Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Militants Are Targeting Polio Workers In Pakistan

Hospital staff stand near the bodies of anti-polio drive campaign workers who were shot by gunmen, at a hospital morgue in Quetta November 26, 2014. Credit: REUTERS/Naseer Ahmed

Pakistan Gunmen Kill Four Polio Workers In Quetta -- BBC

Four polio vaccination workers have been shot dead and three injured in the south-west Pakistani city of Quetta.

Police said the three female health workers and their male driver were attacked by two gunmen on a motorbike. Anti-polio efforts in the province have been suspended, the authorities say.

The shootings are the latest in a series targeting Pakistani polio teams. No group has claimed responsibility.

Militants say polio teams are spies or that the vaccine causes infertility.

Pakistan is one of only three countries where the disease is still endemic, the others being Nigeria and Afghanistan.

Read more ....

More News On Militants Targeting Polio Workers In Pakistan

Militants kill four polio workers in Pakistan -- Reuters
Polio Workers Killed, Injured in Pakistan -- WSJ
Attackers kill 4 polio workers in Pakistan -- CNN
Gunmen kill four in Pakistan in latest attack on polio health workers -- Irish Times
Gunmen in Pakistan Kill 4 Members of Anti-Polio Campaign -- NYT

Russian - German Relations Are Now At The Lowest Point Since The Fall Of The Berlin Wall

Chancellor Angela Merkel in the lower house of parliament Bundestag in Berlin, Nov. 26, 2014. Stefanie Loos—Reuters

German Chancellor Says Russia’s Actions Are Unjustifiable -- Time

Angela Merkel appears to be taking a tougher stance against Vladimir Putin

German Chancellor Angela Merkel Wednesday suggested she is prepared for a drawn-out confrontation with Russian President Vladimir Putin over the Ukraine crisis

“We need patience and staying power to overcome the crisis,” Merkel told German lawmakers in a speech to Berlin’s parliament. She added that economic sanctions on Russia “remain unavoidable” as long as government forces continue to battle pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine, Bloomberg reports.

Read more ....

More News On The Deterioration Of Russian - German Relations

Germany's Merkel Says Continued Russia Sanctions Are 'Unavoidable' -- AP
Merkel says patience needed to resolve Ukraine crisis -- Reuters
Merkel Says Firmness With Putin Required to Solve Ukraine -- Bloomberg Businessweek
Merkel Says Russia Trampling On International Law -- Radio Free Europe
Merkel Accuses Russia of Violating Europe’s Peaceful Order -- WSJ
Merkel says sanctions against Russia still necessary -- ITAR-TASS
Merkel: Sanctions Against Russia to Remain in Force -- Sputnik
Germany to go ahead with support for Ukraine, have dialogue with Russia — Merkel -- ITAR-TASS
Why Angela Merkel is saying farewell to Ostpolitik -- Natalie Nougayrède, The Guardian

My Comment: This is the most important relationship in Europe .... and it impacts everyone. My prediction .... the Ukraine crisis is not going to end soon .... and as a result Russian - German relations are probably going to be in the "deep freeze" for the foreseeable future .... doubly so with sanctions now in place.

The Crisis In Ukraine Has Wrecked Its Banking System

People stand in line to withdraw money at an automated teller machine (ATM) of Ukrainian bank Privatbank in Simferopol, Crimea, on Mar. 14, 2014. Vasily Fedosenko / Reuters

Russia Has Basically Blown Up Crimea's Banking System -- Steve Stecklow, Elizabeth Piper, and Oleksandr Akymenko, Business Insider

Outside a high-rise building on the outskirts of this disputed region’s capital, a steady stream of frustrated residents exited a government office, clutching folders of bank records and shaking their heads in disgust.

“They are not returning the money,” complained Margarita Pobudilova, a 77-year-old retired factory worker who for months has been unable to access more than $US3,000 of her life savings.

Ten months after Russia invaded this Black Sea peninsula and seized it from Ukraine, the financial fallout is still being felt. Thousands of ordinary citizens have little or no access to their funds. Losses for Ukrainian banks continue to mount as billions of dollars worth of loans they issued in Crimea go unpaid. Lawyers for the banks are preparing legal actions against Russia, which confiscated many of the banks’ buildings, equipment and cash.

Read more ....

Update: Russian Central Bank Official Says Crimeans Should Repay Loans After All -- Moscow Times

My Comment: Meanwhile .... the cash squeeze is starting to hit rebel held regions in eastern Ukraine .... Ukraine gov't cuts cash off to rebel areas -- AP

NATO Top Commander: Russian Forces Are Still In East Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists from the rebel Interior ministry attend an oath-taking ceremony in Donetsk, eastern Ukraine, October 25, 2014. Credit: Reuters/Maxim Zmeyev

NATO Commander: Russian Troops Are In East Ukraine Providing A 'Backbone' For Separatists -- Business Insider/Reuters

KIEV (Reuters) - NATO's top military commander said during a visit to Kiev on Wednesday that Russian forces were still operating in eastern Ukraine, providing the "backbone" to separatist rebels fighting government forces.

U.S. Air Force General Philip Breedlove, NATO's Supreme Allied Commander Europe, also expressed concern over what he said was Moscow's militarization of the Crimea peninsula which Russia annexed from Ukraine in March.

Ukraine leveled fresh charges that Russia was sending support to pro-Russian separatists in the east, saying that five columns of heavy equipment were seen crossing onto Ukrainian territory on Monday.

Read more ....

More News On General Philip Breedlove's Comments On Russian Military forces In Eastern Ukraine

Ukraine Says More Russian Military In East -- Radio Free Europe
Nato commander flied in to Ukraine as fighting rumbles on -- Gulf News/AFP
NATO 'very concerned' by Russian military build-up in Crimea - Ahram Online
NATO’s commander in Europe meets with Ukrainian leaders in Kiev -- ITAR-TASS
Yatseniuk, Breedlove discuss Ukraine-U.S. cooperation in defense sector -- Interfax Ukraine
U.S. General Breedlove to hold talks in Ukraine on Wednesday -- Reuters
Ukraine reports new arrivals of Russian supplies for eastern rebels -- Reuters

Iran's Ayatollah Ali Khamenei: US And Europe Have Failed To Bring Iran ‘To Its Knees’

Iran’s Leader Denounces West Over Nuclear Talks Extension -- Irish Times

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei says US and Europe have failed to bring Iran ‘to its knees’

Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has said the West has failed to bring Iran “to its knees” over its nuclear programme.

Meeting Muslim clerics in Tehran, the ayatollah dismissed the diplomatic and economic pressure that world powers have brought to bear on his country over its nuclear ambitions. He spoke the day after a deadline for concluding an agreement was extended for seven months.

“In the nuclear issue, America and colonial European countries got together and did their best to bring the Islamic Republic to its knees, but they could not do so – and they will not be able to do so,” the ayatollah’s personal website quoted him as saying.

Read more ....

More News On Iranian Reaction To The Extension Of The Nuclear Talks

Iranian Leaders Hail Extended Negotiations as a Victory Over the U.S. -- The Tower
Iran Will Not Bow to Pressure, Sanctions: Rouhani -- Al-Manar
Hard-liners circle Rouhani but Khamenei backs more talks -- The Daily Star
Domestic pressures in US, Iran threaten slow-moving nuclear talks -- Reuters
Nuclear diplomacy faces obstacles even with more time -- Daily Star/AP
Iran nuclear talks – victory for Tehran? -- Euronews
What If There Is No Iran Nuclear Deal -- Kelsey Davenport, Defense One
A Truce, Not a Breakthrough Avoids Hard Choices by U.S. and Iran -- Barbara Slavin, VOA

Riots And Unrest Spread In America

Riot-Hit Ferguson Sees Second Night of Unrest -- VOA

The Midwestern U.S. town of Ferguson faced a second night of unrest and solidarity demonstrations were held nationwide to protest a grand jury's decision to not indict a white police officer who shot and killed an unarmed black teenager.

More than 2,000 National Guard soldiers have been deployed in Ferguson, Missouri to guard against fresh racially charged riots, which broke out late Monday after it was announced that charges would not be filed against officer Darren Wilson.

Forty-four people were arrested during a second, calmer night of demonstrations in Ferguson.

Read more ....

More News On The Ferguson Riots

National Guard, police curb Ferguson unrest as protests swell across U.S. -- Reuters
Ferguson: Protesters torch cars but fewer arrests, fewer incidents -- CNN
Guard Reinforcements Contain Damage in Ferguson -- AP
Protesters return to riot-scarred Ferguson streets -- AP
Ferguson Protesters in Tense Confrontation With Police, National Guard -- NBC
'A much better night': At least 44 arrested on second, calmer night of Ferguson protests -- New York Daily News
Two FBI agents have been shot in St. Louis during a siege at a residential home close to protests -- Daily Mail

My Comment: I do not live (and I have never lived) in the U.S. .... but I am old enough to remember reading and seeing news stories from decades ago when U.S. race relations and rioting was far worse. But what is different this time around is that when President Obama was elected in 2008 there was a great of deal of hope .... especially for many members of the white community who supported him .... that U.S. race relations were on the mend .... and the future was one of improving relations. But this has clearly happened .... not even close .... and the result has been a great deal of disappointment. For the black community .... when I look at the stats of growing impoverishment and dependency on government for help .... the disappointment must be even more profound. As for the international community .... many see this as a symbol of America's decline ... and I am willing to bet that many of America's enemies are going to take advantage of this situation as the U.S. focuses on restoring order and putting its own house in order rather than Iraq's, Afghanistan's, Syria, Ukraine, etc., etc., etc..

OPEC Members Prepare To Meet As Oil Prices Continue To Drop

This Week’s OPEC Meeting Is The Most Important In Years -- Washington Post

For most of the past four years, OPEC has had an easy time.

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries hasn’t had to do much to keep oil prices over $100 a barrel. Disruptions in supply — most notably the Libyan civil war — and rising demand have kept the cartel’s coffers full. It has been, say Barclays’ commodities analysts, the culmination of OPEC’s “golden age.”

Is that golden age ending? High prices are often the seeds of their own destruction, providing incentives for new developments and alternatives. Now, over the past three months, global oil production has been outrunning consumption. The price of OPEC’s mix of crude oil has tumbled $32, or 30 percent, to the lowest level since 2012. And suddenly the 12-member group is bickering over who should cut oil output, and by how much, in order to prop up prices.

Read more ....

More News On OPEC Members Preparing To Meet As Oil Prices Continue To Drop

Ahead of OPEC meeting, crude oil sinks to another multi-year low -- USA Today
Its Grip on Oil Weakening, OPEC Will Meet on Prices -- NYT
OPEC Members Nearing Compromise on Supply Cuts -- WSJ
Saudi, Russia pre-OPEC talks yield no oil output cut -- Reuters
Oil steadies below $79 as market doubts OPEC cut -- Reuters
As OPEC faces tough test, lower oil prices loom -- AP
WTI Oil Trades Near 4-Year Low as OPEC Sends Mixed Signal -- Bloomberg
Oil down 2 pct as pre-OPEC talks don't lead to output cut -- Reuters
Oil Volatility Here to Stay Regardless of OPEC Decision -- Inyoung Hwang and Jonathan Morgan
At OPEC Meeting, Saudi Arabia Stares Down Texas and North Dakota -- Matthew Philips, Bloomberg Businessweek
Will Opec cut oil production? -- Andrew Walker, BBC

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Editor's Note

Battling a very bad cold right now. I have been traveling a lot in the past few weeks .... and I guess everything is catching up to me right now. Blogging was difficult today (between the sniffles, coughs, and feeling drowsy) .... so I am taking a break tonight. Hope that I will feel much better tomorrow.

Update Wednesday, 8:30 EST: Still under the weather. Will blog until I can.

Ukraine President Poroshenko Under Western Pressure To Form A New Government And Institute Reforms

Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko (R) and U.S. Vice President Joe Biden walk into a hall before a news conference in Kiev, November 21, 2014. Credit: REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko

Ukraine Leader, Under Pressure From West, Pledges New Government Soon -- Reuters

(Reuters) - Ukraine will take the first steps this week towards forming a new government, President Petro Poroshenko said on Monday, seeking to assuage concern among his Western allies that the delay is holding up reform and imperiling Western assistance.

The U.S. and other Western governments are criticizing Kiev's tardiness in putting together a government following October elections - with suspicions that the delay is due to rivalry between Poroshenko and Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk over control of key portfolios.

"We hope that the process (of forming a government) will begin this week," Poroshenko said at a news conference with visiting Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite, apparently referring to the first session of the new parliament on Thursday.

Read more ....

Update: Political Pressure Mounts on Ukraine's Poroshenko -- VOA

My Comment: The currency/economy has imploded. Civil war rages in the east. Relations with Russia are rock bottom with Russia now actively supporting the insurrection in the east. I give him one year .... and if the situation does not improve .... pressure from the West will be the least of his concerns.

Michele Flournoy Does Not Want To Be the Next U.S. Secretary Of Defense

FILE: June 2, 2014: Former Defense Undersecretary for Policy Michele Flournoy, in Washington, D.C. (REUTERS)

Ex-Defense Official Michele Flournoy Takes Self Out Of Running To Succeed Hagel At Pentagon -- FOX News

Former Defense official Michele Flournoy has taken herself out of the running to succeed Chuck Hagel as the next Defense Secretary because, according to a source, she wants to be Hillary Clinton’s Pentagon chief -- not President Obama’s.

A source familiar with the circumstances of the decision confirmed to Fox News Tuesday that Flournoy has taken her name out of the running for the job. Flournoy had been discussed as a front-runner for the position after Hagel announced he was quitting Monday.

Read more ....

My Comment: As I had mentioned yesterday .... if she wants the job President Obama will give it to her .... but it looks like she does not want it.

France Postpones Mistral Delivery To Russia

France Postpones Mistral Delivery To Russia Over Ukraine 'Until Further Notice' -- RT

President Francois Hollande has decided to suspend delivery of the first Mistral-class ship to Russia "until further notice," citing the situation in Ukraine as the reason, media reported an Elysee Palace statement.

"The President of the Republic believes that the current situation in the east of Ukraine still does not allow the transfer of the first Russian Mistral-type ships to Russia," a statement from the Elysée Palace said.

In this regard, Francois Hollande felt it necessary to postpone the new order to study the request for permission to supply Russia with the first Mistral vessel, the communique informed.

Read more ....

More News On France Postponing Its Mistral Delivery To Russia

France delays delivery of Mistral warship to Russia -- France 24
Russia Mistral: France halts delivery indefinitely -- BBC
France suspends warships deal with Russia over Ukraine crisis -- The Guardian
France delays sending two new aircraft carriers to Russia 'until further notice' after Hollande says situation in Ukraine 'does not allow for delivery' -- Daily Mail
France suspending planned warship delivery to Russia over Ukraine -- Irish Times
France postpones warship delivery to Russia 'until further notice' -- Deutsche Welle
France postpones decision on delivery of Mistral carriers -- Reuters
France Postpones Warship Sale to Russia, Citing Ukraine Conflict -- NYT
Russia says it will 'wait patiently' as France suspends Mistral warship sale -- CSM
France Suspends Warship Delivery to Russia -- VOA
France freezes warship delivery to Russia, citing Ukraine conflict -- L.A. Times
France Suspends Mistral Warship Delivery to Russia -- Defense News
Hollande: first Mistral delivery to Russia impossible due to Ukraine situation -- ITAR-TASS

Is This How Iran Negotiates?

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (L), EU envoy Catherine Ashton (C) and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif meet in Muscat November 10, 2014. REUTERS/Nicholas Kamm/Pool. Monday, November 10, 2014

Reports: Top Iranian Negotiator ‘Frequently Shouts’ at Kerry, Western Officials -- Washington Free Beacon

Zarif screams so loud bodyguards have entered the room, Iranian diplomat claims

VIENNA—Iran’s foreign minister and lead negotiator in nuclear talks is known to frequently scream and shout at Western diplomats, including Secretary of State John Kerry, a practice that has caused alarm among bodyguards stationed outside the negotiating room, according to a member of the Iranian diplomatic team who spoke to the Farsi-language press.

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif—who is scheduled to hold one-on-one talks with Kerry this evening in Vienna—”frequently shouts at Western diplomats” in such a forceful manner that bodyguards have hurriedly entered the negotiation room on occasion worried that an incident might occur, according to one Iranian diplomat involved in negotiations who spoke anonymously with the Iranian press earlier this week.

Read more ....

My Comment: No one else is reporting on this story .... but I do recall reading a year or two ago that Western European diplomats were surprised on how aggressive the Iranian foreign minister was in negotiations. The common word used was .... "bully".

Update: This does not help .... Iran: ‘Americans Have Very Clearly Surrendered’ (Washington Free Beacon).

Syrian Government Launches Air Strikes Against The Islamic State Controlled City Of Raqqa

A site hit by what activists said were airstrikes by forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad is pictured in Raqqa, eastern Syria, which is controlled by the Islamic State November 25, 2014.
Credit: REUTERS/Nour Fourat

Syrian Government Air Strikes Kill 63 In Raqqa - Monitoring Group -- Reuters

(Reuters) - At least 63 people, half of them civilians, were killed when Syrian war planes struck the northeastern city of Raqqa on Tuesday, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors the war in Syria.

Syrian government officials were not immediately available for comment.

Rami Abdulrahman, who runs the Britain-based Observatory, said 10 war planes struck at least 10 times in Raqqa, a stronghold of the ultra-hardline group Islamic State.

"The majority of the strikes were in the eastern part of the city," Abdulrahman said. "At least 36 of those killed are civilians. As for the rest, we are not sure yet if they were fighters."

Islamic State, which has seized wide expanses of territory in Iraq and Syria, drove the last Syrian government forces out of Raqqa province in late August. Its fighters seized an air base then, capturing and later executing scores of Syrian soldiers.

Read more .....

More News On Today's Syrian Government Airstrikes Against The Islamic State Controlled City Of Raqqa

'Scores dead' in air strikes on Syria's Raqaa -- Al Jazeera
Syria conflict: Raqqa air strikes 'kill dozens' -- BBC
Syrian Regime Bombards Islamic State Stronghold -- WSJ
Activists Say Syrian Air Strikes On IS 'Capital' Kill Dozens -- Radio Free Europe/AP/AFP
Syrian govt bombs ISIS stronghold of Raqqa, 63 killed -- Al Arabiya
Syrian Airstrikes on Raqqa Kill Dozens -- VOA
US air strikes in Syria driving anti-Assad groups to support Isis -- Sputnik
Activists: Syrian strikes kill 36 in IS-held city -- AP
Syria air strikes on IS ‘capital’ kill 63 people -- International News

Scores Killed In Double Suicide Attack In Northern Nigeria

Female Suicide Bombers Kill At Least 44 In Nigeria's Northeast -- Reuters

MAIDUGURI, Nigeria, Nov 25 (Reuters) - Two female suicide bombers killed at least 44 people on Tuesday in Nigeria's northeastern city of Maiduguri, at the heart of a militant Islamist insurgency, medical officials said.

Four witnesses told Reuters near the scene a woman had entered the roadside trading area behind the city's main market before blowing herself up.

"While the people were trying to help the injured, the second bomb blasted," witness Sani Adamu told Reuters. "I saw lots of bodies."

A nurse at Maiduguri General Hospital said 42 bodies had been received from the twin blasts. In the Maiduguri University teaching hospital in a different part of town, a staff member said two of a dozen wounded brought there for treatment had so far died.

Read more ....

More News On Today's Double Suicide Attack In Northern Nigeria

Sixty dead in suicide blasts in Nigeria -- Al Jazeera
Nigeria's Maiduguri city hit by deadly blasts -- BBC
Double Female Suicide Bomb Attacks Kill 45 in Nigeria -- NDTV/AFP
2 teen female bombers kill more than 40 in Nigeria -- AP
Double Suicide Blasts Kill Dozens in Nigeria -- NYT
At Least 37 Killed in Maiduguri Blasts -- VOA
At least 45 people killed in Nigeria bombings - Xinhuanet News

Is Russia About To Annex Abkhazia?

Russian President Vladimir Putin (right) meets Abkhazian President Raul Khajimba on November 24, 2014.(RIA Novosti / Mikhail Mettsel)

Pact Tightens Russian Ties With Abkhazia -- New York Times

MOSCOW — President Vladimir V. Putin signed a treaty on Monday to expand Russia’s authority over Abkhazia, a breakaway region of Georgia, effectively giving the Kremlin a dominant role in military and economic policy and making it easier for residents of Abkhazia to obtain Russian citizenship.

The accord comes at a time of deep apprehension in the West over Russia’s expansionist aspirations because of its annexation of Crimea and its support of the violent separatist uprising in eastern Ukraine. The treaty was angrily denounced by Georgia as illegal and a step toward “de facto annexation.”

Georgia, like Ukraine, has been moving toward closer political and economic ties with the European Union. Officials in Tbilisi, the Georgian capital, said the new accord with Abkhazia was yet another attempt by Russia to thwart the westward ambitions of a former Soviet republic while tightening the Kremlin’s influence.

Read more ....

More News On Today's Russia - Abkhazia Defense Pact

Collective defense partnership: Russia, Abkhazia sign alliance -- RT
Deal gives Russia greater control over Abkhazia, breakaway Georgian region on Black Sea -- AP
Georgia angered by Russia-Abkhazia military agreement -- The Guardian
Putin sparks Georgia fury with 'annexation' deal in Abkhazia -- 7 News/AFP
Russia step closer to 'annexing' Abkhazia -- Al Jazeera
NATO, EU Criticize Accord Between Russia and Breakaway Abkhazia Region -- Moscow Times
West Rejects Treaty Between Russia, Abkhazia -- Radio Free Europe
Is Abkhazia Next? Russia's Deal with Georgia's Breakaway Region Raises Annexation Fears -- IBTimes

Scores Killed In New DR Congo Massacre

Scores Killed In Fresh 'Congo Massacre' -- Al Jazeera

About 100 people killed in the restive North Kivu region by Ugandan rebels, according to members of parliament.

About 100 people were killed last week in a fresh massacre in the restive east of the Democratic Republic of Congo, blamed by the government on Uganda rebels, members of parliament have said.

The carnage took place on Thursday near Beni in North Kivu province, where mainly Muslim Ugandan rebels have been blamed for killing more than 200 civilians in gruesome machete attacks since October, and where the UN wants "negative forces" to be neutralised.

"I have a figure of 95 bodies buried in a common grave," as well as "nine others that were shown to authorities in a morgue," opposition MP Juma Balikwisha told AFP news agency.

"We still don't have a definitive toll. It lies between 70 and 100 people killed," said Albert Baliesima, an MP for the parliamentary majority backing President Joseph Kabila.

Read more ....

More News On Fresh Reports Of A Massacre In Congo

At least 100 killed in new massacre in eastern DR Congo -- i24
DR Congo violence: Axe attackers kill dozens near Beni -- BBC
Suspected Ugandan rebels kill at least 100 in neighbouring Congo -- BDLive
At least 50 people killed in Congo ax massacre -- New York Daily News
At least 50 people massacred in Congo village by machete and axe-wielding attackers -- Daily Mail
Congo's Army Hunts Assailants After Attack in East -- AP

More U.S. Troops To Remain In Afghanistan In 2015 Than Initially Planned

U.S. To Leave More Troops Than First Planned In Afghanistan - Sources -- Reuters

(Reuters) - The United States is preparing to increase the number of troops it keeps in Afghanistan in 2015 to fill a gap left in the NATO mission by other contributing nations, according to three sources with direct knowledge of the situation.

The final numbers are still being agreed, but there will be at least several hundred more than initially planned, one of the sources said.

"If they hadn't done that, the mission would have lost bases," the source said.

Under the U.S. commitment, described as a "bridging solution" until other nations fulfill their pledges later in the year or the troops are no longer needed, Washington may provide up to 1,000 extra troops.

Read more ....

Update: Obama confronts need for broader U.S. military role in Afghanistan -- L.A. Times

My Comment: This mission is changing everyday. Here is an easy prediction .... U.S. troops are not going to leave after 2015 .... in fact .... it would not surprise me if more U.S. troops are deployed in 2016, and the future of the Afghan mission will be left to the next President after the 2016 Presidential elections.

Colombia FARC Rebel Leader: Peace Talks Suspension Destroyed Confidence

Colombia Rebel Chief Says Peace Talks Suspension Destroyed Confidence -- Reuters

(Reuters) - Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos "destroyed" confidence in the peace process by suspending talks and violated the terms of an agreement that brought the rebels to the negotiating table, FARC guerrilla leader Rodrigo Londono said.

Londono, known by his nom de guerre Timochenko, said in a statement published on Monday that Santos had "overturned the board game" when he halted talks last week and breached terms that allowed the negotiations to start in 2012.

The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) captured army General Ruben Dario Alzate and two others on Nov. 16, a move that outraged Santos and prompted him to call off talks until the three are released. The group had taken two soldiers captive the previous week.

Read more ....

My Comment: FARC has warned that they may renege on the release of a top General kidnapped a week ago .... Colombia's Farc warns over General Alzate's release (BBC). As to what is my take on these peace talks .... I am not optimistic. The above video from the Economist explains why.

Has China Made The World's First Supersonic Drone?

A concept model of the Dark Sword drone was seen for the first time at the Zhuhai Airshow in 2006. (Photo/CNS)

Dark Sword Could Become World's First Supersonic Drone -- Want China Times

China's mysterious "Dark Sword" combat drone could become the world's first supersonic unmanned aviation vehicle, reports the website of the country's national broadcaster CCTV.

The Dark Sword — known in Chinese as "Anjian" — made quite a stir in 2006 when a conceptual model of the unusually shaped triangular aircraft made its debut at the Zhuhai Airshow in southern China's Guangdong province.

The model was subsequently exhibited at the Paris Air Show but has disappeared from future airshows, with no official word on the development of the UAV. Some claim the project has already been scrapped due to insufficient funding or other reasons, while others believe the development of the drone is now being kept secret as it is undergoing further research and testing.

Read more ....

My Comment: I have to see it to believe it .... but the fact that China is making rapid strides in developing and growing its military should not surprise anyone.

A Look At Who May Replace U.S. Secretary Of Defense Hagel

Top Candidates To Succeed Hagel Are Longtime National Security Specialists -- New York Times

WASHINGTON — President Obama, working to shift his team’s focus in confronting a raft of national security crises, is considering two former Defense Department officials as successors to Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, administration officials said Monday.

Even before Mr. Obama appeared with Mr. Hagel at the White House to announce the Pentagon chief’s departure, officials inside and outside the administration were speculating that Michèle A. Flournoy, a former under secretary of defense who would be the first woman to head the Pentagon, and Ashton B. Carter, a former deputy secretary of defense, would be top candidates for the job.

Both are seasoned national security professionals whose credibility among members of both parties and Defense Department experience would be considered assets in managing the threat from the Islamic State, budget cuts and other challenges.

Read more .....

More News On Who May Replace U.S. Secretary Of Defense Hagel

Possible SECDEF replacements for Hagel -- Military Times
Five candidates to replace Hagel -- The Hill
3 People Who Could Replace Outgoing Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel -- ABC News
Chuck Hagel’s Replacement: The Top Possibilities --
Who Will Replace Chuck Hagel? -- Roll Call
Who Will Replace Chuck Hagel As Secretary Of Defense? Michele Flournoy, Robert Work and Ashton Carter Leading Candidates -- IBTimes
3 People Who Could Replace Chuck Hagel -- Time
Who could step up to replace Hagel? -- Susan Crabtree, Washington Examiner
Candidate to replace Hagel is former Pentagon insider -- FDL Reporter
Could Obama choose a woman as next Defense secretary? One name tops list -- Anna Mulrine, CSM
Hagel’s Successor Could Be First Female Pentagon Chief -- DoD Buzz
Candidate to replace Hagel is former Pentagon insider -- USA Today
Hagel Replacement: Senate Fight Likely Over Obama Nominee For Defense -- IBTimes
The Battle Over Hagel’s Replacement For Defense Secretary Has Already Begun in Congress -- Molly O'Toole, Defense One
Chuck Hagel’s replacement must be cautious -- Eugene Robinson, Washington Post

Commentaries, Opinions, Analysis, And Editorials On The Firing Of U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel

How Obama Dumped Hagel -- Glenn Thrush, Politico

He ‘just wasn’t the man for the job,’ president concluded.

When President Obama first summoned Chuck Hagel to the Oval Office in October, he wanted to know how his Pentagon chief planned to cope with the dangerous new threat posed by the Islamic State that had drawn the reluctant president back into war in the Middle East, not to mention getting a sense of Hagel’s other plans for the final two years of Obama’s presidency.

But after several lackluster, low-energy sessions, Obama was so unimpressed by the performance of his laconic, self-effacing defense secretary that he decided Hagel “just wasn’t the man for the job,” according to a senior administration official. That set in motion the decision that led to Hagel’s decorous dumping on Monday by a president who almost never fires anybody—and never admits it when he does.

Read more ....

Commentaries, Opinions, Analysis, And Editorials On The Firing Of U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel

Hagel Takes a Bullet for Obama: Inside the Defense Secretary’s Sudden Firing -- Shane Harris & Tim Mak, Daily Beast
Where did it go wrong for US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel? -- Jonathan Marcus, BBC
Obama, Hagel Couldn't Make Relationship Work -- Alexis Simendinger, Real Clear Politics
Chuck Hagel: The Fall Guy -- David Rothkopf, Foreign Policy
Hagel out; Obama’s inner circle is intact -- Debra J. Saunders, SFGate
Chuck Hagel’s resignation underscores defense rifts -- Philip Ewing and Jennifer Epstein, Politico
Hagel's exit from Pentagon still leaves administration divided -- W.J. Hennigan & Christi Parsons, L.A. Times
Chuck Hagel departure sets up new battle -- Kimberly Atkins, Boston Herald
President Obama needs to look in mirror about policies that are failing -- James Warren, New York Daily News
Pushing out Hagel not shake-up Obama needs -- David Rothkopf, CNN
Requiem for Chuck Hagel’s many Pentagon reviews -- Dan Lamothe, Washington Post
The Hagel Opportunity -- Thomas Donnelly, Weekly Standard
What Chuck Hagel Got Right -- Michale O'Hanlon, WSJ
On replacement, caution urged -- Eugene Robinson, Saint Louis Dispatch
Chuck Hagel’s far from first in his post 
to clash with President Obama -- Jaclyn Cashman, Boston Herald
A Shake-Up Stops at One -- Mark Landler, NYT
Hagel resignation viewed as inevitable by some -- Euronews
Hagel was 'a very loyal soldier' -- Deutsche Welle
Who On Earth Would Want to Replace Hagel? -- Aaron MacLean, Washington Free Beacon
Hagel move not seen scuttling efforts on innovation, warships -- Reuters
Hagel Exit Shows Obama Has Taken Power Away From Pentagon -- Jonathan Allen and Mike Dorning, Bloomberg Businessweek
White House seeks a stronger hand at Pentagon to manage crises -- Greg Jaffe and Rajiv Chandrasekara, Washington Post
Chuck Hagel's firing won't help U.S. foreign policy -- L.A. Times
Firing Chuck Hagel Won't Solve Obama's Foreign Policy Problems -- John B. Judis, New Republic
Hagel's Departure is Bad News for the Asia Rebalance -- Michael Green, Foreign Policy
Chuck Hagel: A Legacy -- Andrew Stiles, Washington Free Beacon

Monday, November 24, 2014

You Serve At The Pleasure Of The President (The Resignation Of U.S. Secretary Of Defense Hagel)

My Comment: In the past few months many in the Pentagon have been brutal in their commentary and analysis on President Obama's strategy to deal with the Islamic State, Ukraine, Afghanistan, Syria, Ebola, Libya, etc.. What made matters worse was that many of these comments were being made public .... and in clear contradiction of stated White House policies and strategies. The White House had to act to assert its authority .... and not surprising they did so today. The result I predict is going to be immediate. Generals/Admirals and their staff .... if they want to continue having a job with the U.S Defense Department .... must "tow the official White House line" .... and I expect all of them will be doing just that. I now expect no more criticisms, no public disagreements, and no opposition to President Obama's war/defense/national security policies. Everyone is now going to "shut-up" .... and even when they are in strong disagreement with the White House .... will remain mute.

Will this serve America's long term national security and defense needs .... I doubt it. Discourse and debate is vital for any policy to be successful .... especially on war/defense/national security issues. Regular readers of this blog know that for the past year I have been critical on this administration's lack of leadership and focus on vital war and defense related issues .... a lack of focus that has resulted in conflicts that could have been easily managed in the past .... into conflicts that now have the potential to gravely impact U.S. national security. Former U.S. Secretary of Defense Hagel ... to his credit .... recently recognized this .... and unfortunately for him .... has paid the price for opening his mouth.

It should be noted that there will also be an impact on the international scene .... and the perception of what this resignation means.  America's adversaries now see an American foreign/national security team/policy in disarray ... and will take advantage of it. Case in point .... this resignation was announced immediately after the Iranian nuclear talks ended .... because everyone "in the know" knew that if this resignation was announced this past Friday .... the Iranians would have immediately shifted their stand in the talks. Russia, Ukraine, China, the Taliban, Al Qaeda, the Islamic State .... everyone is now looking at the U.S. .... and are calculating how to take advantage of the present situation. My prediction .... the next few weeks are going to be tense in some parts of the world.