad to check a Gmail account, access Google Cloud, check Facebook and MSN accounts, and view adult content. Other VPN and VPS (virtual private server) were used to run Metasploit (security software), make purchases using Bitcoin, check Twitter, play video games, stream videos, post documents to Dropbox, and browse Amazon.”

Caveats

An important caveat to many of the findings in the report is that it’s unclear how many people were covered and who they are. The report refers to those with Internet access as a “limited number,” but it didn’t acknowledge that several hundred foreigners might be present in Pyongyang at any one time, accessing the Internet and connecting to overseas sites. For them, using VPNs, accessing Facebook and Google and checking 163.com email accounts would be expected.

Moriuchi later told me she did see traffic that appeared to be foreign residents but it was just a small sliver of the overall data. But it’s impossible to know how much because the report doesn’t provide those numbers and Moriuchi wouldn’t disclose them.

Take the Indian traffic, for example. From the data provider, it’s impossible to determine whether the increased activity to India is just bored diplomats at India’s embassy Pyongyang. We also don’t know the amount of data analyzed, the number of websites accessed or even an estimate as to the number of Internet users in Pyongyang.

In a phone conversation, Moriuchi told me the traffic collected represented a significant number of records—it wasn’t just a handful of web sessions each day—but wouldn’t put numbers on it. When I asked her what it might compare to, she said it was about what you might expect from a medium-sized company—which is about 50 to 250 people according to most definitions.

Unanswered Questions

Just like almost everywhere else, Facebook is king for the people inside North Korea that have Internet access, and they also spend a fair amount of time on Google, Baidu and other major sites. If the traffic is really coming from North Koreans rather than resident or visiting foreigners, then they really are very much like us—more than we ever imagined.

However, while the report adds insight into the largely opaque area of access to the Internet from inside North Korea, it’s far from clear exactly what was captured and whether all of it was really from North Koreans.

I’ve spoken to several North Korea and Internet experts about the report and they all draw the same conclusion: that something is not quite right with the numbers. Perhaps a lot more of it is from foreigners than estimated or perhaps there’s an unknown Internet connection that wasn’t taken into account.

Or, perhaps we are all wrong and North Koreans really are going online and checking Amazon and Alibaba. Without more information, it’s impossible to know and that’s unfortunate because of the surprising nature of some of the findings.

Moriuchi says she’s sure about the results reached from the data set—the sites accessed, the traffic patterns, the activity—and I’m sure that’s true. Nonetheless, I’d love to do a deeper dive into the data to gain much greater granularity and insight into some of its conclusions.

[“Source-38north”]

How the world is reacting to war of words between Trump and North Korea

Image result for How the world is reacting to war of words between Trump and North Korea

This week, tensions between the United States and North Korea hit a boiling point.

Things ratcheted up Tuesday when President Trump told reporters that the United States would respond with “fire and fury the likes the world has never seen” if Pyongyang continues its provocations. (He later suggested that his world-rattling words might not have been “tough enough.”) Those comments came in response to U.S. intelligence reports suggesting that Pyongyang had the capacity to fit a nuclear weapon to a long-range ballistic missile.

On Wednesday, North Korea struck back, calling Trump’s statement a “load of nonsense,” and accusing the U.S. president of being senile and spending too much time on golf. The country also warned that it is working on a plan to deploy four missiles that would envelope Guam, a U.S. territory with several American bases, in a wall of fire.

Though senior U.S. officials rushed to calm Americans and allies, the president did little to cool tensions Thursday, announcing that his administration is reviewing its options and that the military is “locked and loaded,” ready to #fighttonight.

Here’s a look at how other countries are responding to this tense situation:

China

In the past, China has tried to act as something of a mediator between the United States and North Korea, urging restraint and caution on both sides. As The Washington Post’s China correspondent reported, “China has become deeply frustrated with the regime in Pyongyang, and genuinely wants to see a denuclearized Korean Peninsula. But it has always refused to do anything that might destabilize or topple a regime which has long been both ally and buffer state . … That’s because Beijing does not want to see a unified Korean state allied to the United States on its border: Indeed, hundreds of thousands of Chinese soldiers died during the 1950-53 Korean War to prevent that from happening.”

But on Friday, Beijing said in no uncertain terms that it would not come to North Korea’s defense if the Hermit Kingdom launched a preemptive strike against the United States. An editorial in the state-run Global Times reads, in part, “if North Korea launches missiles that threaten U.S. soil first and the U.S. retaliates, China will stay neutral. … If the U.S. and South Korea carry out strikes and try to overthrow the North Korean regime and change the political pattern of the Korean Peninsula, China will prevent them from doing so.”

Japan

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has long argued for a tougher line on North Korea, pushing to strengthen Japan’s military and antimissile defense. In recent days, Abe and other senior officials have reiterated their support of the U.S. president’s strategy. Trump is “putting all options on the table,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said to the New York Times. “Our government approves of that stance. It’s extremely important that the Japan-U.S. alliance further strengthens its ability to deter and respond.”

That might not sit so well with Japan’s electorate, which largely does not share Abe’s bellicose position. “If it looks like the U.S. set off the chain of events that led to escalation, and Abe didn’t use his relationship with Trump to moderate that, it’s easy to imagine that there would be a domestic price to pay,” Tobias Harris, a Japan analyst at Teneo Intelligence, told the New York Times.

South Korea

On Friday, South Korea said that the country’s national security adviser had been in touch with his American counterpart and had been assured that the White House will not do anything on the Korean Peninsula that would “catch the South off guard.” “Both South Korea and the United States reaffirmed their promise that as they take step-by-step measures to ensure their security and the safety of their peoples, they will coordinate with each other closely and transparently,” a statement from presidential spokesman Park Soo-hyun said.

Russia

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov reiterated Friday that Russia will not accept a nuclear North Korea. But he blamed the current tensions on the United States and Kim Jong Un’s regime, saying that there has been an “overwhelming amount” of “belligerent rhetoric” from Washington and Pyongyang. Lavrov also advocated for his country’s preferred solution to the crisis — a “smart plan” developed by Russia and China that would have Kim freeze his country’s nuclear tests in exchange for the United States and South Korea freezing their large-scale drills.

Live on state television, Lavrov said that “there are direct threats of deploying [military] power” and that “the side that is stronger and cleverer” will take the first step to defuse tensions.

Australia

In a statement to 3AW, an Australian radio station, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said that if North Korea launches an attack on the United States, Australia will have our back. “America stands by its allies, including Australia of course, and we stand by the United States,” Turnbull said, according to ABC. “Be very, very clear on that. If there’s an attack on the U.S., the ANZUS Treaty would be invoked and Australia would come to the aid of the United States, as America would come to our aid if we were attacked.”

He also called on Kim’s regime to stop its “illegal, reckless, provocative conduct.”

Germany

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has called the escalation of rhetoric “the wrong answer.” She has pledged her country’s support to “any nonmilitary solutions,” telling reporters in Berlin: “I don’t see a military solution to this conflict . … I see the need for enduring work at the U.N. Security Council … as well as tight cooperation between the countries involved, especially the U.S. and China.”

United Kingdom

British officials have called on the United States to dial back the rhetoric. First Secretary of State Damian Green has said that it is “obviously” in Britain’s interests for the the two countries to avoid war; he also called on Trump to “be sensible” and go through the United Nations before undertaking military action. According to the Sun, an unnamed government source has said the U.K. won’t support a U.S. military strike. “The Americans are more than capable of doing what they might want, or have to do, in the region without our help,” the paper quoted the source as saying.

France

On Wednesday, government spokesman Christophe Castaner told reporters that his country was “preoccupied” by the situation and urged “all sides” to “act responsibly.”

Guam

Guam Gov. Eddie Baza Calvo has endeavored to calm nerves and reassure the island’s 160,000 citizens that they’re safe. In a video address, he said, “There is no change in the threat level resulting from North Korea events” and that “there are several levels of defense, all strategically placed to protect our island and our nation.” But Guam also released a two-page pamphlet advising residents on how to react to a North Korean strike.

“Our island has been a target since 2013, and even before that,” Dee Cruz, a senior watch officer with Guam Homeland Security, told The Post. “We’re ready, and prepared, as much as possible.”

Source:-washingtonpost