Sunday, December 31, 2017

The 5 Big National Security Challenges of 2018

Daniel R. DePetris, National Interest: Peace, War or Chaos?: The 5 Big National Security Challenges of 2018

Will North Korea conduct an atmospheric test? Will the frozen conflict in Ukraine turn hot? Daniel DePetris makes his predictions for 2018.

If, before Election Day 2016, you predicted Donald Trump would win the presidency, that a special counsel would be appointed to investigate potential collusion between Trump campaign officials and the Kremlin, and the U.S. military would take military action against the Syrian government, there’s a good chance that your family or friends would call you crazy. If you happened to add that provocateur Marine Le Pen would qualify for the French presidential runoff and that North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un would threaten to bombard the U.S. territory of Guam, your loved ones might have tried to arrange an appointment with a psychologist.

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WNU Editor: Trump firing Gen. John Nicholson is not going to happen .... being reassigned .... yes. Fired .... no. As for North Korea detonating a nuclear device in the Pacific .... if that happens, one can only imagine the outcry.

Happy New Year North Korean Style

Daily Mail: Now that's a COLD war! North Korea marks the New Year by showing off its nuclear ambitions with ice sculptures of an intercontinental ballistic missile

* Many of the isolated nation's citizens spent New Year's Eve at the Pyongyang Ice Sculpture Festival
* Visitors took pictures in front of large ice sculptures of Hwasong-15 intercontinental ballistic missile
* It comes after a former top US military officer said the United States is closer than it has ever been to a nuclear war with North Korea

North Korea marked the New Year in typically hostile fashion by showing off the country's nuclear ambitions - with ice.

Many of the isolated nation's citizens spent New Year's Eve at the Pyongyang Ice Sculpture Festival on Kim Il Sung Square.

There, visitors took pictures with sculptures inspired by North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's determination to build a nuclear arsenal.

Taking pride of place at the festival was aa massive - and phallic - ice sculpture depicting a Hwasong-15 intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).

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WNU Editor: Here is a good analysis on what could be 'North Korea's strategy to unify the peninsula .... Kim Jong-un’s strategy for a unified Korea (Stephen Bryen, Asia Times).

North Korean Leader Kim Jong-Un Says Nuclear Launch Button Is On His Desk To Hit All Of The U.S. Mainland With Its Nuclear Weapons

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un delivers a New Year message on Monday. (Yonhap)

Reuters: North Korea's Kim says nuclear weapons will prevent war with U.S.

SEOUL (Reuters) - North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said on Monday that the United States will never be able to start a war against North Korea now that his country has developed the capability to hit all of the U.S. mainland with its nuclear weapons.

“The entire United States is within range of our nuclear weapons, and a nuclear button is always on my desk. This is reality, not a threat,” Kim said during a televised New Year’s Day speech.

“This year we should focus on mass producing nuclear warheads and ballistic missiles for operational deployment,” Kim said. “These weapons will be used only if our security is threatened.”

North Korea tested intercontinental ballistic missiles and conducted its sixth and most powerful nuclear test in September in defiance of international warnings and sanctions, raising fears of a new conflict on the Korean peninsula.

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WNU Editor: A Happy New Year from North Korea.

More News On North Korea's Leader Saying That A Nuclear Launch Button Is On His Desk To Hit All Of The U.S. Mainland With Its Nuclear Weapons

Kim says US should know North Korean nuclear force a reality -- AP

Kim calls on North to mass-produce nukes, missiles -- AFP

Kim Jong Un Says Nuclear Button to Hit U.S. ‘Always on My Desk’ -- Bloomberg
Kim Jong Un Says He Has a Nuclear Launch Button on His Office Desk -- Wall Street Journal

Kim Jong-un threatens to mass produce nuclear weapons -- Korea Herald

Palestinian Authority Recalls It's US Envoy 'For Consultations'

The Independent: Palestinians recall US envoy 'for consultations' after Donald Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital

Leaders deciding on shape of future relationship with US

The Palestinian Authority has recalled its envoy to the US following Donald Trump‘s decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

The move will allow for “consultations” over leaders’ future relationship with the US.

Days of protests followed Mr Trump’s announcement, leading to arrests and a number of deaths.

Read more ....

More News On The Palestinian Authority Recalling Its US Envoy 'For Consultations'

Palestinians recall envoy to US -- BBC
Palestinians recall envoy to US for consultations after Jerusalem move -- AFP
Palestinians remove their envoy from Washington in protest after President Trump proclaims Jerusalem to be the capital of Israel and plans to move U.S. embassy there -- Daily Mail/AP
Palestine recalls U.S. envoy following Trump Jerusalem decision -- UPI

Unrest In Iran -- News Roundup December 31, 2017

Daily Mail: Iran blacks out social media as President Rouhani slams Trump in address to his nation after defiant protesters face water cannon and hundreds of arrests on the fourth day of demonstrations

* Rouhani hit back at Donald Trump saying he had called Iranians terrorists
* Trump supporting protesters 'but has no right to sympathise with Iranians'
* Iranian regime blocked Instagram and messaging app Telegram amid protests
* Comes after regime vowed protesters would 'pay the price' for causing unrest
* Despite clampdown on social media, protesters continue to take to the streets

Iran's president Hassan Rouhani has hit back at Donald Trump, saying the U.S President has no right sympathise with Iranians after calling them terrorists.

In his first public comments since the wave of anti-government protests began on Thursday, he also said people are free to criticise the government but their protests should not lead to violence.

The authorties in Iran have now blocked access to Instagram and the popular Telegram messaging app used by activists to organize and publicize the protests.

Read more ....

Unrest In Iran -- News Roundup December 31, 2017

Iran protests go on as social media apps blocked, 2 killed -- AP
Iran protesters rally again, defying warning of crackdown -- Reuters
Iran restricts social media as anti-government protests enter 4th day -- CNN
Protesters march again in Tehran as 200 arrested -- AFP
Iran warns of crackdown as 200 protesters arrested -- DW
Iran protests: Two killed, government limits social media -- UPI
Iran: government warns demonstrators if they don't stop -- Al Jazeera
Iranian regime vows protesters will 'pay the price' for three nights of unrest as it blames 'foreign agents' for shooting two demonstrators dead -- Daily Mail
Iran bans Instagram and Telegram, threatens crackdown against protesters as anger grows over economy, corruption -- ABC News Online
Rouhani acknowledges Iranian discontent as protests continue -- The Guardian
Iran protests: Citizens have right to criticise, not destroy - Rouhani -- BBC
Rouhani defends right to protest but rejects violence -- Al Jazeera
Iran's Rouhani rejects violence but vows 'space for criticism' -- AFP
Rouhani: Iranians have right to protest but must avoid violence -- Reuters
Iran blocks Instagram, Telegram after protests -- Al Jazeera
Protests in Iran fanned by exiled journalist, messaging app -- AP
What has brought Iranian protesters to the streets? -- Bozorgmehr Sharafedin, Reuters
Here's everything you need to know about the protests rocking Iran -- Business Insider
Iran unrest threatens Tehran's tyrants. Can protesters drive them out? -- James S. Robbins, USA TODAY

2017 Was A Bad Year For China

Douglas Bulloch, Forbes: 2017 Was A Bad Year For China. Will 2018 Be Worse?

It seems like a long time since China was routinely the source of good news. Growth rates remain impressive, but it is increasingly obvious that they are being bought at the cost of ever rising debt. Aside from that, there are routine announcements that indicate senior figures are trying to address a range of problems, and bold proclamations about China's ascendant place in the region, but these announcements now seem to raise many questions as once they merely raised expectations.

Warnings from the I.M.F. have started to resemble those from the B.I.S., while Moody's and S&P's have matched each other's pessimism over China's ability to get ahead of its ballooning debt without a dramatic correction. Optimists remain, of course, but explanations of exactly how China resolves its contradictory tensions between economic growth and rising debt are becoming less plausible as time passes.

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WNU Editor: China is now being seen by many in Asia as the "bully on the block", and Chinese reassurances that their behavior should not raise concerns is no longer believed. In short .... at least on the geopolitical level .... China has few if any friends.

Chinese President Xi Delivers New Year Speech Vowing To Implement Reforms In 2018

Chinese President Xi Jinping delivers a New Year speech to extend New Year greetings to all Chinese, and best wishes to friends all over the world, in Beijing, capital of China, Dec. 31, 2017. (Xinhua)

Xinhua: China Focus: President Xi delivers New Year speech vowing resolute reform in 2018

BEIJING, Dec. 31 (Xinhua) -- Chinese President Xi Jinping Sunday delivered a New Year speech, vowing that China would resolutely carry out reform in 2018.

"We will take the opportunity of celebrating the 40th anniversary of the reform and opening-up in 2018 to further carry out reform, as reform and opening-up is the path we must take to make progress in contemporary China and to realize the Chinese dream," Xi said.

He cited a Chinese adage, saying that the Chinese people would "cut paths through mountains, and build bridges across rivers" to move forward on reform.

He extended New Year greetings to all Chinese, and best wishes to friends all over the world.

Read more ....

More News On Chinese President Xi Delivering His New Year Speech

Chinese President Xi Jinping delivers 2018 New Year speech --
Xi ushers in new year with vow to push on with reform -- Asia Times
Xi Jinping bids farewell to 2017 with New Year's Eve pledge to defend international rules -- South China Morning Post
China's Xi vows to support UN, boost living standards -- Daily Mail/AFP
China will have a 'say' on all major international issues, says Xi Jinping in New Year message -- Times of India

Former Chairman To The Joint Chiefs Of Staff: U.S. And North Korea Are Closer To A Nuclear War 'Than We Have Ever Been'

CNN: Former Joint Chiefs chairman: Nuclear war with North Korea closer than ever

The United States is "closer to a nuclear war with North Korea" than ever before, Adm. Mike Mullen, a former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Sunday, adding that he does not "see the opportunities to solve this diplomatically at this particular point."

In an interview on ABC's "This Week," Mullen warned that President Donald Trump's provocative rhetoric aimed at North Korean leader Kim Jong Un likely indicates he would prefer to take a more aggressive approach to countering the rogue regime's rapidly evolving nuclear weapons program.

Read more ....

More News On (Ret.) Admiral Mike Mullen's Remarks That The U.S. And North Korea Are Closer To A Nuclear War 'Than We Have Ever Been'

US closer to 'nuclear war with North Korea' than ever before: Former Joint Chiefs head -- ABC News
Mullen: We're closer to a nuclear war with North Korea than ever before -- The Hill
Former Joint Chiefs head says the U.S. and North Korea are closer to a nuclear war 'than we have ever been -- Daily Mail
Mullen: Threat of nuclear war with North Korea heightened -- Politico
North Korea Threat: Nuclear War With US Closer Than Ever, Retired Admiral Says -- Newsweek
Nuclear War With North Korea Closer Than Ever, Official Says -- International Business Times

350 Million Latin American Voters Go To The Polls To Elect Their Leaders In 2018

The Guardian: More than 350 million Latin American voters to elect new leaders in 2018

Brazil, Colombia, Mexico, Venezuela, Costa Rica and Paraguay will elect new presidents in what could be a popular reaction against corruption.

The anti-establishment tide that has swept much of the world is set to break over Latin America in 2018. Some 350 million voters are due to head to the polls in Brazil, Colombia, Mexico, Venezuela, Costa Rica and Paraguay to elect new presidents – and in several cases, potentially slam a defibrillator into their ailing political systems.

“Attempting to understand or interpret the elections for what they mean in a left-right swing would be a mistake,” said Christopher Sabatini, a Latin America expert at Columbia University. “What we are more likely to see is more popular reaction against corruption.”

Seizing the headlines in July will be Mexico, where Andrés Manuel López Obrador, the perennial candidate of the left, will face off against José Antonio Meade, the technocratic successor to Enrique Peña Nieto. Few will miss the incumbent, whose term of office has been stained by a failure to rein in the country’s soaring murder rate, and pervasive corruption – in which the presidential couple themselves have been implicated.

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WNU Editor: Mexico and Brazil are the two elections that I will be watching.

What To Expect From Russia In 2018

Russian President Vladimir Putin (RT photo / Semyon Khorunzhy)

Shaun Walker, The Guardian: Russia in 2018: Putin's re-election and a World Cup, but what else?

The president seems certain to be re-elected in March, but the manner of his win will influence how the year develops.

Barring severe illness or the most extraordinary electoral upset of the 21st century, Vladimir Putin will end 2018 in the Kremlin, having won a new six-year mandate in March elections that will take his rule over Russia to 2024.

Even if the result is in little doubt, the manner of Putin’s victory will influence how the year develops. With no real opposition candidates taking part, victory is ensured but the Kremlin is worried about turnout, as political apathy grows, and a low one would ring alarm bells.

The one opposition politician running a real campaign, Alexei Navalny, has been barred from the ballot, and the Kremlin will be doing everything to ensure he does not “mar” the victory with calls to boycott the vote and for nationwide protests.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: For Russians the number one priority is the economy and sanctions. This has always been Russian President Putin's Achilles Heel, and it will be in 2018. And while I do expect him to win the Presidential election in March .... after-all there are no real opposition candidates on the ballot .... the turnout is going to be low. Russian social media is also a barometer on what is the political mood in the country, and from what I am reading the mood is decidedly negative. People want change, and they do not see Putin delivering it. In short .... Putin has become yesterday's candidate. The other issues that concerns Russians is the war in Ukraine, Russia's involvement in the war in Syria, terrorism, chilly relations with many European countries, and the continuation of hostile relations with the U.S. .... though many do give President Trump the benefit of the doubt that this is not his doing. North Korea, China, the Afghan war, climate change,  .... for most Russians these are issues that do not concern them.

Emerging Technological Threats In 2017

Bulletin Of The Atomic Scientists: Neuro, cyber, slaughter: Emerging technological threats in 2017

Nuclear weapons have threatened humanity for more than 70 years. Anthropogenic climate change, though largely unrecognized until recent decades, had its beginnings in the 19th century. Wouldn’t it be nice if advances in technology stopped throwing new problems at the world? No such luck. Several emerging technological threats could—soon enough—come to rival nuclear weapons and climate change in their potential to upend (or eliminate) civilization.

In 2017, the cyber threat began to seem very serious and real. Experts in artificial intelligence pounded an ominous drumbeat about decision-making weapons and bloodless machines with superbrains. Researchers in biotechnology reported that advances in their field could lead to the deliberate, efficient spread of disease, among a host of mind-boggling dangers. Such thoughts aren’t very cheery this holiday season. But when it comes to treating emerging threats as seriously as their more established cousins, no time beats the present. The Bulletin’s work is to reveal where danger lurks and illuminate paths to safety. In 2017, the articles listed below cast a powerful light.

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WNU Editor: The development of “Slaughterbots” is one of those under-reported stories that the above post fortunately examines.

China’s Underwater Surveillance Network Is Now Operational

Chinese Navy submarines and warships take part in an international fleet review to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People's Liberation Army Navy in Qingdao, Shandong province, April 23, 2009. Guang Niu/Pool/Reuters

SCMP: China’s underwater surveillance network puts enemies in focus along maritime Silk Road

Hi-tech system will help Beijing protect its growing network of interests and investments from the South China Sea to the Indian Ocean, experts say.

A new underwater surveillance network is expected to help China’s submarines get a stronger lock on targets while protecting the nation’s interests along the maritime Silk Road, from the Korean peninsula to the east coast of Africa.

The system, which has already been launched, works by gathering information about the underwater environment, particularly water temperature and salinity, which the navy can then use to more accurately track enemy vessels as well as improve navigation and positioning.

The project, led by the South China Sea Institute of Oceanology under the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), is part of an unprecedented military expansion fuelled by Beijing’s desire to challenge the United States in the world’s oceans.

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WNU Editor: The Chinese are admitting that this is just a start to a bigger system .... “We have made just a small step in a long march”.

What Is The Risk For War On The Korean Peninsula In 2018?

The DMZ (YouTube)

Christopher Woolf, USA Today/PRI: The risks of war with North Korea in 2018

One of the most serious issues of 2017 has been what to do about North Korea.

In September, Kim Jong Un's regime tested a large nuclear weapon underground, claiming it was a hydrogen bomb.

North Korea also demonstrated this year that it has the missile technology to deliver its warheads pretty much anywhere in the world.

Kim’s regime in Pyongyang has also deployed inflammatory rhetoric, even threatening to bracket the U.S. territory of Guam with missiles.

The Trump administration has responded with threats of its own, raising fears of a war in Northeast Asia.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: I do not see North Korea initiating hostilities in 2018 .... and if they do, it will be because of sanctions. But because the newest round of sanctions will not truly take effect until two years ago .... there is a window for discussions, and I predict that the North Koreans will take it when they are finally pushed against the wall. I also do not see the South Korean government giving the green-light to launch military strikes against North Korea's nuclear sites anytime soon. Bottom line .... there is going to be no war on the Korean Peninsula this year. But there is going to be a lot of rhetoric and threats.

The U.S. Army Moves To Upgrade And Standardize Its Robot Army

Scout Warrior: Army Upgrades Fleet of War Robots

The Army is transforming its fleet of transportable robots to a common set of standards to expedite modernization, interoperability, autonomy and mission.

The Army is transforming its fleet of transportable robots to a common set of standards to expedite modernization, interoperability, autonomy and mission flexibility.

During the last decade and a half of ground wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Army acquired and fast-tracked as many as 7,000 unique robotic systems in an effort to keep pace with the emerging threat of enemy IEDs.

Building upon these developments, which included the deployment of multiple transportable cave- and road-clearing robots, the service now seeks to architect design a common fleet with a single robotic chassis configurable to a wide range of varying missions, Bryan McVeigh, the Army's project manager for Force Projection, said in a service statement.

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WNU Editor: The U.S. Army move to standardize its fleet of robots is long overdue. Having 7,000 unique robotic systems in your inventory makes it next to impossible to organize and operate what you have.

The Pentagon Is Using Artificial Iintelligence In The Fight Against ISIS

CNN: The Pentagon is using AI to fight ISIS but it's not quite the 'Terminator'

Conversations about the military use of artificial intelligence usually bring to mind the "Terminator" movies, where a super-intelligent AI turns evil and tries to destroy humanity. This month, the US Defense Department announced that it has indeed taken a major step toward regular use of artificial intelligence, but it's a far cry from the Terminator approach.

This December, the Pentagon revealed that it has completed its crash program to bring state-of-the-art artificial intelligence technology to America's military. Project Maven, which the DOD began funding in June, has operationally deployed its AI system to the fight against ISIS in the Middle East. This marks the first time that the military has fielded an advanced AI system using deep learning and neural networks. Its mission? Monitor the video feeds from tactical unmanned aerial vehicles -- better known as drones.

Read more ....

WNI Editor: Here is some more information on the Pentagon's Artificial Intelligence program known as Maven .... What is Project Maven? The Pentagon's new AI is hunting terrorists in the wild (International Business Times).

Global Military and Political Trends That Will Shape 2018

South Front: Military and Political Trends Of 2017 That Will Shape 2018

2017 presented the world with a number of crises, among which were the continued wars in the Middle Ease and the spread of terrorism, the humanitarian crises in Africa and Asia, the rising military tensions over North Korea’s missile and nuclear programs, and the militarization of both the South China Sea and eastern Europe. Throughout the past year regional and global powers have repeatedly been on the verge of open military conflict, any of which may yet still lead to large regional wars.

In the Middle East the war on ISIS, the Iran nuclear deal, the crisis in Lebanon, and Israeli-Arab tensions took center stage.

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WNU Editor: A long but comprehensive read.

Social Media Giants In UK Told To Help Fight Extremism Or Face Massive Tax Increases

Reuters: UK may use taxes to get tech giants to do more to fight extremism, minister says

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain may impose new taxes on tech giants like Google and Facebook unless they do more to combat online extremism by taking down material aimed at radicalizing people or helping them to prepare attacks, the country’s security minister said.

Ben Wallace accused tech firms of being happy to sell people’s data but not to give it to the government which was being forced to spend vast sums on de-radicalization programs, surveillance and other counter-terrorism measures.

“If they continue to be less than co-operative, we should look at things like tax as a way of incentivizing them or compen­sating for their inaction,” Wallace told the Sunday Times newspaper in an interview.

Read more ....

More News On Tech Companies In The UK Being Told To Help Fight Extremism Or Be Faced With  Massive Tax Increases

Call for tech giants to face taxes over extremist content -- BBC
Fight extremism or face UK tax penalty, social media companies told -- The Guardian/Press Association
Web giants could be hit with major new tax if they fail to help in the fight against terror, minister warns -- The Independent
UK threatens to tax 'ruthless profiteers' Facebook and Google if they don't do more to combat extremism -- Business Insider
UK government threatens to tax tech giants over extremism -- The National
Internet giants told to help fight terror or face tax pain -- The Australian

South Korea Seizes A Second Ship That Is Suspected Of Violating Sanctions On North Korea

Reuters: South Korea seizes second ship suspected of providing oil to North Korea

SEOUL (Reuters) - South Korean authorities have seized a Panama-flagged vessel suspected of transferring oil products to North Korea in violation of international sanctions, a customs official said on Sunday.

The seizure was the second to be revealed by South Korea within a few days, as the United Nations steps up efforts to squeeze essential oil supplies to the reclusive North following its nuclear or ballistic missile tests.

The ship, KOTI, was seized at Pyeongtaek-Dangjin port, the official told Reuters, without elaborating, due to the sensitivity of the issue. The port is on the west coast, south of Incheon.

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WNU Editor: With this second seizure, the South Koreans are clearly telling everyone that they are serious when it comes to sanctions enforcement.

More News On South Korea Seizing A Second Ship Suspected Of Violating Sanctions On North Korea

South Korea seizes second ship amid North Korea sanctions row -- CNN
South Korea Said to Seize Ship Suspected of Oil Transfers -- Bloomberg
North Korea: South seizes second ship in oil supply row -- BBC News
South Korea seizes 2nd ship suspected of oil trade with North -- RT

The New York Times Has A Different Take On How The Russia Probe Began

Papadopoulos, second from left. Photo: realdonaldtrump/Instagram

New York Times: How the Russia Inquiry Began: A Campaign Aide, Drinks and Talk of Political Dirt

WASHINGTON — During a night of heavy drinking at an upscale London bar in May 2016, George Papadopoulos, a young foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign, made a startling revelation to Australia’s top diplomat in Britain: Russia had political dirt on Hillary Clinton.

About three weeks earlier, Mr. Papadopoulos had been told that Moscow had thousands of emails that would embarrass Mrs. Clinton, apparently stolen in an effort to try to damage her campaign.

Exactly how much Mr. Papadopoulos said that night at the Kensington Wine Rooms with the Australian, Alexander Downer, is unclear. But two months later, when leaked Democratic emails began appearing online, Australian officials passed the information about Mr. Papadopoulos to their American counterparts, according to four current and former American and foreign officials with direct knowledge of the Australians’ role.

The hacking and the revelation that a member of the Trump campaign may have had inside information about it were driving factors that led the F.B.I. to open an investigation in July 2016 into Russia’s attempts to disrupt the election and whether any of President Trump’s associates conspired.

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WNU Editor: According to the New York Times .... a young foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign (George Papadopoulos) gets drunk with a top Australian diplomat in London and tells this diplomat that the Russians had political dirt on Hillary Clinton. This Australian diplomat then tells his superiors, who in turn tell U.S. officials thereby prompting this FBI investigation. The problem with this New York Times story is that they are reporting that this meeting occurred in May 2016, but everyone already knew a month before that Hillary Clinton's personal server was compromised, and that her information was probably stolen .... Source: No 'coincidence' Romanian hacker Guccifer extradited amid Clinton probe (FOX News). George Papadopoulos was telling this diplomat nothing new .... he was only saying what many were already saying at the time that Hillary Clinton's emails may have been stolen. Byron York has also noticed another problem with this New Your Time's Story ....

More News On The The New York Times Report On How The Russia Probe Began

We now know the tipping point that prompted the FBI to launch its Trump-Russia investigation -- Business Insider
FBI's Donald Trump Russia probe was 'sparked by drink in London wine bar' -- The Telegraph
Australian diplomat's tip led to Trump Russia probe: US paper -- DW
Australian diplomat's tip a factor in FBI's Russia probe -- FOX News
George Papadopoulos’ drunken boasts of Hillary Clinton dirt from Russians prompted FBI probe -- New York Daily News

The U.S. Air Force Has Still Not Approved Plans To Replace The A-10

A-10s take part in an "Elephant Walk" exercise at Osan Air Base in South Korea in 2016. USAF

The Warzone/The Drive: A-10 Replacement Requirements Do Actually Exist But They're Mired In Bureaucratic Limbo

The service doesn't have formally announced plans for an A-10 replacement, but it still hasn't officially rejected the idea either.

The Secretary of the Air Force, Heather Wilson, recently offered some unusually strong support for the A-10 Warthog, going so far as to say she is a "fan" of a plane her service has been looking for ways to retire for decades. This might be because she knows that, at least as of yet, there is still no formal requirement for a dedicated replacement close air support-focused aircraft or clear conclusions about how to otherwise provide a similar capability in the future.

In a letter dated December 12, 2017, the Office of the Secretary of the Air Force denied a Freedom of Information Act Request related to the replacement of the A-10, but was still compelled to offer significant new details in order to justify the decision. The missive both confirmed that the Air Force had put together a set of draft requirements for a notional "A-X" aircraft to replace the A-10, but did not formalize them, and that the service still has yet to make a final decision on what to do with that documentation at all.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: The A-10 will eventually be replaced .... but this new plane will have a tough act to follow.

New Years Celebrations Begin Around The World

Update: And so it begins .... Revelers around the world ring in 2018, say bye to the old (AP).

WNU Editor: Blogging will be on and off for the next two days. I just want to take the opportunity to say Happy New Years to everyone. All of you have been awesome, and while we may disagree once in a while, there is far more that binds us together than separates us. This has been an incredible year, and I suspect that 2018 will not disappoint. 

It's Cold Out There

WNU Editor: I am at my chalet in the Laurentians in Quebec. Just checked the thermostat outside .... -29C right now. The forecast for tonight's New Years celebrations is -33C .... with the windchill around -40C. Hmmm .... yup .... we are going to celebrate indoors.

Here Are The Twitter Hashtags That Are Covering The Iranian Unrest

WNU Editor: Should have done this earlier, but here are the Twitter Hashtags that are extensively covering the unrest in Iran.


Tweets For Today

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Picture Of The Day

An Iranian woman escapes tear gas during the unrest at the University of Tehran as students joined in the country's ongoing protests

WNU Editor: The above picture is from this link .... A picture of defiance: Iranian woman protester raises her fist amid a cloud of choking tear gas in Tehran after mullahs launch violent crackdown and order counter rallies by loyalists on third day of demonstrations against hardline regime (Daily Mail).

U.S. Army General’s Promotion Pulled Because He Called A Congressional Staffer ‘Sweetheart’

Photo: Maj. Gen. Ryan Gonsalves. DVIDS

Task & Purpose/Stars and Stripes: Army General’s Promotion Pulled After Calling Congressional Staffer ‘Sweetheart’

Maj. Gen. Ryan Gonsalves’ nomination for a third star has been pulled in the wake of an Army Inspector General’s probe that found he disrespected a female congressional staffer when he called her “sweetheart.”

A report of the investigation into the incident was provided Friday to Stars and Stripes and determined the “preponderance of the evidence” indicated Gonsalves referred to the staffer as “sweetheart” during an October 2016 meeting.

As a result, Gonsalves violated Army Command Policy, which requires treating others with “dignity and respect,” the investigation concluded. The IG recommend the report be referred to the Judge Advocate General for “appropriate action.”

Read more ....

WNU Editor: There has to be more to this story. My GF always calls me "Sweetheart" or "Honey" .... and I recognize it for what it is .... enduring terms from her generation. But to be denied a third star after faithfully serving for years because you called a staffer "sweetheart" in what was probably a tense meeting .... as I said .... there has got to be more to this story than what they are telling us.

Half of Puerto Rico Remains Without Power 100 Days After Hurricane Maria

A car drives under downed power lines. Ricardo Arduengo for NBC News

Time: Anger Grows as Half of Puerto Rico Remains Without Power Months After Hurricane

(SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico) — The revelation that more than 660,000 power customers across Puerto Rico still lack electricity more than three months after Hurricane Maria has sparked outrage, surprise and resignation among some islanders who accuse officials of mismanaging their response to the Category 4 storm.

It’s the first time the government of the U.S. territory has provided that statistic, which was released as authorities warned that a lot of work remains and that crews were still finding unexpected damage after Maria hit on Sept. 20 with winds of up to 154 mph, knocking power out to the entire island. Officials said 55 percent of Puerto Rico’s nearly 1.5 million customers have power.

Read more ....

Update #1: Puerto Rico: Power restored to 55% of customers, governor's office says (CNN)
Update #2: Anger grows and hope fades as Puerto Rico’s ground zero remains without power (NBC)

WNU Editor: 55% electricity restored after 100 days is actually quite an accomplishment in view of the damage that was done to the grid when Hurricane Maria hit. And while this is no comfort for those who still do not have power, the sad fact is that it is going to take probably another 4 - 6 months before everything is restored.

How Is Trump Inc. Doing?

Trump Hotels

Daily Beast: Trump Inc. Had a Rough Year, but His D.C. Hotel Is Killing It

Other Trump properties are pulling down the president’s name. But near the White House, it’s as good as gold.

For a host of Trump-branded properties, 2017 brought...hiccups.

Workers removed the “TRUMP” sign from the hotel formerly known as TRUMP SOHO last week in the dark of night. The move came six months after the hotel formerly known as Trump International Hotel and Tower Toronto reportedly paid the Trump Organization upwards of $6 million to get out of their contract and rebrand as The Adelaide.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: When Hurricane Maria hit Florida this fall my cousin and her daughter (the daughter lives in Miami) left the state and stayed for three days at the Trump Hotel in DC. I asked them on what were their impressions. Their answer .... it was expensive, but the hotel exceeded their expectations.

CNN's Legal Analyst Believes President Trump Is Right About The FBI

Paul Callan, CNN: Trump is right about the FBI

The ferocity of President Donald Trump's recent attacks on the integrity of the FBI has sent shock waves through an agency accustomed to public adulation in recent years. Sadly, much of the presidential criticism of the bureau may be entirely legitimate.

The FBI has traditionally enjoyed a highly favorable reputation among a majority of the nation's citizens. Despite controversial programs that sometimes employed illegal forms of surveillance and enforcement methods -- such as those used on black citizens lawfully protesting racial segregation, individuals in the "red scare" of the 1950s and long-haired students and others protesting the war in Vietnam during the 1960s and '70s -- this reputation endured.

And American presidents continued to steadfastly defend the bureau -- that is, until now.

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WNU Editor: The Justice Department's inspector general's report on the FBI is coming out in a few months .... it is only then that we will know if President Trumps' criticisms of the FBI leadership have been justified.

Update: Speaking of the FBI .... this does not make former FBI Director Comey look good .... Jailed pervert Anthony Weiner had CLASSIFIED emails belonging to wife Huma Abedin on his laptop – which the FBI seized after he sexted 15-year-old girl (Daily Mail). This release appears to show violations in the handling of classified material .... so why did the former FBI Director say that there were no violations?

Why Has The U.S. Media Been Slow To Cover The Growing Unrest In Iran?

Lee Smith, Tablet: Why Can’t the American Media Cover the Protests in Iran?

Because they have lost the ability to cover real news when it happens

As widespread anti-regime protests in Iran continue on into their third day, American news audiences are starting to wonder why the US media has devoted so little coverage to such dramatic—and possibly history-making—events. Ordinary people are taking their lives in their hands to voice their outrage at the crimes of an obscurantist regime that has repressed them since 1979, and which attacks and shoots dead them in the streets. So why aren’t the protests in Iran making headlines?

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WNU Editor: The above writer is no friend of the Iran regime and he is definitely not a supporter of President Obama's policy of outreach to the mullahs. But he does have a point on how slow and sloppy the U.S. news media has been on this story. And even today .... after 3 days of protests .... the international news media is still the place to go for in-depth stories and analysis on what is happening in Iran. And note his explanation on why this is the case ....

.... Networks like like CNN and MSNBC which have gambled their remaining resources and prestige on a #Resist business model are in even deeper trouble. Providing media therapy for a relatively large audience apparently keen to waste hours staring at a white truck obscuring the country club where Donald Trump is playing golf is their entire business model—a Hail Mary pass from a business that had nearly been eaten alive by Facebook and Google. First down! So it doesn’t matter how many dumb Trump-Russia stories the networks, or the Washington Post, or the New Yorker get wrong, as long as viewership and subscriptions are up—right? 

The problem, of course, is that the places that have obsessively run those stories for the past year aren’t really news outfits—not anymore. They are in the aromatherapy business. And the karmic sooth-sayers and yogic flyers and mid-level political operators they employ as “experts” and “reporters” simply aren’t capable of covering actual news stories, because that is not part of their skill-set.

Update: Yup .... CNN's coverage has been lacking .... Why Does CNN Maintain a Twitter Blackout on This Major Event? (Red State).

Update #2: So true ....

.... Anyone on Twitter could click #IranProtests and view videos and eyewitness accounts that contradicted much of Western media’s early reporting about these protests being simply about economic anxiety as was the case with The New York Times and Washington Post. ....

.... (Iran's protests are powerful and real. Why are mainstream media outlets so hesitant to report on them?, FOX News).

Will President Trump Help Or Hurt The Growing Unrest In Iran?

Iranwire/Daily Beast: Unrest In Iran -- Surprise Protests Spread in Iran With Unpredictable Consequences. Will Trump Help or Hurt Their Cause?

Demonstrations started in Mashad, then the religious center, Qom, and other cities. On Saturday they began in Tehran, and the response could be increasingly violent.

Protests have erupted all over Iran, and the Trump administration is claiming vindication for its tough talk about the regime there.

"The Iranian government should respect their people's rights, including their right to express themselves. The world is watching," White House spokesperson Sarah Sanders warned Friday on Twitter. She was following Heather Nauert at the State Department, who wrote in a tweet, "The U.S. strongly condemns [the] arrest of peaceful protestors" and urged "all nations to publicly support [the] Iranian people," citing U.S. President Donald Trump's recent statement that "the longest-suffering victims of Iran's leaders are Iran's own people."

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WNU Editor: This unrest is primarily due to hard times and failed promises coupled with the perception that corruption is now the rule rather than the exception in Iran. U.S. policy is not at play in this unrest .... but U.S. support for those who want to change the status quo should continue. It does help the morale for those who want to change it.

Unrest In Iran -- News Roundup December 31, 2017

Daily Mail: 'Death to the Ayatollah': Iranian protests get bloody as two demonstrators are 'shot dead' after angry crowds burn down a government building and torch cars while thousands take to streets to call for revolution in biggest revolt since 2009

* Protests spreading across Iran at night after earlier clashes at Tehran University
* Video appears to show two young men shot dead in the western city of Dorud
* Government offices set fire to, Supreme Leader's picture pulled down by crowd
* Donald Trump tweeted speech in which he said oppressive regimes can't last

A videos posted on social media appeared to show two young Iranian men lying motionless on the ground and covered with blood and a voiceover said they had been shot dead by police.

It claimed security forces fired on protesters in the western town of Dorud and killed at least two as other protesters in the same video were chanting, 'I will kill whoever killed my brother!'.

Other videos showed protesters setting fire to a government office in the city of Khorramabad while in the capital Tehran, demonstrators were filmed tearing down a picture of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

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Unrest In Iran -- News Roundup December 31, 2017

The Latest: Trump ups show of support for Iranian protesters -- AP
Protests hit Tehran, two demonstrators reported killed in Iran town -- Reuters
New economic protests in Tehran challenge Iran’s government -- AP
Iran protests: Violence on third day of demonstrations -- BBC
Iranians chant ‘death to dictator’ in biggest unrest since crushing of protests in 2009 -- The Guardian
Iran rocked by third day of protests -- DW
Iran's anti-regime protests enter third day, turn deadly, as thousands rally for and against Government -- ABC News Online
Iran protests: Third day of anti-government rallies -- Al Jazeera‘West focuses only on anti-govt rallies’: Thousands protest for & against authorities in Iran -- RT
Why are people protesting in Iran? -- Al Jazeera
What's at play in Iranian protests? -- CNN

With Protests Spreading Iran Has Just Shut Down It's Internet

Iranian cities hit by protests
Map of Iran locating the main cities hit by protests (AFP Photo/Alain BOMMENEL)

Times Of Israel/AFP: Iran blocks internet, may shut down Telegram app as protests spread

Anti-regime demonstrators attack town hall in Tehran, burn Iranian flag; 3 said shot dead in central Iran by Revolutionary Guards.

Demonstrators attacked a town hall in the Iranian capital Saturday as protests spilled into a third night despite government warnings against any further “illegal gatherings” and moves to cut off the internet on mobile phones.

Unverified videos on social media appeared to show thousands marching through the western cities of Khorramabad, Zanjan and Ahvaz, while reports spread rapidly that several people had been shot dead by police in the town of Dorud. According to Al-Arabiya, three Iranian protesters were killed by the Revolutionary Guards in the central Iran town.

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Update #1: Iran cuts off internet access in several cities as mass protests continue (Al Arabiya)
Update #2: Iran blocks internet on third night as protests grow deadly (Middle East Eye)
Update #3: Iran blocks internet on third night of protests (AFP)

WNU Editor: If a government has to shut down the communications network because of growing protests .... it tells me that they are afraid of losing control of the situation.

Here Are Five Major Weapon Systems That Arrived In 2017

File picture of Russian anti-ship missile

Michael Peck, National Interest: Game Changers: 5 Killer Military Weapons That Arrived in 2017

2017 was not a happy year for the world, but it was certainly a good year for weapons. Here are the five most interesting weapons of the last year:

The Long Range Anti-Ship Missile

When it comes to anti-ship missiles, the United States has always been behind Russia. The Soviet Union and now Russia have been fielding them since the 1950s, and Russia and China have numerous models in use, as well as upcoming hypersonic weapons. America, meanwhile, is still using the venerable and short-ranged Harpoon from the 1970s. The new Long Range Anti Ship Missile, or LRASM, should even the odds. The LRASM, which will launched from ships and aircraft, has a range of more than 200 miles compared to seventy for the Harpoon, packs a 1,000 pound–warhead, and is designed to be stealthy to enemy radar. This year, Lockheed Martin was awarded an $86.5 million contract to build the first twenty-three regular production missiles for launch from B-1 bombers and F-18 fighters. While the U.S. Navy's offensive punch has long tended to be airpower, the LRASM will go a long toward restoring the potency of the navy's surface warships.

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WNU Editor: It looks like the Russians have developed some effective weapon platforms that when used can seriously damage the U.S. Navy.

What Would A War Between The United States And China Look Like If North Korea Is The Reason For Such A Conflict?

Robert Farley, National Interest: China Could Wage a Bloody War to Save North Korea (and It Could Go Nuclear)

Three years ago I outlined what the contours of a war between China and the United States might look like. Although disagreements between Washington and Beijing over Taiwan and the South China Sea have hardly subsided, it increasingly appears that affairs on the Korean Peninsula would provide the spark for conflict. If the tense situation in Korea led to war between the United States and China, how would the conflict start? Who would have the advantage? And how would it end?

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WNU Editor: Robert Farley's analysis is a good one, but he does not put much attention on the the nuclear option. I personally believe that if North Korea and/or China used nuclear weapons while fighting U.S. and South Korean forces .... this would quickly escalate into a major nuclear exchange. The time frame from the first use of a nuclear weapon to a full exchange could be measured in hours. Bottom line .... the Chinese need to be made aware that in the event of war on the Korean Peninsula, the biggest loser will be China (after North and South Korea).

Update: Here are some of the weapons that could come into play if there is a war on the Korean Peninsula .... If War With North Korea Comes, What Are the U.S. Military's Most Powerful Weapons? (Newsweek).

Are China's Generals Conspiring To 'Remove' Chinese President Xi?

General Zhang Yang in 2014. Reuters

Don Tse, The Diplomat: The Mysterious Death of a Chinese General

What Zhang Yang’s suicide reveals about Xi Jinping’s political situation.

General Zhang Yang, the former Political Work Department director of the Central Military Commission (CMC), hanged himself at home on November 25, according to a state media announcement in late November. Zhang became the highest-ranking Chinese official to commit suicide since Xi Jinping launched the anti-corruption campaign in 2013. On December 27, the National People’s Congress posthumously terminated Zhang’s membership to the Chinese legislature.

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Previous Post: Former Top Chinese General Commits Suicide Over Corruption Probe (November 28, 2017)

WNU Editor: Don Tse is asking the right questions in the above analysis .... but absent any evidence, his conclusions are just his opinions. As to what is my take. The mysterious death of a former senior Chinese General does not happen in the manner that it happened to General Zhang. There is a lot more at play right now, and my gut is telling me that opposition to Chinese President Xi is probably more deeper than what has been acknowledged by the Chinese government and the press.

Australian Defence Forces On Heightened Alert During Russian Military Exercises In Indonesia

Russia's Tu-95 turboprop-powered strategic bombers and missile carriers are nuclear-capable. Photo: AFP

ABC News Online: Australian Defence Force on heightened alert during Russian military exercise in Indonesia

Defence personnel in Darwin were operating at "increased readiness" earlier this month as Russian strategic bombers conducted navigation exercises close to Australia, flying out of an Indonesian military base.

The ABC can reveal RAAF Base Darwin was placed on a "short period" of heightened alert, while over 100 Russian personnel and several aircraft were stationed at the Biak Airbase in Indonesia's eastern Papua province.

During the five-day stopover two nuclear-capable Tu-95 bombers flew their first ever patrol mission over the South Pacific, prompting concerns they may have been collecting valuable intelligence.

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More News On Australian Defence Forces On Heightened Alert During Russian Military Exercises In Indonesia

Russian Nuclear-Capable Bomber Exercise Prompts Australian Air Force Alert as Putin Extends Pacific Reach -- Newsweek
Australian air force put on alert after Russian long-range bombers headed south -- The Guardian
Australian air force put on alert amid Russian bomber operation -- The Independent
ADF in 'increased readiness' following Russian military exercise --

Russia Says Japan’s Purchase Of New Missile Defence Network Violates Treaties

CC BY 2.0 / U.S. Missile Defense Agency / Aegis Ashore Russia says Japan’s purchase of new missile defence network is in violation of treaties

RUSSIA has attacked one country’s plans to construct a new missile defence system in the face of North Korean aggression.

A DECISION by Japan to deploy a US-designed missile defence system will damage Moscow’s relations with Tokyo, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova says.

It is also a breach by Washington of a landmark arms control treaty, she warns.

But Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has called the North Korean missile threat a “national crisis”, winning public support for new military roles and equipment that used to be taboo under Japan’s strictly self-defence-only policy.

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More News On Russia's Reaction To Japan’s Purchase Of New Missile Defence Network

Russia slams US plan to sell anti-missile system to Japan -- CNN
Russia upset as Japan looks to US-made Aegis land system to destroy North Korean missiles -- CNBC
Russia says Tokyo's deployment of US missiles a blow to relations and will impact peace treaty negotiations -- The Japan Times
Russia to Take Into Account US Missile Defense System Deployment in Japan -- Sputnik
Russia warns ties with Japan to be affected by deployment of US missile defense systems -- RT
Russian military planning to mind missile defense systems’ deployment in Japan - diplomat -- TASS
Russia Opposes Japan's Decision to Deploy Aegis Ashore -- The Diplomat

What Should U.S. Civilians Do In The Event Of A Major War?

Civilians run in panic after coalition aerial bombardment hit ISIL positions in Mosul, Iraq [Reuters]

Elisabeth Braw, Defense One: When the War Comes, What Should We Civilians Do?

The military can’t do it all. The US needs a national civilian emergency corps, trained and ready to help in case of the next disaster, be it cyber, nuclear, or natural.

Imagine this. Yesterday, Russian warships cut several of the undersea cables that power the internet. Millions of Europeans suddenly found themselves unable to use email and text messaging services. They were unable to bank or pay their bills online. Retailers’ websites ceased to function. Families stampeded on grocery stores. By the evening, internet-enabled hospitals had to revert to old-fashioned treatment. At bank branches, fist fights broke out as people queued up to withdraw cash. Unverified news of an impending military invasion caused residents to leave major cities, clogging up up rail lines, highways, and gas stations.

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WNU Editor: If there is a major war .... civilians will do what they have always done in conflicts. Stay away from the fighting, and try to survive.

Will The F-35 Be Seeing Combat In 2018?

U.S. Marine Corps F-35B Lightning IIs from Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121 fly in formation next to a U.S. Air Force KC-135 Stratotanker over Pacific waters. The F35-B is expected to deploy with two Marine expeditionary next year. (Senior Airman John Linzmeier/Air Force)

Popular Mechanics: The F-35 Could Be Headed Into Combat in 2018

The Marine Corps is sending the F-35 to the Pacific and Middle East.

The America’s newest fighter jet, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, might finally see combat in 2018. According to the Marine Corps Times, the U.S. Marine Corps is sending the jet on two overseas patrols next year, to the Middle East and the Pacific. The Middle Eastern tour could see the jet sent into combat over a number of regional conflicts the United States is currently embroiled in.

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WNU Editor: I for one would be surprised if they do see combat in 2018.

Suspect Behind This Week's St. Petersburg Supermarket Bombing Has Been Arrested By Russian Security Forces

The bomb was reportedly hidden in a rucksack in a bag storage locker

Radio Free Europe: Russian Security Agency Says Supermarket Bombing Suspect Arrested

Russia’s main security agency says it has arrested a man suspected of setting off an explosion at a supermarket in the Russian city of St. Petersburg that injured more then 10 people on December 27.

The Federal Security Service, or FSB, made the announcement in a December 30 statement carried by Russian news agencies.

The agency did not identify the suspect or provide any details about his motive.

The statement said the suspect organized and carried out the attack on his own.

The extremist group Islamic State (IS) had earlier claimed responsibility for the bombing.

The claim was made by the IS's Amaq news agency on December 29.

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WNU Editor: Talk about quick arrests.

Suspect Behind This Week's St. Petersburg Supermarket Bombing Has Been Arrested By Russian Security Forces

St Petersburg supermarket bombing suspect arrested -- BBC
Russia says it has detained a suspect in St. Petersburg supermarket blast -- Daily Mail
Russian security services say organizer of St Petersburg supermarket blast detained -- RT
Russian Security Service Detains Suspect in St Petersburg Supermarket Explosion -- Sputnik