Monday, May 25, 2015

Major Boost To Missile Defense As Pentagon Announces Plans For A Long-Range Missile Defense Radar In Alaska

Reuters: Pentagon plans long-range missile defense radar in Alaska

The U.S. Defense Department on Friday announced plans to deploy a new long-range radar in central Alaska that would help the U.S. missile defense system better discern potential enemy missiles launched by Iran or North Korea and increase the capacity of interceptors in the ground in Alaska and California.

Raytheon Co, Northrop Grumman Corp and Lockheed Martin Corp are competing to build the new radar, which is expected to cost just under $1 billion.

The new radar would begin defensive operations in 2020, pending completion of required environmental and safety studies, the department said in a statement.

It said the new long-range discrimination radar (LRDR) will help the multi-layered U.S. ballistic missile defense system better address potential countermeasures that could be launched by potential foe to confuse U.S. defensive systems.

WNU Editor: The Russians and Chinese do not see the construction of a long-range radar system in Alaska directed at North Korea or Iran .... they see it directed at them.

More News On Pentagon Announces Plans For A Long-Range Missile Defense Radar In Alaska

Clear Air Force Station chosen for new long-range missile radar -- News-miner (Alaska)
Alaska tentative choice for long-range US radar system -- Washington Times/AP
U.S. to deploy long-range discrimination radar in Alaska by 2020 -- Yonhap News Agency
U.S. to deploy long-range radar in Alaska to counter N. Korean, Iranian missiles -- Arirang
US Defense Department to Deploy Radar in Alaska to Protect Pacific Coast -- Sputnik
Pentagon eyes Alaska for $1bn missile defense radar against Iran, N.Korea -- RT

Is Forming Militias The New Afghan Startegy To Combat The Taliban?

Militia members and police officers in Kunduz Province. The Afghan government has enlisted hundreds of militia fighters to battle Taliban militants near the city of Kunduz, officials said. Credit Reuters

New York Times: Afghans Form Militias and Call on Warlords to Battle Taliban

KABUL, Afghanistan — Facing a fierce Taliban offensive across a corridor of northern Afghanistan, the government in Kabul is turning to a strategy fraught with risk: forming local militias and beseeching old warlords for military assistance, according to Afghan and Western officials.

The effort is expected to eventually mobilize several thousand Afghans from the north to fight against the Taliban in areas where the Afghan military and police forces are losing ground or have had little presence. The action is being seen as directly undermining assurances by officials that the security forces were holding their own against the Taliban.

Further, the plan to turn to irregular forces is stoking anxieties of factional rivalries and civil strife in a nation still haunted by a civil war in the 1990s in which feuding militia commanders tore the country apart. Some of the commanders involved in that bloodletting a generation ago now hold senior government positions and are encouraging the current effort to mobilize and rearm militias.

Update #1: Militias in Afghanistan Play Increasingly Important Role in Fight Against Taliban -- WSJ
Update #2: Stretched Afghan army falls back on militias to help defend Kunduz -- Reuters

WNU Editor: The last time this was tried in Afghanistan it failed miserably .... Training Local Militias In Afghanistan Is Not Working According To Plan.

Secret Afghan - Taliban Peace Talks Took Place In China

A group of Taliban fighters are seen in Ghazni province, Afghanistan, April 18, 2015.

Wall Street Journal: Afghan Peace Envoy Met Taliban in Secret China Talks

Meeting was facilitated by Pakistani intelligence agency

KABUL—Afghanistan’s most prominent peace envoy held secret talks with former Taliban officials in China last week, accelerating regional efforts to bring the insurgency to the negotiating table, according to individuals briefed on the matter by the warring parties.

The two-day meeting, which took place in the northwestern Chinese city of Urumqi, was aimed at discussing preconditions for a possible peace process, those people said.

“These were talks about talks,” one diplomat said.

The meeting was significant for another reason: It was facilitated by Pakistan’s intelligence agency in an apparent show of goodwill aimed at a negotiated solution to the insurgency.

Update: Afghan Taliban leaders meet secretly in China: Report -- Times of India/PTI

WNU editor: The Taliban are denying this story .... Taliban Denies Holding Peace Talks in China (VOA). What's my take .... there is a lot of detail in this WSJ report .... someone talked to either scuttle any future talks, or they wanted to brag that it happened.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Hezbollah Vows To Increase Its Involvement In Syria's civil War

Reuters: Hezbollah says it will step up presence in Syria as needed

Hezbollah is fighting across all of Syria alongside the army of President Bashar al-Assad and is willing to increase its presence there when needed, the leader of the Lebanese Shi'ite movement said on Sunday.

Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah told thousands of supporters via video link that the fight was part of a wider strategy to prevent groups like al Qaeda's wing in Syria, Nusra Front, and the ultra-hardline Islamic State from taking over the region.

"Our presence will increase whenever it should... Yes, we are not present in one place in Syria and not the other. We will be everywhere in Syria," he said during a celebration to mark the withdrawal of Israeli soldiers from south Lebanon in 2000.

Update #1: Hezbollah vows to step up involvement in Syria's civil war -- AP
Update #2: Everyone has role to play in 'existential' Syria battle: Nasrallah -- Daily Star

WNU Editor: The Hezbollah leader is doubling down on the Syrian conflict .... I guess he knows that the war is not going well for his Syrian ally.

The Art Of Avoiding War

Robert Kaplan, The Atlantic: The Art of Avoiding War

Why it’s so hard to defeat an enemy that won’t fight you, and what this means for U.S. strategy on everything from the Islamic State to China

The Scythians were nomadic horsemen who dominated a vast realm of the Pontic steppe north of the Black Sea, in present-day Ukraine and southern Russia, from the seventh century to the third century b.c. Unlike other ancient peoples who left not a trace, the Scythians continued to haunt and terrify long after they were gone. Herodotus recorded that they “ravaged the whole of Asia. They not only took tribute from each people, but also made raids and pillaged everything these peoples had.” Napoleon, on witnessing the Russians’ willingness to burn down their own capital rather than hand it over to his army, reputedly said: “They are Scythians!”

The more chilling moral for modern audiences involves not the Scythians’ cruelty, but rather their tactics against the invading Persian army of Darius, early in the sixth century b.c. As Darius’s infantry marched east near the Sea of Azov, hoping to meet the Scythian war bands in a decisive battle, the Scythians kept withdrawing into the immense reaches of their territory. Darius was perplexed, and sent the Scythian king, Idanthyrsus, a challenge: If you think yourself stronger, stand and fight; if not, submit.

WNU Editor: Wise advise on what should be the U.S. strategy and policy in the Middle East. On a personal note .... I am very familiar with the area that the Scythians once ruled .... and I can just imagine how the Persian armies must have looked like when they crossed that landscape with no enemy in sight but small skirmishes here and there that eventually eroded their army away.

Russia Issues Travel Warning Of U.S. Arrest Threats

Russian President Vladimir Putin chairs a meeting with members of the government at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, May 20, 2015. Reuters/Alexei Nikolsky/RIA Novosti/Kremlin

Reuters: Moscow issues travel warning over U.S. 'hunt' for Russians

Russia's foreign ministry has warned its citizens traveling abroad of the risks posed by U.S. law enforcement bodies and special services, which it said were hunting for Russians around the world.

In a statement on Friday it also accused Washington of kidnapping Russians, citing cases such as that of Vladimir Drinkman, who was extradited to the United States from the Netherlands earlier this year.

"By believing that it is allowed to do all it wants, Washington goes as far as kidnapping our citizens," the foreign ministry said.

Drinkman has pleaded not guilty to accusations that he conspired with at least four other men to install "sniffers" to comb through computer networks of financial companies, payment processors and retailers around the world.

WNU Editor: This is one thing that I always liked about the Russian government .... they were (and still are) overly protective of their citizens who travel and/or work aboard .... and if a Russian citizen gets arrested .... Moscow always wants to know why .... and NOW ... and if the answer is not satisfactory, the threats start to come in. I now live in Canada .... and sometimes I wonder if Canadian citizens are a priority for this government (past governments are guilty too). The case of Canadian citizen Maher Arar comes to mind ... and how he was treated by U.S. and Canadian authorities makes me shake my head .... doubly so when one realizes that if it can happen to him, it can happen to almost anyone else.

Greece Cannot Make Its Next Debt Payment To The IMF. The Country Is Now On The Verge Of A Default

The Guardian: Greece warns it is set to default on debt repayment loans

Interior minister says Athens simply cannot satisfy IMF deadline next month unless it works out a deal with eurozone creditors

Greece has threatened to default on €1.6bn (£1.14bn) of debt repayment due on international bailout loans next month, claiming it does not have the funds to satisfy creditors at the same time as paying wages and pensions.

The Greek interior minister, Nikos Voutsis, a long-standing ally of the prime minister, Alexis Tsipras, insisted the country was near to financial collapse. In an interview with Greek television station Mega TV he said Athens needed to strike a deal with its European partners within the next couple of weeks or it would default on repayments to the International Monetary Fund that form part of its €240bn rescue package.

WNU Editor: By not pushing forward a workable plan to salvage their finances (something that was promised in March), Greece basically told the world that they were/are not interested in paying off their debts. But at the same time that they are telling everyone that they are not gong to pay, they want to borrow even more money to pay pensions and salaries while threatening the end of the Eurozone if they do not get their funds. Threatening countries like this is not going to work ... doubly so if you are not interested in paying off past debts. Everyone knows that this is not going to end well .... and being someone who experienced this in Russia in the 1990s, I can tell you on what is going to happen next. As soon as Greece goes into default, it will be "kicked-out" of the Eurozone, and it will be formally shut out from international credit markets. By being shut out of these markets, the Greek government will have no money .... and no money means that no one is going to be paid. No salaries, no pensions, no funds available to purchase goods or to pay-off contractors. Businesses will revert to barter, and international currencies will be the currency of choice .... not some paper that the government will be calling the new drachma. This currency/financial crash will last a long time .... in Russia it lasted for a few years .... I predict the same for Greece.

More News On Greece Being On The Verge Of Defaulting On Their IMF Loans

Greece to miss IMF payments amid fears of 'catastrophic' eurozone rupture -- The Telegraph
Greece refuses to pay £1.1billion bill with fears that entire euro project could unravel if country crashes out of currency -- Daily Mail
Greece does not have the money to make June IMF repayment - interior minister -- Reuters
Greece Won’t Meet IMF Repayments in June, Interior Minister Says -- WSJ
Greece can't make €1.6B IMF payment, refuses to budge on rescue aid terms -- UPI
Greece 'has no money' to meet IMF debt repayment -- AFP
Greece warns it has 'no money' to make IMF debt repayments -- Deutsche Welle

Are Military Tributes At Baseball Games True Honors Or Hollow Gestures?

Washington Post: Military tributes at baseball games: True honors or hollow gestures?

Like most people, John Dever awoke Sept. 11, 2001, saw horrific images on the news and tried to make sense of what would come next. Dever worked in the San Diego Padres’ media relations department, and he was summoned to a meeting to decide how the team would stage a potential game that night. The schedule had not been canceled; they still did not understand the scope of what had happened.

At the meeting, Dever spoke up with an idea. The traditional “Take Me Out To The Ballgame” would sound out of place during the seventh-inning stretch. He suggested the Padres should instead play, “God Bless America.” The idea reached the Padres’ Larry Lucchino, who had flown into Milwaukee for an owners meeting. He relayed the idea directly to Commissioner Bud Selig. A tradition was born.

“It kind of became a thing,” said Dever, who worked for the Nationals their first 10 years in Washington. “It really ramped itself up.”

WNU Editor: I have never grown tired of these military tributes .... both here or when I was living in Russia. My father .... who was a World War II vet .... was also never tired of them .... to him they were always special occasions. As to military tributes at baseball games .... in my opinion they are not hollow gestures .... they are what they are .... a moment to say thanks (or to remember) the many men and women who have served or are serving in the U.S. military.

'Beautiful Mind' Mathematician And Nobel Laureate John Nash, Wife Killed In Car Crash

CNN: 'Beautiful Mind' mathematician John Nash, wife killed in car crash

(CNN)John Forbes Nash Jr., the famed mathematician and inspiration for the film "A Beautiful Mind," and his wife died in a car crash Saturday in New Jersey, according to state police.

Nash, 86, and wife Alicia Nash, 82, were riding in a taxi near Monroe Township when the incident occurred, State Police Sgt. 1st Class Gregory Williams said.

They were traveling southbound in the left lane when the taxi went out of control while trying to pass another car, Williams said.

The car crashed into the guard rail, and the couple was ejected from the vehicle. They were pronounced dead at the scene.

WNU Editor: It is fitting that they died together at the same time. I attended one of his lectures years ago at Princeton. I was on my way to Atlantic City and I decided to make a pit-stop. The auditorium was packed with people .... and just listening to him speak .... how he structured his sentences and his sense of humor .... you could not help but feel that you were in the presence of an incredibly brilliant mind. Sighhhh .... I wish I had his math skills when I hit the blackjack tables the next day.

I will always remember his Nobel price acceptance speech as done by Russell Crowe.

U.S. Vets Who Fought For Ramadi Are Angry Over Its Fall To The Islamic State

FOX News: All for nothing? US vets who fought for Ramadi angry over fall to ISIS

Iraqi War veteran Sgt. Ben Rangel remembers fighting to secure the city of Ramadi when he first arrived in Iraq for a tour of duty in 2004. He also recalls the bloodshed.

Now, like other veterans who fought Iraqi insurgents for the capital city of Iraq's Anbar province, as well as the loved ones who died in fierce battles there, Rangel bristles at the sight of the ISIS flag-waving above the government complex. Many are wondering why their hard-fought gains were so easily surrendered when Iraqi forces, following the U.S. pullout, were unable to stand up to the black-clad terrorist army.

“We lost a lot of men,” Rangel, a former infantryman with the 2nd battalion/5th Marines Fox Company, told “The fighting in Fallujah got a lot of attention in the news, but Ramadi was a very important city because of the supply route that ran through it to Baghdad.

WNU Editor: Behind all of this angst is the big question that is on everyone's minds .... was the war really worth it?

U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter: Iraqi Forces Lack Will To Fight

Washington Post: Defense Secretary Carter: Iraq’s forces showed ‘no will to fight’ Islamic State

Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said Iraqi forces "showed no will to fight" as the Islamic State militant group captured the city of Ramadi, and he rejected calls by Republican lawmakers to commit ground troops to the conflict.

"What apparently happened was that the Iraqi forces just showed no will to fight," Carter said in a CNN interview that aired Sunday. "They were not outnumbered. In fact, they vastly outnumbered the opposing force, and yet they failed to fight. They withdrew from the site, and that says to me, and I think to most of us, that we have an issue with the will of the Iraqis to fight ISIL and defend themselves." The Islamic State is also known as ISIS or ISIL.

WNU Editor: US Defense Sec. Carter does have a point. Iraqi lawmakers disagree .... Iraqi Lawmaker Slams US Criticism of Iraqi Military (NYT/AP).

More News On U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter's Remarks That "Iraqi Forces Lack Will To Fight"

Carter Says Iraq's 'Will to Fight' at Issue After Ramadi -- ABC News/AP
US defense secretary says fall of Ramadi shows Iraqi forces lack will to fight Isis -- The Guardian
Iraqi forces lack will to fight - Ashton Carter -- BBC
Carter: Iraqi troops lost 'will to fight' at Ramadi -- Politico

Iraqi Politicians And Militia Leaders Are Blaming The U.S. For The Fall Of Ramadi

Nancy A. Youssef, Daily Beast: Iraqis Now Blaming U.S. for Losing Ramadi to ISIS

The Americans weren’t the ones who ran away as ISIS detonated its car bombs. But they were the ones who held back Iraqi reinforcements, Iraqi politicians and militia leaders say.

The Iraqi army may have fled, as ISIS attacked the key city of Ramadi. But it’s the United States that’s now being blamed in Iraq—at least in some quarters—for losing the battle.

On the streets of Baghdad, Iraqis said afterward that had Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi sent Shiite militias to Ramadi sooner—and not acquiesced to U.S. demands to lean on Iraqi troops—the so-called Islamic State would not be in control there. Abadi gave the United States too much say over Iraq military operations, they argue.

Naim Alubdi, spokesman for one such Shiite militia, Asaaib al-Haqq, placed blame for the loss at the prime minister and his American allies, not the Iraqi army, which fled the fight reportedly after enduring a series of car bomb attacks.

WNU Editor: They have to blame someone (rather than themselves)  .... and with reports like this one .... EXCLUSIVE: The stunning story of the fall of Ramadi (RUDAW) .... it will only feed into the narrative that "unseen forces" were responsible for the fall of the city and the defeat of the Iraqi Army.

Iraq Launches A Counterattack To Retake Ramadi

Al Jazeera: Iraqi forces battle ISIL for control near Ramadi

ISIL launches suicide attacks as Iraqi troops and allied forces prepare for drawn-out operation in Anbar province.

Iraqi government forces backed by thousands of Shia militias have been sent to the Sunni heartland of Anbar province in a bid to counter the offensive by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group.

Kareem al-Nouri, a spokesman for the Popular Mobilisation Forces, an umbrella organisation of Shia militiamen, told Al Jazeera it was "hard to predict the timetable" for the battle.

WNU Editor: I have zero confidence that a few thousand irregular Shiite militia fighters will be successful in this "new offensive". The Daily Mail has posted some graphic photos and videos on how bloody some of the battles were for Ramadi, and the defeat of the Iraqi soldiers who decided to stay put and fight .... The bloody battle for Ramadi: Shocking footage shows violent clashes between ISIS and Iraqi forces in corpse-strewn streets of destroyed historic city (Daily Mail).

More News On the Battle For Ramadi

Iraqis launch counterattack against ISIS near Ramadi -- CNN
Shi'ite militias advance on Islamic State insurgents near Iraq's Ramadi -- Reuters
Iraq claws back land from IS near Ramadi -- AFP
Shiite militia, Iraqi army launch counteroffensive at Ramadi -- Washington Post
Iraq militias start fightback against IS in Ramadi -- BBC
Iraq fires back to take land from IS near Ramadi --
ISIS fighters close in on Baghdad after breaching Iraqi defences outside Ramadi -- Daily Mail

Syrian Government Suffering Military Losses On Multiple Fronts. Is This The End Of Assad?

Martin Chulov, The Guardian: Amid the ruins of Syria, is Bashar al-Assad now finally facing the end?

As Isis surges ahead and the Syrian regime teeters on the brink of collapse, our Middle East correspondent, winner of the 2015 Orwell prize for journalism, reports on the deadly struggle for dominance in the region

One evening at the end of March, a Syrian rebel leader returned from a meeting across the border in Turkey and called an urgent gathering of his commanders. The five men turned up at their boss’s house in Idlib province expecting to receive the same pleas for patience that they had always heard and more grim news about cash and weapons being hard to find. This time, though, they were in for a shock.

“He arrived looking eager,” said one of the commanders. “That caught our attention straight away. But when he started to speak, we were all stunned.”

The leader, who asked that his unit not be identified, said he told his men that the grinding war of attrition they had fought against the Syrian government since early 2012 was about to turn in their favour.

WNU Editor: The momentum has definitely shifted in the past few months. With the entire collapse of the country and millions of refugees .... my guess is that the neighboring states (Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, etc.) have made the decision to arm the rebel groups (with the exception of the Islamic State) and to end this once and for all. The only question that needs to be answered is what will Hezbollah/Iran do. For the moment Hezbollah's support is there .... With Syria's Army Losing Ground, A Boost From Hezbollah (NPR) .... and so is Iran's .... Iran is giving Syria more credit to keep Assad's war machine running (AP). But are they there for the long term .... I am now starting to have doubts.

More News On The Growing Military Pressures On The Assad Regime in Syria

ISIS and the New ‘Army of Conquest’ in Syria Are Headed for a Showdown -- Jamie Dettmer, Daily Beast
Analysis: ISIS Gains Momentum With Palmyra, Assad Squeezed on Multiple Fronts -- NBC
Syrian government ‘loses ground’ to Nusra Front and ISIL -- Euronews
Assad regime losses in Syria -- Middle East Online

Reports: Islamic State Has Executed Hundreds In The Captured City Of Palmyra

Daily Mail: ISIS slaughters 400 mostly women and children in ancient Syria city of Palmyra where hundreds of bodies line the street

* State TV reporting victims are believed to be government loyalists
* Follows execution of 300 pro-government soldiers in historic settlement
* Jihadi fighters previously warned residents against sheltering troops
* Black ISIS flag hoisted over an ancient citadel after taking over city

Islamic State militants have executed at least 400 mostly women and children in Syria's ancient city of Palmyra.

Eye-witnesses have reported the streets are strewn with bodies – the latest victims of the Islamic State's unrelenting savagery - on the same day photographs of captured Syrian soldiers have emerged.

It follows the killing of nearly 300 pro-government troops two days after they captured the city, now symbolised by a black ISIS flag flying above an ancient citadel.

More News On Reports That The Islamic State Has Executed Hundreds In The Captured City Of Palmyra

Syria says Islamic State executes hundreds in Palmyra -- Reuters
At least 400 killed by Isis in Palmyra, say Syrian TV reports -- The Guardian
ISIS kills 400, mostly women & children, in Palmyra – Syrian state TV -- RT
ISIL Slaughters 400 Captives in Palmyra, Mostly Women and Children -- Sputnik
Islamic State kills 400 people in Syria's Palmyra: state TV -- i24 News
At least 400 killed by Daesh in Palmyra -- Al Bawaba

U.S. Refusing To Release Details On Osama Bin Laden's Porn Library

Washington Post: The bin Laden library the U.S. government doesn’t want you to see: The porn stash.

Newly declassified documents from the compound in Pakistan where Osama bin Laden was killed in 2011 have revealed the late al-Qaeda leader's remarkable English-language library, including books by Noam Chomsky, Bob Woodward and even 9/11 conspiracy theorist David Ray Griffin.

Yet the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which released the files on Wednesday, has not released all the material found in the compound. In fact, there's a rather notorious stash that the U.S. government apparently doesn't want you to see: a cache of pornography.

"We have no plans to release that at this point in time," Brian Hale, a spokesman for the DNI, told the Telegraph's Raf Sanchez. "Due to the nature of the content the decision was made not to release it." The Guardian was also told that the pornographic material would not be released.

WNU Editor: Osama Bin laden hid in Pakistan, and that country has this dubious distinction .... Pakistan tops list of most porn-searching countries: Google (Express Tribune).

U.S. Refusing To Release Details On Osama Bin Laden's Porn Library

Osama bin Laden's pornography stash to remain under wraps, US decides -- The Guardian
US will not release Osama bin Laden's pornography -- The Telegraph
Osama bin Laden had an 'extensive' porn collection - but officials are refusing to release details because of its 'nature' -- Daily Mail
Bin Laden’s library filled with porn -- The Australian/The Times
Osama bin Laden bookshelf: Former al-Qaeda leader's pornography stash will not be released -- IBTimes

Is Venezuela Becoming A Narco State?

Diosdado Cabello, president of Venezuela’s National Assembly, is a leading target of U.S. investigations into alleged drug trafficking and money laundering by senior officials in the South American nation, a Justice Department official said. Mr. Cabello has denied wrongdoing. Photo: Marco Bello/Reuters

Venezuela: Venezuelan Officials Suspected of Turning Country into Global Cocaine Hub

U.S. probe targets No. 2 official Diosdado Cabello, several others, on suspicion of drug trafficking and money laundering.

U.S. prosecutors are investigating several high-ranking Venezuelan officials, including the president of the country’s congress, on suspicion that they have turned the country into a global hub for cocaine trafficking and money laundering, according to more than a dozen people familiar with the probes.

An elite unit of the Drug Enforcement Administration in Washington and federal prosecutors in New York and Miami are building cases using evidence provided by former cocaine traffickers, informants who were once close to top Venezuelan officials and defectors from the Venezuelan military, these people say.

A leading target, according to a Justice Department official and other American authorities, is National Assembly President Diosdado Cabello, considered the country’s second most-powerful man.

Update: Venezuela parliamentary leader target of US 'narcostate' investigation -- The Telegraph

WNU Editor: When your country's currency has collapsed .... those with access to foreign currencies are king. If you are running a nacro enterprise .... you can literally buy any distressed asset for cheap. Has Venezuela entered this world .... if the above WSJ post is correct, the answer is a resounding yes.

Update #2: Will the Venezuelan State Fail? -- Carl Meacham, RCW/CSIS

Venezuela's Currency Collapsed This Week

A cashier counts bolivars at money exchange in Caracas, Febreuary 24, 2015. Reuters/Carlos Garcia Rawlins

IBTimes: Venezuela's Currency Sinks To Record Low On The Black Market

Venezuela’s currency, the bolivar, hit fresh lows this week on the black market, breaking a new record at 400 bolivars to the dollar. The currency has been rapidly tumbling in recent weeks on the parallel market, which many analysts consider a strong indicator of where the currency stands in light of stringent government controls and a severe scarcity of U.S. dollars.

The bolivar’s tumble broke the 400-to-1 exchange barrier Wednesday evening, according to website DolarToday, which monitors the currency’s rate against the dollar on the black market. That figure brings the currency more than 60 times the government’s primary official rate, required for most foreign exchange transactions.

Update #1: Venezuela's currency fell off a cliff -- AP
Update #2: Venezuela unofficial exchange rate weakens to 400 bolivars per dollar -- Reuters

WNU Editor: Being someone experienced such a  currency crisis (in Russia) and is now witnessing his family members in another going through it right now (Ukraine) .... for those with low or fixed incomes in Venezuela .... they are now in hell.

These Are The Five Big Decisions Now Facing The Pentagon


Robert Farley, National Interest: 5 BIG Decisions That Will Decide the U.S. Military's Fate

"The United States no longer has the luxury to make the procurement mistakes that it has enjoyed over the past two decades."

Over the next decade, the United States has some enormous decisions to make about the future of its military establishment. The technological and resource advantages that the United States had enjoyed since the end of the Cold War are waning, narrowing the margin of error for the U.S. military.

These decisions go beyond questions of military necessity; they require a level of national deliberation that has become sorely lacking. The post-Cold War glow, followed by the desperate efforts to piece together victory in Iraq and Afghanistan, have made long-range procurement planning difficult, and have put off big decisions that need to happen as part of a national conversation, rather than a technocratic debate between the Pentagon and the services.

Here are five of the biggest decisions that the Pentagon, and by extension the nation, faces over the course of the next decade.

WNU Editor: I would add two more .... (1) modernizing America's nuclear forces, and (2) how many aircraft carriers should that the U.S. Navy have.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Top U.S. General: 'Islamic State is Actively Recruiting In Afghanistan'

Photo: General John F. Campbell. Wikipedia

Al Bawaba: Daesh actively recruiting in Afghanistan: US commander

Daesh (ISIS) is actively recruiting in Afghanistan but it not operational there at present, AP has reported the commander of international forces in Afghanistan as saying.

General John F. Campbell said that Taliban fighters in Aghanistan and Pakistan are being tempted to the group because of Daesh's sophisticated social media campaign. He also commented that Taliban fighters are frustrated at the lack of progress at overthrowing the government in Kabul.

Daesh now controls roughly a third of Syria and Iraq.

Some Afghan officials have claimed that Daesh is already fighting in a number of regions in Afghanistan.

Update: Isis actively recruiting in Afghanistan, says US general -- The Guardian/AP

WNU Editor: After 13 years of war I suspect that many Taliban fighters are probably frustrated and are looking for an alternative group to lead them to victory .... hence some interest in the Islamic State.

NSA Program For The Bulk Collection Of Phone Records Is On The Verge of Being Shut Down

The Guardian: NSA bulk phone records collection to end despite USA Freedom Act failure

* Administration has not applied to secret court for 90-day extension
* USA Freedom Act fails in early hours after long Senate session

Even as the Senate remains at an impasse over the future of US domestic surveillance powers, the National Security Agency will be legally unable to collect US phone records in bulk by the time Congress returns from its Memorial Day vacation.

The administration, as suggested in a memo it sent Congress on Wednesday, declined to ask a secret surveillance court for another 90-day extension of the order necessary to collect US phone metadata in bulk. The filing deadline was Friday, hours before the Senate failed to come to terms on a bill that would have formally repealed the NSA domestic surveillance program.

WNU Editor: Another vindication for NSA leaker Edward Snowden.

More News On The NSA Program For The Bulk Collection of Phone Records

NSA Begins Dismantling Phone Data Collection Program -- NSA
Senate to Try Again After Bill on N.S.A. Collection of Phone Records Is Blocked -- NYT
U.S. Senate Blocks NSA Surveillance Bill, Patriot Act Extension -- WSJ
Senate blocks measures to extend NSA program -- CNN
The Senate Fails to Reform NSA Spying, Votes Against USA Freedom Act -- Wired
US Senate blocks bill to end NSA phone data collection -- BBC
The Obama administration just effectively ended one of the NSA's most controversial programs -- Business Insider
Last night NSA scare tactics finally stopped working -- VOX
Failed Senate Votes Mean Gap in NSA Phone Tap Program -- Bloomberg
Senate blocks House bill on NSA surveillance. What happens next? -- Jessica Mendoza, CSM

8 Legendary Battle Cries

Russian soldiers at Stalingrad. (Credit: German Federal Archives) 8 Legendary Battle Cries

The prospect of combat is enough to leave even the bravest soldiers paralyzed with fear. That’s why armies have long mobilized their troops with battle cries and other military slogans. Some of these “war woops” were merely animalistic screams or yells designed to send a chill up the spines of the enemy, but others had political or religious significance that transcended the battlefield. Below, learn the stories behind eight of military history’s most intimidating rallying cries.

WNU Editor: My father fought north of Stalingrad .... I only heard him say it once “There is no land for us beyond the Volga.” .... years later it still gives me the chills when I remember how he said it.