Monday, June 26, 2017

Russian Ambassador To The U.S. Sergey Kislyak Is Being Recalled Back To Moscow

Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak and President Donald Trump at the White House last week. Photo Credit: @RusEmbUSA

Buzz Feed: Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak Is Going Home To Russia

After nearly ten years at the nexus of US-Russia relations, Washington’s most radioactive diplomat is headed home

Ending one the most turbulent tenures of a Washington-based ambassador in recent memory, the Kremlin has decided to recall its ambassador to the United States Sergey Kislyak, three individuals familiar with the decision tell BuzzFeed News.

The decision to bring Kislyak back to Russia rather than appoint him to a senior position at the United Nations in New York, as several outlets previously reported, comes amid investigations by the FBI and Congress into the 66-year-old diplomat’s contacts with President Donald Trump’s top aides during the 2016 presidential campaign.

“He could use some time away,” said a US-based diplomat.

Read more ....

Update #1: Russia is recalling ambassador at center of Trump campaign controversy: report (The Hill)
Update #2: Russia Said To Recall Ambassador At Center of Trump Controversy: Report (Zero Hedge)

WNU Editor: His recall to Moscow was announced months ago .... in fact his replacement has already been chosen .... Russia's Next U.S. Ambassador Will Be Anatoly Antonov (May 27, 2017). What is not known is on appointment to a UN agency in New York City .... it looks like he may not get it.

What Will Putin Do Next?

Russian President Vladimir Putin at a Moscow media conference, June 15, 2017. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin

Peter Apps, Reuters: The dangers of putting Putin under pressure

How will Vladimir Putin respond to the growing challenges against him? The Russian president, who turns 65 in October, might presently look unassailable - but maintaining that grip will get harder every year.

Compared to British Prime Minister Theresa May or U.S. President Donald Trump, the Russian president faces scant internal opposition. Recent anti-corruption protests, however, provided him a reminder that no leader can remain in power forever.

Putin will almost certainly win the March presidential elections. His poll ratings remain high, and Russians have little appetite for the chaos that his fall might bring.

But that doesn’t mean there are no rivals waiting for him to stumble.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: Unlike the last election .... no one is saying that Putin is going to retire before next year's Russian Presidential elections. But this will be Russian President Putin's last election .... Vladimir Putin: I don’t want to rule Russia for life (The Guardian). After that .... Peter Apps is right .... who will succeed Putin in 2024 is where the real battle will be.

Tweet For Today

Russia's MiG-35 Is Getting Ready For Combat

(Photo courtesy MiG)

Defense Tech: MiG-35, Russia’s New 4th-Gen Light Fighter, Readies for Combat

SALON DU BOURGET, France — The next addition to Russia’s roster of fighter jets that bridge fourth- and fifth-generation technology may join units as soon as 2019, officials with the MiG Corporation told here at the Paris Air Show.

The MiG-35, designed to replace MiG-29s rounding out their fourth decade in service, was absent from Paris but will be featured at the MAKS international airshow near Moscow in July as engineers finalize testing on the aircraft, said Anastasia Kravchenko, public relations director for MiG. Still to be determined is whether the fighter will be featured in a static display or aerial demo, she said.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: There are some problems though .... Russia's MiG-35 Has a Big Secret (And This Time NATO Will Be Very Pleased) (Dave Mujumdar, National Interest)

More News On Russia's MiG-35

Russia anticipates final flight tests for MiG-35 this year -- Defense News
PARIS: MiG-35 flight testing proceeds apace -- Flight Global
MiG Has Big Hopes for MiG-35 Fighter -- Aviation Week
Russia's fighter jet makers 'not afraid' of U.S. competition in India -- Reuters
MiG pushing for exports of the MiG-35 fighter -- UPI
Russia may start exporting advanced MiG-35 fighter jet in couple of years -- TASS

Picture Of The Day

U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Matthew Callahan

WNU Editor: The above picture is from this story .... 7 Badass Photos Of Marines Shelling The Crap Out Of ISIS In Syria (Task & Purpose)

Upgrading The B-2

People without security clearances aren’t going to learn what the winning design for the Long Range Strike Bomber looks like anytime soon, but the Northrop Grumman B-2 bomber probably bears some resemblance. The lack of a fuselage or tail makes it much harder to track with radar; unfortunately, its stealth coatings and other “low-observable” features are a nightmare to maintain. (Wikipedia)

Kris Osborn, National Interest: We Now Know What It's Like To Go To War in a B-2 Stealth Bomber

As a stealth bomber engineered during the height of the Cold War, the B-2 was designed to elude Soviet air defenses and strike enemy targets – without an enemy ever knowing the aircraft was even there. This stealthy technological ability is referred to by industry experts as being able to evade air defenses using both high-frequency “engagement” radar, which can target planes, and lower frequency “surveillance” radar which can let enemies know an aircraft is in the vicinity.

The B-2 is described as a platform which can operate undetected over enemy territory and, in effect, “knock down the door” by destroying enemy radar and air defenses so that other aircraft can fly through a radar “corridor” and attack.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: They plan to keep this bomber flying until 2015 .... but I am willing to bet that like the B-52 .... this plane is going to be around for a long time.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Yemen Facing A Massive Cholera Outbreak

VOA: UN: Cholera Cases in Yemen Could Top 300,000 by End of August

GENEVA — The U.N. Children's Fund warns cholera cases and deaths in war-torn Yemen continue to mount and could reach 300,000 by the end of August. UNICEF puts the current number of suspected cases at nearly 200,000, including more than 1,200 deaths — with a quarter of those being children.

UNICEF says containing the cholera outbreak in Yemen is extremely difficult. It says the health system is near total collapse, water and sanitation systems are in disrepair and the people who are meant to care for patients, collect the garbage and maintain vital systems have not been paid for six months.

The UNICEF representative in Yemen, Meritxell Relano, says despite the obstacles, aid agencies are making progress in reducing cholera cases and deaths in some parts of the country.

Read more ....

More News On Yemen's Massive Cholera Outbreak

WHO: More than 1,300 now dead in Yemen's cholera epidemic -- UPI
Cholera cases in Yemen now more 200,000 -- CBC/Reuters
Yemen faces world's worst cholera outbreak - UN -- BBC
Yemen faces world's worst cholera outbreak, UN warns -- Al Arabiya
Saudi Arabia donates to end Yemen cholera outbreak it helped start -- VICE News
Yemen's Cholera Outbreak Is Only Getting Worse -- Newsy
The horrors of Yemen's spiralling cholera crisis -- Johannes Bruwer, International Committee of the Red Cross/BBC

Battle For The Iraqi City of Mosul -- News Updates June 25, 2017

VOA: Iraqi Troops Push Deeper into Mosul

Iraqi forces pushed deeper into the historical heart of Mosul on Sunday in their fight to retake it from Islamic State militants, with one Baghdad commander saying that 65 to 70 percent of the Old City had been liberated.

Lieutenant ColonelSalam al-Obeidi said, "There is less than a square kilometer left to retake." He estimated that there were only "a few hundred" Islamic State fighters left in the city.

Read more ....

Battle For The Iraqi City of Mosul -- News Updates June 25, 2017

"Stench of death" from bodies of ISIS fighters fills Mosul -- CBS News
The stench of death rises over Mosul's Old City -- AFP
Two thirds of Mosul Old City retaken from IS: commander -- AFP
Iraqi forces seize two-thirds of Mosul's Old City, police says victory not far -- First Post
Iraqi forces say major Islamic State attack blocked outside old city of Mosul -- Reuters
Deadly suicide bombings hit shopping district in Mosul -- Al Jazeera
Iraq forces push deep into devastated Old Mosul -- AFP
Iraqi forces push further into heart of Mosul's old city amid fierce clashes -- Xinhuanet
ISIS makes bloody last stand in last Mosul neighborhoods under its control -- CBS
150000 civilians trapped in final battle for Mosul -- The Times
Hundreds of civilians flee Mosul as IS loses grip on city -- DW
Civilians flee 'final battle for Mosul' -- Euronews
Mosul celebrates first Eid without Islamic State in years -- Reuters

Battle For The Syrian City Of Raqqa -- News Updates June 25, 2017

Reuters: U.S.-backed Syrian groups take Raqqa district from Islamic State

A U.S.-backed Syrian coalition of Kurdish and Arab groups advanced against Islamic State in the jihadists' Syrian capital of Raqqa on Sunday, taking the al-Qadisia district, they said.

The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) began its assault on Raqqa earlier this month after a long campaign to isolate Islamic State inside the city.

It took Qadisia, located in the west of Raqqa, after three days of intense fighting, it said in a statement on one of its official social media feeds.

The SDF has pushed Islamic State from swathes of northern Syria over the past 18 months. Turkey-backed Syrian rebels have also taken territory from it and the Syrian army has this year advanced rapidly against it in desert areas.

Read more ....

Battle For The Syrian City Of Raqqa -- News Updates June 25, 2017

SDF battle ISIS in fierce clashes in Raqqa's al-Qadisiyah neighborhood -- NRT
Syrian Democratic Forces make new gains in anti-ISIS campaign, capture another district in Raqqa city -- Ara News
Disenchanted families flee Islamic State in Raqqa -- NRT
Amnesty declared for 83 ISIL members in Syria's Raqqa -- Al Jazeera
Amnesty for militants in Syria's Raqqa aims to promote stability -- Reuters
The U.S. Is Destroying Raqqa in Order to Save It, and Civilians Be Damned -- Daily Beast
Raqqa: The desperate fight for Islamic State group's 'capital' -- BBC
I Fled the Islamic State's 'Caliphate' in Raqqa — But Fear Its Liberators -- Foreign Policy
Kurds see chance to advance their cause in ruins of Islamic State -- The Guardian
US road from Raqqa is fraught with strategic uncertainty -- The Australian

White House Correspondents Are Up In Arms That Their Daily Briefings Are No Longer Televised

Photograph of the briefing room on Feb. 7 by Doug Mills/The New York Times

Politico: W.H. Correspondents' Association: We are not satisfied with off-camera briefings

White House Correspondents' Association President Jeff Mason said they are "not satisfied" with the White House putting a halt on their daily, on-camera briefings.

In an email to members of the association, Mason said he met with White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer and Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders to discuss the issues of the briefings. The White House has increasingly changed the daily briefings, either not having them on certain days, making them increasingly short, or hosting off-camera briefings, sometimes even not allowing the use of audio from the briefings.

"The WHCA’s position on this issue is clear: we believe strongly that Americans should be able to watch and listen to senior government officials face questions from an independent news media, in keeping with the principles of the First Amendment and the need for transparency at the highest levels of government," Mason wrote.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: The White House Daily briefings are rating winners for the cable news networks .... so they are naturally upset with this revenue loss. But as for us .... the consumers of the news being impacted by this black-out .... I have to say no. I get the news just like I always do, the only difference is that I may not have a YouTube video to post on top.

This post gives a breakdown on who gets to sit/stand where in the White House correspondents room .... All Joking Aside, Here’s How Sean Spicer Is Shaking Up the White House Press Briefing (New York Times).

Is Al Jazeera Just A Mouthpiece For Qatar's Government?

Eli Lake, Bloomberg: The Ex-Journalist Who Says Al-Jazeera Aids Terrorists

A lawsuit based on prison interviews in Egypt claims that the network has become a "mouthpiece for Qatari intelligence."

Mohamed Fahmy is the last person one would expect to make the case against al-Jazeera.

In 2014, the former Cairo bureau chief for the Qatar-funded television network began a 438-day sentence in an Egyptian prison on terrorism charges and practicing unlicensed journalism. His incarceration made al-Jazeera a powerful symbol of resistance to Egypt's military dictatorship.

Today Fahmy is preparing a lawsuit against his former employers. And while he is still highly critical of the regime that imprisoned him, he also says the Egyptian government is correct when it says al-Jazeera is really a propaganda channel for Islamists and an arm of Qatari foreign policy.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: First things first ..... I do use  links from Al Jazeera for this blog daily. As to the question .... is Al Jazera bias in their coverage .... my answer is that it definitely is ... and that is the English reporting, not the Arabic reporting where I am told that the bias is even more extreme. But just like RT having a strong pro-Russia bias, Xinhuanet having a pro-China bias, the New York Times and the Washington Post having an anti-Trump/Republican/conservative bias .... you have to pick and choose on what you choose to read, and in my case .... I always make sure that I post other links that have a different take on the news. But for those who are arguing that Al Jazeera is a beacon of free media .... I say you are picking the wrong example to promote your cause.

Commentaries, Analysis, And Editorials -- June 25, 2017

Michael Crowley, Politico: Trump allies push White House to consider regime change in Tehran

As the new administration conducts a routine review of its Iran policy, senior officials are hinting that they're open to toppling the country's clerical regime.

As the White House formulates its official policy on Iran, senior officials and key allies of President Donald Trump are calling for the new administration to take steps to topple Tehran’s militant clerical government.

Supporters of dislodging Iran’s iron-fisted clerical leadership say it’s the only way to halt Tehran’s dangerous behavior, from its pursuit of nuclear weapons to its sponsorship of terrorism. Critics say that political meddling in Iran, where memories of a 1953 CIA-backed coup remain vivid, risks a popular backlash that would only empower hard-liners.

Read more ....

Commentaries, Analysis, And Editorials -- June 25, 2017

Looking to Mosul's Future Amid Extreme Violence -- Heather Murdock, VOA

Why the World Should Fear Iran's Missiles -- Kyle Mizokami, National Interest

Who Killed Otto Warmbier? -- Isaac Stone Fish, Politico

In Planning for Rebuilding North Korea, the U.S. Must Learn From Its Mistakes in Iraq -- Steven Metz, WPR

South Sudan: A rare look at both sides of the civil war -- France 24

EU Leans on Libyan Military to Stop Migrants -- Clemens Höges and Claas Meyer-Heuer, DW

The east-west divide in the EU deepens -- Christoph Hasselbach, DW

American Weakness and Incompetence Are Vladimir Putin’s Greatest Assets -- David French, NRO

Macron shows his true colors -- John Lloyd, Reuters

Angela Merkel Embraces German Nationalism With a Twist -- Leonid Bershidsky, Bloomberg

NATO: Prepared for countering disinformation operations in the Baltic states? -- European-Geostrategy

Why has Italy been spared mass terror attacks in recent years? -- Stephanie Kirchgaessner in Rome and Lorenzo Tondo Tondo in Palermo, The Guardian

The Latest Wave of Terrorism Will Get Worse Before It Gets Better -- Bruce Newsom, Newsweek

Venezuela: A country divided -- Quintijn Kat, Al Jazeera

Climate change could devastate the birthplace of the arabica coffee bean -- Lily Kuo, Quartz

It's Becoming Harder To Trust The FBI

David Keene, The Washington Times: Why the FBI is hard to trust

The Federal Bureau of Investigation claims to be above politics, but that’s not so

Can anyone with a modicum of common sense trust the Federal Bureau of investigation? The answer to that question is a resounding “no.” The claim that the FBI strives to be above politics is today and has always been absurd. When former FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover admitted in an interview that his “agents” had tapped the phones of 1964 Republican candidate Barry Goldwater and even bugged his campaign plane, Mr. Hoover told his interviewer, who wondered how someone in his position could so cavalierly ignore the law and the constitutional rights of American citizens, that when the president asks you deliver.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: One can say the same thing about the entire U.S. Department of Justice of which the FBI falls under.

Are Russian Spies Always Duping American Spies?

Kimberly Dozier, Daily Beast: How Moscow's Spies Keep Duping America—Over and Over Again

The White House wants to warm up to Moscow, eventually. But CIA veterans say we tried that.

SEA ISLAND, Georgia — The Russian intelligence officers picked up the American spies from Moscow’s Metropole Hotel and drove them a few short blocks to an ornate, lushly appointed guest house. It used to be the home of a wealthy Jewish dentist before being turned into a meeting place for Russia’s intelligence services.

The 17th-century mansion served as the backdrop of a 2007 summit of CIA officers, FBI agents, and their Russian counterparts, as the Bush administration tried to build a cooperative relationship with Moscow on counterterrorism.

Over glasses of cognac and the occasional shot of chilled vodka, the Russian and American officers sat across from each other at a long conference table, in what turned into an interrogation instead of the hoped-for bridge-building exercise. The Russians probed the Americans to find out where their sources were, how big their networks were and any potential weaknesses to exploit later.

“It was worse than a polygraph,” one former senior intelligence officer told The Daily Beast. “They used different people to ask us the same questions over and over, each time phrased in slightly different ways, as if to see whether we were lying,” and to trick information out of them.

That interaction is emblematic of 20 years of U.S. attempts to reach out to Moscow, with the initially Pollyannaish new American administration seeking cooperation, and the Russians using each opportunity to gather intelligence on their enemy to advance their own interests.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: Talk about the coffee pot calling the tea kettle black. Of course Russian intel officers will prioritise what they want over what the American intel officers may want. But to read this article and hear these former CIA and intel officers whining and crying about how they did not get what they want from the Russians .... and then get treated badly when passing through Russian friendly countries when everything goes south in the U.S.-Russian relationship .... that is a little bit too much even for me. Bottom line .... Russia is not an ally of the U.S.. The U.S. is not an ally of Russia. Approach each other on shared interests .... but do not expect a long term relationship.

As for President Trump .... I will always remember what he said to everyone when the Miss Universe contest was held in Moscow and repeated when he became President .... Trump Discusses Security Concerns He Had While Visiting Moscow (ABC News). Bottom line .... the impression that I have is that he has no illusions on who and what the Kremlin is.

Top Democrat Criticises President Obama's Response To Russian Hacks

Reuters: Top Democrat slams Obama administration's response to Russian hacks

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The top Democrat on the U.S. House Intelligence Committee on Sunday criticized the administration of former President Barack Obama for not taking earlier and tougher action against Russia for its alleged hacks aimed at swaying the Nov. 8 election for Donald Trump.

"The Obama administration should have done a lot more when it became clear that not only was Russia intervening, but it was being directed at the highest levels of the Kremlin," said Representative Adam Schiff on CNN's "State of the Union" program.

The Obama administration imposed sanctions in December on two Russian intelligence agencies over their alleged involvement in hacking political groups during the election, but those sanctions were too little, too late, Schiff said.

Read more ....

Update #1: Key Democrat Agrees With Trump: Obama Should Have Acted on Hacks (Bloomberg)
Update #2: The truth about Russia, 'hacking' and the 2016 election (The Hill)

WNU Editor: Representative Adam Schiff can complain all that he wants on what President Obama should have done .... but as the above Hill post outlines .... there is still no evidence that Russia was successful in hacking and altering the vote or vote totals of the last election. And as to the question .... was Russia trying to discredit the U.S. election .... probably .... but even to this day no evidence has been publicly provided on what did they exactly do to discredit it. Fake news and bots is not enough to compete against the massive news coverage and advertising campaigns during the campaign .... and as for the release of Podesta's and DNC emails .... that just revealed to everyone how corrupt the Democrat primary system is. Yup .... I can see it now .... President Obama making an address to the nation telling everyone that Russia is undermining the electoral process by revealing how corrupt the Democrat primary process for President is .... I can see that going over well.

Unrest In Venezuela -- News Updates June 25, 2017

AFP: Venezuela unrest: Anti-govt protests leave 75 dead in 3 months; 3,000 arrested

Caracas: A 22-year-old man was shot dead on Thursday during an anti-government protest in Caracas, becoming the 75th victim in three months of unrest over the rule of President Nicolas Maduro.

The young man was killed during a demonstration in the capital's Altamira area, the public ministry said on Twitter, without specifying the type of weapon that killed him.

Opposition lawmaker Jose Manuel Olivares said the man had been shot by a member of the National Guard.

Near-daily protests against Maduro began 1 April, with demonstrators demanding his removal and new elections.

Read more ....

Unrest In Venezuela -- News Updates June 25, 2017

Maduro Calls on Venezuela’s Military to Stop Protests -- Havana Times
Venezuelan opposition lays siege to air base -- ABC News/AP
Venezuelan president's opponents lay siege to airbase -- Al Jazeera
In Venezuela, clashes erupted in Caracas on Saturday as thousands of opposition protesters rally at La Carlota air base.
The grim video of a Venezuelan protester being shot on live TV -- Washington Post
Venezuelan protester shot dead at point-blank range by soldier -- CNN
For The Venezuelan Opposition, Protests Are 'Like A War' -- NPR
As Venezuela body count rises, victim’s father tries to make it personal for Maduro -- Miami Herald
Venezuela’s Maduro Replaces Foreign Minister, Chief of Staff -- Venezuelanalysis
In Venezuela, prisoners say abuse is so bad they are forced to eat pasta mixed with excrement -- Washington Post
Latin American presidents meet with Cardinal Parolin over crisis in Venezuela -- Rome Reports
Venezuelan Crisis Continues -- Evan Maguire, Spectator

Is It No Longer Possible For Any Country To Win A War?

Intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) are driven past the stand with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and other high ranking officials during a military parade marking the 105th birth anniversary of country's founding father Kim Il Sung, in Pyongyang April 15, 2017. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj

Yuval Noah Harari, Time: Why It’s No Longer Possible for Any Country to Win a War

The last few decades have been the most peaceful era in human history. For the first time ever, fewer people die today from human violence than from traffic accidents, obesity or even suicide. Whereas in early agricultural societies human violence caused up to 15% of all human deaths, and in the twentieth century it caused 5%, today it is responsible for only about 1%. Yet the international climate is rapidly deteriorating; warmongering is back in vogue, and military expenditure is ballooning. Both laypeople and experts fear that just as in 1914 the murder of an Austrian archduke sparked the First World War, in 2017 some incident in the Syrian Desert or an unwise move in the Korean Peninsula might ignite a global conflict.

Read more ....

WNU editor: No country has been willing to get involved in an all-out war against an adversary for decades. But war and conflict is a part of human nature .... and while we may be living in an era of "peace", historically speaking .... these "peaceful times" do not last for a very long time.

Israel Launches A Second Day Of Strikes On Syrian Positions After More Spill-Over Fire Hits Israeli Positions

Haaretz: Report: Israel Strikes Syrian Army in Second Flare-up in Two Days

Israeli aircraft struck a Syrian army jeep in Golan Heights, Syrian army source tells Lebanon news outlet, after errant fire hits Israeli territory

Israel reportedly attacked a Syrian army unit in the northern Golan Heights on Sunday after errant fire from the Syrian side spilled over into Israeli territory, the second cross-border flare-up in two days.

Israeli aircraft struck a Syrian army jeep in the Syrian Golan, a Syrian army official told the Lebanese news outlet al-Mayadeen. The Israel Defense Forces haven't confirmed the report.

Read more ....

More News On Israel Launching A Second Day Of Strikes On Syrian Positions After More Spill-Over Fire Hits Israeli Positions

Israel: Errant fire from Syria lands in Golan for 2nd day -- Washington Post/AP
Report: IDF strikes Syrian targets in response to second day of Golan spillover -- The Jerusalem Post
Israel strikes Syrian targets in response to cross-border fire -- Israel Hayom
Second time in 24 hours: Syrian fighting spills into Golan Heights -- Jerusalem Online
In state of panic, Syrian army tosses rules of caution aside -- Ron Ben-Yishai, YNet News