KW 29: Cuba still rocked by aftermath of protests, Facebook blocks Iran-linked hacking campaign, Rockets land near Afghan presidential palace

NEWS

Cuba still rocked by aftermath of protests: On July 11 in the municipality of San Antonio de los Baños, some 22 miles from Havana, a group of pro-democracy activists launched a protest that subsequently spilled over into other parts of the country. Over the last few years, the country’s supplies have increasingly deteriorated, and the COVID-19 crisis finally brought Cuba to its knees. Tourism, one of the most important sources of foreign currency, collapsed and the health care system reached its limits. The government of Miguel Díaz-Canel responded to the protests with repression. The arrested protesters are being denied legal assistance, according to human rights activists, as lawyers are being turned away at police stations. The courts are also to remain closed for a week, preventing applications from being filed. In an attempt to ease the tight supply situation, the government has now announced small relaxations in strict government controls. As of this week, travelers are allowed to re-enter the country with medicines, food and products for daily use.
wsj.com, dw.com, tagesschau.de, rnd.de

Facebook blocks Iran-linked hacking campaign: Facebook said Thursday it has disrupted a group of Iranian hackers who created fake social media profiles and sent targeted, malicious links to victims in an attempt to spy on Western defense contractors and military personnel. The campaign has apparent links to the Iranian government. The hacker group known as “Tortoiseshell” used Facebook and other social networks to trick military personnel and defense and aerospace industry employees into downloading custom malware that spied on victims and stole their data, the company said in a blog post. Mike Dvilyanski, Facebook’s head of cyber espionage investigations, told CNN the company has disabled „fewer than 200 operational accounts“ on its platform associated with the Iranian campaign, and notified a similar number of Facebook users that they may have been targeted by the group. The Iranian campaign extended beyond Facebook and also used other platforms and messaging technologies including email, Facebook said.
cnn.com, politico.com

Rockets land near Afghan presidential palace: Three rockets landed in two different areas near the presidential palace in Kabul, Afghanistan on Tuesday morning, as President Ashraf Ghani joined other high ranking officials for prayers to mark the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha. Images shown on national broadcaster Tolo TV showed Ghani and the group calmly continuing their prayers at the outdoor palace gathering as security guards rushed from the crowd. The three rockets were fired from Kabul’s police district 4, landing in police districts 1 and 2, near the presidential palace compound, the Ministry of Interior Affairs said Tuesday. There were no casualties, it said. Taliban insurgents denied they were involved in the attack.
cnn.com

US and EU blame China for cyberattack on Microsoft Exchange servers: The Biden administration and the European Union, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Japan and NATO formally blamed China on Monday for a massive hack of Microsoft Exchange email server software and asserted that criminal hackers associated with the Chinese government have carried out ransomware and other illicit cyber operations. Separately, the US Department of Justice announced Monday that a federal grand jury in May had indicted Chinese nationals accused of working with official sanction from Beijing to break into computer systems belonging to US companies, universities and governments. US officials also alleged that criminal contract hackers associated with China’s Ministry of State Security have engaged in cyber extortion schemes and theft for their own profit. Almost simultaneously, NATO issued a general warning, not specific to China, of cyberattacks and cybercrime meant to destabilize Euro-Atlantic security and disrupt the lives of citizens. In the United States, Attorney General Merrick Garland has sharply limited how and when prosecutors can secretly obtain reporters’ phone and email records, formalizing a Biden administration decree that the government would stop using secret orders and subpoenas for journalists’ data to hunt for leakers.
apnews.com, npr.org, orf.at, washingtonpost.com

Russia successfully launches test hypersonic cruise missile: The Russian defense ministry on Monday reported a successful test launch of its new Zircon hypersonic cruise missile. The missile had been fired from the Admiral Gorshkov, a warship in the White Sea. The missile successfully hit a target more than 217 miles away on the coast of the Barents Sea. Russian President Vladimir Putin has said the Zircon missile would be capable of flying at nine times the speed of sound and have a range of 1,000 kilometers. The military had done a previous test launch in October last year on Putin’s birthday.
dw.com

West Africa: Three unknown persons fire on EU training camp in Mali spiegel.de
Afghanistan: Commander of US, NATO forces in Afghanistan steps down nbcnews.com
Storm disaster: Bundeswehr flies relief supplies from Nürburgring to cut-off villages zeit.de
Extremism: Germany’s Office for the Protection of the Constitution sees Islamic Center Hamburg as outpost of Tehran sueddeutsche.de
After assassination attempt: Dutch crime reporter Peter de Vries dies after shooting theguardian.com

NUMBER OF THE WEEK

International troops led by NATO have been in Afghanistan since 2003. Now, after almost two decades, the military mission has ended and only a few Western forces remain.
n-tv.de

BACKGROUND

Where the Cold War still claims victims: The Soviet Union’s former „Pilygon“ nuclear test site in what is now Kazakhstan is a monumental memorial to the Cold War. Tests with hydrogen bombs, nuclear warheads and other nuclear weapons contaminated a territory almost the size of Germany. Between 1949 and 1989, 450 tests were conducted there with little or no protection for the local population. The tests did not take place in the „deserted steppe,“ contrary to Communist Party claims at the time. For example, the large city of Semipalatinsk, now called Semei, with a population of more than 300,000, is only 150 kilometers from the test site. The inhabitants were not told at all or only inadequately informed about the tests. Steppe winds carried the radioactive radiation over hundreds of kilometers to the villages and towns of Kazakhstan. Water, meat and the fruits on the fields were contaminated. As a result, many people died of cancer. The number of genetic mutations and defects in babies also increased sharply.
zeit.de

Erdogan’s authoritarian transformation of Turkey five years after the failed coup attempt: Parts of the military attempted a coup against the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on July 15, 2016. Fierce fighting broke out in Ankara and Istanbul with both Turkish government security forces and civilians. The night ended with 250 people killed and more than 2000 injured. Erdogan subsequently began a large-scale „purge.“ As part of this, tens of thousands of people were arrested, 125,000 civil servants were dismissed, and more than 2,700 associations, media outlets, and educational institutions were closed. Erdogan then imposed a state of emergency, which was only lifted after two years. The state of emergency enabled him to rule by decree and thus make important decisions without the approval of parliament. Even after the end of the state of emergency, Erdogan retained many far-reaching powers and won the presidential election again in June 2018. The change in the system of government severely restricted parliament and increasingly curtailed the judiciary. As a result, the Turkish public’s trust in the judiciary has plummeted.
dw.com

Why Germany needs space forces too: Ronald Reagan presented his „Strategic Defence Initiative“, abbreviated SDI, at the beginning of 1983. The SDI was supposed to make it possible to knock enemy intercontinental ballistic missiles out of the sky with space-based weapon systems. Analysts see the SDI as the death knell for the Soviet empire. By comparison, the commissioning of Germany’s Space Command was rather unspectacular when Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer officially inaugurated the unit last week in Uedem. Only 50 soldiers will be serving there. Nevertheless, the command is a sign that the German army intends to defend the country’s freedom in space and cyberspace in the future. So far, one of the Bundeswehr’s vulnerable points is found in its communications satellites, through which reconnaissance, encrypted communications and mission command are handled via space. Germany’s space reconnaissance was previously handled by its US ally. As the likelihood of new conflict scenarios in space increases, the buildup of Bundeswehr capabilities also amounts to a paradigm shift in German defense policy and is evidence of a further step by the Bundeswehr toward military normalcy.
nzz.ch

QUOTE

„The Bundeswehr is at the side of the Germans when they need us.“
Lieutenant General Martin Schelleis, Inspector of the German Armed Forces Base.
tagesschau.de

SECURE?

Former US President Trump wanted to leave NATO if he won the election: Donald Trump was considering pulling out of NATO and cutting the US’s alliance with South Korea if he won the 2020 election, according to an account of his private meetings with top aides. „I Alone Can Fix It: Donald J Trump’s Catastrophic Final Year“ is a behind-the-scenes account of Trump’s last year in the White House, authored by Pulitzer Prize-winning reporters Phil Rucker and Carol Leonnig. In an excerpt published in the „Washington Post“, Trump is said to have lost the confidence of Defense Secretary Mark Esper. According to the book, Esper confided in colleagues that he was rooting for Joe Biden to win the election because he believed he cared about national security.
independent.co.uk

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