Friday, September 9, 2016

"It is all rather confounding — unless Mr. Trump is simply eyeing postelection business interests..." - Donald Trump’s Campaign Stands By Embrace of Putin

"It is all rather confounding unless Mr. Trump is simply eyeing postelection business interests — for congressional Republicans, who evince little doubt that Moscow was behind the hack of the Democratic National Committee. On Thursday, they volunteered the sort of hard-edged criticism of Mr. Putin more typical of conservatives discussing an adversary of the United States." 

Donald Trump’s Campaign Stands By Embrace of Putin

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In the forum, Mr. Trump said of Mr. Putin that he had been a leader “far more than our president,” and he praised Mr. Putin’s firm grip on Russia.
And after Mr. Lauer highlighted Mr. Putin’s record, Mr. Trump shot back, “But do you want me to start naming some of the things that President Obama does at the same time?”
Such talk is a remarkable break from the traditional boundaries of American political speech. And, as with his past provocations, Mr. Trump once again left his fellow Republicans scrambling to defend what many effectively conceded was indefensible.
“Vladimir Putin is an aggressor who does not share our interests,” Speaker Paul D. Ryan told reporters on Thursday in Washington, accusing the Russian leader of “conducting state-sponsored cyberattacks” on “our political system.”
Mr. Ryan was referring to the hack of the servers of the Democratic National Committee, which American officials believe was conducted by Russian intelligence services. At the NBC forum, Mr. Trump disputed Russia’s guilt, telling Mr. Lauer the culprits were not definitively known.
Mr. Trump went even further on Thursday, saying in an interview on the Kremlin-backed Russia Today network that it was “probably unlikely” Russia was trying to interfere in the election and that Democrats “are putting that out.”
In a fashion that would have been unheard-of for a Republican during or immediately after the Cold War, Mr. Trump has made improved relations with the Kremlin a centerpiece of his candidacy. And Russia has been a subplot of the campaign that Tom Clancy and John le Carre together may have been unable to conjure, complete with the apparent Russian hack of one of America’s political parties, a threat that Russian hackers may try to tamper with electronic voting machines, and Mr. Putin’s unsubtle preference for Mr. Trump over Mrs. Clinton.
While railing against Asian, Latin American and Middle Eastern countries, Mr. Trump has continually praised Mr. Putin’s government: He has hailed Mr. Putin’s tight control over Russian society, hinted that he may not defend the NATO-aligned Baltic nations formerly in Moscow’s sphere of influence, and for a time employed a campaign chief with close ties to Ukraine’s pro-Russian forces.
Most extraordinarily, he used a news conference over the summer to urge the Russians to hack into Mrs. Clinton’s emails to find messages the F.B.I. might have missed.
It is all rather confounding — unless Mr. Trump is simply eyeing postelection business interests — for congressional Republicans, who evince little doubt that Moscow was behind the hack of the Democratic National Committee. On Thursday, they volunteered the sort of hard-edged criticism of Mr. Putin more typical of conservatives discussing an adversary of the United States.
“He’s a thug,” said Senator Marco Rubio of Florida. “He’s a dangerous and bad guy.”
But Mr. Rubio, who is running for re-election, has gotten behind Mr. Trump since withdrawing from the presidential primary, and he declined to say whether Mr. Trump’s comments were out of bounds because, he said, he did not want to “be a commentator.”
Even Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama, perhaps Mr. Trump’s closest ally on Capitol Hill, appeared ill at ease when pressed about Mr. Trump’s statements.
Asked whether political combat should stop at the water’s edge, Mr. Sessions paused for nearly 10 seconds before saying, “I’ve tried to adhere to that line pretty assiduously, but less and less does that get adhered to in the modern world.”
Democrats were at once dumbfounded over Mr. Trump’s latest verbal excess, gleeful over a fresh opportunity to portray him as unpresidential and irritated that he had not been pressed more aggressively by Mr. Lauer.
Mingling outside the Capitol on a broiling day, the Senate Democratic leader, Harry Reid, and Representative Charles B. Rangel of New York, two of the longest-serving and bluntest-speaking members of Congress, found themselves uncharacteristically at a loss for words.
“If Rangel or Reid had said that, 15 years ago or five years ago, we would be through,” Mr. Reid said of Mr. Trump’s Putin praise. “Can you imagine somebody running for president who has acknowledged publicly that he likes Putin better than Obama? How about that one?”
Mr. Rangel interjected: “A communist leader that’s a potential enemy!”
Other Democrats, though, saw Mr. Trump’s comments about Mr. Putin as a bonanza, given the scrutiny of Mrs. Clinton’s use of a private email server as secretary of state. Representative Joseph Crowley of New York called Mr. Trump’s suggestion that Russians should hack into Mrs. Clinton’s emails “verbal treason” and said Mr. Trump’s “diarrhea of the mouth” would be his undoing.
Democrats and even some Republicans said the fury would have been unceasing on the right had a Democratic presidential candidate held up the leader of a hostile power to deride a Republican president.
Scholars could recall few parallels in modern American history. Only the campaign of Henry Wallace, the Progressive Party nominee in 1948, was so willing to align itself with Russia, the historian Richard Norton Smith said. “We’ve become to some degree numbed to this, saying, ‘That’s just Trump,’” he said. “And that’s dangerous.”
In her news conference Thursday, Mrs. Clinton invoked the right’s most venerated president, from whose library Mr. Pence appeared on CNN. “What would Ronald Reagan say about a Republican nominee who attacks American generals and heaps praise on Russia’s president?” she asked.
After the news conference, Mrs. Clinton flew to North Carolina to rally African-American voters, and seized the chance to assail Mr. Trump’s comments again. “He prefers the Russian president to our president,” Mrs. Clinton said in Charlotte.
But Mr. Trump showed no sign of regret. His aides did not reply to an email asking if the campaign wanted to clarify his comments about Mr. Putin, and deemed Mrs. Clinton’s assault “the desperate attacks of a flailing campaign sinking in the polls.”
Mr. Trump himself appeared mostly focused on news coverage of the NBC forum. “Wow, reviews are in — THANK YOU!” he wrote on Twitter.
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Analysis: Abbas, the KGB and the world of Middle East espionage - Arab-Israeli Conflict

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The revelation that Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, whose Fatah nom de guerre is Abu Mazen, was a KGB agent shouldn’t surprise those knowledgeable of the PLO movement and Soviet Union methods.
Since its creation in 1959, the Fatah group and later the PLO were influenced and supported by various Arab intelligence communities, the KGB, and its satellite security services in the communist bloc. Beyond solidifying ideological bonds, the cooperation was a marriage of convenience.
The PLO needed financial support, military training and weapons. The Soviet Union, entangled in the Cold War with the West, wanted to increase its influence in the Middle East.
The Soviet Union and its client states in Eastern Europe supported “progressive” movements and groups around the globe, including those who were involved in terrorism.
While the Soviet Union tried to keep its hands clean, it instructed the security services of its client state to do the dirty work. The East German Stasi and also the Hungarian and Bulgarian agencies trained PLO officers, gave them weapons and documents, and hosted notorious terrorists such as Abu Nidal, Carlos and Wadi Haddad. The Black September terrorists who killed the 11 Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics traveled via East Berlin.
Yasser Arafat himself was photographed by the Securitatii, the Romanian security service, in an intimate position in his hotel room in the company of his bodyguards while visiting Bucharest.
The Soviet Union gave grants to and hosted thousands of students from Asia, Africa, South and Central America at its universities.
The Soviet generosity was also a tool to recruit agents of all sorts among the foreign students.
Based on the belief that “quantity will turn into quality,” the KGB method was to recruit as many agents as possible, hoping that some of them would reach the top of their countries or organizations and be a quality agent.
Was Abu Mazen one of them? It shouldn’t be ruled out,
 despite his denials
. In such circumstance a denial is expected.
If it’s true, it happened when he studied at Moscow’s Oriental University, where he submitted his PhD thesis. But we still don’t know from the document when he was recruited, how long he was run as an agent, how often he met with his controller, whether he was a paid agent and if so how much was he paid, or whether he was just an agent of influence who from time to time shared bits of information or estimates with his Soviet contacts.
If indeed he was a full-fledged agent, it was a good catch for the KGB. Abu Mazen was among the founding fathers of Fatah and a close friend of Arafat’s and the other top leaders of the group. Although throughout his career he mostly dealt with political and diplomatic matters, he must have known at least about some of the terrorist attacks carried out by the PLO against Israel, Jewish targets and Western targets.
One can assume that if he was an agent he passed some of his knowledge on to the Soviets.
The KGB was a successful professional intelligence agency.
It managed to recruit and plant good agents in many Western countries, including the US and the UK. It also reached the Israeli top echelon, having agents in the Mossad, Shin Bet, IDF, the Foreign Ministry, the Ness Ziona Biological Institute and probably in other government ministries. It can be assumed that not all of them were arrested.
One more interesting observation regards the intriguing relations between the Middle East and the world of espionage.
KGB and its satellites were not alone in the game.
The CIA, the British MI6, and French intelligence also went on fishing expeditions and their catch was not bad at all.
Many Arab leaders were either paid agents or agents of influence for these services.
King Hussein, for example, was a paid agent of the CIA and also worked closely with MI6. And so were Syrian leaders in the ‘50s and ‘60s. Even Ali Hassan Salameh, who was Arafat’s chief of security and responsible for the planning of the Munich killing turned out to be a CIA agent in Beirut. In 1979 Mossad operatives killed him in the Lebanese capital.
The Israeli intelligence community, Mossad and military intelligence didn’t stand idle.
It also was very successful in penetrating the Arab world and the PLO and recruiting leaders, top government officials, scientists and senior military officers. It is interesting to note that, during the Israeli-PLO negotiations in the ‘90s, it was revealed that the Mossad managed to plant a listening device in Abu Mazen’s desk in his office in Tunis.
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U.S. links Venezuelan official related to Maduro to drug probe

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NEW YORK (Reuters) - A U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agent testified on Thursday that a probe of two nephews of Venezuela's first lady began after a drug trafficker cooperating with authorities told him of a meeting arranged by her brother, a top police official.

Massive Russian Troop Deployments and Exercises Held Close to Ukraine

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The Russian Armed Forces have begun their pre-announced strategic military exercise “Kavkaz 2016” in Crimea, the North Caucasus, and the Black and Caspian Seas. Reportedly, the exercise, held on September 5–10, “will test the battle-readiness of troops, new weapons, as well as command-and control equipment.” The officially announced number of troops taking part is 12,500, but much more men and combat equipment could actually have been mobilized for action (TASS, August 5). Kavkaz 2016 was preceded by 12 “special logistical supply exercises” to test the ability of naval and other forces to be swiftly resupplied in high-intensity combat. Live torpedoes, rockets and shells were loaded on ships; marines with armor were placed on landing craft and moved into positions off Crimea “awaiting orders to go” (, August 18).
On August 25, massive snap exercises were launched as a preparation for Kavkaz 2016. All Russian strategic military commands with the exception of the Far East were fully or partially mobilized. In addition, the elite Airborne troops (VDV), the North and Black Sea fleets, the Caspian flotilla, as well as the air force (Voyenno Kosmichedskie Sily—VKS) were mobilized for action. The mobilized forces of the Southern Military District (including the Russian troops based on occupied Georgian territory in Abkhazia and South Ossetia) were reinforced with combat units from the Western and Central commands moved by air and land from as far as Siberia and the Urals. At the same time, airborne VDV units and VKS warplanes were deployed “to form multi-force combat groupings in the southwest of Russia.” Paratroopers and marines were moved into Crimea. Reservists were called up in different parts of Russia and moved to the borders of Ukraine and to the Caucasus. Industrial and transport infrastructure, local and metropolitan civilian administrations, as well as elements of the national banking system were mobilized to serve the joint military effort (, August 25).
The snap exercise and the follow-up strategic Kavkaz 2016 maneuvers seem intended to test the overall swift transformation of Russia into a mobilized national military machine prepared for offensive action (Nezavisimaya Gazeta, August 26). The main center of gravity of Kavkaz 2016 seems to be Crimea, where tensions between Moscow and Kyiv have been escalating recently. On August 10, the Federal Security Service (FSB) accused Ukrainian special forces of preparing “terrorist attacks” on the Crimean Peninsula, which Russia illegally annexed from Ukraine in March 2014. Arrests of alleged Ukrainian agents were announced, while an FSB official and a VDV solder were reported killed in clashes with alleged armed Ukrainian infiltrators. Moscow accused Ukraine of “resorting to terrorism instead of seeking a peaceful resolution of the conflict in Donbas.” Russian officials threatened to sever diplomatic relations (IzvestiaInterfax, August 12).
Ukrainian officials denied any involvement and accused Russia of staging a provocation. In mid-August, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko announced, “There is a serious possibility of a massive Russian invasion, and we are preparing our military to resist” (Interfax, August 18). Poroshenko accused Moscow of attempting to destabilize Ukraine and “make all of Ukraine part of the Russian empire” (Interfax, August 25). Russian officials, including President Vladimir Putin, dismissed Poroshenko’s allegations as an attempt to create an external threat to distract the Ukrainian population and cover up Ukraine’s terrible social and economic crisis. The Moscow press claims that although Russia is not planning any invasion of Ukraine, if Russian tanks roll in, crowds of Ukrainians will line the streets to greet them with flowers (, August 18).
On September 6, during his annual address to the Supreme Rada (national parliament), President Poroshenko praised the profound transformation of the Ukrainian military in the last two years under his leadership: Though armed with not the most modern weapons, it is currently much better organized and more capable to defend the nation. Poroshenko accused Russia of expansionism, of destroying the foundations of European security and international law, of being an “aggressor,” and of harming Ukrainians. Poroshenko reiterated his unflinching (“like the Polar Star in the night sky”) commitment to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Poroshenko promised to expand security cooperation with NATO member states, though acknowledging that not all in the West are ready to fully embrace Ukraine (Interfax, September 6). The Kremlin reaction was swift: “Putin does not plan to speak to Poroshenko, and the contacts between the two countries are minimal.” According to Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov, “for Putin to speak to Poroshenko, conditions must mature and homework be done” (Interfax, September 7).
Poroshenko and the Kremlin may be repeating previously stated rhetoric, and Poroshenko in particular may be appealing to the internal patriotic audience. But it is clear that the present Russian regime will not accept and is ready to do what it takes to prevent Ukraine or any other former Soviet country from integrating with NATO or any European or North Atlantic institutions. As part of Kavkaz 2016, on September 8, some 70 warplanes were simultaneously in the air over Crimea, simulating a massive air battle, supported by numerous S-300, S-400 and Pantsir-S anti-aircraft missile systems (, September 8).
The massive snap exercises last August were held in the absence of foreign military observers, but military diplomatic staff accredited in Moscow have been invited to take a special tour on September 9 to visit the Kavkaz 2016 exercise, see some simulated combat action, and receive a briefing (TASS, September 29). A Western military attaché in Moscow, who asked not to disclose his identity, told this author on September 7: “We will not go, since we are invited to fly a Russian military transport jet from a Moscow military base to occupied Crimea to see the action and get a briefing, which is a blatant violation of Ukrainian sovereignty.” A Western diplomat may possibly enter Crimea only with the consent of Kyiv and through a Ukrainian checkpoint. Apparently to supplement the possible mass boycott by Moscow-accredited military attachés of the trip to Kavkaz 2016, the Russian defense ministry has also invited over 100 foreign correspondents to join. As of this writing, it was not clear which Moscow-based military attachés, excluding the obvious ones from North Korea, Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua, will take the propaganda trip to Crimea this week, or what international news organizations will decide to defy Ukrainian sovereignty. Regardless, the principle of transparency and predictability of military activities in Europe, established as the Cold War ended, is now effectively defunct, and the threat of large-scale war is back.
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Uzbekistan’s Succession: Regime Seeks to Retain Legitimacy, Legacy and Stability

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The death of President Islam Karimov will be a serious test of Uzbekistan’s political stability. But contrary to most gloomy predictions, the country’s leadership was evidently much more prepared for a smooth transition upon Karimov’s departure than had been expected.
Central Asia’s most populous republic was initially following its constitutional procedures for the succession of the leader, where Nigmatilla Yuldashev—the heretofore chairman of the Senate—should have been named interim president (Uzmetronom, September 7), in accordance with Article 96 of the Constitution. Yuldashev was appointed to head the Senate only a year ago. His candidacy was then endorsed by the late Karimov, who reportedly suffered his first stroke in January 2015. A professional attorney, Yuldashev’s selection to chair the Senate, as argued by Uzbek analyst Alisher Ilhamov, was meant to strengthen the informal system of checks and balances in Uzbekistan’s politics, where the security bodies have tended to play a stronger role (CA-News, February 5, 2015).
But as reported by independent sources, Yuldashev withdrew his candidacy during a joint session of both chambers of the parliament in favor of Shavkat Mirziyaev, the current prime minister (, September 8). Legally, the country should now conduct presidential elections within three months, approximately at the beginning of December.
Prime Minister Mirziyaev, long discussed as the most likely heir to Karimov, presided over the late president’s funeral ceremony and accepted condolences from other world leaders, thus further raising his own profile. Since Karimov’s death, Mirziyaev has already held important strategic discussions with his Russian counterpart, Dmitry Medvedev (, September 3). Separately, Mirziyaev also met with President Vladimir Putin, who came to Uzbekistan to honor Karimov’s memory (, September 6).
It is not clear if Mirziyaev will be a truly independent figure; he is likely subject to informal influence from the late president’s closest circle, which also includes Rustam Azimov (deputy prime minister) and Rustam Inoyatov (head of the Security Service) (, September 8). These three men are believed to be sharing power at the top, forming a kind of collective rule (, August 31). Footage from Karimov’s official funeral ceremony pointedly demonstrated that the trio is currently acting in full concordance: all three men were present and frequently seen standing side by side (С, September 45). Inoyatov, a long-time serving head of the security service, is believed to retain informal control. Meanwhile, Azimov, Mirziyaev’s more pro-Western colleague, could succeed to the position of prime minister.
The leadership in Uzbekistan has been planning for a gradual reduction of presidential powers and an increase of parliamentarian rule since 2011. In April of that year, new amendments were introduced to the Constitution, including reformed rules for nominating and approving a prime minister. The candidate for this position is now nominated by the political party with the most seats in the Legislative Chamber (lower house) of the Oliy Majlis (national parliament), which strengthens the role of the parliament and the political parties (, April 25, 2011). Mirziyaev was nominated prime minister by the Liberal Democratic Party on January 15, 2015, following these constitutional changes.
These reforms were introduced not so much to attain democratic rule (i.e. a system of checks and balances), but rather collective rule (whereby the prime minister is nominated and controlled by the political party, not the head of state). This guarantees that Uzbekistan’s political system is protected from a future leader’s potential usurpation of powers, and it is also hereditary—i.e., the collective will of a political party strictly follows the legacies (or families) of its first leaders.
Unlike in Kazakhstan, where the presidential family has been palpably strengthening its position over time, it is unclear whether the late Uzbekistani president seriously factored his own family members into the transition scenario. According to rumors, circulated in 2015, he had hoped that one of his daughters—Lola—would succeed him as president, and so he asked his closest circle to duly support and train her (Tengrinews, September 5, 2015). It seems that Karimov’s successor will ultimately be decided by Mirziyaev, Asimov and Inoyatov.
The long-term stability of this ruling troika is difficult to predict. Clearly, its participants want to retain domestic political stability. But they are simultaneously seeking legitimacy and therefore largely following Uzbekistan’s established legal procedures dictating the leadership transition. They are undoubtedly experiencing outside pressure, but they will want to maintain a status quo on international issues.
A more difficult task for the troika will be to maintain Karimov’s legacy and particularly to preserve his family’s high status. In photos of the late president’s funeral, his family was remarkably represented solely by Karimov’s widow and younger daughter, Lola. But Islam Karimov’s surviving family is much larger than that and includes in-laws, nephews, cousins, etc. Nonetheless, it is doubtful that any of them will have any say in the make-up of the subsequent ruling regime. Still, the president’s family owns many valuable assets in the country, and Lola’s husband, Timur Tillyaev, is believed to control a large share of informal trade through the customs clearance companies. With Islam Karimov gone, there could arise new economic interests and motives to restructure the domestic financial sector, to privatize some state assets in a different way than ongoing privatization schemes envisage, or to adjust some of the current levers of economic control. And amidst such changing realities in the economic sphere, the new leadership will need to secure sufficient economic resources to be able to undertake populist policies.
Therefore, some changes may be expected in Uzbekistan’s economic policies—particularly vis-à-vis Russia. Given his country’s ongoing economic difficulties, the late President Karimov was already making more advances toward Russia. His spring 2016 visit to Moscow was unusually warm and full of promises to increase bilateral trade (RBC, April 26). As Mirziyaev mentioned in his recent meeting with Medvedev, Tashkent will “go through all the projects and documents […and] follow President Karimov’s plans to work with [our] Russian friends” (, September 3). Tighter relations with Russia could bring more economic benefits to the Central Asian republic—particularly, the legalization of its labor migrants, greater access to the Russian internal market, more investment in Uzbekistan by Russian energy giants Gazprom and Lukoil, as well as Moscow’s support in controversial regional water usage questions (see EDM, May 17, 26). Russia’s support will also legitimate and provide support domestically to the new regime. But would such a policy course truly be in line with President Karimov’s legacy, which for the last quarter century aimed to “to secure independence and sovereignty by all means?” The answer to this question will continue to develop for months to come.
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Inside the Ring: Clinton Email Compromised in Hostile Cyberattacks 

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The FBI’s once-secret report on former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s email system reveals that messages sent to aides were compromised by hostile foreign actors.
The FBI did not elaborate on the identity of foreign cyberattacks that normally refer to activities of sophisticated foreign intelligence services or criminal groups. The bureau was also unable to “conclusively” say whether classified information sent on Mrs. Clinton’s emails and mobile phones was compromised by “cyber means,” the report said. FBI cybersleuths blamed their inability to obtain all Mrs. Clinton’s old devices and computers for the inconclusive results.
However, the FBI did conclude that Mrs. Clinton sent emails to people with computer systems that were penetrated by foreign hackers.
Read the entire article at the Washington Times.
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'Cool' Parasite Named After Obama

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As President Barack Obama nears the end of his last term in office, yet another accolade has been bestowed upon him. A study in the Journal of Parasitology reveals that scientists have named a parasite after the president. Baracktrema obamai is described as a two-inch-long, hair-thin, parasitic flatworm that lives in turtles' blood. Thomas Platt, the newly retired biology professor at Saint Mary's College in Indiana who chose the name, said it's an honor, not an insult. Platt, who discovered and named the flatworm to crown his career before retiring, has discoveries of 32 species to his credit. He's named them after his father-in-law, his doctoral adviser "and other people I have a great deal of respect for. This is clearly something in my small way done to honor our president,'' Platt told the Associated Press. Parasites get a bad rap, but Platt said this one reminded him of the president: "It's long. It's thin. And it's cool as hell.''   Platt said Baracktrema obamai is a "phenomenally, incredibly resilient" organism. The worm is related, distantly, to a parasite that can cause a devastating disease in humans, but it causes no harm to the host turtles.

Paul Ryan, Other Republicans Take Distance From Donald Trump After Russia Comments - Wall Street Journal

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Wall Street Journal

Paul Ryan, Other Republicans Take Distance From Donald Trump After Russia Comments
Wall Street Journal
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Dozens of tourists spend night trapped in Mont Blanc cable cars in French Alps 

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Retired US general to advise Ukraine's defense minister

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LONDON (AP) - U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter has appointed a retired U.S. Army general as
aspecial adviser to Ukraine's defense minister.
The Pentagon says John Abizaid (AB'-ih-zayd) will advise defense chief Stepan Poltorak as Ukraine tries to strengthen democratic civilian control of its military, take on corruption and

Tom Ridge: U.S. must accept 'inevitability' of terror attack

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Terror attacks on the United States are an inevitability but Americans shouldn't allow the threat to alter their daily lives, said former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge in an assessment of the nation's safety.
"The threat surface has changed, the number of actors has increased, the profile of those actors ...

Marines: Recruit killed himself in March amid widespread culture of hazing and abuse in his battalio

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COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - Marines: Recruit killed himself in March amid widespread culture of hazing and abuse in his battalion.
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The Latest: Congresswoman to visit Marine training site

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COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - The Latest on the investigation into the suicide of a Marine recruit (all times local):
4 p.m.
The Michigan congresswoman who pressed the Marine Corps to look into the March death of a recruit says she is going to visit the South Carolina training site this ...

Poll: Over Half of Americans Disapprove of Obamacare

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A majority of Americans disapprove of Obamacare, according to a new Gallup poll released Thursday.
Fifty-one percent of the poll respondents said they have a negative view of the Affordable Care Act, while 44 percent of Americans support the health care law. Only 18 percent of those surveyed said that Obamacare has helped them, the Hill noted.
Gallup mentioned in its release that insurance companies have made significant moves leaving the Obamacare exchanges.
Insurance giant Aetna decided in August to pull out of most of the healthcare exchanges it had entered in 2014 and announced it would not expand into any more states. This news followed similar announcements from other major insurers such as United Healthcare and Humana.
Gallup also noted that the cost of many Americans’ health care plans is expected to increase “significantly” in the coming years.
The survey found that 29 percent of Americans believe Obamacare has hurt them and their family, an increase of 3 percent since May, and the highest figure Gallup has measured to date.
Negative feelings toward Obamacare have increased since last November, when 49 percent of respondents disapproved of the health care law and 47 percent approved.
The day before the poll was released, the Boston Herald reported that analysts say health care costs have skyrocketed in Massachusetts since Obamacare was implemented.

Military Services Report Low Readiness Levels as Russia, China Demand Increased Commitments 

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The U.S. military has reported persistently low readiness levels as threats from Russia and China have demanded increased American presence in Europe and the Asia-Pacific region, according to a government watchdog.
The Pentagon lacks a comprehensive plan to rebuild readiness across the force as manpower and spending cuts have threatened the armed services’ preparedness for commitments abroad, concluded a Government Accountability Office report publicly issued on Wednesday.
The military services expect low levels of readiness to persist into the next decade, according to interviews conducted by auditors.
“The military services have reported persistently low readiness levels, which they have attributed to emerging and continued demands on their forces, reduced force structure, and increased frequency and length of deployments,” the GAO wrote in the report.
Between fiscal years 2013-16, the active component end strength decreased by about 7 percent across the force and the reserve component end strength by 4 percent, according to the GAO.
The Department of Defense has also faced spending cuts across the board due to sequestration, which kicked in more than three years ago.
Service leaders have warned about reductions in force structure and budgetary constraints.
The U.S. Navy, for example, has been allocated $30 billion less than it has requested over the last four years, according to congressional testimony delivered earlier this year by Adm. John Richardson, chief of naval operations. The Navy has also seen an 18 percent decrease in its fleet of ships over the last two decades, according to the GAO, which has resulted in increased deployment lengths for its naval craft.
The Army and Marine Corps have each undergone years-long drawdowns of active duty members. The Obama administration plans to decrease the number of active-duty Army soldiers from 490,000 to 450,000 by the end of 2016. The count of Marine Corps personnel will also drop to 182,000 by the end of this year, which the Marine commandant recently described as a “red line” for the service.
Gen. David Goldfein, the new Air Force chief of staff, said in June that the Air Force is short about 4,000 active-duty airmen at the current decades-low level of 311,000. While the service is expected to increase the number of airmen to 317,000 by the end of the year, the Air Force secretary has saidthe service will need thousands more to ease current strains on the service.
In the face of reductions in budgets and manpower, overall demand for forces has remained high despite reduced commitments in Iraq and Afghanistan during the Obama administration. Combatant command officials who spoke to auditors emphasized the growing demand for forces in Europe and the Asia-Pacific region.
“For example, U.S. European Command officials noted that the command’s assigned forces are now staying in Europe and being used to meet the growing needs of the command, such as the response to Russian aggression, which officials noted has been the most significant driver of changes to the command’s needs since February 2014,” auditors wrote.
“Moreover, U.S. Pacific Command officials noted that their operational requirements have steadily increased to ensure adequate capability exists to address increasingly unpredictable and provocative actions of North Korea and China,” they wrote.
The services’ plans to resolve persistent readiness challenges have fallen short, according to the GAO report, which faulted the Pentagon for exercising insufficient oversight of efforts to rebuild readiness across the force.
While the Defense Department has made rebuilding readiness a priority, the department lacks a comprehensive plan for recovering readiness with long-term goals and ways to measure progress.
“Without metrics against which to measure the services’ progress toward agreed-upon, achievable readiness recovery goals, DOD will be unable to determine the effectiveness of readiness recovery efforts to assess its ability to meet the demands of the National Military Strategy, which may be at risk,” auditors concluded.
Lawmakers appropriated $1 billion into a warfighting account for the Defense Department’s readiness improvement efforts during the current fiscal year.
The GAO was mandated by Congress to review the Pentagon’s efforts to rebuild military readiness. Auditors delivered a classified version of the report to congressional lawmakers in June, a “secret” assessment that provided greater detail of classified readiness assessments made by the Joint Chiefs of Staff and military commanders.
“The high pace of operations has created challenges for the all-volunteer force in its ability to respond to current demands,” GAO auditors wrote in a note to congressional defense committees accompanying the report.
“The global security environment will likely continue to require significant reliance on U.S. military forces to respond to a range of demands even as the department faces a period of budget constraints including across-the-board spending reductions through sequestration and force structure reductions. As a result, DOD must ensure that the force is poised to meet a range of global needs,” they wrote.
The Pentagon, which concurred with the watchdog’s recommendations to establish a comprehensive plan for recovering readiness, did not respond to a request for comment.
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· · · ·

Clinton Refuses to Answer Question on Concussion During Press Conference 

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Hillary Clinton did not answer a reporter’s question about her memory after her 2012 concussion at the end of a quick press conference she held Thursday.
Clinton was holding her first official press conference since December 2015 when a reporter from theDaily Mail asked the Democratic nominee about her concussion as she walked away from the podium, the newspaper reported.
“Read the reports” is all Clinton said in response.
There have been renewed questions surrounding Clinton’s health since the FBI released notes from its three-hour interview with the former secretary of state in which she told investigators there were things she could not recall after her concussion. Clinton said she could not remember every briefing she received after the concussion, which caused a blood clot in her head.
“Can you clarify what you told the FBI about your concussion?” Daily Mail correspondent Francesca Chambers asked Clinton.
“Read the reports,” Clinton said.
The Daily Mail said that microphones were not able to pick up the exchange between Clinton and Chambers as the engines on Clinton’s plane were revving up.
Clinton gave a six-question, 16-minute press conference in New York in front of her campaign’s airplane right before she left for North Carolina.
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· · ·

For Clinton, a skirmish with history. From Trump, an ambush of the facts 

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Get new generals, steal Iraq’s oil, reinvent military justice – Commander-in-Chief Forum showcases Republican candidate’s loose grasp of defense priorities
In October 2011, as Mitt Romney prepared to win the Republican presidential nomination, his campaign prepared a guiding document outlining what to expect from Romney as commander-in-chief. Troop reductions in Afghanistan would not necessarily end, but their pace would be determined by ground commanders. Missile defenses would again be aimed at protecting eastern Europe from Russia, rather than focusing on Iran, as Barack Obama had shifted them. The country would spend 4% of its gross domestic product on defense. The navy would see a shipbuilding surge to 15 ships annually, up from nine.
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Hillary Clinton Rips Donald Trump for Lauding Vladimir Putin

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Mrs. Clinton asked, “What would Ronald Reagan say about a Republican nominee who attacks American generals and heaps praise on Russia’s president?”
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Page 4

Clinton Vows to Hunt Down ISIS Leader

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Hillary Clinton said the United States should hunt down and kill the Islamic State leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, as it did with Osama bin Laden, at a news conference in White Plains, N.Y.

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alpine - Google Search
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Trump, Clinton Attack Each Other on National Security
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9.8.16 Th

Kerry tries for Syria deal with Russia as White House, Pentagon lose patience -
Obama administration says deal with Russia over Syria at make-or-break moment - The Washington Post
U.S. Officials Warn Russia Over Alleged Hacks - WSJ
US and Russia's WAR in the skies: Moscow and Washington trade blows over 'offensive' jets | World | News | Daily Express
AP Explains: Why do US, Iran often face off in Persian Gulf? - The Washington Post
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Retired US general to advise Ukraine’s defense minister - The Washington Post
Obama shakes hands with Philippines president who called him 'son of a whore' – video | US news | The Guardian
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UK spies murdered runaway tycoon Berezovsky over Prince Philip ‘porn pics’ - Russian intel expert — RT Viral
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Navy unveils robot spy speedboat
Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin hold 'blunt' meeting at G20
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Defense Secretary Warns Russia to Stay Out of U.S. Elections -
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US election: Trump pledges big US military expansion - BBC News
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Donald Trump Calls for Military Cuts to Be Lifted, Calls Clinton 'Trigger Happy' - ABC News
Australia Needs the United States to Keep China in Check -
Clapper: Russians hack U.S. 'all the time' - POLITICO

Posts - 9.8.16

News Reviews and Opinions: Is Moscow meddling in the presidential election? - USA TODAY
News Reviews and Opinions: » Paul Ryan, Other Republicans Take Distance From Donald Trump After Russia Comments - Wall Street Journal 08/09/16 18:47 from Mike Nova's Shared Newslinks
News Reviews and Opinions: Recent Posts
The U.S. and Global Security Review: U.S. Officials Warn Russia Over Alleged Hacks - WSJ | Kerry tries for Syria deal with Russia as White House, Pentagon lose patience - Obama administration says deal with Russia over Syria at make-or-break moment - The Washington Post
RUSSIA and THE WEST - РОССИЯ и ЗАПАД: Kremlin Declines to Comment on Donald Trump's Latest Praise of ...
Current News: Recent Posts
The U.S. and Global Security Review: Paul Ryan, Other Republicans Take Distance From Donald Trump After Russia Comments - Wall Street Journal

9.7.16 W

Watch CIA director John Brennan throw out the first pitch before it becomes classified information |
Ash Carter Warns Russia Against Interfering in ‘Democratic Process’ - WSJ
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U.S. warns Russia against interfering with Western politics | Reuters
Russian jet carries out intercept of U.S. spy plane: U.S. officials | Reuters
Iran vessel 'harasses,' sails close to U.S. Navy ship in Gulf: U.S. officials | Reuters
Russia Offers to Host Abbas-Netanyahu Meeting
Commentary: Who is hacking U.S. election databases and why are they so difficult to identify? | Reuters
Is Vladimir Putin trying to affect the presidential election? - The Boston Globe
D.N.C. Hack Raises a Frightening Question: What’s Next? - The New York Times
Sure, the U.S. and Russia often meddle in foreign elections. Does it matter? - The Washington Post
Iraq militia fighters join battle for Syria's Aleppo | Reuters
Mexican finance minister steps down after helping arrange Trump visit - The Washington Post
Trump Gaining as Presidential Polls Tighten
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Donald Trump Vows to Bolster Nation’s Military Capacities - The New York Times
Trump turns defense hawk - POLITICO
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Trump, Clinton Spar Over National Security Credentials
Russian Pollster: Authorities Want to Destroy NGOs
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Fallout From Obama Insult by Filipino President - Video -
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Clinton and Trump Each Lay Claim to Military Brass - The New York Times
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Posts - 9.7.16

News Reviews and Opinions: Is Duterte another Chinese-Russian project? Is Duterte another US intelligence failure? Did China and Russia interfere in the Duterte election? Did China and Russia engineer Duterte elections?
News Reviews and Opinions: U.S. warns Russia against interfering with Western politics | Reuters | Sure, the U.S. and Russia often meddle in foreign elections. Does it matter? - The Washington Post
The U.S. and Global Security Review: Ash Carter Warns Russia Against Interfering in ‘Democratic Process’ - WSJ
The U.S. and Global Security Review: Watch CIA director John Brennan throw out the first pitch before it becomes classified information |
The U.S. and Global Security Review: Russia Undermining International Order, Says U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter