China’s blind pursuit of ‘absolute nationwide safety’ could result in Soviet-style collapse, warns advisor –

Beijing: The blind pursuit of “absolute national security” combined with excessive defense spending may lead to a Soviet-style collapse, China’s top foreign policy adviser has warned the ruling Communist Party led by President Xi Jinping.

The pursuit of “absolute national security” can come at a high price, said Jia Qingguo, a member of China’s top political advisory body Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) and cited the collapse of the Soviet Union as evidence of the pitfalls of prioritizing military expansion over long-term security.

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The collapse of the Soviet Union, officially known as the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics or USSR and ruled by the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, has become an important lesson taught in the top Chinese Communist Party (CCP) schools across the country , to avert decisions that lead to his downfall.

Many Chinese leaders have frequently referred to the former USSR and asked the CCP to learn from its historical experiences.

Months after taking power in 2012, President Xi himself said that the collapse of party discipline led to the demise of the 20-million-strong Communist Party of the former USSR.

“If party members did and said what they wanted, the party would turn into a mob,” Xi said.

Jia, who was also a former dean of the School of International Relations at Peking University, says the unrestrained pursuit of security will drastically increase costs and drastically decrease benefits until the costs outweigh the benefits, according to Hong Kong based in southern China, the Morning Post reported on Sunday.

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“Ignore and blindly pursue the comparative nature of security [it] absolutely make the country less secure because of prohibitive costs and failing to achieve absolute security,” writes Jia, who sits on the CPPCC Standing Committee, in the latest issue of the bimonthly Journal of International Security Studies.

His 22-page article is full of thinly veiled criticism of hawkish prospects, the Post reported.

Too much emphasis on defense spending could trigger an arms race, making all countries involved less secure, writes Jia, himself a US affairs specialist.

He cites decades of massive defense spending by the Soviet Union as a prime example of the downside of ignoring long-term security that led to the final collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

“The result was that the Soviet Union lagged behind in economic development and was unable to sustain its massive defense spending. People’s lives have not improved for a long time and this has led to a loss of political support, he notes.

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“Actions like these sacrifice long-term interests for short-term gains and have greatly accelerated development [Soviet] Riot and collapse, he writes.

Since Xi took power, internal and external security has become central to CCP politics.

China’s military budget shot up to over $200 billion last year and is expected to increase further when the new budget proposals are announced in March this year.

However, Chinese analysts argue that unlike the Soviet Union, China paid the same attention to economic development that propelled the country to become the world’s second largest economy.

China’s economy grew 8.1 percent to $18 trillion in 2021, according to the latest official data.

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Xi also conducted the largest anti-graft purge in CPC history. Over the past decade, the CCP’s Central Commission for Disciplinary Inspection (CCDI) has conducted investigations and punished more than four million cadres, including nearly 500 high-ranking officials. More than 900,000 have been expelled from the party, about 1 percent of its 95 million members, according to another article in the Post.

Analysts say Xi’s emphasis on security and his anti-graft campaign in the name of strengthening the country and the CCP have boosted his popularity and helped him consolidate power in the party.

The 68-year-old Xi, who will complete a decade in power this year, is expected to continue for life as the once-every-five-year CPC Congress is expected to approve an unprecedented third five-year congress later this year. tenure for him, unlike all of his predecessors who retired after two terms.

The Party elevated him to the status of CCP founder Mao Zedong, which set him apart from other leaders.

His elevation was defended on the grounds that the party and the country needed strong leadership to face the tough challenges posed by the US, EU and other Western countries.

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Jia also warns in his article against an overemphasis on absolute security when it comes to supply chains.

“It is only by completely cutting off foreign trade and achieving economic independence that you can make it really impossible for other countries to exert pressure,” he writes.

But that would only reduce efficiency and let the country fall further behind, making the nation less secure, he warns.

“People concerned with security usually think of national security as the only value a country aspires to, as if once it is safe the country has achieved all its goals and its people are content,” he writes. “But that is not the case.”

The sole aim of maintaining security would also discourage companies from innovating and opening up to foreign companies, which would harm the overall efficiency of the economy, Jia adds.

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China has slammed US missile sanctions as hypocrisy

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Concern for UK safety as anti-vaxxer teams evolve in direction of US-style militias | UK safety and counter-terrorism

Counter-terrorism officials and the police are increasingly concerned about the development of the UK anti-vaccination movement towards violent extremism and the formation of US-style militias.

Boris Johnson is among those receiving direct security updates on individuals willing to “undermine national health security”.

The movement’s more extreme elements are recruiting and strategizing via encrypted social media messaging app Telegram, with a UK anti-vaccination channel calling for “men of integrity” who are “fighting for our children’s future”.

Anti-vaccination opponents have targeted numerous schools and recently stormed a Covid testing site. They were led by Britain’s most visible activist Piers Corbyn, who later urged people to burn down MPs’ offices supporting the new restrictions.

Health experts warn their false claims have had an impact on the vaccination programme, with England’s chief medical officer Chris Whitty blaming “misinformation” for the vaccine’s hesitation.

Government organizations now mobilized to oversee the anti-vaccination movement include the Interior Ministry’s Office of Security and Counter-Terrorism (OSCT) and its Research, Information and Communications Unit (Ricu), which deals with public issues security, including counter-terrorism.

Also tasked with documenting the Anti-Vaxx threat is the Home Office’s Counter-Extremism Analysis and Insight (CEAI) program, whose work informs strategic and operational decisions, as does its Extremism Analysis Unit (EAU) and Counter-Disinformation Unit, which is part of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

Recent intelligence assessments describe the anti-vaccination movement as an alleged conveyor belt providing fresh recruits to extremist groups, including racially and ethnically motivated violent extremist organizations.

“It’s a growing problem and is being monitored at the highest level,” the Whitehall source said. “No. 10 is among those who receive the reports directly: the Prime Minister sees them in his inbox. The consensus is that we didn’t win [the disinformation war] as clean as we have to do next time.”

Of paramount importance is the UK anti-vaccination plotters going offline as UK-based group Alpha Men Assemble (AMA) organizes military training to prepare for a so-called “war” against the government and its Covid policies .

Recent posts from the AMA’s official Telegram channel, which has 7,000 subscribers, encourages members to employ anti-surveillance techniques by using “burner phones” and advises people to “communicate offline” using CB and ham radios.

Other posts the Observer has seen promise supporters that “at every AMA meeting you will learn self-defense” with “professional men” and be encouraged to “acquire.” [sic] a black uniform”.

Ciaran O’Connor, an analyst at the Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD), a London-based think tank that studies extremism, said the AMA shared many similarities with anti-government militias in the US and it was clear they hoped to find one to create a kind of paramilitary force.

Stewart Rhodes, leader of an extremist US militia, has been charged with seditious conspiracy over the January 6 attack on the Capitol. Photo: Susan Walsh/AP

Last Thursday, the leader of a US extremist militia, the oath keeper, was charged with seditious conspiracy over the January 6 attack on the Capitol.

The AMA is also openly seeking British veterans, an approach that overlaps with US militia activities. Telegram messages suggest a number of ex-service workers have already joined. One, referring to a scene from the dystopian film The Matrix, calls himself a “red pilled Veteran”. Another says: “I’m English. Ex-RAF. My mission statement was a ‘force for good’. I believed in that.”

Another group, Veterans 4 Freedom, which is said to have around 200 members, has been holding Telegram conversations relating to a violent riot that has included attacks on vaccination centers.

Milo Comerford, Head of Research and Policy at ISD, added: “Governments across Europe and North America are grappling with the growing prominence of a range of ideologically eclectic movements emerging at the nexus of Covid conspiracy and extremism.

“Traditional paradigms of counter-extremism policy are focused on threats from organized groups with clear political goals. However, these loose online conspiracy movements pose a much more “hybrid” challenge, not only to public safety but also to rights and democratic institutions.”

Imran Ahmed, chief executive of the Center for Countering Digital Hate, which briefs UK officials on the evolving anti-vaccination threat, said: “We are seeing the convergence of anti-vaccination into other fringe movements.

“They’re adopting what they’ve learned about marketing strategies and communications as they’ve searched for new markets and how to converge their audiences and hybridize their ideologies, much like the ‘great reset’ replaced QAnon than the cohesive conspiracy narrative for fringe elements.”

Comerford cited recent data from Prevent, the UK government’s counter-extremism programme, showing that one of the UK’s fastest growing extremism challenges are “mixed, unclear and unstable” (MUU) threats, ideological drivers of extremist violence beyond the traditional categories of far-right and Islamist extremism.

Ahmed added that the prominence of figures such as Piers Corbyn at UK anti-vaxxer and anti-lockdown rallies alongside far-right supporters articulated the coming together of traditionally opposed ideologies.

Despite their attempts to quash online coronavirus disinformation, Whitehall officials are dismayed that prominent anti-vaccination activists are still being hosted and reaching out on platforms like Instagram, Facebook and Telegram almost 1.5 million People. The most popular use the name of David Icke, a high-profile British conspiracy theorist who is promoting the false belief that the coronavirus is being spread through 5G.

Internationally, protests and demonstrations against corona lockdowns, so-called health passports and vaccination mandates have turned violent.

Across Europe, an anti-vaccination ecosystem has fueled real-world violence. In Italy, anti-vaccination groups have teamed up with far-right gangs to plan a bomb attack. Last month, German police foiled a conspiracy in which violent anti-vaccination extremists allegedly targeted a high-profile politician.

The Home Office has been contacted for comment.

Taliban-style safety welcomed by some, feared by others

They immediately found something new: the Taliban militants, who are now the cops, are not asking for bribes, as cops under the US-backed government have done for the past 20 years.

“Everyone used to steal our money,” said Hajj Ahmad Khan, who recently stood in line at the District 8 Police Station in Kabul. “Everywhere in our villages and in government offices everyone had their hands stretched out,” he said.

Many Afghans fear the Taliban’s harsh crackdowns, their harsh ideology or their severe restrictions on women’s freedoms. But the movement has a reputation for not being corrupt, in stark contrast to the government it overthrew, which was notoriously full of bribery, embezzlement and manipulation.

Even local residents who shudder at the possible return of punishments – like chopping off the hands of thieves – say some security forces have returned to Kabul since the Taliban marched in on August 15. Under the previous government, gangs of thieves had driven most of the people off the streets in the dark. Several roads between cities have reopened and some international aid organizations have even given the go-ahead for travel.

Still, there are dangers. On Sunday, a bomb outside the Eid Gah mosque in Kabul killed several civilians and targeted Taliban members attending a memorial ceremony. Nobody took responsibility for the bombing, but the rival IS group has stepped up attacks against the Taliban in an IS stronghold in eastern Afghanistan.

During their last term in office in the late 1990s, the Taliban offered a compromise: they brought a level of stability that the Afghans were desperately looking for and eliminated corruption, but they also enforced their harsh interpretation of Islamic law. These included punishments such as hand amputations, executions of murderers with a single bullet in the head, mostly by a relative of the murder victim and all in public. Religious policemen beat men for trimming their beards or not participating in prayers.

In the past week the Taliban arrested 85 suspected criminals, some of whom were petty crimes and others were charged with murder, kidnapping and robbery, said Noor Ahmad Rabbani of the Taliban’s Anti-Crime Division.

The Taliban say they will withdraw their previous sentences. The only question is whether they will execute them in public, Mullah Nooruddin Turabi, former attorney general and current prison officer, told The Associated Press.

Some penalties have already resurfaced. The bodies of four men were hung on cranes in the center of Herat city after they were killed by the Taliban in an alleged kidnapping attempt. At least twice in Kabul petty thieves were led around with handcuffs, painted faces or with stale bread in their mouths in order to shame them.

Armed Taliban have taken positions at checkpoints across Kabul and gradually some have been made to wear uniforms – the start of a new national security force, officials say. For many Kabul residents – especially the young people who grew up listening to horror stories about the bygone days of Taliban rule – the sight of the fighters roaming the streets freely with their characteristic long hair, traditional clothing and hanging Kalashnikovs is terrifying. Guns at their sides.

But so far they seem to have brought some relief from the corruption. Before the Taliban takeover in August, people had to pay bribes just to pay an electricity bill. The rampant fraud in the military was one of the reasons it collapsed so quickly in the face of the advancing Taliban. Despite the overt transplant, the US and Europe have poured billions of dollars into the government without much oversight.

As in the past, the Taliban have reached out to tribal elders to resolve disputes. Last week a group of elders gathered in a mosque in Kabul to decide on a knife attack with minor injuries. The elders asked the perpetrator’s father to pay the victim nearly $ 400, enough to cover medical expenses.

Muhammed Yousef Jawid accepted his sentence.

“It’s fast and a lot cheaper than the previous system,” he said.

At the District 8 Police Station, the new commander, a sociable Taliban named Zabihullah, said the Taliban had fought for 20 years to bring Islamic laws into Afghanistan. “Now the people are safe under our government,” he said.

Zabihullah, who like many Afghans has only one name, comes from the central province of Ghazni, where the insurgents have fought some of their bitterest battles over the past two decades.

At 32, he said he hadn’t trained as a police commander, but had done most of his training at a medrese or religious school. But Zabihullah said his war years and adherence to the Taliban’s interpretation of Islamic law prepared him.

The line in front of the police station gates grew longer.

The sixty-year-old Khan had come from the eastern province of Khost to ask the Taliban for help in collecting an outstanding loan. He said he supports Taliban punishments such as amputations, but not for petty thieves.

He said they brought security “because they treat the criminals according to Islamic law”.

A school principal who refused to give his name for fear of the consequences came to the police station to complain about parents who were months behind with school fees.

He said he wanted to give the Taliban rule a chance. Under the previous administration, he was charged bribes every time he went to the police to complain about back payments.

“America invested a lot of money in Afghanistan, but it was a mafia that ran the country,” he said.

Another complainant, using his name only as Dr. Sharif stated that he had recently returned from Saudi Arabia, where he had worked for several years. He had no objection to Taliban-style punishment, but he strongly opposed the entrustment of Taliban leaders and religious clergy with running government agencies.

“We need professional people … we need economists, not a Maulvi who has no clue about business,” he said, using a word for a Muslim clergyman.

However, he welcomed the fact that his complaint was heard by the Taliban police without a request for bribery. The police previously took bribes just to get to the station.

“The mistake of the previous governments,” he said, “was that they put all the money in their pockets.”

———————

The Associated Press Writer Samya Kullab in Kabul contributed to this report.

Will cash from inventory gross sales damage Social Safety and Medicare?

Q. If you trade stocks and have capital gains or sometimes losses after you retire and only one spouse trades, how does this affect your social security and health insurance costs? We collect our taxes together.

– dealers

A. We are happy that you ask.

Let’s start with social security.

If you’re already retired and on social security benefits, the amount of other unearned income doesn’t affect social security benefits, said Brian Scheiss, certified financial planner at Modera Wealth Management in Westwood.

In other words, there is no other threshold undeserved income reduced social security benefits in retirement, he said.

But a couple combined income Can affect how much of the service is taxed.

Couples filing joint tax returns will pay taxes on up to 85% of their combined social security benefits if their joint income is over $ 44,000 in 2021, Scheiss said.

If their combined income is between $ 32,000 and $ 44,000, only 50% of their benefits will be taxed, he said, while if their combined income is less than $ 32,000, none of their benefits will be taxed.

The combined income is your adjusted gross income plus tax-free interest plus half of your total social security benefits, he said.

Bonuses for Medicare Parts B and D increase due to the higher income, said Scheiss.

The premiums increase in certain stages if the modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) exceeds certain thresholds. The higher premiums are known as the earnings-based monthly adjusted amount.

However, he said these thresholds will be based on combined income and both spouses’ Medicare premiums will be affected.

“Income from capital gains and other sources can have an impact Health insurance premiums, but it doesn’t matter whether one or both spouses are trading, ”he said.

Send your questions by email to Ask@NJMoneyHelp.com.

Karin Price Müller writes the Bamboo led Column for NJ Advance Media and is the founder of NJMoneyHelp.com. Follow NJMoneyHelp on Twitter @NJMoneyHelp. Find NJMoneyHelp on Facebook. Sign up for NJMoneyHelp.com‘S weekly e-newsletter.

Savvy Senior: Little Recognized Social Safety Program Helps Seniors Handle Their Cash

Dear accomplished senior,
Does social security offer specific help to beneficiaries who have difficulty managing their benefits? My aunt, who has no children, has dementia and struggles with her bills and other financial obligations.
Inquiring niece

Dear inquiries,

Yes, Social Security actually has a little-known program known as the Representative Payee Program that helps beneficiaries who need help with managing their Social Security benefits. Here’s what you should know.

Representative payee program

The Social Security Funds Payee Program, approved by Congress back in 1939, provides money management assistance to beneficiaries unable to manage their Social Security income. Beneficiaries who need this help are often seniors with dementia or underage children who receive survivor benefits from social security.

Currently, more than five million social security beneficiaries have representative payees.

Representative payees also provide benefits for nearly three million recipients of Supplemental Security Income (SSI), a social security-administered benefit program for low-income people who are over 65 years of age, blind, or disabled.

Who are the payees?

A representative payee is usually a relative or close friend of the beneficiary who needs help, but Social Security can also designate an organization or institution for the role, such as a nursing home or social services agency.

The duties of a representative payee include:

  • Using the beneficiary’s Social Security or SSI payments to meet their basic needs such as food, shelter, household bills, and medical care. The money can also be used for personal needs such as clothing and recreation.
  • Retention of remaining funds from benefit payments on an interest-bearing bank account or savings bonds for future needs of the beneficiary.
  • Records of benefit payments received and how the money was spent or saved.
  • Report to Social Security any changes or events that could affect the beneficiary’s payments (e.g. move, marriage, divorce, or death).
  • Report circumstances that affect the payee’s ability to assume the role.

As a representative payee, you cannot combine the beneficiary’s social security contributions with your own money or use them for your own needs. The bank account into which the benefits are paid should be wholly owned by the beneficiary, with the payee listed as the financial agent.

Some payees, usually those who do not live with the beneficiary, are required to submit annual reports to Social Security on the use of the benefits. For more information about the responsibilities and limitations associated with the role, see the social security publication “A Guide for Representative Payees” at SSA.gov/pubs/EN-05-10076.pdf.

How to get help

If you think your aunt may need a representative payee, call Social Security at (800) 772-1213 and make an appointment to discuss the matter at her local office. Applying as a payee usually requires a personal interview.

Social security may consider other evidence, including medical assessments and statements from relatives, friends, and others who have an informed view of the beneficiary’s situation, in deciding whether a beneficiary needs a payee and selecting who to play the role can submit.

You should also know that if you become your aunt’s deputy payee, you will not be able to charge a fee for it. However, some organizations that serve in this role receive fees paid from the beneficiary’s Social Security or SSI payments.

More information about the program can be found at SSA.gov/payee.

Send your senior questions to: Experienced senior, PO Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or visit SavvySenior.org. Jim Miller is a contributor on the NBC Today Show and author of The Savvy Senior.

Social Safety will run out of cash in 12 years. Listed below are methods it may be fastened

This is the year social insurance begins to pay off more than it brings in. Which could get very expensive for those of us who hope to one day retire.

The retirement program for retirees, their survivors, and the disabled built a trillion dollar reserve when the economy grew faster and retirees didn’t live as long. But with Employers hire fewer people and more workers retire, Social Security is selling their large stacks of government bonds to keep the checks up for a while.

Last Tuesday is the plan Trustee warned they assume that the money will be used up in 12 years. When this happens, the law requires Social Security to cut payments to retirees by about a quarter – forget about the cost of living increases – and survive on what it still collects from workers and their bosses.

For decades, a dwindling pool of workers has supported a growing number of baby boomer retirees. COVID-19 has exacerbated trends – decreasing the number of working people who pay into the system, while increasing the number of those who have left the workforce and started collecting from it.

All of this means that Congress and the President may have to do something painful – raise social security taxes or cut payments, raise the retirement age, or do all of these at once. What they have done in the past: particularly in 1983 when President Ronald Reagan joined the Democrats to raise contributions a bit and slowly raise the age for “normal” retirement to the current 67, making the system more solvent, at least until this generation of Washington politicians was certain to be dead.

Unfortunately, Reagan and Congress were overly optimistic about the future of the system. As social security historian Sylvester Schieber points out, the increase in income inequality has thrown an unexpected curve ball into the system as it exempts the ultra-rich from payments after their income exceeds the tax ceiling (currently $ 142,800). Removing the cap would produce a lot of money, but it hits the notion that Social Security checks should have a relationship with deposited money.

What should I do?

The trustees made many suggestions:

  • Reduction of the annual increases in social security. There are many suggestions for doing this that would affect different retirees in different ways.

  • Raising the normal retirement age from currently 67 to 69. Raising the early retirement age from 62 to 65 and increasing the number of years you need to be eligible. That would greatly relieve the system. But as the trustees report does not add, doing so would leave millions of people of the current retirement age in employment or reduce their income, which would lead to much more stress.

  • Increase wage taxes. Social Security already charges 12.4% of the gross wage of Americans, split between workers and bosses. At a more realistic 16%, the system would pay for itself by the next century, the trustees estimate.

And yes, that would be extremely expensive. Social Security would end up consuming about $ 1 for every $ 6 of gross employee wages. Up from currently 1 USD for 8 USD each.

Of course, smaller or later social security checks would also be terribly unpopular. Because of this, changes are made in silence over time.

Sens. Mitt Romney (R., Utah) and Joe Manchin (D., W.Va.) headed a bipartisan list of colleagues who in April called for a National Fix-it Expert Commission on Social Security, like the one who did the 1983, instead of debating what to do in Congress under the heat of the cameras and the threat of toxic party politics, changes what to do.

Isn’t 12 years a long way to go? Why the rush?

The longer we wait, the less money is left in the program. Wait until it goes broke and the cuts have to be much bigger, or the bailout much more expensive, or we have to repeat it very often. Another reason for the current situation, according to Schieber, a former chairman of the system’s advisory board, is that Congress used to often tinker with social security, only to lose its nerve after the fixes in the early 1980s.

Can’t we just borrow the money? That could be a way out. But the system is currently excluded from deficit financing. Changing this would destroy another of the leading and popular principles of the system – that it is a pay-as-you-go system, not welfare, but one in which people earn their payments.

Some senators – for example, the lame duck Pat Toomey (R., Pennsylvania) – are still warning that credit has a fiscal price. Sooner or later, you’ll pump so much money into the economy that prices skyrocket, slowing down new hires, making incomes less worthwhile, and putting pressure on more government aid. Indeed, in recent talks, for example with the York Rotarians last month, Toomey accused the Democrats of using borrowed money to fund increasing numbers of ways to make the middle class more dependent on government aid.

Of course, Social Security saw itself, Toomey in the same speech alongside other early 20th reforms, Sun Oil Co. head Joseph Pew even tried to convince professors at his family-funded Grove City College in Pennsylvania not to Participate in social security as it eased the natural moral pressures that forced people to work and save. (He was disappointed that only two economists agreed and rejected wage deductions.)

Some people would even benefit if social security contributions were cut. Winners in particular include large investment firms that could count on attracting more savings from the minority of workers who believe they can afford to provide substantial income for retirement.

But not all Conservatives opposed social security. Friedrich Hayek, a godfather of libertarianism, praised worker-funded pension and insurance plans in The Road to Serfdom – although he cautioned that attempts to socialize the costs beyond participants would arouse fierce opposition.

That, of course, is the problem Washington is facing today: Who pays our most expensive benefits – not just Social Security, but Medicare and highway spending, both of which also run out of long-term funding? Just the users, of whom so many have fewer left? Or all Americans, even the most successful? How can financing and expenditure be balanced and made fair?

This is the stuff we should expect from our candidates for the Federal Office and propose realistic solutions, many of which we will not like.

Report: Most Federal Election Safety Cash Stays Unspent

Congress allocated hundreds of millions of dollars to shore up the country’s electoral system against cyberattacks and other threats, but about two-thirds of the money went unspent just weeks before last year’s presidential election.

A recent federal report said the states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. Territories had spent just over $ 255 million of $ 805 million on election security grants as of September 30th last year, the latest numbers available.

States have been given leeway in how and when to spend their shares as electoral concerns and potential weaknesses in electoral systems vary widely. Several election officials cited two main reasons for the slow pace of spending: More than half of the money was not allocated until the 2020 elections were less than a year away, leaving election officials and state lawmakers little time to make key spending decisions. And the coronavirus pandemic turned last year’s election planning on its head, forcing officials to focus on election security and seek earlier voting and postal voting.

“Security was still on everyone’s lips, but it was being pushed into the background to make sure the elections go without a total collapse,” said Don Palmer, chairman of the US Electoral Commission, which published the report.

A State-by-state snapshot The commission, released last month, shows that the state’s 50 states plus the District of Columbia and five territories at the end of the federal fiscal year on September 30, when the early voting was already in the presidential election, accounted for around 31% of the funding for election security. The grant money has come in two servings since 2018 under the Help America Vote Act.

choice_security_funds_state_expenditures.png

US Electoral Aid Commission

A breakdown of electoral security funds by state in the Election Assistance Commission report shows Colorado spent $ 1 million of the $ 13.5 million in federal funds it received through September 30, 2020.

Louisiana, one of the last states to deploy aging paper-free voting machines nationwide, did not spend any of its $ 12.5 million in electoral security grants prior to the 2020 presidential election. Its initial efforts to replace thousands of voting machines were halted amid controversy over the selection process.

In July, the Democratic governor of Louisiana and his Republican lawmakers agreed on a process a verifiable paper trail required for any electoral system chosen by the GOP foreign minister.

In 2017, the federal government informed election officials in 21 states that hackers targeted their systems ahead of the 2016 presidential election. The spread of the attempts caused concern among some electoral officials and lawmakers at the time, even though the hackers failed to break into electoral systems or manipulate voter data or results.

North Dakota – one of the target states – did not spend any of the $ 6 million it received in electoral security grants as of September 30. The state told the Election Assistance Commission in its own financial report that it did not purchase any election equipment and did not conduct any security training during the year. Instead, other funding sources with expiration dates were prioritized. North Dakota originally applied for polling bail to purchase a nationwide digital scan voting system and electronic polling books for every polling location in the state.

Former Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report says that in June 2016, Russian activists successfully compromised the Illinois State Board of Elections computer network and gained access to a voter registration database containing the information of millions of people. By September 30, however, Illinois officials had spent less than 16% of the $ 28.1 million in bail money for the federal election. EAC Commissioner Benjamin Hovland told lawmakers that Illinois spending seemed low as the state spent most of its money on a multi-year project called the Cyber ​​Navigator Program, which aims to defend, detect, and stay away from cyber attacks to recover them.

Pennsylvania, a presidential battlefield that was also one of the target states in 2016, spent nearly 90% of its $ 28.6 million prior to the 2020 elections mainly on replacing voting machines. Other politically important states that were targeted – Arizona, Florida, and Wisconsin – spent about half of their money.

Hovland said the electoral grant money had no expiration date and said it was “the first real money” to come into the states for elections in a long time, and people had no confidence that there would be additional federal funding .

A review of state progress reports by Commission officials found that a “joint activity” among states was to spend the money on examining the November presidential election. The report found that Colorado, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, and many other states are planning some form of audit.

According to the agency’s 2020 report, state spending on federal grants fell into three main categories: nearly 39% went to cybersecurity upgrades; approx. 25% were invested in new voting machines; and 11% updated voter registration databases.

During the 2020 general election, only 32 constituencies across the country relied on paperless voting machines. Nine states – Arkansas, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Jersey, Tennessee, and Texas – used electronic voting machines that had no verifiable paper trail in at least one of their territories.

Five states that had used voting machines without paper backup in 2018 had stopped using them by the 2020 general election. These were Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Pennsylvania, and South Carolina.

The lack of consistent federal money for election security is likely a reason why many electoral officials in the state don’t spend their federal grants, said Lawrence Norden, director of electoral reform at the Brennan Center for Justice.

Former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who served as vice chairman of former President Donald Trump’s now-defunct electoral fraud commission, was the top electoral officer in the state when Kansas received the first infusion, ultimately worth $ 9.3 million. Nothing of this money was spent at the time.

Kobach said that when the federal money arrived, lawmakers did not meet to provide the necessary matching funds. Under his successor, Scott Schwab, Kansas spent only $ 19,200 on testing and training prior to the 2020 election to ensure electoral staff were using email “safely and securely”. State officials say they have since spent more than $ 3.4 million of grant funding, in part to improve the security of the Kansas statewide voter registration system and to complement cybersecurity efforts.

Some states have chosen to keep the federal money because the technology that now appears to be effective in securing elections could be out of date in 10 years, said Danielle Root, an electoral security expert with the Center for American Progress.

“Many states view the elections as a marathon rather than a race, and many states want to reserve some of that funding to update their systems as new threats and technological advances emerge,” she said.

Copyright 2021 Associated Press. All rights reserved.

New Anti Anti-Cash Laundering Providers for Crooks – Krebs on Safety

A new dark web service is being marketed to cyber criminals curious how their various cryptocurrency holdings and transactions can be linked to known criminal activity. Synchronized “Anti-analysis “, The service is intended to provide insight into how law enforcement agencies and private companies might flag their own payment activities trying to link suspicious cryptocurrency transactions to real people.

Sample provided by Anti-Analysis.

“Concerned about dirty funds in your BTC address? Take a look at Antinalysis, the new address risk analyzer, ”says the service’s announcement, referring to a link that is only accessible via ToR. “This service is aimed at people who need complete privacy on the blockchain and offers an adversary perspective so the user can understand the possibility that their money is being flagged under autocratic illegal charges. ”

The display continues:

Some people may ask why go into all of this? Simply withdraw in XMR and you’re done. The problem is that paying out in Monero raises eyebrows at exchanges and mailing it in cash is sometimes risky too. If you use the BTC-> XMR-> BTC method, you will still be flagged by our services which are flagged as high risk exchanges (not to mention LE and exchanges). Our service offers you a look from the perspective of LE / exchange (with similar accuracy, but completely different approach), which gives you a basic understanding of how “clean” your address is. “

Tom Robinson, Co-founder of the blockchain intelligence company Elliptical, Antinalysis said to help crypto-money launderers test whether their funds are being identified by regulated financial exchanges as the proceeds of crime.

“Cryptoassets have become an important tool for cyber criminals,” Robinson said wrote. “Ransomware and darknet markets depend on payments in Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. However, washing and paying out this income is a great challenge. “

Cryptocurrency exchanges use blockchain analytics tools to screen customer deposits for links to illegal activity. By tracking a transaction through the blockchain, these tools can determine if the funds came from a wallet that is linked to ransomware or other criminal activity.

“The launderer therefore risks being identified as a criminal and reported to law enforcement agencies if he sends money to a company using such a tool,” said Robinson. “Antinalysis wants to help crypto-launderers avoid this by giving them a preview of what a blockchain analysis tool will do with their Bitcoin wallet and the funds it contains.”

Each Antinalysis lookup costs approximately $ 3 with a minimum purchase of $ 30. Other plans go up to $ 6,000 for 5,000 requests.

Robinson says the creator of Antinalysis is also one of the developers of Incognito Market, a darknet marketplace that specializes in the sale of narcotics.

“Incognito was launched in late 2020 and accepts payments in Bitcoin and currency, a crypto asset that offers increased anonymity, ”he wrote. “The introduction of Antinalysis likely reflects the difficulties that the market and its providers are facing in cashing out their Bitcoin proceeds.”

Elliptic wasn’t impressed with the quality of the information Antinalysis provided and said it did poorly at detecting links to major darknet markets and other criminal entities. But with countless criminals now making millions on ransomware, there is certainly a huge, untapped market for services that can help these people improve their operational security.

“It is also important because it is the first time it makes blockchain analytics available to the public,” wrote Robinson. “So far, this type of analysis has mainly been used by regulated financial service providers.”

That may not be entirely true. Nick Bax is an independent expert in tracking cryptocurrency transactions, and he said that Antinalysis appears to be little more than a clone of AMLBot, an anti-money laundering intelligence agency that first went online in 2019. AMLBot’s first advertisement was in Russian, while Antinalysis first appeared in an English-speaking darknet market.

The AMLBot user interface.

“It looks almost identical to the cheap version of AMLBot,” Bax told KrebsOnSecurity. “My guess is they’re just doing this white labeling.”

Bax said a look on AMLBot at the virtual currency address used in the sample provided by Antinalysis shows a nearly identical result. Here is the result from AMLBot for the same cryptanalysis performed by Antinalysis in the screenshot above in this story:

Response from AMLBot for the same cryptocurrency address provided as an example by Antinalysis.

“If you look at the breakdown, the percentages are all almost identical,” said Bax. “I use ALBot on occasion for good and righteous purposes. And it could also be useful for people who only sell things online to make sure they don’t get any tainted funds. “

Update, 1:42 p.m. ET: The story has been corrected to state that AMLBot has existed since 2019.

Social Safety is working out of cash | EDITORIAL

Before DC Democrats consider breaking trillions in new spending, they should focus on propping up the Social Security Trust Fund.

This month the budget office of the Congress published detailed figures on its long-term outlook for social security. It’s sobering – at least for those who are paying attention. The trust fund will expire in 2032. The disability insurance trust fund runs until 2035.

Social security financial problems are often dismissed as a distant future problem. It’s time to stop hesitating.

Social security is actually a cross-generational wealth transfer program. The recipients do not get their own money back, but the contributions of the current employees. The trust fund is a form of fiscal fiction. In theory, excess social security taxes end up in the proverbial “locker box” to pay future bills. In reality, the federal government is taking this money and replacing it with promissory notes.

Otherwise, if the federal government were in a strong budget position, it might not be so worrying. But in February the CBO projected that Washington will have a deficit of $ 2.3 trillion this year. The CBO also predicts that federal debt will exceed U.S. gross domestic product this year.

Without changes, social security will increase the amount of debt significantly over the next few decades.

“If the current laws were to stay in place, the actuarial deficit of the program would be 1.7 percent of GDP or 4.9 percent of taxable wages over the next 75 years,” says the CBO.

Raising the Social Security income tax ceiling is a proposal, but that would further undermine the individual contribution-benefit ratio and potentially affect political support for the program among wealthier Americans. Benefit cuts could also be an option, but this will not be popular with younger workers. Also, any step in this direction should protect current beneficiaries and those approaching retirement age so as not to disrupt their financial planning.

The CBO predicts that a 30 percent benefit cut to future benefit recipients would require a 36 percent benefit cut.

Waiting longer makes things worse. In 2032, a 33 percent discount would be required for all attendees, or 45 percent discount only for future attendees.

With eligibility spending making up a larger chunk of the federal budget, one might expect Washington politicians to be cautious about allowing trillions in new spending. But you would be wrong. Democrats appear determined to push through a $ 3.5 trillion spending package that could skyrocket inflation and debt.

As George W. Bush learned the hard way, the popularity of social security makes reform difficult. But these numbers show that change is necessary – and the sooner, the better.

Will COVID Trigger Social Safety To Run Out Of Cash Quicker?

Does COVID threaten your social security benefits?

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Social security is a program that you can pay into your entire working life. The prospect that this valuable source of income for retirement will no longer exist after leaving the job market is alarming to many Americans. As it stands now, it is not a question of “whether social security will run out of money”, but when. As the end of the COVID economy begins, you might be wondering if the coronavirus will accelerate the decline of social security?

According to the most recent eighth annual consumer survey on social security From Nationwide, 71% of Americans fear Social Security will run out of money in their lifetime. At the same time, 19% of respondents said the coronavirus pandemic would likely change if they chose to get social security benefits. I’m going to get on my nerves and guess that some of the 29% of people (apparently) who don’t worry about Social Security running out of money fall into one or more of the following categories:

1) Have a different state pension (think congressmen and senators)

2) Are so rich it doesn’t matter (think of multimillionaires and billionaires)

3) You have already started social benefits.

While the boom in real estate transactions and soaring stock markets have been reasons for optimism, the coronavirus has led to a more pessimistic outlook on things like social security. According to the survey, 59% of Americans are more concerned about their Social Security running out of money today than they were before the pandemic.

Interestingly, more people plan to apply for social security later (11%) than before (9%). Waiting for the social security application will increase your monthly benefits. This delay can also help increase your financial security later in life.

Annually, the social security trustees prepare a report on the expected long-term solvency of the social security program. The report has not yet been released in 2021, after the darkest days of the Covid pandemic. (I am optimistic that the worst days of the pandemic are behind us, at least in the vaccinated parts of America). So you know that the 2020 Social Security Report estimates that the combined reserves of the various social security programs (Pension, Survivor and Disability) would be depleted in 2035 if no changes were made to tax benefits.

MORE FROM FORBESThe 5 Biggest Social Security Mistakes to Avoid in 2021By David Rae

The pandemic was a wake-up call for many Americans to reassess their finances and retirement plans, including how social security fits into those plans. More than two thirds of those questioned in the nationwide survey stated that it is more important than ever today optimize their social security benefits.

It appears that the financial advisory community is not adequately advising its clients on the best strategies for making social security claims. As a fiduciary financial planner, I believe the Social Security Guide should be a part of any retirement plan. The majority of Nationwide respondents said they did not get advice from their financial experts. (Shame on you). In addition, two-thirds of respondents said they would likely switch from their current financial advisor to another financial professional who could help them make the right decisions about social security claims.

The Golden Girls may have gotten by on a steady income, but you will likely have a hard time keeping it … [+] Your standard of living in retirement from social security alone

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Can you live on social security alone?

Social security does not replace anything near your early retirement income. Most Americans will find it difficult to make a living on just social security. If you are amazingly thrifty and have paid off your mortgage, then you may be able to do so. The average social security check is only $ 1,543 per month in 2021. To be fair, a couple each receiving this amount could be fine in many parts of the country if they are both alive and receiving social security benefits as a result.

Maximum social security

The The maximum Social Security check in 2021 is $ 3,895provided you are receiving benefits at the age of 70. While this corresponds to a reasonable retirement income, it is far from a substitute for the income required to receive the maximum social security benefit. They would have needed around $ 140,000 (or more) in current salary to get the maximum benefit from Social Security.

Do your finances a favor and develop a plan for when to apply for welfare. Work with your financial advisor to determine the best time to get services. If they can’t provide you with the advice you need, it may be time to step up to become a financial planner who can help you maximize your social security benefits.

MORE FROM FORBESHow big will the increase be for social security recipients in 2022?By David Rae