Saturday, January 20, 2018

Here Is How The U.S. Government Shutdown Will Impact The U.S. Military

Military Times: Troops and families: Here are some ways a shutdown could affect you

If you were around in 2013, you’ll remember the many ways the two-week government shutdown that October affected military personnel and their families: Everything from doctor’s appointments to planned relocations to death benefits.

Operations that are considered essential to national security will continue during the shutdown. Defense Department officials set those ground rules; the current guidelines weren’t immediately available.

But as the Friday night deadline looms for lawmakers to reach an agreement, shutdown preparations are underway in DoD.

Read more ....

More News On How The U.S. Government Shutdown Will Impact The U.S. Military

Government Shutdown: What You Need to Know -- US Department Of Defense
How the Government Shutdown Impacts Military Family Services --
Pay stops, mission continues: Shutdown 101 for troops and families -- Military Times
The Government Is Shutdown. 3 Things Military Families Want You To Know. -- Forbes
Lawmakers Push Bills to Keep Paying Troops Over Shutdown --
Dire Military Warnings on Shutdown at Odds With Pentagon Chief -- Bloomberg

The NSA Can Identify You By Just Listening To Your Voice

An illustration picture shows the logo of the U.S. National Security Agency on the display of an iPhone in Berlin, June 7, 2013. REUTERS/Pawel Kopczynski/Files

The Intercept: Finding Your Voice

Forget About Siri and Alexa — When It Comes to Voice Identification, the “NSA Reigns Supreme”

At the height of the Cold War, during the winter of 1980, FBI agents recorded a phone call in which a man arranged a secret meeting with the Soviet embassy in Washington, D.C. On the day of his appointment, however, agents were unable to catch sight of the man entering the embassy. At the time, they had no way to put a name to the caller from just the sound of his voice, so the spy remained anonymous. Over the next five years, he sold details about several secret U.S. programs to the USSR.

It wasn’t until 1985 that the FBI, thanks to intelligence provided by a Russian defector, was able to establish the caller as Ronald Pelton, a former analyst at the National Security Agency. The next year, Pelton was convicted of espionage.

Today, FBI and NSA agents would have identified Pelton within seconds of his first call to the Soviets. A classified NSA memo from January 2006 describes NSA analysts using a “technology that identifies people by the sound of their voices” to successfully match old audio files of Pelton to one another. “Had such technologies been available twenty years ago,” the memo stated, “early detection and apprehension could have been possible, reducing the considerable damage Pelton did to national security.”

Read more ....

Update: The NSA knows who you are just by the sound of your voice—and their tech predates Apple and Amazon (CNBC)

WNU Editor: This is just more evidence that every international phone call is being monitored to pinpoint those calls that US intelligence wants to listen to.

Turkish President Erdogan: Military Operations Have Started Against Kurdish Targets In Syria

CNN: Turkish jets hammer Syrian town to oust US-backed Kurdish militia

(CNN)Turkey launched a military operation Saturday targeting Kurdish fighters in the Syrian town of Afrin, Turkish state-run news reported.

The incursion, dubbed Operation Olive Branch, is likely to sharpen tensions between Turkey and the United States, which supports and openly arms Kurdish militias fighting ISIS. The operation targeting Kurdish fighters could open up a new frontier in the Syrian conflict, which has gone on for nearly seven years.

Ankara has long fought Kurdish unrest in southeastern Turkey. It's determined to prevent the establishment of a Kurdish state across the border in Syria and has used military force in the past against Kurds and ISIS in the northern part of the neighboring country.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: The Kurds are responding .... Syrian Kurdish YPG says 'no choice but to resist' after Turkish strikes (Reuters)

More News On Turkish Military Operations Against Kurdish Targets In Syria

Airstrikes pound Syria's Afrin as Turkey launches 'Operation Olive Branch' -- Reuters
Turkey's Erdogan says ground offensive on Syria's Afrin has begun -- DW
Erdogan: Operation in Syria's Afrin has begun -- Al Jazeera
Turkey has begun operation in Syria's Afrin - President Erdogan -- TASS
Turkey launches offensive against Kurdish militia in Syria -- AFP
Turkish jets hit YPG in Syria's Afrin ahead of possible land operation -- Hurriyet Daily News
Syria: Turkey war planes launch strikes on Afrin -- BBC
Turkish army launches new strikes on Kurdish militia in Syria -- AFP
Turkey Launches Offensive in Syria Against Kurd YPG in Afrin -- Bloomberg
Turkey begins military offense against US-backed Kurdish forces -- The Hill
Turkish planes bomb Syrian Kurdish targets as Ankara-backed rebels enter Afrin (VIDEOS) -- RT
WATCH the Beginning of Turkey's Military Operation in Northern Syria -- Sputnik
Turkey deploys thousands of FSA rebels at Syria border -- Al Jazeera
Moscow urges Turkey, Kurds to show ‘restraint’ amid Afrin operation launch -- RT

Intercontinental Hotel In Afghan Capital Of Kabul Is Under Attack

Daily Mail: BREAKING NEWS: Four gunmen 'in suicide vests shoot at guests' during attack on Intercontinental Hotel in Afghan capital of Kabul

* Four attackers are believed to be inside the luxury hotel in the Afghan capital
* Security forces are fighting the men who are reportedly wearing suicide vests
* They were allegedly shooting at guests and have set the fourth floor on fire

Four gunmen believed to be wearing suicide vests have attacked a luxury hotel in the Afghan capital of Kabul - shooting at guests and setting one of the floors on fire.

The incident unfolded at 9pm local time (4.30pm) with sounds of gunfire and an explosion, which has since set part of the building on fire.

Flames have engulfed the fourth floor of the hotel, which sits on a hilltop and is heavily protected by security guards.

Specialist forces are currently battling with the gunmen inside the building. One of the attackers has been killed, Afghan ministry spokesman Najib Danish said.

Read more ....

More News On The Intercontinental Hotel In Afghan Capital Of Kabul Being Under Attack

Kabul: Gunmen attack Intercontinental Hotel -- BBC
Gunmen attack Inter-Continental Hotel in Kabul -- Washington Post
Militants Storm Top Hotel in Afghan Capital -- VOA
Kabul hotel attack: Intercontinental under attack and 'hostages taken by at least three gunmen' -- The Independent
Gunmen attack Kabul's Intercontinental Hotel -- Fox News
Kabul's Intercontinental Hotel under attack: reports -- Deutsche Welle
Gunmen launch attack on Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul -- CNN
Gunmen launch attack on Kabul's Intercontinental Hotel, officials say -- CBS News
Gunmen attack Afghanistan's Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul -- NBC
Gunmen storm Inter-Continental Hotel in Kabul -- Al-Jazeera
Gunmen attack Intercontinental Hotel in Afghan capital Kabul (VIDEO) -- RT

Mass Numbers Of Venezuelans Are Now Fleeing The Country

The main border crossing links Cucuta in Colombia to San Antonio de Tachira in Venezuela

BBC: Colombia says 550,000 Venezuelans have fled to the country

Colombia says the number of Venezuelans fleeing a severe economic crisis to live in Colombia has increased by 62% in the last six months.

Migration officials say more than 550,000 Venezuelans are now living in Colombia, mostly illegally.

The influx is putting pressure on the government especially in border areas to provide the migrants with food, shelter and medical care.

The number of Venezuelans travelling through Colombia has doubled.

Officials say a million Venezuelans have registered for a migration card that allows them to come and go across the border to buy food and other products scarce in their own country.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: This is the trickle before the flood.

More News On Reports That Hundreds Of Thousands Are Now Fleeing Venezuela

More than half a million Venezuelans have fled to Colombia -- AFP
Venezuelans flock to Colombia in last half of 2017: government -- Reuters
Venezuela crisis sends residents fleeing to nearby countries -- CNN
Venezuela migrant crisis in Colombia: no end in sight -- Colombia Reports
UN chief offers Colombia help with Venezuela migration crisis -- DW

Russia's Political Establishment Is Disappointed With President Trump

U.S. President Donald Trump (R) shakes hands with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov as Russian President Vladimir Putin stands nearby during a meeting on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany July 7, 2017 Sputnik/Mikhail Klimentyev/Kremlin via REUTERS

TASS: Trump becomes major disappointment for Russian political establishment — expert

The expert said that Russian officials mistakenly thought that the US president’s degree of domestic political authority are comparable to that of his Russian counterpart

MOSCOW, January 20. /TASS/. Russian political decision-makers have overestimated Donald Trump’s ability and determination to mend bilateral relations, Russian expert Valery Garbuzov has told TASS, commenting on results of Trump’s first presidential year.

US President Donald Trump was sworn in on January 20, 2017.

"As far as expectations of the Russian political elite are concerned, disappointment will be the most accurate description," said Garbuzov, who heads the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of US and Canada Studies.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: The above analysis is correct .... Russia's "experts" on the U.S. have consistently misunderstood how U.S. politics works. They underestimate the power of Congress, they do not appreciate the role of the U.S. Supreme Court and the importance of the U.S. constitution, and they certainly do not understand the powerful influence that special interest groups and the media have on the political process. And while the Russian "political establishment" is disappointed with President Trump .... I can also add that they do not harbor any resentment or distrust of President Trump as they did with President Obama. In a certain way .... the door is still open for both Presidents to meet and find common ground.

These Are The Ten Battles That Shaped Russia

Napoleon retreating from the burning Moscow. Wikipedia

Brandon Christensen, Real Clear History: 10 Battles That Shaped Russia

Mother Russia. The largest country in world, by area, is filled with allure, amazing biodiversity, rich history, and beautiful vodka-drinking women. It is also home to about 145 million people that comprise over 150 different ethnic groups, and at least 50 newspapers publish their voice in a language other than Russian. From 1283 to the present-day, Russia has slowly, steadily expanded its initial territory centered at Moscow east, west, north, and south. In 1835, Alexis de Tocqueville saw in Russia an alternative to the American democratic model that he observed firsthand in the conclusion of Volume 1 of his magnificent, two-volume book Democracy in America. Tocqueville observed of the Russians and the Americans:

Read more ....

WNU Editor: No arguments from me on this list .... but I would add two more. Russian defeats during World War One led to the rise of the Bolsheviks and the Soviet Union. And two .... the end of the Cold War. The Cold War was a battle that went on for decades .... but in the end it collapsed with a whimper and the rise of Russia today.

NATO Commander Wants To Challenge Russia In Both The Baltic And Black Seas

The cruiser USS San Jacinto (near) sails side by side with the Russian destroyer Admiral Chebanenko (far)(Reddit)

Sydney J. Freedberg Jr., Breaking Defense: Outgunned Allies Must Contest Baltic, Black Seas: NATO Admiral

WASHINGTON: “When I was an ensign, a lieutenant, we knew we could beat the Russians. It was just a question of time because we were better than them,” NATO’s top admiral said. “I’m not sure we could make that assumption now.”

The European allies suffer many shortfalls at sea, said Vice Adm. Clive Johnstone, the Royal Navy officer heading NATO’s Allied Maritime Command (MARCOM): anti-submarine warfare, missile defense, munitions stockpiles, sealift, cybersecurity, even the command and control capabilities of his own 300-strong headquarters.

So, I asked the admiral at an Atlantic Council event, would coastal waters within range of Russian land-based missiles — like the eastern Mediterranean near Syria, the northern Black Sea, and the entire Baltic — be no-go zones for NATO navies in event of war? Would any NATO vessel in those areas during a crisis be effectively held hostage by the Russians?

“No and no,” Johnstone said. “We are not ceding ground and we wouldn’t put people in as hostages.”

Read more ....

WNU Editor: Challenging Russia in both the Baltic and Black Seas would be like the Russian Navy challenging the U.S. in the Gulf of Mexico .... you can make your presence felt and you can show the flag .... but you are in hostile waters and you are vastly outnumbered and outgunned.

A Look At The U.S. Navy's Newest Warship

Popular Mechanics: Who You Calling Ugly? The Navy's New Ship Is a Floating Swiss Army Knife

The Woody Williams may look like a repurposed oil tanker (because it is), but this vessel can do it all for the U.S. Navy.

The USNS Herschel “Woody” Williams is neither fast nor heavily armed. And while she may look like a commercial cargo ship, the Navy's new vessel is also one of the most useful ships in the entire U.S. military.

Called an “expeditionary mobile base,” the Woody Williams can do just about any job, whether that means supporting a fleet of minesweepers or potentially hosting F-35B Joint Strike Fighters. The Williams was recently christened by builder General Dynamics National Steel and Shipbuilding Company (NASSCO) and is set to join the fleet soon.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: This is a smart concept. It is a floating base, and ideal to be deployed in conflict zones where a land base is not present and/or to provide support to U.S. forces on the ground.

U.S. Warship Stuck In The Port Of Montreal

US Navy littoral combat ship USS Little Rock heading toward Montreal, December 27, 2017.USS Little Rock/Facebook

USNI News: USS Little Rock Stuck in Montreal, Ship Might Not Leave Until Spring

USS Little Rock (LCS-9), the latest Freedom-variant littoral combat ship to join the fleet, is iced in on the St. Lawrence Seaway in Montreal and doesn’t plan to move until the Spring thaw.

“Significant weather conditions prevented the ship from departing Montreal earlier this month and icy conditions continue to intensify,” a Navy spokesperson told USNI News.
“The temperatures in Montreal and throughout the transit area have been colder than normal, and included near-record low temperatures, which created significant and historical conditions in the late December, early January timeframe.”

Read more ....

WNU Editor: The bridge in the background in the above photo is the Champlain bridge (a major bridge to get off the island of Montreal). It is not everyday that a US naval vessel gets stuck in Montreal. When the weather gets better, I now have an excuse to go to the port and get a selfie. 

Here Is A Plan To Get The U.S.Military Back On Track

US Navy

Mackenzie Eaglen, RCD: Time for the U.S. Military to Get Its Swagger Back

While the Pentagon’s new strategy is being released in 2018, it is more like the year 2000 on Capitol Hill with members itching for the maverick spirit of then-presidential candidate John McCain’s campaign bus, the Straight Talk Express.

The substance of the document is classified at the request of Capitol Hill, but there is a growing consensus about how to grade its success or failure. It is past time for a new National Defense Strategy that seeks to break the mold in honesty, clarity, conciseness, and fresh thinking. As an official articulation of Pentagon doctrine, this is an opportunity to mend the broken dialogue between the military and the government and people they serve.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: Too many commitments and missions. Not enough manpower and resources. No debate (at least publicly) on what should be America's priorities when it comes to national security. All of these factors result in this .... Mattis says US competitive warfighting edge has eroded (AP). Will the current administration put the U.S. military back on track is something that I do not know. But what I do know is that with the U.S. government now shut-down over the issue of immigration, chain migration, and what should be the status of people who entered the country illegally .... these discussions and decisions are not going to happen.

Naval Chiefs Of India, Australia, Japan And The U.S. Are Calling China A 'Disruptive Power'

Soldiers of China's People's Liberation Army stand on a ship sailing off from a military port in Zhanjiang, Guangdong province on July 11, 2017. © Reuters

Times Of India: 'China a disruptive power,' say navy chiefs of Quadrilateral nations

NEW DELHI: Naval chiefs of Quadrilateral nations - India, US, Australia Japan - on Thursday called China "a disruptive power" as they pushed for a new regional security architecture to face up to Beijing's aggressive designs.
"China is a disruptive, transitional force in the Indo-Pacific," US Pacific Commander Admiral Harry Harris said on the concluding day of Raisina Dialogue as he shared the dais with Indian navy chief Admiral Sunil Lanba, Australian navy Chief Vice Admiral Tim Barret and Admiral Katsutoshi Kawano, chief of staff, joint staff, Japan. For the first time, diplomatic representative from Indonesia was also present to dispel any impression that the 'Quad' was ganging up against China.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: I am sure that this sentiment is also being held by other Asian naval chiefs who were not at this meeting.

More News On The Naval Chiefs Of India, Australia, Japan And The U.S. Calling China A 'Disruptive Power'

China is a ‘disruptive power’, must be contained, say Naval chiefs of India, Australia, Japan and US -- Scroll
Japan's military chief warns on China naval expansion -- Nikkei Asian Review
US Pacific Military Chief Calls China a Disruptive Force -- VOA/Reuters
Japan, US, India, Australia naval officers meet -- NHK

China Has Accused The U.S. Of Violating Its Sovereignty After A U.S. Missile Destroyer Sailed Near A Contested Reef In The South China Sea

VOA: China Claims US Warship Violated Its Sovereignty

China has accused the United States of violating its sovereignty after a U.S. missile destroyer sailed near a disputed shoal in the South China Sea.

The USS Hopper sailed within 12 nautical miles (22 kilometers) of Huangyan Island, also known at Scarborough Shoal, on January 17.

China's Defense Ministry said in a statement that a Chinese frigate "immediately took actions to identify and verify the U.S. ship and drove it away by warning."

China seized Huangyan from the Philippines in 2012.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: This is the same reef that China seized from the Philippines 6 years ago.

More News On China Accusing The U.S. Of Violating Its Sovereignty After A U.S. Missile Destroyer Sailed Near A Contested Reef In The South China Sea

China accuses U.S. warship of violating its sovereignty -- Reuters
China says US warship violated sovereignty near Scarborough -- AP
China accuses U.S. of sailing warship near disputed Scarborough Shoal in South China Sea -- Japan Times
US destroyer sails near contested reef in South China Sea angering Beijing -- FOX News
Beijing pledges 'necessary measures' after US warship enters its contested South China Sea -- International Business Times
‘Sovereignty & security violation’: Beijing outraged by US warship sailing off disputed island -- RT
China 'warns off' US destroyer near South China Sea's strategic Scarborough Shoal -- South China Morning Post
Defense ministry warns US against "causing trouble out of nothing" -- Xinhua

Tweets For Today

This Is What A Nuclear Missile Attack On Hawaii Would Look Like

A rendering of a 200 kt nuclear missile strike on Hawaii, courtesy of the Nukemap tool. Nukemap / Alex Wellerstein

Defense One: What A Nuclear Missile Attack On Hawaii Would Look Like

A blast over Honolulu would be catastrophic. That doesn’t mean the government shouldn’t help the public prepare for one.

Minutes after the people of Hawaii received an emergency alert on their phones last week, they began calling loved ones to issue tearful goodbyes and putting their children in storm drains. This tells you that the government has a long way to go to better educate people about the realities of nuclear attack.

Hawaii, for all its beauty, is a relatively poor location to experience a nuclear strike. Its isolation offers little chance for swift evacuation and would likely complicate government efforts to provide medicine and food relief. Its prevailing high winds could have an unpredictable effect on the dispersal of radiation. Yet there is much that government officials could do that might reduce panic before a strike and hardship afterwards.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: The website "Nukemap" that measures the impact of a nuclear detonation can be viewed here.

Picture Of The Day

President Trump speaks during an interview with Reuters in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, April 27, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

WNU Editor: The above picture is from this photo-gallery .... Trump's first year in office (Reuters).

Will Russian President Putin Become A 'Lame Duck' After This Year's Presidential Election?

Mikhail Metzel / TASS

Konstantin Gaaze, Moscow Times: Between Night and Day: Who Will Control Putin's Fourth Term? (Op-ed)

The nighttime rulers of the regime are quietly challenging Putin’s role.

Over the last year, Russia’s ruling regime has worked a day shift and a night shift.

The public sees President Vladimir Putin by day, running the government and now running for reelection, meeting workers, launching rockets and receiving foreign dignitaries.

At the same time, the country has had a glimpse of its “government by night” with the trial of former economic development minister Alexei Ulyukayev, instigated by Putin’s close ally, Igor Sechin, and other instances of intimidation and force exercised by men in the shadows.

The daylight rulers of Russia pretend that either these creatures of the night do not exist, or else that they are only serving the interests of the legitimate government. But this process has become so familiar over the last eighteen years of Putin’s presidency that the nocturnal rulers may believe by now that they are the ones really running the country.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: Russia's Presidential election is this March, and Putin will be re-elected with about 60% of the vote. But unlike his past 3 terms where everyone deferred to him to keep Russia secured, he will be a lame duck in this term, and he is going to start facing an opposition that no longer are confident with his rule starting with this group .... US sanctions: Nervous Russian elite 'realize Putin made a serious mistake' (DW).

Friday, January 19, 2018

Is Chavismo Dead?

President Nicolas Maduro together with Socialist Party Vice-President Diosdado Cabello (R) next to a portrait of Hugo Chávez. (Jorge Silva / Reuters)

José R. Cárdenas, Foreign Policy: In 2018, Chavismo’s Time May Finally Run Out

U.S. policy toward Venezuela is changing — and so are political dynamics in Latin America.

Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro’s embattled regime ended a tumultuous 2017 by having to suppress renewed food riots resulting from the government’s failure to import sufficient supplies of pork leg, a traditional holiday staple. In one disturbance, a pregnant woman was shot dead by security forces on Christmas Eve.

Yet if 2017 ended poorly for Venezuela, 2018 is shaping up to be even worse.

Already, there have been new outbreaks of looting in the face of rampant shortages of food and basic goods. Inflation, which hit a reported 2,616 percent last year — the highest in the world — will continue to surge in 2018.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: Chavismo is "so dead" in Venezuela that the only ones who believe in it are those who benefit from it in the government/military/government corporations .... and from fellow-travelers overseas.