German Chancellor Angela Merkel is expected to meet with Trump today after their meeting earlier in the week was postponed due to a white-out that was snow rather than the other, more likely culprits for such events these days, namely MAGA or a nuclear exchange. Germany’s “Mutter” may help Trump appreciate there are other means to power than entertaining authoritarianism.

From The Los Angeles Times.





Trump’s Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley told the Today Show’s Matt Lauer, “We cannot trust Russia. We should never trust Russia.” Haley also said “we should take some sort of action” over Russian interference of the 2016 election when investigations are completed. Despite her tough talk, “Haley said she does not have any questions about the relationship between Trump and some of his associates and Russians.”

From The Washington Post.



Sebastian Gorka, the Trump counterterrorism advisor with even less credibility to his name than most – which is quite the qualifier! – is a “formal member of a Hungarian far-right group that is listed by the U.S. State Department as having been “under the direction of the Nazi Government of Germany” during World War II, leaders of the organization have told the Forward.” The Forward is a Jewish-American paper known for being the last publication to print in Yiddish in America. The order ostensibly restricted to “elite” anti-Semites, Vitézi Rend, “was established as a loyalist group by Admiral Miklos Horthy, who ruled Hungary as a staunch nationalist from 1920 to October 1944. A self-confessed anti-Semite, Horthy imposed restrictive Jewish laws prior to World War II and collaborated with Hitler during the conflict.” The resulting deaths of hundreds of thousands did not deter Gorka in the least! Why should it? Are Jews people? Yes, this second question is really something CNN contemplated on air last year! If Gorka is in fact a member and leaders of this Vitézi Rend are correct, and “if Gorka did not disclose this when he entered the United States as an immigrant — could have implications for his immigration status. The State Department’s Foreign Affairs Manual states, “members of the Vitézi Rend ‘are presumed to be inadmissible’ to the country under the Immigration and Nationality Act.” Oh my, isn’t it just the worst when those tasked with sussing out undesirables are proven to be so themselves. When questions were raised in February, “he explained it as a gesture of honor to his late father”. When BuzzFeed inquired the younger Gorka, snapped affronted that he should feel shame for anything he was never taught to but knew enough you keep that quiet as long as there is not a fascist environment to permit it in the open. Afterall, he wore his Nazi medal to Trump’s inauguration, probably because it was more discrete than a hooded robe. “Send a request to the White House press,” Gorka told BuzzFeed, which naturally denies the report. If the report is wrong, do you think it will teach them anything about false accusations? I don’t!

From The Forward and BuzzFeed.





According to The New York Times, citing a letter released by Congressional investigators, “Michael T. Flynn, President Trump’s former national security adviser, was paid over $65,000 by companies linked to Russia in 2015”. The letter, sent to Trump, FBI Director James Comey, and Secretary of Defense James Mattis by Rep. Elijah Cummings, notes that “Among the companies was a cargo airline implicated in a bribery scheme involving Russian officials at the United Nations, an American branch of a cybersecurity firm believed to have ties to Russia’s intelligence services, and RT, the Russian government’s English language TV channel”.

From The New York Times.



Fox News, home to “Moscow Thorn” (not pretty enough to be a rose) Sean Hannity and other apologists for The Orange One, has a new poll and it is not pretty! “Majorities of voters think Congress should investigate if Russia interfered with the election and allegations of coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia.” That majority, by the way, is 66 percent. Most curiously and despite most every Fox News effort to the contrary, “President Trump receives his worst job ratings on his handling of America’s relationship with Russia:  33 percent approve vs. 55 percent disapprove.” It’s a miracle! My American people can see! A thrilling sub-section of the poll asks the vast right-wing conspiracy minded about WikiLeaks. “Voters are concerned about the WikiLeaks info on both the national and personal level. About three-quarters (74 percent) are worried that U.S. intelligence has been compromised.  Almost as many (70 percent) are concerned about the technology WikiLeaks revealed the agencies developed to collect private info.  And in an increasingly rare example of agreement, majorities of Democrats, Republicans, and independents express concern about both issues.” It’s another miracle! My people can still walk towards the light of day! Maybe it’s even a thousand points of light! In any case, almost a third have a favorable opinion of the group so Russians smell the wedge like a fine aged log of cheese. Do we?

From Fox News.





Russia has to trim its defense budget obviously not because it wants to, but because it must! Its economy is in terrible shape and its America operation must have been very expensive. According to IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, “Figures released by the Russian Federal Treasury have confirmed that Russia’s defence budget has been cut by 25.5% for 2017, falling from RUB3.8 trillion (USD65.4 billion) to RUB2.8 trillion” – the deepest cuts since the 1990s. But hybrid cyber warfare is cheap, so expect the flood of racist, hateful, misogynist, anti-Semitic propaganda to only be stepped up.

From IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly.



Michael Cohen, Trump’s personal lawyer, had a casino yacht side business that went belly up in 2003. Cohen’s “Atlantic Casino went bust in South Florida” leaving “behind lenders, vendors, customers, and workers who filed at least 25 lawsuits accusing its owners of ripping them off.” But that’s hardly the most shocking or unprofessional thing behind the enterprise. One of the men at the marina Atlantic Casino owed money to told BuzzFeed that “during the trial no one even showed up for the defense, an astonishing breach of legal protocol for a man who would later become one of the most powerful attorneys in America.” Atlantic Casino’s counsel, David M. Goldstein, who was “in charge of drawing up the paperwork establishing the casino,” was in business with “a prominent south Florida figure” named Alvin Malnik. Malnik was accused in 1980 “by gambling officials” of associating with known mobsters like Meyer Lansky. But here’s the tie to Trump: “At the same time that Atlantic Casino was operating in Miami Beach, one of the partners invested in a gambling boat in Tampa Bay. This casino was managed by Tatiana Varzar, a Brighton Beach restaurateur, and her husband, Michael, who had been sentenced to 52 months in federal prison for a tax scheme linked to four New York crime families. In 2008, Tatiana Varzar operated a catering company out of a Trump condominium in South Florida.” Varzar also own a Russian nightclub in Brooklyn called Tatiana.  Naturally, “Cohen’s two main partners, Arkady Vaygensberg and Leonid Tatarchuk, were born in the Ukraine”. Cohen denied to BuzzFeed any involvement with the casino even after receiving documents from BuzzFeed showing he owned a 30 percent stake, as did Vaygensberg and Tatarchuk. A fourth man, Valentin Laskov, owned the remaining 10 percent.

From BuzzFeed.





NPR features a piece on how Trump has embraced “what aboutism,” a favorite technique of Soviet and now Russian propaganda, where unfavorable news or events are responded to with deflection. Trump has clearly done this with his so far unproven and therefore baseless accusations that his predecessor Barack Obama had his Trump Tower wiretapped. Notice how front pages are not engaging in talk of Trump’s Russia ties as a result of this act of deflective what aboutism. Well, NPR has interviews with Russia experts who bring out some timely Soviet era jokes to hit the point home that what we are experiencing here in America is a Sovietization of our politics and public discourse at the hands of an overly bronzed lunatic. Vadim Nikitin, a Russia analyst and freelance writer, discusses the “Armenian Radio” jokes of the Soviet period, “Armenian Radio would be asked, ‘How much does a Soviet engineer get paid?’ and they’d be like, ‘I don’t know, but you [in America] lynch negroes”. According to Nikitin, “that punchline came to be synonymous with the whole phenomenon of whataboutism.”

From NPR.




PRI features talk of something no one in Russia talks about, namely elections, because anything resembling free and fair ones last took place in 1996 under the destabilizing conditions of severe economic distress. Alexey Navalny announced his campaign in a video message last December “But hovering over Navalny’s campaign is the question: Will the Kremlin even allow him to run?” The difficulty stems from trumped up charges as “Over the past few years, Navalny has faced a series of criminal chargesall fabricated, he insists, to stymie his political ambitions. Under Russian law, convicted felons can’t run for office.” The struggle against these charges continues as “Last month, a Russian court found Navalny guilty of embezzlement in a retrial that independent observers say was politically motivated.” Navalny’s primary appeal is to “Russians tired of state corruption and a weak economy” who he believes “will flock to his message.”

From PRI.



TIME features quality images of the Suwalki Gap, essentially the Polish-Lithuanian border that leads to the Russian exclave of heavily militarized Kaliningrad. NATO officials cite Suwalki as a major vulnerability of Eastern European defense. The series of photographs by friend and colleague Timothy Fadek combine military exercises and daily life.

From TIME.


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