Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Editor's Note

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

Is Social Media 'Ripping Apart' Society?



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

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

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

Read more ....

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Read more ....

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

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

The Soviet Union Also Had A Secret Fleet Of American Fighters



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

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

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

Read more ....

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

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



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

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

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

Read more ....

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

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


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

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

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

Read more ....

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read more ....

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

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

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

Tweets For Today





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



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

Picture Of The Day

© kremlin.ru

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

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

Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov. Alexander Shcherbak/TASS

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

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

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

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

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

Read more ....

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

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

Monday, December 11, 2017

What Is The Mood In Russia Today?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read more ....

More News On Hamas And Israel Firing At Each Other

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

The Top 100 Arms-Producing And Military Services Companies

(Click on Image to Enlarge)

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

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

Read more ....

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

WNU Editor: No surprises here.

Global Arms Sales Up For The First Time Since 2010

(Click on Image to Enlarge)

DW: SIPRI: Weapons sales up again worldwide

Arms sales are increasing around the world. The current report from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) shows that the main beneficiaries are armaments groups in the US and Western Europe.

Munitions, tanks, drones: The global trade in arms and military services increased again in 2016, for the first time in five years. It was up 1.9 percent on the previous year — and 38 percent compared to 2002. These new figures are from the latest report on the international arms industry by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI). It says that in 2016 the world's 100 biggest armaments groups sold $374.8 billion (€317.7 billion) of weapons and weapons systems.

Read more ....

More News On Global Arms Sales Being Up For The First Time Since 2010

Global arms industry: First rise in arms sales since 2010, says SIPRI -- SIPRI
Study: Global weapons sales rise for first time since 2010 -- UPI
Global arms sales increase for first time since 2010 -- The Independent
Global arms sales rise for first time in five years -- Euronews
Arms Sales Rise for First Time Since 2010, Group Says -- Bloomberg
Global Arms Sales Increase After 5 Years of Decline -- Al-Bawaba
North Korean threat, F-35 demand spur rise in global arms sales, report says -- Stars and Stripes
Analyst on Report of Russian Arms Sales: Moscow Sets the Trend -- Sputnik
US military operations overseas lead resurgence of global arms sales -- RT

Commentaries, Analysis, And Editorals -- December 11, 2017



Amie Ferris-Rotman, Haaretz: Putin’s Surprise Withdrawal From Syria Is Part of His Master Election Plan

Days after announcing his plan to seek reelection next March, the Russian president tells his countrymen their sons are coming home from an unpopular and costly war

What better way to jump-start an election campaign than to end an unpopular and costly war?

Just days after announcing his bid to seek reelection next year, Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday made a surprise visit to Syria, where he ordered the withdrawal of most Russian troops from the country. “You are coming home with a victory the motherland is waiting for you, my friends,” Putin told military personnel, before embracing Syrian President Bashar Assad at the Khmeimim air base.
read more: https://www.haaretz.com/world-news/.premium-1.828377

Read more ....

Commentaries, Analysis, And Editorals -- December 11, 2017

Why Syria Could Become the Black Hole of the Middle East -- Daniel R. DePetris, National Interest

Whirlwind Putin Tour Highlights Moscow's New Reach in Mideast -- New York Times

Moscow’s leverage in Syria is strong, but limited -- Maxim A. Suchkov, Al-Monitor

The pundits were wrong about Assad and the Islamic State. As usual, they're not willing to admit it -- Max Abrahms and John Glaser, L.A. Times

A look at Egypt-Russia relations as Putin visits Cairo -- AP

Congress Has Chosen the Wrong Strategy to Deal with Russia -- Nicolai N. Petro, National Interest

What Putin Really Wants -- Julia Ioffe, The Atlantic

How Jerusalem issue plays into Iranian, Turkish (and Russian) hands -- M.K. Bhadrakumar, Asia Times

Why the ‘Arab street’ didn’t just explode -- Ralph Peters

When the 'Arab Street' Comes to Sweden -- Noah Feldman, Bloomberg

Does Europe Really Need Fiscal and Political Union? -- Dani Rodrik, Project Syndicate

'EU must recognize historic opportunity to solve Kosovo issue' -- Adelheid Feilcke, DW

Corsica's nationalists dream bigger after election win -- Paul Ortoli, Reuters

Maduro’s dirty electoral tricks -- Benigno Alarc√≥n, CapX

Trump’s courage and cunning confound his opponents -- David P. Goldman, Asia Times

Why is America Addicted to Foreign Interventions? -- Monica Duffy Toft, National Interest

World News Briefs -- December 11, 2017 (Evening Edition)



L.A. Times: Putin pays surprise visit to Syria, where Assad tells him: 'Thanks a million'

In July 2015, the defeat of Syrian President Bashar Assad appeared imminent.

His troops, overstretched and exhausted, had lost too many men, and a string of humiliating losses meant the government controlled only a quarter of the country.

Two months later, Russian warplanes streaked through Syria's skies, hurling bombs at Assad's adversaries and starting a reversal of fortune that, more than two years later, has forced most of those enemies to accede that he will remain.

That was the backdrop to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s surprise visit to a Syrian air base on Monday, where he met with Assad and declared that Moscow would begin a drawdown of troops following what the Kremlin said was the defeat of Islamic State.

Read more ....

MIDDLE EAST

Russia has started military withdrawal from Syria: RIA cites minister.

Putin announces Syria withdrawal, says ISIS destroyed. Putin, in Syria, says mission accomplished, orders partial Russian pull-out. Syria: Russia's Vladimir Putin orders partial withdrawal of troops.

Assad thanks Putin for helping hand in defeating terrorists.

Syrian army and Iranian-backed militias push towards Idlib province.

American diplomat: US looks to counter Iran in post-war Iraq.

Fifth day of protests in Middle East over Trump's Jerusalem move.

Turkish air strikes kill 29 Kurdish militants in northern Iraq: army.

Erdogan: Israel is a terrorist state. Erdogan: US is 'partner in bloodshed' with Jerusalem move.

Donald Trump's Jerusalem move ends US role in peace process, Palestinian leader Hanan Ashrawi says.

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu urges EU to follow US recognition of Jerusalem as capital.

Saudis lift decades-long ban on movie theaters. Saudi Arabia to allow cinemas to reopen from early 2018.

More than 8 million Yemenis 'a step away from famine': U.N..

UN does not confirm Iran link to Yemen missiles: report.

ASIA

China, Taiwan spar over Chinese diplomat's invasion threat.

China's graft watchdog warns officials over 'concealed' extravagance.

Major bridge between China, North Korea closes for repairs.

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte requests martial law extension.

AP: Rohingya methodically raped by Myanmar’s armed forces.

Exclusive: Myanmar to delay law that would have allowed more foreign investment.

China accuses Australian media of racism and paranoia.

Nepal's Communist parties poised for election landslide.

AFRICA

Six Nigerian soldiers killed in Boko Haram ambushes.

Car bomb kills journalist in Somali capital.

EU warns DR Congo of election funding risk over 'harassment'.

Putin, Egypt's Sisi discuss restart of flights, sign nuclear deal.

Putin visits Egypt in sign of closer ties.

Cairo, Moscow sign contract for Egypt's first nuclear plant.

UN promises justice in Congo against peacekeeper attacks.

UN peacekeepers honour 14 troops killed in DR Congo.

AU warns of threat by returning IS fighters. 6,000 IS jihadists could return to Africa, AU warns.

UN seeks urgent resettlement of 1,300 refugees stranded in Libya.

Tanzanian President Magufuli pardons child rapists.

EUROPE

Merkel, Social Democrats seek clarity on coalition talks.

Morawiecki sworn in as Polish PM amid dispute with EU.

PM May hails new optimism in Brexit talks after deal.

Twenty-five EU states sign PESCO defense pact.

Europe tells Netanyahu it rejects Trump's Jerusalem move.

Catalan protesters clash with police over 'plunder' of religious artefacts.

Corsican nationalists celebrate election victory, call for greater autonomy.

Ukrainian judge frees Saakashvili from detention.

Ukraine’s anti-corruption agency faces strong resistance.

Bulgaria discovers it has enough bitcoins to pay off fifth of its debt.

Group: Refugees abused by border forces in Balkans.

Snow in Europe triggers transport chaos.

AMERICAS

Canada provinces to get biggest cut of cannabis tax haul.

Two-thirds of Mexicans reject amnesty for gang members: poll.

Venezuela opposition banned from running in 2018 election. Venezuela: President Nicolas Maduro blocks opposition parties from presidential poll. Venezuela’s socialists romp to victory in mayoral elections.

Venezuelan migrants pose humanitarian problem in Brazil.

Honduras: President keeps lead in disputed vote after recount.

Focus on Flynn, Trump timeline suggests obstruction is on Mueller’s mind.

Pipe bomb strapped to man explodes in NYC subway, injuring 4.

Bias allegations in Robert Mueller's probe offer Trump allies a new counterargument.

At 230000 acres, Thomas fire is now the fifth-largest wildfire in modern California history. California wildfires now larger than New York City and Boston combined. New evacuations as huge Southern California fire flares up.

TERRORISM/THE LONG WAR

Hezbollah's Nasrallah says group to focus on Israel.

New York Port Authority attack: Man held after Manhattan blast.

Al Qaeda seeks to incite violence after US recognizes Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Number of Salafists in Germany reaches record high.

ECONOMY/FINANCE/BUSINESS

Wall Street ends higher with help from tech, energy.

Bitcoin price surges as futures trading begins, despite bubble warnings – business live.

5 top EU economies warn US about tax plans.

Global stocks could make history this month by refusing to fall.

Venezuelan Government To Ban Opposition Parties From Participating In Next Year's Presidential Election





Daily Mail/AFP: That’s one way to secure a victory: Venezuelan dictator Nicolas Maduro bans leading opposition parties from running in next year's presidential election

* Venezuela's President ban opposition parties from 2018 presidential election
* Nicolas Maduro said they were barred as they boycotted local elections
* Said as they didn't take part in local poll, they could not take part in presidential

Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro has banned leading opposition parties from taking part in next year's presidential election after they boycotted this weekend's mayoral polls across the country.

Maduro made the announcement after casting his own vote in the local elections on Sunday, in a move set to further consolidate his grip on power.

Maduro's ban includes the groups of key figures who have led street protests against his rule such as Henrique Capriles, Leopoldo Lopez and others.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: Venezuela is now in a very dark place .... it is going to get even darker in 2018.

More News On The Venezuelan Government Moving To Ban Opposition Parties From Participating In Next Year's Presidential Election

Maduro bans opposition from 2018 election -- Euronews
Venezuela's Maduro Has Disqualified His Opposition From the Next Presidential Election -- Time
Venezuela's Maduro: Some opposition parties to be barred from presidential vote -- CNN
Venezuela’s Maduro threatens to ban rivals from future elections -- The Guardian
Venezuela's socialists romp to victory in mayoral elections -- Fox News
Venezuela's Maduro says government wins 90 percent of mayorships -- Reuters
Venezuela's Ruling Socialists Sweep Mayoral Races Amid Opposition Boycott -- NPR