Saturday, February 24, 2018

Russia Celebrated Defender Of The Fatherland Day Yesterday

Sputnik: 10 thousand volleys fired form 15 different sites were ignited to commemorate the Defender of the Fatherland day and Red Army's 100-year anniversary in Moscow.

30 additional volleys providing the accompanying salute were fired from a different site.

Defender of the Fatherland Day commemorates the date in 1918, during the Russian Civil War, when the Red Army conducted its first mass draft.

Originally known as Red Army Day, it was renamed Soviet Army and Navy Day in 1949, and given its current title in 2002.

Read more ....

Update #1: Russia Marks Red Army's Centenary (RFE)
Update #2: Russia celebrates Defender of the Fatherland Day in holiday featuring fireworks, battle sleighs, shirtless races (ABC News Online)
Russia Marks Red Army's Centenary
Update #3: Fatherland day: 100 years since Red Army was founded (Al Jazeera)

WNU Editor: Only in Russia .... Celebrating Men’s Day in the #MeToo Era (Moscow Times).

Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto Scraps Plans To Visit The White House After 'Testy' Phone Call With President Trump

U.S. President Donald Trump meets Mexico's President Enrique Pena Nieto during the their bilateral meeting at the G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany July 7, 2017. Reuters/Carlos Barria

The Hill: Mexico's Peña Nieto scraps plan to visit White House following call with Trump on border wall: report

Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto has reportedly scrapped his plans to visit the White House after a contentious call with President Trump discussing his proposed border wall.

U.S. and Mexican officials familiar with the call told The Washington Post that Peña Nieto and Trump reached an impasse while discussing the wall. Peña Nieto reportedly asked Trump to publicly affirm Mexico’s stance that it will not pay for the wall, but Trump refused to cave.

A Mexican official told the paper that Trump “lost his temper” during the 50-minute call. U.S. officials said that Trump was “exasperated” and “frustrated” because he thought Peña Nieto’s expectation was unreasonable, according to the Post.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: That must have been one "testy" phone call.

More News On Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto Scrapping Plans To Visit The White House

After testy call with Trump over border wall, Mexico's president shelves White House visit -- Chicago Tribune/Washington Post
WH official: Peña Nieto calls off visit to White House after confrontational call with Trump -- CNN
Mexico's president called off a White House visit after Trump refused to say publicly that Mexico won't pay for the border wall -- Business Insider
Mexican president cancels White House visit after heated call with Trump: Report -- Washington Examiner

Is China Ready For A Trade War Against The U.S.?

The People's Republic of China flag and the U.S. Stars and Stripes fly along Pennsylvania Avenue near the U.S. Capitol in Washington during Chinese President Hu Jintao's state visit, January 18, 2011. Credit: Reuters/Hyungwon Kang

Alex Capri, SCMP: Is China ready for what US could unleash in trade war?

Tariffs and blocking trade are just parts of the arsenal Washington could deploy – citing ‘national security interests’ – to monitor, control and stop commercial activities.

As rumblings of a trade war between Washington and Beijing grow louder, the Trump administration appears to be gearing up for renewed confrontation with China.

The signs have been clear. Last month, Donald Trump’s move to slap punitive tariffs on solar panels and washing machines, mostly on imports from China, was an opening salvo, while the “renegotiation” of the Nafta and Korea-US (KORUS) free trade agreements has drawn the most attention.

But these moves are just a small part of the policy arsenal Washington could unleash under the banner of “national security interests” to monitor, control and block commercial activities between Chinese and American entities.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: The Chinese  have not gamed out what the impact would be to them if a trade war breaks out between them and the U.S.. The impression that I am getting from my friends in China is that they do not believe that such a scenario (i.e. trade war) will unfold.  My prediction .... the U.S. will be taking incremental steps in making trade difficult between the U.S. and China .... and it will have an impact that will be noticed by Beijing probably at the end of this year (if not sooner).

General Kim Yong-chol Will Head North Korea's Delegation To The Pyeongchang Winter Olympics (Updated)

North Korea's general reconnaissance bureau head Kim Yong Chol speaks during an emergency briefing for diplomats basing in North Korea, in Pyongyang August 21, 2015, in this photo released by Kyodo. / Reuters

BBC: Kim Yong-chol: North Korea's controversial Olympics delegate

General Kim Yong-chol will head North Korea's delegation to the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics closing ceremony on 25 February.

He is a controversial figure - and his upcoming visit has been met with hostility in South Korea.

During his time as military intelligence chief, Gen Kim was accused of masterminding attacks on the South Korea warship Cheonan and Yeonpyeong Island in 2010.

He was also linked to a cyber-attack on Sony Pictures in 2014 in a bid to block the release of The Interview, a comedy film based on the North Korean regime.

Read more ....

Update #1: Controversial North Korean ex-spy chief to attend Olympic ceremony (Nikkei Asian Review)
Update #2: North Korea Is Sending Military Hardliner Kim Yong Chol to the Olympic Closing Ceremony. Here's What to Know (Time)
Update #3: AP EXPLAINS: What's N. Korea up to with provocative visit? (AP)
Update #4: Winter Olympics: North Korean official accused of ordering deadly attacks to attend closing ceremony (ABC News Online).

WNU Editor: The South Korean government's rational on why they approved his visit is to pursue peace .... South Korea says approved visit by sanctioned North Korean to pursue peace on peninsula (Business Insider/Reuters). But the families who lost ones because of him are upset .... Relatives Protest Visit By North Korea General Blamed For Warship Sinking (NDTV/AFP), the Moon Jae-in administration is being condemned by the opposition .... Moon slammed for accepting North’s visitor (Korea Joong-Ang Daily), and some want this North Korean visitor dead .... ‘Publicly hang & slice him to death’: S. Korean MPs want North’s delegate killed (RT).

China Condemns New U.S. Sanctions On North Korea

VOA: China Reacts Angrily to New US Sanctions Against North Korea

China responded angrily Saturday to new sanctions the United States imposed on North Korea, maintaining they were counterproductive to efforts to halt Pyongyang's nuclear and long-range missile development programs.

U.S. President Donald Trump announced on Friday what he called the "largest ever" set of sanctions against North Korea and threatened a "phase two" if the measures weren't effective.

The sanctions target one person, 27 companies and 28 ships registered in China and seven other countries with the intent of eliminating North Korea's illicit shipping and trade. They block assets held by the companies in the U.S. and prohibit U.S. citizens from interacting with them.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: The Chinese feel that they are being boxed in a corner .... and they are. They are being forced to make a decision on what is more important to them .... good political and trade relations with the U.S., or good political and trade relations with North Korea.

More News On Chinese Reaction To New U.S. Sanctions On North Korea

China says new U.S. sanctions threaten cooperation over North Korea -- Reuters
China tells US to stop unilateral North Korea actions -- DW
China: New US sanctions threaten cooperation over North Korea -- Al Jazeera
China slams new US sanctions ‘harming cooperation' on N. Korea -- RT
US seeks UN ban on 33 ships, 27 firms over North Korea smuggling -- AFP

U.S. Congress Has Released The Redacted And Declassified Democratic Memo On DOJ And FBI Alleged Surveillance Abuses

The Hill: House Democrats release intelligence memo defending DOJ, FBI investigation

House Intelligence Committee Democrats have released their memo countering the GOP document that alleged surveillance abuses in the Justice Department (DOJ) and FBI.

The 10-page Democratic memo, authored by Rep. Adam Schiff (Calif.), the top Democrat on the committee, was made public after President Trump declassified a four-page Republican memo last month alleging that officials at the FBI and DOJ had abused their powers to spy on a Trump campaign official.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: The Democrat memo is here. House Intel Committee Chairman Nunes' response to the Democrat memo is here.

Update: The White House has already reacted .... ‘Total political & legal bust!’: Trump slams Democrats’ memo on Russia probe & surveillance abuse (RT). More here ....White House Slams Democrats’ Memo on Russia Probe as 'Politically Driven' (Sputnik).

More News On The U.S. Congress Releasing The Redacted And Declassified Democratic Memo On DOJ And FBI Alleged Surveillance Abuses

Congress releases redacted, declassified Democratic memo -- AP
Democrats' memo charges Republicans trying to undermine Russia probes -- Reuters
2 Weeks After Trump Blocked It, Democrats' Rebuttal of GOP Memo Is Released -- New York Times
Democratic intelligence memo released with redactions -- CNN
Democrats' Memo Released Countering GOP Account of Russia Probe -- Bloomberg
Democrats defend Russia inquiry in response to Republicans' Nunes memo -- The Guardian
US Congress releases redacted, declassified Democratic memo -- ABC News Online
Democrats praise release of Dem House Intel memo -- The Hill
US House Intelligence Committee Democrats release 10-page counter-memo -- RT
What is the Democrats' rebuttal to Nunes' memo? 5 things to know about the document -- FOX News
House Intel Democrats Release GOP Counter-Memo -- Zero Hedge

Has Russia Miscalculated In Syria?

Russian President Vladimir Putin (2nd L) and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad (2nd R) meet with servicemen as they visit the Hmeymim air base in Latakia Province, Syria, Dec. 11, 2017.

Martin Chulov, The Guardian: Moscow mired in Syria as Putin’s gameplan risks a deadly ending

Russian leader’s gamble backing Bashar al-Assad increasingly looks miscalculated

From his spot in the ruins of east Ghouta, Arif Othman sees the current phase of Syria’s war as brutally simple. The longer he holds out against Bashar al-Assad and his allies, the worse it will get – especially at the hands of the Russians.

“We were supposed to have surrendered by now,” he said at the end of the most intensive week-long barrage anywhere in Syria in the past three years.

“When we didn’t, the bombs were bigger, the planes more regular, and the injuries like nothing we’ve seen. All sent from Moscow.”

The Russian-led air blitz has been the sum of all fears for the besieged population on the ground. Up to 400,000 people, with nowhere to run, have been pinned down by Vladimir Putin’s air force as Syrian and Iranian-backed ground troops edge closer to the largest and most important opposition area anywhere south of Idlib.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: I think the Kremlin has finally begun to realize how incredibly messed up Syria is .... and that there is really no solution in placate any of the different factions that are now in play in Syria. And even if the war should end tomorrow .... the resources that will be necessary to rebuild the country are simply not there. In the meantime, the slaughter continues .... Syria death toll over 500 as eastern Ghouta bombing continues (The Guardian).

United Nations Votes For A 30-Day Humanitarian Ceasefire In Syria

DW: UN Security Council votes for 30-day ceasefire in Syria without delay

The UN Security Council has voted unanimously to approve a 30-day humanitarian ceasefire in Syria. Reports suggest that shortly after the vote, warplanes once again struck the rebel-held enclave of eastern Ghouta.

UN Security Council votes for 30-day ceasefire in Syria without delay

The UN Security Council has voted unanimously to approve a 30-day humanitarian ceasefire in Syria. Reports suggest that shortly after the vote, warplanes once again struck the rebel-held enclave of eastern Ghouta.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: I have no reason to believe that this ceasefire will hold for any length of time.

More News On The UN Voting For A 30-Day Humanitarian Ceasefire In Syria

Syria war: UN Security Council approves 30-day ceasefire -- BBC
Damascus suburb strikes kill scores, UN votes for cease-fire -- AP
UN backs Syria ceasefire as death toll in rebel enclave tops 500 -- AFP
UN security council votes unanimously for month-long Syria ceasefire -- The Guardian
Syria ceasefire resolution approved by UN Security Council, with Russian support -- ABC News Online
U.N. approves cease-fire in Syria after week's death toll passes 500 -- UPI
United Nations Security Council Votes Unanimously for Syrian Cease-Fire -- Wall Street Journal
U.N. Security Council Passes Syria Cease-Fire After Hundreds Killed In Bombing Siege -- NPR
UN Security Council approves 30-day Syria ceasefire -- CNN
UN Security Council approves 30-day cease-fire in Syria despite Russian delays -- FOX News
UN Security Council votes in favour of 30-day Syria ceasefire -- Al Jazeera
UN SC unanimously passes resolution demanding 30-day ceasefire across Syria -- TASS
US and Russia exchange jabs after UN Security Council adopts Syria ceasefire resolution -- RT

U.S. Sailors Stranded In Montreal Are Helping Out

CTV News: Stranded in Montreal, U.S. sailors volunteer at Welcome Hall Mission

A crew of U.S. sailors stuck in Montreal since December has been putting their time to good use.

In addition to training exercises aboard their vessel and learning how to deal with subzero weather, they have been taking part in volunteer activities on dry land.

On Friday, they volunteered at the Welcome Hall Mission, helping unload boxes of food and preparing items for those in need.

Read more ....

Update: Stranded U.S. marines volunteer at Montreal’s Welcome Hall Mission (Global News)

WNU Editor: I have to be in Old Montreal next week .... this will give me a chance to check out the ship and take some pics and videos.

A Closer Look At Air Force One

(Click on Image to Enlarge)
The aircraft contains a conference and dining room, kitchens, a communications suite - and even an attic running almost the entire length of the plane

Business Insider: These features make Air Force One an incomparable flying fortress

* The security features on Air Force One are extensive.
* The body of the plane can withstand a nuclear blast.
* Many of these features are hidden to the untrained eye.

Embellished with the American flag, the presidential seal, and the words "United States of America," the world's most famous plane is as tall as a six-story building and gives an undeniable authoritative presence wherever it flies.

The three-leveled "flying Oval Office" is a custom Boeing 747-200B that has 4,000 square feet of interior floor space, including a conference room, dining room, private quarters for the president, offices for senior staff members, a medical operating room (a doctor flies on every flight), press area, two food-preparation galleys that can provide 100 meals, and multifrequency radios for air-to-air and air-to-ground communication.

Read more ....

Previous Post: Inside Air Force One (December 8, 2016).

WNU Editor: The details on buying two new Air Force Ones are almost complete .... Boeing reportedly nears deal with Trump for two new Air Force One planes (CNBC). The South Koreans now want an Air Force One .... South Korea looks to buy its own Air Force One (Defense News).

America’s Next Warplane Could Come From Africa

Popular Mechanics: America’s Next Warplane Could Be African

Africa’s first warplane seeks to enter the Air Force’s OA-X aircraft program.

America’s next warplane could come from a rather unlikely place: Africa. The South African Mwari aircraft, the first warplane entirely designed and developed in Africa, has been rebranded as the Bronco II for the American market and is seeking to join the U.S. Air Force’s ongoing competition to pick a new light attack aircraft.

Originally known as, or AHRLAC, or Advanced High Performance, Reconnaissance Light Air Craft, Mwari was developed by two South African companies, Aerosud and the Paramount Group, as an inexpensive but capable aircraft to equip Africa’s air forces. The aircraft first flew in 2014 and in 2016 the developers announced an agreement with U.S. defense giant Boeing to develop an “integrated mission system” for the Mwari, with an emphasis on intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) and light strike. This likely includes such Boeing weapons as the GPS-guided Small Diameter Bomb.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: I am sure this plane is very deadly .... but it's appears to look like a toy.

Latvia's Banking System Reeling After Its Third-Largest Bank Failed

A security guard speaks on her mobile phone at the head office of the ABLV Bank in Riga, Latvia February 18, 2018. REUTERS/Ints Kalnins/File Photo

Reuters: Latvia calls emergency meeting after third-largest bank fails

RIGA (Reuters) - Latvian authorities will gather for an emergency meeting on Monday following the failure of the country’s third-largest bank, the Prime minister said on Saturday, as the country kept watch for any fallout on other banks.

ABLV Bank is failing or likely to fail and will be wound up as saving it is not in the public interest, the European Union’s Single Resolution Board and the European Central Bank (ECB) said separately on Saturday.

Accused by U.S. authorities of large-scale money laundering, ABLV scrambled this week to come up with a survival plan, but failed as customers fled and management could not come up with sufficient cash, despite offers of emergency central bank liquidity.

Latvia’s Finance Minister Dana Reizniece-Ozola said the situation in other banks was stable and that the level of deposits at around 20 billion euros ($25 billion) had not changed significantly.

Read more ....

Update #1: Europe to Wind Down Latvian Bank Targeted by U.S. Over Sanctions (Bloomberg)
Update #2: European authorities move to liquidate Latvian lender after US accusations (The National)

WNU Editor: The Latvian bank that has failed .... ABLV Bank .... was accused of laundering money for North Korea. This bank failure falls on the heels of another crisis where Latvia's central banker has been accused of accepting bribes .... Latvian minister urges central bank chief to quit over graft probe (Times of Malta).

The Mueller Inquiry Explained


New York Times: More than 100 charges. 19 people. 3 companies: The Mueller Inquiry, Explained.

In the nine months since Robert S. Mueller III was appointed to oversee the investigation into possible links between the Trump campaign and Russian officials, he has issued more than 100 criminal counts against 19 people and three companies. Of the 19 people, five — including three Trump associates — have pleaded guilty. Thirteen are Russians accused of meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

Here is an assessment of the charges and the people facing them in the special counsel investigation.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: The three companies and 13 of the nineteen individuals who have been charged are Russian. But of Mueller's 100 charges not one of them is for collusion with Russia. This is why appointing a special counsel can be a problem. Even when they cannot find any evidence to support a charge for which they were appointed to find .... they go fishing elsewhere. Is this the proper way for a special prosecutor to proceed .... to nail people on a "process crime" .... and should they be involved in wire and bank fraud cases (when there are more than enough prosecutors out there to work with the police to determine if a crime has taken place)? Apparently there are many who believe that this is the role of this special counsel ..,.. and as such this investigation will continue.

China Continues Work On Developing An Advanced Stealth Combat Drones

Star Systems concept art

The Warzone/The Drive: China Is Surging Forward With Its Development Of Advanced Stealth Combat Drones

China's work in the high-end unmanned combat air vehicle space is accelerating while the Pentagon remains publicly uninterested in the concept.

China has been quietly developing a penetrating unmanned aircraft capability over the last decade, but in recent weeks their efforts to field such a concept have seemed to of accelerated and become more public. This is occurring as American unmanned combat air vehicle (UCAV) development efforts have totally disappeared from the public domain, a phenomenon we have detailed in great depth, and one that has significant strategic repercussions.

Read more ....

WNU Editor:The above article is a good review on what the Chinese are doing when it comes to drone development.

U.S. Intelligence Community Looking For Mass Graves In North Korea


Jenna McLaughlin, Foreign Policy: US spies are looking for mass graves in North Korea

* For the first time, the US intelligence community will provide humanitarian groups and nongovernmental organizations with rare satellite footage that could help them to identify human rights abuses in North Korea.
* The images have never before been shared this publicly with human rights groups.
* The coordination could make it easier to call attention to North Korean atrocities, including mass graves.

For the past several years, humanitarian groups and nongovernmental organizations have combed commercial satellite imagery in North Korea, looking for evidence of human rights abuses, such as mass graves. Now, some will have access to satellite photos and analysis from an American spy agency.

The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, which maps the earth's surface with data from drones, satellites, and other airborne craft, will provide raw imagery, expert review, and the use of an already developed digital app and publishing platform to several nonprofit organizations and think tanks.

Read more ....

WNU editor: This is not going to be an easy job. After the fall of Communism in the Soviet Union there was a search in Russia for where did all the bodies go during their reign .... especially during the time of Stalin and the operation of the Gulags. In many cases the search was a disappointment. This reminds me on what happened after the defeat of Nazi Germany .... even though the camps claimed 11 million lives .... only a fraction of those who died in these camps were ever found. We only know that these people were killed because of the meticulous book-keeping that both Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union maintained during this time. My prediction will be the same for North Korea. The bodies will not be found, but the records will reveal who was arrested, where they went, and (maybe) the approximate date on when they died.

U.S. Navy Investigating How An U.S. Navy EA-18G Growler Flight Went Spectacularly Wrong

An US Navy EA-18G Growler. USN

The Warzone/The Drive: Freezing Navy EA-18G Crew In Ice Filled Cockpit Navigated Home Using Their Smart Watches

The plane made it back to base, but the potentially deadly mishap is the latest spectacular failure for the Growler's environmental control system.

A U.S. Navy EA-18G Growler recently made it back to base after suffering a terrifying mid-air mishap, which left its two-person crew flying blind and frostbitten after the aircraft’s environment control system failed in part thanks to a pair of high-tech wrist watches. The incident occurred just over a year after the canopy on another one of the electronic warfare planes exploded in a bizarre over-pressurization incident and as the service continues to struggle to find exactly what’s causing persistent reports of “hypoxia-like” symptoms across the F/A-18 Hornet, F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, and Growler fleets.

Defense News was first to report this new incident, which occurred approximately 60 miles south of Seattle, Washington. The EA-18G, assigned to Air Test and Evaluation Squadron Nine (VX-9), was flying at approximately 25,000 feet on a mission from Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, between Seattle and Vancouver BC, when the cockpit temperature plummeted to -30 degrees Fahrenheit.

Read more ....

Update: Flying blind and freezing: Navy investigating terrifying EA-18G Growler flight (Defense News)

WNU Editor: The crew was lucky to survive.

Wave Of Attacks Reported In Afghanistan

Afghan security forces keep watch at a checkpoint near the site of a suicide attack in Kabul, Afghanistan, Feb. 24, 2018.

VOA: Taliban, IS Claim Deadly Attacks Across Afghanistan

ISLAMABAD — A series of suicide bombings and militant raids in Afghanistan has killed dozens of people, a day after construction work on the much-awaited Afghan section of an international gas pipeline began.

An Afghan Interior Ministry spokesman said a suicide bomber Saturday blew himself up near a security post in Kabul, killing at least three people and wounding several others.

The Islamic State terrorist group claimed it plotted the violence in the capital city.

Officials said the deadliest of the several attacks occurred in western Farah province, where Taliban insurgents in a pre-dawn assault killed at least 20 government forces before capturing their base in Bala Baluk district.

Separately, two early morning suicide bombings targeted Afghan forces in the troubled Helmand province.

Read more ....

More News On Wave Of Attacks In Afghanistan

At least 23 dead in series of attacks in Afghanistan -- CBC
Wave of Taliban Attacks Kills at Least 20 Afghan Soldiers -- New York Times
Afghanistan: Soldiers killed in wave of attacks -- BBC
Suicide Blast, Attacks Kill Dozens In Afghanistan -- Radio Free Europe
Multiple attacks in Afghanistan leave many dead -- DW
Nearly two dozen Afghan soldiers killed in multiple attacks -- Aljazeera
Dozens killed as Taliban, IS launch multiple attacks across Afghanistan -- SCMP

Half A Million People Live In A Country That Does Not Exist

New York Post: 500K people live in a country that doesn’t exist

Transnistria is the size of Dallas, Texas. Nestled between Moldova and Ukraine, it has a population of just under 500,000 residents who mostly speak Russian.

And in the eyes of the world, it doesn’t officially exist.

Once, Transnistria was part of Moldova, but in 1990 it declared independence after the fall of the Soviet Union and Moldova’s alliance with Romania. There was a brief war, with some 1,500 casualties, which ended in something of an impasse.

Transnistria remained independent from Moldova, but is not officially recognized as its own nation. It’s not a part of any other country, and yet it’s not a country in its own right. Its money is completely useless outside of its borders, its passports unusable.

Would you go there?

Read more ....

WNU Editor:  I passed through this "country" a few years ago .... and it is a surreal experience. And my comment on this region two years back still holds ....

.... Moldova is one of the most corrupt countries in Europe .... one of the many reasons on why the people who live in Transnistria love their independence and have no interest in joining with Moldova. And as much as Moldova, Ukraine, and much of Europe want this little Republic to go away, the people who live there have no interest to accommodate them. My prediction .... nothing is going to change in 2017 (and I can now say 2018).