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August 6 2016

August 22, 2016




6 August 2016


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More locally transmitted Zika in U.S. expected: official

Jul 31, 2016 3:36pm EDT


The United States will likely see more cases of local Zika virus transmission going forward, a U.S. health official warned on Sunday, although it is unlikely to turn into a broader situation as seen in Brazil or Puerto Rico.

The comments comes after Florida authorities on Friday reported the first sign of local transmission in the continental United States, concluding that mosquitoes likely infected four people with the virus that can cause a serious birth defect.

“We definitely don’t take this lightly. This is something we always anticipated and prepared for the worst,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said during CBS’ “Face the Nation” program on Sunday. “But we do not feel this is going to turn into that broadly disseminated situation that we’ve seen in Brazil or that we’re seeing in Puerto Rico.”

He added that this is in “stark contrast” to Puerto Rico, where conditions will lead to a major outbreak.

Fauci said that health authorities are working to reduce mosquitoes in affected areas, and encouraged individuals to stay indoors, cover up and use insect repellant.

He added that “phase one” trials of one contender of the Zika vaccine will likely start in coming weeks. If that’s successful, there will be wider trials beginning early 2017.


Zika strikes overseas U.S. troops

Patricia Kime, Military Times 1:44 p.m. EDT August 1, 2016

Thirty-three active-duty service members have contracted Zika since the Pentagon began tracking infections earlier this year, including one who is expecting a baby, according to Defense Department surveillance records.

The cases all were acquired outside of the continental United States, but the Defense Department continues to monitor U.S. military installations at risk for mosquito-borne diseases, Pentagon spokesman Air Force Maj. Benjamin Sakrisson said Friday.

“[We are actively testing mosquitoes] as part of our ongoing integrated vector control and surveillance programs at bases and installations,” Sakrisson said.

DoD did not provide details on the status of the expectant mother or her unborn baby. Zika has been linked to birth defects such as microcephaly; one study released in May by the Centers of Diseases Control and Prevention and Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health estimated that fetuses of mothers infected with Zika in their first trimester face up to a 13 percent chance of being born with severe brain abnormalities.

As of July 27, in the continental United States and Hawaii, 1,658 cases of Zika have been reported to CDC, with the majority, 1,642, contracted through exposure to mosquitoes outside the United States. Fifteen cases are thought to have been sexually transmitted and one was the result of a laboratory exposure.

On Monday, the state of Florida announced that 14 Zika infections likely were caused by local mosquitoes in the Miami area — the first known cases of direct transmission from U.S. mosquitoes.

U.S. military installation managers began aggressively monitoring for the species of mosquitoes that can carry Zika and other diseases in March.

Nearly 200 installations are in areas where mosquitoes capable of carrying Zika are also found.

While no mosquitoes have tested positive for Zika on military bases, the Navy obtained a positive reading for West Nile virus at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center campus in Bethesda, Maryland, in July, but according to Sakrisson, no human cases have occurred.

In addition to the 33 troops diagnosed with Zika, six military family members also have tested positive, also contracting the disease outside the continental U.S.

“According to a Defense Department release, the researchers have signed an agreement with Sanofi Pasteur to further develop and manufacture a vaccine from purified, inactivated Zika.

The developers hope to begin human testing of the product by the end of the year.”

The tombstone of US Army Capt. Humayun S. M. Khan is seen in Section 60 at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va., Monday, Aug. 1, 2016. Fellow Republicans are joining the rising chorus of criticism of Donald Trump for his disparagement of the bereaved parents of U.S. Army Capt. Humayun Khan, a Muslim who was awarded a Bronze Star after he was killed in 2004 in Iraq.



Joint Force 2035: Lasers, Biotech and Global Instability

Aaron Mehta, Defense News 11:59 a.m. EDT July 29, 2016

WASHINGTON — The US military of 2035 will have to deal with the breakdown of global norms, the proliferation of dangerous technologies via the commercial sector, and hypersonic weaponry, according to a recent document issued by the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Titled “Joint Operating Environment 2035,” the document seeks to lay out what the Pentagon will be facing in 20 years time in order to help guide how the department is spending its resources today.

The document features a number of themes familiar to anyone who has heard Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Joe Dunford, Defense Secretary Ash Carter or other top service officials speak in the last 18 months: Challenges will come both from great-power competitions and complex issues such as insurgencies or mass migration; the spread of technology means the US military dominance is not assured; and the need to develop capabilities that can match both the high and low end of future fights.

There is also an acknowledgement that defense technologies are going to be spun off from the commercial sector, and not vice versa – again, a theme Carter has brought up in almost every speech he has given as defense secretary.

Just what those issues look like in 2035 versus now, however, is where the document’s authors begin to dig into the details. They identify six broad geopolitical challenges the Joint Force will have to deal with 20 years from now:

  • Violent Ideological Competition: irreconcilable ideas communicated and promoted by identity networks through violence.
  • Threatened US Territory and Sovereignty: encroachment, erosion, or disregard of US sovereignty and the freedom of its citizens from coercion.
  • Antagonistic Geopolitical Balancing: increasingly ambitious adversaries maximizing their own influence while actively limiting US influence.
  • Disrupted Global Commons: denial or compulsion in spaces and places available to all but owned by none.
  • A Contest for Cyberspace: a struggle to define and credibly protect sovereignty in cyberspace.
  • Shattered and Reordered Regions: states unable to cope with internal political fractures, environmental stressors, or deliberate external interference.

That, in turn, comes with a set of technological challenges. As Carter likes to remind audiences, the vast majority of technology now is developed in the private sector, but the Pentagon has often struggled to adapt it for military use. The authors of the report warn that the department will need to find an easier way of using that technology, because the commercial world will continue to lead development efforts.

The report also warns that the rise of non-state actors such as the Islamic State group – described in the report as “privatized violence” – will continue, as will the rapidity of those groups coming together. The spread of 3D-printing technologies and readily available commercial technology such as drones means those groups can be increasingly effective against a fully prepared military force.

“Transnational criminal organizations, terrorist groups, and other irregular threats are likely to exploit the rapid spread of advanced technologies to design, resource, and execute complex attacks and combine many complex attacks into larger, more sustained campaigns,” the authors write – warnings that seem to already have come true given the rise of ISIS and multiple reports of the group’s use of cheap, commercial drones for intelligence-gathering.

What US technologies should be in play by 2035? It’s a litany of the types of programs that DARPA and others in the Pentagon are starting to invest in – robotics, adaptive manufacturing/3D-printing and alternative power sources.

In terms of scientific spending, the authors suggest that the Pentagon should invest in applied meta-materials, man-made composite materials that can manipulate electromagnetic radiation to reduce signature; nanotechnology that can lead to improved material sciences; bio-engineering that could lead to “construction of new biological parts, brain-computer interfaces, or the re-design of natural biological systems to manufacture drugs, chemicals, materials, or food”; and super dense batteries with greater energy output.

The latter is key to the focus on directed-energy weaponry, another technology the authors predict will be used in the field come 2035 – the deployment of a less-than 100 KW laser for precision attack.

“Electrical laser systems will become smaller, lighter, and cheaper, and the introduction of femto- and pico-second pulses will lead to novel sensors and effects. Ultra-precise, multiple-shot, weaponized lasers will easily achieve >100 KW, permitting stealthy engagements at longer ranges with less dwell time required to achieve effects,” the authors write.

The authors also warn that it is “probable” that one or more state actors will have hypersonic weapons ready to use by 2035.

The report certainly strikes a concerned tone, one that largely reaches the conclusion that the US will no longer be able to dominate the globe the way it has for the past 20 years. And that realization, the authors write, should guide how the US is spending its funding today.

“It is unclear whether the Joint Force can be simultaneously proficient at addressing contested norms and persistent disorder with currently projected capabilities, operational approaches, and fiscal resources,” the authors conclude. “Therefore, the United States must consider military investments that acknowledge there may be times when it is more appropriate to manage global security problems as opposed to undertaking expensive efforts to comprehensively solve them.”


Missile Defense Agency needs to fund more research into new technologies, ex-director says

Phillip Swarts, Air Force Times 12:07 p.m. EDT July 30, 2016


The Missile Defense Agency is facing a budget shortfall that could jeopardize research into next generation technology, a retired Air Force general said Friday.

The Defense Department agency is responsible for keeping Americans and allied nations safe from missile attacks — both nuclear and conventional — but a constrained fiscal environment is making it difficult to research ways to defend against threats from China and Russia, said Lt. Gen. Trey Obering (ret.) at a conference held by the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C.

“Why is this budget squeeze at [research and development] a problem, frankly? One thing we have to realize is what we’re talking about is not today; we’re talking about the future,” said Obering, who served as director of the MDA from 2004 to 2008 and deputy director from 2003 to 2004.

“Even if we’re only talking about North Korea and Iran, we have to invest in this R&D to keep up with that ‘limited’ threat, because those threats are evolving and they’re becoming more mature,” Obering continued. “And then, of course, if we’re talking about a very aggressive China or a more belligerent Russia, we’ve got a long way to go to address that as well.”

The Pentagon needs to invest in technologies like space-based targeting and tracking systems and directed energy weapons that could quickly shoot down any missile launched by an adversary. The breakthroughs in technology are especially needed since the missiles themselves are becoming better and faster, Obering said.

“We have to be able to overcome things like advance countermeasures, maneuvering warheads, hypersonic vehicles and much more,” he said.

Between 2007 and 2015, MDA’s budget dropped 23 percent, from an estimated $11 billion to $8.5 billion, according to a study published by Thomas Karako, a missile defense expert with CSIS.

“MDA has been hit, especially over the last eight to 10 years, with a significantly reduced topline,” Karako said.

Army Maj. Gen. Ole Knudson, the current deputy director of MDA, said the agency is trying to deal with a tight fiscal environment as best it can.

“The topline reductions that MDA has taken are what they are,” he said. “They also are pretty much in line with what the department has taken overall. Even though there have clearly been those topline reductions, we’ve at least done all we think we could to keep on increasing both capability and capacity.”

The agency is still working to develop new technology, like directed energy weapons that could disable missiles early in their launch stages, Knudson said.

“We’ve continued to try and work some of these aspects of future technology, not as much as maybe we would have hoped or as fast, because we sometimes had some reductions in things we asked for,” he said. “I’m not going to say it’s been … I’ll call it ‘as perfect’ … as maybe we could have been if we didn’t have the topline cuts. But the topline cuts are there.”

Obering warned that America needs to make missile defense a top priority.

“We are in a fundamentally different world then we’ve known in the past,” he said. “We talked in the past about near-peer. We have peer competitors now. We have a much more dangerous world we’re entering into.”

The funding side of defense – especially for technologies like missile defense – needs to change to meet the ever-adapting threats, Obering said.

“We can’t rely on a 1971 acquisition process built for the Cold War and a funding process that was made years and years — decades — ago,” he said. “So we need to be making some fundamental looks at what we’re doing, how we’re doing business and what should we be placing our bets on for the future, because if we keep going through the way we are now, we’re going to have a whole different conversation in another 10 years.”


Snapping up cheap spy tools, nations ‘monitoring everyone’


August 2, 2016


LIMA, Peru (AP) — It was a national scandal. Peru’s then-vice president accused two domestic intelligence agents of staking her out. Then, a top congressman blamed the spy agency for a break-in at his office. News stories showed the agency had collected data on hundreds of influential Peruvians.

Yet after last year’s outrage, which forced out the prime minister and froze its intelligence-gathering, the spy service went ahead with a $22 million program capable of snooping on thousands of Peruvians at a time. Peru — a top cocaine-producing nation — joined the ranks of world governments that have added commercial spyware to their arsenals.

The purchase from Israeli-American company Verint Systems, chronicled in documents obtained by The Associated Press, offers a rare, behind-the-scenes look into how easy it is for a country to purchase and install off-the-shelf surveillance equipment. The software allows governments to intercept voice calls, text messages and emails.

Except for blacklisted nations like Syria and North Korea, there is little to stop governments that routinely violate basic rights from obtaining the same so-called “lawful intercept” tools that have been sold to Western police and spy agencies. People tracked by the technology have been beaten, jailed and tortured, according to human rights groups.

Targets identified by the AP include a blogger in the repressive Central Asian republic of Uzbekistan, opposition activists in the war-ravaged African nation of South Sudan, and politicians and reporters in oil-rich Trinidad and Tobago in the Caribbean.

“The status quo is completely unacceptable,” said Marietje Schaake, a European Union lawmaker pushing for greater oversight. “The fact that this market is almost completely unregulated is very disturbing.”

The Verint documents that AP obtained in Peru, including training manuals, contracts, invoices and emails, offer more detail than previously available on the inner workings of a highly secretive industry.

“There is just so little reliable data on this,” said Edin Omanovic, a researcher at Privacy International, a London-based advocacy group. “These commercial tools are being used in a strategic and offensive way in much the same way that military tools are used.”

The scope and sophistication revealed in the Peru documents approximates, on a small scale, U.S. and British surveillance programs catalogued in 2013 by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden. That trove showed how the U.S. government collected the phone records of millions of Americans, few suspected of crimes. Even after some reforms, there is still much to be done in the U.S. and abroad to rein in Big Brother, privacy advocates say.

Reached at Verint’s corporate headquarters in Melville, New York, an assistant to CEO Dan Bodner said the company would have no comment. “We typically don’t comment to reporters,” said Barbara Costa.

Verint and its main competitors hail from nations with well-funded spy agencies, including the United States, Israel, Britain and Germany, and have operated with limited oversight.

With more than $1 billion in yearly sales, Verint is a major, longtime player in an industry whose secrecy makes its size difficult to quantify. Verint Systems Ltd., the subsidiary that sold the surveillance package to Peru, is based in Herzliya, Israel, outside Tel Aviv.

In regulatory filings, the parent corporation boasts upward of 10,000 customers in more than 180 countries, including most of the world’s largest companies and U.S. law-enforcement agencies. The company says its products help businesses run better and “make the world a safer place.” In 2007, Verint provided Mexico with a U.S.-funded, $3 million surveillance platform aimed at fighting drug cartels.

Surveillance sales account for about a third of its business. However, the company discloses little about those products, which it says collect and parse massive data sets to “detect, investigate and neutralize threats.”

It also does not identify its law enforcement and intelligence agency clients, but the AP independently confirmed through interviews and documents that it has sales in countries including Australia, Brazil, the United States, Mexico, Colombia and Switzerland.


About half of Verint’s surveillance dealings are in the developing world, said analyst Jeff Kessler of Imperial Capital in New York.

The Peru installation — known as Pisco, a nod to the local brandy — illustrates how the private surveillance industry has piggybacked on multibillion-dollar government research in the West. Many security experts who honed their skills in Israel’s military have gone to work in the private sector, effectively putting their tech chops at the service of less sophisticated nations for a fraction of the cost.

Like spy tools wielded by larger nations, Pisco lets officials “intercept and monitor” satellite networks that carry voice and data traffic, potentially putting private communications of millions of Peruvians at risk.

A software manual offers step-by-step instructions on how to intercept those communications with Verint equipment: Connect to a satellite, identify the callers, then “open a voice product” — their jargon for a phone call.



Since the early 2000s, Verint and top competitor Nice Systems have sold mass surveillance products to the secret police in Uzbekistan, according to extensive research by Mari Bastashevski for Privacy International. She found the companies also sold such systems to neighboring Kazakhstan, also a tightly governed nation.

Israeli technicians from both companies have rotated in and out of Tashkent, the Uzbek capital, for tech support and maintenance, Bastashevski found. Nice Systems sold its surveillance business to Israeli defense heavyweight Elbit Systems last year.

That equipment has let Uzbek secret police quickly locate and arrest people who discuss sensitive information on the phone or via email, dissidents say.

“The authorities’ main weapon is people’s fear,” said Tulkin Karayev, a Sweden-based exile. “Freedom of speech, freedom of expression — all this is banned.”

Asked by the AP whether Nice Systems’ sales had enabled political repression, Elbit spokeswoman Dalia Rosen would not comment. “We follow the leading standards of corporate governance and focus on ethical behavior in our business dealings,” she said.

Over the past two decades, Uzbekistan has “imprisoned thousands to enforce repressive rule,” Human Rights Watch reported last year. The price of dissent is arbitrary detention, forced labor and torture, the group said. A report submitted to the U.N. by three rights groups deemed torture by the secret police systematic, unpunished and encouraged.

Three years ago, metal worker Kudrat Rasulov reached out to Karayev from Uzbekistan via Facebook seeking advice on how he could help promote free expression in his country. The exile said he suggested that Rasulov, now 46, write critical commentary on local media reports. Rasulov’s weekly reports were then published online under a pseudonym. Rasulov thought he was being careful. He created a new email account for every article he sent, and the two men discussed the articles over Skype. But after six months, Rasulov was arrested. He is serving an 8-year-prison sentence for subversion.

Karayev believes Rasulov was undone by surveillance, and Human Rights Watch agreed. The court’s sentence found he was convicted based in part on his Skype communications and contact with Karayev, the group said in a report.

“They were reading Skype. They were listening to his phone calls. That’s the way they build their cases,” said Steve Swerdlow, the report’s author.

In Colombia, Verint has racked up millions in sales. As recently as 2015, U.S. customs officials funded maintenance for a wiretapping system, according to government contracts. Nearly a decade ago, its products were abused by officials who were later sacked for illegal eavesdropping, senior police and prosecutors told the AP at the time, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the matter.

Like the United States, most countries require court orders to use the technology. But where rule of law is weak, abuse is not uncommon.

The Caribbean nation of Trinidad and Tobago saw a government fall after a wiretapping scandal involving Verint-supplied equipment. In 2009, a total of 53 people, including politicians and journalists, were illegally monitored, according to a former senior security official who asked not to be named for fear of reprisal. The Verint equipment remains operative, though now a court order is needed to use it.

One piece of the Verint product mix that Trinidad and Tobago bought is Vantage Broadway. A promotional brochure published by Israel’s defense ministry for a 2014 trade show in India describes it as data-analysis and pattern-seeking software. It pairs with a product called Reliant to “intercept, filter and analyze huge volumes of Internet, voice and satellite communication.” The package Peru bought includes both Reliant and Vantage, documents show.

The little regulation that exists in the commercial mass-surveillance trade falls under a non-binding international arms export-control regime called the Wassenaar Arrangement. In December 2013, it was amended to add monitoring products like Reliant and Vantage and “attack-ware” that breaks into smartphones and computers and turns them into listening posts.

The United States has not ratified the amendment; the federal Commerce Department proposed rules that raised objections in Silicon Valley. Israel says it is complying, and the European Union ratified the update. But Schaake, the EU lawmaker, said its 28 member states act independently and “technologies continue to be exported to countries that are known human rights violators.”

Surveillance technology from Israel, meanwhile, is being used in South Sudan, where a 2 ½-year-old civil war has claimed tens of thousands of lives, a panel of U.N. experts reported in January. U.N. and human rights groups say the government deploys it to track down, jail and torture dissidents and journalists.

The ability of South Sudan’s intelligence agency “to identify and illegally apprehend individuals has been significantly enhanced” through the acquisition of “additional communications interception equipment from Israel,” the U.N. experts wrote.

They did not name the suppliers, and a government spokesman declined to discuss the issue. While there is no direct evidence that Verint is a supplier, an AP reporter confirmed the names of two company employees on a flight in May from Ethiopia to the South Sudanese capital of Juba. Typing on a laptop, one was working on a presentation that named the three telecoms that operate in the country.

Verint did not respond to questions about whether it supplied surveillance technology to South Sudan.

An activist jailed for four months in Juba said his interrogators spoke openly about tapping his phone, played recordings of him in intercepted phone conversations and showed him emails he had sent. He spoke to the AP on condition he not be identified, saying he fears for his life.

Joseph Bakosoro, a former South Sudanese state governor who was also held without charge for four months, said his interrogators played for him a voicemail that had been left on his cellphone. They claimed it was evidence he backed rebels.

Bakosoro said the voicemail proved only that he was being bugged.


His interrogators didn’t hide that.

“They told me they are monitoring me,” he said. “They are monitoring my phone, and they are monitoring everyone, so whatever we say on the telephone, they are monitoring.”



Three years after Peru acquired the Verint package, it’s not yet up and running, Carlos Basombrio, the incoming interior minister said just before taking office last week. “When it becomes operative, it will be used against organized crime (in coordination) with judges and prosecutors.”

Located in a three-story building next to the country’s DINI spy agency, Pisco sits on a Lima military base off-limits to the public. It can track 5,000 individual targets and simultaneously record the communications of 300 people, according to agency documents, with eight listening rooms and parabolic antennae affixed outside to capture satellite downlinks.

Control of Pisco was shifted to the national police after the spying scandal that crippled the intelligence agency. Verint sent Israeli personnel to train Peruvian operators, adding eight months of instruction at the host government’s request, records show.

One major eavesdropping tool has, however, been active in Peru since October. It can physically track any phone in real time using geolocation. Under a July 2015 decree, police can locate phones without a court order, but would need one to listen in.

Government officials wouldn’t offer details on what software was being used to track cellphones. But two months before the decree, DINI officials said payment had been authorized for a Verint geolocation product called SkyLock. That software enables phone-tracking within the country, and a premium version can pinpoint any mobile phone in most countries.

All four Peruvian phone companies agreed to cooperate on geolocation, signing a pact with the government the details of which were not disclosed.

Civil libertarians consider warrantless geolocation a dangerous invasion of privacy, especially in a nation with pervasive public corruption. Peru’s incoming congress is dominated by Fuerza Popular, a party associated with imprisoned former President Alberto Fujimori. He ran one of the most corrupt Latin American regimes in recent history.

In July 2015, the Verint surveillance platform got caught in the chaos of Peruvian politics.

Word of the purchase was leaked, triggering a government audit. The Miami-based Verint vice president who made the sale, Shefi Paz, complained about the phone companies’ apparent foot-dragging in emails and letters to DINI officials. They weren’t making themselves available for meetings.

“Verint should not have to suffer from political delays,” Paz wrote . Reached by phone, Paz declined to comment.

The eavesdropping products Verint and its peers sell play an important role in fighting terrorism, said Ika Balzam, a former employee of both Verint and Nice. That is a common industry claim, echoed by politicians.

And yet, Balzam acknowledged, there are no guarantees that nation-states won’t abuse surveillance tools.

“There is a saying,” Balzam said: “‘Who will guard the guards?'”



Neither Clinton Nor Trump Will Be Able to Fix the Pentagon’s Budget

By Marcus Weisgerber Read bio

August 2, 2016

With the federal budget capped through 2021, defense spending will be an immediate first test of the next American president.

When the next president takes office in January, he or she will be staring down a 254-day deadline to either negotiate a budget deal with Congress or watch automatic cuts come to the military budget.

“I think the [Budget Control Act] is probably the biggest challenge that the next administration faces, [and] not just for defense,” said Todd Harrison of the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Tuesday marked the fifth anniversary of the Budget Control Act, the 2011 deficit-reduction law that all but accidentally placed caps on the federal budget for a decade. Its restrictions last through fiscal 2021, encompassing almost the entire four-year term of the next president.

The Pentagon has long argued it cannot operate effectively at these levels. Its current 2017 budget proposal, now under debate by Congress, calls for a total of $113 billion above the caps between 2018 and 2021.

“Whoever the next administration is, they are likely going to want to exceed those caps,” Harrison said. “They’re going to be put in the same situation the Obama administration has been in: that they have to strike a deal with Congress.”

And good luck with that. The Obama administration has been unable to strike a long-term budget deal repealing the Budget Control Act, although it has supported two smaller, two-year deals that increased Pentagon and non-defense spending caps. The latest of those deals will expire at the end of fiscal 2017 — that is, Oct. 1, 2017.

That means a Clinton or Trump administration will find itself facing a budget deadline just 254 days after taking the oath of office on Jan. 20. Pentagon officials are already warning of cuts that would come to the military if the budget caps return.

Republicans have controlled both chambers of Congress since 2015. While Democrats might win control of the Senate, they are not expected to win the 60 seats needed to pass legislation in these days of rampant filibusters. Republicans are expected to retain control of the House.

“I’m not optimistic that we’re going to see enough of a shift in the makeup of Congress that it will break the budget stalemate we’ve had for the past five years,” Harrison said.

The Pentagon has used short-term budget deals, as well as an uncapped war budget account, the infamous overseas contingency operations, known as OCO, to weather spending reductions.

“If they can’t continue to get that, then you’ve got a problem,” Harrison said. “Then you’re getting cut down to the budget caps.”

Harrison predicts Clinton, like Obama, would fight to raise both Pentagon and non-defense spending caps. Trump would likely only argue to raise defense spending caps only, just as Republicans have wanted to do for the past five years.

“That’s the pattern that we’ve seen over the past five years,” Harrison said. “I don’t expect that that will change. Whether it’s Clinton or Trump, quite frankly, it depends more on Congress.”

So the stalemate remains. Or does it? Lawmakers, along with whoever is elected president, will likely find themselves negotiating a short-term budget deal, as happened in 2013 and 2015.

“You’ve got to negotiate a compromise,” Harrison said.

So start your countdown clocks — but also remember that few of the dire predictions mooted in 2012 came true.


How Putin Weaponized Wikileaks to Influence the Election of an American President

By Patrick Tucker Read bio

July 24, 2016


Evidence suggests that a Russian intelligence group was the source of the most recent Wikileaks intel dump, which was aimed to influence the U.S. election.

Close your eyes and imagine that a hacking group backed by Russian President Vladimir Putin broke into the email system of a major U.S. political party. The group stole thousands of sensitive messages and then published them through an obliging third party in a way that was strategically timed to influence the United States presidential election. Now open your eyes, because that’s what just happened.

On Friday, Wikileaks published 20,000 emails stolen from the Democratic National Committee. They reveal, among other things, thuggish infighting, a push by a top DNC official to use Bernie Sanders’ religious convictions against him in the South, and attempts to strong-arm media outlets. In other words, they reveal the Washington campaign monster for what it is.

But leave aside the purported content of the Wikileaks data dump (to which numerous other outlets have devoted considerable attention) and consider the source. Considerable evidence shows that the Wikileaks dump was an orchestrated act by the Russian government, working through proxies, to undermine Hillary Clinton’s Presidential campaign.

“This has all the hallmarks of tradecraft. The only rationale to release such data from the Russian bulletproof host was to empower one candidate against another. The Cold War is alive and well,” Tom Kellermann, the CEO of Strategic Cyber Ventures told Defense One.

Here’s the timeline: On June 14, cybersecurity company CrowdStrike, under contract with the DNC, announced in a blog post that two separate Russian intelligence groups had gained access to the DNC network. One group, FANCY BEAR or APT 28, gained access in April. The other, COZY BEAR, (also called Cozy Duke and APT 29) first breached the network in the summer of 2015.

Cybersecurity company FireEye first discovered APT 29 in 2014 and was quick to point out a clear Kremlin connection. “We suspect the Russian government sponsors the group because of the organizations it targets and the data it steals. Additionally, APT 29 appeared to cease operations on Russian holidays, and their work hours seem to align with the UTC +3 time zone, which contains cities such as Moscow and St. Petersburg,” they wrote in their report on the group. Other U.S. officials have said that the group looks like it has sponsorship from the Russian government due in large part to the level of sophistication behind the group’s attacks.

It’s the same group that hit the State Department, the White House, and the civilian email of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The group’s modus operandi (a spearphishing attack that uploads a distinctive remote access tool on the target’s computer) is well known to cyber-security researchers.

In his blog post on the DNC breaches CrowdStrike’s CTO Dmitri Alperovitch wrote “We’ve had lots of experience with both of these actors attempting to target our customers in the past and know them well. In fact, our team considers them some of the best adversaries out of all the numerous nation-state, criminal and hacktivist/terrorist groups we encounter on a daily basis. Their tradecraft is superb, operational security second to none and the extensive usage of ‘living-off-the-land’ techniques enables them to easily bypass many security solutions they encounter.”

The next day, an individual calling himself Guccifer 2.0 claimed to be the culprit behind the breach and released key documents to back up the claim, writing: “Shame on CrowdStrike.”

Crowdstrike stood by their original analysis, writing: “these claims do nothing to lessen our findings relating to the Russian government’s involvement, portions of which we have documented for the public and the greater security community.”

Other security firms offered independent analysis and reached the same conclusion. The group Fidelis undertook their own investigation and found Crowdstrike to be correct.

A Twitter user named @PwnAlltheThings looked at the metadata on the docs that Guccifer 2.0 provided in his blog post and found literal Russian signatures.

His findings were backed up by Dan Goodin at Ars Technica. “Given the evidence combined with everything else, I think it’s a strong attribution to one of the Russian intelligence agencies,” @PwnAllTheThings remarked to Motherboard.

Motherboard reporter Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai actually conversed with Guccifer 2.0 over Twitter. The hacker, who claimed to be Romanian, answered questions in short sentences that “were filled with mistakes according to several Romanian native speakers,” Bicchieri found.

A large body of evidence suggests that Guccifer 2.0 is a smokescreen that the actual culprits employed to hide their involvement in the breach.

That would be consistent with Russian information and influence operations. “Russian propagandists have been caught hiring actors to portray victims of manufactured atrocities or crimes for news reports (as was the case when Viktoria Schmidt pretended to have been attacked by Syrian refugees in Germany for Russia’s Zvezda TV network), or faking on-scene news reporting (as shown in a leaked video in which “reporter” Maria Katasonova is revealed to be in a darkened room with explosion sounds playing in the background rather than on a battlefield in Donetsk when a light is switched on during the recording),” notes a RAND report from earlier in July.

The use of Wikileaks as the publishing platform served to legitimize the information dump, which also contains a large amount of personal information related to democratic donors such as social security and credit card numbers. This suggests that Wikileaks didn’t perform a thorough analysis of the documents before they released them, or simply didn’t care.

It’s the latest installment in a trend that information security researcher Bruce Schneier calls organizational doxing and that Lawfare’s Nicholas Weaver calls the weaponization of Wikileaks.

The most remarkable example of which, prior to the DNC incident, was the June 2015 the publication of several sets of NSA records related to government intelligence collection targets in France, Japan, Brazil and Germany. The data itself was not remarkable, but it did harm U.S. relations and may have compromised NSA tradecraft. “Wikileaks doesn’t seem to care that they are being used as a weapon by unknown parties, instead calling themselves a ‘library of mass education’. But the rest of us should,” Weaver writes.


The evidence so far suggests it’s a weapon that Putin used to great effect last week.


How Hackers Could Destroy Election Day



Donald Trump is already warning that the election’s going to be ‘rigged.’ Maybe, maybe not. But hacking the vote—and throwing the country into chaos—is terrifyingly simple.

Stealing and leaking emails from the Democratic National Committee could be just the start. Hacking the presidential election itself could be next, a bipartisan group of former intelligence and security officials recently warned. Whoever was behind the DNC hack also could target voting machines and the systems for tabulating votes, which are dangerously insecure.

“Election officials at every level of government should take this lesson to heart: our electoral process could be a target for reckless foreign governments and terrorist groups,” wrote 31 members of the Aspen Institute Homeland Security Group, which includes a former director of the Central Intelligence Agency and a former secretary of Homeland Security.

That echoes warnings computer security experts have been sounding for more than a decade: that the system for casting and counting votes in this country is also ripe for mischief.

It also appears to mirror the concerns of one presidential candidate.

“I’m afraid the election’s going to be rigged. I have to be honest,” Donald Trump told voters in the key swing state of Ohio this week. Trump has complained before about bias and interference in the Republican nominating process, but this was the first time he claimed that the general election would be targeted.

A spokesman for Trump’s rival, Hillary Clinton, dismissed the Republican nominee as a “reflexive conspiracy theorist.”

But the election system in the United States can be manipulated, experts warn, through targeted attacks on its several weak points.

Whether Trump knows that is unclear. But he was priming the pump for Election Night mayhem—and perhaps playing right into hackers’ hands. Voters who have already been told to be on the lookout for shenanigans would be rightly incensed to learn that their votes had been manipulated. And a candidate who merely suggested that the system had been hijacked—without offering any proof—could inflame those passions and spread uncertainty. And God forbid the campaigns wind up suing one another over disputed ballots; the Supreme Court is down a justice, and is tied 4-4 between liberals and conservatives.

“It’s hanging chads weaponized,” former National Security Agency official Stewart Baker told NBC, referring to the 2000 election’s paper ballot controversy.

Surely, hackers know that. If someone really wanted to “rig” the election, here are five ways he might do it, from attacking the ballot box to exploiting the raw emotions stoked by a conspiracy-minded candidate.


Intercept the Ballots

Once ballots are cast at a polling place, they’re sent to another location to be counted. And while they’re in transit, they’re vulnerable to tampering—especially if they travel electronically.

Thirty-one states and the District of Columbia allow military personnel and overseas voters to return their ballots electronically, according to Verified Voting, a nonprofit group that advocates transparency and security in U.S. elections. “The election official on the receiving end has no way to know if the voted ballot she received matches the one the voter originally sent,” the group warns.

Some ballots are sent through online portals, which exposes the voting system to the internet. And that’s one of the most dangerous things elections officials can do, because it provides a remote point of access for hackers into the election system.

“Anything that doesn’t absolutely have to be connected to the internet, don’t connect it,” Pamela Smith, Verified Voting’s president, told The Daily Beast. U.S. officials have also given that same advice to the owners and operators of critical infrastructure, such as electrical power grids. Smith and her colleagues recently told U.S. officials crafting computer security guidelines that elections systems should also be treated as vital national assets, and protected as such .

Some ballots are returned via digital fax or email. And some—bafflingly—are sent via email.

“Without encryption, emailed ballots can be easily modified or manipulated en masse while in transit from the voter to the local election officials,” David Jefferson, a voting security expert and computer scientist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, warned in a blog post in 2011.

The threat is still real. Jefferson called it “trivial” for someone with a modicum of technical skills to filter out ballots from a particular county or state and “to automate a process to either discard ballots that contain votes she does not like, or replace them with forged ballots that she likes better, all the while keeping the voter’s signed waiver and envelope attachments intact. Such malicious activity would only result in a transmission delay on the order of one second or so.”

Most states that allow voters to return ballots via the internet limit the practice to overseas voters. But in close elections, those votes could make a difference. Alaska is also unique in that it allows anyone in the state to send in their ballots online.

“Marking and sending votes over the internet is my biggest concern,” Smith said. “They could be infected or tampered with. Or something could just go wrong and you couldn’t do a good recount.”

That’s especially concerning in states that allow voters to electronically return their ballots but don’t have paper backups to record how that person actually voted.


Lie to the Voting Machines

This may be one of the trickier hacks to pull off, but potentially one of the most damaging.

Ballot definition files are an indispensible piece of the electronic voting system. They tell a voting booth what precinct it’s sitting in, which races appear on the ballot, the candidate’s relationship to those races, and other essential information that a voter needs to cast his ballot correctly. When a voter touches a candidate’s name on a machine’s screen, it’s the ballot definition file that tells the machine to record that touch as a vote. The file actually defines how the machine sees the ballot.

And how are ballot definition files delivered to the voting machine? In some cases, via the internet. A corrupted ballot definition file could, in theory, tell the machine to count votes for Clinton as votes for Trump, and vice versa.

Such a mix-up has actually happened, though not by design. In a 2006 county election in Iowa, officials were surprised to find a popular incumbent—who’d been in office more than 20 years—losing to a practically unknown 19-year-old college student. When they stopped electronic voting and counted ballots by hand, they saw that the voting machines were miscounting all the races on the ballots.

It turns out that the machines weren’t programmed to know that not every ballot in the county looked alike. Some put one candidate’s name at the top in one precinct, and others changed the order. This is a process known as “ballot rotation,” and it’s meant to avoid favoritism or bias by always having one candidate’s name at the top of the ballot. The machine didn’t know that.

In a hack, the ballot definition file could be corrupted not to recognize this rotation, throwing the whole election off kilter. How badly? In that Iowa race, the voting machines had the incumbent coming in 9th place out of 10 candidates. When officials recounted the ballots by hand, they saw he had actually won.


Target a State with No Paper Trail

Electronic voting machines pose risks. But jurisdictions can minimize them by creating tangible records called voter-verified paper audit trails. Think of it like a receipt that shows the voter how his selection was counted. Audit trails also let election officials conduct a hand-count if necessary. If a hacker changed the votes cast on a machine, the paper trail should tell counters for whom the votes were really meant.

But five states use electronic voting machines with no auditable paper trail—Louisiana, Georgia, South Carolina, Delaware, and New Jersey, according to data from Verified Voting. And seven states use a mix of paper ballots and electronic machines with no paper trail. Among them are the electoral battlegrounds of Florida, Virginia, and Pennsylvania.

Experts say states with no or incomplete audit trails pose a prime target for manipulation. If a hacker altered the vote totals in the machine, not only would there be no paper record to provide an authoritative count, but election officials might not even realize they’d been hacked, because the only record of the vote count would be the compromised machine.

“This is one of those things about paperless, electronic voting that makes it so unusual and problematic. How would you know?” says Smith of Verified Voting.

Voters in Washington state got a taste for this uncertainty in their 2004 gubernatorial election, Smith says. The election results were close—down to 100 votes in some counties—but in places that used voting machines without paper records, the candidates had to just trust that the machines had recorded the votes properly. They couldn’t be recounted by hand.

And in one election in North Carolina the same year, a machine with no paper trail that was used for early voting in a county government office inexplicably stopped counting votes. About 4,500 were irretrievably lost, in a statewide contest that was decided by fewer than 2,000 votes, Smith says.

“In a situation like that, what do you do? They didn’t even have punch cards to hold up,” she said, alluding to the infamous 2000 presidential recount in Florida, where election officials had to visually inspect cards to determine which candidate voters actually cast a ballot for.

Some counties in Florida are using electronic machines now, which were introduced to reduce the likelihood of another recount fiasco. But in Miami-Dade and Broward counties, the scene of so much confusion in 2000, there’s a mix of paper ballots and machines with no paper trails.


Go After Wireless Systems

Machines that can connect to each other or the internet wirelessly are the soft underbelly of election hacking.

In one of the most notorious cases of vulnerable election systems, researchers from the Virginia Information Technologies Agency found that WINVote, a touchscreen voting machine used in elections between 2002 and 2014, including three presidential races, contained wireless cards that would let an attacker “access the WINVote devices and modify the data without notice from a nearby location” .

The machines communicated with each other using an encrypted wireless system, but foiling it was easy: the password to gain access was “abcde,” which the Virginia researchers charitably described as “weak.”

“With that passphrase it was possible to join to the WINVote ad-hoc network with specialized security workstations and start attempting to compromise the WINVote device’s operating system,” the researchers wrote.

Virginia decertified the machines, and they’re no longer in use. In fact, no state uses WINVote, according to research from Verified Voting. But any election system that uses wireless components at other points in the tallying process is potentially at risk. That includes machines that may have wireless systems that election officials think they’ve disabled, but are actually still turned on. That was the case with WINVote.


Say You Hacked The Vote, Even If You Didn’t

Hackers don’t need to actually hijack a voting machine or ballot software to undermine confidence in election results. Merely the credible claim that an election had been tinkered with could compel a candidate’s supporters to cry foul, particularly if the vote counts are close or if the candidate performed worse than expected.

“If you have a system that’s been shown to have vulnerabilities, even if someone doesn’t attack them, but creates the impression that they might have, in a closely contested election you’ve got a problem,” Avi Rubin, a computer scientist at Johns Hopkins University, and one of the first technologists to warn about vote hacking, told The Daily Beast.

Given Trump’s claims that the system is rigged, and his pattern of inciting supporters, it’s not hard to imagine the nominee seizing on just the claim of foreign hacking as evidence of interference.

“Launching a disinformation campaign on social media, or via text messages, is not challenging. And you only need a small percentage of people [to react] to have results,” John Wethington, a vice president at computer security company Ground Labs, told The Daily Beast. Disinformation can also be used to depress turnout. “Tell them that a particular polling location is closed. Or notify them that the voting machines in a particular area have been compromised,” Wethington said. People might stay away if they think the election is already stacked against them.

Particularly if their candidate tells them so.


US Air Force Secretary Skeptical of No-First-Use Nuclear Policy

Aaron Mehta, Defense News 4:51 p.m. EDT August 3, 2016


WASHINGTON — Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James would be “concerned” if the US implemented a formal no-first-use policy for nuclear weapons, at a time when the White House reportedly is considering such a move.


Speaking Aug. 3 to Defense News and sister publication Air Force Times, James also said the service is briefing members of Congress that have expressed doubts about the Pentagon’s nuclear modernization strategy in order to make the case for funding the new Long Range Standoff (LRSO) nuclear cruise missile.

Over the past month, reports have emerged that President Barack Obama is considering enacting a no-first-use policy — in which the US would pledge not to preemptively launch a nuclear strike against another nation — before leaving office.

As would be expected, the nonproliferation community has cheered the idea, and a group of congressional Democrats recently wrote to Obama urging the adoption of that policy. But those who view nuclear deterrence as key to American security have expressed concerns such a plan would put the US on its heels, especially given recent Russian modernization of its nuclear arsenal.

Asked specifically her opinion on a no-first-use policy, James said, “Personally, I have questions about it. I would be concerned with it.”

Those comments echo remarks from William Cohen, a former defense secretary from 1997-2001 under President Bill Clinton. Cohen told Defense News July 21 that he doesn’t support a no-first-use declaration. Instead, Cohen said he hopes to see “a very rigorous diminution in our numbers and much greater cooperation with countries who possess” nuclear weapons.

James added that “I imagine we will hear more about [Obama’s nuclear-policy thoughts] in the next few months.”

That strategy, at this point, appears to include moving forward with major recapitalization efforts on a number of nuclear programs. Last week, the Air Force offered a request for proposals on both the LRSO and the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent (GBSD) programs, the latter of which would replace the aging Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missiles.

That the service went ahead with both those RFPs, James noted, “speaks for itself” in terms of how vital the Air Force feels those modernization efforts are.

But on the Hill, the nuclear modernization strategy has increasingly come under a microscope from congressional Democrats. In particular, the LRSO, which would replace the service’s Air Launched Cruise Missile (ALCM) program, has become a target as a potential cut in order to free up money for the coming “bow wave” of modernization costs expected to hit the Pentagon in the mid-2020s.

Leading the charge against LRSO are two powerful Democrats: House Armed Services Ranking Member Adam Smith, Wash., and Senate Intelligence Committee Vice-President Dianne Feinstein of California. The latter is particularly notable, as control of the Senate now appears a possibility for the Democratic party following November’s election.

James called the discussions over LRSO the result of a “reasonable difference of opinion among people who are all trying to do the same thing,” and said the service is trying to provide information that shows why the LRSO is important going forward.

“Our job is ultimately [to provide] the best military advice we can give,” James said. “We go over there. We brief. We brief both in unclassified and classified ways that ‘This I why we believe the LRSO is needed’.”

That argument rests on the need for the Air Force to have a “credible” deterrent for its bomber fleet, she said.

“We’re going to have our B-21s eventually, but our B-52s we also anticipate keeping for a substantial period of time. And without a standoff capability, those B-52s won’t be able to do the job in the mid-20202s,” James said. “So it’s directly related to that threat, the Anti-Access/Area Denial kind of environment. So we go to Congress and we explain this as well.

“It really does relate to what is going on around the world. That’s why we need it. But, again, reasonable people have differing opinions.”



After Zika vaccine breakthrough, DoD researchers to test it in humans

Patricia Kime, Military Times 5:24 p.m. EDT August 4, 2016


On the heels of a National Institute of Health announcement Wednesday that the facility is launching clinical trials on humans of a Zika vaccine, the Defense Department said Thursday its vaccine candidate has been tested in monkeys and has been proved effective.

Researchers at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research in Silver Spring, Maryland, working with Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center at Harvard Medical School published an article online in the journal Nature saying that with two animal studies having been completed, they are ready to proceed with their own human trials.

The researchers found that the military-developed vaccine induced antibody production in two weeks and complete protection in monkeys after a second dose four weeks later.

“Results from both the mouse and non-human primate testing are encouraging and support a decision to move forward with … our partners to advance our vaccine candidate to human trials,” said Col. Stephen Thomas, an Army infectious disease specialist.

Zika hits the U.S. military: 41 troops, 7 family members diagnosed

The military trials are a third of their kind. In addition to the NIH trials, Inovio Pharmaceuticals began testing its experimental Zika vaccine July 26.

“The Army has an interest in supporting development of countermeasures against Zika,” said George Ludwig, a researcher with the Army Medical Research and Material Command. “Infection diseases have traditionally been the greatest threat to solder health and readiness both in the field and in garrison.”

As of Aug. 3, 41 active-duty, reserve and National Guard members have been diagnosed with Zika, including one service member who is expecting a baby.

An additional seven family members have been diagnosed with Zika.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 1,650 cases of Zika have been diagnosed in the United States, including 433 pregnant women, and 4,750 cases have been reported in U.S. territories.

Nearly all but 15 U.S. cases were contracted outside the United States. They include 15 sexually transmitted cases and one lab-acquired case.

The NIH study kicked off Tuesday with the vaccination of the first patient. The study calls for testing 80 volunteers at the NIH Clinical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, Emory University in Atlanta and the University of Maryland Baltimore County.

Both the NIH and Inovio vaccines are DNA vaccines, which unlike traditional vaccines that use deactivated or weakend viruses, or proteins from the virus designed to prompt an immune response, use genetic material derived from the viruses’ key proteins to stimulate the immune system.


The vaccine being developed by WRAIR and Beth Israel is based on more traditional vaccine development technology.

If any of the vaccines are proved effective, they would be made available to women and teenagers of childbearing age as well as their sexual partners, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases director Dr. Anthony Fauci said Wednesday.

In more than 80 percent of patients, a Zika virus infection causes few or no symptoms. But it can cause severe birth defects, including microcephaly, a condition in which babies are born with small heads and partially developed brains, and death to affected fetuses.

The CDC this week issued a travel advisory to part of Miami, telling pregnant women they should not travel to parts of the city where Zika has been found. Since Zika can linger for 10 weeks or maybe more in blood of pregnant women, they are advising that women with Zika wait at least eight weeks before trying to get pregnant and men with Zika should wait at least six months after symptoms to consider fathering children.

A breakthrough in the development of a Zika vaccine could also lead to prevention of other viruses related to Zika, including dengue, which infects roughly 390 million people worldwide each year, according to the World Health Organization, as well as yellow fever and chikungunya.

All are transmitted by the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which lives in the tropics and can summer in the United States.


Zika arrives in US: Debunking top myths about the virus

By Nicole Kwan

·Published August 05, 2016



With the Rio Olympics starting Friday in the country where over 165,000 suspected Zika cases have been reported this year, and local mosquito-borne Zika virus transmission reported in Florida, it’s natural to be concerned about the infectious disease that’s been dominating the headlines.

While some information about the outbreak is available— such as transmission, symptoms and containment efforts— questions about the virus remain.


Should I be concerned?

According to the experts, the answer depends on where you live and if you are pregnant or considering becoming pregnant.

Certain areas of the country, specifically Florida and the Gulf Coast, particularly Louisiana and Texas, have a high concentration of the Aedes aegypti mosquito and be more at risk of a Zika virus outbreak.

“Zika is far more contained than people realize,” Dr. Peter Hotez , Director of the Texas Children’s Hospital Center for Vaccine Development, told “Areas of concern are cities like Brownsville, Texas, Corpus Christi, Houston, New Orleans, Tampa, Miami.”

While there is an outbreak in a very circumscribed area of Miami, Hotez believes the whole city to be at risk, as individuals with Zika in their bloodstream are traveling to other parts of the city.

“If you’re living in a city at risk and are pregnant, you need to give a lot of thought to how you’re going to alter your behavior— maximizing your time indoors, talking with your obstetrician about how to apply DEET or an alternative insect repellent,” Hotez, who is also Founding Dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, said.

While there are 1,825 Zika cases in the continental U.S., compared with other regions— Puerto Rico has 5,582— it’s a drop in the bucket, said Dr. Federico Laham, medical director for pediatric infectious disease at Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children in Orlando.

“If you are not pregnant or not an adult planning to have a partner who is pregnant, I don’t think [there’s] any reason for concern or any need for testing,” Laham told”Zika is believed to be an uncomplicated infection with self-limited symptoms that don’t have any long-lasting complications.”


How active are Zika-carrying mosquitoes?

The Aedes aegypti mosquito is an urbanized mosquito that has adapted to human habitats, especially urbanized areas where there’s crowding, which could be a suburb or any area with a certain density of people.

“Aedes aegypti tends to be a day biter, but once it’s inside houses, it could bite anytime,” Hotez said, adding that West Nile virus is still a concern, as it’s prevalent in the same places that have Zika.

In their lifespan, mosquitoes that carry Zika generally travel less than 150 meters (164 yards), according to the CDC, though the World Health Organization reports an average flight range of 400 meters (437 yards). The average lifespan of an Aedes aegpyti mosquito is two weeks.

The Aedes albopictus mosquito can also carry Zika, but it is not as efficient in spreading the virus as Aedes egypti, because it also feeds on birds and other mammals, interrupting transmission.

Most Americans favor late-term abortion if Zika harms fetus, STAT-Harvard poll finds

Zika vaccines work in monkeys, boosting hopes for people

New York attorney general says fake Zika protection claims swiftly dropped

Should women at all stages of pregnancy be worried about microcephaly?

Yes and no. While the effects of Zika on pregnant women and their unborn babies are still unknown, the most concerning stage is early pregnancy.

“Because of its similarity to other infections and findings about microcephaly, many of these things take a long time to develop and may affect the fetus early in pregnancy,” Laham said. “A mom can pass the infection to the baby at the time of birth if she gets the infection later on, but we doubt that will result in any kind of congenital problems like microcephaly. It takes time to develop— it’s not something that happens in a few days or weeks.”

Studies have shown evidence of Zika in amniotic fluid, placenta and fetal brain tissue.

Hotez agreed that the effects on unborn fetuses and young children are still unknown, but said it’s too early to know determine there are any neurological effects.


Is everyone who gets Zika symptomatic?

No. Cautioning that there is still a steep learning curve for Zika, Hotez said that research suggests 80 percent of infected people do not show symptoms, but he believes the percentage to be higher.


In the recent cases of local transmission in Florida, four out of the five patients did not have symptoms.

That being said, one of Hotez’s biggest worries is Zika cases that aren’t being reported.

“My big nightmare scenario is we’re missing Zika transmission in certain cities and as a consequence we could start seeing microcephaly cases seven, eight, nine months from now,” he said. “That would be really tragic.”


Can you be ‘cured’ of Zika?

Yes, once you’re infected you’re immune to the virus.

“The vast majority of [infected] people will develop antibodies and then you’re fine,” Hotez said. “You’re basically self-cured and immune.”

The lack of funding by Congress— right before the peak infection period of July-September— means the disease will be fought on the local level, leading to Hotez’s worry that cases aren’t being transmitted.

“[Congress] just left without making a decision, which was really shocking,” he said.


Will Zika stay in my system forever?

No. Most infected individuals will have Zika in their system for a period of 2 to 3 weeks and in the bloodstream for about a week.

However, if pregnant woman is infected, there is the possibility that the virus could go into the fetus, then back into the mother, he added.

The CDC advises non-pregnant couples use condoms or abstain from sex for at least eight weeks after onset if a female partner is diagnosed with or experiences symptoms of Zika and for at least six months if a male partner is diagnosed or has symptoms.


Will kissing spread Zika?

Probably not. In June, a letter to the New England Journal of Medicine detailed a case of Zika potentially being transmitted through oral sex, bringing to question whether the virus could be spread by other biological fluids, such as saliva during kissing.

“I don’t think [transmission through kissing] has been well-established at all,” Hotez said. “We want to keep our eyes on the prize— the overwhelming mode of transmission is still fro mosquito bites.”


Does Zika cause paralysis?

Still unclear. Zika has been linked to Guillen-Barre, a neurological illness that mostly lasts a few weeks and causes muscle weakness, and, sometimes, paralysis. According to the CDC, researchers do not fully understand what causes the syndrome, but most patients report a bacterial or viral infection before they have symptoms.

Guillen-Barre is rare and is found in 1 in 1,000 Zika patients, with some estimating 1 in 500 cases, Hotez said.

“It’s a very, very unusual complication and that shouldn’t really force any kind of fear,” Laham said. “Literally any virus like flu or the cold can cause all types of crazy infections.”


Guillen-Barre is usually an immune response to a virus.

“In the case of Zika, it happens so early on in the course of illness many of us are thinking Zika may cause Guillen-Barre by some kind of direct invasion of nervous tissue,” Hotez said.


Rasmussen Reports

What They Told Us: Reviewing Last Week’s Key Polls


Bottom of Form

In a presidential race where most of the media seem to treat policy positions like an afterthought, it may be a surprise that there are some pretty clear differences between the two major political parties and some obvious areas of agreement, too.

Voters don’t share President Obama’s upbeat assessment of the nation and strongly believe the United States is coming apart. Even the majority of his fellow Democrats share that gloomy assessment.

Only 31% of voters think the country is headed in the right direction, although that’s up from 21% a month ago following the murder of policemen in Dallas and Baton Rouge. That was the lowest level of optimism since October 2013.

Sixty percent (60%) think race relations have gotten worse since Obama’s election eight years ago.

The economy remains the number one issue for all voters this election cycle, but Republicans are a lot more worried about national security and illegal immigration than Democrats are. Illegal immigration ranks dead last for Democrats who rate the environment third in importance.

Americans strongly agree with both major presidential candidates about the importance of bringing manufacturing jobs back to the United States and are willing to pay more for consumer goods to make it happen. Voters aren’t big fans of NAFTA and other international free trade deals.

Voters still tend to view Obamacare negatively, and fewer voters than ever expect it to lower health care costs. These findings are significant given that most voters still say lowering health care costs is more important than universal coverage, the top priority of the president’s plan.

Obama, Hillary Clinton and many other Democrats avoid using the term “radical Islamic terrorism” publicly because they believe it implicates all Muslims for the actions of extremists. Donald Trump and many Republicans place high importance on the language, saying an enemy cannot be defeated if it is not identified by name. Sixty percent (60%) of all voters continue to believe the United States is at war with radical Islamic terrorism. 

Opponents of the Iran nuclear deal reached last year are accusing the Obama administration of paying a secret ransom to Iran after it was revealed that the United States sent $400 million in cash on the same day four U.S. detainees were released by the Iranian government. The president denies the ransom allegations, saying the payment was related to an older dispute, but most voters continue to express pessimism about the nuclear deal with Iran.

Republicans are again asking questions about Clinton’s health, while Democrats continue to insist that Trump release his tax returns. Most voters still believe major White House hopefuls should make public recent tax returns, but now most also think they should release their medical records, too.

But these aren’t the issues most of the media seems interested in covering this election season. Not that voters are surprised: 75% believe that when it comes to covering prospective presidential candidates, the media is more interested in creating controversies about them than it is in reporting where they stand on the issues. 

As in previous presidential election cycles, voters expect reporters covering political campaigns to help their favorite candidates and think it’s far more likely they will help Clinton than Trump.  

But most voters also don’t think Trump is helping himself with some of his comments.

Still, GOP voters prefer a party that’s more like Trump than one that’s more like House Speaker Paul Ryan, the highest ranking Republican in Congress who easily defeated an anti-establishment opponent in Tuesday’s Wisconsin Republican primary.

Is the air going out of Clinton’s post-convention bounce in our latest weekly White House Watch survey.

Fifty-seven percent (57%) of voters who are now or have been a member of a labor union say most organized labor leaders are out of touch with their members. This is a concern for Democrats this election cycle with many union members reportedly leaning toward Trump because of his positions on jobs and free trade even though union leaders are solidly behind Clinton.

If the presidential contest suddenly boiled down to a battle between the two vice presidential candidates, Republicans have the edge

Obama’s daily job approval rating remains slightly better than usual.

In other surveys last week:

The latest Rasmussen Reports Consumer Spending Monitor finds consumers in less of a spending mood.

— Attorneys general in 15 states are attempting to prosecute corporations and individuals that they believe are misleading the public about global warming. Most voters continue to believe the scientific debate about global warming is not over and oppose government action against those who question it.

— New Jersey last week moved a step closer to making striking union workers eligible for unemployment benefits, but most voters don’t welcome that idea where they live.

— Now that we’re in the heart of the summer, what does America think of the sunny season? 


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