—–ON THE AGENDA—–
U.S. SANCTIONS ROSTER OF RUSSIAN ELITES DUE TODAY
Bloomberg reports, “Some of Vladimir Putin’s longest-standing critics have found what they hope will be a new tool to pressure his regime: They’re giving the U.S. Treasury advice on whom to include in a new list of Kremlin-connected oligarchs to target for possible future sanctions. A trio of opponents has found a receptive ear in Daniel Fried, formerly the State Department’s coordinator for sanctions policy, who’s been offering ideas on the list to former colleagues now working on it. Just how much influence they’ve had could become clear Jan. 29, when the roster is due.” According to Bloomberg, “He’s consulted on the list with Andrei Illarionov, a former Kremlin aide who now describes the regime as ‘semi-totalitarian,’ Andrei Piontkovsky, who’s compared Putin’s Kremlin to mafia boss Al Capone, and Anders Aslund, a Washington-based economist who’s described it as ‘kleptocratic.’” None of these are inaccurate perceptions of reality in “modern” Russia. Bloomberg notes, “The men ‘have criticized Putin’s aggression abroad and authoritarianism at home. Are all such persons disqualified from discussing ways to counter it?’ Fried said.” Bloomberg adds, “Their participation has added to the alarm in Moscow over the list, which has already drawn threats of possible retaliation from Russian officials.” Bloomberg continues, “Close Putin friends who’ve already been sanctioned — such as billionaires Gennady Timchenko and Arkady Rotenberg — are obvious candidates for inclusion. Children of Kremlin insiders and top officials who’ve gotten jobs at state companies are another category, along with ‘people who are holding money for Putin,’ Aslund said. Among the so-called golden children who haven’t yet been sanctioned are Sergei Ivanov Jr., CEO of diamond miner Alrosa and the son of the ex-presidential administration chief, and Dmitry Patrushev, CEO of state-run lender Rosselkhozbank, whose father Nikolai is secretary of the Kremlin’s Security Council.” Bloomberg continues, “So far, only two potential targets have been publicly named: Putin ally Prosecutor General Yuri Chaika and Alisher Usmanov, whom four U.S. senators cited in a Jan. 17 letter to the State Department. Other likely candidates include VTB’s Kostin and billionaire Oleg Deripaska,” as well as, “Banking-and-oil tycoons Mikhail Fridman and Petr Aven”.
OBSTRUCTING JUSTICE, TRUMP HELPED CREATE THE FBI SECRET SOCIETY
Foreign Policy reports, “President Donald Trump pressed senior aides last June to devise and carry out a campaign to discredit senior FBI officials after learning that those specific employees were likely to be witnesses against him as part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation”. Foreign Policy adds, “In testimony to the Senate Intelligence Committee on June 8, recently fired FBI Director James Comey disclosed that he spoke contemporaneously with other senior bureau officials about potentially improper efforts by the president to curtail the FBI’s investigation of alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia to interfere in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Not long after Comey’s Senate testimony, Trump hired John Dowd, a veteran criminal defense attorney, to represent him in matters related to Mueller’s investigation. Dowd warned Trump that the potential corroborative testimony of the senior FBI officials in Comey’s account would likely play a central role in the special counsel’s final conclusion, according to people familiar with the matter.” Foreign Policy continues, “In discussions with at least two senior White House officials, Trump repeated what Dowd had told him to emphasize why he and his supporters had to ‘fight back harder,’ in the words of one of these officials.”
From Foreign Policy.
TRUMP CAN’T DEAL WITH BALLER DEPUTY AG ROD ROSENSTEIN
CNN reports, “Months after his reported effort to fire special counsel Robert Mueller, President Donald Trump is still fuming over the Russia investigation and has Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein in his crosshairs. The President has been venting about Rosenstein — who oversees Mueller and the special counsel investigation — in recent weeks,” adding, “At times, Trump even gripes about wanting Rosenstein removed”.
NEW DEMANDS TO PROTECT MUELLER FROM CONGRESSIONAL DEMS
The Washington Post reports, “Congressional Democrats on Friday demanded that lawmakers act to protect special counsel Robert S. Mueller III after revelations President Trump sought to oust him last summer from overseeing the probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 election. Several Democrats and one moderate Republican called for votes on Senate legislation that would prevent presidents from firing special counsels unless a panel of three federal judges agreed with the move, citing the revelations that Trump came close to pushing out Mueller last June.” The Washington Post adds, “Sens. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) and Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), responding to rumors in the summer that Trump might fire Mueller, each advanced legislation that would involve a panel of federal judges in any decision to end a special counsel’s tenure. Graham’s bill, co-written by Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and other Democrats, would require a three-judge panel to approve a presidential order to fire a special counsel. Tillis’s bill, written with Sen. Christopher A. Coons (D-Del.), would allow a fired special counsel to appeal the president’s decision to a panel of judges, to avoid trampling the president’s executive authority. Lawmakers have thus far not been able to reconcile the two bills and satisfy [Senator Chuck] Grassley, who says he has ‘constitutional concerns’ with the legislation and will address only one bill in committee.”
From The Washington Post.
HOUSE BILL TO COUNTER FOREIGN MEDDLING IN ELECTIONS INTRODUCED
The Hill reports, “A Senate bill aimed at deterring future foreign interference in U.S. elections now has a bipartisan counterpart in the House. Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) and Brad Schneider (D-Ill.) have introduced the House version of the Defending Elections from Threats by Establishing Redlines (DETER) Act, which would impose penalties on Russia or other foreign powers that engage in efforts to interfere in U.S. elections.”
From The Hill.
MUELLER TIME: FAKEBOOK STAFF INTERVIEWED
Wired reports, “The Department of Justice’s special counsel Robert Mueller and his office have interviewed at least one member of Facebook’s team that was associated with President Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign”. Wired notes, “Both Twitter and Google deployed staff to San Antonio to work with the Trump campaign as well. (Google, Facebook, and Twitter all worked with the Clinton campaign, but did not embed with that team.) They also both sold ads to the Internet Research Agency.”
TWITTER SAYS BOTS RETWEETED TRUMP 470,000 TIMES
Bloomberg reports, “Russian-linked Twitter bots shared Donald Trump’s tweets almost half a million times during the final months of the 2016 election, Twitter Inc. said in a submission to Congress. The automated accounts retweeted the Republican candidate’s @realDonaldTrump posts almost 470,000 times, accounting for just more than 4 percent of the re-tweets he received from Sept. 1 to Nov. 15, 2016. Hillary Clinton’s account got less than 50,000 retweets by the Russian-linked automated accounts during the same period of time, the company said in documents posted Friday by the Senate Judiciary Committee.”
CAPTURE THE STATE DEPARTMENT: NOW THE DIPLOMATS LAWYER UP
CNN reports, “A growing number of State Department employees are charging they are being put in career purgatory because of their previous work on policy priorities associated with President Barack Obama and in offices the Trump administration is interested in closing. The situation has got so serious that several officials tell CNN they have retained attorneys after repeatedly trying unsuccessfully to raise concerns about being assigned to low-level jobs in Foggy Bottom such as answering Freedom of Information Act requests. The issue has also come to the attention of senior Democrats on Capitol Hill.” In particular, the example cited by CNN concerns those civil servants working on issues related to the closure of the Guantanamo detention facility for “enemy combatants” and refugee issues. In a follow up report, CNN adds, “Key Democratic lawmakers are calling on the State Department’s watchdog to conduct an ‘immediate review’ of personnel practices after a number of employees told CNN they were unlawfully targeted for political reasons due to their work under the last administration.”
T REX SAYS NORD STREAM 2 THREATENS GEOPOLITICAL SECURITY
Reuters reports, “The United States sees the planned Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline between Russia and Germany as a threat to Europe’s energy security, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said on Saturday. Poland, Ukraine and Baltic states fear the pipeline would increase Europe’s dependence on Russian gas and provide the Kremlin with billions of dollars of additional revenue to finance a further military build-up on European Union’s borders.” Reuters adds, “‘Like Poland, the United States opposes the Nord Stream 2 pipeline. We see it as undermining Europe’s overall energy security and stability,’ Tillerson said at a joint news conference with the Polish foreign minister in Warsaw. ‘Our opposition is driven by our mutual strategic interests,’ he said.” No one can cry hypocrisy now because there it is, out on a platter. Reuters notes, “Nordic nations have already voiced security concerns over the pipeline being laid near their shores under the Baltic. But Germany and Austria have focused more on the commercial benefits of having more cheap gas, arguing there could be little harm from an additional pipe.”
FULL AIRING OF GRIEVANCES COMES WITH HUNTSMAN’S REQUEST
Russian state-run TASS reports, “Speaker of Russia’s State Duma (lower house of parliament) Vyacheslav Volodin has said that he sees double standards in a request by US Ambassador to Russia Jon Huntsman for a meeting with him, considering the ongoing sanctions against Russian politicians.” This is Russia’s way of being flattered but objecting to everything until there is a full airing of grievances. Russian state-run TASS notes, “The US Embassy in Moscow earlier said on its Twitter account that Ambassador Huntsman hopes to meet with Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, Federation Council Speaker Valentina Matviyenko, State Duma Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin, Chief of Russia’s General Staff Valery Gerasimov and other Russian officials.” Russian state-run TASS adds, “According to the US Embassy, the American envoy has already had meetings with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu, Finance Minister Anton Siluanov, Economic Development Minister Maxim Oreshkin, Russian Ambassador to the US Anatoly Antonov, Presidential Aide Yury Ushakov and Russian deputy foreign ministers.”
From Russian state-run TASS.
AMBASSADOR JON HUNTSMAN PUBLISHES OP-ED CALLING FOR BETTER TIES
The Moscow Times carries an op-ed by U.S. Ambassador Jon Huntsman which states, “not only can we improve the U.S.- Russia relationship, but we must.” In The Moscow Times, Huntsman continues, “We are making progress, and there is much more we can achieve by rolling up our sleeves and finding a constructive way forward. We all know that the road ahead will be a difficult one, and that the issues that have come between us are complex.” Huntsman understands that the best thing going for Trumpistan right now is our people, not the system, which provides America’s true soft power. Huntsman writes, “We want for as many Russians as possible to visit the United States and meet Americans so that we understand each other better as a people. That’s why, despite a two-thirds reduction in mission staff, our embassy and consulates are working so hard to accommodate visa demand in Russia. It’s why we opened a new consular facility in Moscow earlier this month and are continuing to promote robust educational and cultural exchanges. And yet in politics and sometimes in diplomacy, we don’t always collaborate as well as we should. We can take a lesson from effective U.S.-Russian interplay in areas like culture, arts, research, science, technology, and business, because so much is possible when we recognize the common ground that unites Russians and Americans. It is far greater than that which divides us.” On the grander geopolitical realm, Huntsman notes, “Two areas in which we can and must cooperate are North Korea and Syria. Let’s be clear about the situation in North Korea: We simply cannot continue to accept the progress of Pyongyang’s nuclear program.”
From The Moscow Times.
U.S. INTRODUCES NEW SANCTIONS BEFORE UKRAINE ENVOYS MET
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reports, “The United States hit 21 people and nine companies linked to the Russia-backed conflict in eastern Ukraine with new economic sanctions”. Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty notes, “The measures announced on January 26 by the Treasury Department came on the same day that U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson met with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko in Davos, Switzerland. They also came as the U.S. special envoy for the Ukrainian conflict, Kurt Volker, met with his Kremlin counterpart, Vladislav Surkov, to discuss ways to resolve the fighting.” Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty notes, “In this latest round, the Treasury Department targeted 11 people identified as top separatist officials in eastern Ukraine.” Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty adds, “The sanctions also target several Russian officials, including deputy energy minister Andrei Cherezov, who had been hit earlier by European Union measures for his role in a scheme to ship power turbines to Crimea.
WHEN KURT MET VLADISLAV IN DUBAI FRIDAY
Unian Information Agency reports, “Assistant to the Russian President Vladislav Surkov says the U.S. new proposal for deploying a UN peacekeeping mission to Donbas is more constructive and doable than the previous one.” Unian Information Agency notes, “In his words, the main part there is a rather detailed plan of a step-by-step deployment of a mission along with the implementation of the Minsk agreements’ political items.” Unian Information Agency adds, “Volker and Surkov also discussed humanitarian issues related to Donbas, such as exchange of hostages, the opening of additional checkpoints, mobile communications, etc. The Kremlin says the views of both sides on the issues coincide. Moscow earlier claimed it was hardly possible to expect any results from the meeting.” Russian state-run TASS confirms the Ukrainian report, noting, “Russia and U.S. completely similar positions for settlement of some humanitarian problems in Donbass, Russia’s Presidential Aide Vladislav Surkov said on Saturday.” It’s a vague start when all parties agree on what was said.
NSA CHIEF ROGERS MEETS ESTONIA’S DEFENSE MINISTER
Estonian Public Broadcasting reports, “Defence Minister Jüri Luik on Friday met with Navy admiral Michael S. Rogers, Director of the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA), Commander of the U.S. Cyber Command (USCYBERCOM) and Chief of the Central Security Service (CSS), to discuss cyber defense cooperation and issues related to the presence of allies in Estonia.” Estonian Public Broadcasting adds, “According to Luik, Rogers has played a key role in cooperation and contacts between the two countries becoming more multifaceted. Cyber defense specialists of Estonia and the U.S. take part in joint exercises and information is regularly shared between the two countries. Luik also decorated Rogers with the Cross of Merit of the Estonian Ministry of Defence, 1st class. During his visit in Estonia, Rogers also met with cyber and information technology specialists as well as chief of the reconnaissance battalion, Col. Kaupo Rosin.”
PUTIN HAILS NEW BOMBER
Reuters reports, “President Vladimir Putin praised a newly-built supersonic strategic bomber on Thursday after watching it in flight, saying it would beef up Russia’s nuclear weapons capability. Under a contract signed on Thursday, 10 of the modernized TU-160M nuclear bombers, codenamed Blackjacks by NATO, will be delivered to the Russian Air Force at a cost of 15 billion rubles ($269 million) each between now and 2027.” Reuters notes, “The TU-160M is capable of carrying 12 cruise missiles or 12 short-range nuclear missiles and can fly 12,000 km (7,500 miles) non—stop without re-fuelling.” Reuters adds, “Tupolev, the plane’s manufacturer, says the modernized version will be 60 percent more effective than the older version with significant improvements to its weaponry, navigation and avionics.”
SEVERAL HUNDRED DETAINED IN NAVALNY ELECTION BOYCOTT PROTEST
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reports, “At least 350 people, including opposition leader Aleksei Navalny, were detained across Russia as they rallied in support of an election boycott on January 28. The anticorruption crusader was dragged by police into a bus shortly after joining a rally of more than 1,000 people on Moscow’s central thoroughfare on January 28, according to a live video feed from the scene.” Afterward Navalny wrote on Twitter, “I’ve been detained. That doesn’t matter. Come to Tverskaya [Street]. You’re not coming out for me, but for yourself and your future”. Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty notes, “Thousands of Russians unhappy with the prospect of six more years under President Vladimir Putin took to the streets in dozens of cities, backing Navalny’s call for a boycott of a March 18 vote that appears certain to hand Putin a new six-year term.”
CZECH PUTIN PUPPET WINS A SECOND TERM
Bloomberg reports, “Czech President Milos Zeman, an ardent supporter of Russian leader Vladimir Putin, won a second term in an election victory after warning voters that sheltering Muslim immigrants could lead to terrorist attacks.” Ah, pure, primitive xenophobia. Bloomberg adds, “Zeman, 73, who was also an early fan of U.S. President Donald Trump, took 51.4 percent of votes in a two-day ballot that ended Saturday, according results published by the Statistics Office. His challenger for the largely ceremonial post, 68-year-old chemistry professor Jiri Drahos, pledged to anchor the nation of 10.6 million more firmly in the European Union and NATO. He conceded after getting 48.6 percent.”
DANISH AIR FORCE INTERCEPTS FIRST RUSSIAN JET BALTIC AIR POLICING
Estonian Public Broadcasting reports, “The Danish fighter jets that started guarding the Baltic airspace from Lithuania in January as part of NATO’s air policing mission were launched on Thursday to conduct their first intercept and identified a Russian fighter jet, NATO said on Friday. On Thursday morning NATO radars picked up an air track that did not comply with international standard aviation rules as it was neither sending a transponder signal nor in radio contact with civilian air traffic control nor was a flight plan available. The track moved from mainland Russia to the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad over international waters near NATO airspace.” Estonian Public Broadcasting adds, “Consequently, two Royal Danish Air Force F-16 interceptor jets were tasked to fly to the area to identify the track, a Russian fighter aircraft. Upon successful completion of their mission the F-16s returned to Lithuania. On Jan. 8 Denmark took over the Baltic air policing mission out of Lithuania’s Siauliai air base from the U.S. Denmark’s rotation is to last four months.”
DANISH LAWMAKERS VOTE TO RAISE DEFENSE SPENDING
Reuters reports, “Danish lawmakers on Sunday agreed to allocate an additional 12.8 billion crowns ($2.14 billion) to military spending over the next six years, citing Russia as one of the major threats to its security. Under the agreement, proposed in October last year, NATO-member Denmark will also establish a 4,000-member army brigade focused on the Baltic Sea.” Reuters notes Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen said in a statement, “The threat from Russia is real and increasing, so we must show determination to defence – and we are determined”. However, “Denmark, which spent around 1.2 percent of its gross domestic product on its military in 2016, will still not after the increase meet a NATO defense spending target of 2 percent of the gross domestic product,” Reuters notes.
—–KNOW YOUR ENEMY—–
USEFUL: POLITICO’S GUIDE TO 270 PROTAGONISTS IN THE RUSSIA PROBE
POLITICO published a most thorough guide breaking down by numbers and names who the 270 top protagonists related to the Trump Russia probe are. Save this one somewhere you can return to it as need be!
KUSHNER FAMILY REAL ESTATE BIZ MUST DISCLOSE PARTNER, JUDGE RULES
ABC News reports, “A federal judge ruled on Friday that the family company once run by Jared Kushner isn’t allowed to keep secret the identity of its business partners in several Maryland properties. A U.S. district judge in the state rejected the argument that the privacy rights of the Kushner Cos. partners outweigh the public interest in obtaining judicial records in a lawsuit before the court. The decision means that the company tied to President Donald Trump’s son-in-law might be forced to provide a rare glimpse into how it finances its real estate ventures.” ABC News adds, “U.S. District Court Judge James K. Bredar ruled that Westminster Management, a Kushner Cos. subsidiary, must file an unsealed document with the identity of its partners by Feb. 9. The ruling stems from a lawsuit filed by tenants last year alleging Westminster charges excessive and illegal rent for apartments in the state. The lawsuit seeks class-action status for tenants in 17 apartment complexes owned by the company.”
From ABC News.
AMERICAN HUSTLER, THE POLITICAL PIMP
The Atlantic reports, “The clinic permitted Paul Manafort one 10-minute call each day. And each day, he would use it to ring his wife from Arizona, his voice often soaked in tears. ‘Apparently he sobs daily’” his daughter Andrea, then 29, texted a friend. During the spring of 2015, Manafort’s life had tipped into a deep trough. A few months earlier, he had intimated to his other daughter, Jessica, that suicide was a possibility. He would ‘be gone forever,’ she texted Andrea.” The Atlantic continues, “His work, the source of the status he cherished, had taken a devastating turn. For nearly a decade, he had counted primarily on a single client, albeit an exceedingly lucrative one. He’d been the chief political strategist to the man who became the president of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych, with whom he’d developed a highly personal relationship.” The Atlantic notes, “Rick Gates, once boasted to a group of Washington lobbyists, ‘You have to understand, we’ve been working in Ukraine a long time, and Paul has a whole separate shadow government structure … In every ministry, he has a guy.’ Only a small handful of Americans—oil executives, Cold War spymasters—could claim to have ever amassed such influence in a foreign regime.” Of course, “Manafort had profited from the sort of excesses that make a country ripe for revolution. And in the early months of 2014, protesters gathered on the Maidan, Kiev’s Independence Square, and swept his patron from power.” The Atlantic adds, “Money, which had always flowed freely to Manafort and which he’d spent more freely still, soon became a problem. After the revolution, Manafort cadged some business from former minions of the ousted president, the ones who hadn’t needed to run for their lives. But he complained about unpaid bills and, at age 66, scoured the world (Hungary, Uganda, Kenya) for fresh clients, hustling without any apparent luck.” His partner in much of Yanukovych’s theft of the state was oligarch Oleg Deripaska who had won his fortune “by prevailing in the so-called aluminum wars of the 1990s, a corpse-filled struggle, one of the most violent of all the competitions for dominance in a post-Soviet industry.” The Atlantic notes, “Despite Deripaska’s reputation, or perhaps because of it, Manafort had been dodging the oligarch’s attempts to contact him. As Deripaska’s lawyers informed a court in 2014 while attempting to claw back their client’s money, ‘It appears that Paul Manafort and Rick Gates have simply disappeared.’” While he was financially generous with his family, that too was crashing and “when he called home in tears or threatened suicide in the spring of 2015, he was pleading for his marriage. The previous November, as the cache of texts shows, his daughters had caught him in an affair with a woman more than 30 years his junior. It was an expensive relationship. According to the text messages, Manafort had rented his mistress a $9,000-a-month apartment in Manhattan and a house in the Hamptons, not far from his own. He had handed her an American Express card, which she’d used to good effect. ‘I only go to luxury restaurants,’ she once declared on a friend’s fledgling podcast, speaking expansively about her photo posts on social media: caviar, lobster, haute cuisine.” This lays the ground for, “When Paul Manafort officially joined the Trump campaign, on March 28, 2016, he represented a danger not only to himself but to the political organization he would ultimately run.” This is probably the best profile of Paul Manafort to date. Read the whole damn thing at your leisure, it delves into his background, his father, his die untergang.
From The Atlantic.
DAVOS: OLEG DERIPASKA IS STILL LIVING HIS BEST LIFE
ABC News reports, “Oleg Deripaska, whose dealings with key figures in the ongoing probe of Russian interference in the 2016 election are under scrutiny, hosted an extravagant party on Friday night at the annual World Economic Forum in Davos Switzerland, featuring boats of caviar, magnum bottles of Dom Perignon and a performance by Grammy winner Enrique Iglesias.” ABC News notes, “Deripaska’s party at Davos has become a must-have ticket at the annual forum, where the after-parties often overshadow the talks. This year’s theme was ‘Creating a shared future in a fractured world.’ Many attendees lined up at the door for a bash celebrating Russia’s promise, despite that country’s economic malaise.” ABC News continues, “Like many other promotional events at the forum, Deripaska’s party started with tributes to his aluminum company, Basic Element, and affiliated charities. Screens lining the walls showed slideshows of elephants for an Africa-based wildlife charity. On the center-stage, scenic images of Russia mixed with videos of workers operating machinery inside of his aluminum plant. Doors opened at 8 p.m., and the party picked up as a troupe of Cossack dancers, dressed in traditional Russian garb, sang folk music.” ABC News notes, “Unlike the other staid cocktail receptions hosted by major banks like JP Morgan and Goldman Sachs, Deripaska’s packed event evolved into a nightclub scene, with the warm up act to Iglesias – a Russian pop singer – taking the stage. The party pulsed deep into the night and early morning hours, a clash of cultures on full display.”
From ABC News.
T REX DANCING PANTLESS AROUND FOGGY BOTTOM SINGING BOB SEGER
The Onion, the satirical American paper that has previously duped the likes of North Korean officials, reports, “Leaping out from behind a wall as Bob Seger’s ‘Old Time Rock and Roll’ blared from the building’s intercom, a pantless Secretary of State Rex Tillerson slid across the waxed marble floors of the completely empty State Department, sources confirmed Wednesday.” The Onion adds, “The nation’s top diplomat, clad in only a dress shirt, white tube socks, and a loose-fitting pair of briefs, was reportedly seen performing a variety of spirited dance moves throughout the labyrinth of abandoned offices and conference rooms, singing along into a rolled up foreign policy paper that also doubled as a makeshift saxophone.” The article contains a photo illustration of the aptly metaphorical spectacle that once seen cannot be unseen.
From The Onion.
WHAT’S NEXT FOR JULIAN ASSWIPE?
ABC News reports, “A British judge says she will rule next month on whether to scrap a U.K. arrest warrant for the WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, a move that would free him to leave the Ecuadorean embassy after more than five years. Assange’s lawyers went to court Friday to argue that the warrant serves no purpose because he is no longer wanted for questioning in Sweden over alleged sex offenses.” ABC News notes, “The judge said she would deliver her ruling on Feb. 6.” The warrant is for skipping bail on the sex crime charge but Asswipe believes Team America is still out to get him. Will this end like Abdullah Öcalan?
From ABC News.
THIS COULD BE USEFUL IN EVADING SANCTION
Azerbaijani state-run Trend News Agency reports, “Azerbaijan’s state oil company SOCAR will soon begin to export Russian oil products from the Black Sea port of Tuapse city”. Trend adds, ‘SOCAR signed a deal with the Vienna-based Cetracore Energy oil trading company and its shareholder, Russia’s Rosneft oil company.’ Trend notes, “The source noted that this week, SOCAR also intends to ship 60,000 tons of naphtha purchased directly from Rosneft.”
THIS IS HOW IDEOLOGICAL SUBVERSION WORKS
Wired reports following the firing of James Damore, the Google engineer who the company says created a hostile workplace for writing a circulating a 10-page anti gender and racial diversity memo, “outspoken diversity advocates at Google say that they are being targeted by a small group of their coworkers in an effort to silence discussions about racial and gender diversity.” Vanity Fair adds, “15 current Google employees accuse coworkers of inciting outsiders to harass rank-and-file employees who are minority advocates, including queer and transgender employees. Since August, screenshots from Google’s internal discussion forums, including personal information, have been displayed on sites including Breitbart and Vox Popoli, a blog run by alt-right author Theodore Beale, who goes by the name Vox Day. Other screenshots were included in a 161-page lawsuit that Damore filed in January, alleging that Google discriminates against whites, males, and conservatives. What followed, the employees say, was a wave of harassment. On forums like 4chan, members linked advocates’ names with their social-media accounts. At least three employees had their phone numbers, addresses, and deadnames (a transgender person’s name prior to transitioning) exposed.” Wired continues, “inside Google, the diversity advocates say some employees have ‘weaponized human resources’ by goading them into inflammatory statements, which are then captured and reported to HR for violating Google’s mores around civility or for offending white men.” This is called redefining the terms of debate and discussion and subverting them. The ultimate goal is ideological subversion and the methodology being deployed has striking overlap with Russian active measures where you foment division to lay the groundwork for incidents, which can then be magnified.
THE NEW YORK TIMES PROFILES AMERICAN FAKE FOLLOWER FARM DEVUMI
The New York Times reports on “an obscure American company named Devumi that has collected millions of dollars in a shadowy global marketplace for social media fraud. Devumi sells Twitter followers and retweets to celebrities, businesses and anyone who wants to appear more popular or exert influence online. Drawing on an estimated stock of at least 3.5 million automated accounts, each sold many times over, the company has provided customers with more than 200 million Twitter followers,” many of them based on the stolen identities of real Twitter users. The New York Times notes, “Devumi’s founder, German Calas, denied that his company sold fake followers and said he knew nothing about social identities stolen from real users. ‘The allegations are false, and we do not have knowledge of any such activity,’ Mr. Calas said in an email exchange in November.” The New York Times adds, “The Times reviewed business and court records showing that Devumi has more than 200,000 customers, including reality television stars, professional athletes, comedians, TED speakers, pastors and models. In most cases, the records show, they purchased their own followers. In others, their employees, agents, public relations companies, family members or friends did the buying. For just pennies each — sometimes even less — Devumi offers Twitter followers, views on YouTube, plays on SoundCloud, the music-hosting site, and endorsements on LinkedIn, the professional-networking site.” Among the Trumpistani elites, The New York Times reports, “Louise Linton, the wife of the Treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin, bought followers when she was trying to gain traction as an actress.” Vox adds, “The report has already sparked the interest of New York Attorney General Eric Schneidermann, who has said he’s opening an investigation.”
SEAN HANNITY’S TWITTER DISAPPEARED FOR A BIT FRIDAY
The Washington Examiner reports, “Fox News host Sean Hannity’s Twitter account briefly disappeared for a couple hours Friday night, prompting rampant speculation as to what happened. The disappearance occurred after Hannity sent out a mysterious tweet, which read: ‘Form Submission 1649 | #Hannity.’”
From The Washington Examiner.
HOMETOWN PAPER RIPS DARKNESS AT NUNES A NEW ONE
The Hill reports, “The Fresno Bee, the newspaper of the largest city in Rep. Devin Nunes’s [sic] California district, ripped the Republican lawmaker in a scathing editorial this week. In the piece, the Bee’s editorial board refers to Nunes as President Trump’s ‘stooge’ and criticizes him for prompting GOP attacks on the FBI with a classified memo that Republicans have latched onto as potential proof of political bias in the FBI.” The editorial board wrote, in part, “[Nunes] certainly isn’t representing his Central Valley constituents or Californians, who care much more about health care, jobs and, yes, protecting Dreamers than about the latest conspiracy theory”. The Hill adds, “The Bee’s editorial calls Nunes’s [sic] performance as House Intelligence Committee chairman ‘nothing short of embarrassing’ and accuses him of colluding with the White House to protect Trump rather than taking Russian interference in the 2016 election seriously.”
From The Hill.
—–TOWARDS A PEACEFUL NUCLEAR EXCHANGE—–
NUCLEAR SUBS IN SHORE NORWAY 3-4 TIMES A MONTH
The Independent Barents Observer reports, “Allied nuclear powered submarines are much more frequently sailing inside Norwegian waters, surfacing for crew-exchange or other purposes; either to port or in waters inshore the coast. Last year peaked with more than 40 voyages requiring permission in and out of Norwegian coastal waters.” The Independent Barents Observer notes, “Not all port-calls actually mean the vessel goes to port. Often, especially in northern Norway, a submarine typically surfaces inshore in a fjord and is met by another vessel that brings crewmembers to a nearby port. Since the early 1960s and throughout the Cold War, Norway’s policy was not to allow for allied warships to make port calls east of 24 degrees in peacetime. That is harbours in Finnmark on the Barents Sea coast.” The Independent Barents Observer notes, “Captain Per-Thomas Bøe says the increase in allied submarine visits to Norway is closely connected with the increase in Russian submarine missions out of Russian waters in the north.” The Independent Barents Observer adds, “Nils Bøhmer, a nuclear physicist with the Bellona Foundation in Oslo, says the more nuclear powered vessels there are in Norwegian waters, the more increases the risk for incidents with consequences for people and environment in Norway.”
—–RADIO MOSCOW: STORIES FROM THEIR PRESS AND OURS—–
KREMLIN’S EX-HOLLYWOOD PET STEVEN SEAGAL ACCUSED OF RAPE
The AP reports, “A once-aspiring actress has alleged Steven Seagal raped her at a wrap party for the film ‘On Deadly Ground,’ claiming he undressed her and assaulted her on his bed while she focused on a photo of Seagal’s wife on the nightstand. Regina Simons called the alleged assault ‘very predatory, very aggressive and traumatizing’ during an interview that aired Friday on NBC’s ‘Megyn Kelly Today.’ She was 18 at the time.” The AP adds, “Simons said she was surprised to find that she was the only one invited to Seagal’s 1993 party to celebrate the end of filming. She had been an extra and said ‘before I knew it, he was on top of me and I couldn’t move.’ She says she froze and ‘felt like I left my body.’” The AP notes, “Simon said she reported her allegations to Beverly Hills, California police, where the incident occurred. Other women have accused Seagal of sexual misconduct. Jenny McCarthy said the action star sexually harassed her during a 1995 audition, while Portia de Rossi accused Seagal of unzipping his pants during an audition.”
From the AP.
RUSSIA BANNED FROM PARALYMPIC GAMES FOR DOPING
The New York Times reports, “Russia has been banned from the 2018 Paralympic Games, officials announced Monday, refusing to lift a ban because of what they called an insufficient recovery from the Russian doping scandal.” The New York Times adds, “certain disabled Russian athletes will have the opportunity to compete at the coming Winter Games — a decision taken with some disagreement among top Paralympics executives, who were unanimous in their decision not to lift the ban.” The New York Times notes, “Each Russian Paralympian who is approved to compete, he said, will be identified in competition as a ‘Neutral Paralympic Athlete.’ Olympic officials have approved individual Russian athletes to be identified by their nationality, as ‘Olympic athlete from Russia.’”
From The New York Times.
MOSCOW POLICE RAID THEATER SHOWING “THE DEATH OF STALIN”
The Guardian reports, “Armed Russian police have raided an arthouse cinema in Moscow that defied a government ban on the screening of Armando Iannucci’s dark comedy The Death of Stalin.” The Guardian adds, “Six police officers and a number of plainclothes officials arrived at the Pioner cinema on Friday after the midday screening of the film, which revolves around the bitter infighting after the death of Joseph Stalin in 1953. Officers would only confirm that they were carrying out an investigation.” The Guardian notes, “Plainclothes officials questioned staff and collected evidence that the film had been shown. Pioner management declined to comment on the raid, but staff insisted that further scheduled screenings of the film would go ahead.” Courage! As journalist Julia Ioffe noted on Twitter, “Russia is a country that still believes art has a lot of power.”
From The Guardian.
RESISTANCE ADVICE: TROLL BABY TROLL
CNN reports, “Hillary Clinton made a surprise appearance on Sunday night in a Grammy Awards comedy bit that took a jab at President Trump. The former presidential candidate, along with Cher, Snoop Dogg, Cardi B, John Legend and DJ Khaled were among those who read excerpts from Michael Wolff’s ‘Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House,’ the hit book about Trump’s first year in the White House.”
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