Russian Military Presence in Syria Increasing With Carrier Deploying to Eastern Mediterranean

File Photo of Russian Aircraft Carrier Admiral Kuznetsov, Steven C. Welsh adaptation of U.S. Navy Photo at

… Unlike US carriers, the Kuznetsov was never designed to project force against land targets—it was built during the Cold War as a floating jet fighter base to defend deployed nuclear strategic submarines against the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s (NATO) anti-submarine attack aircraft in the Barents Sea. The Kuznetsov’s staple Su-33 jets are not designed for attack missions; the new MiG-29KRs are, but the Kuznetsov has no jet catapult, so any jets taking off must carry a limited payload or relatively little fuel. Ka-52K attack helicopters could use the Kuznetsov to launch conventional land attacks, but they are only being introduced (as are the MiG-29Ks) and are not yet fully operational. Of course, some of the Kuznetsov air wing could land at the Russian air base near Latakia and go into action from there with full a payload, but this would hardly add much to the Russian bombing campaign. It is possible the Kuznetsov’s prime objective is, as Shoigu said, to reinforce the Russian naval squadron to deter US carriers from possibly intervening in Syria as the bloody battle of Aleppo unravels this fall.

Click here for Eurasia Defense Monitor: “Russian Military Presence in Syria Increasing With Carrier Deploying to Eastern Mediterranean”

NEWSWATCH: “Iran Gives Green Light to Direct $1.7 Billion from U.S. to Military” – Foundation for Defense of Democracies

Iran Map

In a Sept. 1, 2016, article, the Foundation for Defense of Democracies addresses the flow of funds from the United States to Iran in connection with the Iranian nuclear deal, and how those funds end up financing Iranian military activities.

… There is no longer any doubt that the money the United States has paid to Iran will go to the Islamic Republic’s armed forces. It remains unclear how the military will spend it – potentially to prop up the Syrian regime, Hezbollah, Shiite militias in Iraq, or Houthi rebels in Yemen, or to buy heavy weaponry from Russia in contravention of the UN arms embargo.
What is clear are the benefits the regime draws from receiving these funds in cash. It would be far easier for Tehran to procure advanced weaponry from Russia and China, for example, if it can pay for it with hard currency rather than through the formal financial system, having to circumvent the UN arms embargo and U.S. financial sanctions. With bags of untraceable hard currency, Iran can more easily support its allies or illicitly procure missile and nuclear parts. Ultimately, the $400 million in cash that the U.S. has delivered to Iran – and the wider $1.7-billion settlement – will help finance Tehran’s overriding objectives: spreading its revolution and further destabilizing the Middle East.

Click here for Foundation for Defense of Democracy: “Iran Gives Green Light to Direct $1.7 Billion from U.S. to Military”

NEWSWATCH: “#Russia to send its aircraft carrier to eastern #Mediterranean” – AP

File Photo of Russian Aircraft Carrier Admiral Kuznetsov, Steven C. Welsh adaptation of U.S. Navy Photo at

AP, on Sept. 21, reports on #Russia’s plans to send their only aircraft carrier to the eastern #Mediterranean, where the #Syrian port of #Tartus serves as the site of the only Russian naval facility outside the former Soviet Union.

The Russian navy will send its sole aircraft carrier to the eastern Mediterranean ….  the Admiral Kuznetsov will … join other Russian ships …. Russian media have earlier reported that the mission was planned for the fall.

The Admiral Kuznetsov dates to Soviet days and has been reequipped with new Su-33 and MiG-29K fighters. Smaller than U.S. carriers, it carries about 40 aircraft.

For about a year, Russia has become an active belligerent in the Syrian conflict, bolstering its ally, Syrian strongman Bashar al-Assad.

Russia reportedly is using its Syrian campaign to test some of its military capabilities. The presence of the aircraft carrier will provide the opportunity for Russia to use carrier-born aircraft in combat for the first time ever.

Since Moscow launched its air campaign in Syria on Sept. 30, 2015, the military has used it to test its latest jets and missiles. In a demonstration of its new precision strike capability, Russian strategic bombers, surface ships and a submarine have repeatedly launched cruise missiles at targets in Syria. … sending the Admiral Kuznetsov to Syria’s shores, Russia would significantly beef up its forces there [and offer] a chance to test its carrier-born aircraft in combat for the first time.

Russia has maintained an ongoing presence in the eastern Mediterranean since 2013, the first time since the early 1990’s when the Soviet Union fell. AP seems to be reporting that the Syrian port of Tartus is the only Russian military facility outside of the former Soviet Union.

In 2013, the Russian navy restored a constant presence in the eastern Mediterranean for the first time since the Soviet collapse, using the Soviet-era facility in the Syrian port of Tartus to replenish supplies. … the only such facility the Russian military now has outside the former Soviet Union.

(The article does not specify whether AP is claiming that Tartus is the only Russian military facility outside of the former Soviet Union, or simply the only facility of a particular type.  Additionally, considering the significance of Tartus as a port, the article does not address whether the entire port is essentially run as a Russian military base, or whether Russia simply has ongoing rights to access it and berth there, perhaps with some on-shore buildings, perhaps as a sub-part of a larger port area used by other entities for other purposes, such as any commercial activity.

Additionally, when article references Tartus as the only such Russian military facility outside the former Soviet Union, as opposed to simply being outside Russia, it does not address the existence of Russian facilities outside Russia but within the sprawl of other former Soviet states.  Most notably, of course, Russia has military facilities in occupied Crimea, on territory that legally belongs to Ukraine.)

The AP article also served as a conduit for Russian propaganda, quoting a Russian official as making the head-scratching claim that a Soviet military presence in the Mediterranean in the late 1960’s helped to prevent the escalation of Arab-Israeli tensions.  Soviet military forces, of course, would never have been anything other than a source of instability, and AP failed to provide a source countering the Russian propaganda.

Click here for AP: “Russia to send its aircraft carrier to eastern Mediterranean”

[featured images are file photos]

Eastern Mediterranean Satellite Photo


Russia, Assad Using More Destructive Weaponry in Bid to Subdue Aleppo

Syria Map

(VOA – Sept. 24, 2016) The size of the bomb craters is becoming larger and the destructive power is growing of the missiles that Russian and Syrian government warplanes are launching at civilians and rebels in Aleppo.

Since the breakdown last week of a U.S.-Russia negotiated cease-fire in Syria, the ferocity of the onslaught on rebel-held eastern districts of Aleppo suggests Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his overseas backers, Russia and Iran, are determined to overrun the insurgents in Aleppo, delivering a devastating blow to the five-year campaign to oust the Syrian strongman.

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power accused the Assad regime on Sunday of mounting an “all-out offensive” to retake Aleppo.

Analysts and Western diplomats say in the past few weeks, Russian and Syrian warplanes have been pounding Aleppo with munitions designed to penetrate hardened military bunkers, not shallow cellars shielding civilians from round-the-clock airstrikes. They say the weapon of choice to subdue the eastern half of Syria’s once prosperous commercial capital is the bunker-busting BETAB-500 air bomb.

A year ago, when Russia started its military intervention to prop up Assad’s then-floundering forces, Kremlin-controlled websites like Sputnik News boasted how the BETAB-500 air bombs were being “used in Syria to eliminate Islamic State command centers, which are multi-level underground bunkers made of reinforced concrete.”

On Sunday, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warned that the use of advanced weaponry and bunker-busters against civilians could amount to war crimes. He didn’t spell out the exact nature of the high-tech munitions that are inflicting a new hell on the war-exhausted civilians and rebels in Aleppo. Nor did he detail what precision air bombs like the BETAB-500 can do.

According to Robin Yassin-Kassab, Syrian activist and co-author of the book Burning Country, “Bunker busters dig five meters into the ground and can cause the collapse of three apartment buildings. They’re designed to destroy military bunkers. The Syrian regime and Russia are dropping these bunker busters on neighborhoods in Aleppo, killing entire families.”

Video footage posted online of craters in Aleppo are consistent with what would be expected to be seen from BETAB-500’s, say military analysts. Their explosions send out powerful shockwaves, collapsing nearby buildings.

The 500-kilogram BETAB-500’s have been used regularly by the Russians against the Islamic State terror group, as noted frequently by Russian military spokesmen.

On November 3, 2015, Colonel Igor Klimov, a Russian air force spokesman, told journalists in Syria, “Today, Russian strike aircraft used two BETAB-500 bunker buster bombs against ISIS targets.”

A few days later, Klimov assured Sputnik News, ”BETAB-500 bombs are used to destroy extremely protected and fortified underground bunkers; they are not dropped on cities.”

As the Russian news-site noted, “The concrete-piercing BETAB-500 bombs are equipped with a jet booster, which allows the bombs to completely destroy any underground installation.”

Families, clinics being shelled

The underground installations that have been hit in the past three days in an estimated 200 airstrikes are destroying basements where families are trying to shelter from the relentless air-raids, say local residents and aid workers. They are also striking makeshift clinics that have been set up in cellars.

On Friday, Russian and Syrian warplanes struck three of the four bases in eastern Aleppo of the White Helmets, the Syrian volunteer rescue group whose workers have been fearless in their efforts to tend to the injured. The group has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. A rescue center was destroyed that was featured in a Netflix documentary about the organization and released earlier this month.

“You can see or hear groups of warplanes overhead the whole time,” Zakaria Malahefji, an official with an Aleppo-based FSA [Free Syrian Army] militia, told VOA. “The earth shakes under the bombing.”

A resident contacted by mobile phone described apocalyptic scenes: warplanes dropping an array of weaponry, from incendiary munitions and cheaply made barrel bombs — to smart, bunker-buster bombs — all crumpling and razing eastern Aleppo.

“There is not much you can do when you hear the jets; there’s nowhere that’s safe,” said Mohammed Ghassan, a father of two.

At the beginning of Russia’s intervention, military analysts noted its warplanes were dropping more so-called “dumb” or gravity-dropping munitions without any guidance systems, like the high explosive FAB-500 bombs. As the intervention has progressed, laser and satellite-guided munitions have been launched in greater numbers, including KAB-500’s.

Their effect on eastern Aleppo is clear to see; the weapons wiping out whole blocks are targeting key civilian and rebel infrastructure, from clinics and a water-pumping station to roads and local council buildings.

Since Friday, at least 200 civilians have died in the airstrikes, according to estimates from Syrian opposition and aid workers.

“The death toll is expected to rise because there are some people in critical situations, and due to missing people under the rubble,” reported the pro-opposition monitoring group the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

[Article also appeared at]

NEWSWATCH: “Russian aircraft believed to hit Syria convoy, U.S. officials say” – Reuters

Syria Map

The United States believes two Russian aircraft attacked an aid convoy near Aleppo in a strike that shattered a one-week truce …. Despite the military blame game over Monday’s deadly attack, diplomats struggled to save the U.S.-Russian ceasefire agreement …. The incident, in which 18 trucks from a 31-vehicle convoy were destroyed, looked likely to deal a death blow to diplomatic efforts to halt [the] civil war …. Two Russian Sukhoi SU-24 warplanes were in the skies above the aid convoy at the exact time it was struck …. The Syrian Red Crescent said the head of one of its local offices and ‘around 20 civilians’ had been killed … other death tolls differed. The attack prompted the United Nations to suspend all aid shipments into Syria. …

Click here for Reuters: “Russian aircraft believed to hit Syria convoy, U.S. officials say”


NEWSWATCH: “Cruz calls for refugee crackdown after attacks

Ted Cruz file photo

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) is calling on Congress to crack down on accepting refugees after a series of weekend explosions … ‘Congress should act to prevent Americans who have travelled abroad for training from returning here, and to stop the flow of refugees from hotbeds of terrorism in the Middle East that President #Obama is determined to bring to our country,’ Cruz, who has been a vocal critic of the Obama administration’s terrorism policy, said in a statement on Monday. * * * [Cruz] has pushed legislation for years that would revoke citizenship for anyone fighting with, or providing material support to, ISIS and terrorist groups abroad. He also renewed his push to block … Obama’s plan to increase the number of Syrian refugees accepted into the United States …. Cruz also called for supporting law enforcement and working with the American Muslim community.

Click here for The Hill: “Cruz calls for refugee crackdown after attacks”


NEWSWATCH: “Russia’s hypocrisy laid bare” – The Australian

Syria Map

The Australian, in an editorial, addresses Russia’s reaction to a U.S.-led airstrike that apparently hit some Syrian forces, including accusations that the United States is in league with the so-called Islamic State.  Doubts are raised about the sincerity of Russia’s involvement with a would-be ceasefire.

… precise circumstances surrounding the botched U.S.-led coalition airstrike that killed and wounded Syrian soldiers in the mistaken belief they were Islamic State fighters have yet to be established. … we must not lose sight of the gross hypocrisy being exhibited by … Putin’s Russia as it seeks to exploit the tragedy …. posturing and finger-pointing … that contrasts with its callous belligerence and indolence after Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 was shot down over Ukraine two years ago with the loss of 298 lives. … the Kremlin is all action on behalf of its surrogate, the murderous Assad regime. Preposterously, Moscow claims the misdirected airstrike shows ‘direct connivance’ by the coalition with Islamic State. ‘We are reaching a really terrifying conclusion for the whole world … that the White House (and, presumably, its allies) is defending Islamic State … there can be no doubt about that,’ Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said in a statement that beggars belief given Moscow last week signed a ceasefire agreement, along with the US. … Moscow has vetoed or undermined every proposed UN Security Council resolution that might have helped end the horrifying civil war and … appalling atrocities ….

NEWSWATCH: “Russian Propaganda Is Pervasive, and America Is Behind the Power Curve in Countering It” – RAND

Kremlin, St. Basil's, Red Square at Night

RAND reports on Russian propaganda efforts utilizing the newest technologies, including RT and a host of others.  One key tactic is to repeat false and manipulative messages across multiple tracks:

… Russian propagandists are … at work across a wide front, aiming a firehose of falsehoods at ill-informed audiences, foreign and domestic. … this disinformation — intentionally false — leverages psychological vulnerabilities to sway audiences. U.S. leaders should raise public consciousness about its nature and dangers. … The explosion of new media is a boon for propagandists. RT, formerly Russia Today, spends over $300 million per year purveying a toxic mixture of entertainment, real news and disinformation across cable, satellite and online media. Dozens of Kremlin-backed proxy news sites blast propaganda while hiding or downplaying their affiliation. Russian trolls and hackers manipulate thousands of fake accounts on Twitter, Facebook and other social media. This volume and multiplicity of media and modes has an effect; research in psychology shows that multiple sources are more persuasive than a single source.

Russian propaganda also employs the tactics of first impressions and repetition, including the malign Ukrainian political transformation and concoct revisionist history seeking to mute awareness of Russian government culpability in international athletic doping:

Russia’s approach to propaganda emphasizes creating first impressions, which tend to be resilient, and then reinforcing them through repetition. In this way Kremlin propagandists have persuaded some of the less informed that Ukraine’s post-Maidan government is fascist. Contrary to credible findings of pervasive state-sponsored Russian doping at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Moscow’s early and repeated denials have confused some audiences.

Much of Russian propaganda is wholly false, yet can build a false “credibility” based upon repeated manipulation of an audience with limited information access, such as the Russian people.  The U.S. government has not responded robustly enough to Russian propaganda efforts.

While some Russian propaganda stories build around a kernel of truth, others are wholly manufactured and spun. … People are often poor judges of the credibility of both information and its sources, psychology research has found, and over time familiar messages or those previously identified as false can become more persuasive. … some audiences are not turned off by inconsistent or implausible expectations. … Polls last year found that about half of Russians believed they received ‘objective information’ from television, their main source of news. … America is behind the power curve in countering Russian disinformation.  … Russian disinformation is a global threat, much of it targeted against democracies. … The Kremlin’s obsession with propaganda and disinformation persists ….

Click here for RAND: “Russian Propaganda Is Pervasive, and America Is Behind the Power Curve in Countering It”

NEWSWATCH: “IRS Impeachment Vote Could Still Happen Next Week” – Roll Call

U.S. Capitol file photo

A House floor vote on a resolution to impeach IRS Commissioner John Koskinen could still come next week, despite a deal under which the Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing Wednesday with [Koskinen]…. House Freedom Caucus member Tim Huelskamp [said] that a deal to delay the impeachment vote … only involved waiting until after the Judiciary hearing. There was no agreement to wait until November ….

* * *  Speaker Paul D. Ryan told reporters that he wasn’t involved in the deal … but that his understanding was the hearing scheduled for next week would be in lieu of a vote before November.

Click here for Roll Call: “IRS Impeachment Vote Could Still Happen Next Week”

NEWSWATCH: “Congress Increasingly Concerned About Russian Election Meddling” – Roll Call

Artist's Rendition of Shadowy Seen with Men in Dark Suits and Hats, with One Carrying Briefcase

Multiple reports have cited ties between Russian entities and the hacking of the Democratic National Committee’s emails, and on Wednesday House Homeland Security Chairman Michael McCaul said in a CNN interview that the Republican National Committee had been hacked as well, though the Texas congressman quickly backpedaled, saying he ‘misspoke.’

Click here for Roll Call: “Congress Increasingly Concerned About Russian Election Meddling”

“Russia revives Soviet-era psychiatric punishment: Crimean Tatars, dissenters suffer” – Sydney Morning Herald

Kremlin, St. Basil's, Red Square at Night

… last week after his release from a forced stay in a Crimean psychiatric hospital, Ilmi Umerov [said] ‘It was what you could call one big torture’ … Having made public statements against Moscow’s annexation of the peninsula from Ukraine … Russian authorities charged Umerov with ‘separatism’ and forced him into a psychiatric hospital for a month of observation [even as he already was s]tricken with Parkinson’s, diabetes and heart problems…. * * * The resurgent Soviet-era practice of punitive psychiatry has shut away a number of dissenters and activists who have dared to speak out against the Russian government. [After] opposition activist Mikhail Kosenko took part in mass protests against … Putin’s inauguration for a third term, the … Bolotnaya Square protests [h]e was soon arrested, convicted and confined to a psychiatric hospital for eight months … Earlier this year, an opposition activist was grabbed from his home by orderlies posing as gas company workers and dragged off to a psychiatric hospital, where he was involuntarily injected with drugs before being released a week later. …

Click here for Sydney Morning Herald: “Russia revives Soviet-era psychiatric punishment: Crimean Tatars, dissenters suffer”

NEWSWATCH & VIDEO: “U.S. Bombers Send China, Russia, North Korea a Message” – NBC

B-1 Bomber File Photo

Three times in the last two months, the United States has flown B-1 bombers, equipped with the latest non-nuclear cruise missiles, on missions in Europe and Asia meant to show adversaries as well as allies what one U.S. commander called ‘an unshakable commitment.’ … part of strategic missions aimed at sending explicit messages to Russia, China and North Korea. Each of the B-1s is equipped with two dozen non-nuclear cruise missiles with highly accurate, bunker-busting warheads, a new capability. … The latest … took place … over the Korean peninsula, when two B-1 bombers flew within a few miles of the DMZ between North and South Korea, accompanied by U.S. F-16s and South Korean F-15s. … related to North Korea’s latest nuclear weapons test …

Click here for NBC: “U.S. Bombers Send China, Russia, North Korea a Message”


NEWSWATCH: “Britain’s Johnson says peace in east Ukraine depends mainly on Russia” – Reuters

Map of Ukraine and Environs, Including Russia

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said … progress toward peace in eastern Ukraine depended primarily on the Kremlin, adding that it was crucial for the West to maintain sanctions …. “Clearly it’s up to the Russians primarily to make progress on the security side. But it’s up to all sides I think in this conversation to make progress together” ….

Click here for Reuters: “Britain’s Johnson says peace in east Ukraine depends mainly on Russia”


NEWSWATCH: “DOJ hints at shaming Russia for political hacks” – The Hill

Binary Code with Stylized Eye

… Justice Department officials dropped hints … they plan to hold Russia accountable for what is suspected to be a broad hacking campaign targeting U.S. political organizations and election databases. … Assistant Attorney General John Carlin, who leads the National Security Division * * * listed Russia as one of the ‘four main actors’ involved in supporting hackers targeting the U.S., alongside North Korea, Iran and China. The U.S. has taken action against hackers from the other three states, he noted, over hacks against Sony Pictures, financial institutions and U.S. companies. … ‘The message is clear: You are not safe because you are doing it under another nation’s flag. We can figure out who did it … and when we do, we’re committed to holding people accountable.’

Click here for The Hill: “DOJ hints at shaming Russia for political hacks”

NEWSWATCH: “Rift in administration over U.S.-Russia pact on Syria” – Fox News

Syria Map

… administration officials reportedly are at odds over a newly announced agreement with Russia to curb the violence in Syria … Confusion remains over the terms and aims of the deal. …. [there are] new questions about what level of violence will be accepted by the Obama administration in determining whether to go ahead with the proposed joint venture with Russia after a week-long ceasefire, which includes the sharing of intelligence at a joint intelligence center. … [After seven days of calm] the U.S. and Russia would then cooperate on how to jointly combat the Al Qaeda-linked group … Nusra Front … now known as Jabhat Fatah al-Sham. … militants backed by the U.S. and its Arab allies coordinate and even sometimes fight alongside Al Qaeda-linked militants. … The new cease-fire is supposed to end such ambiguities, and Washington has been urging rebel groups to break ranks with extremists.

Click here for Fox News: “Rift in administration over US-Russia pact on Syria”

NEWSWATCH: “Russia’s Ambitions in the Atlantic; Patrolling the GIUK Gap” – Foreign Affiars/Robbie Gramer

NATO logo and acronym in English in French

A new arena of competition is opening between Russia and NATO in the North Atlantic. … a newly vulnerable Cold War chokepoint known as the GIUK gap. … the maritime line between Greenland, Iceland, and the United Kingdom that served as a defensive perimeter for NATO during the Cold War. … still the only point through which Russia can project power into the Atlantic Ocean and Europe’s littoral beyond the bottlenecked Baltic and Black Seas. It remains the gateway to the Atlantic Ocean for Russia’s largest and most strategically important fleet, the Northern Fleet. … Vital global undersea communications cables also run along the ocean floor in the North Atlantic near the GIUK gap, carrying nearly all global internet traffic. Russian submarines have skirted uncomfortably close to the cables … prompting concerns that the cables would be cut if tensions between Russia and the West worsened over Ukraine, the Baltic States, Syria, or somewhere else. …

Click here for Foreign Affiars/Robbie Gramer: “Russia’s Ambitions in the Atlantic; Patrolling the GIUK Gap”

NEWSWATCH: “Israel, US Agree to 10-Year Defense Deal” – Defense News

Patriot Missile File Photo

Israel and the United States have agreed to a ten-year defense deal, the largest and longest such agreement between the two nations. … the follow-on to a $30 billion, 10-year memorandum of understanding signed in 2007. …. the latest US offer stands at $3.8 billion annually, which includes some $400 million to be spent in Israel on cooperative missile defense and other pre-agreed joint programs. As a condition of expanding Israel’s top line from $30 billion to $38 billion over the coming ten years, Washington is insisting on removing a 30-year-old privilege whereby Israel is able to convert a significant portion of grant dollars into shekels for local research, development and procurement. …

Click here for Defense News: “Israel, US Agree to 10-Year Defense Deal”

[featured image is file photo]

VIDEO & TRANSCRIPT: Pope Benedict XVI at Ground Zero in New York City, Praying for Victims of 9/11 (2008)

Pope Benedict XVI Waving Before Crowd

Pope Benedict XVI visited Ground Zero in New York City on April 22, 2008, the site of the terrorist attacks in New York City on Sept. 11, 2001. Videos of his visit follow below, as well as a transcript of the prayer he offered. The videos include an excerpt featuring his prayer of Blessing as well as a longer video.

From the Vatican Information Service:


VATICAN CITY, 20 APR 2008 (VIS) – In New York at 9.30 a.m. local time today, the Pope visited Ground Zero, the name now used to refer to the site once occupied by the twin towers of the World Trade Centre.

On 11 September 2001 two aircraft crashed into the twin towers, destroying them and a number of neighbouring buildings in a terrorist attack which cost the lives of 2,896 people. The site today is a vast 80-metre deep crater, surrounded by a fence and marked with a cross.

In 2002 the reconstruction of the World Trade Centre was put out for tender in a competition won by the architect Daniel Libensky. Today, Ground Zero is a construction site where work is scheduled to finish in the year 2012. The main building of the new complex will be the “Freedom Tower”, 541 metres high.

Benedict XVI arrived at Ground Zero accompanied by Cardinal Edward Egan, archbishop of New York. Awaiting him there were Michael Bloomberg, mayor of the city; David A. Paterson and John Corzine, respectively governors of New York and of New Jersey; 24 people representing the forces that responded to the attack of 11 September, and a number of injured and relatives of the victims.

The Holy Father kneeled for a few minutes of silent prayer for the victims of the attack, then lit a candle before pronouncing the following prayer:

“O God of Love, Compassion, and Healing,
look on us, people of many different faiths and traditions,
who gather today at this site,
the scene of incredible violence and pain.

“We ask You in Your Goodness
to give Eternal Light and Peace
to all who died here –
the heroic first-responders:
our fire fighters, police officers,
emergency service workers, and Port Authority personnel,
along with all the innocent men and women
who were victims of this tragedy
simply because their work or service
brought them here on 11 September 2001.

“We ask You, in Your Compassion
to bring healing to those
who, because of their presence here that day,
suffer from injuries and illness.
Heal, too, the pain of still-grieving families
and all who lost loved ones in this tragedy.
Give them strength to continue their lives with courage and hope.

“We are mindful as well
of those who suffered death, injury, and loss
on the same day at the Pentagon and in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
Our hearts are one with theirs
as our prayer embraces their pain and suffering.

“God of Peace, bring Your Peace to our violent world:
peace in the hearts of all men and women
and peace among the nations of the earth.
Turn to Your Way of Love
those whose hearts and minds
are consumed with hatred.

“God of Understanding,
overwhelmed by the magnitude of this tragedy,
we seek Your Light and Guidance
as we confront such terrible events.
Grant that those whose lives were spared
may live so that the lives lost here
may not have been lost in vain.
Comfort and console us,
strengthen us in hope,
and give us the wisdom and courage
to work tirelessly for a world
where true peace and love reign
among nations and in the hearts of all”.

The prayer over, the Pope greeted survivors of the attack, relatives of some of the victims, and members of the rescue squads. Finally, he imparted his blessing to those present.

After the ceremony, the Holy Father returned to his residence where he bid farewell to the staff of the Holy See permanent mission to the United Nations in New York before having lunch in private.

[VIS release also appeared at, bearing the following notice:

Copyright © VIS – Vatican Information Service

In accordance with international regulations on Intellectual Property and Author’s Rights, VIS authorises reproduction of news items issued by the Vatican Information Service, partially or in their entirety, on condition that the source (VIS – Vatican Information Service) is quoted.]


SCW NEWSLINK: Bloomberg: “Syria’s Civil War” [backgrounder with map of factions]

Syria Map

Russian support enabled the regime to regain momentum against the rebels, who are supported by the U.S. and Arab countries, including Saudi Arabia. Backed by Russian airstrikes, government troops fought to retake rebel-held areas of Aleppo, Syria’s commercial capital. Their campaign got an unexpected boost when Turkey’s government, suspicious of U.S. involvement in a failed coup in Istanbul in July, began to slow weapons shipments to Syria’s rebels while forging closer ties with Russia. In March, Russia announced that it would largely withdraw its forces from Syria. But it said it would still target terrorists. ….

SCW NEWSWATCH: “Russia, U.S. in Deadlock Over Syria Deal as Kerry Snubs Lavrov” – Bloomberg

Syria Map

The U.S. and Russia hit a renewed deadlock over efforts to strike a #Syrian cease-fire deal … Kerry snubbed … Lavrov, who was left cooling his heels in Geneva …. The U.S. has been locked in tough negotiations with Russia, whose military intervention in Syria last year reversed the course of the war in favor of its ally … al-Assad. … The civil war … has killed more than 280,000 people and sent millions fleeing …. It has … let Islamic State seize territory that it’s used as a base to direct and inspire terror attacks worldwide. … The U.S. has proposed sharing intelligence with Russia to carry out strikes against the al-Qaeda affiliate in Syria, the Nusra Front, now known as Jabhat Fatah Al-Sham.  … Assad continues to make gains with each passing day, particularly in … Aleppo, so Russia has little incentive to come up with a deal …. Assad’s forces, backed by pro-Iranian Hezbollah militia and Russian air power, this week cut off the last rebel supply line to the rebel-held eastern part of Aleppo, restoring a siege that was broken last month …

Click here for Bloomberg: “Russia, U.S. in Deadlock Over Syria Deal as Kerry Snubs Lavrov”

SCW NEWSWATCH: “Wells Fargo to Pay $185 Million Fine Over Account Openings; Regulators say ‘widespread #illegal practice’ around account openings” – Wall Street Journal

Hands of Man in Suit Taking Cash From Envelope

Wells Fargo & Co., the largest U.S. bank by market value, must pay $185 million related to a regulatory enforcement action over ‘widespread #illegal practice’ around account openings, sales targets and compensation incentives, according to regulators and prosecutors. … Wells Fargo must pay another $5 million in customer remediation and hire an independent consultant for a review, according to the bank and regulators. A Wells Fargo analysis found thousands of employees “illegally” signed up customers for more than 2 million deposit and credit-card accounts that may have not had their knowledge or consent …. ‘Because of the severity of these violations, Wells Fargo is paying the largest penalty the CFPB has ever imposed,’ said CFPB Director Richard Cordray.

Click here for Wall Street Journal: “Wells Fargo to Pay $185 Million Fine Over Account Openings; Regulators say ‘widespread illegal practice’ around account openings”

[featured image is file photo, not directly related to article subject matter]

NEWSWATCH VIDEO: House Foreign Affairs Committee Hearing: “Reforming the National Security Council: Efficiency and Accountability”

White House File Photo

House Foreign Affairs Committee Hearing: “Reforming the National Security Council: Efficiency and Accountability” [scroll down for video, which has a delayed start at about the 9:00 mark]

In recent years, there has been increasing bipartisan concern over the size and role of the President’s National Security Council. In too many cases, its traditional role of ‘honest broker’ has evolved to a policy-making role – it has even undertaken secret diplomatic negotiations – all done out of Congress’ view. … While concerns about the NSC aren’t new, they’ve reached new heights …. This is a staff that has increased from 100 persons at the start of President George W. Bush’s presidency to reportedly over 400 today. Such a large staff sends the message that the President intends to run foreign policy and military operations out of the White House to the exclusion of the Cabinet. … More staff means more meetings and often paralysis. … How many hearings has the Committee held on Ukraine at which State Department officials have told us that the White House is still debating Kiev’s request for heavy defensive weapons? Also of concern, the profile of an NSC staffer has changed from a seasoned professional doing a stint at the White House as the capstone of their career, to that of junior professionals just off the campaign trail. [from opening statement of Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA)]

NEWSWATCH: “Russia blacklists independent polling company as ‘foreign agent'”

Kremlin, St. Basil's, Red Square at Night

Russia’s justice ministry has branded Russia’s only major private pollster a ‘foreign agent,’ a stigma that could lead to its closure. … saying that the Levada polling agency has been listed as a ‘foreign agency’ …. Following major protests against his rule in 2011 and 2012 … Putin signed a law that requires all NGOs receiving foreign funding and found to engage in vaguely defined ‘political activity to register as ‘foreign agents.’ Those who fail to comply face fines and potential closure. Many organizations have said the stigma of ‘foreign agent,’ which rings like ‘spy’ in Russian, would make it impossible for them to work in the country.

The decision comes less than a week after the respected pollster founded by and named after the late sociologist Yuri Levada published its latest election survey, indicating a drop in the ruling party’s ratings. Russia holds a parliamentary election on Sept. 18.

Click here for AP/Fox News: “Russia blacklists independent polling company as ‘foreign agent'”



NEWSWATCH: [American Academy of Pediatrics Rejects Flu Nasal Spray Vaccines] “AAP Issues Flu Vaccine Recommendations for 2016-17 Season” – American Academy of Pediatrics

Flu Virus Microscopic Image

The Academy does not recommend the nasal spray vaccine this flu season, after studies show poor effectiveness.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that all children ages 6 months and older receive a seasonal flu shot during the 2016-17 season, as vaccination remains the best available preventive measure against influenza, according to an updated policy statement …. “Recommendations for Prevention and Control of Influenza in Children, 2016–2017” …. The statement supports the recommendation by federal health officials not to use the live attenuated influenza vaccine (LAIV), administered by intranasal spray.

The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that the nasal spray vaccine did not protect against certain strains of the flu virus that were most prominent the past three seasons. The nasal spray vaccine effectiveness among children 2 through 17 years was 3 percent in 2015-16, compared with 63 percent for the injected vaccine.

Click here for American Academy of Pediatrics: “AAP Issues Flu Vaccine Recommendations for 2016-17 Season”




NEWSWATCH: “Judge puts hold on plan to open California lands to fracking” – AP/U.S. News & World Report

Artist's Rendition of Fracking

A federal judge … tentatively rejected a plan by the federal Bureau of Land Management to open more than 1,500 square miles of lands in central California to oil drilling and fracking. … U.S. District Judge Michael W. Fitzgerald …. The process, formally known as hydraulic fracturing, uses high-pressure mixtures of water, sand and chemicals to extract oil and gas from rock. … the BLM must provide more study on the effects fracking will have in the area. He gave the agency’s attorneys until Sept. 21 to argue why he should not issue an injunction …. The ruling came in a lawsuit brought by a pair of environmental groups … The land involved … is about 1.1 million acres of public lands and federal mineral estate in the mostly agricultural central valley, the southern end of the Sierra Nevada, and parts of the central coast.

Click here for AP/U.S. News & World Report “Judge puts hold on plan to open California lands to fracking”




NEWSWATCH: “A new front opens up in China’s battle against separatism; Supporters of greater independence for Hong Kong gain a foothold in the city’s legislature” – The Economist

China Map

Elections held on September 4th for Hong Kong’s legislature must have shocked the leadership in Beijing. In their highest turnout for any such poll in the territory’s history (58%), voters sent a clear signal of discontent with China’s attempts to stifle democracy. Even more worryingly for Chinese officials, some of them supported radicals who believe Hong Kong should decide its own future regardless of China’s wishes. Several such ‘localists’ gained seats for the first time ….

Click here for The Economist: “A new front opens up in China’s battle against separatism; Supporters of greater independence for Hong Kong gain a foothold in the city’s legislature”




U.S., Russia Yet to Reach Syria Cease-fire Deal

Syria Map

(VOA – – article also appeared at – Sept. 5, 2016)

Secretary of State John Kerry has returned home empty handed, failing to have reached an accord with his Russian counterpart on a cease-fire in Syria after an intensive period of diplomacy.

The two countries still need to resolve what are described as “technical issues,” and discussions between American and Russian negotiators are set to continue this week, State Department officials said Monday.

Off to the side of the G-20 Summit in Hangzhou, China, the U.S. and Russian presidents held talks about Syria that Barack Obama described as “businesslike” and “constructive, but not conclusive.”

“Given the gaps of trust that exist, that’s a tough negotiation and we haven’t yet closed the gaps in a way where we think it would actually work,” the U.S. president told reporters at the conclusion of the G-20 summit.

Ongoing negotiations

Obama added he had instructed Kerry, while Russian President Vladimir Putin had told his foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, “to keep working at it over the next several days” in hopes an agreement could lead “to a serious conversation about a political solution to this problem” with all parties directly or indirectly involved in the Syrian conflict.

Putin told reporters at a separate news conference that talks with the United States and Turkey were continuing concerning Syria and negotiators had made a step forward.

During the past 10 days, a peripatetic secretary of state kept in touch with Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov through face-to-face meetings in Geneva and Hangzhou and telephone conversations in between, while the American senior envoy made stops in Bangladesh and India.

Kerry and senior aides have reiterated they do not want to make a tenuous deal for the sake of an announcement, but rather want Washington and Moscow to agree upon something realistic to achieve a sustainable nationwide cessation of hostilities in Syria.

There is a growing perception among some senior U.S. officials, however, that the Russians are gaming the Americans in the talks.

In private, U.S. diplomats have characterized the negotiations with their Russian counterparts as a litmus test on whether there is a seriousness by Moscow to reach an accord, or if the Russians are buying time that results in Obama and Kerry being portrayed as hapless negotiators.

“The Russians walked back on some of the areas we thought we were agreed on,” a senior State Department official said Saturday, revealing the level of frustration.

Russia is a long-time backer of Syria, and is seen as desiring President Bashar al-Assad remain in power in Damascus to maintain Moscow’s influence in the region.

Shifting alliances

Diplomats have no illusion that bringing an end to five years of intense misery for the Syrian people will be easy. They describe the battlefield as complex, with shifting alliances among the many militias involved.

“There are five different wars being waged” in Syria is a characterization expressed by more than one person involved in the cease-fire talks.

President Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, which hosts 3 million Syrian refugees, said he had reiterated to Obama and Putin at the G-20 talks in China the need for a “no-fly zone” over Syria and a “safe zone” where there would be no fighting, in hopes of stemming the human migration.

A half decade of war has fractured Syria. More than 250,000 people are believed to have died from shootings, mortar fire and air strikes. Millions have fled the country. And 18 million more people remain to face an uncertain fate, most of them in need of humanitarian assistance, according to UN relief agencies.

NEWSWATCH: “Can Oil Rally After Russia-Saudi Pact? Cooperation reflects the squeeze on revenues and suggests that the demise of OPEC is exaggerated.” – Barron’s

Oil Wells and Sunset

Monday’s announcement of a joint Russia-Saudi Arabian working group to explore avenues for stabilizing the oil market—while short on details and immaterial for actual supply and demand balances—is another indicator of the extreme economic duress that producers are enduring, and in our view, increases the likelihood of some type of collective action if prices remain under significant pressure. We believe that the sovereign producers may eventually come to conclude that they have little to lose by agreeing to cap output when they are close to maxing out on production in the near term. Moreover, while geopolitical tensions between key producers continue to run high because of ongoing conflicts in Syria and Yemen, their leaders may yet opt for pragmatism and seek some financial relief that will allow them to keep their increasingly restive citizens content and off the streets. * * * Frankly put, OPEC producers simply do not want oil prices to fall further. Although cooperative action taken by the cartel and other key producers may prove to be more of a play on optics rather than physically actionable, at a minimum, it alters sentiment, puts a floor into the market, and reminds the market of OPEC’s capacity to co-operate. It would also prove that the prolific pronouncements of the cartel’s demise are premature.

Click here for Barron’s: “Can Oil Rally After Russia-Saudi Pact? Cooperation reflects the squeeze on revenues and suggests that the demise of OPEC is exaggerated.”


TREASURY DEPARTMENT NEWS RELEASE: “Treasury Sanctions Individuals and Entities for Sanctions Evasion and Activities Related to the Conflict in Ukraine”

Map of Ukraine and Environs, Including Russia

U.S. Treasury Department Press Release – 9/1/2016

U.S. Will Maintain Sanctions Pressure Until Russia Has Fulfilled All of Its Commitments under the Minsk Agreements

WASHINGTON – To maintain the effectiveness of existing sanctions, the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) today designated 37 individuals and entities under three Executive Orders (E.O.s) related to Russia and Ukraine. Today’s action is part of OFAC’s ongoing efforts to counter attempts to circumvent sanctions on Russia, to assist the private sector with sanctions compliance, and to foster a diplomatic resolution to the conflict in Ukraine. The action demonstrates Treasury’s steadfast commitment to maintain sanctions until Russia fully implements its commitments under the Minsk agreements, including a comprehensive cease fire, the withdrawal of all weapons and military personnel, and the restoration of Ukraine’s control over its side of the internationally recognized border. It also underscores the U.S. government’s opposition to Russia’s occupation of Crimea and our firm refusal to recognize its attempted annexation of the peninsula. These sanctions follow the recent extension of European Union sectoral sanctions, and together these steps demonstrate continued international unity in opposing Russia’s actions in Ukraine.

“Russia continues to provoke instability in eastern Ukraine despite its Minsk commitments,” said Acting OFAC Director John E. Smith. “Treasury stands with our partners in condemning Russia’s violation of international law, and we will continue to sanction those who threaten Ukraine’s peace, security, and sovereignty.”

Today OFAC also identified a number of subsidiaries that are owned 50 percent or more by previously sanctioned Russian companies to provide additional information to assist the private sector with sanctions compliance.

Designation Regarding Sanctions Evasion (E.O. 13661)

Today’s action targets one entity pursuant to E.O. 13661, which authorizes sanctions on, among others, any individual or entity that has acted for or on behalf of, or supported, an individual or entity previously designated under this E.O.

CJSC ABR Management (“ABR Management”) is designated for acting for or on behalf of, directly or indirectly, and materially assisting, sponsoring, or providing, financial, material, or technological support for, or goods or services to or in support of, Bank Rossiya. Bank Rossiya managers founded ABR Management to strategically manage the banking group’s assets. As the trustee under a trust agreement with certain Bank Rossiya shareholders, ABR Management has the power to exercise voting rights for a majority of Bank Rossiya shares, including rights to propose candidates for Bank Rossiya management positions.

Designations Regarding Separatists (E.O. 13660)

Today’s action also targets 17 Ukrainian separatists pursuant to E.O. 13660 for being responsible for or complicit in actions or policies that threaten the peace, security, stability, sovereignty, or territorial integrity of Ukraine; asserting governmental authority over a part or region of Ukraine without the authorization of the Government of Ukraine; or for acting for or on behalf of previously designated groups as leaders of such entities.

The following six individuals are designated for being responsible for or complicit in, or having engaged in, directly or indirectly, actions or policies that threaten the peace security, stability, sovereignty, or territorial integrity of Ukraine; asserting governmental authority over a part or region of Ukraine without the authorization of the Government of Ukraine; and acting for or on behalf of the previously designated, self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) or the previously designated, self-proclaimed Luhansk People’s Republic (LPR): Eduard Basurin, so-called Deputy Commander of the Ministry of Defense, DPR; Viktor Yatsenko, so-called Minister of Communications, DPR; Vladimir Kononov, so-called Minister of Defense, DPR; Zaur Ismailov, so-called Prosecutor General, LPR; Evgeny Manuilov, so-called Minister of Finance, LPR; and Alexandr Shubin, so-called Minister of Justice, LPR.

The following 11 individuals, officials of the so-called Republic of Crimea, are designated for asserting governmental authority over a part or region of Ukraine without the authorization of the Government of Ukraine: Dmitry Polonsky, so-called Minister of Information and Mass Communications; Anna Anyukhina, so-called Minister for Property and Land Relations; Mikhail Sheremet, so-called First Deputy Chairman of the Council of Ministers; Svetlana Alekseevna Borodulina, so-called Minister of Fuel and Energy; Irina Kiviko, so-called Minister of Finance; Valentin Demidov, so-called Minister of Economic Development; Oleg Shapovalov, so-called Minister of Justice; Andrey Gennadievich Vasyuta, so-called Minister of Industrial Policy; Viktor Palagin, so-called Head of the Federal Security Service Directorate; Mikhail Nazarov, so-called Director of the Investigative Committee Chief Investigations Division; and Georgiy Muradov, so-called Deputy Chairman of the Council of Ministers and Permanent Representative to the President of the Russian Federation. Two of these individuals, Dmitry Polonsky and Georgiy Muradov, are additionally designated for being responsible for or complicit in, or having engaged in, directly or indirectly, actions or policies that threaten the peace, security, stability, sovereignty, or territorial integrity of Ukraine.

Additional E.O. 13660 Designation

The Salvation Committee of Ukraine also is designated pursuant to E.O. 13660 for being owned or controlled by, or acting for or on behalf of, directly or indirectly, former Ukrainian Prime Minister Mykola Azarov, whom OFAC previously designated under the same E.O. for the misappropriation of state assets of Ukraine.

Designations Regarding Crimean Entities (E.O. 13685)

Today’s action also targets the following 18 construction, transportation, and defense entities pursuant to E.O. 13685, which authorizes sanctions on, among others, any person determined to operate in the Crimea region of Ukraine. Except as otherwise noted, the persons listed below are designated for operating in the Crimea region of Ukraine.

Entities Involved in the Construction of the Kerch Bridge

Russia’s SGM-Most OOO, which is owned by previously designated gas pipeline construction company Stroygazmontazh, is the chief contractor for the construction of the Kerch Bridge, which would span the Kerch Strait to connect the Crimean peninsula with Russia.

PJSC Mostotrest is a major Russian construction company engaged in the construction of bridges, roads, and other transport infrastructure facilities. In March 2016, SGM-Most OOO awarded a multi-billion ruble construction contract to Mostotrest for the development of the Kerch Bridge.

AO ‘Institute Giprostroymost—Saint-Petersburg’ designed the Kerch Bridge.

OOO ‘STG-Eko’ conducted engineering and ecological studies for an Environmental Impact Assessment of the Kerch Bridge for AO ‘Institute Giprostroymost—Saint-Petersburg.’

OOO ‘DSK’ is a Russian construction company whose work includes building access roads to bridges and overpasses. OOO ‘DSK’ won an auction in September 2015 for construction work on access roads to the Kerch Bridge on both sides of the Kerch Strait.

FKU Uprdor ‘Taman’ is a Russian federal institution under the Federal Road Agency (Rosavtodor) authorized to help manage federal highways and related structures in Crimea and in Russian Federation territory. FKU Uprdor ‘Taman’ operationally manages the construction of the Kerch Bridge.

FAU ‘Glavgosekspertiza Rossii’ is a Russian federal institution authorized to conduct official examinations of project documentation for significant construction works in Russian Federation territory. In 2015, after Russia’s occupation and attempted annexation of the Crimean peninsula, FAU ‘Glavgosekspertiza Rossii’ opened a branch in the city of Sevastopol and reviewed project documentation for the Kerch Bridge.

Defense Firms Operating in Crimea

OOO Shipyard ‘Zaliv’ is a shipbuilding company in Kerch, Crimea formed after militants forcibly seized the shipyard from its previous owners in August 2014. It holds resident status in the so-called Republic of Crimea’s free economic zone and a license from the Russian government to develop military equipment.

Federal SUE Shipyard ‘Morye’ is a shipbuilding company located in Feodosia, Crimea. It has increased its capacity to construct military vessels and began constructing a guided missile ship for the Russian Navy in May 2016.

OAO Ship Repair Center ‘Zvezdochka’ performs maintenance work on ships and submarines and is located in Severodvinsk, Russia. It has a branch in Sevastopol, Crimea that performs repairs and maintenance work on Russian naval vessels.

SUE RC ‘Feodosia Optical Plant’ produces military optical products and is located in Feodosia, Crimea. It holds a license from the Russian government to develop military equipment and produces optical sights for tanks and heavy weapons.

OAO ‘Uranis-Radiosistemy’ produces radio equipment and is located in Sevastopol, Crimea. It holds resident status in the so-called Republic of Crimea’s free economic zone and a license from the Russian government to develop military equipment.

Entities Operating in Crimean Maritime Sector

Finally, the Sovfracht-Sovmortrans Group is designated pursuant to E.O. 13685 because it operates in the Crimea region of Ukraine. Affiliated companies SMT-K and LLC Koksokhimtrans are being designated for operating in the Crimea region of Ukraine and being owned or controlled by, or acting for or on behalf of, directly or indirectly, the Sovfracht-Sovmortrans Group. Sovfracht Managing Company LLC is being designated for being owned or controlled by, or acting for or on behalf of, directly or indirectly, the Sovfracht-Sovmortrans Group. Finally, OJSC Sovfracht and CJSC Sovmortrans are designated for being owned or controlled by, or acting for or on behalf of, directly or indirectly, Sovfracht-Sovmortrans Group and Sovfracht Managing Company LLC.

The Sovfracht-Sovmortrans Group is a Russian shipping and logistics company comprised of several companies, including Sovfracht Managing Company LLC, OJSC Sovfracht, CJSC Sovmortrans, LLC Koksokhimtrans, and SMT-K, a unit of the group registered in Crimea. SMT-K, an abbreviation for Sovmortrans-Crimea, has offices in Simferopol and Kerch, Crimea, and is the operator for a ferry line between the previously designated Port of Kerch in Crimea and Kavkaz in Russia. LLC Koksokhimtrans is the registered operator and manager of two vessels that have served as ferries between Crimea and Russia. Sovfracht Managing Company LLC has oversight over OJSC Sovfracht and CJSC Sovmortrans. OJSC Sovfracht is the flagship company of the Sovfracht-Sovmortrans Group and specializes in transporting of general cargo, while CJSC Sovmortrans specializes in container shipping.

Identifications Under the Sectoral Sanctions Identification List (E.O. 13662)

Today, OFAC also identified a number of subsidiaries of Bank of Moscow and Gazprombank as being 50 percent or more owned by their respective parent entities, all of which were previously sanctioned pursuant to directives issued under E.O. 13662. Bank of Moscow and Gazprombank were previously sanctioned in July 2014; both are subject to Directive 1, which prohibits certain transactions or dealing in debt and equity of the sanctioned entities. OFAC has also identified subsidiaries of Gazprom, which is subject to Directive 4, which prohibits the exportation of goods, services, or technology in support of exploration or production for Russian deepwater, arctic offshore, or shale oil projects. The subsidiaries identified today were already subject to the same restrictions as their respective parent entities per OFAC’s Revised Guidance on Entities Owned by Persons Whose Property and Interests in Property Are Blocked (“50 percent rule guidance”), which can be found here. These identifications will help the public more effectively comply with the sanctions on these companies.

Concurrent with today’s action, OFAC is also issuing a general license to authorize certain transactions for a limited period of time necessary to divest holdings in Mostotrest. To see the general license, click here.

For the identifying information related to today’s action, click here.

Map of Ukraine and Environs

U.S. Treasury Department North Facade and Statue of Alexander Hamilton



NEWSWATCH: “Half of Wisconsin Planned Parenthood’s Medicaid payments were fraud, auditors say” – Live Action

Defund Planned Parenthood, Over Scene of Prolife Demonstrators

An audit by Wisconsin’s Department of Health and Human Services has found that as many as two-thirds of all Medicaid payments to the state’s Planned Parenthood locations were fraudulent.

According to the audit of eight family planning facilities (five of which were operated by Planned Parenthood), roughly half of the funds they received came from fraudulent or otherwise-inappropriate billing practices. Auditors discovered that Planned Parenthood was the worst offender among facilities investigated, with the highest percentage of over-billing. … prescriptions not signed by valid prescribers, billing for quantities of medications that matched neither the prescribed nor dispensed quantities, failing to prove medication was even dispensed, reimbursement for unnecessary duplicative drugs, and more.

Click here for Live Action: “Half of WI Planned Parenthood’s Medicaid payments were fraud, auditors say”


NEWSWATCH: “Drug shows promise in reducing abnormal brain proteins linked to Alzheimer’s” – Fox News

File Image of Stylized Artist's Rendition of Head and Brain

Fox News reports on a study showing that the antibody aducanumab can reduce amyloid plaques in patients with early to intermediate Alzheimer’s.

… a new investigational drug was found to reduce the disease’s hallmark plaques — potentially slowing cognitive decline and preventing the disease. … Alzheimer’s disease is marked by amyloid plaques … believed to be the main culprit in the most common form of dementia. Build-up of amyloid proteins leads to plaques, which blocks cell-to-cell signaling. In the trial by Biogen, researchers tested an antibody to see whether it can bind and break down amyloid protein …. In the new yearlong clinical trial, researchers gave 165 patients with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s monthly infusions of either the antibody, aducanumab, or a placebo, and did a series of brain scans. The people taking aducanumab showed a sharp decrease in the amount of amyloid beta in their brains. The higher the dose of aducanumab they received, the greater the amyloid clearance revealed in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans.

The next step will be two additional, year-and-a-half-long studies.

Researchers are recruiting for two separate 18-month-long phase III trials to see whether amyloid reduction will result in improved brain function …

Apparently there is at least some debate over whether amyloid plaques are a core component of dementia or a byproduct.

The larger question is whether clearing amyloid beta will lead to dramatic improvements in cognitive decline …. Some researchers believe beta amyloid is a byproduct of the destructive brain process, and not the cause, noted Reiman, who was not involved in the new study.

Click here for Fox News: “Drug shows promise in reducing abnormal brain proteins linked to Alzheimer’s”