Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Kremlin Spokesman Confirms That The Kremlin Views President Trump’s Tweets As Official Statements

The Hill: Kremlin: Every Trump tweet perceived as ‘official statement’

A spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin said Tuesday that the Kremlin views President Trump’s tweets as official statements from the administration.

According to Reuters, Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Trump’s tweets are reported to the Russian president.

“In any case, everything which is published from his [authorized] Twitter account is perceived by Moscow as his official statement,” Peskov reportedly said.

“Naturally, it is reported to Putin along with other information about official statements by politicians,” he said.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: There is a lot of U.S. politics in President Trump's tweets .... and like campaign speeches, they should not be treated as official statements. But as a window for the Kremlin to better understand President Trump's political battles against his opponents, this has been priceless for them and .... quite frankly, for everyone else. And I personally hope that he continues to tweet.

More News On The Kremlin Confirming That The Kremlin Views President Trump’s Tweets As Official Statements

Kremlin: We see Trump's tweets as official statements -- Reuters
Putin receives briefings on Trump’s tweets, Kremlin says -- Washington Post
When Trump tweets, Putin is briefed -- Los Angeles Times
Kremlin: Putin views Trump's tweets as official statements -- UPI
Donald Trump's Tweets Are in Vladimir Putin's News Briefs -- Newsweek
Putin Gets Reports on Trump’s Tweets, Kremlin Says -- Bloomberg
Russia is treating Donald Trump's tweets as official US policy -- International Business Times
Kremlin Views Trump's Tweets as Official Statements, Says Putin's Spokesman -- Moscow Times

Chinese Military Jets Continue To Encircle Taiwanese Airspace As Invasion Fears Rise

Newsweek: Chinese Military Jets Encircle Taiwanese Airspace as Invasion Fears Rise

China’s military sent fighter jets, bombers and surveillance aircraft to patrol the self-governed island of Taiwan on Monday.

The “island encirclement patrol” took place after a senior Chinese diplomat threatened that Beijing would invade Taiwan if any U.S. warships made port visits there.

Aircraft, including H-6K bombers, spy jets and Su-30 and J-11 fighter jets, were all part of the aerial mission in which the jets flew over the Miyako Strait in Japan’s south and the Bashi Channel between Taiwan and the Philippines.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: China is not helping the situation by making it very clear that their threats to invade are real .... Diplomat’s warning of Taiwan invasion is no threat, says Global Times (Asia Times)

More News On Chinese Military Jets Continuing To Encircle Taiwanese Airspace As Invasion Fears Rise

China conducts 'island encirclement' patrols near Taiwan -- Reuters
China's PLA Air Force Raises Pressure on Taiwan -- The Asia Sentinel
Chinese warplanes fly 'island encirclement' patrols near Taiwan amid invasion threat -- International Business Times
Cotton: We 'Can't Afford' to Take China's Threat of Force Against Taiwan Lightly -- Washington Free Beacon
China Is Still Angry Over the Last Taiwan Crisis (And Its Military Is Ready) -- National Interest Online
Why China Plans to Invade Taiwan -- National Interest Online

New Report Details Gruesome Crimes Against Humanity at North Korean Prisons

Time: 'Worse Than Nazi Camps.' New Report Details Gruesome Crimes Against Humanity at North Korean Prisons

Political prisoners in North Korea’s gulag-like penal system have been systematically tortured, raped, and executed for transgressions as minor as digging for edible plants, according to a landmark report.

The International Bar Association (IBA) War Crimes Committee on Tuesday released the findings of an investigation into clandestine North Korean political prisons known as kwanliso. Their report determines that through these facilities, North Korea’s “Supreme Leader” Kim Jong-un has presided over 10 of the 11 crimes against humanity enumerated in the Rome Statute, the founding treaty of the International Criminal Court (ICC). Among them: murder, extermination, enslavement, torture, and sexual violence.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: The International Bar Association (IBA) War Crimes Committee's report on North Korean prison camps is here .... North Korea: Inquiry finds Kim Jong-un should be investigated and prosecuted for crimes against humanity (IBA).

More News On Life In North Korean Prisons

North Korean gulags ‘as terrible, or even worse’ than Nazi camps, Auschwitz survivor says -- NBC
North Korean Prisons Are Worse Than Nazi Concentration Camps, Says Holocaust Survivor -- HuffPost
“As terrible [as] Nazi camps”: a chilling new report on North Korea’s prison camps -- VOX
North Korea Defector Describes Forced Abortions, Harsh Experiences Of Repatriated Women -- International Business Times
North Korean defector describes undergoing a forced abortion and the harrowing scenes as she watched prison dogs eat dead prisoners who had starved to death at her labour camp -- Daily Mail
North Korea's Brutality Laid Bare -- Human Rights Watch

Satellite Images Show North Korea Preparing For Another Nuclear Test

Sohae Satellite Launching Station is seen in Sohae, North Korea, in this satellite image taken on 17 September 2016 released by 38 North 38 North via Reuters

IBTimes: North Korea readying for another nuclear test? Satellite images show hectic activity at Punggye-ri

Over the weekend, Radio Pyongyang broadcast secret coded messages hinting at a possible impending weapons test.

North Korea appears to be pressing ahead with its nuclear programme. Satellite images recently detected hectic activity at the North Korean nuclear test site, Punggye-ri.

Experts say that after North Korea's last nuclear test, minor tremors were detected near Mt Mantap, located close to the nuclear site. However, Pyongyang is now engaged in additional tunnel work at the site.

According to experts at 38North, a US-based think tank, the fresh activities were detected at the West Portal of the site – indicating that the site may be undergoing an expansion. Meanwhile, the North Portal, where the previous five tests were conducted, appears to have been temporarily abandoned.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: The aftershocks from the last test are still continuing .... Aftershocks detected 14 weeks after North Korea nuclear test 'moves Earth's crust' (The Independent).

More News On Reports That North Korea Is Preparing For Another Nuclear Test

North Korea’s Punggye-ri Nuclear Test Site: Tunneling at the West Portal -- 38 North
Satellite images suggest North Korea is expanding its nuclear test site as high level of activity is spotted after last launch -- Daily Mail
Tunneling at N. Korea test site indicates future nuke tests: 38 North -- Asia Times
N. Korea prepping for another nuclear test -- Korea Times

Editor's Note

Stuck in a meeting this morning. Blogging will return 13:00 EST.

Is Social Media 'Ripping Apart' Society?

Fortune: Facebook Is 'Ripping Apart' Society, Former Executive Warns

Last month, former Facebook president Sean Parker expressed fears over what the social network is “doing to our children’s brains.” It was developed to be addictive, he said, describing Facebook as a “social-validation feedback loop” that exploited weaknesses in the human psyche.

Now another Facebook alum has come out with deep regret over his involvement in the company’s work. This time it’s venture capitalist Chamath Palihapitiya, Facebook’s former head of user growth, who told the Stanford Graduate School of Business that he feels “tremendous guilt” over Facebook’s divisive role in society, as exploited by Russian agents in last year’s U.S. election.

Read more ....

Update: Former Facebook executive, who has banned his own children from the site, says social media is ripping society apart by manipulating users (Daily Mail)

WNU Editor: Society has been ripping itself apart .... and rebuilding itself .... long before Facebook and social media showed up.

Europe Is Warning The U.S. That Proposed Tax Cuts Would Contravene Existing Trade Agreements

Daily Mail: Europe's five biggest economies warn Trump that his tax plan may violate international trade rules and harm the global economy by giving US companies an advantage over foreign rivals

* Trump planning tax reforms that could reshape international business tax rules
* But finance ministers from five EU countries have voiced 'significant concerns'
* Fears reforms could risk 'seriously hampering genuine trade' between US and EU
* Ministries from UK, France, Italy, Spain and Germany issued warning in a letter to US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin

Europe's five biggest economies have warned Donald Trump that plans for massive US tax reforms may end up violating international trade rules.

Finance ministers from Germany, France, Britain, Italy and Spain say they have 'significant concerns' about some of the US President's tax initiatives and fear they could harm the global economy.

In a letter to US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, the ministers said the tax overhaul could risk 'seriously hampering genuine trade and investment flows' between Europe and America.

Read more ....

Update: Europe doesn't like Trump administration's tax plans (CNN)

WNU Editor: I understand the European point of view .... that they do not want to change their own tax policies when it comes to corporations, and they like to maintain the control that they have now. But these new U.S. rules will change that .... specifically U.S. corporations being forced to keep their investments and monies in the U.S. as well as making the U.S. a more attractive place for other companies and countries to invest their money in. My suggestion is that the Europeans should take a page from the Chinese on what to do. The Chinese have accepted the U.S. moving forward on these changes, and they are adjusting their economy .... China Unveils Plan To Combat Trump Tax Reform: “We’ll Have Tough Battles" (Zero Hedge). But here is an easy prediction, the Europeans are not going to implement anywhere near what the Chinese are doing. Raising interest rates, lowering tax rates, etc. .... there is no political will in the EU to implement such a policy .... hence the protestations and the very real prospect of a trade/finance war between the EU and the U.S.. But if it comes to that .... here is another easy prediction. On this battle, the U.S. will win.

The Soviet Union Also Had A Secret Fleet Of American Fighters

Hush Kit: Red Star: The incredible story of the American fighter jet that fell into Soviet hands

Much has been written about USAF’s secret fleet of Soviet fighters, but far less known is the counter story of the American fighter that ended up deep in Russia during the Cold War.

At the end of the war in Vietnam, the USSR received several samples of US aviation equipment captured by the victorious Vietnamese communists, among them was a F-5E light fighter-bomber (of a total of 27 that the North Vietnamese found). The F-5E, serial number 73-00807, was delivered to the Soviet Union. It was an extremely valuable intelligence coup that could tell the Communist super state much about American design and this mass produced aircraft’s capabilities, and how to counter it.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: I was a teenager at the time, but I do remember my uncle (he was a senior manager in the Soviet Union's satellite program at the time) talking to another one of my uncles at the dinner table on how excited he was (and he was a man who rarely got excited, which is probably the reason why I remember this) on the intelligence coups that the Soviet Union got after the fall of Vietnam. I guess this was one of them.

Here Are 10 Horrifying Future Wars That We May Live To See

List Verse: 10 Horrifying Future Wars We Will Live To See

War is one of humanity’s constants. No matter how enlightened we become or how much our technology changes, we’ll still spend our time killing one another. As such, it is inevitable that today’s younger generation will experience war. The only question is when.

These 10 examples of war could well blow up within the next few years. Some are regional, some are global. Some are small, some are big. The only constant is how horrifying these conflicts could potentially be.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: I could add a few more possible wars and conflicts to this list.

Wife Of Senior Justice Department Official Demoted Last Week Worked For The Firm That Produced The 'Trump Dossier'

FOX News: Wife of demoted DOJ official worked for firm behind anti-Trump dossier

EXCLUSIVE: A senior Justice Department official demoted last week for concealing his meetings with the men behind the anti-Trump “dossier” had even closer ties to Fusion GPS, the firm responsible for the incendiary document, than have been disclosed, Fox News has confirmed: The official’s wife worked for Fusion GPS during the 2016 election.

Contacted by Fox News, investigators for the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI) confirmed that Nellie H. Ohr, wife of the demoted official, Bruce G. Ohr, worked for the opposition research firm last year. The precise nature of Mrs. Ohr’s duties – including whether she worked on the dossier – remains unclear but a review of her published works available online reveals Mrs. Ohr has written extensively on Russia-related subjects. HPSCI staff confirmed to Fox News that she was paid by Fusion GPS through the summer and fall of 2016.

Read more ....

Update: Senior DOJ Official's Wife Worked At Oppo Research Firm That Produced "Trump Dossier" (Zero Hedge).

WNU Editor: Who the wife worked for is not illegal. But if this is not a conflict of interest, I do not know what is. As for former senior Justice Department official Bruce G. Ohr .... he should have made these relationships known right away, and then recuse himself from the entire case. The fact that he did not, and it was investigators who discovered this .... tells me volumes on what was his motivations and state of mind when he was pushing for the adoption of this Clinton funded "Russian dossier".

Former Acting CIA Director Michael Morell Admits That He Launched A Intelligence War Against President Trump

Acting director of the CIA Michael Morell with former CIA Director Leon Panetta. Image source: Wiki Commons

Politico: Ex-Spy Chief: Russia’s Election Hacking Was An ‘Intelligence Failure’

Former acting CIA director Michael Morell says the agency missed the meddling until it was too late.

The politics of spying in America has never been more intense. President Trump has taken to publicly bashing his intelligence agencies and continues, a full year later, to question their conclusion that Russia intervened in the 2016 U.S. election on his behalf. For their part, an array of career spooks have come out of the shadows where they spent their careers to challenge the commander-in-chief in once unthinkably public terms.

Michael Morell is one of the career types who’s broken with decades of practice to confront Trump. A veteran of nearly three decades in the CIA, Morell rose from within the ranks to become the agency’s longtime deputy director, twice serving as its acting leader before retiring during President Barack Obama’s second term. In the summer of 2016, he broke with tradition to endorse Hillary Clinton over Trump, and he has continued to sound the alarm ever since.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: There are two parts of Mike Morell's interview with Politico that sticks out. The first one .... he equates the intelligence failure of 9/11 to the intelligence failure of not noticing the extreme lengths that Russia went through to influence the U.S. Presidential election. Aside from the fact that such a comparison is bizarre, I am still waiting for people like him and other intelligence heads at the time .... former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and former CIA director John Brennan to name a few .... to provide the evidence to make such a claim. They have not. And saying it is so is not enough. The second thing that caught my eye is he admits to the politicization of the intelligence community and his role in launching the "intelligence war" against President Trump. No surprises there either. In fact .... the legacy of President Obama and his determination to politicize the executive branch has shown itself multiple times in multiple branches. From former FBI Director Comey participating in this war by leaking information to the New York Times, to the Justice Department with the creation of a Special Counsel to investigate Russian collusion that many now see as nothing more but an exercise to build a case of obstruction against the President. The only difference between those individuals and former acting CIA Dirctor Mike Morell is that he is admitting it.

More News On Former Acting CIA Director Michael Morell's Interview By Politico

CIA Failure to Stop Russian Election Meddling Compared to 9/11 Mistakes by Ex-Spy Chief -- Newsweek
Ex-Obama official takes blame for Trump feud with CIA -- Washington Examiner
Former Obama Admin CIA Director: Not Such a Good Idea to Leak Against and Attack New President -- Independent Journal Review
Ex-Spy Chief Admits Role In 'Deep State' Intelligence War On Trump -- Zero Hedge

Tweets For Today

Su-35 Jets Escort President Putin's Plane Ahead Of His Unannounced Visit To Syria

WNU Editor: The above video is from this link .... Putin watches escorting Su-35 jets from presidential plane (VIDEO) (RT).

Picture Of The Day

© kremlin.ru

WNU Editor: The above picture is form this link .... Putin orders withdrawal of Russian troops from Syria during surprise visit to Khmeimim Airbase (RT).

Did Moscow Propose A Noninterference Agreement With The United States When It Comes To Elections?

Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov. Alexander Shcherbak/TASS

John Hudson, Buzz Feed: How Secret Talks With Russia to Prevent Election Meddling Collapsed

With the 2018 midterms on the horizon, Moscow proposed a sweeping noninterference agreement with the United States, US officials tell BuzzFeed News. The Trump administration said no.

The Trump administration has rejected a sweeping Russian proposal seeking a mutual ban on foreign political interference, three senior US administration officials tell BuzzFeed News.

Russia first broached the subject in July, when one of Vladimir Putin’s top diplomats arrived in Washington with a sheet of proposals aimed at addressing a top concern of the US government: A resurgence of Russian meddling in the 2018 elections.

At the time, the midterms were 16 months away, but Washington had only just begun to understand the extent of Russia’s alleged involvement in the 2016 election, including the widespread use of troll accounts to disseminate inflammatory messages, and efforts to probe US voter registration databases in 21 states. The consensus among cybersecurity experts was that the US was ill-prepared to defend against another concerted effort by Moscow to influence US elections.

Read more ....

Update: On the Russian Proposal for Mutual Noninterference in Domestic Politics (Jack Goldsmith, Lawfare).

WNU Editor: I noticed that the above author uses the story that Russia probed US voter registration databases in 21 states to enforce his argument that Russia interfered in last year's election .... but someone should tell him that this story has already been debunked .... Yet Another Major Russia Story Falls Apart. Is Skepticism Permissible Yet? (The Intercept). As for the story of trolls disseminating negative information .... we now know that most of these efforts were done after the election .... and those efforts (if it was a Kremlin operation) were (and are) laughable .... Can You Buy The U.S. Presidency For $100,000? (October 17, 2017). As for the author's story on Russia wanting a noninterference agreement with the United States when it comes to elections .... I have to admit that I am skeptical. One anonymous source in the meeting is who John Hudson is relying on for this story .... I suggest that he find a few more. I am also skeptical because I know that the Kremlin is not going to advance any radical proposals in the current environment in Washington. Anti-Russian sentiment among many in the U.S. government and in the media has been poisonous since the inauguration, doubly so since the start of the Mueller investigation,  and the Kremlin has known since spring that the probability of a Russian proposal being accepted is zero.

Monday, December 11, 2017

What Is The Mood In Russia Today?

Supporters of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny attend a rally in Moscow, Russia October 7, 2017. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin

WNU Editor: AP takes a stab at trying to understand what is the mood in Russia today .... In Putin’s heartland, apathy and disappointment rule (Nataliya Vasilyeva, AP). A to what is my take .... the impression that I am receiving from friends and family members is that for those who are under 40 .... they want change .... a new leader/political party/direction. The over 40 crowd .... they want Putin and more of the same. This is a clear generational split .... and it is shaking the country.

Hmmmmm .... a small admission .... I have been away from Russia for far too long. I do go there twice a year .... pay some bills .... spend a week .... and then go back to Canada. But I think (if possible) .... on my next trip I am going to stay longer. Get the feel on what is exactly happening there. My gut is telling me that while Putin will win the Presidential election in March of next year (and this will be his last election), the country is moving in a different direction, and it will start to change very quickly. As to what those changes will be .... honestly I do not know. But I do know that it will impact all of us.

More Rockets Fired From Gaza. Israel Responds With Tank Fire And Airstrikes

Illustrative: Flares fired by Israeli forces to check the border are seen over Gaza City on February 6, 2017. (Mahmud Hams/AFP)

Times of Israel: After Iron Dome shoots down rocket fired at Ashkelon, IDF hits Gaza targets

Two rounds of rocket fire and Israeli responses, a day after Israel blew up Hamas terror tunnel dug under the border

Israeli forces attacked Hamas targets in the northern Gaza Strip early Tuesday after Palestinians fired a rocket toward the southern city of Ashkelon, the army said. The rocket was intercepted by an Iron Dome anti-missile battery.

After the rocket fire, Israeli aircraft and a tank attacked Hamas sites in the Strip, the army said, noting that it holds the terror group, which runs Gaza, responsible for all rocket attacks.

Read more ....

More News On Hamas And Israel Firing At Each Other

Israel intercepts Gaza rocket, retaliates with tank fire -- ABC News/AP
2 rockets fired from Gaza land in southern Israel, no casualties -- Jerusalem Online
More Rockets Fired From Gaza, Israel Responds With Tanks And Airstrikes -- Zero Hedge
Israel army attacks Hamas positions in Gaza after rockets launched from enclave -- RT
IDF Say Intercepted Rocket Fired by Palestinian Militants From Gaza Strip -- Sputnik

The Top 100 Arms-Producing And Military Services Companies

(Click on Image to Enlarge)

Forbes: The World's Biggest Arms Companies [Infographic]

Sales of arms and military services across the world totaled $374.8 billion last year, according to new data from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (Sipri). That's 1.9 percent higher than 2015 and the first year of growth after five years of decline. American companies had a $217.2 billion slice of the global arms market in 2016, driven by large export orders as well as several major acquisitions.

Read more ....

Update: The SIPRI Top 100 arms-producing and military services companies, 2016 (SIPRI)

WNU Editor: No surprises here.