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Trump repeats prison rape threat against journalists, has plans to “brutally imprison significant numbers of reporters,” says Rolling Stone


Trump, like most authoritarians, believes in free speech as long as he agrees with it.

Last week he said that journalists who refuse to divulge their sources should be raped in prison.

And he repeated the threat at last night’s rally in Ohio Trump. “The leaking from the Supreme Court is unbelievable,” he told his crowd of worshippers. “But you get the information very easily. You tell the reporter who is it … and if the reporter doesn’t want to tell you it’s ‘bye bye.’ The reporter goes to jail. When the reporter learns he’s going to be married to a certain prisoner who’s extremely strong, tough, and mean, he will say, ‘you know, I think I’m going to give you the information.'”

Rolling Stone reports that Trump has been discussing ideas with allies about how the US government “could go about turning his desires — for brutally imprisoning significant numbers of reporters — into reality.”

Several months ago, the former president briefly asked a small gathering of his allies and at least one of his attorneys about what would have to be done to make that authoritarian, First Amendment-shredding vision a norm, according to a source who was present.

“He said other countries do it — the implication being: Well, why not here?” the source recounts.

The other countries here are un-free authoritarian states, the kind for which Trump has long showed admiration. North Korea does not tolerate free expression. China and Russia are well known for jailing journalists. Viktor Orban, the Trump-endorsed autocratic ruler of Hungary, has been targeting reporters, as well. Trump has repeatedly made clear he wants to reshape America into a similarly brutal, fascist state.

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Lawmakers say EU isn’t tackling phone surveillance scandal


BRUSSELS (AP) — The European Parliament’s inquiry committee investigating the use of surveillance spyware by the bloc’s governments said Tuesday the EU’s executive arm and member countries are failing to properly tackle a surveillance scandal that has targeted opposition politicians and journalists.

In a draft report published Tuesday, the committee investigating Pegasus said the European Council and national governments “are practicing omertà” — or a code of silence — and regretted that the European Commission only shared “reluctantly and piecemeal” information concerning spyware attacks on its own employees.

A spokesman for the Commission responded that any attempt from national security services to illegally access data of citizens “is unacceptable” and insisted it has already started taking action to protect journalists from the use of spyware.

The Parliament committee has been investigating the use by governments of Israel’s Pegasus spyware and other invasive surveillance tools, viewing such technology as a threat to democracy in the 27-nation bloc.

Pegasus was developed by Israel’s NSO Group and is designed to breach mobile phones and extract vast amounts of information from them, including text messages, passwords, locations and microphone and camera recordings.

The company markets the technology as a tool to target criminals, but many cases have been discovered worldwide of governments using it against dissidents, journalists and political opponents.

According to EU lawmakers, the NSO Group has sold its products in at least 14 EU countries.

“In at least four member states, Poland, Hungary, Greece, and Spain, there has been illegitimate use of spyware, and there are suspicions about its use in Cyprus,” they said, adding that Cyprus and Bulgaria serve as the export hub for spyware.

“Member State governments have largely declined the invitation to cooperate with the PEGA committee,” lawmakers said. “Some governments downright refused to cooperate, others were friendly and polite but did not really share meaningful information. Even a simple questionnaire sent to all member states about the details of their national legal framework for the use of spyware, has hardly received any substantial answers.”

The committee also deplored that Europol, the EU’s crime agency, did not start an investigation into the matter.

“Only after being pressed by the European Parliament, it addressed a letter to five Member States, asking if a police inquiry had started, and if they could be of assistance,” lawmakers said in their draft report.

Following debates with political groups from the Parliament and the possible addition of amendments, a vote on the committee’s final findings will be held next year.

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Opinion | A MAGA America Would Be Ugly


Credit…Damon Winter/The New York Times

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If you aren’t feeling a sense of dread on the eve of the midterm elections, you haven’t been paying attention.

We can talk about the conventional stakes of these elections — their implications for economic policy, major social programs, environmental policy, civil liberties and reproductive rights. And it’s not wrong to have these discussions: Life will go on whatever happens on the political scene, and government policies will continue to have a big impact on people’s lives.

But I, at least, always feel at least a bit guilty when writing about inflation or the fate of Medicare. Yes, these are my specialties. Focusing on them, however, feels a bit like denial, or at least evasion, when the fundamental stakes right now are so existential.

Ten or 20 years ago, those of us who warned that the Republican Party was becoming increasingly extremist and anti-democracy were often dismissed as alarmists. But the alarmists have been vindicated every step of the way, from the selling of the Iraq war on false pretenses to the Jan. 6 insurrection.

Indeed, these days it’s almost conventional wisdom that the G.O.P. will, if it can, turn America into something like Viktor Orban’s Hungary: a democracy on paper, but an ethnonationalist, authoritarian one-party state in practice. After all, U.S. conservatives have made no secret about viewing Hungary as a role model; they have feted Orban and featured him at their conferences.

At this point, however, I believe that even this conventional wisdom is wrong. If America descends into one-party rule, it will be much worse, much uglier, than what we see in today’s Hungary.

Before I get there, a word about the role of conventional policy issues in these elections.

If Democrats lose one or both houses of Congress, there will be a loud chorus of recriminations, much of it asserting that they should have focused on kitchen table issues and not talked at all about threats to democracy.

I don’t claim any expertise here, but I would note that an incumbent president’s party almost always loses seats in the midterms. The only exception to that rule this century was in 2002, when George W. Bush was able to deflect attention from a jobless recovery by posing as America’s defender against terrorism. That record suggests, if anything, that Democrats should have talked even more about issues beyond economics.

I’d also say that pretending that this was an ordinary election season, where only economic policy was at stake, would have been fundamentally dishonest.

Finally, even voters who are more worried about paychecks and living costs than about democracy should nonetheless be very concerned about the G.O.P.’s rejection of democratic norms.

For one thing, Republicans have been open about their plan to use the threat of economic chaos to extract concessions they couldn’t win through the normal legislative process.

Also, while I understand the instinct of voters to choose a different driver if they don’t like where the economy is going, they should understand that this time, voting Republican doesn’t just mean giving someone else a chance at the wheel; it may be a big step toward handing the G.O.P. permanent control, with no chance for voters to revisit that decision if they don’t like the results.

Which brings me to the question of what a one-party America would look like.

As I said, it’s now almost conventional wisdom that Republicans are trying to turn us into Hungary. Indeed, Hungary provides a case study in how democracies can die in the 21st century.

But what strikes me, reading about Orban’s rule, is that while his regime is deeply repressive, the repression is relatively subtle. It is, as one perceptive article put it, “soft fascism,” which makes dissidents powerless via its control of the economy and the news media without beating them up or putting them in jail.

Do you think a MAGA regime, with or without Donald Trump, would be equally subtle? Listen to the speeches at any Trump rally. They’re full of vindictiveness, of promises to imprison and punish anyone — including technocrats like Anthony Fauci — the movement dislikes.

And much of the American right is sympathetic to, or at least unwilling to condemn, violence against its opponents. The Republican reaction to the attack on Paul Pelosi by a MAGA-spouting intruder was telling: Many in the party didn’t even pretend to be horrified. Instead, they peddled ugly conspiracy theories. And the rest of the party didn’t ostracize or penalize the purveyors of vile falsehoods.

In short, if MAGA wins, we’ll probably find ourselves wishing its rule was as tolerant, relatively benign and relatively nonviolent as Orban’s.

Now, this catastrophe doesn’t have to happen. Even if Republicans win big in the midterms, it won’t be the end for democracy, although it will be a big blow. And nothing in politics, not even a full descent into authoritarianism, is permanent.

On the other hand, even if we get a reprieve this week, the fact remains that democracy is in deep danger from the authoritarian right. America as we know it is not yet lost, but it’s on the edge.

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Zelenskiy open only to ‘genuine’ talks with Russia


KYIV, Nov 8 (Reuters) – Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said he was open to talks with Russia, but only “genuine” negotiations that would restore Ukraine’s borders, grant it compensation for Russian attacks and punish those responsible for war crimes.

The remarks, made in an overnight address, came days after a Washington Post report that Washington wanted Kyiv to signal its willingness for talks, concerned that by appearing too intransigent Kyiv might harm its case for international support.

Speaking before he was due to address world leaders at a global climate summit on Tuesday, Zelenskiy said: “Anyone who is serious about the climate agenda should also be serious about the need to immediately stop Russian aggression, restore our territorial integrity, and force Russia into genuine peace negotiations.”

Ukraine has repeatedly proposed such talks, but “we always received insane Russian responses with new terrorist attacks, shelling or blackmail”, he said.

“Once again – restoration of territorial integrity, respect for the UN Charter, compensation for all damages caused by the war, punishment of every war criminal and guarantees that this will not happen again. These are completely understandable conditions.”

Since Russia announced the annexation of Ukrainian territory at the end of September, Zelenskiy has decreed that Kyiv would never negotiate with Moscow as long as Vladimir Putin remains Russian president. Kyiv officials have repeated that position in recent days, while saying that Kyiv would be willing to negotiate with Putin’s future successor.

“Negotiating with Putin would mean giving up, and we would never give him this gift,” Zelenskiy adviser Mykhailo Podolyak said in an interview with Italy’s La Repubblica newspaper published on Tuesday.

Russia was demanding Ukraine give up territory as a pre-condition for talks, which made them impossible for now, Podolyak said: “Society will never accept this. The Russian army will leave Ukrainian territory, and then dialogue will come.”

On Monday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov repeated Moscow’s position that it is open to talks but that Kyiv is refusing them. Moscow has repeatedly said it will not negotiate over territory it claims to have annexed from Ukraine.

[1/10] Smoke rises behind vessels on the Dnipro River during Ukraine-Russia conflict in the Russia-controlled city of Kherson, Ukraine July 24, 2022. REUTERS/Alexander Ermochenko


Ukrainian forces have been on the offensive in recent months, while Russia is regrouping to defend areas of Ukraine it still occupies, having called up hundreds of thousands of reservists.

Russia has been evacuating civilians from occupied areas, especially from southern Ukraine’s Kherson region, in an operation that Kyiv says includes forced deportations, a war crime. Moscow says it is taking people to safety.

The next big battle is expected to be over a small Russian-controlled pocket of land on the west bank of the Dnipro River, which includes Kherson city, the only regional capital Russia has captured since its invasion in February.

On Monday, a source confirmed reports that White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan had held talks with Russian officials about averting escalation of the conflict. Those talks were first reported by the Wall Street Journal. The Kremlin has declined to comment on them.

The White House did not deny the talks but says it will not make diplomatic moves about Ukraine without Kyiv’s involvement.

“We reserve the right to speak directly at senior levels about issues of concern to the United States. That has happened over the course of the past few months. Our conversations have focused only on … risk reduction and the U.S.-Russia relationship,” White House spokesperson Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters.

The United States is holding mid-term elections for Congress on Tuesday. Although most candidates from both parties strongly support Ukraine, some right-wing Republican candidates have expressed doubt about the cost of U.S. military aid.

U.S. support for Ukraine would be “unflinching and unwavering” regardless of the outcome of Tuesday’s congressional elections, White House spokesperson Jean-Pierre said.

Reporting by Reuters bureaux
Writing by Peter Graff
Editing by Gareth Jones

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Greece to Ban Sale of Spyware After Government Is Accused of Surveillance


Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis announced the ban after a news report claimed that he had directed the use of spyware against prominent politicians and journalists, which he denied.

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Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis of Greece has acknowledged that state intelligence was monitoring an opposition party leader with a wiretap.

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis of Greece has acknowledged that state intelligence was monitoring an opposition party leader with a wiretap. Credit…Costas Baltas/Reuters

ATHENS — Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis announced on Monday that Greece would ban the sale of spyware, after his government was accused in a news report of targeting dozens of prominent politicians, journalists and businessmen for surveillance, and the judicial authorities began an investigation.

The announcement is the latest chapter in a scandal that erupted over the summer, when Mr. Mitsotakis conceded that Greece’s state intelligence service had been monitoring an opposition party leader with a traditional wiretap last year. That revelation came after the politician discovered that he had also been targeted with a spyware program known as Predator.

The Greek government said the wiretap was legal but never specified the reasons for it, and Mr. Mitsotakis said it was done without his knowledge. The government has also asserted that it does not own or use the Predator spyware, and has insisted that the simultaneous targeting with a wiretap and Predator was a coincidence.

Mr. Mitsotakis has rejected allegations that he was personally running a Predator spyware scheme. “It’s an unbelievable lie,” he said. He insisted that Greece’s intelligence service was not using Predator, but said someone outside the government might be.

On Monday, he said in a televised interview: “We will be the first country to tackle this problem and enact legislation that will explicitly ban the sale of such software in our country. No other country has done it. All countries have the same problem.”

Governments the world over are struggling to regulate the use of cybersurveillance tools, the most prominent of which is Pegasus, a premium offensive cybersurveillance spyware made by the Israeli spyware company NSO Group. Predator is gaining prominence globally as a cheaper and less regulated alternative. The powerful weapons infiltrate smartphones, swoop up their contents and turn them into listening and recording devices.

They have been used to hack the phones of employees at El Salvador’s leading news outlet, El Faro, and the devices of high-ranking Palestinian diplomats. According to recently leaked emails, spyware has also been deployed by the Mexican government to compromise the phones of journalists and an activist.

Law enforcement and intelligence agencies say they need the spyware to maintain an edge over criminals and terrorists, but regulating their use and ensuring that they are not used against political opponents and journalists has proved to be difficult, even in Europe, where protections are supposed to be strong. Last year, The Biden administration blacklisted Pegasus, barring American companies from doing business with NSO, because, it said, the company had acted “contrary to the national security or foreign policy interests of the United States.”

Much about the situation in Greece remains murky. The authorities have characterized the use of Predator as illegal, though not its sale. Mr. Mitsotakis offered no details about how a ban on spyware sales would work, or how it would affect spyware use.

For months the Greek authorities ignored calls from journalists and opposition parties to investigate Predator’s maker, Intellexa, which moved its headquarters to Greece from Cyprus in 2021.

The Greek investigative reporter Thanassis Koukakis revealed he was hacked last year with Predator, and also claimed that he was monitored by the Greek intelligence service, an allegation that has not been officially confirmed but is the focus of a judicial investigation.

The socialist party leader Nikos Androulakis, who is a member of the European Parliament, said that the Parliament’s technical services office in Brussels had found that his phone was targeted with a text message carrying Predator malware. Mr. Androulakis did not take the bait.

The investigative journalist Thanasis Koukakis said he was hacked last year with Predator and was monitored by the Greek intelligence service.Credit…Angelos Tzortzinis/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

An investigation has begun into Mr. Androulakis’s case.

Mr. Mitsotakis acknowledged that Greece’s state intelligence service had been monitoring Mr. Androulakis with a traditional wiretap under a special warrant. The surveillance had been ordered ostensibly for reasons of national security. The monitoring ended without any action by the authorities.

On Sunday, the Greek newsmagazine Documento reported that a shady surveillance network answering to Mr. Mitsotakis had targeted Antonis Samaras, a former conservative prime minister; the current foreign and finance ministers; and other cabinet members perceived as potential rivals to Mr. Mitsotakis in a possible leadership challenge. (The next Greek elections must be held before summer 2023.)

According to the report, the surveillance had been conducted out of the Greek state intelligence service and had made use of Predator. The newsmagazine cited as its sources two unnamed people who had key roles in the surveillance, but did not offer evidence to back the allegations.

The accusations sparked a political uproar, with the government’s spokesman, Giannis Oikonomou, saying they were based on no evidence and describing the magazine’s publisher, Kostas Vaxevanis, as a “national slanderer.”

Mr. Vaxevanis, an investigative journalist who is broadly perceived as having close ties with the leftist opposition party Syriza, said he had hard evidence, including recorded conversations, and would reveal all in due time. On Monday, he visited Greece’s Supreme Court after the prosecutor ordered an investigation into the claims.

Syriza’s spokesman, Nasos Iliopoulos, denounced the authorities for not offering convincing answers regarding the work of Greek intelligence and for not investigating Intellexa.

The claims in Documento came after a European Parliament committee investigating the use of surveillance malware called on the Greek authorities to conduct a deeper inquiry.

The results of a Greek parliamentary investigation were inconclusive, with lawmakers from the governing party finding no evidence of wrongdoing. The opposition called it a cover-up.

Niki Kitsantonis reported from Athens, and Matina Stevis-Gridneff from New York.

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