“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 ….”
“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. …”
“… 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. …”
“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. …”
“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.”
SCW NEWSWATCH: “Nearly 200 Unvaccinated Children Sent Home From Schools Across North Dakota” – Newsweek
“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: “Russian spies accused of targeting watchdog investigating UK chemical attacks, probe into MH17 crash[; U.S. indicts Russian military intelligence figures” – Fox News
“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
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
[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]
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.
RECOMMENDATIONSRecommendation 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
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
“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
SCW RUSSIAWIRE: “Ukraine needs Azov Sea base to counter new Russian threat: military chief” – Reuters
“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
SCW RUSSIAWIRE: “Russia begins missile system delivery to Syria, warns West on peace talks” – Reuters
“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
“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
“… 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. …”
“… 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. …”
SCW RUSSIAWIRE: “Russia: Runoffs in Four Regional Races Reveal the Kremlin’s Vulnerability” [Excerpt] – Stratfor
“… 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: “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
“… 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
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
“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 now 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
“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 …. “
* * *
To Iranian President Rouhani: NEVER, EVER THREATEN THE UNITED STATES AGAIN OR YOU WILL SUFFER CONSEQUENCES THE LIKES OF WHICH FEW THROUGHOUT HISTORY HAVE EVER SUFFERED BEFORE. WE ARE NO LONGER A COUNTRY THAT WILL STAND FOR YOUR DEMENTED WORDS OF VIOLENCE & DEATH. BE CAUTIOUS!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 23, 2018
* * *
“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. …”
[featured image is file photo from another occasion]
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
NEWSWATCH: “U.S. judge says Mueller should not have ‘unfettered power’ in Russia probe” – Reuters/Sarah N. Lynch
“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
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 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: House Intelligence Committee Report on Russia Investigation; Excerpt: Introduction and Overview
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.
“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
“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
“… 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
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
“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
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
“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
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. …”
SCW RUSSIA WIRE NEWSWATCH: “Strategic Warning on NATO’s Eastern Flank Pitfalls, Prospects, and Limits” – RAND/Mark R. Cozad
“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
NEWSWATCH: “Number of Irish Americans seven times larger than entire population of Ireland” – IrishCentral
“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
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. …
“#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. …”
[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.
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
“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
“#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
VIDEO NEWSWATCH: “Syria, Russia Would Be ‘Insane’ to Retaliate Over U.S. Airstrikes, Former U.S. Ambassador Says” – Fox News
“… 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
“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 ….”
[featured image is file photo]
“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 ….”
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)
“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)
NEWSWATCH: “Deterring Russian Aggression in the Baltic States; What it Takes to Win” – RAND/David A. Shlapak/Congressional Testimony
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. …”
“… An order that directs federal agencies to ease the ‘regulatory burdens’ of ObamaCare. … ‘… on any State or a cost, fee, tax, penalty, or regulatory burden on individuals, families, healthcare providers, health insurers, patients, recipients of healthcare services, purchasers of health insurance, or makers of medical devices, products, or medications.’ * * * An order imposing a hiring freeze for some federal government workers …. This excludes the military, as Trump noted at the signing. * * * a notice that the U.S. will begin withdrawing from the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal. * * * … the … ‘Mexico City Policy’ … ban on federal funds to international groups that perform abortions or lobby to legalize or promote abortion. …”
“Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich … would prefer an advisory position to President-elect Donald Trump as opposed to a Cabinet …. ‘I want to be the general planner, looking out over the next eight years and trying to design how we fundamentally reshape the federal government,’ Gingrich told Fox News’ Megyn Kelly …. ‘That’s a very broad job. The closest analogy probably is [New Deal architect] Harry Hopkins and the work he did for Franklin Delano Roosevelt.’
“… #Trump and … #Putin spent some time on the telephone Monday, as the pair discussed hopes that the two nations can thaw icy relations …. The #Kremlin confirmed … both Trump and Putin agreed that U.S.-#Russian relations are presently at an ‘unsatisfactory’ level.
Trump’s campaign said Putin had called to offer his congratulations on winning the election and the two began discussing a range of issues. ….
Syria and global terrorism also reportedly were among the topics of discussion.
Officials in southern Russia have been forced into providing transport for schoolchildren after a video emerged of them walking to school armed with an axe to fend off wolves. …. [children] in the village … have to walk … 6.2 miles … to the nearest secondary school on a route that takes them through a forest. A video of the group trudging their way through deep snow, one student clutching an axe, was shared online by their parents. The journey became necessary after the village’s own school closed, and no buses were put in place. … Once the story made headlines …. [officials] announc[ed] that transport would be provided after all. ….
Russia is preparing to carry out a new round of strikes targeting Syria from a group of warships … in the eastern Mediterranean … two U.S. defense officials [said] …. The Russian armada is centered around a Soviet-era aircraft carrier and includes three destroyers capable of launching cruise [missiles] …. Russian jets were seen taking off with weapons visible under their wings from Russia’s only aircraft carrier, the Admiral Kuznetsov, part of the flotilla located near Syria …. It marked the first time Russia had conducted armed flight operations from the aircraft carrier since leaving port ….
Click here for Fox News: “Russia poised to unleash new Syria strikes from the sea, US officials say”
… In a telegram sent to Trump on Wednesday, Putin expressed hope that the incoming U.S. president would prove a constructive partner in pulling U.S.-Russia relations back from the brink. Trump’s election, the telegram read, should ‘lead to constructive dialogue between Moscow and Washington based on equality and respect.’ … at a ceremony at the Kremlin for foreign ambassadors, Putin spoke of Trump’s promises on the campaign trail to restore relations with Russia.
Click here for Defense News: “From Moscow: Russian Politicians and Pundits Shocked by Trump Election”
“… Sources tell Fox News’s Bret Baier that the #FBI has uncovered an ‘avalanche of evidence’ in the #Clinton Foundation investigation. … ‘actively and aggressively pursuing this case,’ calling it a ‘very high priority.’ … with newly discovered email evidence and additional documents revealed by WikiLeaks, these sources say that agents will likely try to get #Huma Abedin and others to cooperate in an effort to bring criminal charges against Hillary Clinton. … if Clinton is elected president … but thereafter indicted …. She could resign before or after inauguration …. #Obama could pardon her before he departs …. Clinton, as president, could try to invoke broad constitutional immunity from prosecution, delaying her criminal trial until after she leaves office. Or she could pardon herself. … all of that may not matter much if a Republican House of Representatives moves to impeach her. Neither immunity nor pardons apply to the ultimate constitutional remedy of impeachment. … Americans will again be forced to suffer through another impeachment horror show. But Hillary may not be able to beat the rap the way her husband did back in 1999 when he was impeached for perjury and obstruction of justice. ….”
As … Hillary #Clinton and #Hollywood continue to deceitfully prop up #PlannedParenthood … under the guise of women’s ‘health,’ the #abortion mill is … pursuing a legal battle … to kill unborn babies with Down Syndrome. … team[ing] up with the American Civil Liberties Union to try to have an Indiana law signed by Governor Mike Pence, which prohibits abortion for reasons of #race, #sex or genetic defect such as #DownSyndrome, thrown out. … [to be] heard by pro-abortion Obama-appointee Judge Tanya Walton Pratt. In July, Pratt granted the abortion mill’s request and blocked the law from being enforced. … House Bill 1337 also requires aborted or miscarried babies’ bodies to be disposed via humane practices of cremation or burial. …
[featured image is file photo]
NEWSWATCH: “Trump Led Clinton By 1 Point Going Into Debate — IBD/TIPP Poll” – Investor’s Business Daily
Even before Donald Trump’s strong showing besting Hillary Rodham Clinton in their final presidential debate, Investor’s Business Daily already was reporting Trump pulling ahead of Rodham Clinton in the polls, in what has been turning into a four-way race between Republican, Democrat, Libertarian and Green Party.
After more than a week of blistering attacks from Democrats, celebrities and the press, Donald Trump has managed to pull ahead of Hillary Clinton by a 1.3 percentage point margin — 41.3% to 40% — in a four-way matchup, according to the new IBD/TIPP poll released today.
Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson got 7.6% and Green Party candidate Jill Stein got 5.5%. The results are the first in the IBD/TIPP presidential tracking poll. Daily updates start Thursday and will continue until the election.
Click here for Investor’s Business Daily: “Trump Leads Clinton By 1 Point Going Into Debate — IBD/TIPP Poll”
… Unlike US carriers, the Kuznetsov was never designed to project force against land targets—it was built during the Cold War as a floating jet fighter base to defend deployed nuclear strategic submarines against the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s (NATO) anti-submarine attack aircraft in the Barents Sea. The Kuznetsov’s staple Su-33 jets are not designed for attack missions; the new MiG-29KRs are, but the Kuznetsov has no jet catapult, so any jets taking off must carry a limited payload or relatively little fuel. Ka-52K attack helicopters could use the Kuznetsov to launch conventional land attacks, but they are only being introduced (as are the MiG-29Ks) and are not yet fully operational. Of course, some of the Kuznetsov air wing could land at the Russian air base near Latakia and go into action from there with full a payload, but this would hardly add much to the Russian bombing campaign. It is possible the Kuznetsov’s prime objective is, as Shoigu said, to reinforce the Russian naval squadron to deter US carriers from possibly intervening in Syria as the bloody battle of Aleppo unravels this fall.
Click here for Eurasia Defense Monitor: “Russian Military Presence in Syria Increasing With Carrier Deploying to Eastern Mediterranean”
NEWSWATCH: “Iran Gives Green Light to Direct $1.7 Billion from U.S. to Military” – Foundation for Defense of Democracies
In a Sept. 1, 2016, article, the Foundation for Defense of Democracies addresses the flow of funds from the United States to Iran in connection with the Iranian nuclear deal, and how those funds end up financing Iranian military activities.
… There is no longer any doubt that the money the United States has paid to Iran will go to the Islamic Republic’s armed forces. It remains unclear how the military will spend it – potentially to prop up the Syrian regime, Hezbollah, Shiite militias in Iraq, or Houthi rebels in Yemen, or to buy heavy weaponry from Russia in contravention of the UN arms embargo.
What is clear are the benefits the regime draws from receiving these funds in cash. It would be far easier for Tehran to procure advanced weaponry from Russia and China, for example, if it can pay for it with hard currency rather than through the formal financial system, having to circumvent the UN arms embargo and U.S. financial sanctions. With bags of untraceable hard currency, Iran can more easily support its allies or illicitly procure missile and nuclear parts. Ultimately, the $400 million in cash that the U.S. has delivered to Iran – and the wider $1.7-billion settlement – will help finance Tehran’s overriding objectives: spreading its revolution and further destabilizing the Middle East.
Click here for Foundation for Defense of Democracy: “Iran Gives Green Light to Direct $1.7 Billion from U.S. to Military”
AP, on Sept. 21, reports on #Russia’s plans to send their only aircraft carrier to the eastern #Mediterranean, where the #Syrian port of #Tartus serves as the site of the only Russian naval facility outside the former Soviet Union.
The Russian navy will send its sole aircraft carrier to the eastern Mediterranean …. the Admiral Kuznetsov will … join other Russian ships …. Russian media have earlier reported that the mission was planned for the fall.
The Admiral Kuznetsov dates to Soviet days and has been reequipped with new Su-33 and MiG-29K fighters. Smaller than U.S. carriers, it carries about 40 aircraft.
For about a year, Russia has become an active belligerent in the Syrian conflict, bolstering its ally, Syrian strongman Bashar al-Assad.
Russia reportedly is using its Syrian campaign to test some of its military capabilities. The presence of the aircraft carrier will provide the opportunity for Russia to use carrier-born aircraft in combat for the first time ever.
Since Moscow launched its air campaign in Syria on Sept. 30, 2015, the military has used it to test its latest jets and missiles. In a demonstration of its new precision strike capability, Russian strategic bombers, surface ships and a submarine have repeatedly launched cruise missiles at targets in Syria. … sending the Admiral Kuznetsov to Syria’s shores, Russia would significantly beef up its forces there [and offer] a chance to test its carrier-born aircraft in combat for the first time.
Russia has maintained an ongoing presence in the eastern Mediterranean since 2013, the first time since the early 1990’s when the Soviet Union fell. AP seems to be reporting that the Syrian port of Tartus is the only Russian military facility outside of the former Soviet Union.
In 2013, the Russian navy restored a constant presence in the eastern Mediterranean for the first time since the Soviet collapse, using the Soviet-era facility in the Syrian port of Tartus to replenish supplies. … the only such facility the Russian military now has outside the former Soviet Union.
(The article does not specify whether AP is claiming that Tartus is the only Russian military facility outside of the former Soviet Union, or simply the only facility of a particular type. Additionally, considering the significance of Tartus as a port, the article does not address whether the entire port is essentially run as a Russian military base, or whether Russia simply has ongoing rights to access it and berth there, perhaps with some on-shore buildings, perhaps as a sub-part of a larger port area used by other entities for other purposes, such as any commercial activity.
Additionally, when article references Tartus as the only such Russian military facility outside the former Soviet Union, as opposed to simply being outside Russia, it does not address the existence of Russian facilities outside Russia but within the sprawl of other former Soviet states. Most notably, of course, Russia has military facilities in occupied Crimea, on territory that legally belongs to Ukraine.)
The AP article also served as a conduit for Russian propaganda, quoting a Russian official as making the head-scratching claim that a Soviet military presence in the Mediterranean in the late 1960’s helped to prevent the escalation of Arab-Israeli tensions. Soviet military forces, of course, would never have been anything other than a source of instability, and AP failed to provide a source countering the Russian propaganda.
[featured images are file photos]
The United States believes two Russian aircraft attacked an aid convoy near Aleppo in a strike that shattered a one-week truce …. Despite the military blame game over Monday’s deadly attack, diplomats struggled to save the U.S.-Russian ceasefire agreement …. The incident, in which 18 trucks from a 31-vehicle convoy were destroyed, looked likely to deal a death blow to diplomatic efforts to halt [the] civil war …. Two Russian Sukhoi SU-24 warplanes were in the skies above the aid convoy at the exact time it was struck …. The Syrian Red Crescent said the head of one of its local offices and ‘around 20 civilians’ had been killed … other death tolls differed. The attack prompted the United Nations to suspend all aid shipments into Syria. …
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) is calling on Congress to crack down on accepting refugees after a series of weekend explosions … ‘Congress should act to prevent Americans who have travelled abroad for training from returning here, and to stop the flow of refugees from hotbeds of terrorism in the Middle East that President #Obama is determined to bring to our country,’ Cruz, who has been a vocal critic of the Obama administration’s terrorism policy, said in a statement on Monday. * * * [Cruz] has pushed legislation for years that would revoke citizenship for anyone fighting with, or providing material support to, ISIS and terrorist groups abroad. He also renewed his push to block … Obama’s plan to increase the number of Syrian refugees accepted into the United States …. Cruz also called for supporting law enforcement and working with the American Muslim community.
The Australian, in an editorial, addresses Russia’s reaction to a U.S.-led airstrike that apparently hit some Syrian forces, including accusations that the United States is in league with the so-called Islamic State. Doubts are raised about the sincerity of Russia’s involvement with a would-be ceasefire.
… precise circumstances surrounding the botched U.S.-led coalition airstrike that killed and wounded Syrian soldiers in the mistaken belief they were Islamic State fighters have yet to be established. … we must not lose sight of the gross hypocrisy being exhibited by … Putin’s Russia as it seeks to exploit the tragedy …. posturing and finger-pointing … that contrasts with its callous belligerence and indolence after Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 was shot down over Ukraine two years ago with the loss of 298 lives. … the Kremlin is all action on behalf of its surrogate, the murderous Assad regime. Preposterously, Moscow claims the misdirected airstrike shows ‘direct connivance’ by the coalition with Islamic State. ‘We are reaching a really terrifying conclusion for the whole world … that the White House (and, presumably, its allies) is defending Islamic State … there can be no doubt about that,’ Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said in a statement that beggars belief given Moscow last week signed a ceasefire agreement, along with the US. … Moscow has vetoed or undermined every proposed UN Security Council resolution that might have helped end the horrifying civil war and … appalling atrocities ….
NEWSWATCH: “Russian Propaganda Is Pervasive, and America Is Behind the Power Curve in Countering It” – RAND
RAND reports on Russian propaganda efforts utilizing the newest technologies, including RT and a host of others. One key tactic is to repeat false and manipulative messages across multiple tracks:
… Russian propagandists are … at work across a wide front, aiming a firehose of falsehoods at ill-informed audiences, foreign and domestic. … this disinformation — intentionally false — leverages psychological vulnerabilities to sway audiences. U.S. leaders should raise public consciousness about its nature and dangers. … The explosion of new media is a boon for propagandists. RT, formerly Russia Today, spends over $300 million per year purveying a toxic mixture of entertainment, real news and disinformation across cable, satellite and online media. Dozens of Kremlin-backed proxy news sites blast propaganda while hiding or downplaying their affiliation. Russian trolls and hackers manipulate thousands of fake accounts on Twitter, Facebook and other social media. This volume and multiplicity of media and modes has an effect; research in psychology shows that multiple sources are more persuasive than a single source.
Russian propaganda also employs the tactics of first impressions and repetition, including the malign Ukrainian political transformation and concoct revisionist history seeking to mute awareness of Russian government culpability in international athletic doping:
Russia’s approach to propaganda emphasizes creating first impressions, which tend to be resilient, and then reinforcing them through repetition. In this way Kremlin propagandists have persuaded some of the less informed that Ukraine’s post-Maidan government is fascist. Contrary to credible findings of pervasive state-sponsored Russian doping at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Moscow’s early and repeated denials have confused some audiences.
Much of Russian propaganda is wholly false, yet can build a false “credibility” based upon repeated manipulation of an audience with limited information access, such as the Russian people. The U.S. government has not responded robustly enough to Russian propaganda efforts.
While some Russian propaganda stories build around a kernel of truth, others are wholly manufactured and spun. … People are often poor judges of the credibility of both information and its sources, psychology research has found, and over time familiar messages or those previously identified as false can become more persuasive. … some audiences are not turned off by inconsistent or implausible expectations. … Polls last year found that about half of Russians believed they received ‘objective information’ from television, their main source of news. … America is behind the power curve in countering Russian disinformation. … Russian disinformation is a global threat, much of it targeted against democracies. … The Kremlin’s obsession with propaganda and disinformation persists ….
Click here for RAND: “Russian Propaganda Is Pervasive, and America Is Behind the Power Curve in Countering It”
Multiple reports have cited ties between Russian entities and the hacking of the Democratic National Committee’s emails, and on Wednesday House Homeland Security Chairman Michael McCaul said in a CNN interview that the Republican National Committee had been hacked as well, though the Texas congressman quickly backpedaled, saying he ‘misspoke.’
“Russia revives Soviet-era psychiatric punishment: Crimean Tatars, dissenters suffer” – Sydney Morning Herald
… last week after his release from a forced stay in a Crimean psychiatric hospital, Ilmi Umerov [said] ‘It was what you could call one big torture’ … Having made public statements against Moscow’s annexation of the peninsula from Ukraine … Russian authorities charged Umerov with ‘separatism’ and forced him into a psychiatric hospital for a month of observation [even as he already was s]tricken with Parkinson’s, diabetes and heart problems…. * * * The resurgent Soviet-era practice of punitive psychiatry has shut away a number of dissenters and activists who have dared to speak out against the Russian government. [After] opposition activist Mikhail Kosenko took part in mass protests against … Putin’s inauguration for a third term, the … Bolotnaya Square protests [h]e was soon arrested, convicted and confined to a psychiatric hospital for eight months … Earlier this year, an opposition activist was grabbed from his home by orderlies posing as gas company workers and dragged off to a psychiatric hospital, where he was involuntarily injected with drugs before being released a week later. …
Click here for Sydney Morning Herald: “Russia revives Soviet-era psychiatric punishment: Crimean Tatars, dissenters suffer”
Three times in the last two months, the United States has flown B-1 bombers, equipped with the latest non-nuclear cruise missiles, on missions in Europe and Asia meant to show adversaries as well as allies what one U.S. commander called ‘an unshakable commitment.’ … part of strategic missions aimed at sending explicit messages to Russia, China and North Korea. Each of the B-1s is equipped with two dozen non-nuclear cruise missiles with highly accurate, bunker-busting warheads, a new capability. … The latest … took place … over the Korean peninsula, when two B-1 bombers flew within a few miles of the DMZ between North and South Korea, accompanied by U.S. F-16s and South Korean F-15s. … related to North Korea’s latest nuclear weapons test …
British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said … progress toward peace in eastern Ukraine depended primarily on the Kremlin, adding that it was crucial for the West to maintain sanctions …. “Clearly it’s up to the Russians primarily to make progress on the security side. But it’s up to all sides I think in this conversation to make progress together” ….
… Justice Department officials dropped hints … they plan to hold Russia accountable for what is suspected to be a broad hacking campaign targeting U.S. political organizations and election databases. … Assistant Attorney General John Carlin, who leads the National Security Division * * * listed Russia as one of the ‘four main actors’ involved in supporting hackers targeting the U.S., alongside North Korea, Iran and China. The U.S. has taken action against hackers from the other three states, he noted, over hacks against Sony Pictures, financial institutions and U.S. companies. … ‘The message is clear: You are not safe because you are doing it under another nation’s flag. We can figure out who did it … and when we do, we’re committed to holding people accountable.’
… administration officials reportedly are at odds over a newly announced agreement with Russia to curb the violence in Syria … Confusion remains over the terms and aims of the deal. …. [there are] new questions about what level of violence will be accepted by the Obama administration in determining whether to go ahead with the proposed joint venture with Russia after a week-long ceasefire, which includes the sharing of intelligence at a joint intelligence center. … [After seven days of calm] the U.S. and Russia would then cooperate on how to jointly combat the Al Qaeda-linked group … Nusra Front … now known as Jabhat Fatah al-Sham. … militants backed by the U.S. and its Arab allies coordinate and even sometimes fight alongside Al Qaeda-linked militants. … The new cease-fire is supposed to end such ambiguities, and Washington has been urging rebel groups to break ranks with extremists.
Israel and the United States have agreed to a ten-year defense deal, the largest and longest such agreement between the two nations. … the follow-on to a $30 billion, 10-year memorandum of understanding signed in 2007. …. the latest US offer stands at $3.8 billion annually, which includes some $400 million to be spent in Israel on cooperative missile defense and other pre-agreed joint programs. As a condition of expanding Israel’s top line from $30 billion to $38 billion over the coming ten years, Washington is insisting on removing a 30-year-old privilege whereby Israel is able to convert a significant portion of grant dollars into shekels for local research, development and procurement. …
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The U.S. and Russia hit a renewed deadlock over efforts to strike a #Syrian cease-fire deal … Kerry snubbed … Lavrov, who was left cooling his heels in Geneva …. The U.S. has been locked in tough negotiations with Russia, whose military intervention in Syria last year reversed the course of the war in favor of its ally … al-Assad. … The civil war … has killed more than 280,000 people and sent millions fleeing …. It has … let Islamic State seize territory that it’s used as a base to direct and inspire terror attacks worldwide. … The U.S. has proposed sharing intelligence with Russia to carry out strikes against the al-Qaeda affiliate in Syria, the Nusra Front, now known as Jabhat Fatah Al-Sham. … Assad continues to make gains with each passing day, particularly in … Aleppo, so Russia has little incentive to come up with a deal …. Assad’s forces, backed by pro-Iranian Hezbollah militia and Russian air power, this week cut off the last rebel supply line to the rebel-held eastern part of Aleppo, restoring a siege that was broken last month …
SCW NEWSWATCH: “Wells Fargo to Pay $185 Million Fine Over Account Openings; Regulators say ‘widespread #illegal practice’ around account openings” – Wall Street Journal
Wells Fargo & Co., the largest U.S. bank by market value, must pay $185 million related to a regulatory enforcement action over ‘widespread #illegal practice’ around account openings, sales targets and compensation incentives, according to regulators and prosecutors. … Wells Fargo must pay another $5 million in customer remediation and hire an independent consultant for a review, according to the bank and regulators. A Wells Fargo analysis found thousands of employees “illegally” signed up customers for more than 2 million deposit and credit-card accounts that may have not had their knowledge or consent …. ‘Because of the severity of these violations, Wells Fargo is paying the largest penalty the CFPB has ever imposed,’ said CFPB Director Richard Cordray.
Click here for Wall Street Journal: “Wells Fargo to Pay $185 Million Fine Over Account Openings; Regulators say ‘widespread illegal practice’ around account openings”
[featured image is file photo, not directly related to article subject matter]
NEWSWATCH: [American Academy of Pediatrics Rejects Flu Nasal Spray Vaccines] “AAP Issues Flu Vaccine Recommendations for 2016-17 Season” – American Academy of Pediatrics
The Academy does not recommend the nasal spray vaccine this flu season, after studies show poor effectiveness.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that all children ages 6 months and older receive a seasonal flu shot during the 2016-17 season, as vaccination remains the best available preventive measure against influenza, according to an updated policy statement …. “Recommendations for Prevention and Control of Influenza in Children, 2016–2017” …. The statement supports the recommendation by federal health officials not to use the live attenuated influenza vaccine (LAIV), administered by intranasal spray.
The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that the nasal spray vaccine did not protect against certain strains of the flu virus that were most prominent the past three seasons. The nasal spray vaccine effectiveness among children 2 through 17 years was 3 percent in 2015-16, compared with 63 percent for the injected vaccine.
Click here for American Academy of Pediatrics: “AAP Issues Flu Vaccine Recommendations for 2016-17 Season”
NEWSWATCH: “Judge puts hold on plan to open California lands to fracking” – AP/U.S. News & World Report
A federal judge … tentatively rejected a plan by the federal Bureau of Land Management to open more than 1,500 square miles of lands in central California to oil drilling and fracking. … U.S. District Judge Michael W. Fitzgerald …. The process, formally known as hydraulic fracturing, uses high-pressure mixtures of water, sand and chemicals to extract oil and gas from rock. … the BLM must provide more study on the effects fracking will have in the area. He gave the agency’s attorneys until Sept. 21 to argue why he should not issue an injunction …. The ruling came in a lawsuit brought by a pair of environmental groups … The land involved … is about 1.1 million acres of public lands and federal mineral estate in the mostly agricultural central valley, the southern end of the Sierra Nevada, and parts of the central coast.
Click here for AP/U.S. News & World Report “Judge puts hold on plan to open California lands to fracking”
NEWSWATCH: “A new front opens up in China’s battle against separatism; Supporters of greater independence for Hong Kong gain a foothold in the city’s legislature” – The Economist
Elections held on September 4th for Hong Kong’s legislature must have shocked the leadership in Beijing. In their highest turnout for any such poll in the territory’s history (58%), voters sent a clear signal of discontent with China’s attempts to stifle democracy. Even more worryingly for Chinese officials, some of them supported radicals who believe Hong Kong should decide its own future regardless of China’s wishes. Several such ‘localists’ gained seats for the first time ….
Click here for The Economist: “A new front opens up in China’s battle against separatism; Supporters of greater independence for Hong Kong gain a foothold in the city’s legislature”
NEWSWATCH: “Can Oil Rally After Russia-Saudi Pact? Cooperation reflects the squeeze on revenues and suggests that the demise of OPEC is exaggerated.” – Barron’s
Monday’s announcement of a joint Russia-Saudi Arabian working group to explore avenues for stabilizing the oil market—while short on details and immaterial for actual supply and demand balances—is another indicator of the extreme economic duress that producers are enduring, and in our view, increases the likelihood of some type of collective action if prices remain under significant pressure. We believe that the sovereign producers may eventually come to conclude that they have little to lose by agreeing to cap output when they are close to maxing out on production in the near term. Moreover, while geopolitical tensions between key producers continue to run high because of ongoing conflicts in Syria and Yemen, their leaders may yet opt for pragmatism and seek some financial relief that will allow them to keep their increasingly restive citizens content and off the streets. * * * Frankly put, OPEC producers simply do not want oil prices to fall further. Although cooperative action taken by the cartel and other key producers may prove to be more of a play on optics rather than physically actionable, at a minimum, it alters sentiment, puts a floor into the market, and reminds the market of OPEC’s capacity to co-operate. It would also prove that the prolific pronouncements of the cartel’s demise are premature.
Click here for Barron’s: “Can Oil Rally After Russia-Saudi Pact? Cooperation reflects the squeeze on revenues and suggests that the demise of OPEC is exaggerated.”
NEWSWATCH: “Half of Wisconsin Planned Parenthood’s Medicaid payments were fraud, auditors say” – Live Action
An audit by Wisconsin’s Department of Health and Human Services has found that as many as two-thirds of all Medicaid payments to the state’s Planned Parenthood locations were fraudulent.
According to the audit of eight family planning facilities (five of which were operated by Planned Parenthood), roughly half of the funds they received came from fraudulent or otherwise-inappropriate billing practices. Auditors discovered that Planned Parenthood was the worst offender among facilities investigated, with the highest percentage of over-billing. … prescriptions not signed by valid prescribers, billing for quantities of medications that matched neither the prescribed nor dispensed quantities, failing to prove medication was even dispensed, reimbursement for unnecessary duplicative drugs, and more.
Click here for Live Action: “Half of WI Planned Parenthood’s Medicaid payments were fraud, auditors say”
NEWSWATCH: “Drug shows promise in reducing abnormal brain proteins linked to Alzheimer’s” – Fox News
Fox News reports on a study showing that the antibody aducanumab can reduce amyloid plaques in patients with early to intermediate Alzheimer’s.
… a new investigational drug was found to reduce the disease’s hallmark plaques — potentially slowing cognitive decline and preventing the disease. … Alzheimer’s disease is marked by amyloid plaques … believed to be the main culprit in the most common form of dementia. Build-up of amyloid proteins leads to plaques, which blocks cell-to-cell signaling. In the trial by Biogen, researchers tested an antibody to see whether it can bind and break down amyloid protein …. In the new yearlong clinical trial, researchers gave 165 patients with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s monthly infusions of either the antibody, aducanumab, or a placebo, and did a series of brain scans. The people taking aducanumab showed a sharp decrease in the amount of amyloid beta in their brains. The higher the dose of aducanumab they received, the greater the amyloid clearance revealed in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans.
The next step will be two additional, year-and-a-half-long studies.
Researchers are recruiting for two separate 18-month-long phase III trials to see whether amyloid reduction will result in improved brain function …
Apparently there is at least some debate over whether amyloid plaques are a core component of dementia or a byproduct.
The larger question is whether clearing amyloid beta will lead to dramatic improvements in cognitive decline …. Some researchers believe beta amyloid is a byproduct of the destructive brain process, and not the cause, noted Reiman, who was not involved in the new study.
Click here for Fox News: “Drug shows promise in reducing abnormal brain proteins linked to Alzheimer’s”
… a working paper presented this week at the 2016 American Sociological Association’s annual meeting, suggests that men and women who begin to consume pornography partway through their marriages are more likely to get a divorce than their non–porn-consuming peers. … Previous studies on porn and marriage have suggested that consuming sexually explicit material isn’t good for marital health. But many of these studies have been based on cross-sectional data that give only a snapshot of porn use and marital happiness. Now, researchers have been able to analyze how pornography impacts marriage over multiple years.
Donald Trump walked a political tightrope … promising in heartland Iowa to help farmers across the country by cutting taxes and federal regulations while continuing his stark appeal to potentially disaffected minority voters in U.S. inner cities. … Trump largely stuck to measured and prepared remarks … [he] repeatedly tried to distinguish himself from Democratic rival Hillary Clinton and appealed to evangelicals and others to assist him in helping minorities and winning the November election. … He again pointed out that Clinton in the mid-1990s said some black youths were ‘super predators’ and returned to his argument in recent weeks that the Democratic nominee’s policies and those of fellow Democrats who for decades have run many U.S. cities have failed their minority residents, particularly African-Americans. … Trump earlier this week said Clinton was a ‘bigot’ for having policies that hold down minorities.
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A fire swept through a Moscow printing plant warehouse on Saturday, killing 17 migrant workers from Kyrgyzstan … young women trapped in a dressing room … changing into their work clothes.
The fire was caused by a faulty lamp on the first floor of the warehouse, where many flammable liquids and paper products were stored, and it spread quickly through an elevator shaft to the room …
Colombia’s [FARC rebels] said … they will hold their final conference on Sept. 13-19 to ratify a peace accord with the government.
The deal between the leaders of the leftist guerilla group … and the government was announced Wednesday … after almost four years of talks. The rebels have agreed to lay down arms after half a century of war. …
Click here for Reuters: “Colombia’s FARC rebels to hold final conference, peace vote September 13-19”
Russian warships will join elements of China’s navy in military exercises in the South China Sea next month as tensions continue to rise over Beijing’s territorial claims. … The September exercise, named Joint Sea 2016, is the fifth time the two nations have conducted such joint naval operations.
It comes amid heightened tensions in the region after an international court of arbitration in The Hague last month rejected Beijing’s claims to sovereignty over virtually the entire South China Sea as illegal. Since immediately before the ruling, China has staged an almost continuous series of live-fire naval and air exercises — some involving more than 300 ships — in and around the region.
In the latest disturbing account of Russian hacking, the #FBI is reportedly investigating a series of #cyber-attacks targeted at journalists from the New York Times and other U.S. media outlets. … [that] could allow hackers to obtain confidential communications between reporters and …sources in the government. It could also potentially allow Russia to release information, which would embarrass key political leaders as well as obtain insight into U.S. diplomatic or military strategies. … Russia is also the mostly likely suspect behind last week’s ‘Shadow Brokers’ incident … [exposing] a top-secret set of cyber-weapons developed by the #NSA.
Election officials have twice ruled that former Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh is an inactive voter after they failed to confirm that he lives in Indianapolis, which he claims as home. … [Bayh] is running for his old Senate seat but his opponent’s campaign has portrayed him as more a creature of Washington than Indiana. Bayh’s voting status was first ruled inactive in 2014, and then again last week …. Election officials sent multiple postcards to Bayh’s Indianapolis condo but did not receive a response. … another report [showed] Bayh listed his Washington homes as his main residence as opposed to … Indianapolis.
The United States Army’s finances are so jumbled it had to make trillions of dollars of improper accounting adjustments to create an illusion that its books are balanced. … [DOD’s] Inspector General … said the Army made $2.8 trillion in wrongful adjustments to accounting entries in one quarter alone in 2015 … $6.5 trillion for the year. … the Army lacked receipts and invoices to support those numbers or simply made them up. … the latest example of … severe accounting problems plaguing [DOD] for decades. … a spokesman … downplayed the significance of the improper changes, which he said net out to $62.4 billion. … The IG report also blamed DFAS, saying it too made unjustified changes to numbers. For example … rather than solving [a] disparity, DFAS personnel inserted a false ‘correction’ to make … numbers match. … [and] more than 16,000 financial data files … vanished ….
Chinese planes and ships held war games in the Sea of Japan last week, the military said, during which Beijing displayed its latest-generation frigate at a time of bitter territorial disputes with Asian neighbors. … The statement made no mention of what sort of conflict the exercise was intended as a response to, prospective foes or why the Sea of Japan was chosen as the location of the drills. However, China has grown increasingly assertive over its claim to a chain of uninhabited islands controlled by Japan …. * * * China [also] is involved in an intense rivalry with the U.S. over military dominance in the region. Tensions in the South China Sea have also risen after China refused to accept an international arbitration panel’s ruling invalidating its claim [there] …. China plans joint naval exercises with Russia in the South China Sea next month ….
NEWSWATCH Deal Hudson/The Christian Review: “The Catholic Church Doesn’t Really Care About Abortion”
… To make matters even more stark, Hillary Clinton has made the support of Planned Parenthood, the proven seller of infant body parts, part of her political platform, while the platform of her Democratic Party has announced a more extreme pro-abortion clause than in previous elections. Donald Trump, on the other hand, has promised to sign a bill defunding Planned Parenthood and has published a list of potential #SupremeCourt nominees all in the mold of the late Justice Antonin Scalia.
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Pro-life Catholics need to wake up and realize that most of the ‘officialdom’ of the Catholic Church in the U.S. is already rolling out a national campaign that is virtually an arm of the Democratic Party. If you don’t believe me, start tracking the various conferences and forums being offered in your diocese, drill down to look at the host organization, the speakers, and their topics. Better yet, attend one and publicly voice your pro-life preferences and see what happens.
Donald Trump’s campaign is making its second major staff change …. Kellyanne Conway, a veteran Republican pollster who has been an adviser to the campaign, will take over as campaign manager [and] Stephen Bannon … executive chairman of Breitbart News … a former banker for Goldman Sachs, will serve as campaign chief executive, a new position. … Breitbart News has been consistently supportive Trump and has even defended former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski … accused of assaulting Breitbart reporter Michelle Fields, who has since resigned from the organization. … Paul Manafort, the campaign’s chairman, will remain in that position, but … his role will be diminished after friction … over the direction of the campaign. Manafort himself has been a distraction … [AP] reported … Manafort helped a pro-Russia group in Ukraine secretly route more than $2 million in payments to two Washington lobbying firms to try to influence U.S. policy.
Russia is reportedly building several nuclear command bunkers … Construction has been under way for several years on dozens … the emergence of the bunkers come just days after US European Command warned … Moscow has adopted an ‘alarming’ nuclear doctrine. … U.S. European Command Army General Curtis Scaparrotti said it was clear Russia was modernising its strategic forces.
‘Russian doctrine states that tactical nuclear weapons may be used in a conventional response scenario’ he reportedly said. * * * Scaparrotti … assumed command of NATO’s Allied Command Operations in May … earlier warned of increasing Russian aggression in Europe. * * * … warnings of Russian aggression in Europe and increasing nuclear threat also follow reports of the former Soviet giant building new bombers, submarines and missiles. … it [also] emerged the country was refurbishing Cold War ships known as battlecruisers to carry high powered, long range missiles.
Russian warplanes are now taking off from an Iranian air base to target … Syria. … the Russian Defense Ministry said … Tu-22M3 long-range bombers and Su-34 fighter bombers had taken off from Khamandan air base in Iran to target ISIS and the terrorist group Jabhat al-Nusra in the provinces of Aleppo, Deir-ez Zor and Idlib. … the first time the Russians have launched … warplanes from inside Iran since Moscow began striking targets in support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad last September. … Army Col. Christopher Garver, spokesman for Combined Joint Task Force–Operation Inherent Resolve … would not confirm if ISIS targets were in Aleppo or Idlib, two of the locations the Russians identified striking from the Iranian base. He only said that the U.S.-led coalition had not struck targets in those areas in a ‘very long time.’ [He added:] ‘We don’t see concentrations of ISIS in those areas.’ … On Monday, Interfax news service reported that Russia asked Iran and Iraq last week if Russian cruise missiles could pass through their airspace.
U.S. Transfers 15 Guantanamo Bay Detainees; The United Arab Emirates accepts 15 prisoners under President Obama’s push to nearly empty Gitmo by January
The Wall Street Journal reports on the United States transferring 15 Guantanamo Bay (GTMO) detainees, 12 Yemenis and three Afghans, to the United Arab Emirates on Monday, Aug. 15, 2016. Sixty-one detainees are left at GTMO, down from 242 in 2009. However, far more detainees were transferred during the George W. Bush administration, a total of 532. Nearly 800 individuals have been detained at GTMO since it was opened after the 9/11 attacks.
Under Obama, the United States often pays up to $100,000 per detainee transferred, and attempts to continue electronic surveillance of transferred detainees.
The U.S. usually pays foreign governments to monitor transferred detainees, and underwrites resettlement costs—for language instruction, vocational courses and the like—up to $100,000 each …. people familiar with the matter said the U.S. typically conducts electronic surveillance of former detainees, while local authorities keep physical tabs on them. … the administration leverag[es] rivalries to get countries to compete over resettling the men. … Foreign governments are realizing that ‘if you want to get attention in the Obama administration, one way to do it is to take Guantanamo detainees,’ [an] official said. * * * In the U.A.E., the 15 newly transferred men will enter a rehabilitation facility modeled after a Saudi program that seeks to ‘de-radicalize’ former detainees, a senior administration official said. ‘There is an ideological component. They bring in the moderate [religious leaders]. They provide literature. They work on life skills’ ….
Concern continues about whether transferred or released detainees could rejoin terrorist activity, and opposition continues to Congressional action to authorize a complete closure of GTMO detention.
At least 30 to 40 detainees are set for prosecution by military commissions or are otherwise deemed to dangerous to release.
Administration negotiating teams continue to push to facilitate the transfer process, raising questions about whether poorer countries are being paid to induce them to take detainees that they might not otherwise take.
Click here for Wall Street Journal: “U.S. Transfers 15 Guantanamo Bay Detainees;
The United Arab Emirates accepts 15 prisoners under President Obama’s push to nearly empty Gitmo by January”
NEWSWATCH: “How to Counter Russia’s Subversive War on the West” – RAND/William Courtney, Martin C. Libicki
Russia’s apparent cyberespionage against the Democratic Party … and its state-sponsored doping of Olympic athletes show an obsession with disruptive behavior as a tool of statecraft. … Cyberwar and sports doping are among the arrows in Moscow’s quiver of “active measures,” a triple threat of propaganda, deception and subversion that dates to the Soviet era.
Russia’s subversive and corrupt behavior should have a negative impact on its international stature and perceived suitability for investment.
Moscow’s provocative active measures cause foreign investors and international lenders to see higher risks in doing business with Russia. … it should not be surprised if disregard for others’ interests diminishes the international regard it seeks as an influential great power.
European Union foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini urged Russia and Ukraine to avoid escalating tensions …. ‘Any actions that could lead to a further escalation of the conflict must be avoided …. This includes eastern Ukraine, where we urge all parties to … complete implementation of the Minsk agreements.’ * * * ‘The European Union condemns and does not recognize the illegal annexation of Crimea and Sevastopol ….’
NEWSWATCH: “Exclusive: Congressional leaders were briefed a year ago on hacking of Democrats – sources” – Reuters
U.S. intelligence officials told top congressional leaders a year ago that Russian hackers were attacking the Democratic Party, three sources familiar with the matter said … but the lawmakers were unable to tell the targets … because the information was so secret. … disclosure … would have revealed that U.S. intelligence agencies were continuing to monitor the hacking, as well as … sources and … methods …. The congressional briefing was given … in a secure room called a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility, or SCIF, to … four Republicans: Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell … Speaker John Boehner … Senator Richard Burr and Representative Devin Nunes, the House and Senate intelligence committee chairs. Their Democratic counterparts were: Senator Harry Reid and Representative Nancy Pelosi … Senator Dianne Feinstein and Representative Adam Schiff of the intelligence committees. * * * One of the sources said the Clinton campaign first detected attacks on its data system in early March, and was given what the source described as a “general briefing” about it by the FBI later that month. The source said the FBI made no mention of a Russian connection in that briefing and did not say when the penetration first took place.
Click here for Reuters: “Exclusive: Congressional leaders were briefed a year ago on hacking of Democrats – sources”
… French President Francois Hollande linked the deadly ‘terrorist attack’ in Nice to the conflict in Iraq and Syria — and said France will intensify its military operations there in the aftermath of today’s tragedy. * * * Prior to tonight’s tragedy, France had been targeted in two major terrorist attacks within the last year and a half. In January 2015 extremists linked to both al Qaeda and ISIS killed 12 people in an assault on the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris. In November the same year, an ISIS cell killed 130 people in coordinated attacks also in Paris. … In the past, both ISIS and al Qaeda have encouraged their followers to kill Westerners by using vehicles as weapons. After the Nice attack, online ISIS supporters expressed jubilation at the carnage ….
IMF: Russia still facing risk from low oil prices Country remains in recession for 2016, but returns to slow growth by next year.
Russia’s economy returns to modest growth next year, but faces medium-term risks from volatility in crude oil prices, the International Monetary Fund said.
An IMF assessment found the Russian economy contracted by 3.7 percent last year because of the collapse in crude oil prices. The economy remains in recession this year before growth resumes at an estimated 1 percent next year. * * * [OPEC] said it expected Russian oil supplies would increase slightly to average almost 11 million barrels per day in 2016, a level that’s higher by 10,000 bpd from the previous estimate. More narrowly, however, second quarter output was 40,000 bpd lower than the first quarter average.
Oil fell amid forecasts prices may slide toward $40 a barrel as consumption falters and halted supplies return.
Futures fell 0.6 percent in New York. Analysts from BNP Paribas SA to JBC Energy GmbH warned prices may sink towards $40 a barrel amid a global glut of supply and weakening demand. Prices on Friday pared earlier losses of as much as 1.4 percent after data from China showed its economy is stabilizing and the country processed a record amount of crude.
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Oil has traded between about $44 and $52 a barrel since early June after almost doubling from a 12-year low in February amid a spate of supply disruptions and falling U.S. output. Prices have been whipsawed this week, pulled down by U.S. fuel data that signaled faltering demand and rallying when global equity markets advance and a weakening dollar bolstered commodities.
A ‘terrorist’ gunman killed 80 people and wounded scores when he drove a heavy truck at high speed into a crowd that had watched Bastille Day fireworks in the French Riviera city of Nice late on Thursday …. Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said 80 people died and 18 were in a critical condition. Many more were also wounded …. The driver also opened fire before police shot him dead. … President Francois Hollande said he was calling up military and police reservists to relieve forces worn out by an eight-month state of emergency begun after … Islamic State … killed 130 … in Paris. The state of emergency was extended by three months.
NEWSWATCH: “Caught between a reef and a hard place, Manila’s South China Sea victory runs aground” – Reuters
The Philippines may have won an emphatic legal victory over China in the South China Sea, but the aptly named Mischief Reef shows just how hard it will be for Manila to make its triumph count …. Chinese construction on the reef … includes a … 9,800 feet … runway, extensive housing, parade grounds and radar nests, satellite images show. … the reef and everything on it legally belongs to the Philippines and no amount of time or building will change that. … In private, officials acknowledge they have little hope of recovering Mischief Reef any time soon despite the unequivocal ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague.
NEWSWATCH: “At least 80 dead, 18 seriously injured in Bastille Day terror attack in France” – Fox News
At least 80 people were killed … 18 others … seriously injured Thursday when a terrorist drove a large truck loaded with guns and hand grenades into a crowd … gathered for a Bastille Day fireworks display in the southern French city of Nice.
… no immediate claim of responsibility, but two sources, including a U.S. counterterrorism source who collects and monitors jihadist social media, told Fox News that accounts linked to ISIS were ‘celebratory’ and their followers were told to use the hashtag ‘Nice’.
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.