SCW RUSSIAWIRE: “Russia opens criminal probe over failed rocket launch” – AFP

File Photo of Soyuz Rocket on Launchpad with Gantry, adapted from image at nasa.gov with photo credit: Bill Ingalls; adapted by Steven C. Welsh :: www.stevencwelsh.info :: www.stevencwelsh.com

“Russian investigators … opened a criminal probe into a failed rocket launch that caused a two-man crew to make an emergency landing shortly after blast-off to the [International Space Station] …. U.S. astronaut Nick Hague and Russian cosmonaut Aleksey Ovchinin were rescued without injuries …. An ‘anomaly’ with the booster led to the voyage … being aborted two minutes in, NASA said. The Russian space industry has suffered a series of problems in recent years, including the loss of a number of satellites and cargo spacecraft. [Roscosmo is headed by] Dmitry Rogozin … appointed by … Putin ….”

Click here for: “Russia opens criminal probe over failed rocket launch” – AFP









SCW RUSSIAWIRE: “Russia conducts huge exercise with its nuclear forces” – Military Times

Map of Russia with Russian Flag

“The Russian military says it has conducted a massive test of the nation’s strategic nuclear forces … featur[ing] launches of ballistic missiles by the navy’s nuclear submarines from the Barents Sea and the Sea of Okhotsk. … long-range bombers also fired cruise missiles, the ministry said …. It added that Russia’s early warning system successfully spotted and tracked all launches. … test[ing] the chain of command from its main control room down to military units. …”

Click here for: “Russia conducts huge exercise with its nuclear forces” – Military Times







SCW NEWSWATCH: “Russia Says Syria’s Assad Will Stay and World Has Given Up Trying to Remove Him”

Syria Map

“… Accused by a number of Western nations and their Middle Eastern allies of war crimes, Assad has managed to largely overcome a 2011 rebel and jihadi uprising with the support of Russia and Iran. * * * The United States, Israel, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey were among the countries to fund efforts to overthrow the Syrian leader. The rise of ultraconservative Sunni Muslim organizations such as the Islamic State … and a sweeping Syrian military comeback … have changed the dynamics ….

Defense Secretary James Mattis [said] in August that the U.S. goal was to ‘move the Syria civil war into the Geneva process so the Syrian people can establish a new government … not led by Assad and give them a chance for a future that Assad has denied them, with overt Russian and Iranian support.’ A document submitted by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and other top diplomats … stressed that their countries would not support Syrian reconstruction efforts ‘before the beginning of political process led by the United Nations to achieve a comprehensive, honest and true political transition that cannot be reversed,’ according to Saudi Arabia’s Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper. …”

Click here for: “Russia Says Syria’s Assad Will Stay and World Has Given Up Trying to Remove Him”







SCW NEWSWATCH: “Russia signs pact for six nuclear reactors on new site in India” – Reuters

Asia Map, adapted from image at cia.gov by Steven C. Welsh :: www.stevencwelsh.com :: www.stevencwelsh.info

“India and Russia … signed a pact to build six more nuclear reactors at a new site in India following summit talks …. Russian President Vladimir Putin and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi also agreed to cooperate on India’s plan for a manned space mission. Russian state-owned reactor manufacturer Rosatom said … the two countries want to build six Russian-design nuclear reactors on a new site in India, boost nuclear cooperation in third countries and new nuclear technologies and are considering building nuclear plants together. The firm said Russia would offer to build its third-generation VVER reactor on the new site and would increase the level of participation of Indian companies ….

[T]he pact is not a firm contract … but an agreement to work toward a contract. … India has not chosen the new site yet, which could be controversial …. Last year, the Russian and Indian governments signed an agreement to build reactors 5 and 6 on the site and Putin said at the time that Russia is ready to build a dozen reactors in India over … 20 years. …”

Click here for: “Russia signs pact for six nuclear reactors on new site in India” – Reuters







SCW NEWSWATCH: “Syrian rebels start to withdraw heavy weapons from Idlib buffer zone” – Reuters

Syria Map

“Syrian Turkey-backed rebel groups began to withdraw heavy weaponry from a demilitarized zone agreed [upon] by Turkey and Russia in northwest Syria on Saturday, rebels said. The Turkey-backed National Front for Liberation (NFL) rebel alliance said in a statement the process of withdrawing heavy weapons had begun, but the fighters would remain in their positions …. Under the deal … rebels will be required to withdraw by the middle of this month … and heavy weaponry must be withdrawn by Oct. 10. The NFL … said … rebels would remain … to assist Turkish troops monitoring and patrolling …. The main jihadist group in the Idlib area, Tahrir al-Sham, has yet to say whether it will comply with the agreement.”

Click here for: “Syrian rebels start to withdraw heavy weapons from Idlib buffer zone” – Reuters







 

Half of Senate Confirms Kavanaugh to Supreme Court, 50-48; Controversy Over Kavanaugh and Abortion, Blasey Ford

File Photo of Portion of U.S. Capitol Dome and U.S. Flag, adopted from .gov image by Steven C. Welsh

#Senate #Kavanaugh #SupremeCourt #Abortion #BlaseyFord #Trump

Judge Brett Kavanaugh of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, on Oct. 6, 2018, was confirmed to a seat as Associate Justice on the U.S. Supreme Court by a Senate vote of 50-48.

One Senator voting “present,” indicating that, while she would have voted “no,” she was pairing her vote, presumably as a courtesy, was pairing her vote with another Senator who was absent for his daughter’s wedding.



There was recurring bedlam from the Senate gallery, with Vice President Mike Pence repeatedly instructing the Sergeant at Arms to restore order.

So Kavanaugh was not actually confirmed by a majority of the Senate itself, but merely a slight majority of those Senators present. Had one vote changed to the negative, Pence could have broken the tie in favor of confirmation. Apparently if all Senators had been present, the Senator attending the wedding, and the Senator pairing her vote with him, would have made the total 51-49, also resulting in confirmation.

Supreme Court Facade with Parkland and Blossoming Trees, adapted from image at supremecourt.govThe Kavanaugh nomination drew controversy on multiple counts. Some proponents of decriminalized abortion suggested that Kavanaugh might become the deciding vote on the Court to scale back or reverse past decisions blocking prosecutions for abortion, while others suggested the Kavanaugh would actually uphold abortion.



The author of this article repeatedly raised concerns about Kavanaugh’s association with outgoing Justice Anthony Kennedy, and Kavanaugh’s ongoing publicly professed admiration for Kennedy.

Kennedy is one of the main architects of judicially spawned abortion in the United States, as well as a major architect of judicially fostered homosexual jurisprudence. Kennedy was the deciding vote and co-author of the Planned Parenthood of Pennsylvania v. Casey decision in 1992 that carried forward decriminalized abortion when it essentially upheld but modified Roe v. Wade. Kavanaugh clerked for Kennedy within a year or so of that decision.

Kennedy would later vote, and co-author, Supreme Court jurisprudence promoting the idea of sodomy, homosexuality and homosexual “marriage” as Constitutional rights.

Kavanaugh updated and reaffirmed his association with Kennedy during Kavanaugh’s nomination process by declaring Kennedy to be a champion of liberty, leaving a legacy of liberty. As pointed out by the author, that position defies the notion that the first liberty is the right of the innocent not to be deprived of life, as well as the concept that a government’s legitimacy is grounded up its defense of human life, one of the tenets of other basic principles such as justice and peaceful social order.



Meanwhile, however excruciating or involved the confirmation and investigative process might have become, there appeared to be no definitive resolution of questions raised about past alcohol-related criminal sexual wrongdoing by Kavanaugh, alleged by psychology professor Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, or other issues raised by Ford or others. One might wonder why, and how, a process that became so intrusive and so involved did not manage to get to the bottom of what actually did, or did not, happen.

In the past, a scholar of evidence raised the point that, regardless of a generalized American concept of “innocent until proven guilty,” in law, itself, there are different standards of proof for different frameworks and different purposes. For example, a criminal proceeding aimed at depriving life or liberty requires proof beyond a reasonable doubt, while a civil proceeding considering financial compensation only requires proof by a preponderance of the evidence. Even within a civil proceeding, there are different levels of proof for such steps as summary judgment, dismissal, the awarding of legal fees against a frivolous claim, and so forth.

In the case of a confirmation hearing, the issue is not whether to deprive the nominee of life or liberty, or of extracting money damages. The issue is whether to abstain from providing a position of great power. So, even though the subject matter relates to allegations of criminality and allegations of tortious misconduct, the standard of proof, and the willingness to remain neutral by not moving forward with confirmation, presumably could be different than the standards of proof for a criminal trial or civil proceeding.







 

SCW NEWSWATCH: “Nearly 200 Unvaccinated Children Sent Home From Schools Across North Dakota” – Newsweek

Medical Symbol

“Nearly 200 children who returned to school unvaccinated have been sent home across North Dakota … * * * One of the new required shots for school children is the meningococcal conjugate vaccine for 16- and 17-year-olds entering the 11th and 12th grades … [addressing] a serious bacterial infection that can cause meningitis and ‘possibly lead to death or permanent disability within hours of first symptoms’ …. the disease can also have … non-fatal consequences [such as] ‘… lifelong … neurological damage or loss of limbs. …’

Parents can ask for [moral or religious] exemptions …. Children who have been excluded usually return within three days, according to West Fargo Public Schools. … [T]he immunization rate for measles, mumps and rubella … [has a] national median of 94 percent, reported Inforum.”

Click here for: “Nearly 200 Unvaccinated Children Sent Home From Schools Across North Dakota” – Newsweek







SCW RUSSIAWIRE TRANSCRIPT, LINKS, WANTED POSTER: “U.S. Charges Russian GRU Officers with International Hacking and Related Influence and Disinformation Operations” – DOJ

U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania, adapted form image at uscourts.gov by Steven C. Welsh :: www.stevencwelsh.info ve :: www.stevencwelsh.com

FBI wanted poster and DOJ news release follow further below

Click here for:


In the latest round of U.S. indictments of Russian figures in connection with espionage, hacking, or other covert activities, the U.S. Department of Justice, on Thursday, Oct. 4, 2018, announced an indictment, in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania, of Russian GRU military intelligence officers Leksei Sergeyevich Morenets, Evgenii Mikhaylovich Serebriakov, Ivan Sergeyevich Yermakov, Artem Andreyevich Malyshev, Dmitriy Sergeyevich Badin, Oleg Mikhaylovich Sotnikov and Alexey Valerevich Minin, for conspiracy, wire fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, aggravated identity theft and conspiracy to launder money.

The Russian hacking and other covert activities were alleged to included activities targeting: international efforts against Russia’s state-sponsored program athletic doping; international efforts to enforce international norms regarding chemical weapons; and Westinghouse in western Pennsylvania.




[TRANSCRIPT OF DOJ NEWS RELEASE FOLLOWS]

Department of Justice
Office of Public Affairs
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, October 4, 2018
[justice.gov/opa/pr/us-charges-russian-gru-officers-international-hacking-and-related-influence-and]

U.S. Charges Russian GRU Officers with International Hacking and Related Influence and Disinformation Operations

Conspirators Included a Russian Intelligence “Close Access” Hacking Team that Traveled Abroad to Compromise Computer Networks Used by Anti-Doping and Sporting Officials and Organizations Investigating Russia’s Use of Chemical Weapons

A grand jury in the Western District of Pennsylvania has indicted seven defendants, all officers in the Russian Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU), a military intelligence agency of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation, for computer hacking, wire fraud, aggravated identity theft, and money laundering.

According to the indictment, beginning in or around December 2014 and continuing until at least May 2018, the conspiracy conducted persistent and sophisticated computer intrusions affecting U.S. persons, corporate entities, international organizations, and their respective employees located around the world, based on their strategic interest to the Russian government.

Among the goals of the conspiracy was to publicize stolen information as part of an influence and disinformation campaign designed to undermine, retaliate against, and otherwise delegitimize the efforts of international anti-doping organizations and officials who had publicly exposed a Russian state-sponsored athlete doping program and to damage the reputations of athletes around the world by falsely claiming that such athletes were using banned or performance-enhancing drugs.

The charges were announced at a press conference by Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers, United States Attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania Scott W. Brady, FBI Deputy Assistant Director for Cyber Division, Eric Welling, and Director General Mark Flynn for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

“State-sponsored hacking and disinformation campaigns pose serious threats to our security and to our open society, but the Department of Justice is defending against them,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions said. “Today we are indicting seven GRU officers for multiple felonies each, including the use of hacking to spread the personal information of hundreds of anti-doping officials and athletes as part of an effort to distract from Russia’s state-sponsored doping program. The defendants in this case allegedly targeted multiple Americans and American entities for hacking, from our national anti-doping agency to the Westinghouse Electric Company near Pittsburgh. We are determined to achieve justice in these cases and we will continue to protect the American people from hackers and disinformation.”

“The investigation leading to the indictments announced t (link is external)oday is the FBI at its best,” said FBI Director Christopher Wray. “The actions of these seven hackers, all working as officials for the Russian government, were criminal, retaliatory, and damaging to innocent victims and the United States’ economy, as well as to world organizations. Their actions extended beyond borders, but so did the FBI’s investigation. We worked closely with our international partners to identify the actors and disrupt their criminal campaign – and today, we are sending this message: The FBI will not permit any government, group, or individual to threaten our people, our country, or our partners. We will work tirelessly to find them, stop them, and bring them to justice.”

“We want the hundreds of victims of these Russian hackers to know that we will do everything we can to hold these criminals accountable for their crimes,” said U.S. Attorney Brady.  State actors who target U.S. citizens and companies are no different than any other common criminal:  they will be investigated and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

The defendants, all Russian nationals and residents, are Aleksei Sergeyevich Morenets, 41, Evgenii Mikhaylovich, Serebriakov, 37, Ivan Sergeyevich Yermakov, 32, Artem Andreyevich Malyshev, 30, and Dmitriy Sergeyevich Badin, 27, who were each assigned to Military Unit 26165, and Oleg Mikhaylovich Sotnikov, 46, and Alexey Valerevich Minin, 46, who were also GRU officers.

The indictment alleges that defendants Yermakov, Malyshev, Badin, and unidentified conspirators, often using fictitious personas and proxy servers, researched victims, sent spearphishing emails, and compiled, used, and monitored malware command and control servers.

When the conspirators’ remote hacking efforts failed to capture log-in credentials, or if the accounts that were successfully compromised did not have the necessary access privileges for the sought-after information, teams of GRU technical intelligence officers, including Morenets, Serebriakov, Sotnikov, and Minin, traveled to locations around the world where targets were physically located.  Using specialized equipment, and with the remote support of conspirators in Russia, including Yermakov, these close access teams hacked computer networks used by victim organizations or their personnel through Wi-Fi connections, including hotel Wi-Fi networks.  After a successful hacking operation, the close access team transferred such access to conspirators in Russia for exploitation.

Among other instances, the indictment alleges that following a series of high-profile independent investigations starting in 2015, which publicly exposed Russia’s systematic state-sponsored subversion of the drug testing processes prior to, during, and subsequent to the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics (according to one report, known as the “McLaren Report”), the conspirators began targeting systems used by international anti-doping organizations and officials.  After compromising those systems, the defendants stole credentials, medical records, and other data, including information regarding therapeutic use exemptions (TUEs), which allow athletes to use otherwise prohibited substances.

Using social media accounts and other infrastructure acquired and maintained by GRU Unit 74455 in Russia, the conspiracy thereafter publicly released selected items of stolen information, in many cases in a manner that did not accurately reflect their original form, under the false auspices of a hacktivist group calling itself the “Fancy Bears’ Hack Team.”  As part of its influence and disinformation efforts, the Fancy Bears’ Hack Team engaged in a concerted effort to draw media attention to the leaks through a proactive outreach campaign.  The conspirators exchanged e-mails and private messages with approximately 186 reporters in an apparent attempt to amplify the exposure and effect of their message.

Each defendant is charged with one count of conspiracy to commit computer fraud and abuse, which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison, one count each of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering, both of which carry a maximum sentence of 20 years.  Defendants Morenets, Serebriakov, Yermakov, Malyshev, and Badin are each also charged with two counts of aggravated identity theft, which carries a consecutive sentence of two years in prison.  Defendant Yermakov is also charged with five counts of wire fraud, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years.

Defendants Yermakov, Malyshev, and Badin are also charged defendants in federal indictment number CR 18-215 in the District of Columbia, and accused of conspiring to gain unauthorized access into the computers of U.S. persons and entities involved in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, steal documents from those computers, and stage releases of the stolen documents to interfere with the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

According to the indictment:

Context of the Hacking and Related Influence and Disinformation Efforts

In July 2016, the World Anti-Doping Agency’s (WADA) Independent Person Report (the “First McLaren Report”) was released, describing Russia’s systematic state-sponsored subversion of the drug testing process prior to, during, and subsequent to the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics.  This investigation had the support of advocates for clean sports, including the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport (CCES, Canada’s anti-doping agency). Eventually, in some instances only after arbitration rulings by the International Court of Arbitration for Sport (TAS/CAS), approximately 111 Russian athletes were excluded from the 2016 Summer Olympic Games, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, by a number of international athletics federations, including track-and-field’s International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF).  The International Paralympic Committee (IPC) further imposed a blanket ban of Russian athletes from the 2016 Paralympic Games, which were also held in Rio.

Intrusion Activities in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Days after the release of the First McLaren Report and the International Olympic Committee’s and IPC’s subsequent decisions regarding the exclusion of  Russian athletes, the conspirators prepared to hack into the networks of WADA, the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), and TAS/CAS.   The conspirators, including specifically defendants Yermakov and Malyshev, procured spoofed domains (which mimicked legitimate WADA and TAS/CAS domains) and other infrastructure, probed such entities’ networks, and spearphished WADA and USADA employees.  Although Yermakov and Malyshev are both alleged to have prepared to send spearphishing e-mails to TAS/CAS, the indictment does not allege that organization was compromised.

Likely as a result of the conspirators’ failure to capture necessary log-in credentials, or because those victim accounts that were successfully compromised did not have the necessary access privileges for the sought-after information, defendants Morenets and Serebriakov, in at least one instance with the remote support of Yermakov, deployed to Rio to conduct hacking operations targeting and maintaining persistent access to Wi-Fi networks used by anti-doping officials.  As a result of these efforts, in August 2016, the conspirators captured that IOC official’s credentials and thereafter used them, and another set of credentials belonging to the same official to gain unauthorized access to an account in WADA’s ADAMS database and medical and anti-doping related information contained therein. (The broader ADAMS database was not compromised in the intrusion.)

Also in 2016, a senior USADA anti-doping official traveled to Rio de Janeiro for the Olympics and Paralympic games.  While there, the USADA official used Wi-Fi at the hotel and other Wi-Fi access points in Rio to remotely access USADA’s computer systems and conduct official business.  While the USADA official was in Rio, conspirators successfully compromised the credentials for his or her USADA email account, which included summaries of athlete test results and prescribed medications.

Intrusion Activities in Lausanne, Switzerland

In mid-September 2016, WADA hosted an anti-doping conference in Lausanne, Switzerland.  On September 18, 2016, defendants Morenets and Serebriakov traveled to Lausanne with equipment used in close access Wi-Fi compromises.  On or about September 19, 2016, Morenets and Serebriakov compromised the Wi-Fi network of a hotel hosting the conference and leveraged that access to compromise the laptop and credentials of a senior CCES official staying at the hotel. Other conspirators thereafter used the stolen credentials to compromise CCES’s networks in Canada, using a tool used to extract hashed passwords, the metadata of which indicated it was compiled by Badin.

Intrusion Targeting Anti-Doping Officials at Sporting Federations

In December 2016 and January 2017, conspirators successfully compromised the networks of IAAF and the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (“FIFA”) and targeted computers and accounts used by each organization’s top anti-doping official.  Among the data stolen from such officials were keylogs, file directories, anti-doping policies and strategies, lab results, medical reports, contracts with doctors and medical testing labs, information about medical testing procedures, and TUEs.

Related GRU Influence and Disinformation Operations

On September 12, 2016, shortly after the compromise of the IOC official’s ADAMS credentials, but before the compromise of USADA’s and CCES’s networks, conspirators claiming to be the hacktivist group Fancy Bears’ Hack Team used online accounts and other infrastructure procured and managed by Unit 74455, as well as the website fancybears.net, to publicly release TUEs, other medical information, and emails stolen from anti-doping officials at WADA, USADA, CCES, IAAF, FIFA, and approximately 35 other anti-doping agencies or sporting organizations.  In some instances, the WADA documents were modified from their original form.  Ultimately, the Fancy Bears’ Hack Team released stolen information that included private or medical information of approximately 250 athletes from almost 30 countries.

The conspirators’ release of the stolen information was, in some instances, accompanied by posts and other communications that parroted or supported themes that the Russian government had used in its official narrative regarding the anti-doping agencies’ investigative findings.  From 2016 through 2018, the conspirators engaged in a proactive outreach campaign, using Twitter and e-mail to communicate with approximately 186 reporters about the stolen information.  After articles were published, conspirators used the Fancy Bears’ Hack Team social media accounts to draw attention to the articles in an attempt to amplify the exposure and effect of their message.

Other Targets of the Conspiracy

The conspiracy is also alleged to have targeted other entities in the Western District of Pennsylvania and abroad that were of interest to the Russian government.  For example, as early as November 20, 2014, Yermakov performed reconnaissance of Westinghouse Electric Company’s (WEC) networks and personnel.  In the following months, Yermakov and conspirators created a fake WEC domain and sent spearphishing emails to WEC employees’ work and personal email accounts, which were designed to harvest the employees’ log-in credentials.

More recently, in April 2018, Morenets, Serebriakov, Sotnikov, and Minin, all using diplomatic passports, traveled to The Hague in the Netherlands in furtherance of another close access operation targeting the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) computer networks through Wi-Fi connections.  All four GRU officers intended to travel thereafter to Spiez, Switzerland, to target the Spiez Swiss Chemical Laboratory, an accredited laboratory of the OPCW which was analyzing military chemical agents, including the chemical agent that the United Kingdom authorities connected to the poisoning of a former GRU officer in that country.  However, Morenets, Serebriakov, Sotnikov, and Minin were disrupted during their OPCW hacking operation by the Militaire Inlichtingen- en Veiligheidsdienst (MIVD), the Dutch defense intelligence service.  As part of this disruption, Morenet’s and Serebriakov’s abandoned the Wi-Fi compromise equipment, which they had placed in the trunk of a rental car parked adjacent to the OPCW property.  Data obtained from at least one item of this equipment confirmed its operational use at multiple locations around the world, including connections to the Wi-Fi network of the CCES official’s hotel in Switzerland (the dates the conspirators conducted the Wi-Fi compromise of the senior CCES official’s laptop at the same hotel), and at another hotel in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in December 2017.

***

In connection with the unsealing of the indictment, and in an effort to limit further exposure of the private lives of victim athletes, the FBI seized the fancybears.net and fancybears.org domains pursuant to court orders issued on October 3, 2018, in the Western District of Pennsylvania.

The charges contained in the indictment are merely accusations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.  Moreover, the maximum potential sentences in this case are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentence of a defendant will be determined by the assigned judge.

The FBI, led by the Pittsburgh and Philadelphia Field Offices, conducted the investigation that resulted in charges announced today.  The FBI’s investigation was assisted by a parallel, independent Royal Canadian Mounted Police investigation. This case is being prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Pennsylvania and the National Security Division’s Counterintelligence and Export Control Section.  The Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs provided assistance throughout this investigation, as did the MIVD, the Government of the Netherlands, Switzerland’s Office of the Attorney General, the U.K.’s National Security and Intelligence Agencies, and many of the FBI’s Legal Attachés and other foreign authorities around the world.

Note: More information can be found at [justice.gov/opa/documents-and-resources-october-4-2018-press-conference]

National Security Division (NSD)
Press Release Number:
18 – 1296






 

 

SCW RUSSIAWIRE: “Russian spies accused of targeting watchdog investigating UK chemical attacks, probe into MH17 crash[; U.S. indicts Russian military intelligence figures” – Fox News

File Image of Stylized Eye Surrounded by Binary Code, adapted from image at ornl.gov

“Russia’s military spy service has been behind a wave of massive cyber attacks … with targets ranging from the international chemical weapons watchdog group to the probe into the downing of a Malaysian Airlines plane over Ukraine, officials said Thursday. … the [UK] National Cyber Security Centre … [indicated] that Russia’s GRU has engaged in ‘indiscriminate and reckless’ cyber attacks … target[ing] ‘political institutions, businesses, media, and sport.’ * * * ‘… demonstrat[ing] their desire to operate without regard to international law or established norms … with a feeling of impunity and without consequences,’ U.K. Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said. … [T]he cyber attacks … [are said to] include the 2016 hack of the [DNC] … published … by WikiLeaks, and the leaking of top athletes’ medical records. Also on Thursday, the U.S. Justice Department charged seven Russian military intelligence officers with hacking anti-doping agencies and other organizations either remotely or … ‘on-site’ ….

[The] indictment … said that the GRU targeted … hacking victims … [for] support[ing] a ban on Russian athletes … and … condemn[ing] Russia’s state-sponsored … doping …. Prosecutors said the Russian spies also targeted a Pennsylvania-based nuclear energy company and an international organization … investigating chemical weapons in Syria and the poisoning of a former GRU officer.”

Click here for: “Russian spies accused of targeting watchdog investigating UK chemical attacks, probe into MH17 crash” – Fox News



Kremlin and St. Basil's at Night





SCW NEWSWATCH: “Exit Strategy: Rule of Law and the U.S. Army [Excerpt and Link]” – U.S. Army War College/ Shima D. Keene/ September 2018

File Photos of Law Books and Gavel, adapted from image at fjc.gov

[text provided for informational purposes or to spur reflection and debate; inclusion does not imply specific or particular endorsement]
 
[Click here for: “[PDF] Exit Strategy: Rule of Law and the U.S. Army [Excerpt and Link]” – U.S. Army War College/ Shima D. Keene/ September 2018]

“CONCLUSION

The importance of establishing rule of law in post-conflict states has been recognized as key in delivering stability in fragile states in the short, medium, and long term. This is in the interest of the U.S. Army and its partners not only from a [counterinsurgency] COIN perspective, but also to protect U.S. security interests both at home and abroad. To that aim, assistance is required to ensure that in post-conflict environments, the management and maintenance of security is successfully transferred to civilian organizations such as the police and the justice system more generally. It is only when this successful transition occurs and sustainable rule of law has been established that military commitments can cease. As such, it is essential that the end state to a successful civilian handover form part of a plan for disengagement after an intervention.
 

However, one key challenge for organizations (such as the police) emerging from conflict is the requisite to transition from a combat function to a more traditional policing function. This is difficult due not only to a lack of the necessary skill sets, but also because of the need for a fundamental change in mindset about the purpose of policing. The U.S. Army can play an important role in facilitating the establishment of effective rule of law institutions and practices in post-conflict states in many ways. Additionally, a lack of appreciation of the importance of civilian institutions and their role in establishing rule of law will lead to an exacerbation of the problem.
 
Delivering rule of law interventions is a complex task involving multiple stakeholders. Numerous challenges exist, each of which can prevent the establishment of effective and sustainable rule of law institutions. This in turn is likely to lead to a requirement for further military support from the U.S. Army resulting in even longer term deployments in what can become an unending conflict. In order to avoid unintended consequences which will have the impact of undermining rule of law interventions carried out by the U.S. Army and its partners more broadly, the following recommendations should be considered in shaping future U.S. Army interventions relating to establishing rule of law as part of its future COIN and state building missions. 

RECOMMENDATIONS

Recommendation 1: Contextual Understanding Develop a broad understanding of the rule of law landscape in the post-conflict state in question, and identify key challenges which may deter the establishment of effective and sustainable rule of law institutions.
 
Recommendation 2: Unintended Consequences Consider the potential unintended consequences of U.S. Army interventions in training local police forces and other rule of law interventions, and determine how can these be mitigated or avoided.
 
Recommendation 3: Strategic Objectives Reevaluate objectives to ensure that expectations are realistic in terms of what is to be achieved and the timescale in which to achieve them. Consider the impact of short-term mission objectives in attempting to achieve medium to long-term objectives. Recommendation 4: Sustainability Ensure that rule of law interventions are sustainable after withdrawal of troops and form part of U.S. Army exit strategies. Ensure that these are integrated into post-conflict planning before intervention is considered.
 
Recommendation 5: COIN versus State Building Address the existing confusion between the combat element of COIN operations and state building missions, and understand how this conflict can undermine both operations.
 
Recommendation 6: Police Training Determine the role that the U.S. Army should play in facilitating a transition from military to civilian rule of law, and exercise particular attention to challenges relating to corporate culture.
 
Recommendation 7: Skills Shortages Determine when and how rule of law mechanisms and advisors should be integrated into stability operations and consider how the U.S. Army could better utilize its Reserve Forces to provide capacity and specialist skills to facilitate civilian transition.
 
Recommendation 8: Corruption and Human Rights Abuses[:] Adopt a zero-tolerance policy toward corruption and human rights abuses and provide remedial education where such practices may have become institutionalized.
 
Recommendation 9: Management and Oversight: Provide management and oversight of third party contractors through deployment of the U.S. Army Corps of Engi neers to ensure that construction projects relating to rule of law interventions are completed to the required specifications.
 
Recommendation 10: International Liaison Highlight other partner institutions the U.S. Army could or should be engaging with to ensure a coordinated approach to the establishment of effective rule of law institutions and practices in the host country.” 

[Click here for: “[PDF] Exit Strategy: Rule of Law and the U.S. Army [Excerpt and Link]” – U.S. Army War College/ Shima D. Keene/ September 2018]

[more publication information set out further below on this webpage]





[original publication, at https://ssi.armywarcollege.edu/pubs/download.cfm?q=1387 contains the following notice:

“Shima D. Keene
September 2018

The views expressed in this report are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Department of the Army, the Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government. Authors of Strategic Studies Institute (SSI) and U.S. Army War College (USAWC) Press publications enjoy full academic freedom, provided they do not disclose classified information, jeopardize operations security, or misrepresent official U.S. policy. Such academic freedom empowers them to offer new and sometimes controversial perspectives in the interest of furthering debate on key issues. This report is cleared for public release; distribution is unlimited.
∗∗∗∗∗
This publication is subject to Title 17, United States Code, Sections 101 and 105. It is in the public domain and may not be copyrighted.”]





SCW NEWSWATCH & VIDEO: “Saudis and Russia Open the Oil Taps While the Market Shrugs” – Bloomberg/ Elena Mazneva/ Annmarie Hordern/ Dina Khrennikova/ Grant Smith/ Jack Farchy

Oil Wells and Sunset

“Russia and Saudi Arabia are pumping an extra 1 million barrels a day of oil and could do even more. Yet the market [has had only a muted price reaction]. After their September meeting … spurred prices to a four-year high, the world’s two largest oil exporters sought … to ease … price worries of consumers, and the U.S. president. Russia is pumping record volumes of crude … Saudi Arabia is almost there ….

… Trump has been blaming [OPEC] for rising crude prices ever since he [ended] the [Iran] nuclear agreement … and reimpose[d] sanctions. Last month, the group appeared to rebuff his calls for a rapid production increase to offset the drop in Iranian shipments, prompting a surge in prices and even harsher rhetoric. … Russia … already broke its post-Soviet production record last month [and] could add another 200,000 to 300,000 barrels a day of supply within a ‘few months,’ according to Energy Minister Alexander Novak. The oil price is … probably ‘a bit too high,’ he said ….”

Click here for: “Saudis and Russia Open the Oil Taps While the Market Shrugs” – Bloomberg/ Elena Mazneva/ Annmarie Hordern/ Dina Khrennikova/ Grant Smith/ Jack Farchy










If You Are Prolife, You Need to Oppose the Kavanaugh Nomination

File Photo of Portion of U.S. Capitol Dome and U.S. Flag, adopted from .gov image by Steven C. Welsh

Former Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy was one of the architects of Abortionism as the deciding vote and co-author of the 1992 Planned Parenthood of Pennsylvania v. Casey decision that modified Roe v. Wade yet carried forward the decriminalization of abortion.

Yet, within a year, current Donald Trump Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh signed on as a law clerk for Anthony Kennedy. Rather than repudiate that decision and apologize, during his nomination process, Kavanaugh instead has ratified and updated his association with Kennedy by calling Kennedy a champion of liberty, saying Kennedy has left a legacy of liberty.



So Kavanaugh clerked for a pro-abortion Justice who was the deciding vote keeping abortion going, and now promotes the pro-abortion Justice as a “champion of liberty.”

If you are prolife, you need to oppose the Kavanaugh nomination. And, if you do not, it calls into question whether you were ever pro-life to begin with.

Kavanaugh additionally allowed pro-abortion Condolleeza Rice to help introduce him before the Judiciary Committee.

Kavanaugh’s association with powerful, celebrity pro-abortion figures implies a shocking lack of moral conscience and poor judgment.

Abortion is the biggest human rights violation of our time, and he has associated himself with it by his actions and his remarks.



Human life, and the right of the innocent not to be killed, is the most fundamental of liberties, making abortion one of the biggest enemies of liberty. Protection of innocent human life also is one of the foundations of legitimate government, one of the excuses government has for existing in the first place. Yet Kavanaugh has associated himself with enemies of the right to life and persons who thereby have set themselves against the defense of American lives.

Working for a pro-abortion judge, alone, is enough to make Kavanaugh unfit. Yet calling a pro-abortion judge a champion of liberty means that Kavanaugh is a person who stands liberty upside-down and someone whose analytical intellect is either wholly unfit or twisted by self-serving dishonesty.

One can only speculate as to Kavanaugh’s motives, then and now.

Yet one of the biggest problems with abortion today is the risk that something horrific and unthinkable, the deliberate taking of defenseless human life, has become “business as usual” or routine. Kavanaugh’s casual attitude towards saluting Kennedy contributes to a climate of human life being regarded as cheap and expendable.

Kavanaugh’s flippant, oblivious attitude stands in the way of the necessary readjustment of public attitudes about this widespread human rights violation.

As such, Kavanaugh might even be responsible for deaths already. Women in difficult situations, pressured into confused acquiescence with the killing of their child, might back their way into because some segments of society wish to blur over the nature of the situation. Kavanaugh has added to the blur.

Given his origins as a local Washingtonian child of privilege, we have no idea to what extent Kavanaugh is a self-serving social climber who decided to “go along to get along.” We know that, amidst accusations of drunken, underaged, psychopathic, criminal behavior, Kavanaugh, in a sometimes emotionalistic set of responses, blurted out defensive remarks about his high school class rank — as if that piece of data had any relevance whatsoever to the charges.

Now, Kavanaugh did not even go to the best school for boys in the Washington area. That would be Saint Anselm’s Abbey Academy, traditionally one of the top-10 schools in America for SAT scores. Kavanaugh went to a different school that presumably is respectable academically, yet is more of a posh, country-club-like school. Yet if, all these years later, as a would-be grown-up, aKvanaugh still gets excited about his class rank, to the point that he apparently thinks it helps deflect accusations of criminality, just how important was it to him to climb the social ladder, such as with Yale, plumb judicial clerkships and so forth.

Kavanugh is somebody who was made a partner at Kirkland & Ellis less than a decade out of law school, with no law firm experience, based solely on his judicial clerkships, a brief stint with the Solicitor General and his work for Special Prosecutor Ken Starr.

Did Kavanaugh really not care about the mass murder of innocent American babies in the womb, if being oblivious to that horror meant fluffing his resume with a Supreme Court clerkship, instead of rejecting involvement with a human rights violator?

Is his desire to fluff his credentials now so great, that he wants to continue gliding along in the giddy heights of legal profession and Washingtonian elites, by fantasizing that the clerkship was something impressive, with a champion of liberty, rather than a black mark on his record that should bar him from his own judicial appointment?

In any event, his current posture makes him morally and intellectually unfit for judicial office.

If you, yourself, want to be known as prolife, you cannot support him. If you do support him, you are making it “open season” to expose yourself as not being prolife.

And that goes for the big-money anti-abortion groups that have decided to endorse Kavanaugh personally instead of simply addressing the broader issue. With roughly 60 million surgical abortions in the United States and counting, it would be silly to refer to anything like a “pro-lif establishment.” Yet, to the extent that some big-money nonprofits have tainted themselves by endorsing a troubled nominee like Kavanaugh, they also have exposed themselves as not being a good source of insight or leadership, as not being authentically prolife; and as not being an appropriation destination for financial gifts.

Again, if you, yourself, want to be known as prolife, you cannot support Kavanaugh. If you do support him, you are exposing yourself as not being prolife.





SCW RUSSIAWIRE: “Ukraine needs Azov Sea base to counter new Russian threat: military chief” – Reuters

Map of Ukraine and Environs, Including Russia

“Ukraine will build a military base on the Azov Sea and has sent more forces to the area to counter a worsening Russian threat, Ukraine’s armed forces head [said] … referring to an arm of the Black Sea [where Ukraine and Russia both have coastlines]. Ukraine has been at loggerheads with Russia since the 2014 annexation of Crimea and more than 10,000 people have died in fighting between Ukrainian troops and Moscow-backed separatists. Ukraine and NATO countries accuse Russia of supplying troops and heavy weapons to eastern Ukraine, which Moscow denies. Viktor Muzhenko, Chief of the General Staff, said Russia had moved beyond covert fighting in the Donbass region, home of a Kremlin-backed separatist insurgency, to building up its military presence on Ukraine’s borders and nakedly aggressive actions against ships sailing to Ukrainian ports. * * *

… Muzhenko said [U.S.-supplied] Javelin[] [anti-tank missiles] ha[ve] been tested … but … not … deployed in battle …. Asked whether Ukraine wanted to buy the U.S. Patriot air defense system, he said various options were being considered.”

Click here for: “Ukraine needs Azov Sea base to counter new Russian threat: military chief” – Reuters





Map of Ukraine and Environs, Including Russia





SCW RUSSIAWIRE: “Russia begins missile system delivery to Syria, warns West on peace talks” – Reuters

Syria Map

“Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Friday Moscow had started delivering the S-300 surface-to-air missile system to Syria … Russia, along with Iran, has helped Assad recover huge amounts of lost territory in Syria without persuading him to agree to any political reforms. It has also pushed its own talks with Iran and Turkey, known as the Astana process.

… Some diplomats have said [an] Israeli incident [involving Syria shooting down a Russian plane during an incursion by Israeli jets] and a Turkish-Russian deal to suspend an offensive on the last rebel-held stronghold of Idlib could provide a window to push for … U.N. Security Council [UNSC] resolution 2254 [aiming to end the] conflict in Syria. The [UNSC] … has mandated [that] U.N. envoy Staffan de Mistura … get a deal on a new constitution, new elections and a reform of Syria’s governance. …”

Click here for: “Russia begins missile system delivery to Syria, warns West on peace talks” – Reuters







SCW RUSSIAWIRE: “Huge Military Drills Show Both the Limits and the Durability of China-Russia Ties” – RAND/World Politics Review

Asia Map, adapted from image at cia.gov by Steven C. Welsh :: www.stevencwelsh.com :: www.stevencwelsh.info

“In the largest Russian military exercise since the height of the Cold War, Moscow … [in September] deploy[ed] 300,000 troops, 900 tanks and 1,000 aircraft in central and eastern Russia. … [for] ‘Vostok 2018,’ or East Exercise 2018 …. for the first time ever, Chinese military forces … participate[d], with plans to send[] 3,200 troops and 30 aircraft over the border into eastern Russia. … highlight[ing] two important, seemingly contradictory [aspects of] the relationship between China and Russia. First, the appearance of military cooperation masks deep strategic distrust and suspicion below the surface. … [Yet] strong incentives and a lack of alternatives provide a sturdy foundation for a continued strategic partnership going forward. Vostok 2018 represents the latest in a series of combined Chinese-Russian military exercises stretching back more than a decade. Their militaries have been training together since 2005, and China and Russia have been holding joint naval exercises every year since 2012, including near each other’s respective hotspots. Last year, China sent three naval ships to its first jointly held exercise with Russian forces in the Baltic Sea. In 2016, the two navies carried out a joint exercise in the South China Sea … [after] a ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague rejecting China’s territorial claims in the contested waterway. Warm political statements by top Chinese and Russian leaders have complemented these military actions. …”

Click here for: “Huge Military Drills Show Both the Limits and the Durability of China-Russia Ties” – RAND/World Politics Review/Timothy R. Heath or click here for longer version







 

 

Brett Kavanaugh’s Association with Pro-Abortion Anthony Kennedy Renders Him Unsuitable for the Supreme Court

Supreme Court Facade with Parkland and Blossoming Trees, adapted from image at supremecourt.gov

Brett Kavanaugh’s association with, and ongoing endorsement of, pro-abortion former Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy as a champion of “liberty,” reveals Kavanaugh’s lack of moral compass and judicial and intellectual incompetence.  As such, any loyal American and any person with respect for human life should oppose his confirmation to the Supreme Court and call for his removal from the judiciary.

The biggest threat to American lives, for four decades, has been so-called “abortion,” the deliberate taking of human life in a mother’s womb. Sixty million surgical abortions alone since the Roe v. Wade decision blocked prosecutions for abortion make it a bigger killer of Americans than all wars combined.  On average, abortion is nearly like having 9/11 occur every single day.



In 1992, abortion was kept decriminalized by Planned Parenthood v. Casey, with Anthony Kennedy serving as the deciding vote and co-author of the main opinion.

Yet, despite Kavanaugh’s supposed affiliation with the Catholic Faith, and despite his supposedly elite education, Kavanaugh was willing to serve as a law clerk for Anthony Kennedy within a year of Kennedy’s human rights violation as a perpetrator of Planned Parenthood v. Casey.

If Kavanaugh had repudiated his past association with Kennedy, and attributed it immaturity, or a lack of awareness of the horrific scope and nature of abortion within less than two decades of Roe v. Wade, there still would be cause to reject his nomination.

Yet, right up until the present, and throughout his nomination process,  Kavanaugh has aggravated his wrongdoing, updated his association with Kennedy, and made it even more egregious by referencing Anthony Kennedy as having a legacy of liberty or being a champion of liberty.

That places Kavanaugh in the position of praising and admiring one of the architects of some of the most massive and atrocious human rights violations in human history.



Additionally, the scope of abortion as, literally, a direct threat and attack on the American population, calls for charges of de facto treason, and calls into question Kavanaugh’s patriotism and loyalty to the United States.

These facts alone would require a rejection of his nomination.

Defense of human life is the cornerstone of a national government’s right to exist, its justification for being a government.

Yet to associate an architect of decriminalized abortion with liberty, a cornerstone value of the American Republic, not only reveals Kavanaugh as an anti-American hypocrite, it calls into question his competency to engage in rational thought and honest intellectual analysis, and therefore calls into question his capacity to serve on the bench.

The most fundamental liberty, and first liberty interest mentioned in the nation’s founding Declaration of Independence, is the right to live and not be killed.

Abortion, the deliberate taking of defenseless human life, is the opposite of liberty.



Indeed, it is the defenselessness of the targeted victim that helps defines abortion. If a child in the womb had the capacity to defend herself, there would be no abortion.

Moreover, abortion’s scope is not only an existential threat to America, it is an existential threat to American democracy and the legitimacy of the American government.  It is not simply the the case that government justifies its existence on its ability to defend human life, but embraces the taking of human life on a massive scale.

Decriminalized surgical Abortion has killed roughly the same number of persons necessary to get elected to the Presidency.  One of the major political parties is in a position where it cannot form a legitimate government, because roughly as many Americans have been killed, in their mothers’ wombs, as the number of votes that party gets in presidential elections.  It would be like Hitler murdering 6 million Jews, getting 6 million votes from Nazis, and claiming that he was duly elected by the nation as a whole.

And, in addition to some Republicans being pro-abortion themselves, lukewarm Republicans mouthing anti-abortion positions but tepidly failing to take action to remedy the situation, call into question their own weak leadership and legitimacy.

Yet, on the level of intellect and rational analysis, Kavanaugh’s lauding of the person most responsible for decriminalized abortion as a champion of “liberty” is not simply treasonous.

It is, to put it simply, stupid.

Since getting killed is the opposite of liberty, Kavanaugh lauding an architect of the mass-killing of innocent American lives makes Kavanaugh sound like a manipulative liar and an intellectually stunted buffoon.



Additionally troubling is the context of Kavanaugh as a Washingtonian child of privilege, raising the prospect of him “going along to get along,” putting status and prestige, and resume-filling, ahead of right and wrong and ahead of loyalty to the nation.  His continued malfeasance in praising Kennedy raises the prospect of Kavanaugh of putting the desire to be “in with the in-crowd,” whether in Washington or in the troubled would-be “legal” profession ahead of moral and intellectual sanity, and ahead of the duty to protect American lives.

Any loyal American should oppose the Kavanaugh nomination.

Any person wanting to respect human life should oppose the Kavanaugh nomination.

Andy would-be “anti-abortion” group or individual, or would-be “conservative” group or individual that endorses Kavanaugh should be dismissed as contrary to their supposed mission; should be denied donations or honors; and should be rejected as a would-be voice for pro-life or traditional values.

Any legislator promoting the Kavanaugh nomination should be rejected and voted out.  If such a person has been posing as pro-life or traditional values or conservative, that might help explain why decriminalized abortion has malingered on for four decades — because someone flying a “false flag” took up space in the body politic that should have gone to someone who actually holds those values.

Of course, another reason that decriminalized abortion has malingered on has been Congress going AWOL, committing dereliction of duty and drawing their salary under false pretenses, by failing to carry out their Constitutional duty to impeach and remove renegade judges — renegade judges and justices committing crimes against the Constitution and associating with the treasonous mass-killings of Americans in their mother’s wombs.



The Constitution provides measures for its own amending.  A renegade judge or justice amending the Constitution in violation of that provision — such as by judicial fiat, by a vote of less than ten politically lawyers serving as justices — has committed an illegal act.

A renegade judge doing so, with the foreseeable and known result of the mass-murder of Americans, should be regarded as treasonous.

The Constitution does not have a gap allowing such a thing to happen; the Founding Fathers did not have a lack of foresight to fail to provide for such a contingency.  The Constitution provides for the removal of judges, by action of Congress.  Failure to carry out that Constitutional duty makes the weak, derelict legislators accessories by omission.

If we see that the same people pushing the Kavanaugh nomination also have failed to carry out their Constitutional duties of office, if we see that they have failed to take steps to remove renegade judges, then their involvement with Kavanaugh provides a useful filter calling for their exposure and removal —  a fresh reminder that they need to be rejected as failed leaders and removed from office, and replaced with actual leaders who will do their jobs and be loyal to America.



Of course, an added factor is that President Donald Trump also has praised Anthony Kennedy.

As long as Trump remains in office, it is up to Americans to send the nomination back to Trump, and tell him to “get it right’ this time by rejecting Anthony Kennedy’s anti-American legacy and nominating a proper nominee instead of Kavanaugh.

Meanwhile, Trump has added further disgrace by appointing a pro-abortion Republican, Rudolph Giuliani, to a key White House post.

If there is an effort to “Dump Trump,” these embarrassing missteps should prompt such a movement now, while there is still time before the next Presidential election.

A Republican failure to do so would further expose, as fraudulent “cocktail conservatives,” any Republicans who additionally demonstrate a disrespect for the nation by attempting to push forward the troubled Kavanaugh nomination.





U.S. Capitol file photo

SCW RUSSIAWIRE: “Russian Communists Say Election Stolen by Pro-Putin Candidate” – Reuters

Map of Russian Regions, adapted from image at moscow.usembassy.gov by Steven C. Welsh :: www.stevencwelsh.com :: www.stevencwelsh.info

“… With 95 percent of votes counted on Sunday night, Kremlin-backed United Russia incumbent Andrei Tarasenko was trailing his Communist rival by around 5 percent. But on Monday, the local election commission said Tarasenko had won by just over 1 percent, an unlikely turnaround that the Communists said was evidence of rigging. The scandal is awkward for Putin, who met Tarasenko a week ago and told him that ‘everything will be OK.’ The comment was widely seen as a personal endorsement of Tarasenko, whom Putin appointed acting governor last year, at a time when Putin’s own ratings are under pressure from plans to raise the pension age. … A week ago in the Primorsky Region, which includes the Pacific port of Vladivostok, 6,400 km (4,000 miles) east of Moscow, Tarasenko failed to pass the 50-percent threshold for an outright win. …”

Click here for: “Russian Communists Say Election Stolen by Pro-Putin Candidate” – Reuters





 

SCW NEWSWATCH: “How tech jobs helped Rust Belt become house-flipping hotspot” – Reuters

“… house-flipping is making a comeback … this time in … Rust Belt cities the last boom passed by.  … Today’s house-flippers … buying properties and selling … within 12 months [] … are mainly contractors and professional renovators who buy run-down properties in promising neighborhoods and fix them up, boosting the resale value. … those who contributed to the speculative frenzy of the early 2000s would typically take out a mortgage to buy a home, perhaps give it a new coat of paint [and] wait for prices to rise enough …. [O]ld industrial cities such as Pittsburgh, Buffalo and Cleveland … are beginning to attract tech firms, such as Google-parent Alphabet Inc, Uber … and Amazon[] … boosting demand for … in areas that have … old[] housing stock … and not much new construction …. Nationally, the average house-flipper earned a 44.3 percent gross return … this year, compared with … 35.3 percent during the boom. …”

Click here for: “How tech jobs helped Rust Belt become house-flipping hotspot” – Reuters





 

 

SCW RUSSIAWIRE: “Russia: Runoffs in Four Regional Races Reveal the Kremlin’s Vulnerability” [Excerpt] – Stratfor

Map of Russia with Russian Flag

“… Putin … in his fourth and perhaps final term as Russia’s president, faced a key political test in regional elections …. though the ruling party, United Russia, won most of the races – which included gubernatorial elections in 22 regions, legislative elections in 16 regions and a mayoral election in Moscow – it faced stiffer competition and more unrest than usual. In a record four regions, the ruling party’s gubernatorial candidates failed to obtain a simple majority … and will stand in runoff elections Sept. 23. Their opponents are candidates from the Communist and Liberal Democratic parties, registered political parties that work within Russia’s political system and don’t pose a strong threat to Putin’s government. Even so, the result is troubling for the ruling party and practically unprecedented ….  The main force behind United Russia’s comparatively lackluster performance in the polls is the Kremlin’s plan to increase the retirement age. …”

Click here for: “Russia: Runoffs in Four Regional Races Reveal the Kremlin’s Vulnerability” – Stratfor.com







 

SCW RUSSIAWIRE: “Russia Inc. Isn’t Waiting for Central Bank to Brave a Rate Hike” – Bloomberg/Anna Andrianova

“The cost of money is rising for Russians well ahead of any potential central bank move to lift interest rates for the first time in almost four years amid concern the U.S. may impose fresh sanctions. State-run Sberbank PJSC, which holds almost half of all Russian savings, is increasing rates for ruble accounts for the first time since 2014. … [and] pay[ing] consumers more to keep dollars on deposit to stanch an outflow …. One of the country’s five largest mortgage lenders, Raiffeisenbank JSC, is charging more for home loans …. From sausages to gasoline, inflation is on the march …. with the central bank’s benchmark on hold at 7.25 percent since a quarter-point cut in March, rates adjusted for inflation remain among Europe’s highest …. “

Click here for: “Russia Inc. Isn’t Waiting for Central Bank to Brave a Rate Hike” – Bloomberg/Anna Andrianova

 





SCW RUSSIAWIRE: “A Dossier Debunking; His lawyer says the Steele claims about Michael Cohen are false” – Wall Street Journal Editorial

Maps of Czech Republic and Environs, adapted from images at CIA.gov by Steven C. Welsh :: stevencwelsh.com :: stevencwelsh.info

“Michael Cohen’s accusations have replaced Russian collusion as Washington’s reason-du-jour to impeach Donald Trump …. Cohen’s lawyer, Lanny Davis, confirmed last week that Cohen has never been to Prague in the Czech Republic. … the Steele dossier … commissioned by oppo-research firm Fusion GPS, paid for by the Clinton campaign and used by the FBI in its Trump investigation. … claims … Cohen traveled to Prague in August or September of 2016 to discuss with Kremlin officials how to make ‘cash payments’ to hackers of the Clinton campaign. … Cohen has … offered his passport as proof. …”

Click here for: “A Dossier Debunking; His lawyer says the Steele claims about Michael Cohen are false” – Wall Street Journal Editorial







SCW RUSSIAWIRE VIDEO: “U.S.-Russian Relations – State and Treasury Department Officials Testimony Before Senate Foreign Relations Committee 7.21.18” – C-SPAN

U.S. Capitol file photo

“[July 21, 2018, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Hearing]… Topics included new reports of Russian interference in American democracy, the current state of sanctions against Russian government officials and companies, and clarifying details into the July 2018 Helsinki meeting between … Trump and … Putin. Several members referenced a recent Microsoft claim alleging a Russian plot targeting conservative think tanks and institutions.

… the second in a [series] of Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearings on … the Trump administration’s ‘overall posture on Russia.’ ….”





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SCW RUSSIAWIRE: “In Russia, the Corporate Raiders Are Often Cops; Companies face harassment from law-enforcement officials, according to business owners, lawyers and activists” – Wall Street Journal/James Marson, Thomas Grove

Kremlin and St. Basil's at Night

“… Russian companies routinely face harassment from law-enforcement officials seeking to extort money or expropriate businesses, according to business owners, lawyers and activists. One in six Russian business owners is facing criminal prosecution, according to [a Kremlin-launched agency]. …  weaker prices for oil … and Western sanctions in 2014 sent the economy into a recession that it only emerged from last year. … Putin’s authoritarian rule relies on security officials and political heavyweights who use their authority not only to squash political opponents but also to squeeze companies for payoffs, seize them on behalf of rivals or take them over for themselves, critics say. … mak[ing] changes to the justice system potentially perilous. … [P]eople who should be building Russia’s economy are losing their businesses and their freedom. Russian courts found 99.8% of defendants guilty … and are ripe for hijacking using fabricated cases …. Resisting can be risky and often ends with the company being destroyed anyway. ….”



Click here for: “In Russia, the Corporate Raiders Are Often Cops; Companies face harassment from law-enforcement officials, according to business owners, lawyers and activists” – Wall Street Journal/James Marson, Thomas Grove



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SCW NEWSWATCH: “Russia Offers 62-mile Buffer Between Iranian Forces and Israel-Syria Border, Senior Official Says; Israel is demanding that long-range weapons that could circumvent such a buffer zone also be withdrawn” – Haaretz

Syria Map

“Russia is working to ensure the removal of Iranian forces to 100 kilometers (62 miles) away from the Golan Heights, but Israel is demanding that long-range weapons that could circumvent such a buffer zone also be withdrawn, a senior Israeli official said … after a meeting between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and top Russian officials. The official said that Israel prefers to act Map of Israel and Environsnow rather than wait until Iran has ‘hundreds and thousands of missiles’ in Syria, and that the government will not allow Iran ‘to turn Syria into another Lebanon.’
* * *
[Separately,] Mike Pompeo denounced Iran’s leaders as a ‘mafia’ and promised unspecified backing for Iranians unhappy with their government. …”



Click here for: “Russia Offers 62-mile Buffer Between Iranian Forces and Israel-Syria Border, Senior Official Says; Israel is demanding that long-range weapons that could circumvent such a buffer zone also be withdrawn” – Haaretz

 



SCW NEWSWATCH: “A storm is brewing between Trump, Mike Pompeo, and Iran” – The Washington Examiner

Iran Map

“The Trump administration’s war of words against Iran reflects a widening diplomatic chasm, and comments from four leaders over the past two days make it clear that tensions are rising dramatically. … [Iranian] President Hassan Rouhani …. Ayatollah Khamenei …. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo …. “

* * *

* * *

Click here for: “A storm is brewing between Trump, Mike Pompeo, and Iran” – The Washington Examiner





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SCW NEWSWATCH: “Russia says it would respond if Sweden, Finland drawn into NATO: Ifax” – Reuters

Sergei Shoigu file photo, adapted from image at defense.gov by Steven C. Welsh, www.stevencwelsh.info :: www.stevencwelsh.com

“Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said on Tuesday Moscow would respond if Sweden and Finland were drawn into the NATO alliance and that such expansion would undermine global security, the Interfax news agency reported. …”

Click here for: “Russia says it would respond if Sweden, Finland drawn into NATO: Ifax” – Reuters

[featured image is file photo from another occasion]





 

Brett Kavanaugh, Trump Supreme Court Nominee, Clerked for Pro-Abortion Anthony Kennedy, Year After Kennedy Cast Deciding Pro-Abortion Vote in Planned Parenthood v. Casey

Supreme Court Facade with Parkland and Blossoming Trees, adapted from image at supremecourt.gov

For the second time in a row, President Donald Trump has nominated to the Supreme Court someone who chose to clerk for pro-abortion Justice Anthony Kennedy not long after Kennedy cast the deciding vote to keep abortion decriminalized, despite abortion being the biggest threat to American lives and one of the most grotesque human rights violations of this era.



Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which modified yet, nevertheless, reaffirmed Roe v. Wade, was argued April 22, 1992 and decided on June 29, 1992.

Trump’s latest nominee to the Supreme Court, Brett Kavanaugh, signed on to be a law clerk for Kennedy for the October term of 1993, according to Kavanaugh’s public biography on the D.C. Court of Appeals web site.

By comparison, Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch is listed as having clerked for Justices Byron White and Anthony Kennedy in 1993 and 1994.  (Gorsuch’s path was a bit more circuitous.  He was hired as a kind of retirement benefit for a newly retired Justice White, similar to former presidents being provided a secretary.  While on the scene, he benefited from the opportunity for such “clerks” to also be added to the work done for actual, active Justices.)



The willingness to clerk for a pro-abortion jurist, especially so soon after Kennedy cast the deciding vote to keep abortion alive as judicial precedent, would ordinarily call into question the moral compass of a legal professional; his commitment or lack thereof to respect for human life; or his willingness to sacrifice moral principles for the sake of wealth, status and advancement.

Many questions remain — is Kavanaugh himself pro-abortion; does he simply not care that much about the matter; is he willing to “go along to get along” to gain wealth and status.  He later became a partner at the prominent Kirkland and Ellis law firm with little or no apparent law practice experience, with his main resume points being the Supreme Court clerkship and several years of assisting Ken Starr’s special prosecutor activities.



Any temptation to seek to minimize the significance of Kavanaugh’s actions because of the passage of time or his comparatively younger age would have to ignore the fact that he already was a grown man a few years out of law school, with other judicial clerkship experience already behind him.

Yet most glaring is his willingness, like Gorsuch, to ratify and make current his moral failing by saluting Anthony Kennedy in his remarks at the White House during the announcement of his own nomination to the Supreme Court.

With that action, his moral apathy and lack of a properly formed moral conscience was not simply part of a career stepping stone in his twenties.  It was updated to become part of his reality today.

Given the mind-boggling, and therefore treasonous scope of so-called abortion, apparently nearing 60 million Americans dead in their mother’s wombs from surgical abortions alone since Roe v. Wade, the logical response should be to oppose the Kavanaugh nomination and begin the process of replacing Trump.

Trump still has time to reverse course and find a more appropriate nominee.  Yet there is little indication that he would do so, especially considering his insistence of repeating his praise of his own mistaken choice of Gorsuch.

Even though Trump promised to “drain the swamp” and assist a Culture of Life, two times in a row he has nominated a former Washingtonian insider child of privilege who clerked for the same pro-abortion Supreme Court Justice.  He has done so in a climate of moral quietism that tries to treat the unthinkable horror of abortion as “business as usual” or settled law.

For thinking Americans who care about American lives, right and wrong and a solid national foundation in rule of law, the best choice is to oppose the Kavanaugh nomination and begin the process of replacing Trump with someone more suitable.







NEWSWATCH: “Putin’s Success Masks Russian Weakness; Things are breaking his way. But if China is a tiger, Russia is a pussycat on stilts” – Wall Street Journal/Walter Russell Mead

“Despite … Putin’s successes, Russia remains weak, and its leverage over other nations is limited. China can woo its neighbors with multibillion-dollar projects like its ‘One Belt, One Road’ trade initiative. Russia has much less to offer: If China is a tiger, Russia is a pussycat on stilts. … Putin can obstruct Germany’s faltering European project, but he lacks the resources to offer an alternative. In the Middle East, the Kremlin’s position depends on American forbearance. If … Trump decides to make opposing the Assad regime a crucial part of his anti-Iran strategy, … Putin may have to stand by and watch his client fall. … developments at home counsel restraint as well. … Putin’s string of dramatic foreign-policy successes has shored up his domestic popularity, [but] Russia’s sclerotic economy and corrupt social order ensure that the foundations of his power remain weak. … Putin has made Russia great again on the international stage, but the Russian people would rather see him use that daring and finesse to improve the situation at home.”

Click here for: “Putin’s Success Masks Russian Weakness; Things are breaking his way. But if China is a tiger, Russia is a pussycat on stilts” – Wall Street Journal/Walter Russell Mead

 







 

Pray for Ireland to Respect Human Life and God’s Law in Abortion Referendum

Ireland Satellite Image adapted from image at nasa.gov

Ireland, on May 25, 2018, votes in a referendum to potentially amend the Irish constitution for potential legislative action relaxing restrictions on abortion.

A “yes” vote would make it easier to allow murder, as long as the victim was not yet born. Prenatal child-killing often is described as so-called “abortion,” to recast what is deliberate killing as a kind of artificial miscarriage.  A number of abortions also are essentially death by torture, carried out against helpless victims who can feel pain.  There are additional issues raised by the harm abortion causes against the physical, mental and spiritual health and well-being of the mother, as well as female babies being targeted for killing at a higher rate than males.



Ireland needs our prayers, that the Irish people will respect human life and respect God by saying “no” to murder, including saying “no” to abortion.  Ultimately those who promote and participate in abortion not only are unbalanced in their thinking and a danger to the potential murder victims.  They also imperil their very souls by involving themselves with an evil that could result in their being condemned to hell, and likely would absent some unusual act of Divine Mercy prompted by some factor calling into question the perpetrator’s capacity.

So-called abortion is the most widespread human rights abuse on earth, and is often a leading cause of death for various groups or in some locales.



As murder, abortion grotesquely violates God’s Law, to the point where procurement of abortion brings automatic excommunication in the Catholic Church, and the Code of Canon Law.

Given that fact, it is curiously perverse that Ireland would be targeted for a referendum on abortion, given that Ireland is so predominantly Catholic, roughly 88% according to the U.S. State Department.

Those promoting abortion in Ireland not only are looking to kill more Irish, they are looking to get more Irish excommunicated in the process, and to implicate as much of the country as possible through the referendum.  Those voting in favor of abortion are, in the process, making themselves co-conspirators to murder and falling into some spectrum of grave sin, barring themselves from receiving Communion.  Any nominal Catholic publicly promoting abortion would be guilty of public scandal, and thereby barred from Communion until they publicly repented.  So, all around, it is if those promoting the abortion change are not only interesting in promoting killing.  In what is likely a diabolical matter, they are interested in corrupting the soul of a nation, and the souls of individuals, driving a wedge between them and God; driving a wedge between them and the Faith and Sacraments; and seeking to send more people to hell.





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NEWSWATCH: “U.S. judge says Mueller should not have ‘unfettered power’ in Russia probe” – Reuters/Sarah N. Lynch

White House File Photo

“A federal judge said Special Counsel Robert Mueller should not have ‘unfettered power’ in probing ties between … Trump’s campaign and Russia … accus[ing] Mueller of using criminal cases to pressure Trump’s allies to turn against him. At a tense hearing in a federal court in Virginia … U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III sharply questioned whether Mueller exceeded his authority in filing tax and bank fraud charges against Trump’s former campaign manager, Paul Manafort. … ‘I’ve been saying that for a long time. It’s a witch hunt,’ [Trump] said of Mueller’s probe ….”

Click here for: “U.S. judge says Mueller should not have ‘unfettered power’ in Russia probe” – Reuters/Sarah N. Lynch







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NEWSWATCH VIDEO: “Protests Breakout in Russia” – Bloomberg

Kremlin Aerial View

“Russia’s Putin won … March’s election[, ostensibly by large margin,] amid complaints from critics. With neighboring Armenia offering an example of the potential threat, Russian authorities weren’t taking any chances …”











NEWSWATCH: “Russian Opposition Leader Navalny Is Detained Amid Anti-Putin Protests; Demonstrations are held across #Russia, with more than 1,000 protesters held by police” – Wall Street Journal/Thomas Grove

Russian Map and Flag

“Russian opposition activist Alexei Navalny was detained Saturday together with as many as a thousand of his supporters across the country in protests against the start of … Putin’s fourth term …. The demonstrations, marked by uncharacteristic violence in Moscow, were an attempt by critics of … Putin to spark momentum surrounding their movement, which had faded somewhat since March’s presidential election. … [The] presidential inauguration is planned for Monday. …”

Click here for: “Russian Opposition Leader Navalny Is Detained Amid Anti-Putin Protests; Demonstrations are held across Russia, with more than 1,000 protesters held by police” – Wall Street Journal/Thomas Grove







NEWSWATCH: “Fed Holds Rates Steady, but Indicates Increases Will Continue Officials give no signal they plan to pick up the pace of rate rises following recent inflation gains” – Wall Street Journal/Nick Timiraos

Federal Reserve Bank file photo

“The Federal Reserve held short-term interest rates steady Wednesday and indicated it remains on track to raise them gradually in coming months to keep the expanding economy on an even keel. … after its two-day policy meeting, offered nothing to dispel market expectations that it would deliver its second rate increase of the year … in June. … Fed officials would like to see the jobless rate remain steady … [They] have to sort out how the recent fiscal policy changes could boost growth and inflation. It is probably too soon for officials to have reached firm conclusions …. Trade policy is another wild card. …”

Click here for: “Fed Holds Rates Steady, but Indicates Increases Will Continue Officials give no signal they plan to pick up the pace of rate rises following recent inflation gains” – Wall Street Journal/Nick Timiraos





NEWSWATCH: House Intelligence Committee Report on Russia Investigation; Excerpt: Introduction and Overview

Kremlin and St. Basil's at Night

The U.S. House of Representatives Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence has issued a redacted version of a March 22, 2018, report on its investigation of Russia’s activities surrounding the 2016 U.S. election.  PDF versions are available at intelligence.house.gov/UploadedFiles/HPSCI_-_Declassified_Committee_Report_Redacted_FINAL_Redacted.pdf and docs.house.gov/meetings/IG/IG00/20180322/108023/HRPT-115-1.pdf.

U.S. Capitol file photoThe Committee found no collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government, yet was critical of both major presidential campaigns:

“While the Committee found no evidence that the Trump campaign colluded, coordinated, or conspired with the Russian government, the investigation did find poor judgment and ill-considered actions by the Trump and Clinton campaigns. …”



An excerpt follows:

House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence
Report on Russian Active Measures
March 22, 2018

* * *

Introduction and Overview

(U) Russia’s interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election was nothing novel for the Kremlin. The Kremlin aspires to sow chaos and discord and advance its agenda in targeted nations, particularly in Europe and former Soviet republics such as the Baltics and Ukraine. To do this, Russia effectively combines decades of experience in propaganda and psychological warfare techniques with its vast media apparatus, a strata of well-educated and proficient technicians, and a robust intelligence and security corps.

(U} In the United States, Russian cyberattacks related to the 2016 elections starkly highlighted technical vulnerabilities in U.S. digital infrastructure and bureaucratic shortcomings that were exploited by the Kremlin. Russia’s active measures campaign achieved its primary goal of inciting division and discord among Americans. For more than a year, U.S. politics have been consumed by bitter recriminations, charges, and counter-charges about the attacks. The reliability of the democratic vote-the bedrock of the U.S. republic-was widely and repeatedly questioned.

(U) At the time of the 2016 U.S. presidential election cycle, the Committee was already concerned with Russian malfeasance and aggression in levels that had not been seen since the Cold War. In fact, the IAA for fiscal years 2016 and 2017 included multiple provisions to improve the United States’ ability to counter Russian aggression. However, the Kremlin’s malicious activities during the 2016 U.S. presidential election triggered the Committee to announce a specific inquiry into Russia’s campaign (see Appendix B). The bipartisan parameters focused the investigation and this report-this Committee examined:

(1) Russian cyber activity and other active measures that were directed against the United States and its allies;

(2) whether the Russian active measures include links between Russia and individuals associated with presidential campaigns;

(3) the U.S. government response to these Russian active measures and what we need to do to protect ourselves and our allies in the future; and

(4) what possible leaks of classified information took place related to the Intelligence Community’s assessment of these matters.1 The Committee interviewed 73 witnesses, conducted 9 hearings and briefings, reviewed approximately 307,900 documents, and issued 20 subpoenas. This allowed the Committee to find answers crucial for identifying and addressing institutional weaknesses to assist the United States with identifying and
responding to inevitable hostile acts in the future.



(U) While the 2016 U.S. presidential election helped focus American attention on Russian cyber and information operations, the Russian government has conducted active measure campaigns in Europe for years. Believing it is engaged in an information war with the West, Russia’s influence activities employ an array of tactics-usually tailored to the target country’s population and environment-in an effort to accomplish the Kremlin’s goals. These goals generally include influencing an opponent’s leadership and population, advancing a narrative, or inducing a behavior change. The factors that make these campaigns successful also make them hard to counter. However, governments, non-governmental organizations, and media organizations in Europe have begun taking actions to address and mitigate the threat that Russian influence campaigns pose.

(U) The Russian active measures campaign against the United States was multifaceted. It leveraged cyberattacks, covert platforms, social media, third-party intermediaries, and state-run media. Hacked material was disseminated through this myriad network of actors with the objective of undermining the effectiveness of the future administration. This dissemination worked in conjunction with derisive messages posted on social media to undermine confidence in the election and sow fear and division in American society.

(U) The U.S. government’s subsequent response to the Russian active measures campaign during the 2016 election was slow [REDACTED] As that picture evolved, the FBl’s notification to victims and oversight committees was inconsistent in timeliness and quality, which contributed to the victims’ failure to both recognize the threat and defend their systems. State and local governments were slow to grasp the seriousness of the threat and when notified of breaches continued to resist any action that implied federal direction or control. Some states opted not to cooperate with important defensive measures offered by the DHS. While no tabulation systems, or systems that count votes, were impacted, the overall security posture of the U.S. federal, state, and local governments was demonstrated to be inadequate and vulnerable.

(U) The Committee’s investigation also reviewed the opening, in summer 2016, of a FBI enterprise counterintelligence investigation into [REDACTED] Trump campaign associates:
[REDACTED] Carter Page [REDACTED] Because of “the sensitivity of the matter,” the FBI did not notify congressional leadership about this investigation during the FBl’s regular counterintelligence briefings.

Three of [REDACTED] original subjects of the FBI investigation have been charged with crimes and the Committee’s review of these cases covers the period prior to the appointment of Special Counsel in May 2017.

(U) While the Committee found no evidence that the Trump campaign colluded, coordinated, or conspired with the Russian government, the investigation did find poor judgment and ill-considered actions by the Trump and Clinton campaigns. For example, the June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower between members of the Trump campaign and a Russian lawyer who falsely purported to have damaging information on the Clinton campaign demonstrated poor judgement. The Committee also found the Trump campaign’s periodic praise for and communications with Wikileaks – a hostile foreign organization-to be highly objectionable and inconsistent with U.S. national security interests. The Committee also found that the Clinton campaign and the DNC, using a series of cutouts and intermediaries to obscure their roles, paid for opposition research on Trump obtained from Russian sources, including a litany of claims by high-ranking current and former Russian government officials. Some of this opposition research was used to produce sixteen memos, which comprise what has become known as the Steele dossier.

(U) The effectiveness and relatively low cost of information operations, such as the dissemination of propaganda, make it an attractive tool for foreign adversaries. Unless the cost-benefit equation of such operations changes significantly, the Putin regime and other hostile governments will continue to pursue these attacks against the United States and its allies. Based on the investigation, the Committee recommends several solutions to help safeguard U.S. and allies’ political processes from nefarious actors, such as the Russians. …





 

NEWSWATCH: “Hunt for Golden State Killer Suspect Used Genealogy Websites; Ancestry and 23andMe say they weren’t involved in probe that tapped genetic profiles online” – Wall Street Journal/Zusha Elinson

DNA file image, adapted from image at nnml.gov

“After more than 40 years … investigators looking for the elusive Golden State Killer … got their big break [using] genealogy websites …. Police say [72-year-old former police officer Joseph James DeAngelo] was responsible for at least 12 homicides and 45 rapes … between 1976 and 1986. Investigators us[ing] DNA from one of those crime scenes … compar[ing] it with genetic profiles on online genealogy sites …. found a relative of the suspect …. then looked at online family trees to narrow down the suspect ….”

Click here for: “Hunt for Golden State Killer Suspect Used Genealogy Websites; Ancestry and 23andMe say they weren’t involved in probe that tapped genetic profiles online” – Wall Street Journal/Zusha Elinson

 





NEWSWATCH: “In School Shootings, Most Guns Come From Home; Statistics suggest that a lack of gun safety at home also has played a big role in school shootings” – Wall Street Journal/Tawnell D. Hobbs

File Photo of Two AR-15 Rifles and Two Clips, adapted from image at cbp.gov

“… in nearly three decades of American mass school shootings … killers mostly use guns owned by a family member …. The Wall Street Journal reviewed … school shootings with at least three victims dead or injured since 1990 and found 32. Most shooters are white male teenagers. In 25 … cases … shooters were teenagers or younger. In 17 of the 20 of those cases where details were available on where the shooter got the gun, they were sourced at home … a few also [got] … weapons from relatives. About 42% of U.S. adults say they live in households with a gun ….”

Click here for: “In School Shootings, Most Guns Come From Home; Statistics suggest that a lack of gun safety at home also has played a big role in school shootings” – Wall Street Journal/Tawnell D. Hobbs





 

Notre Dame Final Four Run Tainted by NCAA’s Scheduling on Good Friday and Easter; Catholic Institution Should Have Abstained From Participating

File Photo of the Baslica of the Sacred Heart and Golden Dome at the University of Notre Dame

The NCAA has created an anti-Catholic and anti-Christian effect by scheduling a national semifinal (Final Four game) on Good Friday in women’s basketball. Doing so violates the solemn nature of the day and subjects Catholics to having to play on a day when they are fasting, and when they are abstaining from meat. At least the game is not at 3 p.m., the hour that Christ laid down His Life on the Cross, yet it is in the evening. #NotreDame should have refused to play.

The movie “Chariots of Fire” featured an Olympic athlete who refused to compete on the Sabbath. Hall of Fame pitcher Sandy Koufax refused to pitch in a World Series game on Yom Kippur. Notre Dame should have refused to participate in the tournament if the Final Four was going to be on Good Friday.



Notre Dame Women’s Basketball has made yet another Final Four run, yet probably should have sat out the tournament when the NCAA drew up the bracket to force games on Good Friday and Easter, two of the most sacred dates on the Catholic Liturgical Calendar.

Good Friday, in particular, is a day of solemn observance honoring the Passion and Death of Christ on the Cross, for which an athletic contest intended as a form of entertainment is inconsistent. Additionally, Catholics are required to engage in fasting on Good Friday, to take in less than the ordinary amount of nutrition, as well as a day of abstinence from meat.

It appears that an additional form of abstinence that Notre Dame should have practiced was to abstain from participation in the tournament, unless they wanted to see if they could advance and then simply forfeit the semifinal.

Notre Dame is French for “Our Lady,” referring to the Blessed Virgin Mary. On the day her Son was Crucified, the Blessed Mother was not playing basketball or rooting for an athletic contest. When most of everyone else had run off, the Blessed Mother was there at the foot of the Cross.

The Final Four fiasco is a missed opportunity for the University of Notre Dame. Against the backdrop of a society beset by various evils and temptations and moral failings, these circumstances offered an opportunity for Notre Dame to offer leadership, by refusing to disrespect Good Friday and Easter.



Such an example would have been helpful to the broader human community, and would have helped serve the NCAA with a “wake-up call.”

The NCAA, as coincidence would have it, is based within a few miles of an Irish Catholic church that reputedly was burned down by the anti-Catholic Ku Klux Klan, back in the 1920’s when the KKK essentially took over Indiana and had deep tentacles into Indiana government. That was about the same era that the Notre Dame student body disrupted a Klan rally in South Bend and prepared to march on Klan headquareters before being convinced by the school president and Knute Rockne to head back to campus. And that was in the same era when Notre Dame started winning consensus national championships in football. It also was about the same era that Notre Dame reportedly starting adopting “The Fighting Irish” as their nickname, a term that originally had been hurled by an opposing team’s fans as an anti-Catholic racial slur, that the school would now wear as a badge of honor.

The NCAA is being de facto anti-Catholic by trying to force a Catholic institution to compete on a day when the Catholic Faith requires fasting and abstinence. And the NCAA is being anti-Catholic and, more broadly, anti-Christian, by disrespecting the solemn nature of Good Friday with the deliberate scheduling of the semifinal. The Final, of course, is scheduled for Easter Sunday, the Solemnity of the Resurrection of the Lord, the most important Feast Day on the Catholic calendar.

Today’s increasingly secularized, money-oriented University of “Notre Dame” is far too submissive to the NCAA’s de facto anti-Catholic, anti-Christian step of forcing a Final Four on the sacred day of Good Friday and Easter, the Solemnity of the Resurrection of the Lord. The university should have abstained from participating. And perhaps sports fans should abstain from watching.





NEWSWATCH [Symantec 10.20.17]: “Dragonfly: Western energy sector targeted by sophisticated attack group; Resurgence in energy sector attacks, with the potential for sabotage, linked to re-emergence of Dragonfly cyber espionage group.” – SCW RUSSIA WIRE

File Photo of Electrical Power Lines in Countryside with Sunset in Background, adapted from image at energy.gov

“The energy sector in Europe and North America is being targeted by a … wave of cyber attacks that could provide attackers with the means to severely disrupt affected operations. The group behind these attacks is known as Dragonfly. … in operation since at least 2011 … [they have] re-emerged over the past two years from a quiet period following exposure by Symantec and a number of other researchers in 2014. … ‘Dragonfly 2.0’ campaign … appears to have begun in late 2015 [and] shares tactics and tools used in earlier campaigns …. disruptions to Ukraine’s power system in 2015 and 2016 were attributed to a cyber attack …. there have also been media reports of attempted attacks on the electricity grids in some European countries, as well as reports of companies that manage nuclear facilities in the U.S. being compromised by hackers. The Dragonfly group appears to be interested in … learning how energy facilities operate and … gaining access to operational systems themselves … the group now potentially has the ability to sabotage or gain control of these systems should it decide to do so. …”

Click here for: “Dragonfly: Western energy sector targeted by sophisticated attack group Resurgence in energy sector attacks, with the potential for sabotage, linked to re-emergence of Dragonfly cyber espionage group.” – Symantec 10.20.17







NEWSWATCH: “In a first, U.S. blames Russia for cyber attacks on energy grid” – Reuters – SCW RUSSIA WIRE

File Image of Stylized Eye Surrounded by Binary Code, adapted from image at ornl.gov

“The Trump administration … blamed the Russian government for … cyber attacks stretching back at least two years that targeted the U.S. power grid … the first time the United States has publicly accused Moscow of hacking into American energy infrastructure. … Russian government hackers sought to penetrate multiple U.S. critical infrastructure sectors, including energy, nuclear, commercial facilities, water, aviation and manufacturing …. a ‘multi-stage intrusion campaign by Russian government cyber actors’ had targeted the networks of small commercial facilities ‘where they staged malware, conducted spear phishing, and gained remote access into energy sector networks.’  * * *  … Thursday’s alert provided a link to an analysis by … Symantec last fall that said a group it had dubbed Dragonfly had targeted energy companies in the United States and Europe and in some cases broke into the core systems that control the companies’ operations. …”

Click here for: “In a first, U.S. blames Russia for cyber attacks on energy grid” – Reuters







SCW RUSSIAWIRE: House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence: Russia Investigation

U.S. Capitol file photo

House Permanent Select Committee on #Intelligence
#Russia Investigation

Overview

Following a more than yearlong, bipartisan investigation into Russia active measures targeting the 2016 U.S. #election, the House Intelligence Committee has completed a draft report of 150+ pages, with 600+ citations. The draft report addresses, in detail, each of the questions within the agreed parameters of the investigation, as announced in March 2017. It analyzes: 

  • Russian active measures directed against the 2016 U.S. election and against our European allies;
  • The U.S. government response to that attack; 
  • Links between Russians and the Trump and Clinton campaigns; and 
  • Purported leaks of classified information. Initial Findings


The draft report contains 40+ initial findings that describe: 

  • A pattern of Russian attacks on America’s European allies; 
  • Russian cyberattacks on U.S. political institutions in 2015-2016 and their use of social media to sow discord; 
  • A lackluster pre-election response to Russian active measures; 
  • Concurrence with the Intelligence Community Assessment’s judgments, except with respect to Putin’s supposed preference for candidate Trump; 
  • We have found no evidence of collusion, coordination, or conspiracy between the Trump campaign and the Russians; 
  • How anti-Trump research made its way from Russian sources to the Clinton campaign; and 
  • Problematic contacts between senior Intelligence Community officials and the media.


Proposed Recommendations

The draft report includes 25+ proposed recommendations for Congress and the executive branch to improve: 

  • Election security, including protecting vote tallies;
  • Support to European allies; 
  • The U.S. government response to cyber-attacks; 
  • Campaign finance transparency; and 
  • Counterintelligence practices related to political campaigns and unauthorized disclosures.


Conclusion

The draft report will be provided to the Committee minority on March 13 for review and comment. After adoption it will be submitted for a declassification review, and a declassified version will be made public. The report’s completion will signify the closure of one chapter in the Committee’s robust oversight of the threat posed by Moscow—which began well before the investigation and will continue thereafter.

Additional follow-on efforts arising from the investigation include oversight of the unmasking of Americans’ names in intelligence reports, FISA abuse, and other matters.







SCW RUSSIA WIRE NEWSWATCH: “Sudan/Russian Nuclear Power Cooperation Poses Proliferation Risks”- Institute for Science and International Security/David Albright, Sarah Burkhard, Allison Lach, Bridget Leahy, Andrea Stricker

Sudan Flag, Africa Map Highlighting Sudan, Map of Sudan and Environs, adapted from images at cia.gov

“Reuters reported on March 13, 2018 that Russia has agreed to sign a ‘roadmap’ with Sudan on building nuclear power stations. However, Sudan has poor export controls, no adherence to nuclear power safety or nuclear terrorism conventions, and weak safeguards standards. Its neighbors also maintain poor implementation of these preventions against nuclear material and commodity theft or diversion. Russia should not build nuclear reactors in Sudan. Sudan should instead bolster its infrastructure so that it can at some point in the future underpin a well safeguarded nuclear power program backed by robust, internationally-acceptable strategic export controls.”

Click here for: “Sudan/Russian Nuclear Power Cooperation Poses Proliferation Risks”- Institute for Science and International Security/David Albright, Sarah Burkhard, Allison Lach, Bridget Leahy, Andrea Stricker







NEWSWATCH: “Social Media in Security Clearance Investigations” – Secrecy News/FAS

Montage of Instagram, Twitter and Facebook Logos, adapted from image at NPS.gov

Whoops, better scrub your facebook posts and twitter rants. Secrecy News reports that Congress is focusing on asking the executive branch to delve into social media activity when vetting persons needing a security clearance.

“Members of Congress are urging the executive branch to update and expand the security clearance process by examining the social media presence of individuals … considered for a security clearance for access to classified information. ‘I put more effort into understanding who my interns are’ than the security clearance process does, said Senate Intelligence Committee chairman Sen. Richard Burr at a hearing …. ‘You go to the areas that you learn the most about them — social media is right at the top of the list.’ ‘I can’t envision anyone coming into the office that you haven’t thoroughly checked out everything that they’ve said online,’ …

Tuesday, the House of Representatives passed a bill to promote the use of social media in security clearance investigations. …”


Click here for “Social Media in Security Clearance Investigations” – Secrecy News/FAS





SCW RUSSIA WIRE NEWSWATCH: “Britain says former Russian spy poisoned with nerve agent” – Reuters/Toby Melville, Estelle Shirbon, Kate Kelland, Guy Faulconbridge, Michael Holden, Gareth Jones

“A nerve agent was used to deliberately poison a former Russian double agent and his daughter, Britain’s top counter-terrorism officer said …. Sergei Skripal, once a colonel in Russia’s GRU military intelligence service, and his 33-year-old daughter, Yulia, were found slumped unconscious on a bench … in the southern English city of Salisbury … Both remain critically ill and a police officer who attended the scene is also in a serious condition in hospital. * * * … a U.S. security source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the main line of police inquiry was that Russians may have used the substance against Skripal in revenge …. Skripal betrayed dozens of Russian agents to British intelligence before his arrest by Russian authorities in 2004. … given refuge in Britain after being exchanged for Russian spies caught in the West as part of a Cold War-style spy swap ….”

Click here for: “Britain says former Russian spy poisoned with nerve agent” – Reuters/Toby Melville, Estelle Shirbon, Kate Kelland, Guy Faulconbridge, Michael Holden, Gareth Jones







SCW RUSSIA WIRE NEWSWATCH: “Strategic Warning on NATO’s Eastern Flank Pitfalls, Prospects, and Limits” – RAND/Mark R. Cozad

Map of Former Soviet Union, CIS, Western Portion, adapted from image at cia.gov

“Since 2008, Russia’s military has embarked on an extensive modernization program designed to overcome shortfalls in readiness, competence, sustainability, and deployability. These and changes in logistics and operational capability have raised concerns about the Intelligence Community’s (IC’s) ability to warn of future Russian aggression. Achieving timely warning has proven extremely difficult, for a variety of reasons, in large part because of a lack of insight into Russian leadership intentions.”



Click here for Introductory Summary: “Strategic Warning on NATO’s Eastern Flank Pitfalls, Prospects, and Limits” – RAND/Mark R. Cozad

Click here for Full PDF of Report: “Strategic Warning on NATO’s Eastern Flank Pitfalls, Prospects, and Limits” – RAND/Mark R. Cozad



Introductory Summary:



Full PDF:





NEWSLINK VIDEO: “U.S. Iran Policy: What Next?” – Heritage Foundation, David Albright, Nile Gardiner, Michael Doran, James Phillips

Iran Map

“The Trump Administration must decide by October 15 whether to certify Iran’s compliance with the 2015 nuclear agreement and whether the billions of dollars of sanctions relief granted under that deal advances the vital national interests of the United States. The Administration also will soon unveil the conclusions reached in its Iran policy review. What should the Administration do about the flawed nuclear agreement? More broadly, how should the United States respond to Iran’s hostile and aggressive foreign policy?”

NEWSWATCH: “#Holodomor; #Stalin’s #famine, a war on #Ukraine” – The Economist

Map of Ukraine and Environs, Including Russia

“A new book details how the #Soviet regime buried evidence and even stopped people from fleeing famine-stricken areas [in #Ukraine] in 1932-33. … Far from an unintended result of ill-conceived policies … the roughly 4m deaths from hunger in 1932 and 1933 were part of a deliberate campaign by … #Stalin and the Bolshevik leadership to crush Ukrainian national aspirations, literally starving actual or potential bearers of those aspirations into submission to the Soviet order. … Stalin was waging ‘war on Ukraine’, the Soviet Union’s strategically and economically most valuable republic after Russia. … the means was starvation. Food supply was not mismanaged by Utopian dreamers. It was weaponised. … [The author] is not shy about suggesting parallels between Stalin’s war and Vladimir Putin’s campaign in Ukraine today. …”



Click here for: “Holodomor; Stalin’s famine, a war on Ukraine” – The Economist



NEWSLINK: “Southern Poverty Law Center Transfers Millions in Cash to Offshore Entities; Left-wing nonprofit pays lucrative six-figure salaries to top management”

File Photo of Arms and Hands of Man in Business Suit Taking Cash from Envelope, adapted from image at fbi.gov

“The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), a liberal, Alabama-based 501(c)(3) tax-exempt charitable organization that has gained prominence on the left for its “hate group” designations, pushes millions of dollars to offshore entities as part of its business dealings, records show.

Additionally, the nonprofit pays lucrative six-figure salaries to its top directors and key employees while spending little on legal services despite its stated intent of ‘fighting hate and bigotry’ using litigation, education, and other forms of advocacy.’ … “

NEWSLINK: “Shelly Island: The new beach off North Carolina’s Outer Banks” – CBS

Western Atlantic Ocean Satellite Image, adapted from image at ods.mil

“There’s a new attraction for thousands of people enjoying the long holiday weekend on North Carolina’s Outer Banks. Shelly Island is a destination you won’t find on a standard map. The giant barrier island suddenly formed in the Atlantic Ocean, almost overnight. …”

NEWSWATCH: “Number of Irish Americans seven times larger than entire population of Ireland” – IrishCentral

Ireland Satellite Image adapted from image at nasa.gov

“According to Census data, there are 39.6 million American who claim Irish heritage including five million who say they are of Scots-Irish heritage. That number is almost seven times larger than the entire population of Ireland (6.3 million). After German, Irish is the most common ancestry of Americans. … ‘Irish Americans are at least 5 percent of the population in most counties across the U.S., and 10 percent or more in most of New England, New York state, New Jersey, eastern Pennsylvania, and other smaller counties across the country’ … With 12.9 percent of its residents claiming Irish ancestry, New York has the most concentrated Irish American population. At 20.4 percent, Boston has the most concentrated Irish population for a city, while Miami, at 1 percent, has the least. …”

Click here for: “Number of Irish Americans seven times larger than entire population of Ireland” – IrishCentral







 

 

NEWSWATCH: “Uber, Yandex combine ridesharing and UberEATS in Russian markets in a $3.72B JV” – TechCrunch

Map of Former Soviet Union, CIS, Western Portion, adapted from image at cia.gov

“As Uber continues to work through a huge amount of internal management turmoil, the company is also consolidating and rationalising more of its international business. Today, the company announced that it will be combining its rides-on-demand business and UberEATS, its food ordering and delivery business, in Russia and neighboring markets with Yandex.Taxi, the ridesharing business built up by the Russian search giant over several years and the current leader in the market, in what will be a separate, joint venture valued at $3.72 billion.

The deal — which will cover operations in Russia, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Belarus and Georgia — is expected to close in Q4 of this year and has already been approved by the boards of both companies. It’s a substantial operation. Currently it covers 35 million trips each month across 127 cities, with the bulk of those coming from the Yandex.Taxi part of the JV; Uber was only in 21 cities. …”

Click here for: “Uber, Yandex combine ridesharing and UberEATS in Russian markets in a $3.72B JV” – TechCrunch/ Ingrid Lunden





NEWSWATCH: “Turkey Chooses Russia Over NATO for Missile Defense” – Bloomberg/ Selcan Hacaoglu

Turkey Satellite Photo adapted from image at nasa.gov

Turkey has agreed to pay $2.5 billion to acquire Russia’s most advanced missile defense system, a senior Turkish official said, in a deal that signals a turn away from the NATO military alliance that has anchored Turkey to the West for more than six decades.

The preliminary agreement sees Turkey receiving two S-400 missile batteries from Russia within the next year, and then producing another two inside Turkey, …. A spokesman for Russia’s arms-export company Rosoboronexport OJSC said he couldn’t immediately comment on details of a deal with Turkey. * * * Disagreements between Turkey, which has the second-largest army by personnel numbers in NATO, and the U.S., the bloc’s biggest military, have also impacted business.  …

Click here for: “Turkey Chooses Russia Over NATO for Missile Defense” – Bloomberg/ Selcan Hacaoglu







NEWSLINK: “Iceberg the Size of Delaware Will Break Off Antarctic Ice Shelf Any Day Now, Scientists Say” – Newsweek

Antarctica Aerial Image adapted from image at nasa.gov

“One of the largest icebergs ever recorded is about to break off an Antarctic ice shelf and float away. The separation of roughly 10 percent of the Antarctic Peninsula’s Larsen C ice shelf—equivalent in size to the state of Delaware—from the main body is imminent. …”

NEWSLINK: “Report: Woman aborts her baby at Planned Parenthood and commits suicide later that day” – Live Action/ Kansas Coalition for Life

Defund Planned Parenthood, Over Scene of Prolife Demonstrators

“Mark Gietzen of the Kansas Coalition for Life has reported via Facebook that a woman who had an abortion at Planned Parenthood in Kansas committed suicide hours after the abortion was completed. The deaths of mother and child took place in late June 2017. This double tragedy serves as a heartbreaking reminder that women who have abortions suffer the emotional effects either moments after or even years after the abortion. …”

NEWSLINK: “Revealed: #Trump’s $110 billion weapons list for the #Saudis” – Defense News

Middle East Map

“The administration’s much touted $110 billion arms proposal to #SaudiArabia, previously slim on specifics, includes seven #THAAD #MissileDefense batteries, over 100,000 air-to-ground munitions and billions of dollars’ worth of new aircraft …. #Trump’s visit to Saudi Arabia on May 20 drew headlines for what was billed as a $110 billion arms agreement. However, experts quickly pointed out that much of the deal was speculative, as any arms sale has to go through the process of being cleared by the State Department, then Congress, before going through an often lengthy negotiating period with industry. …”

NEWSLINK: “ISIL: Target Russia; Thousands of ISIL fighters are training in the mountains of Afghanistan, plotting an attack on the Kremlin” – Al Jazeera

Afghanistan and Environs Ethnic Map

“Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) have always considered ‘the West’ – and the United States in particular – the ultimate enemy. But following President Vladimir Putin’s policy of military involvement in Syria, Russiamay have taken its place as ISIL’s main target. Thousands of ISIL fighters from Syria, Iraq and elsewhere are regrouping in the virtually impregnable mountains of Afghanistan, plotting revenge against the Kremlin. …”

Click here for “ISIL: Target Russia; Thousands of ISIL fighters are training in the mountains of Afghanistan, plotting an attack on the Kremlin” – Al Jazeera





NEWSWATCH: “Russia squares up to Boeing, Airbus with maiden jet flight” – Reuters

Map of Russia with Russian Flag

“#Russia carried out the maiden flight of its new MS-21 medium-range passenger plane … its first post-Soviet foray into production of a mainline commercial aircraft which it hopes will rival those of its Western competitors. … manufacturer Irkut Corporation … and … state-controlled parent company United Aircraft Corporation (UAC) … [announced] a 30-minute flight at … 1,000 meters … [and] 300 km an hour. Squeezed by Western #sanctions over its role in the #Ukraine crisis, Russia is trying to rejuvenate domestic industrial production to make the country less dependant on foreign firms. …”

Click here for “Russia squares up to Boeing, Airbus with maiden jet flight” – Reuters 







Should the Indy 500 Be Shut Down? Is Auto Racing Disrespectful of Human Life?

Race Car in Pits File Photo

[reposted from 2016]

According to AP, there have been 66 deaths in connection with the Indy 500 site since 1909, including 40 drivers, 14 mechanics, nine spectators and a little boy playing in his own yard nearby.  Additional deaths, of course, have occurred in other venues.  The deaths have continued up to the current era, and have involved some of the most elite drivers, as has also occurred with stock car racing.

At a time when we need to be encouraging respect for human life  and the development of a stronger conscience with regard for human life and the dignity of the human person, in the face of assaults upon respect for human life, it probably is a good idea to ban auto racing.  Some first steps could include holding organizers financially responsible for any deaths or injuries, on a strict basis, with multiplying financial penalties added, without regard for supposed assumption of risk by spectators or participants.



Sentimentality and would-be tradition, especially in a sleepy setting like Indiana, not necessarily steeped in many other traditions, should not be an obstacle to changes.  I myself like hearkening back to some old family connections with the race, which were nice in the themselves, yet that does not balance out with more important considerations and  proactive steps to move forward.

I have mixed feelings about the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500.  My paternal grandfather, God Rest His Soul, built at least one race car that ran in the Indy 500, back in the late 1920’s or early 1930’s.  My father had early childhood memories of Eddie Rickenbacker coming to the house, the great World War I flying ace who developed a passion for auto racing and, at one time, owned the Indy 500.  The family connection with racing would be interrupted when my grandfather passed on prematurely, in his late thirties, apparently from health-related reasons, when my father was only eight years old.  Years later, a brother-in-law became CEO of a Fortune 500 company, and briefly had his company sponsor a car, from a racing team led by a racing legend.



While human life in any era is sacred and precious, there is, perhaps, a temptation to think that the deaths are part of a murky past with less sophisticated technology and lower safety standards, or related to the skill of a driver. The first death at the race was in 1911, in the very first race, when a mechanic was killed.

However, just five years ago, Dan Wheldon distinguished himself as an elite driver by winning the Indy 500 for the second time, only to get killed in a crash the same year at another track.

Interestingly enough, my father, God Rest His Soul, never seemed to take people to the race, in my memory, although he and my mother did take me to qualifications once. (Ironically, the driver we saw on foot, standing near our bleachers, by coincidence was the racing legend who later had his team sponsored by the brother-in-law.)

But before I was born, my father did take some older siblings to the race itself, and there was a huge accident involving a large number of cars.  Footage from the accident would actually be used in a feature film about the Indy 500.  Real-world footage of the accident and its aftermath was embedded within the dramatized action of the film.  As I watched that movie, as a rerun on a television, one of the older siblings came into the room, saw the accident, and said that he recognized it, as an accident that had occurred at the race he was taken to, years earlier, by my father.  He remembered the iconic moment when, amidst the chaos, a wheel snapped loose and came rolling out of the chaos, continuing down the track at high-speed by itself, with no car attached.



Years later, my father and mother did attend at least one race when the brother-in-law’s company sponsored a racing team.

But, during that long hiatus, perhaps my father was quietly dissuaded from going to more races, after taking what were then small children to a race, only to witness a massive multi-car accident.  More so than witnessing an accident, there also is the danger of spectators getting killed.  In the modern era, in one instance, a wheel that broke off in an accident hurtled upwards and into the stands, killing a spectator completely at random, halfway up the stands.

It is unquestionably disrespectful to human life, and therefore un-Godly and un-American, to subject human beings to those dangers for something as trivial as a quasi-sporting event.

Arguments about technological benefits are unpersuasive.  Technological innovations can be tested in other ways, in other settings, without the same issues arising in the same way.  The competitive profit motive of auto racing and the purse might help instigate innovation, but that does not justify the loss of human life.

Actual testing tracks do not have to be built along the lines of the Indy 500.  Indeed, the Indy 500 track, which originally was brick, and has corners reportedly banked for cars going less than 100 mph, is not necessarily suitable for modern test track purposes.



And it is not clear that we even need to use human drivers, in a cockpit, for modern testing of vehicles.  It would be possible in today’s era to test vehicles, on remote testing tracks, with no actual driver behind the wheel, or with a driver who pilots the car remotely.  The point is not that there should be races run that way.  The point is, that if one argument for auto racing is that it could induce technological innovation, the response is that there are other ways to conduct the testing that are safer for humans.

An additional concern is the moral impact on moral conscience, from watering down the conscience by risking, or ending, human life for frivolous reasons.

One of the biggest challenges to human society in the current era, as always, has been to inspire the development of a stronger conscience in favor of respecting human life.

Terrorism; other forms of war; widespread prenatal child-killing (cast by its aficionados as the pseudo-clinical euphemism “abortion”); euthanasia; health care rationing; human trafficking; drug trafficking; permissiveness and sexual degradation; and other threats to human life and human dignity compound their initial impact by also besieging and undermining moral conscience.

We need a push to build a stronger moral conscience, in defense of human life, not efforts to weaken or water down human conscience.  We do not need the would-be excitement, sentimentality, false rationalizations, or mere habit-building, associated with something like auto racing, to whittle away at the proper formation of proper conscience.

One argument sometimes raised, to promote quietism in the face of the threats auto racing poses to human life, is a generic, abstract idea of simply pushing the limits of something, of going higher and faster, and so forth.

The problem is, that argument rests on the notion that limits do exist in the first place.

The issue becomes, what limits are appropriate, and what limits can be pushed.



For example, football is now realizing that head-on-head contact is a limit that has to be ratcheted back, with a firm line drawn in the sand, because of the reality of head injuries and their ripple effects.

With some kinds of risks, there is no need to push limits, because the limits are appropriate.

For example, a few individuals have parachuted from an altitude so high, that it felt like they were in outer space. In broad daylight, they rose by balloon to an altitude so immense that the blue sky disappeared, and the black sky and stars came out.  The first time that happened, the parachutist got to a point where he temporarily blacked out, and had to rely on the chute opening automatically.

The depths of the ocean are so bone-crushing with their water pressure that no human could survive without a heavy diving structure.  Yet it would be foolish to deliberately push the limits of depth for scuba-divers, to the edge of where they could be killed.  It would be frivolous to sell tickets to which whether somebody got killed scuba-diving, when they deliberately tried to go too deep.

Or, where limits exist, there might be other ways to push the limits, or to focus on pushing entirely different limits.  For example, in football, there are other ways to deliver hits without causing concussions.

One concern should be whether, in some childish, emotionalistic way, anybody would think that the seriousness of deaths and injuries in auto racing somehow translates into seriousness of purpose, or makes the race more “important.”  The opposite is true.  The seriousness of deaths and injuries in the sport highlight how frivolous the activity is, when compared with the sacredness of human life and the seriousness of the deaths.

Even worse would be if there is a small subset of the population that actually ever got a sick thrill from seeing accidents and the possibility of death.  In the Confessions of Saint Augustine, he describes a friend who apparently was addicted to visiting the “arena” as a spectator, which presumably meant gladiator fights or worse.  The friend apparently was an otherwise normal person, perhaps even aspiring to being a Christian like Saint Augustine.  The friend also knew that visiting the arena was something he should avoid.

Yet he found aspects of it addictive.

With regard to auto racing, one step that could be taken would be to make the organizers legally and financially responsible, under strict liability, for any deaths or injuries to spectators. One could try to argue that there is some assumption of risk by the victims.  Yet that is not a risk that anyone should be allowed to assume, because no reasonable person could assume such a risk and still be considered reasonable.  That is, no one in his right mind would think that sitting and eating a hot dog while a vehicle goes by at high speed is important enough to justify getting killed.

In the instance of the spectator in the late 1980’s killed randomly by a flying wheel, the widow reportedly sued for $9 million, then reached a confidential settlement.

Given financial responsibility and financial incentives, organizers would be in the best position to adopt better safeguards.

Another issue that might come up is whether some tracks or some circumstances are safer or more dangerous than others.  There has been a driving death at the Indy 500 track as recently as the 1990’s, however.

On the other hand, if other tracks and other races are more likely to have deaths now, and if shutting down tracks one-by-one, from this point forward, is the way towards a gradual step-by-step ban, so be it.



For the Indy 500 itself, one added twist is the race’s spot on the calendar on Memorial Day weekend.  Memorial Day, of course, has a focus on remembering and honoring our departed, including those who perished in military service defending the nation.  Indeed, the Indy 500 features taps as part of its ceremonies, as well as an invocation by a religious figure.  At a time when we remember the departed, and acknowledge those who made the ultimate sacrifice, the natural reaction should be to have a heightened respect for human life, and a heightened sensitivity to the realities, and loss, associated with death.  Sensitivities to these values should be raised, not lowered. To do otherwise would be un-Godly and un-American.





NEWSWATCH: “Death a grim chapter in storied history of Indianapolis 500” – AP

Race Car in Pits File Photo

[reposted from 2016]

“Yes, the Indy 500 is ‘The Greatest Spectacle In Racing’ … Mario and Dario and milk and balloons have built an event steeped in festive tradition … it prepares to celebrate its centennial …. But the race is also marked by tragedy. … 12 laps into the inaugural race in 1911, mechanic Sam Dickson became the first to die and he certainly wasn’t the last.

Drivers, mechanics, fans, even a little boy standing across the street … all are part of the 500’s saddest chapter, painful memories of just how dangerous racing on the bricks and asphalt has been …. At least 66 people have died because of auto racing since 1909 at the site, including 40 drivers, 14 mechanics and nine spectators. The 1930s was by far the deadliest decade with 21 deaths, while the ’50s and ’60s each saw eight people perish.

Click here for AP: “Death a grim chapter in storied history of Indianapolis 500”





NEWSLINK & VIDEO: “Scott Dixon out of #Indianapolis500 following scary wreck” – ESPN ……. #INDY500

Race Car in Pits File Photo

“Indianapolis 500 pole sitter Scott Dixon went airborne after making contact with Jay Howard, sending Dixon’s car into the inside fence and retaining wall in Turn 2 and shredding it in the process at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Sunday. …”

WHITE HOUSE NEWS RELEASE: Statement from the Press Secretary [re: #Trump fires #FBI Director #Comey]

White House File Photo

The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release
May 09, 2017
Statement from the Press Secretary

Today, President Donald J. #Trump informed #FBI Director James #Comey that he has been terminated and removed from office.  President Trump acted based on the clear recommendations of both Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

“The FBI is one of our Nation’s most cherished and respected institutions and today will mark a new beginning for our crown jewel of law enforcement,” said President Trump.

A search for a new permanent FBI Director will begin immediately.





NEWSWATCH: “Trump fires FBI Director Comey” – Fox News

FBI Building file photo

“… Trump on Tuesday fired FBI Director James Comey … ending a rocky year-long stretch for the top law enforcement officer who came under fire for his handling of the Clinton email probe — and whose agency has been investigating whether Trump’s campaign had ties to Russia. …

The president told Comey in a brief letter that he could not ‘effectively lead’ the bureau and called for ‘new leadership that restores public trust and confidence’ in law enforcement.

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said the president’s decision was based on ‘the clear recommendations’ of Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. …”

Click here for: “Trump fires FBI Director Comey” – Fox News





 

NEWSLINK: “United Airlines flies woman to San Francisco instead of France” – Fox News

File Photo of Jets Waiting in Line at Airport, adapted from image at faa.gov

“United Airlines has found itself apologizing yet again, this time for sending a French woman on a 3,000-mile trip in the wrong direction. Lucie Bahetoukilae was recently scheduled to fly from Newark, N.J., to Paris, but instead found herself flying to San Francisco after she was inadvertently allowed to board the wrong plane …. According to Bahetoukilae, who speaks only French and allowed her niece to speak on her behalf, the airline changed the flight’s gate at the last minute, and failed to notify the passengers via email. Furthermore, Bahetoukilae claims the airline did not announce the gate change in French, despite the original flight being bound for Paris. … Bahetoukilae, not knowing any better, gave her ticket to the gate agent, who then scanned it and allowed Bahetoukilae to board. …”

NEWSLINK: “#Facebook’s Female Engineers Claim #Gender Bias; Analysis found female engineers received 35% more rejections of their code than men” – Wall Street Journal

File Photo of Laptop Computer, Tablet, Mobile Device, adapted from image at energy.gov

“Last year, a longtime engineer at #Facebook Inc. gathered data that revealed a controversial finding: Code written by #women was rejected much more frequently than code written by their male colleagues, according to people familiar with the matter and screenshots of internal discussions viewed by The Wall Street Journal.

NEWSLINK: “#Putin Pushes #Syria Peacekeeper Plan With #Trump to Save Truce” – Bloomberg

Syria Map

“President Vladimir #Putin is pushing a plan with U.S. President Donald #Trump to create security zones and deploy peacekeepers in #Syria — possibly including #Russian forces — to enforce a faltering cease-fire as he tries to find a resolution to the more than six-year conflict. …”

NEWSLINK: “In Tense Encounter, #Merkel Tells #Putin #Sanctions Must Remain” – Bloomberg

EU Map

“German Chancellor Angela #Merkel told President Vladimir #Putin that #EU #sanctions will have to remain on #Russia as the two leaders clashed over #Ukraine, human rights and election meddling at a chilly encounter in the Black Sea city of Sochi.”

NEWSLINK: “Dozens Detained In Nationwide Anti-Putin Protests In Russia” – RFE/RL 4.29.17

Russian Map and Flag

“Police detained dozens of people in several Russian cities as demonstrators joined a protest campaign urging Vladimir Putin not to run in the country’s presidential election next year. The April 29 protests came just three days after authorities moved to ban the organization spearheading the demonstrations: Open Russia, which was set up by former oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky.”

NEWSLINK: “Russians, in peaceful protest, call for Putin to quit” – Reuters 4.29.17

File Photo of Kremlin Wall and Tower Near River

“Several hundred Russians lined up in central Moscow on Saturday under the gaze of riot police to hand over handwritten appeals for President Vladimir Putin to quit, as similar protests took place in other cities. Putin, who has dominated Russian politics for 17 years, has not said whether he will run in presidential elections in March 2018. But the 64-year-old politician, who enjoys high popularity ratings, is widely expected to do so. …”

NEWSLINK: “Russian police arrest dozens of anti-Putin protesters; More than 100 arrested in St Petersburg at demonstration against Vladimir Putin’s expected candidacy in 2018” – Al Jazeera 4.29.17

File Photo of Vladimir Putin Gesturing, with VOA Logo

“More than 100 activists were arrested in St Petersburg on Saturday as hundreds of Russians turned out to protest against President Vladimir Putin’s expected candidacy in elections next year. Demonstrators rallied across several cities under the slogan ‘We’re sick of him.’ The protests were called by the Open Russia movement founded by Kremlin critic Mikhail Khodorkovsky. …”

NEWSLINK: “#Russian authorities detain dozens at anti-#Putin rallies” – BBC 4.29.17

Russian Map and Flag

“Russian authorities have detained dozens of protesters at rallies demanding that President Vladimir Putin should not seek re-election next year. At least 30 people were reported to have been held in St Petersburg and more than 16 in the southern city of Kemerovo. Activists in some other cities were kept away from protests, reports said. President Putin has not confirmed that he will run in March 2018 but he is widely expected to do so. …”

WHITE HOUSE: “President Trump Proposed a Massive Tax Cut. Here’s What You Need to Know”

White House File Photo

(WhiteHouse.gov – Gary Cohn – April 26, 2017 – reposted from: whitehouse.gov/blog/2017/04/26/president-trump-proposed-massive-tax-cut-heres-what-you-need-know)

We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to do something big. President #Trump has made #tax reform a priority, and we have a #Republican #Congress that wants to get it done. This is something that #Democrats should support too because it’s good for the American people.



The President is going to seize this opportunity by leading the most significant tax reform legislation since 1986 – and one of the biggest tax cuts in American history.

The President has focused on three things since his campaign: job creation, economic growth, and helping low and middle-income families who have been left behind by this economy. He understands that there are a lot of people in this country that feel like they work hard and still can’t get ahead. They are sick of turning their paychecks over to Washington and having no idea how their tax dollars are spent. They are frustrated by a tax code that is so complicated that they can’t even do their own taxes.

That’s why tax reform is such a big priority for this President.  He cares about making the economy work better for the American people.

We are going to cut taxes for businesses to make them competitive, and we are going to cut taxes for the American people – especially low and middle-income families.

In 1935, we had a one-page tax form consisting of 34 lines and two pages of instructions.  Today, the basic 1040 form has 79 lines and 211 pages of instructions. Instead of a single tax form, the IRS now has 199 tax forms on the individual side of the tax code alone. Taxpayers spend nearly 7 billion hours complying with the tax code each year, and nearly 90% of taxpayers need help filing their taxes.

We are going to cut taxes and simplify the tax code by taking the current 7 tax brackets we have today and reducing them to only three brackets: 10 percent, 25 percent, and 35 percent.

We are going to double the standard deduction so that a married couple won’t pay any taxes on the first $24,000 of income they earn.  So in essence, we are creating a 0 percent tax rate for the first $24,000 that a couple earns.

The larger standard deduction also leads to simplification because far fewer taxpayers will need to itemize, which means their tax form can go back to that one simple page.

Families in this country will also benefit from tax relief to help them with child and dependent care expenses.

We are going to repeal the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT). The AMT creates significant complications and burdens by requiring taxpayers to do their taxes twice to see which is higher. That makes no sense; we should have one simple tax code.

Job creation and economic growth is the top priority for this Administration, and nothing drives economic growth like capital investment. Therefore, we are going to return the top tax rate on capital gains and dividends to 20 percent by repealing the harmful 3.8 percent Obamacare tax. That tax has been a direct hit on investment income and small business owners.

We are going to repeal the death tax. The threat of being hit by the death tax leads small business owners and farmers in this country to waste countless hours and resources on complicated estate planning to make sure their children aren’t hit with a huge tax when they die. No one wants their children to have to sell the family business to pay an unfair tax.

We are going to eliminate most of the tax breaks that mainly benefit high-income individuals.  Home ownership, charitable giving, and retirement savings will be protected – but other tax benefits will be eliminated.

This is not going to be easy. Doing big things never is. But one thing is for certain: I would not bet against this President.  He will get this done for the American people.

Gary Cohn is the chief economic advisor to President Donald J. Trump and Director of the National Economic Council





VIDEO NEWSWATCH: “Anti-Putin Protesters Get a Smart Phone App to Help Get Out of Jail” – Reuters/ U.S. News & World Report/ Parniyan Zemaryalai/ Parniyan Zemaryalai 4.26.17

Kremlin and Saint Basil's At Night

“Anti-#Kremlin protesters who run the regular risk of being detained by the police … [can utilize a] #smartphone app … to instantly inform others where and when they have been arrested.  #Russia faces a presidential election next year … and was last month shaken by large anti-government protests. More are planned. The result of a collaboration between a Russian firm, a human rights group and an opposition movement, the notification system, called #RedButton, automatically transmits the location and emergency contact details of a detained protester. … [to] allow others to act quickly to help free them as it will include details of the police station where the individual is being held. … #Putin remains … the most popular politician in Russia, but opponents argue he keeps a check on dissent through control of the media, especially television, and limiting protest. …”





Created in St. Petersburg by Alexander Litreev, the application’s development received support from the Open Russia foundation, founded by Kremlin critic Mikhail Khodorkovsky, and OVD-Info, a human rights organization that monitors detentions.

Click here for: “Anti-Putin Protesters Get a Smart Phone App to Help Get Out of Jail” – Reuters/ U.S. News & World Report 4.26.17





NEWSWATCH: “Russia bans three Khodorkovsky-linked opposition groups; Move comes before planned protests across 30 cities on Saturday” – Financial Times/ Kathrin Hille 4.26.17

File Photo of Kremlin Wall and Tower Near River

“#Russia has banned three non-governmental groups linked to Mikhail #Khodorkovsky … ahead of planned anti-regime demonstrations as the #Kremlin tries to curb the spread of protest sentiment. The Prosecutor General’s Office … declared the Open Russia Foundation, the Institute of Modern Russia and the Open Russia movement to be ‘undesirable organisations’. Such a status allows authorities to freeze their assets in Russia and exposes anyone working with them to criminal prosecution.  …”

Click here for: “Russia bans three Khodorkovsky-linked opposition groups; Move comes before planned protests across 30 cities on Saturday” – Financial Times/ Kathrin Hille 4.26.17







 

NEWSLINK: “Russian Prosecutor Labels Khodorkovsky NGO ‘Undesirable’ Ahead Of Protest” – RFE/RL / Mike Eckel 4.26.17

Russian Map and Flag

“Russia’s top prosecutor has blacklisted a nongovernmental organization set up by former oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky — a move that puts the group in legal jeopardy just days before a street protest it has been planning. …”

NEWSLINK: “#EU stands firms on #Crimea #sanctions against #Russia” – Deutsche Welle

Map of Ukraine and Environs, Including Russia

“… The #EuropeanUnion’s foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, told a news conference in the #Russian capital on Monday that the #EU could not pretend that #Moscow had not annexed #Ukraine’s #Crimea in 2014, and that the bloc’s sanctions over the issue would not be lifted. She insisted, however, that cooperation between the two sides was not “frozen,” but rather hampered by differences over issues such as #Ukraine and #Syria. Mogherini was speaking alongside Russian Foreign Minister Sergey #Lavrov on her first official visit to Moscow in her current role as the EU’s top diplomat. …”

NEWSLINK: “U.S. general in #Afghanistan says there is no doubt #Russia is providing weapons to #Taliban” – Telegraph

Afghanistan and Environs Ethnic Map

“America’s top general in #Afghanistan has said there was no doubt that #Russia was providing weapons to the #Taliban. In the strongest statement yet over Russia’s apparent re-engagement in the Afghanistan war, Gen. John #Nicholson said he would “not refute” that #Moscow’s involvement included giving weapons to the Taliban.
He was speaking in Kabul alongside James #Mattis, the US defence secretary, who said that America needed to confront Russia over its actions in Afghanistan, where the Soviet Union fought and lost a bloody war in the 1980s.

NEWSLINK: “Russia’s Oil Cuts Won’t Be So Easy If OPEC Deal Is Extended; Rosneft and Lukoil plan higher spending and more drilling” – Bloomberg

Oil Wells and Sunset

“For #Russian #oil companies, the historic agreement to boost prices by cutting output in conjunction with [#OPEC] was an easy win. Extending the deal will be less straightforward. Cuts so far this year came alongside the traditional seasonal stagnation in Russian production, meaning the country made relatively few sacrifices in exchange for an increase in crude prices of more than 10 percent. For the powerful Russian oil bosses who plan to discuss the OPEC accord with Energy Minister Alexander Novak this week, a decision by the government to extend the cuts beyond June would stymie plans to boost output, creating many more headaches than the initial agreement. …”

DC JOBS LINK: “Technical Manager, Public Affairs Hudson Institute – Washington, D.C.”

File Photo of Empty Desk with Computer Work Station, apdapted from image at osha.gov

“… Primary Duties. Under the supervision of the Hudson’s Public Affairs department Director, the Technical Manager will:

Be principally responsible for content management and technical maintenance of Hudson’s website and related software;
Manage the Institute’s YouTube, UStream, Instagram, and iTunes/Stitchr podcasts accounts, posting and organizing video, audio, and photos and monitoring comments;
Oversee all post-production work on Hudson events, including video and audio editing, highlight clips, standalone scholar interviews and podcasts;
Maintain and refine the organization’s extensive media archives;
Oversee and operate all still-photography, microphone, in-room or remote camera systems, and software programs employed during live-streamed Hudson-sponsored public events and media-outreach efforts;
Livetweet public events from @HudsonEvents;
Coordinate and communicate with IT consultants and outside vendors about website design and functionality; server hosting; Internet security and connectivity; A/V hardware support and repair; and
Participate in the general work of the Public Affairs office, especially where event setup and publication-related photo editing is concerned. …”

NEWSLINK: “#Russian Military Planes Crowd the U.S. for a Fourth Day; U.S., Canadian fighters intercept long-range bombers” – Wall Street Journal 4.21.17

Russian TU-95 Bear Bomber File Photo

“#Russia flew long-range combat aircraft near American airspace for the fourth consecutive day, the Pentagon said Friday, marking the first such string of incursions since 2014, but prompting little concern from the White House. American and Canadian jet fighters intercepted a pair of Russian “Bear” long-range bombers in international airspace near #Alaska on Thursday, said … a spokesman for North American Aerospace Defense Command, or #Norad. …”

NEWSLINK: “#Beslan school siege: #Russia ‘failed’ in 2004 massacre” – BBC 4.13.17

Russian Map and Flag

“The European Court of Human Rights has ruled that #Russia failed to protect the hostages of the #Beslan school siege in which about 330 people died in 2004. … Chechen rebels took more than 1,000 hostages, mostly children. The operation by Russian forces to end it used disproportionate force, the court added. It also said that officials knew an attack was imminent but did not act. … Witnesses described the operation by Russian security forces as chaotic, saying that the troops used excessive force and heavy weapons. … the court said Russia had sufficient specific information that an attack was being planned in that area, but did not act. It criticised the authorities for being unable to prevent the militants from meeting and travelling on the day of the attack, and failing to increase security at the school or warn the public of the threat. …”

NEWSLINK: “Russia’s new Arctic Trefoil military base unveiled with virtual tour” – BBC

Arctic Map

“… The Arctic Trefoil permanent base is in Franz Josef Land, a huge ice-covered, desolate archipelago. The Russian military sees the resource-rich Arctic as a key strategic region. President Vladimir Putin visited the new base, on Alexandra Land, last month. It is built on stilts – to help withstand the extreme cold – and will house 150 personnel on 18-month tours of duty. Winter temperatures typically plunge to minus 40C. …”

NEWSLINK: “#Russian State TV Says #Trump Is More Dangerous Than Kim Jong-Un” – Bloomberg 4.17.17

File Photo of Kremlin Wall and Tower Near River

“#Russian state television has no doubt who is unpredictable enough to bring the world to war in the North Korean crisis … In the latest sign of the Kremlin’s abrupt about-face on its erstwhile American hero …. * * * Kiselyov and his colleagues on other channels also went after #Trump’s family, noting that Kim hadn’t given his four-year-old daughter an office in his residence, in contrast to Trump’s appointment of his 35-year-old daughter, Ivanka, to a White House role ….

NEWSLINK: “#Russian bombers again fly near #Alaska” – Fox News 4.19.17

Russian TU-95 Bear Bomber File Photo

“… For the second consecutive night, #Russia flew two long-range bombers off the coast of #Alaska on Tuesday, this time coming within 36 miles of the mainland while flying north of the #Aleutian Islands …. The two #nuclear-capable Tu-95 bombers were spotted by U.S. military radar at 5 p.m. local time. Unlike a similar incident Monday night, this time the U.S. Air Force did not scramble any fighter jets. Instead, it launched a single E-3 Sentry early warning aircraft, known as AWACS, to make sure there were only the two Russian bombers flying near Alaska, and not other aircraft flying underneath the large bombers. …”

NEWSLINK: “The lawyer who will oversee the Russia inquiry for Justice Dept. has experience investigating the White House” – Los Angeles Times 4.23.17

FBI Building file photo

“As a young federal prosecutor in the 1990s, Rod J. Rosenstein played a key role in the highly charged independent investigation of the president and first lady, Bill and Hillary Clinton, over their investments in a failed real estate company known as Whitewater. Rosenstein now is poised to take over another sensitive investigation: the FBI counterintelligence inquiry into whether President Trump’s current or former aides colluded with Russian intelligence to interfere with last year’s election. …”

NEWSLINK: “#Russia upset over being blocked from #Syria chemical weapons investigation” – Fox News

Syria Map

“#Russia has protested the U.S.’ refusal to allow its inspectors to participate in a formal investigation into a chemical weapons attack that struck the rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhan in northern Idlib, #Syria, earlier this month.”

NEWSLINK: “#Russian Journalist, Putin Critic Dies After Severe Beating” – RFE/RL 4.19.17

Kremlin and St. Basil's at Night

“A prominent #Russian journalist known for articles criticizing the country’s government and President Vladimir #Putin has died in St. Petersburg after being beaten up, his lawyer was quoted by the Interfax news agency as saying. Nikolai #Andrushchenko, a 73-year-old co-founder of the weekly newspaper Novy Peterburg, was found unconscious with what colleagues described as head trauma on March 9. …”

VIDEO NEWSWATCH: “Syria, Russia Would Be ‘Insane’ to Retaliate Over U.S. Airstrikes, Former U.S. Ambassador Says” – Fox News

Syria Map

“… In the wake of the airstrikes on a military base in Syria after a deadly chemical attack on civilians, Russia announced it was suspending cooperation of its communication link with the U.S. that protects pilots flying missions over the war-torn country. ‘I think that is a major mistake on the part of Moscow… they’re actually putting their own forces in greater jeopardy,’ Crocker said. ‘It would be to Moscow’s benefit to have these basic lines  of communication. So they will lose more than we will.’ …”

Click here for: “Syria, Russia Would Be ‘Insane’ to Retaliate Over US Airstrikes, Former US Ambassador Says” – Fox News





NEWSWATCH: “Russian naval activity in Europe exceeds Cold War levels: U.S. admiral” – Reuters

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

“Recent Russian naval activity in Europe exceeds levels seen during the Cold War, a top U.S. and NATO military officer said, voicing concern that the distributed nature of the deployments could end up ‘splitting and distracting’ the transatlantic alliance. Navy Admiral Michelle Howard, who heads NATO’s Allied Joint Force Command in Naples and commands U.S. naval forces in Europe and Africa, said Russia had clearly stepped up its naval actions in recent years although the size of its navy was smaller now ….”

Click here for: “Russian naval activity in Europe exceeds Cold War levels: U.S. admiral” – Reuters







[featured image is file photo]

NEWSLINK: “Palm Sunday attacks: 44 dead, more than 100 injured in church bombings carried out by ISIL in Egypt” – Fox News

Egypt Map, adapted from image at export.gov

“… at least 44 people were killed and more than 100 more were injured in two Palm Sunday suicide attacks at Coptic Christian churches, each carried out by the ISIS terror group. Sunday’s first blast happened at St. George Church in the Nile Delta town of Tanta, where at least 27 people were killed and 78 others wounded, officials said.
Television footage showed the inside of the church, where a large number of people gathered around what appeared to be lifeless, bloody bodies covered with papers. A second explosion – which Egypt’s Interior Ministry says was caused by a suicide bomber who tried to storm St. Mark’s Cathedral in the coastal city of Alexandria — left at least 17 dead, and 48 injured. The attack came just after Pope Tawadros II — leader of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria — finished services, but aides told local media that he was unharmed. …”

HEALTHLINK: “When is the Pollen Count Low? Planning ahead will make the outdoors more enjoyable.” – Zyrtec

Pollen Grain Microscopic Image, adapted from image at nasa.gov

“On an average day, #pollen counts rise during the morning, peak about midday, and then gradually fall. So the lowest pollen counts are usually before dawn and in the late afternoon to early evening. But this is all relative — if the pollen count is very high, a moderate decrease later in the day may still leave a high concentration of pollen in the air.  Weather and environmental factors also heavily influence the pollen count throughout the day. Wind stirs up pollen into the air, keeping counts high, while rain dramatically lowers airborne pollen any time of day. And in urban areas, pollen counts tend to rise and fall later than they do in the suburbs. “

NEWSLINK: “U.S. airstrikes on Syria followed international condemnation of chemical attack” – Fox News

Eastern Mediterranean Satellite Photo

“President #Trump’s decision to rain Tomahawk missiles on #Syrian airfields in retaliation for a chemical weapons attack being pinned on Damascus followed near-unanimous international condemnation of the Syrian government. Just hours before the move, the United Kingdom, Australia, Germany, Turkey and even China, whose president, Xi Jinping, was at Trump’s estate in Florida, all blasted the Syrian government over its suspected use of chemical weapons this week. …”

 

NEWSLINK: “U.S. missiles target #Syria airfield in response to chemical weapons attack” – Fox News

Syria Map

“The United States launched nearly five dozen cruise missiles at a #Syrian airfield early Friday in response to a chemical weapons attack that killed dozens of civilians, the first direct assault on the Damascus government since the beginning of that country’s bloody civil war in 2011. ‘It is in the vital national security interest of the United States to prevent and deter the spread and use of deadly chemical weapons,’ President Donald #Trump said in a statement. ‘Tonight I call on all civilized nations to join us in seeking to end the slaughter and bloodshed in Syria, and also to end terrorism of all kinds and all types.’
Fifty-nine Tomahawk missiles targeted an airbase at Shayrat, located outside Homs. The missiles targeted the base’s airstrips, hangars, control tower and ammunition areas, officials said. …”

 

NEWSWATCH: “Trump Orders Missile Attack in Retaliation for Syrian Chemical Strikes” –

U.S. Navy Cruise Missile Fired at Night, adapted from image at defense.gov, Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Robert S. Price

VIDEO: U.S. strikes in #Syria launched from USS Porter –  The guided-missile destroyer USS Porter conducts strike operations while in the #Mediterranean Sea. Porter, forward-deployed to Rota, Spain, is conducting naval operations in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of operations in support of U.S. national security interests in Europe. Navy video by Petty Officer 3rd Class Ford Williams



(Department of Defense – Jim Garamone DoD News, Defense Media Activity – WASHINGTON, April 6, 2017 – article also appeared at defense.gov/News/Article/Article/1144601/trump-orders-missile-attack-in-retaliation-for-syrian-chemical-strikes)

The United States fired Tomahawk missiles into Syria today in retaliation for the regime of Bashar Assad using nerve agents to attack his own people.

President Donald J. Trump ordered the attack on Al-Shayrat Air Base, the base from which the chemical attack on Syria’s Idlib province was launched. The missiles were launched from U.S. Navy ships in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea.

The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Ross fires a tomahawk land attack missile while conducting naval operations in the Mediterranean Sea, April 7, 2017. Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Robert S. Price

The attack is in retaliation for the Syrian dictator for using banned chemical agents in the April 4 attack.

“Bashar al-Assad launched a horrible chemical weapons attack on innocent civilians,” Trump said in a statement to the nation. “Using a deadly nerve agent, Assad choked out the lives of helpless men, women and children. It was a slow and brutal death for so many. Even beautiful babies were cruelly murdered in this very barbaric attack. No child of God should ever suffer such horror.”

Vital National Security Interest

Trump ordered the targeted military strike on the airfield that launched the attack. “It is in the vital national security interest of the United States to prevent and deter the spread and use of deadly chemical weapons,” the president said.
No one disputes that Syria used banned chemical weapons of the people of Idlib, he said, adding that this is a violation of the Chemical Weapons Convention. Syria also ignored United Nations Security Council resolutions.

“Years of previous attempts at changing Assad’s behavior have all failed and failed very dramatically,” Trump said. “As a result, the refugee crisis continues to deepen and the region continues to destabilize, threatening the United States and its allies.”
Trump called on all civilized nations to join the United States in seeking an end to the slaughter in Syria, and to end the threat terrorism poses in the blighted nation.



Details of Strike

Shortly after the president’s address, Pentagon spokesman Navy Capt. Jeff Davis issued a statement providing details of the strike. It took place at about 8:40 p.m. EDT — 4:40 a.m.  April 7 in Syria, he said.

The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Ross fires a tomahawk land attack missile while conducting naval operations in the Mediterranean Sea, April 7, 2017. Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Robert S. Price

The strike was conducted using Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles, or TLAMs, launched from the destroyers USS Porter and USS Ross in the eastern Mediterranean Sea, Davis said in his statement. A total of 59 TLAMs targeted aircraft, hardened aircraft shelters, petroleum and logistical storage, ammunition supply bunkers, air defense systems, and radars.
“As always,” Davis said, “the U.S. took extraordinary measures to avoid civilian casualties and to comply with the Law of Armed Conflict.  Every precaution was taken to execute this strike with minimal risk to personnel at the airfield.”

The strike was “a proportional response to Assad’s heinous act,” the Pentagon spokesman said, noting that Shayrat Airfield was used to store chemical weapons and Syrian air forces. The U.S. intelligence community assesses that aircraft from Shayrat conducted the April 4 chemical weapons attack, he added, and the strike was intended to deter the regime from using chemical weapons again.

Russian forces were notified in advance of the strike using the established deconfliction line, Davis said, and U.S. military planners took precautions to minimize risk to Russian or Syrian personnel at the airfield.

“We are assessing the results of the strike,” Davis said. “Initial indications are that this strike has severely damaged or destroyed Syrian aircraft and support infrastructure and equipment at Shayrat Airfield, reducing the Syrian government’s ability to deliver chemical weapons. The use of chemical weapons against innocent people will not be tolerated.”



NEWSLINK: “Discovery! Atmosphere Spotted on Nearly Earth-Size Exoplanet in First” – SpaceCom

File Photo of Stars in Space, adapted from image at nasa.gov

“For the first time, scientists have detected an atmosphere around a planet beyond our solar system that’s just a little bit larger than Earth. The exoplanet GJ 1132b, which orbits the dwarf star GJ 1132, is located about 39 light-years away from Earth. It has a radius about 1.4 times that of Earth and is 1.6 times Earth’s mass, according to the new study. When the planet was first discovered, researchers called it a potential Venus twin because it’s a rocky world with a very high surface temperature — and now, they’ve found that the planet and Venus might have a thick atmosphere in common, too (although it would have a different composition). ”

VIDEOS: Russia and 2016 Elections – Senate Intelligence Committee Hearing

U.S. Capitol file photo

The Senate Intelligence Committee hears testimony from witnesses on cybersecurity, #Russian hacking capabilities and U.S. and European elections, in two sessions on March 30, 2017.









 

STRATFOR: Russia Stirs the Hornet’s Nest

Map of Kosovo and Environs

(Startfor.com – March 28, 2017)

In January, conflict almost erupted in the Balkans after the Kosovar government dispatched special police forces to stop a Serbian train headed into Kosovo’s majority-Serb northern territory, emblazoned with the slogan “Kosovo is Serbia” in 21 languages.

Forecast

Russia will keep trying to exploit divisions in the western Balkans, traditionally a theater of competition for many world powers.

Russian influence will continue to spread in some of the Balkans’ most turbulent areas, including Serbia, northern Kosovo, Montenegro and Macedonia.

By stoking tensions in the region, Moscow could engineer a series of crises too challenging for the West to contain.



Analysis

The Balkan Peninsula has long stood at the edge of empires. The region, with its jumble of ethnicities, religions and political movements, has been a playing field for competing world powers throughout its history. Russia began to vie with the Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman empires for influence over the area in the 19th century. During the Cold War, Yugoslavia became a battleground between the Soviet Union and the West, despite its officially nonaligned status following World War II. While the West tried to woo the country with economic aid, the Soviets played to its ruling Communist Party, and the two sides continued in deadlock through the 1980s. Once the country dissolved in 1991, however, the tides turned. The collapse of the Soviet Union left Moscow in no position to see Yugoslavia’s constituent states through their transition to sovereignty, leaving that task to the European Union. The West has dominated the Balkan states’ economic and security relationships ever since.

Russia still maintained its footholds in the Balkans, though. And today, as the European Union’s divisions deepen and uncertainty prevails within the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, Moscow has turned its focus to the region once more. The Balkans’ stability has been such a hot topic in Russian President Vladimir Putin’s meetings with the Kremlin Security Council this year that the council’s chief even said it was a top priority for Moscow. Incidents of Russia’s meddling in the Balkans have been on the rise, meanwhile, raising questions about whether it will be the next theater in Moscow’s ongoing struggle against Western power and unity. After all, stoking tensions in Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Macedonia offers the Russian government a convenient means to increase its influence and further distract the West.



Rattling Sabers in Serbia

Since the end of the Cold War, Serbia, unlike many of its Western-leaning neighbors, has stayed in the middle of the Russia-West dynamic. The country has drawn on its cultural and religious bonds to Russia to keep a strong relationship with Moscow while also pursuing membership in the European Union. Over the past two years, however, Russia’s influence in Serbia has grown noticeably. The number of Russian media outlets and nongovernmental organizations in the country has jumped from fewer than a dozen to more than 100 since 2015, according to the Belgrade-based Center for Euro-Atlantic Studies. The Kremlin’s two main news networks, Sputnik and RT (formerly Russia Today), have both begun offering television programming, online news and radio broadcasts in Serbian. In addition, Russian state newspaper Rossiyskaya Gazeta prints Nedeljnik, a widely read weekly, in Moscow before delivering it to Serbia. The publications make frequent use of anti-Western rhetoric, for instance through references to NATO’s 1999 bombing of Serbia and Moscow’s support for Belgrade during that conflict. And the strategy seems to be working: A poll conducted in February by Serbian weekly Vreme indicated that some 68 percent of Serbs prefer relations with Russia to ties with the European Union.

At the same time, Russia and Serbia have flaunted their military connections in recent months. A Russian plane carrying 40 metric tons of food, clothing and medical supplies from Serbia set off for Syria in October 2016. The following month, the Russian and Belarusian militaries held drills in Serbia to coincide with NATO exercises just across the border in Montenegro. The government in Belgrade, moreover, will receive six Mikoyan Mig-29 fighter jets and dozens of tanks and combat vehicles in the next few weeks as a gift from Moscow, which has also offered to sell it the Buk anti-aircraft missile systems. (The equipment will be a welcome update to the Soviet technology that the Serbian military still relies on.)

Much of this saber rattling is political theater meant to appeal to Serbia’s nationalist voters ahead of the April 2 presidential election. But beneath Belgrade’s politicking runs an undercurrent of tension between the country and its neighboring states — particularly Kosovo, whose independence Serbia does not acknowledge. The two almost fell into conflict in January when Kosovo’s government deployed special police forces to stop a train headed from Belgrade to the state’s northern territory, home to mostly Kosovar Serbs, and emblazoned with the phrase “Kosovo is Serbia” in 21 languages. Responding to the incident, Kosovar President Hashim Thaci accused Serbia of attempting to use the “Crimean model” to take over the northern part of his country. Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic, meanwhile, telephoned his Russian counterpart to ask for support, sparking fears that a new war was nigh.



How to Create a Crisis

Now that Kosovo is once again flirting with the idea of transforming its lightly armed security force into a bona fide army, relations between the two states are coming under further strain. The United States and its fellow NATO members have threatened to rescind their support and protection for Kosovo if it follows through with the plan. Even so, Thaci sent a draft law approving a regular army to the legislature during the week of March 20, citing Serbia’s recent military deals with Russia and Belgrade’s influence in northern Kosovo as grounds for the measure. The Kosovar government in Pristina is concerned that between the European Union’s internal divisions and the new administration in Washington, the West won’t have the time or attention to devote to keeping the nine-year-old sovereign state safe. And if tensions continue to mount between Kosovo and Serbia, Russia could use them to engineer a full-blown crisis down the line.

In fact, Moscow is currently facing allegations that it tried to do just that in Montenegro. The country’s government has accused Russian security forces of plotting to assassinate Milo Djukanovic, then the prime minister, just before parliamentary elections in October in an effort to thwart its bid for NATO membership. Russia’s former deputy military attache to Poland, who was ejected from Warsaw in 2014 for espionage, organized the plan, according to Montenegro’s chief special prosecutor. Adding to the intrigue, Djukanovic said Moscow poured money into the country’s parliamentary campaigns in the runup to the elections. Serbia detained and deported a group of Russians accused of planning the coup in the weeks after the vote, and another 21 suspects were arrested in Montenegro. Moscow, for its part, has denied involvement in the plot and accused the country’s government of falsifying events to cast it in a negative light. Regardless, a prospective new election in 2018 could give Russia another opportunity to sow seeds of discord in Montenegro’s fragile government.



A Referendum on Russia’s Influence?

A vote in Bosnia-Herzegovina’s Republika Srpska, likewise, could give Moscow a chance to increase its sway there. The republic’s president, Milorad Dodik, has called for a referendum next year on the independence of Republika Srpska, which is home primarily to Orthodox Serbs. (The proposal recalls the independence vote that Crimea held just before Russia annexed it.) Dodik, who first suggested the referendum during his campaign for the presidency in 2014, has made no secret of his ties to the Kremlin. Two weeks before the presidential vote, he traveled to Moscow to meet with Putin, and on election day itself, he liaised with Russian ultranationalist and propagandist Konstantin Malofeev at a posh hotel after casting his ballot. Malofeev is an agent of Russian presidential aide Vladislav Surkov; together, the two have reportedly organized and funded referendums in Ukraine’s restive Crimea, Donetsk and Luhansk regions. What’s more, he arrived at the election day meeting with a group of Russian Cossacks later seen walking the streets near polling sites.

Dodik managed only a slim victory in the vote, limiting the amount of clout Russia has in Bosnia-Herzegovina through him. Nevertheless, more and more Russian media has been creeping into the country over the Serbian border for the past two years to spread Moscow’s word. Though voters in Republika Srpska are divided over the issue of secession, the Kremlin’s media campaigns will likely ramp up as the possible referendum approaches, perhaps igniting one of the largest political powder kegs in the Balkans today.

Disseminating Disinformation

The mostly Slavic state of Macedonia is already in the thick of a Russian disinformation campaign. Russia’s Foreign Ministry has accused the European Union and United States of supporting separatist movements among the inherently fragile country’s Albanian minority, which makes up 25 percent of the population. Over the past few weeks, Macedonians have taken to the streets to protest Macedonian Albanians’ demands for their own government. Moscow is stoking the unrest, claiming that the West is supporting calls for the creation of a so-called Greater Albania. According to a Stratfor source, the German and Austrian embassies in the country are trying to counter Russia’s propaganda, as is the U.S.-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Even so, recent polls show that most Macedonians would sooner turn to Russia for help in the future than to the West because they doubt Western governments’ commitment. (Indeed, Washington is reportedly planning to cut funding for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, creating a vacuum in the Macedonian media for Russia to fill.)

Although the instability in Macedonia pales in comparison with that in Kosovo or Republika Srpska, the situation there offers yet another example of Russia’s activities in the Balkans. Of course, not all states in the region have accepted Moscow’s advances: Croatia, a member of the European Union as well as NATO, has actively worked to keep Russian or pro-Russian media from spreading inside its borders, according to a Stratfor source. A fellow NATO member, Albania, has also attempted to resist Russia’s influence as the Kremlin’s media outlets have expanded their coverage to include Albanian-language services. Still, the campaigns are sure to continue. For Moscow, meddling in the Balkans is a low-cost and high-yield endeavor. The Russian government has no illusions that it will be able to win the Balkan countries over to its side. Instead, it views the region as a hornet’s nest. By stirring it up, Moscow could create a series of crises too deep for the European Union or NATO to contain, thereby giving it another card to play in its negotiations with the West.



Article also appeared at stratfor.com/analysis/russia-stirs-hornets-nest bearing the following notice:

Reprinting or republication of this report on websites is authorized by prominently displaying the following sentence, including the hyperlink to Stratfor, at the beginning or end of the report.

NEWSWATCH: “Potential ‘smoking gun’ showing Obama administration spied on Trump team, source says” – Fox News

White House File Photo
“Republican congressional investigators expect a potential ‘smoking gun’ establishing that the #Obama administration spied on the #Trump transition team, and possibly the president-elect himself, will be produced to the House #Intelligence Committee this week …. Classified intelligence showing incidental collection of Trump team communications, purportedly seen by committee Chairman Devin Nunes, R-Calif., and described by him in vague terms … came from multiple sources …. The intelligence corroborated information about surveillance of the Trump team that was known to Nunes, sources said, even before President Trump accused his predecessor of having wiretapped him …. The intelligence is said to leave no doubt the Obama administration, in its closing days, was using the cover of legitimate surveillance on foreign targets to spy on President-elect Trump, according to sources. The key to that conclusion is the unmasking of selected U.S. persons whose names appeared in the intelligence, … the paper trail leaves no other plausible purpose for the unmasking other than to damage the incoming Trump administration. …”

Click here for: “Potential ‘smoking gun’ showing Obama administration spied on Trump team, source says” – Fox News







NEWSWATCH: “Exiled #Kremlin Critic Killed In Kyiv In Brazen Daylight Shooting” – RFE/RL

Map of Ukraine and Environs, Including Russia

“A former #Russian lawmaker who defected to #Ukraine and aired damning criticism of #Russia’s leadership has been gunned down in broad daylight in the heart of Kyiv in what Ukraine’s president called ‘An act of state #terrorism by Russia.’ … ex-#Duma Deputy Denis #Voronenkov was killed by a gunman as he and his bodyguard were approaching the five-star Premier Palace Hotel …. the attacker fired at least eight shots at the 45-year-old Voronenkov with an ‘old Soviet pistol.’ … caught on security cameras.  The attacker was shot in the ensuing gunbattle with Voronenkov’s lone bodyguard and apprehended by police on the street nearby. He later died in hospital … there was initially no word on his identity. … the bodyguard, who was wounded in the exchange of gunfire … was provided by Ukrainian authorities in the past month because there was ‘reason to fear’ that Voronenkov’s life might be in danger. … Voronenkov had become a vocal critic of Kremlin policy toward Ukraine, including its military invasion and annexation of Crimea. But the former communist lawmaker was also unpopular among Ukrainian nationalists, some of whom were dubious of his loyalties and critical of authorities fast-tracking a Ukrainian passport ….”

Click here for: “Exiled Kremlin Critic Killed In Kyiv In Brazen Daylight Shooting” – RFE/RL







NEWSWATCH: “Denis Voronenkov: ex-#Russian MP who fled to #Ukraine killed in Kiev; Vladimir #Putin’s spokesman dismisses claims that Moscow is linked to the killing of #Kremlin critic who left #Russia last year and renounced citizenship.” – The Guardian (UK)

Map of European Portion of Russia and Environs

“A former #Russian MP who had fled to Ukraine was shot dead on a busy street in central Kiev …. Denis #Voronenkov, who had spoken out against … #Putin and #Kremlin policies, was shot three times outside the upmarket Premier Palace hotel. #Ukraine’s president, Petro #Poroshenko, quickly pointed the finger at Russian authorities, calling the killing an act of ‘state #terrorism’. …”

Click here for: “Denis Voronenkov: ex-Russian MP who fled to Ukraine killed in Kiev; Vladimir Putin’s spokesman dismisses claims that Moscow is linked to the killing of Kremlin critic who left Russia last year and renounced citizenship.” – The Guardian (UK)







Neil Gorsuch Supreme Court Nomination Marred by Association With Pro-Abortion Anthony Kennedy

Supreme Court Facade with Parkland and Blossoming Trees, adapted from image at supremecourt.gov

“… Justice Kennedy was incredibly welcoming and gracious … he taught me so much. I am forever grateful. … These judges brought me up in the law. Truly, I would not be here without them. Today is as much their day as it is mine. …” — Judge Neil Gorsuch, at the White House, Jan. 31, 2017

Neil Gorsuch was willing to clerk for pro-abortion Anthony Kennedy within roughly a year after Kennedy’s aggressive pro-abortion stance manifested itself in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, 505 U.S. 833 (1992), in which Kennedy was one of multiple coauthors of the Court’s decision. Kennedy apparently was the only active Justice that Gorsuch actually clerked for, part-time while Gorsuch used his status as a token clerk for retired Justice Byron White as a back door into the world of Supreme Court clerkships.

Even just last year, Kennedy abused his power on the Supreme Court to tip the balance in favor of attacking Texas requirements aimed at protecting women’s health, with Kennedy acting in favor of looser access to abortion instead.

Not only has Gorsuch failed to repudiate his past association with Kennedy, he spoke favorably of Kennedy, within the past two months, when accepting Donald Trump’s nomination of Gorsuch to the Supreme Court.



All of these facts raise serious questions about Gorsuch’s moral compass, judgment, analytical capacity and overall lack of suitability for a judicial position in the United States.

The issue is not simply how to parse some of Gorsuch’s words, in a dry, static, narrowly construed legalistic manner; the issue is what his words, posture and failure to speak, say about his thinking, abilities and character, past and present, against the backdrop of an underperforming, morally questionable legal profession and wholesale slaughter of vulnerable Americans in the womb.

Interestingly enough, the White House does not seem to make it easy to find Gorsuch’s full comments from January in text, even though they are included on the White House video.  According to a transcript from the Denver Post, Gorsuch asserted:

“‘I began my legal career working for Byron White, the last Coloradan to serve on the Supreme Court, and the only justice to lead the NFL in rushing. [Laughter] He was one of the smartest and most courageous men I’ve ever known. When Justice White retired, he gave me the chance to work for Justice Kennedy, as well. Justice Kennedy was incredibly welcoming and gracious, and like Justice White, he taught me so much. I am forever grateful. And if you’ve ever met Judge David Sentelle, you’ll know just how lucky I was to land a clerkship with him right out of school. [Waves] Thank you. These judges brought me up in the law. Truly, I would not be here without them. Today is as much their day as it is mine. …'”

The comments seem somewhat manipulative from the beginning, given the seeming implication that Gorsuch was trying to portray himself as having started out as a regular Supreme Court law clerk, only to scramble to continue helping the institution after his employer retired.  The facts seem to indicate that he actually started out, from the beginning, working for a retired Justice as a kind of token retirement benefit accorded the retired Justice, and, having inserted himself onto the scene, also took part-time work with Kennedy, as his only work for an active Justice.  Left out is whether Gorsuch even attempted to work for a more conservative or moderate Justice, or why it is he ended up with a human rights violator like Kennedy.  Additionally concerning is whether, with Trump failing to appoint a non-lawyer to the Supreme Court, he has ended up a lawyer so neck-deep in the artificial world of the legal profession that he “cannot see the forest for the trees.” One is left to wonder whether a status-hungry, resume-filling Gorsuch, lost in the arcane world of lawyers, decided that the pedigree of working for an active Justice was more important than the millions of American lives being snuffed out, and Rule of Law being undermined, by the anti-constitutional human rights violator that he was associating with when he worked for Kennedy.

There reportedly have been roughly 59 million surgical abortions in the United States since the Supreme Court began blocking prosecutions for abortions in 1973.

The Supreme Court’s decisions obstructing abortion prosecutions, seeking to enshrine prenatal child-killing as a would-be “right,” are illegal and an abuse of power.

The Constitution provides an explicit mechanism for amending the Constitution, including to account for shifts in public values.  A simple majority vote by an aggressive Supreme Court is not that mechanism.

Kennedy’s actions promoting abortion are an shockingly overt attack on, and violation of, the Constitution.

Under centuries of political theory, the core duty of any government, and any government’s core justification for existing, is the defense of innocent human life.

A democracy, in particular, rests its government’s legitimacy on serving the will and interests of its people, including protecting the rights of minority portions of the population, including safeguarding and respecting the rights of all persons living within the nation.  The most fundamental right, recognized since the founding of the republic, is the right to live and not be killed.



Kennedy and his pro-abortion confederates essentially have declared a civil war against an enormous, and most vulnerable, portion of the American population.  In the process Kennedy and his pro-abortion confederates have launched an assault on human life, an assault on Rule of Law, an assault on the American Way of Life and Americans themselves, and a relentless drive to arrogate to mere lawyers with political connections a fanciful self-proclaimed status of philosopher king.

Moreover, a key element of pro-abortion Supreme Court judicial ideology is to define, condemn and doom the victims precisely because of their helplessness, saying that it is because a victim is helpless (or lacking so-called independent “viability”) that members of that class of persons may be killed, on a massive scale, without cause, without due process, using methods that are almost unimaginably vicious and painful.  There are methods by which abortion is death by torture, ripping apart the bodies of living persons who can feel pain, while they are defenseless in their mothers’ wombs.

There are, of course, other issues of concern surrounding the troubled tenure of Anthony Kennedy.  However, so-called abortion is numerically the biggest threat to American lives, and, by that measure, on that basic level, the country’s biggest de facto national security threat.

Given that abortion is killing millions of Americans, Kennedy and his pro-abortion confederates are also essentially guilty of de facto domestic treason, and conspiracy to murder or conspiracy to become accessories to murder. Even if the mechanism for the mass-killing includes intermediate steps by a multitude of others, by comparison, if Kennedy simply issued a decree requiring sticks of dynamite to be made available to terrorists, to suggest that Kennedy would not share responsibility for the resulting deaths would be absurd.  The same is true of his efforts to “tee up” millions of abortions.

Kennedy and his pro-abortion confederates should be impeached and removed on that basis.  Congress has been remiss in failing to carry its duty in that regard, as a last line of defense placed upon Congress by the Constitution and the many Americans who have laid down their lives over two centuries to defend that Constitution and the American Way of Life, sacrifices for which Kennedy and the weak-willed Congress have demonstrated repeated contempt.



Additionally, abortion is racist and sexist, with a disproportionate impact on racial minorities and females, giving rise to concern over other severe moral and constitutional defects.  There also have been charges of abortion being used to cover up evidence of other crimes.

Yet instead of repudiating his association with Kennedy, Gorsuch observes:

“‘… Justice Kennedy was incredibly welcoming and gracious … he taught me so much. I am forever grateful. … These judges brought me up in the law. Truly, I would not be here without them. Today is as much their day as it is mine. …'”

There is a stark backdrop formed by the Kennedy ideology, and the horrific nature and mind-boggling magnitude of the harms Kennedy has helped impose upon America. Against that backdrop, one should call into question Gorsuch’s moral compass, judgment, intelligence, analytical ability and honesty, when observing Gorsuch’s lapse into a lassitude of “go along to get along, let’s celebrate the superficial feel-good status-building bullet-points in my resume,” given the irrational, unlawyer-like evils of Kennedy and Gorsuch’s recent ratification of his association with Kennedy.

To put it simply, to celebrate ties to Kennedy does not just mean Gorsuch is unfit for the bench, and should not have been confirmed for a federal court of appeals.  It means Gorsuch lacks leadership, is a weak figure and is not a very good thinker.

The scandal should be regarded as an embarrassment to Donald Trump.  Trump embarrassed himself by picking Gorsuch and by himself, Trump, praising Gorsuch’s past without caveats.

Even worse, Trump was supposed to be a highly capable outsider who was going to “play things straight” and “drain the swamp,” including giving a top priority to his duties as Commander-in-Chief to defend American lives.

Yet, instead of picking a non-lawyer who would help correct the low intellectual and moral standards of the legal profession, Trump picked a legal profession insider with an apparent “go along to get along attitude” even in the face of 59 million American dead.

Already Trump, the wealthy businessman who never really built much more than resorts, casinos and TV rating, is watering himself down.



There is the curious fact that the abortion issue had tipped the balance in recent presidential elections, with the prolife, traditional values majority apparently having a reflex to be tepid in the face of the Republican Party’s attempt to water down its nominees’ credentials.

In contrast, George W. Bush, despite not really being thoroughly prolife, managed to put together a prolife agenda with a specific big-picture focus, pulling in the prolife majority.  He did so largely by focusing on Supreme Court nominations, banning partial-birth infanticide and banning funding for prenatal killing, building a common ground on all those major points.  For example, while a majority of Americans are prolife, a vast super-majority support a ban on partial-birth infanticide.

John McCain and Mitt Romney, already raising questions and causing the traditional values majority to step back and wonder about their political fiber, failed to articulate the same kind of focus (and as a running mate Paul Ryan even allowed himself to articulate a modified pro-abortion view, openly admitting that his ticket supported abortion in some circumstances, an offensive and unbelievably impractical act that undoubtedly weakened the resolve of his potential base to expend greater energy in his behalf).

Trump, however, despite questions about his past views or values credentials, started to regain some focus on the specific practical major themes of the abortion issue and the big-picture steps he would need to take as President.  And Trump even drove his opponent to openly expose herself as an extreme radical on abortion and infanticide, out of step with all but a small portion of the electorate.

With Gorsuch, however, Trump begins to lose that focus.  He has failed to find the right nominee.  That Gorsuch could serve for three decades or more makes the situation even worse.

In the face of the Gorsuch nomination, there is, indeed, a need to avoid lassitude and complacency among the majority of Americans who consider themselves prolife.  One of the reasons four decades of mass-killing has rolled on is the willingness of portions of the prolife majority to tolerate weak efforts and compromised, watered down values posing as something more.

Americans who love their country and want to rebuild respect for Rule of Law should oppose Gorsuch, seek the impeachment and removal of Kennedy and his confederates and demand that Trump step up, do a better job and “get it right.”



Links & Resources

“Neil Gorsuch the Law Clerk” – SCOTUSblog

“Transcript: Neil Gorsuch’s full remarks after accepting the U.S. Supreme Court nomination; President Donald Trump introduced Gorsuch, a judge for the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, on Tuesday” – Denver Post 1.31.17

“President Donald J. Trump Nominates Judge Neil Gorsuch to the United States Supreme Court” – White House 1.31.17

“BIO: Judge Neil Gorsuch” – Fox News

Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pa. v. Casey, 505 U.S. 833 (1992) – FindLaw

Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pa. v. Casey, 505 U.S. 833 (1992) – IIT Chicago-Kent School of Law

Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pa. v. Casey, 505 U.S. 833 (1992) – Justia

“Anthony Kennedy on Abortion” – OnTheIssues

“Supreme Court Strikes Down Modest Abortion Restrictions, Highlights 2016 Election Stakes” – Breitbart 6.27.16



 

NEWSLINK: “Neil Gorsuch the Law Clerk” – SCOTUS Blog

File Photo of Neil Gorsuch and U.S. Flag, adapted from image at whitehouse.gov

“… White had retired from the court in the spring of 1993. According to some accounts at the time, White had not hired a full slate of law clerks for the term that would start in the fall of 1993 because he had an inclination to retire. It is unclear whether #Gorsuch was aware of this when White hired him.

Following a tradition among retired justices, who are assigned one law clerk, White agreed to share his clerk with an active justice. Gorsuch thus became a part-time member of Justice Anthony #Kennedy’s chambers.

The #SupremeCourt heard arguments in 99 cases during Gorsuch’s clerkship, issuing 93 full opinions.The most high-profile merits cases that term involved protest buffer zones around abortion clinics, the use of gender-based peremptory challenges in jury selection and whether a rap song incorporating parts of a Roy Orbison song constituted fair use under copyright law.

Whether Gorsuch played any significant role in advising Justice Kennedy on the term’s merits cases remains a private matter. And the amount of time he devoted to the needs of the newly retired Justice White isn’t widely known. …”

NEWSLINK: “BIO: Judge Neil Gorsuch” – Fox News

Supreme Court Facade with Parkland and Blossoming Trees, adapted from image at supremecourt.gov

“CURRENT POSITION: U.S. Court of Appeals, 10th Circuit, from 2006-present

LEGAL EXPERIENCE:

  • Clerk for Judge David Sentelle of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, 1991-92.
  • Clerk for United States Supreme Court Justice Byron White and Justice Anthony Kennedy, 1993-94.
  • Attorney at Kellogg, Huber, Hansen, Todd, Evans & Figel in Washington, D.C., 1995-2005; partner.
  • Deputy associate attorney general, Department of Justice, 2005-06 …”

NEWSLINK: “#Iran, #Turkey leaders agree to defuse tensions” – Reuters/Daily Star (Lebanon)

Iran Map

“#Iranian President Hassan #Rouhani and #Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip #Erdogan agreed Wednesday to improve ties, including in the fight against terrorism, Iran’s state news agency IRNA said, following some angry exchanges between the regional rivals. Tehran and Ankara support opposite sides in the conflict in #Syria. Largely #Shiite Iran backs the government of President Bashar #Assad, while Turkey, which is majority #Sunni, has backed elements of the Syrian opposition. Last month Erdogan and Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu both accused Iran of trying to destabilize Syria and Iraq and of sectarianism, prompting Tehran to summon Ankara’s ambassador. …”

NEWSLINK: “#Syria conflict: All parties committed #warcrimes in #Aleppo – #UN” – BBC

Syria Map

“#UN #humanrights investigators say #Syrian civilians fell victim to #war crimes committed by all parties during the battle for #Aleppo last year. Daily air strikes by #Syria’s government and its ally #Russia claimed hundreds of lives, according to a new report. Government forces also dropped chlorine bombs, resulting in hundreds of civilian casualties, it alleges. Rebels are meanwhile accused of firing shells indiscriminately at government-held areas and of using human shields. The evacuation of the rebel enclave in eastern Aleppo in December, which brought the battle to an end, also amounted to forced displacement, the investigators say. …”

NEWSLINK: “Both sides of #Aleppo siege guilty of war crimes: #UN report” – Fox News

“Both #Syrian rebels and their enemies, the #Assad regime along with its #Russian allies, are guilty of committing #warcrimes in #Aleppo, #Syria, the #UN said Wednesday.
The U.N. Commission of Inquiry (UNCI) released an assessment of developments in the five-year war that occured between July and December of last year. …”

 

NEWSWATCH: “Deterring Russian Aggression in the Baltic States; What it Takes to Win” – RAND/David A. Shlapak/Congressional Testimony

Map of Baltics, Eastern Europe, Russia, Environs

Testimony presented before the House Armed Services Committee, Subcommittee on Tactical Air and Land Forces on March 1, 2017.

“… the United States and … NATO[] confront three related challenges in deterring Russian aggression in the Baltics (and, more generally, wherever NATO territory may be threatened). Solving all three of these is vital to achieving core American objectives in Europe … since 1945: ensure peace and stability, support democratic and market forces, and prevent the use of armed force to coerce the free people of Europe or to alter established borders. … ‘winning’ means putting in place the wherewithal to effectively deter any Russian adventurism aimed at NATO member states by being prepared to deny Moscow its objectives without escalating to the first use of nuclear weapons. …”









VIDEO & TRANSCRIPT: President Trump in Meeting with the National Governors Association

White House File Photo

President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence addressed a meeting of the National Governors Association at the White House on Monday, Feb. 27. Trump touched upon a variety of subjects, including the federal budget, defense spending, immigration, Obamacare and the relationship between the states and the federal government.  The transcript follows below the video.



(WhiteHouse.gov – Feb. 27, 2017)

For Immediate Release
February 27, 2017
Remarks by President Trump in Meeting with the National Governors Association

State Dining Room

9:45 A.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. (Applause.) That is pretty good, I’ll tell you. Coming from governors, I can’t really — I can’t even believe it. That’s so impressive. And I very much appreciate you being here. And thank you to Vice President Pence. He has been so wonderful to work with. He’s a real talent, a real guy. And he is central casting, do we agree? Central casting. He’s been great. (Applause.)

Good morning, everybody, and welcome back to the White House. The First Lady and I were very, very happy last night to host you. We saw some real talent, military talent, musicians who were fantastic. And everybody enjoyed it. (Applause.)

I’m very proud to have so many former governors in my Cabinet. Vice President Pence, as you know, big governor from a very great state — I state I like very much — Indiana. Nikki Haley at the U.N. — is Nikki here someplace? I think so — yes. We have Rick Perry — is going before. We’re trying to get people approved, we can’t get them out. But Rick is going to do a fantastic job. Sonny Purdue will be joining the Cabinet very soon. Terry Branstad will be our ambassador to China. And an interesting story on Terry — every time I spoke in Iowa, he’d say, please don’t say anything bad about China. (Laughter.) I said, what do you mean? What do you mean? He said, I like China and we do a lot of business with China. “And really, just don’t” — and I said, “hmm.” So when it came down to picking an ambassador, I called him up, I said, you like China. And I can tell you, China is very, very happy with our choice. So we made everybody happy. (Applause.) Right? These governors — thank you. And thank you, Terry.

These governors have been bold reformers, and their success shows why we need to make states the laboratories of democracy once again. Many of you have shared past frustrations with waiting for permission from the federal government and agencies — and I understand that, and I’ve had many people tell me about it, and it’s been catastrophic for some of your states. You know your citizens and you know they want things done. But they don’t get things done and it’s not your fault. Sometimes it’s your fault, but they understand that. But sometimes it’s not your fault. We’re going to speed it up.

Because that’s not how a partnership is supposed to work. The government should not stand in your way in delivering needed reforms and services — and it won’t. We’re going to move very, very quickly, environmentally, with Scott and so many others that are involved in the process of regulation. We are going to be cutting — we’re going to be doing the right thing. We’re going to be protecting people environmentally and safety-wise, but we’re going to be moving it quickly, very quickly. (Applause.)

And speaking of that, I know many of you — and I’ve spoken to some of you last night about it — have many projects that are — I mean, just literally tied up because of environmental concerns, and it’s been in for years and years and years the project your state wants, great for employment — everybody wants them — and they couldn’t get them out of environmental protection. And we will get them out. Now, that doesn’t mean they’re going to be approved, but they’ll be rejected quickly one way or the other. They’ll be either rejected quickly or they’re going to get approved. I would say most will be approved, but you’re going to know you’re not going to wait nine years or eleven years — some of the horror stories that I’ve heard.

Under my administration, we’re going to have a true partnership of collaboration and cooperation. We will get to the answers and we will get them quickly, and the flexibility you need to implement the reforms that you are going to have in order to make decision-making proper and decision-making fast. So we’re going to do both those things — proper and fast.

One of the most important responsibilities for the federal government is the budget of the United States. My first budget will be submitted to the Congress next month. This budget will be a public safety and national security budget, very much based on those two with plenty of other things, but very strong. And it will include a historic increase in defense spending to rebuild the depleted military of the United States of America at a time we most need it. (Applause.)

And you’ll be hearing about that tomorrow night in great detail. This is a landmark event, a message to the world, in these dangerous times, of American strength, security and resolve. We must ensure that our courageous servicemen and women have the tools they need to deter war, and when called upon to fight in our name only do one thing: Win. We have to win. We have to start winning wars again.

I have to say, when I was young, in high school and college, everybody used to say “we haven’t lost a war” — we never lost a war — you remember. Some of you were right there with me, and you remember we never lost a war. America never lost. And now we never win a war. We never win. And we don’t fight to win. We don’t fight to win. So we either got to win, or don’t fight it at all. But where we are — 17 years — almost 17 years of fighting in the Middle East. I saw a chart the other day — as of about a month ago, $6 trillion we’ve spent in the Middle East — $6 trillion. And I want to tell you, that’s just unacceptable. And we’re nowhere. Actually, if you think about it, we’re less than nowhere. The Middle East is far worse than it was 16, 17 years ago. There’s not even a contest. So we’ve spent $6 trillion. We have a hornet’s nest. It’s a mess like you’ve never seen before. We’re nowhere. So we’re going to straighten it out.

This defense spending increase will be offset and paid for by finding greater savings and efficiencies across the federal government. We’re going to do more with less. I got involved in an airplane contract, I got involved in some other contracts, and we cut the hell out of the prices. I mean, we saved a lot of money, tremendous amount of money, beyond anything that the generals that were involved — they said they’d never seen anything like this before.

On one plane, on a small order of one plane, I saved $725 million. And I would say I devoted about, if I added it up, all those calls, probably about an hour. So I think that might be my highest and best use. (Laughter.) Because if we can do that, our budget will be — might be my highest and best. (Applause.)



And there are many other places; it’s all the same. And in one way, that’s a good thing because we have an answer. And David is going to do a fantastic job at the VA. I see David is sitting there, shaking his head. Stand up, David. (Applause.) So we can’t get our people through Cabinet, but he went through — was it 95 to nothing?

SECRETARY SHULKIN: A hundred to zero.

THE PRESIDENT: How the h[***] did you do that? (Laughter.) Boy, oh boy. He must be good. You were the one. One hundred to zero, wow. Chose you — hey, we can do it. But we do — we have still quite a few Cabinet members, and they’re just in limbo waiting and waiting. It’s like obstruction. It’s obstruction. But eventually we’ll get them, and they’ll put their people in, and we’ll get those agencies, et cetera, to work.

We’re going to do more with less and make the government lean and accountable to the people. We can do so much more with the money we spend. With $20 trillion in debt — can you imagine that — the government must learn to tighten its belt, something families all across the country have had to learn to do, unfortunately. But they’ve had to learn to do it, and they’ve done it well.

My budget increases spending, and the increase in all spending, for federal law enforcement also. And activities having to do with law enforcement will be substantially increased. And we will fight violent crime. If you look at what’s happening in our cities, you look at what’s happening in Chicago, what’s going on in Chicago — we will fight violent crime, and we will win. And we’ll win that one fairly quickly. Once we give the local police, the local law enforcement the right to go in and fight it, and we back them monetarily and also otherwise, we’re going to win that one. We’re going to win it fairly quickly, I believe.

My budget also puts America first by keeping tax dollars in America to help veterans and first responders. So important. This budget follows through on my promise to focus on keeping Americans safe, keeping out terrorists, keeping out criminals, and putting violent offenders behind bars, or removing them from our country altogether. And I must say that we’ve been treated very well — very, very well — on the job that General Kelly has done at the border. It’s tough, it’s strong.

I was talking last night to Terry McAuliffe, and he said, you have to mention this — because he met with — where is Terry? He’s around here someplace. Terry — he met with General Kelly, and I think I can say you were impressed with General Kelly. And he said, you have to get the point out that they’re removing the bad ones. And that’s where our focus is — it’s the bad ones. We’re getting some very, very bad players out of this country — drug lords, gang members, heads of gangs, killers, murderers — we’re getting them out. That’s what we’re focused on.

The press isn’t covering that, unfortunately, but it’s something that is very important. We’re getting the bad ones out. And that’s always where I said I was going to start. I was going to start with these bad players. And they are bad. They are rough and tough, and we’re getting them the hell out of our country, and we’re bringing them to where they started out. Let their country do what they have to do with them.

So the budget, which is going to be a very big part of tomorrow night’s speech, it’s going to be I think a budget of great rationality. But it’s going to have to do with military, safety, economic development, and things such as that. Great detail tomorrow night.

We’re also going to do whatever we can to restore the authority of the states when that is the appropriate thing to do. We’re going to give you back a lot of the powers that have been taken away from states and great people and great governors. And you can control it better than the federal government because you’re right on top of it. You have something that’s controllable. So I think that’s going to be very important. You see that already taking effect.

We have to let the states compete and to see who has the best solutions. They know the best how to spend their dollars and how to take care of the people within each state. And the states are different, and people are different. So the governors are going to have a lot more decision-making ability than they have right now.

All states will benefit from our economic agenda. We will reduce taxes very, very substantially, and simplify the tax code. We’re also going to make taxes between countries much more fair. We’re one of the only countries in the world that people can sell their product into us and have no tax, no nothing, and they get rich. And yet if you want to do business with them, you’ll have taxes, I’ve seen, as high as 100 percent. So they sell into us, no problem; we sell into them — because we don’t sell them because the tax is so high that they don’t want us to sell into them.

So I know that’s always been a point of contention, but to me it’s just fair. It’s just fair. It’s reciprocal. It’s fair. And so we’re going to be doing a lot of work on that, and that’s becoming a very, very important factor — fairness. Because I believe in free trade. I want so much trade — somebody said, oh, maybe he’s a total nationalist — which I am, in a true sense — but I want trade. I want great trade between countries.

But the word “free” is very deceiving, because it’s good for them, it’s not good for us. I want fair trade. And if we’re going to be taxed, they should be taxed at the same amount, the other countries. And one of two things is going to happen: We’re going to make a lot of money or the other country is going to get rid of its tax. And that’s good, too, because now the product, like Harley-Davidson — I was talking to them — the product will now flow into other countries where right now they can’t do it.

So we’re going to make it easier for states to invest in infrastructure, and I’m going to have a big statement tomorrow night on infrastructure. We spent $6 trillion in the Middle East, and we have potholes all over our highways and our roads. I have a friend who is in the trucking business. He said, my trucks are destroyed going from New York to Los Angeles. They’re destroyed. He said, I’m not going to get the good trucks. He always prided himself on buying the best equipment. He said, the roads are so bad that, by the time we make the journey from New York to Los Angeles or back, he said the equipment is just beat to hell. I said, when has it been like that before? He said, it’s never — he’s been in the business for 40 years — he said it’s never been like that. Forty years — never been like that. So we’re going to take care of that.

Infrastructure — we’re going to start spending on infrastructure big. And it’s not like we have a choice. It’s not like, oh, gee, let’s hold it off. Our highways, our bridges are unsafe. Our tunnels — I mean, we have tunnels in New York where the tiles are on the ceiling, and you see many tiles missing. And you wonder, you know, you’re driving at 40 miles an hour, 50 miles an hour through a tunnel. Take a look at the Lincoln Tunnel and the Queens-Midtown Tunnel, and you’re driving, and you see all this loose material that’s heavy. And it was made many years ago, so it’s heavy. Today, it’s light. It used to be better. The problem is, you got to hold it up. And I say to myself — every time I drive through, I say, I wonder how many people are hurt or injured when they are driving at 40, 50 miles an hour through a tunnel, and the tile falls off. And there are so many missing tiles and such loose concrete. So we have to fix our infrastructure. It’s not like we have a choice. We have no choice, and we’re going to do it, and it also happens to mean jobs, which is a good thing.

We’re going to repeal and replace Obamacare, and get states the flexibility that they need to make the end result really, really good for them. A very complicated issue. We have Tom Price, just got confirmed — sitting here. (Applause.) Stand up, Tom. And I spent a lot of time with Governor Walker and Governor Rick Scott the other day — we were talking about it. They’re really very expert on the subject, and I want to thank them. They spent a lot of time with me. Governor Christie who’s here someplace. Where’s Chris? Governor Christie, thank you. And so we have a lot of talent and a lot of expertise here, I will tell you. And we have come up with a solution that’s really, really, I think, very good.

Now, I have to tell you, it’s an unbelievably complex subject. Nobody knew that healthcare could be so complicated. And statutorily and for budget purposes, as you know, we have to do healthcare before we do the tax cut. The tax cut is going to be major, it’s going to be simple, and the whole tax plan is wonderful. But I can’t do it until we do healthcare because we have to know what the healthcare is going to cost. And, statutorily, that’s the way it is. So for those people that say, oh, gee, I wish we could do the tax first — it just doesn’t work that way. I would like to do that first. It’s actually — tax cutting has never been that easy, but it’s a tiny, little ant compared to what we’re talking about with Obamacare.



And you have to remember — and I say this to Democrats in the room — of which we have many — Obamacare has failed. If you go to Minnesota, where they had a 66-percent increase, and the governor of Minnesota, who is with us today, said, Obamacare — the Affordable Care Act — is no longer affordable — something to that effect. I think that might be it exactly. But the Affordable Care Act is no longer affordable. Obamacare has failed.

I say to the Republicans, if you really want to do politically something good, don’t do anything. Sit back for a period of two years, because ’17 is going to be a disaster — a disaster — for Obamacare if we don’t do something. Let it be a disaster because we can blame that on the Dems that are in our room, and we can blame that on the Democrats and President Obama. Let it implode, and then let it implode in ’18 even worse. Don’t do anything, and they will come begging for us to do something. But that’s not the fair thing to do for the people. It’s not the fair thing.

Politically, I think it would be a great solution, because as soon as we touch it, if we do the most minute thing — just a tiny, little change — what’s going to happen? They’re going to say, it’s the Republicans’ problem. That’s the way it is. But we have to do what’s right because Obamacare is a failed disaster.

And it’s interesting, it’s sort of like, when you see — you see it with politicians, you see it with President Obama — when you know he’s getting out of office and the clock is ticking, and he’s not going to be there, his approval rating goes way up, even though, you know, not that active in the last period of time. The approval rating goes up. That’s not him; that’s like almost everybody. I see it happening with Obamacare. People hate it, but now they see that the end is coming, and they’re saying, oh, maybe we love it. There’s nothing to love. It’s a disaster, folks, okay? So you have to remember that.

And, very importantly, we are going to work to restore local control to our nation’s education system. Betsy is here someplace, and she is going to be, I think, fantastic. (Applause.) I think she’s going to be fantastic. Stand up, Betsy. Betsy feels so strongly, and she has had such support from so many people. You know, you don’t see that too much because you see the anti, you never see the positive. But I can tell you, I’ve had so many calls while she was going through that horrible process. That was a tough, tough, nasty process. And she hung in, she was as strong as you get. But so many people were calling Betsy, saying you will do such a fantastic job once you get it.

It’s like sometimes I’d say, it’s much tougher to get into Harvard than it is to stay there. Does that make sense? It’s tougher to get into the Wharton School of Finance — you can’t get in. But if you get in, it’s fine, you get through, right? I think you’re going to do a fantastic job, and we’re very proud of you. And you took a lot of heat, but you’re going to do great. So she wants to bring decision-making powers back to parents, back to the families and back to the states, where they can really control education.

And just finally, I’m looking forward to working with you on these projects and so much more. We’re going to do these projects and so many more. And I thank you all again for being here. It’s going to be a really productive discussion — so productive that I’m going to ask the press to start leaving because I wouldn’t want them to see any great, productive session. (Laughter.) But they’ll be seeing it and hearing about it.

Again, thank you very much all for being at the White House. We’ll do this many times. I want the opinions of the governors of the states of the United States. So I want to just thank you all for being here, and let’s take some questions, okay? (Applause.) Thank you.

END
10:05 A.M. EST





NEWSLINK: “U.S. Demands Russia Observe Cease-Fire; Says Combined Russian-Separatist Forces Attack Monitors” – RFE/RL

Map of Ukraine and Environs, Including Russia

“The United States has called on #Russia to ‘immediately’ observe a cease-fire deal in eastern Ukraine — saying that a combined force from Russia’s military and pro-Russia separatists in eastern Ukraine had been targeting international monitors. In a February 26 statement, the U.S. State Department called on “Russia and the separatist forces it backs to immediately observe the cease-fire, withdraw all heavy weapons, and allow full and unfettered access” to the region for monitors from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). In a February 26 statement, the U.S. State Department called on “Russia and the separatist forces it backs to immediately observe the cease-fire, withdraw all heavy weapons, and allow full and unfettered access” to the region for monitors from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). Washington’s call came a day after the OSCE monitoring mission said armed men in separatist-controlled territory to the north of Donetsk had seized one of the unarmed drones that the monitors use to assess cease-fire violations. …”

NEWSLINK: “Montenegro ‘to indict Russian spy behind coup plot'” – Daily Telegraph

Map of Europe Highlighting Montenegro

“#Montenegro is reportedly preparing to indict the #Russian #intelligence officer it accuses of masterminding a bloody coup plot to stop the Balkan nation joining #Nato. …”

NEWSLINK: “Russian-Backed Militants Open Fire On Civilian Ceasefire Monitors In Ukraine” – Daily Caller/Heritage Foundation

Map of Ukraine and Environs, Including Russia

Russian separatist militants opened fire Friday on a group of civilian peace monitors from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe in eastern Ukraine, sparking condemnation from the group’s chief monitor and the U.S. Militants from the Russian-backed Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) fired on the OSCE monitors as they were attempting to launch a drone in order to investigate the alleged shelling of the Donetsk water filtration station. After seizing the drone, one of the militants opened fire near the monitors. …

NEWSLINK: “House Intel Chair: Calls For Trump-Russia Special Prosecutor ‘Almost Like McCarthyism’” – Daily Caller/Heritage Foundation

U.S. Capitol file photo

The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee said on Saturday that calls for a special prosecutor to investigate possible ties between Donald #Trump advisers and the #Russian government amount to a ‘witch hunt’ and resemble the #McCarthyism of the 1950s. ‘At this point we can’t go on a witch hunt against any American people … just because they appeared in a news story,’ California Rep. Devin Nunes told reporters at California Republican convention in Sacramento on Saturday, according to the San Francisco Gate.

NEWSLINK: “Crimea: Peninsula of Torture” – OpenDemocracy/Yegor Skovoroda

Map of Ukraine and Environs, Including Russia

“Three years on since the #Russian authorities took control of #Crimea, Russian security forces’ actions on the peninsula increasingly recall methods that first gained infamy in the North Caucasus. Crimean Tatars and pro-Ukrainian activists disappear without a trace, people who protest the policies of the new authorities are arrested, Salafi Muslims are persecuted. Just like in the Caucasus, it’s difficult for journalists, rights defenders and lawyers to operate in Crimea — they are all subject to pressure. Torture has come to Crimea, too. In particular, the Russian security services’ favourite method — electric shock. …”

NEWSLINK: “Russians march to honor slain opposition leader and Putin critic Boris Nemtsov” – Los Angeles Times

Map of Russia with Russian Flag

Thousands of #Russians marched in Moscow on Sunday to mark the death of Boris #Nemtsov, an outspoken opposition leader who was gunned down two years ago. The protesters chanted ‘#Putin is a thief!’ and ‘Give Crimea back!’ and carried portraits of Nemtsov, who was one of the best known critics of Russian President Vladimir Putin and his policies.

NEWSLINK: “WH Spokesperson: FBI Said Stories on Trump-Russia Contact Is ‘BS’” – Breitbart

FBI Building file photo

… discussing investigations into Russia’s hacking during last year’s presidential election and disputed contacts between the Trump campaign and Russia, White House deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said, ‘the FBI has already said this story is BS.’ … “

NEWSLINK: “Facing Russia and Terrorism, a NATO Outsider Urges EU to Step Up” – Bloomberg

Globe Highlighting NATO Members

“#Finland is urging #Europe to increase #NATO contributions and focus more on security as the continent grapples with political turmoil from all sides, including from within.

Once the U.K. has quit the European Union, the 27 nations left behind need to double down on the bloc’s founding principle and give the remaining 444 million citizens what they most crave: security, Finnish President Sauli Niinisto said in an interview at his seaside residence in Helsinki on Friday. The 68-year-old is head of state of the nation that shares the EU’s longest border with #Russia, a country with which Finland has regular contact for security and practical reasons.”

 

NEWSLINK: “Thousands remember slain Russian politician” – Radio New Zealand

Kremlin Aerial View

“Thousands of people have marched in #Moscow to remember #Russian opposition leader, Boris #Nemtsov, who was shot dead outside the Kremlin in 2015. Mr Nemtsov, a reformer, democrat and former deputy PM, was a fierce critic of President Vladimir #Putin. Some marchers chanted ‘#Russia will be free!” and ‘#Putin is war!’ …”

 

NEWSLINK: “Republicans divided on Russia probe, calls for special prosecutor over AG Sessions” – Fox News

White House File Photo

“#Republicans are increasingly divided over the issue of whether members of Donald #Trump’s presidential campaign made illegal contact with #Russia and if a special prosecutor should be appointed over Attorney General Jeff Sessions to investigate such allegations. Former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski told “Fox News Sunday” that he has confidence in Sessions, a Trump campaign supporter and former AlabamPolia senator, and his judgment.”

NEWSLINK: “Kremlin denies Flynn discussed sanctions with Russian ambassador” – New York Post

Michael Flynn file photo

“Moscow on Monday backed national security adviser Mike Flynn, saying he never improperly discussed sanctions with the Russian ambassador. ‘We have already said there have not been any such talks,” insisted Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, when asked whether Flynn and envoy Sergey Kislyak talked about rolling back tough sanctions imposed by President Obama, once President Trump had assumed office, TASS reported.”

NEWSLINK: “Russia and China bombard Blighty with 188 cyberattacks in 3 months; Security secrets and private businesses are all fair game” – Register (UK)

“Britain has been hit by 188 “high-level attacks” in the last three months. Some of these attempts include Russian state-sponsored hackers trying to steal defence and foreign policy secrets, according to the UK’s newly appointed National Cyber Security Centre chief Ciaran Martin. Russian and Chinese attacks on defence and foreign policy servers are among those being investigated by the organisation. Security vendors said that high-level malfeasance by foreign espionage agencies is an issue for Western businesses as well as governments. …”

NEWSLINK: “Mike Flynn, #Russia, deportations and real fake news” – AEI

Michael Flynn file photo

“… What is illegal is leaking highly sensitive classified information about signals intelligence from spying on the Russian ambassador. And what also is illegal is the CIA spying, even incidentally, on Americans. This is not a maybe, or an if, or a sorta. It is ILLEGAL. The aforementioned nine officials should be found, prosecuted, and, if found guilty, imprisoned for leaking classified information. That they did so for political reasons is all the more despicable. …”

NEWSLINK: “Emmanuel Macron aide blames #Russia for #hacking attempts; Russia watchers say Moscow is deploying considerable resources to swing the French election.” – Politico.EU

Map of France

“A top aide to French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron accused #Russia on Monday of trying to hack into his campaign’s computer systems and spreading disinformation about him via Kremlin-backed news media.”

NEWSLINK: “#InternationalLaw and #Cyber Operations – Launch of the Tallinn Manual 2.0” – Atlantic Council

Binary Code with Stylized Eye

“… The first Tallinn Manual was the most comprehensive analysis of how existing international law applies to #cyber space, mostly focusing on cyber operations occurring during armed conflict. Four years after its publication, we have witnessed cyber rapidly moving to the forefront of national security agendas in response to the proliferation of cyberattacks against states, companies, and individuals alike. The Tallinn Manual 2.0, authored by nineteen respected international law experts across the globe, adds analysis of international law governing these more common forms of cyber incidents occurring during peace time. …”

 

NEWSLINK: “California crews rush to fix dam before new storms hit” – Reuters

U.S. Map

“Stormwaters receded on Monday behind the nation’s tallest dam, in Northern California, as engineers raced to drain the rain-swollen reservoir and shore up a crumbling overflow channel before new storms sweep the region later this week.

Authorities said they had averted the immediate danger of a catastrophic failure – one capable of unleashing a wall of water three stories tall on towns below.

But evacuation orders for some 188,000 residents remained in effect indefinitely, Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea said at a midday news conference. The risk to those living in the Feather River valley below the Lake Oroville Dam, 65 miles (105 km) north of Sacramento, was still being reviewed, he said. …”

 

NEWSWATCH VIDEO: “Why foreign companies are shutting shop in #China” – CNBC

China Map

“U.S.-based Seagate, the world’s biggest maker of hard disk drives, closed its factory in Suzhou near Shanghai last month with the loss of 2,000 jobs, in a move that has rekindled fears that #China is becoming increasingly hostile towards foreign firms operating in the country. … Seagate joined a spate of foreign companies to shutter operations in China in recent years, for various reasons, but most have attributed the country’s high tax regime, rising labor costs and fierce competition from domestic companies. Panasonic, for instance, stopped all its manufacturing of televisions in the country in 2015 after 37 years of operating in China. …”

Click here for: “Why foreign companies are shutting shop in China” – CNBC/South China Morning Post







VOA: China’s Two-Child Policy Shift May Be Too Little, Too Late

China Map

(Voice of America – voanews.vom) BEIJING — China saw a smaller than expected uptick in the number of births following its landmark decision to end the country’s controversial one-child policy

In 2016, the number of births in China increased following its landmark decision to end the country’s controversial one-child policy and allow all parents to have two children.

Officials were quick to claim success, arguing that the increase of around 1.4 million new births (compared with an average from 2010-2015) was a sign the new policy was working.



Nearly half of the 17.86 million births last year were second children, but the increase was much smaller than officials and experts expected.

For many families, it is not the statistics that are worrisome, but the financial demands parents face in raising a second child.

Not cheap

Liu, a government employee spending the day with his family at Houhai Lake in the central part of Beijing, said after the policy was rolled out a year ago, he and his wife considered having another. In the end however, they felt the burden was too much to bear.

“[I] wish we could have a second child. One child on his own, is too lonely,” Liu said. “It would be better to have two children.”

Many parents noted the extreme costs of living in China, in particular larger cities such as Beijing.

More than just food and clothing expenses, parents said they spend as much as $1,000 to $2,000 (some even more) each month on extracurricular classes for everything from art to dancing and skating lessons.

In many cases, parents said they are taking a wide range of courses to see where their children’s interests are and to give them an edge in a highly competitive country.

Education and extracurricular activities are not the only expenses, added James King.

“Of course, there’s also travel overseas, which is very expensive,” King said. “We try to travel abroad at least once a year.”



Shared burden

James and his wife Lucy, who have a second child, said that they feel the benefits outweigh the costs, but added each family’s situation is different.

“In the future, [a] child must deal with four elderly parents, but having a brother or sister can make it easier to divide up those responsibilities.”

What is clear is the two-child policy is really more a question that those with residence in China’s major coastal cities, such as Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, are struggling with. For those from other provinces, bigger families are more common, despite the restrictions.

But that doesn’t mean their children see things differently.

Life’s pressures

Bai, a young hotel management worker from neighboring Hebei province, said his family, like many others where he is from, ignored fines in the past, to have more children. Especially until a boy was born.

Although Bai has two older sisters and comes from a big family by China standards, he was cautious when asked about his eventual plans for having children.

“Life is very stressful, but if I was to have a child, one would be enough,” Bai said. “Either a boy or girl would be fine.”



Demographic juggernaut

Traditional Chinese culture puts more emphasis on giving birth to boys as they carry on the family name. And according to tradition, girls are expected to take care of the family they join through marriage.

The over-emphasis on boys has led to a massive gender gap in China, and for critics it is one of the tragedies of the one-child policy. And that’s not the only demographic challenge China faces despite its massive population.

China’s working population is shrinking as the number of pensioners increases rapidly.

Starting next year, there is likely to be a persistent decrease in the number of children being born, experts say, as the number of women eligible to have a second child will begin to shrink as more fill their quota.

Like many of its Asian neighbors, China has a low fertility rate and so far the government has offered little in the form of incentives to encourage more births aside from ending its one child policy. And because of that, some critics say, the policy shift may be too little too late.





#PopeFrancis Sends #SuperBowl Good Wishes and Plea for Friendship, Peace, Solidarity in #Sports; But Fails to Address Other Issues or Speak in National Language of United States

Pope Francis File Photo, Adapted From Image

The Vatican reports, through News.Va, that #PopeFrancis, in a Spanish-speaking video message, has issued a good will message on the occasion of the 2017 #SuperBowl.

In a specially recorded video message for the event which holds the attention of much of the nation and commands a television audience larger than for any other event of the year, the Pope pointed out that great sporting events like the championship game of the National Football League are highly symbolic, and show that it is possible to build a culture of encounter and a world of peace. ‘By participating in sport, we are able to go beyond our own self-interest – and in a healthy way – we learn to sacrifice, to grow in fidelity and respect the rules. May this year’s Super Bowl be a sign of peace, friendship and solidarity to the world’ he said.

The Vatican version of the video is embedded below, which appeared to lack an English translation.

However, in a Pontificate that sometimes arguably has a passive-aggressive tendency, and a tendency to sometimes brush past significant concerns, the Pope’s feel-good message had several curious twists to it.

One is that, in a very short message targeted at a major event in the United States, he failed to speak in the de facto national language of the United States, American English, nor did he speak in Latin, the universal language of the Church.  Instead, he spoke in his native tongue, Latin American Spanish, at a time when one of the most tragic issues facing the United States is widespread illegal colonization by Spanish-speaking Latin Americans, a number of whom seem more focused on exploiting the United States economically instead of becoming Americans, a number of whom to want to force the United States to change its language to Spanish, or become bilingual.  And the Pope did this in a context where some aggressive elements infiltrating Catholic institutions have tried to distort Catholic messages on migration to promote racial partisan politics, the surrendering of one particular country to illegal colonization by a particular ethnic group from particular nations of origin.

Additional, very serious, issues are the Pope’s apparent failure to address alarms about the Super Bowl alleging drawing attention from person promoting slavery and the exploitation of kidnap victims, as well as the NFL’s scandalous decision to feature an unsavory, offensive fallen-away Catholic as the half-time performer.  Stefani Barotta, who uses a stage name that hearkens back to her days as a go-go dancer, “Lady Gaga,” has been associated with nudity, offensive lyrics and offensive public messages, including messages referencing faith in an offensive manner.

The Pope also failed to address the NFL’s tragic association with medical harm suffered by players over a number of years, including life-altering brain injuries.

 

#NFL Embarasses Itself Inviting Unsavory, Untalented Stefani #Germanotta (so-called “#LadyGaga”) for #SuperBowl Halftime Show

File Photo of Football and Turf Near Goal Line

In one of the most-watched television broadcasts globally, the so-called #SuperBowl, the #NFL apparently has decided to go out of its way to offend mainstream America, believers in God, people of normal taste, and people who can hear pitch accurately, by featuring as its half-time performer the unsavory, untalented, droning Stefani Germanotta. Germanotta, a fallen-away Catholic who dropped out of a religious high school, performs under the stage name of “#LadyGaga,” a title that, according to a biography website, hearkens pack to a former career as a go-go dancer.



The “performance” itself was largely an exercise in mediocrity.  In addition to being unsavory and offensive, the individual in question tends to be boring, uninspired and droning in her sound, which tends to sound like a more boring, off-key version of dance club background music from the late 1980’s or early 1990’s.  In fact, one has to wonder how many the individual’s fans might be clinically tone deaf.



As laughable as it might seem now, not that many years ago, the NFL said it wanted to be known as family entertainment.  After featuring the likes of Madonna Ciccone, Katy Perry and now the unsavory, offensive, fallen-away Catholic Stefani Germanotta as Super Bowl half-time performers, the NFL has secured itself the branding of being unsuitable for families, unsuitable for people of good taste and, basically, unsuitable for normal people.

Stefani Germanotta has associated herself with nudity, the promotion of immorality and a lack of musical talent.  Her droning, forgetable, unspiring music tends to sound somewhat off-key and out of tune.  Those facts invite speculation that she resorts to shock value as an attention-getter to compensate for the fact that her music is boring and largely featureless.  If Germanotta had tried to emerge on the scene in the 1960’s or 1970’s, or perhaps any time prior to the mid-1990’s, she likely would not have a “music” career at all.



The individual also has shown her contempt for religious faith in a number of ways, including by singing love for Judas, as well as mocking prayer in a morbid manner by announcing at one point that she was praying naked.

#Pepsi shares part of the blame for the offensive fiasco, as the would-be sponsor of the debacle.

#Fox also shares blame, for having its announcers toe the party line by speaking favorably of the individual.

While at least one Fox commentator tried to convince viewers that the would-be “show” at halftime was “amazing,” in reality the show ittself was boring as well as offensive, an embarrasment to the NFL, an embarrasment to football, an embarassment to Fox, and to anybody involved.



There also was the claim that mention of the individual on so-called “social media” was some kind of positive indicator, when, in reality, so-called “mentions” including negative mentions.

Quite frankly, one should question whether favorable commentators should be paid attention or hired for future commentary.  And NFL personnel responsible for inflicting this fiasco on America should be fired, for bad judgment and undermining the good of the sport, as well as for disrespecting the vast majority of Americans whose values and sense of taste have been attacked and disrespected by the trouble-making, unsavory individual the NFL tried to celebrate as something other than that.





 

NEWSLINK: “#Kasparov: Comparing USA to #Russia like comparing surgeon to Jack the Ripper” – The Hill/Garry Kasparov

Kremlin and St. Basil's at Night

“The chairman of the Human Rights Foundation, Russian chess master Garry #Kasparov, criticized President Donald #Trump Sunday for implying this weekend that the United States isn’t so pure when it comes to condemning #Russia’s human rights record. ‘Comparing the USA to Putin’s Russia is like comparing a surgeon to Jack the Ripper because they both cut people with knives,’ Kasparov tweeted, referencing Russian President Vladimir Putin and the 19th century London serial killer who slashed his victims.”