Tuesday, April 26, 2016

US intel chief: ISIS expanding in Europe, readying for attacks - Arutz Sheva Tuesday April 26th, 2016 at 5:49 PM

US intel chief: ISIS expanding in Europe, readying for attacks - Arutz Sheva

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Arutz Sheva

US intel chief: ISIS expanding in Europe, readying for attacks
Arutz Sheva
Director of National Intelligence James R Clapper Jr. told reporters at a special breakfast on Monday that ISIS networks are operating in Britain, Italy and Germany, among other European states, according to the New York Times. British officials ...

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Comey: FBI Becoming 'Prolific Hacker' Won't End … - Foreign Policy (blog)

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Foreign Policy (blog)

Comey: FBI Becoming 'Prolific Hacker' Won't End  
Foreign Policy (blog)
But on Tuesday, FBI Director Jim Comey cautioned that hacking tools won't solve the challenges law enforcement faces while carrying out investigations in the digital age. Comey has repeatedly warned that his agents' inquiries are “going dark” as ...
FBI Plans to Keep Apple iPhone-Hacking Method SecretWall Street Journal
FBI chief sees better cyber cooperation from ChinaPhys.Org
FBI 
Chief: Agency Still Studying Vulnerability on iPhoneABC News
 
CNBC-Financial Times
all 55 news articles »

F-35 Chief: Software Bugs No Longer a Threat To IOC

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WASHINGTON – The software bugs that have plagued the F-35 program for months are largely resolved and no longer pose a threat to the Air Force’s goal of declaring its jets operational this year, according to the program chief.
       

U.S. airstrikes cost ISIS nearly $800M 

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American airstrikes against Islamic State banks and cash houses in Iraq and Syria over the last several months have cost the terror group between $300 million and $800 million, the U.S. officer in charge of operations said Tuesday.
During one particular airstrike on an Islamic State cash house outside the ...

Putin’s Secret Force Multiplier: Special Operations Forces

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One in three questions posed to President Vladimir Putin during his recent annual live phone-in show covered issues of national security. Public interest in events in Donbas has apparently shrunk substantially, and the only concerns expressed about the Islamic State (IS) were limited to worries about fighters possibly returning Russia. Putin clarified that the Syria withdrawal was never intended to mark a pull-out of all Russian forces, adding that the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) is capable of further successes. The level of air power Russia deploys and uses in Syria depends on the success of its military advisors in conducting the intense train-and-equip program for the SAA. Some of these advisors are personnel belonging to Russia’s most secretive military organization: the Special Operations Forces Command (Komandovaniye Sil Spetsial’nykh Operatsiy—KSSO). These forces are acclaimed for their roles in seizing Crimea and, more recently, for their involvement in operations in Syria. They constitute an important force multiplier in the Kremlin’s efforts to apply small numbers of military personnel and assets to achieve maximum impact toward political-military objectives (Voyenno Promyshlennyy Kuryer, April 19).
The KSSO—probably numbering no more than 1,000 personnel in total—is a relatively new organization in Russia’s military toolkit, but a recent article in Voyenno Promyshlennyy Kuryer sheds fresh light on its origins, development and purpose. The received narrative about the creation of the KSSO attributes its formation to the new defense leadership in early 2013: Defense Minister Army-General Sergei Shoigu and Chief of the General Staff (CGS) Army-General Valeriy Gerasimov. Indeed, announcing the creation of the KSSO in March 2013, Gerasimov confirmed that it resulted from extensive study of the experience of the structure of special forces in foreign countries, with Russia’s defense ministry forming such a command in addition to the existing various types of special forces across the power ministries. However, Gerasimov’s predecessor Nikolai Makarov had also expressed this interest much earlier, with an experiment in 2009 to create an office of special operations subordinate directly to the CGS. By early 2012, Makarov was talking about forming a KSSO, with plans for up to nine special-purpose brigades and expansion of the existing system of military intelligence special forces (GRU Spetsnaz) (RIA Novosti, March 6, 2013).
Indeed, the original plans to form the KSSO were designed to integrate existing special forces centers, forming a single command that would be accountable to the defense minister. These plans were devised by the General Staff and GRU Spetsnaz and submitted to the then-defense minister, Anatoliy Serdyukov, in October 2012. But Serdyukov flatly rejected the proposals. These were later resubmitted after the change in defense leadership, with supporting arguments advanced that it aimed at optimizing and reorganizing existing structures (Izvestia, November 27, 2012).
It is precisely this context that is addressed by Alexei Mikhailov in his article in Voyenno Promyshlennyy Kuryer. Mikhailov notes the role played by these special operations forces in Syria: namely, guiding and correcting air strikes, including the use of cruise missiles, and acting in other capacities. His starting point in tracing the origins of the KSSO are not in 2009 and Makarov’s interest, but rather a decade earlier, pointing out several developments under CGS Anatoliy Kvashnin. Mikhailov noted that, in 1999, a specialist training center was formed in Solnechnogorsk, to report directly to the CGS. The center was known as “Senezh,” with its operatives referred to as “podsolnukhami.” It drew heavily on the experience of counter-insurgency and special operations in Chechnya (Voyenno Promyshlennyy Kuryer, April 19).
Mikhailov discusses the fact that until the KSSO resolved such issues, there were, in effect, four distinct and disparate areas for special forces training. These stemmed from sources of recruitment through to mission type. Airborne Forces rehearsed difficult jumps in order to fulfill a special role during operations. Others were trained in mountain warfare, with specialist training at the Mount Elbrus training center “Terskol.” Additional requirements were linked to the need to storm buildings or seize various enemy targets in difficult conditions or terrain. Finally, maritime specialist skills training was needed by forces operating at sea to capture or sabotage enemy ships of off-shore facilities. Some also argued that the experience in Chechnya yielded an additional niche area for the special forces—providing protection for senior military personnel—but this never really succeeded. In other words, the reformists in the General Staff had come to identify problems in the use of special forces that were rooted in preparing highly trained specialists operating in several different areas. Despite this, the Senezh Center was marked out by building a culture of teamwork among its trainees, and this was increasingly a factor in recruitment—namely, the ability of each candidate to work in a team. According to Mikhailov’s interlocutors, this principle is strictly followed in the KSSO (Voyenno Promyshlennyy Kuryer, April 19).
Podsolnukhami” from the “Senezh,” were extensively deployed and saw action in Chechnya, and more recently in anti-piracy operations in the Horn of Africa; understandably, their activities are classified as top secret. However, it appears that the experience of operations in Chechnya and abroad revealed that the subordination of the Senezh operatives was not optimal. Serdyukov made changes leading to the later creation of the KSSO. The defense ministry Senezh Special Operations Center reported directly to the CGS, while Serdyukov frequently visited the Center and took an interest in its development. He is credited, for example, with placing Il-76 transporters at its disposal 24/7 (Voyenno Promyshlennyy Kuryer, April 19).
By 2010, the Russian defense ministry had a second Special Operations Center, in Kubinka, subordinated to the chief of the GRU. Its creation was overseen by Serdyukov’s aide Lieutenant-General Alexander Miroshnichenko, who previously headed the Federal Security Service (FSB) Special Operations Center (Tsentr Spetsial’nogo Naznacheniya—TsSN FSB). Relations between these centers soon deteriorated as they promoted competing views on how the special forces should develop. It is suggested that the FSB “Alfa” approach concentrates on encouraging individualism, in contrast to the Senezh Center (Voyenno Promyshlennyy Kuryer, April 19).
The resolution to this internal conflict came in March 2013, with the formal creation of the KSSO. And with it, these structures were subordinated in a more cohesive manner. Major-General Alexey Dyumin was appointed commander of the KSSO, seen by many as a compromise figure. Miroshnichenko, continues to attract into the new structure his former subordinates from the TsSN FSB (Voyenno Promyshlennyy Kuryer, April 19). It appears, therefore, that its recruits are mainly a mixture of former members of the GRU Spetsnaz and FSB Alfa.
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U.S. adopts Israeli 'knock' tactic to reduce civilian deaths in ISIS fight 

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American commanders in Iraq and Syria are implementing a new battlefield tactic designed to reduce civilian casualties caused by U.S.-led airstrikes against the Islamic State.
U.S. forces first used the tactic, known as a "knock operation," during an airstrike against a suspected Islamic State cash house in the southern Iraqi ...
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Central Asia’s ‘Karabakhs’ May Be Even More Dangerous Than the Original

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The renewed violence in Azerbaijan’s separatist region of Karabakh (see EDM, April 6) is attracting attention to three larger problems in other parts of the former Soviet space: the existence of ethnic exclaves in neighboring countries, the continuing failure of the states of the region to agree on borders, and problems of national identity among those who were forced, in Soviet times, to declare one ethnicity when, in fact, they felt themselves to be members of another.
Nowhere are these problems greater than in the five countries of Central Asia—Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan. Indeed, there are compelling reasons to believe that precisely because—rather than in spite—of their common Islamic heritage, these conflicts may prove even more explosive than the Armenian-Azerbaijani clashes in the Caucasus. And such potential clashes in Central Asia may end up involving a variety of outside powers and forces, overwhelming the capacity of the states there to control the situation.
The extent and possibly explosive nature of all these problems has been largely ignored by the West, with most observers assuming that because all the countries in the region are Muslim, they will not fight over enclaves or borders the way that the Christian Armenians and the Muslim Azerbaijanis have. The Islamic heritage of Central Asia is important. But there are three reasons why it is less able to prevent the emergence of such conflicts.
First, national identity is stronger than Islam in many cases (see EDM, May 28, 2013August 11, 2015). Being an Uzbek or being a Kyrgyz is simply more important for many of the people in those two countries than being anything else.
Second, these countries have moved into different geopolitical spaces and are being armed by different outside powers. Thus, Uzbekistan receives most of its military needs from the West, while Kyrgyzstan obtains almost all of its weapons from Russia. Consequently, the national divisions are reinforced by broader geopolitical forces. Some outside powers believe this reality actually gives them leverage to prevent conflicts in the region. But such multi-vector arms trading may, in fact, provide certain outside powers with a greater opportunity to promote regional instability when it suits their purposes (Stoletie.ru, April 18).
And third—and this is by far the most important factor, although also the least recognized—the rise of Islamist influence in Central Asia, while nominally supranational, is in fact exacerbating national tensions. Indeed, groups coming from Afghanistan or the greater Middle East, either for tactical or strategic reasons, are exploiting local national disputes to win supporters. Consequently, the fact that Uzbeks and Kyrgyz are both Muslims may make the likelihood of conflict between them greater, at least in the short term, if some members of the former nationality are attracted to one Islamist trend, while some members of the latter are attracted to another. That is clearly the lesson of Iraq and Syria, although it is seldom extended to Central Asia.
This third aspect of what might be called the “Karabakh” problem in Central Asia seems likely to be the most worrisome in the coming months and years. When Joseph Stalin drew the borders in Central Asia in the 1920s, he not only included many Tajiks in Uzbekistan and Uzbeks in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan but required, by force, that those so included identify not as they thought themselves to be but as members of the titular nationality. Thus, Uzbeks living in Tajikistan were required to register as Tajiks and Tajiks in Uzbekistan as Uzbeks.
Because the Stalinist and, indeed more broadly, the Soviet system of ethnic management was based on language rather than culture, this was less of a problem than it might seem. Most of the people involved were bilingual or multi-lingual and thus were forced to choose between or among their languages rather than give up one and choose another. But with the demise of the Soviet Union, many of those whose parents or grandparents or even great-grandparents were forced to re-identify are now seeking to recover their roots and are looking back to their original identities.
Conflicts over exclaves—like the ones that have heated up in recent months in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan (see EDM, August 11, 2015)—and over unsettled borders (see EDM, March 31, 2016), which are problems across the region, are by their very nature “ethnicizing.” In other words, such conflicts make people on both sides more sensitive to their nationality—original or imposed. One sees that in Azerbaijan and Armenia, where the Karabakh conflict is for many at the core of the definition of what it means to be a member of one nationality over the other.
In the case of the countries of Central Asia, as Aleksandr Shustov suggests in his essay on “Karabakh, Central Asian Style,” the consequences of this intensified or recovered ethnic identity could have fatal consequences for the existing states, calling into question not only their existing borders but also their very existences (Stoletie.ru, April 18). If that should come to pass in even one or two instances in that region, then the Central Asian “Karabakhs” truly would be more dangerous than the original.
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Yes, Russia’s Antics in the Baltic Sea Violate “International Rules” 

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Recently, Russian aircraft ‘buzzed’ a US Navy ship and ‘barrel rolled’ over a US Air Force plane above the Baltic Sea. The fallout cast a distracting pall over last week’s NATO-Russia Council meetingin Brussels.  The first such conference since Russia annexed Crimea, it was intended to defuse tensions between the alliance and Russia and allow dialogue on issues like Ukraine and Syria. Instead, the meeting “failed to make any apparent progress,” including on avoiding future military encounters between Russia and NATO.
Pointing out that Russia’s antics over the Baltic Sea violated international law may seem like a drop in the ocean compared to the serious humanitarian consequences of the crises in Crimea and eastern Ukraine, as well as in places like YemenSyria, and Afghanistan.   Russia’s aerial acrobatics in the Baltic are almost comical, as if an attempt to provide source material for the ‘bad guys’ in the Top Gun sequel.  They are less entertaining, however, in their context.  Part of a string of similar incidents, recent events demonstrate Russia’s apparent intent on aggravating relations with the West. The timing — coming shortly before a meeting to de-escalate tensions — does not appear coincidental.
The Russian government has imprecisely invoked international law to justify its behavior. For those who believe international law provides the best framework to ensure interstate disputes are resolved short of force, it is important to draw attention to specific violations and relevant international legal principles, but to do so accurately and with precision.  This is particularly true for actions that risk encouraging escalation even if they themselves do not reach the use of force threshold, or actions that seem deliberately intended to intimidate or provoke a response. The United States has lodged formal protests with Moscow and the events in the Baltic were apparently raised during the NATO-Russia Council meeting. However, in public discourse, NATO’s focus has mostly been on Russia’s lack of professionalism, only hinting at the underlying violations of law.  In the interest of clarifying the role of international law in the dispute, I explain how Russia violated its international obligations by performing ‘simulated attack profile strafing runs’ over a US ship in international waters and a ‘barrel roll’ over a US reconnaissance plane in international airspace.
The 2016 Cook Incident and the ‘Barrel Roll’
Video from mid-April shows Russian aircraft performing close overflights of the USS Donald Cook(DDG-75), an Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer operating in the Baltic Sea. Russian Sukhoi Su-24 attack aircraft and one or more KA27 Helix helicopters conducted actions that a senior US defense official described as “more aggressive than anything we’ve seen in some time.”
The USS Cook was patrolling in support of US Sixth Fleet operations in Europe. Sailing in international waters after leaving the port of Gdynia, Poland, the Cook was preparing to conduct a joint training operation with a Polish helicopter.  According to reports, the Cook was shadowed by a Russian intelligence-gathering ship. Russian aircraft made roughly twenty passes within 1,000 yards of the destroyer at an estimated altitude of 100 feet.  The following day, Russian helicopters repeatedly circled the Cook, taking photographs. The Su-24s returned and made roughly a dozen more passes of the ship, flying an estimated thirty feet from the Cook’s superstructure in a “simulated attack profile.” US officials described these passes as mock “strafing runs,” as they followed a recognizable flight pattern used for diving attacks on ground targets.  The Russian planes did not respond to attempts by the American crew to contact them.
The US Embassy in Moscow formally protested. Within days of the Cook incident, a Russian Su-27 intercepted a US Air Force RC-135 reconnaissance plane flying in international waters in the Baltic.According to US European Command (EUCOM), the Su-27 came within fifty feet of the RC-135’s wingtip and performed a left-to-right ‘barrel roll’ over the top of the aircraft.
US and Russian Responses
While the word “aggression” is bandied about with increasing frequency in regard to incidents at sea, the flyovers are not the sort of “threat or use of force” that implicates Article 2(4) of the UN Charter.  For one, it seems to have been apparent early on that the Russian aircraft were not armed with the anti-ship missiles they are equipped to carry.  Second, an attack by Russian aircraft on a ship would be initiated from much farther away. Finally, interactions between naval forces at sea during peacetime have a long history.
This explains the disciplined restraint shown by the Cook, despite the unusually provocative actions of the Russian aircraft, which ostensibly were intended to send a message about US defense commitments in Eastern Europe and the presence of NATO forces near the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad.  The “strafing runs” in particular appear to be an attempt to intimidate Poland.  Under US rules of engagement or as a form of unit self-defense, responding with force may have been permissible.  The Cook did not use force because, in the words of retired US Navy Captain Rick Hoffman, “you don’t get to kill people just because they’re being annoying.”
States should, however, highlight when such ‘annoyances’ are violations of international law. US responses have hinted at Russia’s lack of respect for the international legal order, but mostly emphasized that Russia’s actions were dangerous and unprofessional. Following the Cook incident, EUCOM said:
We have deep concerns about the unsafe and unprofessional Russian flight maneuvers. These actions have the potential to unnecessarily escalate tensions between countries, and could result in a miscalculation or accident that could cause serious injury or death.
The White House added:
There were reports of Russian planes flying dangerously close to a US naval ship and a Polish aircraft. This incident, you won’t be surprised to hear, is entirely inconsistent with the professional norms of militaries operating in proximity to each other in international waters…. Any peacetime military activity must be consistent with international norms and conducted with due regard for the rights of other nations and the safety of other aircraft.
Dangerous and unprofessional indeed, yet it is necessary to emphasize Russia breached specific international legal obligations in light of the Russian government’s response.  Igor Konashenkov, spokesman for the Russian Defense Ministry, was quick to defend Russia’s actions, claiming Russia acted “in accordance with international rules.” In a prime attempt at lawfare, he invoked international law of the sea principles by claiming “[t]he principle of freedom of navigation for the US destroyer, which is staying in close proximity to a Russian naval base in the Baltic Sea, does at all not cancel the principle of freedom of flight for Russian aircraft.” Secretary Kerry responded “we respect our freedom of navigation … and we are communicating to the Russians how dangerous this is.”
The response to the ‘barrel roll’ followed a similar pattern.  Konashenkov said the Russian plane’s actions were in “strict conformity with international laws” and Secretary Kerry condemned the encounter as dangerous and provocative.  NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg cited Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea as a basis for an increased NATO presence in Eastern Europe. In response, Russia’s Ambassador to NATO, Aleksandr Grushko, obfuscated with imprecise and irrelevant international legalese, arguing the presence of the Cook in the Baltic allowed Russia to take “all necessary measures [and] precautions to compensate US attempts to use military force.”
INCSEA and Pacta Sunt Servanda
In addition to undermining freedom of navigation in international waters and international airspace through its aircraft’s dangerously aggressive behavior, Russia’s forces violated a specific legal agreement and another fundamental international law norm. Last week’s antics are the exact sort of behavior prohibited under the terms of the 1972 Incidents at Sea Agreement (INCSEA), a treaty between the US and the USSR, to which the Russian Federation succeeded as a party.  Article IV of INCSEA states:
Commanders of aircraft of the Parties shall use the greatest caution and prudence in approaching aircraft and ships of the other Party operating on and over the high seas, in particular, ships engaged in launching or landing aircraft, and in the interest of mutual safety shall not permit: simulated attacks by the simulated use of weapons against aircraft and ships, or performance of various aerobatics over ships, or dropping various objects near them in such a manner as to be hazardous to ships or to constitute a hazard to navigation.
Russia’s “strafing runs” against the Cook are a violation of INCSEA’s prohibition on simulated attacks and “various aerobatics.”  This is supported by a clear reading of the text and context of INCSEA, following the interpretive framework of Article 31 of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties (VCLT).  INCSEA constitutes a treaty under international law, as defined by Article 2(1)(a) of the VCLT and the standard the ICJ set out in its 1994 Qatar v. Bahrain ruling on jurisdiction and admissibility.
Russia may perhaps argue that the ‘barrel roll’ falls outside the scope of the “various aerobatics” prohibited under Article IV of INCSEA, since it occurred over an aircraft and the text only explicitly forbids acrobatics “over ships.” However, the barrel roll fails to meet the requirement of “greatest caution and prudence” that Article IV imposes on commanders of aircraft approaching “aircraft . . . of the other Party operating on and over the high seas.”
Implicit in these direct violations of INCSEA are violations of a core legal principle. Konashenkov’s statement on “international rules” ignores the closest the international community has to a Golden Rule: pacta sunt servanda. Part of customary international law — and binding upon all states — the principle that agreements must be kept is enshrined in Article 26 of the VCLT, which reads “[e]very treaty in force is binding upon the parties to it and must be performed by them in good faith.”
Konashenkov’s distracting creation and dismissal of a conflict between US freedom of navigation and Russian overflight rights is misguided for a number of reasons.  First, consistent with the principle oflex specialis, INCSEA is the relevant starting point to discuss the two recent incidents. INCSEA creates specific legal obligations for US and Russian naval and associated forces on the high seas. Vague invocations of freedom of navigation on the high seas and in international airspace are overridden in favor of the more specific law which Russia and the US have agreed will govern these types of interactions.
But more obviously, and readily apparent in the footage of the Cook incident, the conflict that Konashekov is attempting to create between US and Russian freedom of navigation and overflight rights is a false one. The concerted pattern of harassment of the Cook is not an example of the freedom of overflight protected under the law of the sea. The video shows it was not what Russiadescribed as “planned training flights above the neutral waters of the Baltic Sea,” in which, as if coincidentally, “the route of the Russian aircraft crossed the area where the USS Donald Cook was.”  Instead, it was intentional interference with a ship enjoying freedom of navigation in international waters.  The failure of the Russian aircraft to respond to attempts by the American crew to communicate with them represents bad faith.
Bad faith and denials of international law violations are, unfortunately, a not uncommon occurrence in international relations.  But for Putin’s Russia, they are part of a larger strategy of information warfare — what Russia refers to as “reflexive control” — shaping the narrative of events to influence international perceptions.  Given the Cook incident was caught on video, Russia’s mischaracterization presents a particularly bold-faced attempt to downplay its provocativeness and to sow confusion.  Recent events are the latest in a string of antagonistic acts by Russian aircraft against US personnel operating in international waters and airspace, in which Russia has pushed the boundaries of INCSEA. These include a 2014 flyby of the Cook in the Black Sea, a June 2015 incident in which Russia falsely claimed its aircraft had forced the USS Ross to change course, and an October 2015 incident off the Korean peninsula, in which Russian planes approached the USS Ronald Reagan while it participated in a training exercise
International Law Matters
Will Russian pilots become less antagonistic if the US emphasizes that their actions violated international law?  It can’t hurt to make the argument. To quote Churchill, “it is always better to jaw-jaw than to war-war.” But there is much additional practical value in highlighting Russia’s behavior as a violation of international standards.
Violation by one state of a treaty obligation allows the ‘injured party’ to lawfully takecountermeasures.  Any such countermeasures should be proportional and designed to induce compliance with the treaty by the breaching state, consistent with Articles 51 and 49 of the Draft Articles on State Responsibility for Internationally Wrongful Acts.  Of course, to be proportional, countermeasures need not be equivalent.  With a military that prides itself on professionalism and personnel safety, the US is unlikely to start authorizing its aircraft to buzz Russian ships. But in a globalized world in which states cooperate on a range of issues, there is room for a measured response that would promote Russian compliance with INCSEA. If any countermeasure requires the acquiescence of a third state in order to be effective, it will be helpful to establish that it is lawful as a response to a breach by Russia of its INCSEA obligations.
Drawing attention to INCSEA is also an important reminder of the seriousness of the conduct at issue.  INCSEA prohibits actions that needlessly risk accidents, miscommunication, and escalation. Events like the flyover of the Cook can easily end in tragedy. INCSEA was negotiated following a series of incidents between the Soviet and American navies in the 1960s. One such incident was the 1968 crash of a Soviet Tu-16 Badger after it conducted several close passes of the USS Essex.  That accident resulted in the death of the Soviet bomber’s entire crew.  Recently, a Russian aircraft wasshot down after approaching Turkish airspace in Syria. While not the type of situation covered by INCSEA, it illustrates how quickly aerial encounters intended to test boundaries can, based on perception of a threat, lead to a use of force.
More generally, it is in the US’s interest to reaffirm to Russia the principle of pacta sunt servanda.  The expectation that states adhere to their agreements in good faith is an important pillar of international security.  Putin’s Russia has a penchant for selectively and imprecisely allegingviolations of international law by other states while failing to uphold its own obligations. Russia hasjustified its antagonism in Eastern Europe by claiming an increased NATO presence there violates the 1997 Founding Act, anargument that ignores the clear text of the agreement and customary rules on treaty interpretation. Recently, Russia sought to enforce its rights under the Open Skies Treaty to conduct overflight of US territory for reconnaissance, despite its own failure to comply with the treaty. Grounding discussion of recent incidents in international law will signal that Russia may not invoke international legal principles to its benefit while feigning incredulousness and ignoring its obligations at its convenience.
Finally, reaffirming pacta sunt servanda — particularly for a document like INCSEA that governs conduct at sea — is important beyond US-Russia relations. Such agreements — and the norm that their signatories adhere to them in good faith — is crucial at a time when many states are confronting maritime disputes in Asia. This is especially important considering that so far in the Pacific, key agreements have taken the form of non-binding “soft-law.” The 2014 Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea (CUES), signed by 21 Pacific nations (including Russia and the US) drew inspiration from standards of conduct in INCSEA, though replacing the binding “shalls” with non-binding “shoulds.” While non-binding mechanisms have their limitations, they promote norms which may later harden and lead to binding legal agreements. Many of the reasons that almost all states comply with almost all of their international legal obligations almost all of the time, to paraphraseLouis Henkin, apply to soft-law mechanisms.  Ensuring compliance requires that foundational principles like pacta sunt servanda be periodically reaffirmed.
Anchoring interactions between ships and aircraft at sea to legal frameworks is vital to ensure states resolve their differences peacefully and through diplomatic means.  Explicit invocations of international law and norms reinforce the expectation of “jaw-jaw” over “war-war.”  In this respect, the fact that Russia’s antics in the Baltic appear to have been timed to disrupt the NATO-Russia Council meeting is discouraging. One can only hope that, going forward, Russia appreciates the wisdom of Churchill as much as its leader admires a certain poor impersonator.
The views expressed here are the author’s personal views and do not reflect those of the Department of Defense, the United States Navy, or any other department or agency of the United States Government. The analysis presented here stems from his academic research of publicly available sources, not from protected operational information. Any views expressed are those of the author and not those of the American Society of International Law.
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German foreign intelligence chief forced out

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April 26, 2016, 11:37 PM (IDT)
The head of Germany's BND foreign intelligence agency Gerhard Schindler is being pushed out of his job, government sources said on Tuesday. It is a surprise move that comes at a time when Germany faces a growing threat from Islamic militants.
It was not immediately clear why Schindler, who has led Germany's central Intelligence Agency since 2012, was being suddenly removed by Chancellor Angela Merkel.  .

 

US Coast Guard Needs an Aerial Drone Fleet Now, Lawmaker Says

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When it comes to tracking and stopping illegal activity like narcotics smuggling, the Coast Guard's surveillance capacity is so limited that it must rely on aircraft and drones from U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
       

5 Northeast US States Vote in Primaries Tuesday

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On Tuesday, residents in five Northeast U.S. states -- Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island -- vote in presidential nominating contests.

Russia’s TV Rain Swims Against Tide in Sea of Kremlin Propaganda 

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Television, where most Russians get their news, has increasingly been under pressure in Russia. It is now almost completely state controlled.  But in Moscow, TV Rain stands out as an island in a sea of Kremlin media attacks. Privately owned TV Rain is one of Russia’s few remaining broadcasters willing to regularly air views critical of Kremlin policy and give air time to opposition politicians.   “We’re not a politically motivated network.  We don’t really see it as our goal to challenge the political establishment or anything like that,” anchor Natalia Shanetskaya tells VOA.  “You know, we just try to be as objective as we can and that’s really what we’re about.” President Vladimir Putin’s government has increased state ownership of news media and imposed restrictions on critical reporting.   Since 2005, U.S. democracy watchdog Freedom House has labeled Russia’s press freedom status as “Not Free” while its civil liberties and freedom rating fell in 2015 to a ranking of 6 out of a possible 7, with 7 being the worst.   Reporters Without Borders’ 2016 World Press Freedom Index ranks Russia at 148 out of 180 countries, just behind Pakistan.    Attracted by independence TV Rain's independence is what brought many of its staff to the station, including some like Shanetskaya who left state media as the Kremlin tightened its grip.  “I actually quit RT (formerly “Russia Today”) about a month before the Crimea events,” she says, adding that  “I just had a feeling that things there were tightening in a very uncomfortable way.  And, as somebody who was there from the beginning, I found that disturbing." The change in editorial line hit political reporting the hardest.  “For a while, since I covered business and economics, we were left alone,” says Shanetskaya.  “But, at some point I started to feel like we too were no longer unaffected by that.”   At TV Rain, Shanetskaya says she has gained back the media freedom she lost at RT.   But refusing to join state media in pandering to authorities has come at a price for TV Rain. Political pressure Political pressure over a program that questioned Soviet strategy during World War II led cable companies to drop the channel in 2014.   Most at the news organization think it was an excuse. “I sincerely believe that if it wasn’t that story, about the siege of Leningrad, they would find something else,” TV Rain’s Digital Media Chief Ilya Klishin tells VOA.  “It was just a matter of days or weeks.” Even after a quick apology for those offended, the pressure continued to mount with some calling for the station to be shut down.   Klishin says they were tipped off about a month in advance that authorities were coming after them.   “We aggravated the guys at the Kremlin because, you know, we co-sponsored some of (Russian opposition leader Alexei) Navalny’s research on corruption.  Specifically, of the people in the president’s administration,” says Klishin.  “They were trying any way to get their revenge.” The Kremlin routinely denies being behind any political pressure on the media.  But, at the time, President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, voiced support for the nationalist campaign mounted against TV Rain and backed by pro-Kremlin politicians.  “I do not know of any laws that these actions violated,” he said about TV Rain. “But, I think that there is something more serious from the point of view of morality and ethics,” he concluded ominously.   Subscription-based To survive financially after the loss of advertising revenue, TV Rain was forced to change to an online subscription-based business model.   Subscribers have grown to more than 70,000, and Klishin says its web site gets some six million unique views a month.   But, along with all Russian media, TV Rain is caught up in a growing downpour of restrictions.   “We cover everything that doesn’t violate Russian criminal laws,” says Klishin.  “But, at some point, Russian criminal laws now are contradicting the issues of freedom of speech.” Vague but strict laws against “extremism,” promoting “gay propaganda” or “calls for secession” have cast a shadow over discussions on rights issues and Russian-occupied Crimea. “So, if you say on air that Crimea is not a part of Russia,” Klishin says to underscore the point, “then it could be interpreted as a call to secession.”   Audience feedback While pro-Kremlin nationalists attack Russia’s few independent broadcasters like TV Rain as “opposition media,” Shanetskaya says they welcome audience response.   “What’s beautiful about TV Rain is that we get a lot of feedback from our audience, period,” she says.  “As somebody who worked at RT (Russia Today) for seven years, I can tell you I had no idea who watched the network or who watched the product that I was responsible for producing.”   Critics question RT’s claims of a massive and fast-growing international audience for what it calls its “alternative perspective on major global events” and “the Russian viewpoint.”   Still, Russia’s few independent, domestic broadcasters like TV Rain are swimming against a tide of state media.   TV Rain is looking to entertainment programming to reach a larger audience in Russia beyond its small urban, liberal, and well educated base.   “One of the ways is reaching out to the younger audience that kind of, you know, thought we were not that cool anymore because all we talked (about) was war in Ukraine, corruption, Putin, Syria,” says Klishin.

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Russia restarts bombings targeting Syrian opposition, US officer says - Fox News

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Fox News

Russia restarts bombings targeting Syrian opposition, US officer says
Fox News
Russia has resumed bombing moderate opposition fighters in Syria, a U.S. military officer from Baghdad told reporters at the Pentagon Tuesday. "We have seen them begin operations again in that region," Air Force Maj. Gen. Peter Gersten, the U.S.-led ...

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США: сдача власти 

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From: golosamerikius
Duration: 02:58

За полгода до президентских выборов и за 9 месяцев до окончания президентского срока Барака Обамы, его администрация начала готовиться к передаче власти следующему президенту.

Extremism Charges Made Against Russian Blogger For Syria Post 

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Moscow investigators levied criminal charges against the man considered to be the godfather of Russia's blogosphere, accusing him of extremism for a post that called for "wiping Syria off the face of the Earth."

European Space Agency Moving Forward With ‘Moon Village'

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With a permanently occupied space station orbiting the earth, the next step is a permanently occupied lunar station on the moon. The European Space Agency is moving ahead with plans to set up a moon base. The “moon village” is expected to be a collaborative effort between the ESA and other countries with space programs. According to Johann-Dietrich Woerner, director general of the European Space Agency, the village would be for scientific experiments, mining of potential resources and tourism. "I think we should go first to the moon and then further on," Woerner said on April 13, during a session at the 32nd Space Symposium called "New Generation Space Leaders Panel: The Future of Human Spaceflight. "I would not call Mars the ultimate goal. I am quite sure humans will go further." Calling the moon base a village is not by accident. "A village is something where different people are gathering with different capabilities, different opportunities, and then they build a community," Woerner said. "It's not one village with some houses, a church." He went on to call the moon village a “stepping-stone” and “test bed” for a potential trip to Mars. The U.S. space agency, NASA, has set a goal of sending humans to Mars in the 2030s. Here's a video about the moon village:

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April 26, 2016

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A look at the best news photos from around the world.

Brooklyn DA: 100 Murder Cases Under Review

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Approximately 20,000 people behind bars in the United States have been wrongfully convicted. One in 25 defendants sentenced to death is later shown to be innocent. These shocking statistics are from the National Registry of Exonerations and the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The latest statistics from Prison Policy Initiative reveal that more than 2.4 million men and women are behind bars at more than 4,500 different facilities, the highest incarceration rate in the world. Blacks are disproportionately represented in U.S. prisons. According to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) African Americans constitute nearly 1 million of the incarcerated population.    Technology has revealed an unquantifiable number of wrongfully convicted persons who not only have or are serving long prison sentences, but have been put to death for crimes committed by others.   The American justice system is not afraid to take a long, hard look at itself and do something about it. Case in point: the office of Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson. The Brooklyn model In New York City’s borough of Brooklyn a program that has been underway since 2011 recently has been bolstered to review the convictions of many who are serving life sentences after being found guilty of murder. In 2014, Brooklyn D.A. Thompson set up a Conviction Review Unit (CRU), now considered a model for other jurisdictions to replicate. Thompson provided talent and money to begin the process. Nine assistant DAs and three investigators were assigned full time to review cases. No other jurisdiction in the United States has set aside as much money and manpower as the Brooklyn unit. Mark Hale, an assistant DA and 33-year veteran of the Brooklyn DA’s office, is chief of the CRU. He told VOA, “we have vacated the sentences or the convictions and sentences of 19 individuals, 18 men and one woman. Some of those people were still incarcerated, some of those people had served their sentence, completed their sentence, in fact, some of those people had pre-deceased our action on the cases that we had vacated posthumously.” Finding the errors Hale says the wrongful convictions fall into categories that seem to meld one with another. “They generally seem to be systemic failures in that you have various parts of the system that fails the defendant at any particular point in time," he said. "You will have some witnesses who just shouldn’t be credited that you find out later on that they’re lying or less than accurate.” “You have exculpatory evidence that somehow does not get from the police to the prosecutor to the defense counsel.  You have performance by defense attorneys that are sometimes very substandard in terms of defending the client,” he added. Hale described the difficulty of trying to sort out innocence from guilt, calling it rather complicated. “The complexity of the case is that it takes us about a year to really find out what we’re talking about. And a lot of this has to do with we’re not making knee-jerk decisions on these cases," he said. “And we leave a lot of options open for the petitioner or their advocate.” Hale underscored, “we will chase down all of the leads they’re talking about because we want to get as comprehensive a picture as we can to make an informed decision.” His team travels throughout the U.S. and abroad to get the information. Destructive fallout “You start to think that truth doesn’t matter to a certain degree,” said exonerated ex-convict Derrick Hamilton. In an exclusive interview with VOA News, Hamilton told us, “I lost about 10 post-conviction motions, and each time the judge admitted he had enough evidence to drop the conviction, but he left me in jail. Twenty-one years of my life I was in prison. You are ridiculed in court and in parole boards, when you say ‘I’m innocent” and people say, ‘well everybody says I’m innocent.’” Hamilton had been charged with the murder of a Brooklyn man in 1991. He remained in prison even after the sole witness, the murdered man’s girlfriend, recanted her testimony. “I’m very, very bitter about what happened to me,” Hamilton told us. “I couldn’t go to my mother’s burial, I couldn’t go to my brother’s burial. I couldn’t mourn with my family. I couldn’t raise my children. I was deprived of watching my children go through every step of the graduation as they grew up. I’m damaged, my family is damaged.” Hamilton thanked DA Thompson and ADA Hale for their efforts. Hamilton maintains he was framed, however, by the detective who arrested him, calling him a criminal because “he didn’t just do it to me, he did it to other people. He’s a man who put his own interest above society’s. He had no respect for the rules. He had partners who sat there and watched him make false confessions and fabricate evidence and do nothing about it.” The NYPD detective in question is now retired.   Possible answer Joining us in our interview with Derrick Hamilton was one of his lawyer’s, Scott Brettschneider. While Brettschneider had praise for DA Thompson, he said the total effort to exonerate Hamilton has been inadequate. “What we really need,”Brettschneider said, “is the state to come up with an independent commission to examine wrongful convictions with investigators that are totally impartial, not affiliated with any DA’s office, or any law enforcement agency. "It should have people with both defense experience and law enforcement backgrounds, and judges, as part of these independent review boards,” he added. “I think that’s when we’ll finally see some progress, because we need to have transparency, we need to have people who are impartial and no skin in the game.” Ronald Sullivan, Clinical Professor of Law at Harvard, said that Ken Thompson really has started a national movement. Sullivan said if you look at the Brooklyn data in terms of both exonerations, and in terms of the number of conviction integrity units around the country, it really has awakened the nation.

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Clashes Break Out at Migrants Camp on Greek Island

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Stone-throwing migrants clashed with police Tuesday at the Moria detention center on the Greek island of Lesbos shortly after the Dutch and Greek migration ministers toured the former army camp. Plumes of smoke billowed from the compound that Pope Francis visited only 10 days ago. A police spokesman said garbage bins in a wing for young migrants had been set on fire and the unrest spread from there. Aid workers said tensions had been building in the camp for days but it was unclear what triggered the unrest, which came soon after a visit by the Dutch and Greek migration ministers, Klaas Dijkhoff and Yiannis Mouzalas. Refugees and migrants have been held at the hillside detention center under terms of a March 20 deal between the European Union and Turkey to stem the migrant flow into Europe. It stipulates that migrants who do not qualify for political asylum must be returned to Turkey. "Riot police are conducting an operation in and out of the camp at the moment," the police spokesman said. Pope Francis and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, the Istanbul-based leader of the world's Eastern Orthodox Christians, met migrants begging for help as they toured the Moria camp April 16. The Roman Catholic pontiff took 12 Syrian refugees, who were living at another open-air camp on Lesbos, back to Rome on his airplane. Official data showed there were 4,313 refugees and migrants on Lesbos on Tuesday. The vast majority of them are held at Moria.

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Number of IS Foreign Fighters Nosedives in Iraq, Syria

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The number of foreign fighters entering Iraq and Syria to join Islamic State has plunged to a tiny fraction of those entering a year ago, a U.S. general said Tuesday. Maj. Gen. Peter Gersten, Deputy Commander for Operations and Intelligence for the U.S.-led coalition fighting IS, told reporters via teleconference from Baghdad that there were between 1,500 and 2,000 foreign fighters entering Iraq and Syria each month when he deployed to Baghdad in mid-2015. “Now that we’ve been fighting this enemy for a year, our estimates are down to around 200 [per month],”said Gersten. The coalition also has seen an increase in desertion rates by Islamic State fighters, along with a failure by the militant group to pay its fighters, according to the general. “We’re seeing the inability to fight. We’re watching them try to leave Daesh (Islamic State), and in every single way their morale is being broken,” he said, using a term reflecting the Arab acronym for Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

US Backs NATO Force Off Libya as Migrant Numbers Soar

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A NATO-led mission aimed at stemming the flow of migrants from Libya to Europe could be up and running by July, according to the Italian government.  There are fears the numbers of migrants could soar as the route through Greece and the Balkans remains blocked. Libyan security forces detained more than 200 migrants from across Africa, and an alleged smuggler, following a raid on a safe house last week in Tripoli.  This type of enforcement is Europe’s long-term hope for stemming the flow of migrants.  More than 16,000 people made the crossing from North Africa to Italy in the first three months of 2016, almost double the rate last year. The United States has offered its backing for a proposed NATO naval operation off Libya.  It is not clear, however, what the patrol ships would do with the intercepted migrants, says policy analyst Riccardo Fabiani of the Eurasia Group. “Some people are talking about flying them back to their respective countries in Africa, but it is clear that the African governments are not enthusiastic about this idea,” said Fabiani. "And obviously sending them back to Libya is not really an option at the moment because the Libyan government does not have the capabilities.” The West hopes to boost those capabilities by supporting Libya’s unity government, known as the Government of National Accord, which aims to bring together rival administrations in the east and west. “They are taking over ministries and taking over departments and taking over government buildings, and there is backing at most levels for it; however, the situation in the east is very different.  And that is where I think we are facing a stalemate,” said Fabiani. The Government of National Accord welcomed British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond to Tripoli last week, giving him a tour of its fledgling naval patrol force at the dockside. Hammond said British troops could be sent to train Libyan security forces, and refused to rule out strikes against Islamic State militants.  Speaking  Friday during a visit to London, U.S. President Barack Obama ruled out sending American troops. “I do not think it would be welcomed by this new government," said Obama.  "It would send the wrong signal; this is a matter that Libyans come together on."   Tensions between the rival groups rose Tuesday, after the Tobruk-based eastern administration tried to make its first shipment of oil, reportedly to a company based in the United Arab Emirates, via Malta.  Authorities in Tripoli said the shipment was illegal, and Malta has barred the vessel from its waters.

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Snubbed by US, Afghan Warlord Looked to Russia

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For decades, Afghanistan’s Abdul Rashid Dostum has been a powerful player in the remote north of the restive country. As an army general and warlord, he aligned himself with America’s CIA when the Taliban was in power and helped the U.S. oust the militant group in 2001. But now as Afghan vice-president, Dostum is trying to show he remains a power broker. Last fall, he visited Chechnya and reportedly solicited arms for the fight against the Islamic State (IS) group in Afghanistan. He stopped in Moscow to renew ties with the Kremlin. And he told Voice of America that he also wants to visit the U.S. to discuss the Afghan government’s continuing struggle against the Taliban, IS, drug trafficking, and political uncertainty. “I am well acquainted with our Pentagon friends and congressmen and American generals who had been in Iraq and Afghanistan,” he told VOA’s Afghan service. “I want to discuss the situation with them. They have to take this issue seriously. Otherwise, it might get out of control.” But the Obama administration is apparently having no part of Dostum. According to a report in The New York Times on Tuesday, the U.S. quietly passed along the word that if Dostum attempted a visit to the U.S., his visa application would be denied because of the alleged atrocities committed under his command against the Taliban. The Afghan government reportedly cancelled Dostum’s plans for a U.S. trip after the word from the U.S. State Department, The Times reported. Dostum had planned to participate in a special session of the United Nations Assembly this month on the world’s drug problems. Instead, the Afghan minister for counter-narcotics, Salamat Azimi - a Dostum appointee - represented Dostum and delivered his speech.  When asked by VOA about the trip cancellation, Dostum said the unrest in Afghanistan forced him to remain home. “America is our friend and we thank her for supporting our national army and police,” he said. “I personally intend to visit as soon as the situation here allows.” Dostum’s spokesperson, Shahbaz Eraj, called The New York Times report “baseless.” He said Dostum postponed his scheduled visit to the U.S. because he preferred to lead the ongoing operations against insurgents in the north. Dostum met with the U.S. Ambassador in Kabul, the spokesman said, refusing to discuss details of the meeting. Dostum has spent much of his time during the past few months in his native northern Jouzjan province where Taliban insurgents have stepped up militant activities. He has been leading clean-up operations in Jouzjan and neighboring provinces. Since assuming the vice-presidency in September 2014, Dostum has reportedly been at odds with the National Unity Government headed by President Ashraf Ghani. His chair at cabinet and national security council meetings has often remained unoccupied as Dostum refuses to participate. But relations may be thawing, analysts say. Ghani’s participation in a gathering of ethnic Uzbeks hosted by Dostum last month in Kabul was seen as a reconciliatory effort by the two leaders.  Recently, two of Dostum confidants were awarded high government positions, including the post of the deputy national security advisor. Last fall Dostum visited Russia’s turbulent republic of Chechnya where he enjoyed a warm welcome by the Chechen head Ramzan Kadyrov, who called Dostum a “brother.” “Winning the fight against terrorism” was the agenda of Dostum’s visit, according to Kadyrov. The Afghan vice-president “asked for a military assistance in fighting IS whose increasing presence in Afghanistan has become a growing security concern for the government,” Kadyrov’s statement said. The Afghan government did not comment on Dostum’s visit to Chechnya and Russia. Russia has upped its military and economic aid to the Afghan government, which is battling the Taliban in several areas of the country. That aid includes 10,000 Kalashnikov rifles and millions of rounds of ammunition that the government will use to fight both IS and the Taliban insurgency, analysts said.

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Undeclared Wars with Israel: East Germany and the West German Far Left, 1967-1989 

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Author Jeffrey Herf draws upon his recently published work Undeclared Wars with Israel:  East Germany and the West German Far Left, 1967-1989. The book examines the spectrum of antagonism to Israel coming from the East German and West German organizations of the far left during these years – including hostile propaganda, political warfare at the United Nations in New York, military training, cooperation of secret services, and delivery of weapons to Arab states and Palestinian organizations then engaged in wars and terrorist campaigns against Israel.

West Urges Unity in Libya as Migrant Numbers Soar

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The Italian government says a NATO-led mission aimed at stemming the flow of migrants from Libya to Europe could be up and running by July. There are concerns that the number of migrants could soar as the route through Greece and the Balkans remains blocked. Western powers say the political chaos in Libya is being exploited by people smugglers — and they are pressuring rival groups to come together under the new unity government. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.

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Malian National Gets 25 Years for Murder of US Diplomat

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A U.S. federal judge has sentenced a Malian national with ties to extremist groups in Africa to 25 years in prison for the murder of a U.S. diplomat 15 years ago in Niger. Defendant Alhassane Ould Mohamed was taken into U.S. custody and indicted in 2013 for the killing of William Bultemeier and the attempted killing of a U.S. Marine as the two left a restaurant in the Niger capital, Niamey, in December 2000. Investigators said Mohamed, also known as Cheibani, and another assailant confronted the two Americans and demanded the keys to their vehicle, which bore U.S. diplomatic plates. Prosecutors said the armed duo then opened fire, killing Bultemeier and wounding Marine Corps staff sergeant Christopher McNeely. Police in Mali later arrested Mohamed, who then escaped custody and remained at large until his arrest eight years later in connection with an attack on a Saudi diplomatic convoy in Niger that left four dead.  While serving a 20-year term for that attack, he again escaped prison in 2013.  Mohamed was apprehended later that year by French forces and extradited to the United States. He pleaded guilty last month to the Bultemeier killing as part of a deal capping his sentence at 25 years.

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U.S. General: Fewer Foreign Fighters Joining IS In Iraq, Syria

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A U.S. general says the number of foreign fighters entering Iraq and Syria has plummeted in the past year.

M.N.: "Who owns the Russian language?"

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M.N.: "Who owns the Russian language?" After the century of bloody revolutions, endless and continuing waves of emigration, Gulag and cultural decline, it is the World that owns the Russian language. Russia just rents it out. - Headlines Review - 10:39 AM 4/24/2016 

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M.N.: "Who owns the Russian language?" 
After the century of bloody revolutions, endless and continuing waves of emigration, Gulag and cultural decline, it is the World and the Russian speaking community outside Russia that owns and sustains the Russian language and Russian cultural heritage. Russia just rents it out. 

Paul Goble

            Staunton, April 23 – The bilingual Ukrainian poet Sergey Zhadan, who writes exclusively in Ukrainian, says that Russia “for the first time in its history has lost the monopoly on its own language,” a development that many in Russia find hard to accept and that even more in Ukraine see as a factor in the development of their country.
            Aleksey Tsvetkov, a Russian poet, notes that “more than once” he has heard others say the same thing and that Zhadan’s observation is important both in explaining Vladimir Putin’s anger and the implications for Russia of a truly independent Ukraine (inliberty.ru/blog/2303-Komu-prinadlezhit-yazyk).
                According to Tsvetkov, the issue of “who owns the Russian language” has always been resolved in Russia by silent acquiescence, with most Russians passively assuming that “the language belonged to the empire and that anyone who uses does so … as it were by a license extended to him from the center.”



Obama’s farewell visit resembled a tour of the wreckage not only of decades of efforts to give the region an anchor of stability but also of his own illusions.

Obama says he is practicing 21st century diplomacy. Maybe. But others, notably in the world’s most unstable and dangerous zone, everyone else is engaged in 19th century diplomacy of the deadliest kind.

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Dutch journalist who criticized Erdogan detained in Turkey: official | Reuters – The New York Web Times – newyorkwebtimes.com

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A prominent Dutch journalist has been detained by Turkish police, a Dutch official said on Sunday, a week after she wrote a column published in the Netherlands in which she criticized President Tayyip Erdogan for his clampdown on dissent.

Obama: Ground Troops in Syria ‘Would Be a Mistake’

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US president tells British broadcaster he would not consider sending ground troops into Syria, says there needs to be more than just military effort to solve country’s problems

Obama Arrives In Germany To Boost Trade 

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U.S. President Barack Obama has arrived in Germany to push for a new EU-U.S. trade pact and take part in a summit with key European leaders on issues including security.

Soviet Nash-stalgia 

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Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty broadcasts in 28 languages. Most of our programs are available on FM and medium-wave frequencies of local radio stations in the countries of our broadcast area.
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Military Analysts: N. Korean Submarine Missile Launch a ‘Successful Failure’ 

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North Korea is calling its submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) test on Saturday a “great success,” while South Korea labeled it a failure. Military analysts, however, are classifying the missile launch as a “successful failure.”
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At least 14 killed as fighting rages in Syria’s Aleppo – The Washington Post 

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An opposition monitoring group says at least 14 people, including two young siblings, have been killed in Syria’s largest city, Aleppo, as rebels and government forces trade fire.

Life In Limbo For Afghan Migrants In Turkey 

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Blocked from Europe, and unwilling to return home, Afghan migrants in Turkey say life is passing them by.

Pope: May Christian faithful kidnapped in Syria soon be free – The Washington Post 

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Pope Francis is praying that a “merciful” God will touch the hearts of those in Syria who have abducted Catholic and Orthodox faithful, including bishops and priests, so that the captives will be released soon.

The ancient Persian god that may be at the heart of ‘Game of Thrones’ – The Washington Post 

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The fire-worshiping traditions of Zoroastrianism have echoes in the hit HBO series.

The Lawfare Podcast: Cliff Kupchan on Russia in Syria – Lawfare 

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He argues that the United States has good reason to talk to and work with Russia on a host of crises, including Syria. While he calls Russia a “revisionist power without a vision,” he also warns that the United States would be foolish to dismiss the country’s concerns out of hand. Instead, American officials should strive to work with Moscow in Syria, where he argues that the national interest requires it, as an anti-Russian obstructionism will benefit neither the United States nor the international communi

Lawmakers look to get tough on Russia | TheHill 

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Russian aggression will be high on lawmakers’ minds when they mark up a defense bill.
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Russia and China rush to fill Mideast void left by Obama | New York Post 

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It was meant to be a farewell visit by a cherished friend heading for retirement. Instead, Barack Obama’s visit to Saudi Arabia Tuesday and Wednesday turned into an unwanted call by an uninvited

Israel’s representative to Eurovision stopped in Russia for ‘being gay’ – Israel News – Jerusalem Post 

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Russian authorities deny that Hovi Star’s sexual orientation was connected to the incident which took place at passport control.

Why Did Russia’s Pivot to Asia Fail? | The Diplomat 

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Russia needs China, but China has options.

Emergency declared after oil spill in Mediterranean | Europe | News | The Independent 

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A local emergency has been declared on the north-west Italian coast after hundreds of tonnes of oil from a spill at a refinery reached the Mediterranean. There are fears the oil, originally spilled a week ago, might wash up on the beaches of either the Italian or French rivieras just as the tourist season opens. “The situation is complicated. We do not know how much crude could end up in the sea,” a local civil protection officer, Gianni Crivello told local media.
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Russian Tanker Catches Fire In Caspian Sea, 1 Killed

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A fire broke out on a Russian oil tanker on the Caspian Sea, killing one crew member.

US Library of Congress Awaits New Leader

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Sunday marks the 216th birthday of the U.S. Library of Congress, an institution that not only protects historic books and papers but preserves the best of American writing, song and film. The collection — the largest in the world, by collection size — is housed in three buildings on Capitol Hill in Washington. The oldest of the three, the Jefferson Building, is just across the street from the U.S. Capitol. Among its holdings are an original copy of the Declaration of Independence, a Gutenberg Bible, 1 million issues of world newspapers, 3 million sound recordings and at least two famous Stradivarius violins. The library is the oldest federal cultural institution in the United States. It is in a period of transition, as President Barack Obama's nominee for librarian of Congress awaits the results of her confirmation hearing with the U.S. Senate April 20. If approved, Carla Hayden, currently the head of the public library of the city of Baltimore, Maryland, would take over the leadership of the Library of Congress, becoming the first African-American, and the first woman, to do so. Hayden's goals Hayden has said she would like to make more of the library's resources available online, making it more useful to people in the rural United States who may never get to travel to its headquarters. She has also said she would like to expand the library's outreach to smaller libraries around the country and continue the public and private partnerships that help the library manage its extensive collections. Hayden got a warm welcome at her hearing Wednesday, but confirmation is not guaranteed. The Senate is expected to make a decision on Hayden before its summer recess begins in July. The library has had an interim leader since September, when former Librarian of Congress James Billington stepped down after 38 years on the job. His resignation came just weeks after the library was criticized for widespread computer failures and a watchdog agency's report that the library was wasting millions of taxpayer dollars. Venerable institution If confirmed, Hayden will take leadership of an institution whose history goes back to the second president of the United States, John Adams. In 1800, he approved legislation to spend $5,000 of federal money to buy "such books as may be necessary for the use of Congress," essentially as research materials for legislation lawmakers might be considering. The first library catalog was published in 1802 and listed 964 volumes and nine maps. The collection has suffered several fires. The original 3,000-volume collection was largely destroyed in 1814 when British troops attacked Washington in what is known in the United States as the War of 1812 — a territory and trade dispute between the British and the new American forces who had won a war of independence from Britain in 1783. Rebuilding collection After the British left Washington, President Thomas Jefferson helped replenish the library in 1815 by selling his entire personal collection — 6,487 books — to the federal library for $23,950. The books were indeed a boost to the fledgling institution, as Jefferson was a scholar on many subjects: law, language, horticulture, philosophy and various branches of science. He is known to have written in a letter to his predecessor, John Adams: "I cannot live without books." Unfortunately, a fire in 1851 destroyed much of his original collection. In 1998, library staffers began a 10-year effort to replace those volumes. By 2008, they had managed to replace all but 300 of the original works. Over the years, the library has become a resource less focused on simply aiding lawmakers with research and more with becoming a cultural repository for American creative works of all kinds, as well as collections of foreign literature. It also serves as the U.S. copyright agency, a research library containing works in 450 languages, and a public institution featuring 22 reading rooms. It sponsors prizes in American fiction and music and is the home of the nation's poet laureate, a post currently held by California writer Juan Felipe Herrera. Today, while the library's three massive buildings may seem an oasis of peace on busy Capitol Hill, it is not fully insulated from contemporary politics. In the past week, a committee in the U.S. House of Representatives approved a bill blocking the library from changing its subject headings and search terms from "illegal aliens" — a term critics complain is negative and unclear — to "noncitizens." The library's stance on this issue is just one of the many issues the next librarian of Congress will have to confront.

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3:47 PM 4/24/2016 - US’ essential global leadership role - Opinion - Stripes 

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US’ essential global leadership role - Opinion

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The economic, political and security strategy that the United States has pursued for more than seven decades, under Democratic and Republican administrations alike, is today widely questioned by large segments of the American public and is under attack by leading political candidates in both parties.
Many Americans no longer seem to value the liberal international order that the United States created after World War II and sustained throughout the Cold War and beyond. Or perhaps they take it for granted and have lost sight of the essential role the United States plays in supporting the international environment from which they benefit greatly.
The unprecedented prosperity made possible by free and open markets and thriving international trade; the spread of democracy; and the avoidance of major conflict among great powers — all these remarkable accomplishments have depended on sustained U.S. engagement around the world. Yet politicians in both parties dangle before the public the vision of an America freed from the burdens of leadership.
What these politicians don’t say, perhaps because they don’t understand it themselves, is that the price of ending our engagement would far outweigh its costs.
The international order created by the United States today faces challenges greater than at any time since the height of the Cold War. Rising authoritarian powers in Asia and Europe threaten to undermine the security structures that have kept the peace since World War II.
Russia invaded Ukraine and has seized some of its territory. In East Asia, an increasingly aggressive China seeks to control the sea lanes through which a large share of global commerce flows. In the Middle East, Iran pursues hegemony by supporting Hezbollah and Hamas and the bloody tyranny in Syria. The Islamic State controls more territory than any terrorist group in history, brutally imposing its extreme vision of Islam and striking at targets throughout the Middle East, North Africa and Europe.
None of those threats will simply go away. Nor will the United States be spared if the international order collapses, as it did twice in the 20th century. In the 21st century, oceans provide no security. Nor do walls along borders. Nor would cutting off the United States from the international economy by trashing trade agreements and erecting barriers to commerce.
Instead of following the irresponsible counsel of demagogues, we need to restore a bipartisan foreign policy consensus around renewing U.S. global leadership. Despite predictions of a “post-American world,” U.S. capacities remain considerable. The U.S. economy remains the most dynamic in the world. The widely touted “rise of the rest” — the idea that the United States was being overtaken by the economies of Brazil, Russia, India and China — has proved to be a myth.
The dollar remains the world’s reserve currency, and people across the globe seek U.S. investment and entrepreneurial skills to help their flagging economies. U.S. institutions of higher learning remain the world’s best and attract students from every corner of the globe. The political values that the United States stands for remain potent forces for change.
Even at a time of resurgent autocracy, popular demands for greater freedom can be heard in Russia, China, Iran and elsewhere, and those peoples look to the United States for support, both moral and material. And our strategic position remains strong. The United States has more than 50 allies and partners around the world. Russia and China between them have no more than a handful.
The task ahead is to play on these strengths and provide the kind of leadership that many around the world seek and that the American public can support. For the past two years, under the auspices of the World Economic Forum, we have worked with a diverse, bipartisan group of Americans and representatives from other countries to put together the broad outlines of a strategy for renewed U.S. leadership.
There is nothing magical about our proposals. The strategies to sustain the present international order are much the same as the strategies that created it. But they need to be adapted and updated to meet new challenges and take advantage of new opportunities. For instance, one prime task today is to strengthen the international economy, from which the American people derive so many benefits. That means passing trade agreements that strengthen ties between the U.S. and the vast economies of East Asia and Europe.
Contrary to what demagogues in both parties claim, ordinary Americans stand to gain significantly from the recently negotiated Trans-Pacific Partnership. According to the Peterson Institute for International Economics, the agreement will increase annual real incomes in the U.S. by $131 billion.
The U.S. also needs to work to reform existing international institutions, such as the International Monetary Fund, so that rising economic powers such as China feel a greater stake in them, while also working with new institutions such as the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank to ensure that they reinforce rather than undermine liberal economic norms.
The revolution in energy, which has made the U.S. one of the world’s leading suppliers, offers another powerful advantage. With the right mix of policies, the U.S. could help allies in Europe and Asia diversify their sources of supply and thus reduce their vulnerability to Russian manipulation. Nations such as Russia and Iran that rely heavily on hydrocarbon exports would be weakened, as would the OPEC oil cartel. The overall result would be a relative increase in our power and ability to sustain the order.
The world has come to recognize that education, creativity and innovation are key to prosperity, and most see the United States as a leader in these areas. Other nations want access to the American market, American finance and American innovation. Businesspeople around the world seek to build up their own Silicon Valleys and other U.S.-style centers of entrepreneurship.
The U.S. government can do a better job of working with the private sector in collaborating with developing countries. And Americans need to be more, not less, welcoming to immigrants. Students studying at our world-class universities, entrepreneurs innovating in our high-tech incubators and immigrants searching for new opportunities for their families strengthen the United States and show the world the opportunities offered by democracy.
Finally, the United States needs to do more to reassure allies that it will be there to back them up if they face aggression. Would-be adversaries need to know that they would do better by integrating themselves into the present international order than by trying to undermine it.
Accomplishing that, however, requires ending budget sequestration and increasing spending on defense and on all the other tools of international affairs. That investment would be more than paid for by the global security it would provide.
All these efforts are interrelated, and, indeed, a key task for responsible political leaders will be to show how the pieces fit together: how trade enhances security, how military power undergirds prosperity and how providing access to American education strengthens the forces dedicated to a more open and freer world.
Above all, Americans need to be reminded what is at stake. Many millions around the world have benefited from an international order that has raised standards of living, opened political systems and preserved the general peace. But no nation and no people have benefited more than Americans. And no nation has a greater role to play in preserving this system for future generations.
Ivo Daalder, U.S. ambassador to NATO from 2009 to 2013, is president of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs. Robert Kagan is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and a contributing columnist for The Washington Post.
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US’ essential global leadership role

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The U.S. needs to do more to reassure allies that it will be there to back them up if they face aggression. Would-be adversaries need to know that they would do better by integrating themselves into the present international order than by trying to undermine it.
     

Obama praises Germany for accepting Syrian refugees

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Under fire at home for his program to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees this year, President Obama said Sunday that he is "proud" of German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the people of Germany for accepting far more migrants from the war-torn country.
In response to a reporter's question noting that Republican ...
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8:34 AM 4/25/2016 - Headlines: Obama Calls For European Unity, NATO Defense, Continued Sanctions On Russia

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7:47 AM 4/26/2016 - Headlines Review: Bus Explosion In Yerevan Kills Two Passengers | US Senators Urge Substantial Boost in Military Aid for Israel | Obama Says Putin Trying To Undermine European Unity 

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Bus Explosion In Yerevan Kills Two Passengers



US Senators Urge Substantial Boost in Military Aid for Israel



Obama Says Putin Trying To Undermine European Unity





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Saudi human rights activist sentenced to 9 years in prison – The Washington Post 

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Rights group Amnesty International says a court in Saudi Arabia has sentenced a peaceful dissident to nine years in prison and banned him from travel abroad for another nine years on charges related to his civil rights work.