UK SET TO BLAME RUSSIA FOR POISONING OF SERGEY SKRIPAL + DAUGHTER
The Daily Mail reports, “Home Secretary Amber Rudd hit back at ‘childish’ Vladimir Putin today – amid signs Theresa May is poised to blame Moscow for the nerve gas attack,” adding, “she warned that the government will respond ‘powerfully’ if the Kremlin is found to be behind the apparent ‘hit’ on double-agent Sergei Skripal in Salisbury last week.” The Daily Mail notes, “The combative stance came as the Prime Minister chaired a meeting of the National Security Council which will be updated on the investigation into the attempted assassination.” The Daily Mail adds, “The PM will make a call on whether the evidence proves beyond doubt that Vladimir Putin’s government was behind the attack before deciding on Britain’s response from a list drawn up by officials. She is then expected to deliver a robust statement to the House of Commons putting the blame at Russia’s door.” To be continued if the U.K. actually does anything. However, CNN adds, “Multiple UK media reports suggested that the government is close to finalizing a number of retaliatory measures, including diplomatic expulsions and sanctions, should a Russian link be formally established. Such a development would plunge relations between the UK and Russia to their lowest ebb since the end of the Cold War.” CNN adds, “Monday’s meeting comes as public health authorities warned hundreds of people could be affected by the attack, after traces of the nerve agent were detected in the Salisbury branch of Italian restaurant Zizzi and The Mill pub.”
ACT OF WAR HAD 200 WITNESSES
BBC News reports, “More than 200 witnesses have been identified as police investigate the Russian ex-spy poisoning ‘at speed’, the home secretary has said.” The Detective Sergeant who first tended to Sergey Skripal and his daughter Yulia after they were poisoned with some sort of nerve agent Nick “Bailey remains seriously ill but is awake and engaging with his family.” Home Secretary Amber “Rudd said both Col Skripal, 66, and his daughter, 33, who are being treated at Salisbury District Hospital, remain in a ‘critical but stable condition’ after being exposed to a nerve agent.” The BBC notes, “As part of the investigation, about 180 military personnel have been deployed to help remove vehicles and objects which may have been contaminated. They include Army personnel, Royal Marines, members of the RAF and others who are specially trained in chemical warfare and decontamination.” Did you read that? Read it again because it says “chemical warfare”. Remember Obama’s red lines? Is it again too much to be reminded of them now?
From BBC News.
NEW CCTV FOOTAGE MAY REVEAL THOSE RESPONSIBLE FOR CRIME
The Daily Star reports, “New footage released from a restaurant appears to show the 66-year-old MI6 double agent walking, with his daughter Yulia a few strides ahead, and a blonde woman just behind him. The trio are passing through an alleyway alongside the Zizzi restaurant where the Skripals dined to the park where the two Russians were found unconscious.” The Daily Star adds, “MI5 and counter-terror cops from the Met Police have seized the footage to look for any possible clues.” In the footage, “Skripal is seen wearing a dark jacket and does not appear to be in any distress as he walks pass the glass front of the restaurant. He walks past the camera with two women – with the brunette believed to be his daughter carrying a red or pink handbag. The second woman is a pace or two behind the Skripals and walking a dog, she eventually ends up walking alongside him.” The Daily Star notes, “Footage from the camera was captured at 4.08pm, and the same camera captured first responders on their way to the stricken pair at 4.15pm.” The Daily Star adds, “Police have not released details of the nerve agent to the public, but it is believed to have been a rare substance – with some experts identifying it as sarin.”
From The Daily Star.
ACT OF WAR LEADS TO SKRIPAL’S SON + WIFE’S GRAVES BEING SEALED OFF
The New York Times reports, “British authorities investigating the poisoning of a former Russian spy, Sergei V. Skripal, and his daughter visited the graves of Mr. Skripal’s wife and son in the cathedral town of Salisbury, England, on Friday.” The New York Times adds, “Dressed in large hazardous-material suits, the investigators began collecting evidence at Mr. Skripal’s house in the town and erected a blue forensic tent around the grave of the son. The police said that they had requested military assistance to ‘remove a number of vehicles and objects from the scene.’” The New York Times notes, “Mr. Skripal’s wife, Lyudmila, 59, died in 2012 of uterine cancer, according to records from the National Health Service. His son Alexander, 43, died last year.”
From The New York Times.
TRUMP LOOKS TO ADD IMPEACHMENT LAWYER TO LEGAL TEAM
The New York Times reports, “President Trump is in discussions with a veteran Washington lawyer who represented Bill Clinton during the impeachment process about joining the White House to help deal with the special counsel inquiry”. The New York Times adds, “The lawyer, Emmet T. Flood, met with Mr. Trump in the Oval Office this past week to discuss the possibility,” noting, “No final decision has been made”. The New York Times notes, “Mr. Flood would not replace Ty Cobb, the White House lawyer who since the summer has taken the lead role in dealing with the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III. But Mr. Cobb has told friends for weeks that he views his position as temporary and does not expect to remain in the job for much longer.” The New York Times adds, “As recently as the summer, Mr. Flood, who currently works at the law firm Williams & Connolly, turned down an opportunity to represent Mr. Trump. It is not clear what has changed since then.”
From The New York Times.
OMFG OUR FAKE RUSSIAN BULLSHIT POTUS IS A GODDAMN MORON
The Washington Post reports, “Donald Trump was so eager to have Vladimir Putin attend the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow that he wrote a personal letter to the Russian president inviting him to the event, according to multiple people familiar with the document. At the bottom of the typed letter, Trump scrawled a postscript adding that he looked forward to seeing ‘beautiful’ women during his trip.” As in wink wink send some babes over please so whatever transpires will leave a trail of kompramat later!? What the fuck was he thinking? Oh right, as per usual he wasn’t. The Washington Post adds, “Trump’s letter to Putin, which was described by people with knowledge of its contents, shows how interested he was in attracting the personal attention of the Russian president. The real estate magnate, who owned the Miss Universe pageant, wrote the note at a time when he was looking to expand his brand to Russia.” The Washington Post notes, “The letter, the first known attempt at direct outreach by Trump to Putin, has been turned over to investigators probing Russia’s interference in the 2016 campaign. It is unclear whether Trump’s missive was ever delivered to the Russian president — and if so, whether Putin responded.” But then the response as The Washington Post reports, “In 2013, Vladimir Putin sent Donald Trump a gift. Trump had just flown home to New York from Moscow. He’d traveled to oversee the Miss Universe pageant, which he owned; Trump had tried and failed to meet the Russian leader while there.” According to The Post, citing the new Michael Isikoff and David Corn book “Russian Roulette,” reports, “The daughter of Aras Agalarov,” came to “the Miss Universe offices in New York, bearing a box.”
THAT ONE WHERE TRUMP SHITS ON THE CONSTITUTION AGAIN
POLITICO reports, “Returning to top campaign form, Trump made fun of Washington and congratulated himself for maintaining his iconoclastic style in office, despite critics who have called for him to take his job more seriously”. To show how serious he is not, “‘I’m very presidential,’ he said at one point, lowering his voice and standing artificially straight as he mocked usual political addresses.” POLITICO adds anti-democratic Don, “touted his tax reform plan, his new tariffs on steel and aluminum imports and his newly announced plan to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, while slamming the news media — including calling NBC host Chuck Todd a ‘son of a bitch.’ The president also talked about his desire to impose capital punishment on drug dealers, describing a discussion with Singapore’s president about that country’s hard-line approach.” Is it possible he means Duterte in the Philippines instead? We all know our fake Russian bullshit president positively revels in violence so long as not a hair on his head is perturbed.
MUELLER OBSTRUCTION PROBE NEARING CONCLUSION
Bloomberg reports, “Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into whether President Donald Trump obstructed justice is said to be close to completion, but he may set it aside while he finishes other key parts of his probe, such as possible collusion and the hacking of Democrats, according to current and former U.S. officials. That’s because Mueller may calculate that if he tries to bring charges in the obstruction case — the part that may hit closest to Trump personally — witnesses may become less cooperative in other parts of the probe, or the president may move to shut it down altogether.”
QATAR OPTS TO NOT COOPERATE WITH MUELLER PROBE
NBC News reports, “Qatari officials gathered evidence of what they claim is illicit influence by the United Arab Emirates on Jared Kushner and other Trump associates, including details of secret meetings, but decided not to give the information to Special Counsel Robert Mueller for fear of harming relations with the Trump administration.” NBC News notes, “Qatari officials believe the meetings — as well as fallout from Qatari business dealings with Kushner — may have influenced President Trump’s public endorsement of a blockade of Qatar by its neighbors that began last year.”
From NBC News.
MICHAEL COHEN USED TRUMP ORG EMAIL FOR STORMY PAYMENT
NBC News reports, “President Donald Trump’s personal attorney used his Trump Organization email while arranging to transfer money into an account at a Manhattan bank before he wired $130,000 to adult film star Stormy Daniels to buy her silence. The lawyer, Michael Cohen, also regularly used the same email account during 2016 negotiations with the actress — whose legal name is Stephanie Clifford — before she signed a nondisclosure agreement”. Additionally NBC News notes, “And Clifford’s attorney at the time addressed correspondence to Cohen in his capacity at the Trump Organization and as ‘Special Counsel to Donald J. Trump’”.
From NBC News.
SENATOR WARNER: RUSSIANS PUNCHIING ABOVE THEIR WEIGHT IN CYBER
Fast Company reports, “The Russians have punched far beyond their weight when it comes to cyberwarfare, a prominent U.S. Senator said Saturday, and America isn’t keeping up. Speaking at the SXSW conference in Austin, Mark Warner, Democrat of Virginia, noted that Vladimir Putin’s government got ‘great bang for their dollars, or bang for their rubles’ by exploiting vulnerabilities on social media during the 2016 presidential elections, and that it may be time for the U.S. to rethink its military budget.” Fast Company adds, “Warner said that Putin’s government has acknowledged that it can’t keep up with us militarily. But he added that it has managed to use cyberwarfare to sow divisiveness in the U.S. by using sophisticated techniques to spread disinformation.”
From Fast Company.
REDDIT STILL RUSSIAN TROLLED UP
Wired reports that in addition to being totally unhelpful to Congressional investigators, “traces of Russian trolls activity remain on Reddit, providing some hints of their strategy on that platform without the company’s help. Columbia University researcher Jonathan Albright has found more than a thousand posts submitted by a small coterie of accounts between the spring and fall of 2016 linking back to phony websites created by the IRA. These posts were still live on Reddit as of Friday morning.” Wired adds, “Uploaded at a frenetic pace during 2016, the posts link predominantly to the websites DoNotShoot.US and BlackMattersUS.com, both of which are still active and were created by the IRA not only to spread divisive propaganda, but to collect personally identifying information about American citizens who visited the sites.” Wired reports, “The articles these Reddit accounts posted deal largely with police brutality and systemic racism in America, and were submitted strategically to subreddits like r/Bad_Cop_No_Donut and r/copwatch. They included headlines like ‘Most Cleveland Cops Won’t Be Wearing Body Cams During RNC’ and ‘Police officer is torturing an 8 year-old boy while he is crying in agony.’ That post received 332 upvotes and 65 comments. Some links also appeared on anti-Hillary Clinton subreddits like r/HillaryForPrison. One post that received nearly 300 upvotes read, ‘“We Won’t Vote For Hillary,’”BLM Protesters Chant.’” Additionally, “Many of the articles were also posted to subreddits for specific states, including key swing states, like r/Michigan and r/Wisconsin.” Wired notes, “The accounts shared plenty of real news articles, documenting injustices that legitimate news outlets also reported. But rather than linking, for instance, to the New York Daily News article about a woman who was allegedly raped by a police officer, the accounts linked directly to the Agency’s own websites, which repurposed the news as their own. These sites contained the kind of ad-tracking technology commercial marketers use to follow people who have visited their websites around the internet. Instead of more effectively selling visitors a new pair of boots, though, the objective was to feed their information to a Russia propaganda group. Some of the Agency’s websites also prompted visitors to subscribe or donate using their personally identifying information. In other words, these accounts capitalized on other people’s pain—and on the rage and empathy of Reddit users—to help subvert the democratic process.” Which is why TRUMPISTAN WATCH has since forever maintained this is not a left or right issues, this is everyone they wish to radicalize at once against each other.
RETIRING NATO GENERAL SAYS NO RUSSIAN AGGRESSION IN BALTICS
The Ottawa Citizen reports, “Perhaps it was because Czech General Petr Pavel, chairman of the NATO Military Committee, is retiring this summer. But the general was surprisingly frank and maybe a little off script when he met with journalists in Washington recently.” The Ottawa Citizen notes, “A standard line used to describe NATO’s mission to the Baltic States is that the troops are in those countries to deter Russian aggression.” The Ottawa Citizen adds, “Except Pavel says NATO hasn’t seen any ‘Russian aggression’ involving the Baltic States of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia. As Military.com also reported, the general has even cautioned against using the term ‘Russian aggression’ in reference to those states.” What?! Is this like the early war on terror years when state actors still struggled to define non-state actors, a case where conventional war terms are being used and miss the mark when it comes to hybrid warfare? Pavel told reporters at a round table last Wednesday, “There (has been) no violation of Baltic countries’ territory; not even the airspace,” adding, “All we have (seen) in the region is increased military presence, more exercises, more fights of long-range aviation, more use of intelligence. But I wouldn’t call it ‘aggression.’” The Ottawa Citizen adds, “Nearly all Russian-NATO aircraft intercepts over or near the Baltic nations remain non-hostile, and most can be attributed to human error,” citing a Military.com report. The Ottawa Citizen continues, “In the round-table with journalists Pavel did slam Russia for its actions in Ukraine but also said there needs to be ‘constructive dialogue’ between NATO and Russia.” The Ottawa Citizen notes, “the system that has allowed for military to military talks between the alliance and the Russians in the past hasn’t been that effective of late. Pavel said NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander, U.S. Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, has tried to set up meetings with Russian Gen. Valery Gerasimov. Each of the three times the meetings have been cancelled by the Russians”. Russian propaganda was content with Pavel’s words, promoting it on Russian state-run Sputnik.
UKRAINE CHARGES NEGOTIATOR WITH ASSASSINATION PLOT
Agence France Presse reports, “Ukraine on Friday charged a prisoner swap negotiator with plotting to assassinate President Petro Poroshenko and other top officials leading the campaign against Russian-backed eastern insurgents. A judge in Kiev said Volodymyr Ruban planned to use mortar fire and grenades to attack the presidential administration and parliament.” Agence France Presse adds, “Ukrainian Security Service chief Vasyl Grytsak added that the entire operation was orchestrated by the separatist leadership and at least tacitly approved by Russia.” Agence France Presse notes, “Ruban was detained on Thursday with a haul of heavy ammunition in his vehicle while crossing the ‘grey zone’ splitting the war zone from the rest of Ukraine.” Agence France Presse adds, “Ruban told the court he did not know that the bus he was using to cross into Kiev-controlled territory was carrying the weapons. He was placed in pre-trial detention for two months.”
From Agence France Presse.
PUTIN BLAMES JEWS FOR ELECTION INTERFERENCE
CBS News reports, “Russian President Vladimir Putin says he ‘couldn’t care less’ if individuals in Russia interfered in the U.S. elections, saying whoever it was — if it happened — doesn’t represent the interest of the ‘Russian state.’ Putin made the comments in a Moscow interview with NBC News’ Megyn Kelly, the latest segment of which was released Saturday.” CBS News adds Putin said, “Maybe they’re Ukrainians, Tatars, Jews, just with Russian citizenship. Even that needs to be checked. Maybe they have dual citizenship. Or maybe a green card. Maybe it was the Americans who paid them for this work. How do you know? I don’t know.” Or maybe they were Putin’s own KGB assholes and he is a lying piece of shit and Megyn Kelly should be ashamed for carrying his anti-Semitic diatribe to the world, if only she were capable of shame. Also note how Putin is getting closer to ultimately conceding the Russian state interfered to install Trump and soon only Trump will be left denying the true facts. For her part, The Hill reports, “Megyn Kelly said Saturday that she thinks Russian President Vladimir Putin ‘has something’ on President Trump.” Oh good, so she isn’t blind or stupid, just bigoted.
RUSSIA TESTFIRES HYPERSONIC MISSILE
Deutsche Welle reports, “Russia said on Sunday it had successfully test-fired a hypersonic missile, one of a range of next-generation weapons unveiled by President Vladimir Putin in his state-of-the-nation address earlier this month. The country’s defense ministry released video footage that showed the high-precision Kinzhal missile detaching from a MiG-31 supersonic fighter jet and darting across the dark sky, leaving a fiery trail behind.” Deutsche Welle notes, “The Kinzhal — the name means a double-edged Russian dagger — was described as ‘an ideal weapon’ by Putin during the missile’s unveiling on March 1.”
From Deutsche Welle.
RUSSIA SAYS NEW JETS OVER SYRIA PERFORMED 2 DAY COMBAT TEST
Defense News reports, “Following media speculation and online videos about the supposed deployment of at least four Russian Su-57 fighter jets in Syria, Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu has publicly said only two of the fifth-generation stealth fighters were carrying out two-day combat testing missions in Syria. ‘They really were there. Not for long, just two days. Over this time they conducted a trial program, including a combat trial,’ Shoigu told journalists March 1. ‘I can tell you that the trial was successful; the planes returned home a week ago.’” Defense News notes, “A military source said on condition of anonymity that ‘the deployment of the Russian stealth aircraft in Khmeimim Air Base would be a great opportunity to test the T-50’s configuration in an area where a large number of U.S. F-22 stealth jets operate.’ The Su-57 was known as the T-50 prior to its official designation.”
From Defense News.
EU EXTENDS SANCTIONS AGAINST RUSSIANS, SEPARATIST PROXIES
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reports, “The European Union on 12 March officially prolonged its asset freezes and visa bans against 150 Russian officials and Russia-backed Ukrainian separatists. The six-month extension also continues sanctions against 38 entities.”
VENEZUELA’S STATE OIL COMPANY SUES INTERNATIONAL OIL TRADERS
The AP reports, “A trust linked to Venezuela’s state oil company PDVSA has filed a lawsuit against major international energy trading firms for their alleged role funneling bribes to corrupt company officials in exchange for rigged oil purchase contracts.” The AP notes, “The lawsuit comes as the U.S. expands a criminal investigation into corruption at PDVSA, and the Trump administration threatens crippling oil sanctions on the country sitting atop the world’s largest crude reserves.” The AP notes, “the 60-page complaint reads like a John Grisham novel, reflecting the lawless behavior by PDVSA officials and international oil companies over more than a decade. Switzerland-based Glencore and Russia’s Lukoil are named as among more than 40 defendants including rogue traders, multinational energy firms, shell companies, mid-level PDVSA officials and a Nicaraguan-owned bank in Florida.” The AP adds, “The scheme to fix prices, rig bids and eliminate competition, as well as steal highly-confidential information by cloning the company’s servers, was allegedly carried out by two former PDVSA traders, Francisco Morillo and Leonardo Baquero.”
From the AP.
—–STAGE MANAGED PUTINOCRACY: RUSSIA PRETENDS TO VOTE 2018—–
A BORING FARSE: NO POLITICS + LESS DRAMATURGIYA
Open Democracy reports, “Russian elections used to be all about dramaturgiya, meaning an artificial and carefully-scripted drama. Elections may not have had the normal interest, like an uncertain outcome, but they buzzed with all the drama of artificial conflict. In fact, one of the tricks of local ‘political technology’ was to deliver emotive narratives to marginalise subjects that the Kremlin didn’t want to see discussed. The 2018 presidential election, however, isn’t just boring. It’s devoid of any politics at all.” Like a “Seinfeld” episode, “If it is about anything, it’s about the politics of nothingness.” As Open Democracy notes, “dramaturgiya has been a functional part of the Russian political system for over 20 years, and it’s not clear how things will work without it.” Of note to the woeful citizens of Trumpistan, Open Democracy adds, “Dramaturgiya has changed its function several times. In the 1990s and early 2000s, it was part of a weak state’s box of magic tricks. Russia’s leaders were presented as either a lesser evil against exaggerated threats (Yeltsin against the ‘red-brown’ coalition in 1993 or against the Communists in 1996), or as a crusader against soft targets or threats that the state didn’t have the capacity or desire to properly confront (the oligarchs in 2003, the Chechens in 1999 were arguably both). Dramaturgiya’s main function was thus distraction, changing the dominant narrative away from the authorities’ corruption or incompetence.” Open Democracy explains, “Under ‘mature Putinism’, dramaturgiya became the key means of maintaining Putin’s mega-rating, at 70% or more.” Open Democracy adds, “The majority marginalised other voices, but most importantly it aligned political elites via a loyalty test to the script of the dramaturgiya. Political debate was replaced by a virtual chorus. The majority functioned as a post-modern equivalent of Václav Havel’s greengrocer in his well-known 1978 essay ‘The Power of the Powerless’.” As in the old Soviet days, “The modern-day Kremlin script functions in the same way. It’s pointless to ask whether the Russian elite actually believes all the tropes, myths, propaganda and downright lies. The point is their loyalty to the overall narrative, and maintaining the closed circle of its reproduction.” Open Democracy adds, “Since 2012, the refrain has constantly been foreign enemies, orchestrated by the USA, and channelled by the domestic fifth column,” i.e. Jews and other minorities, undesirable foreigners. The apex of dramaturgiya was “the Medvedev project,” which, “was beset by internal tensions. Medvedev was designed to be a virtual liberal, but protesters wanted him to act like a real one.” Problem! As Open Democracy notes, “The Kremlin was grappling with the need for internal-external enemies after Putin’s re-election, even before the crisis in Ukraine.” Perhaps most significantly for the bureaucracy and the mechanics, “The changing nature of the Kremlin’s dramaturgiya is illustrated by the shift from Vladislav Surkov to Vyacheslav Volodin to Sergey Kiriyenko as information overlord.”
From Open Democracy.
COME SAIL AWAY
The AP reports, “A former Trump campaign aide appeared for hours before a federal grand jury Friday, after he defiantly insisted in a series of news interviews just days earlier that he intended to defy a subpoena in special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation.” The AP adds, “Sam Nunberg spent more than six hours inside the federal courthouse in Washington. He declined to speak with journalists on the way in or out of the building, and it was not immediately clear what testimony he offered to the grand jury or what documents he provided.” TIME adds, “Days after a string of bizarre media appearances, former Donald Trump campaign aide Sam Nunberg told ABC News that Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into possible collusion between the campaign and Russia is not a ‘witch hunt.’ ‘No, I don’t think it’s a witch hunt. There’s a lot “there” there, and that’s the sad truth,’ Nunberg told ABC, before adding, ‘I don’t believe it leads to the president.’” Levels of delusion: he is coming down but has not yet reached normal levels of lucidity yet.
TWO OF A KIND
The Washington Examiner reports, “Former President Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort now has to wear two bracelets that monitor his whereabouts.” The Washington Examiner notes, “A Virginia probation officer told U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III that because of technology limits, she couldn’t access the data from the bracelet Manafort is wearing connected to the charges he’s facing in federal court in Washington.” Stylish!
From The Washington Examiner.
—–KNOW YOUR ENEMY—–
STAND DOWN. SO WE HAVE HAD TO STAND UP EVER SINCE.
Mother Jones reports in a new excerpt from Michael Isikoff and David Corn’s book Russian Roulette: The Inside Story of Putin’s War on America and the Election of Donald Trump, on the August 4, 2016 call CIA Director John Brennan had “with Alexander Bortnikov, the head of Russia’s FSB, the security service that succeeded the KGB. It was one of the regularly scheduled calls between the two men, with the main subject once more the horrific civil war in Syria. By this point, Brennan had had it with the Russian spy chief. For the past few years, Brennan’s pleas for help in defusing the Syrian crisis had gone nowhere. And after they finished discussing Syria—again with no progress—Brennan addressed two other issues, not on the official agenda.” You might guess that one is the ongoing and forever harassment of U.S. diplomats in Russia including, “ an undercover CIA officer,” who “had been beaten outside the US embassy in Moscow two months earlier.” Mother Jones continues, “Then Brennan turned to an even more sensitive issue: Russia’s interference in the American election. Brennan now was aware that at least a year earlier Russian hackers had begun their cyberattack on the Democratic National Committee. We know you’re doing this, Brennan said to the Russian. He pointed out that Americans would be enraged to find out Moscow was seeking to subvert the election and that such an operation could backfire. Brennan warned Bortnikov that if Russia continued this information warfare, there would be a price to pay. He did not specify the consequences.” Mother Jones adds, “This was the first of several warnings that the Obama administration would send to Moscow. But the question of how forcefully to respond would soon divide the White House staff, pitting the National Security Council’s top analysts for Russia and cyber issues against senior policymakers within the administration. It was a debate that would culminate that summer with a dramatic directive from President Barack Obama’s national security adviser to the NSC staffers developing aggressive proposals to strike back against the Russians: ‘Stand down.’” Must read. To get there, some key details:
– Of the evolving U.S. intelligence picture: In unusually tight meetings of national security heads only, “there was no question on the big picture being drawn up by the analysts and experts assembled by [CIA Director John] Brennan: Russian state-sponsored hackers were behind the cyberattacks and the release of swiped Democratic material by WikiLeaks, Guccifer 2.0 (an internet persona suspected of being a Russian front), and a website called DCLeaks.com. ‘They knew who the cutouts were,’ one participant later said. ‘There was not a lot of doubt.’ It was not immediately clear, however, how far and wide within the Russian government the effort ran. Was it coming from one or two Russian outfits operating on their own? Or was it being directed from the top and part of a larger project? The intelligence, at this stage, was also unclear on a central point: Moscow’s primary aim. Was it to sow discord and chaos to delegitimize the US election? Prompting a political crisis in the United States was certainly in keeping with Putin’s overall goal of weakening Western governments. There was another obvious reason for the Russian assault: Putin despised Hillary Clinton”. Additionally, “there was a third possible reason: to help Trump. Did the Russians believe they could influence a national election in the United States and affect the results? At this stage, the intelligence community analysts and officials working on this issue considered this point not yet fully substantiated by the intelligence they possessed. Given Trump’s business dealings with Russians over the years and his long line of puzzling positive remarks about Putin, there seemed ample cause for Putin to desire Trump in the White House. The intelligence experts did believe this could be part of the mix for Moscow: Why not shoot for the moon and see if we can get Trump elected?”
– Of election systems hacks: At the same time, “more troubling intelligence got reported to the White House: Russian-linked hackers were probing the computers of state election systems, particularly voter registration databases. The first reports to the FBI came from Illinois. In late June, its voter database was targeted in a persistent cyberattack that lasted for weeks. The attackers were using foreign IP addresses, many of which were traced to a Dutch company owned by a heavily tattooed 26-year-old Russian who lived in Siberia. The hackers were relentlessly pinging the Illinois database five times per second, 24 hours a day, and they succeeded in accessing data on up to 200,000 voters. Then there was a similar report from Arizona, where the username and password of a county election official was stolen. The state was forced to shut down its voter registration system for a week. Then in Florida, another attack.” Mother Jones notes, “One NSC staffer regularly walked into the office of Michael Daniel, the White House director of cybersecurity, with disturbing updates. ‘Michael,’ he would say, ‘five more states got popped.’ Or four. Or three. At one point, Daniel took a deep breath and told him, ‘It’s starting to look like every single state has been targeted.’”
– Follow up intelligence indicates Putin ordered everything: “At the first principals meeting, Brennan had serious news for his colleagues: The most recent intelligence indicated that Putin had ordered or was overseeing the Russian cyber operations targeting the US election. And the intelligence community—sometimes called the IC by denizens of that world—was certain that the Russian operation entailed more than spy services gathering information. It now viewed the Russian action as a full-scale active measure. This intelligence was so sensitive it had not been put in the President’s Daily Brief. Brennan had informed Obama personally about this, but he did not want this information circulating throughout the national security system.”
– On smart analysts’ proposals: “Michael Daniel and Celeste Wallander, the National Security Council’s top Russia analyst, were convinced the United States needed to strike back hard against the Russians and make it clear that Moscow had crossed a red line.” Oh there we go again, horrible red lines. Of course, “there had to be consequences.” Mother Jones notes, “One proposal was to unleash the NSA to mount a series of far-reaching cyberattacks: to dismantle the Guccifer 2.0 and DCLeaks websites that had been leaking the emails and memos stolen from Democratic targets, to bombard Russian news sites with a wave of automated traffic in a denial-of-service attack that would shut the news sites down, and to launch an attack on the Russian intelligence agencies themselves, seeking to disrupt their command and control modes. Knowing that Putin was notoriously protective of any information about his family, Wallander suggested targeting Putin himself. She proposed leaking snippets of classified intelligence to reveal the secret bank accounts in Latvia held for Putin’s daughters”. Victoria Nuland, Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs adds, “dump dirt on Russian websites about Putin’s money, about the girlfriends of top Russian officials, about corruption in Putin’s United Russia party—essentially to give Putin a taste of his own medicine.” And “One idea Daniel proposed was unusual: The United States and NATO should publicly announce a giant ‘cyber exercise’ against a mythical Eurasian country, demonstrating that Western nations had it within their power to shut down Russia’s entire civil infrastructure and cripple its economy.” TRUMPISTAN WATCH loves all of them but these last two are especially sublime.
– Now for the moment of horror of how we got here: “But Wallander and Daniel’s bosses at the White House were not on board. One day in late August, national security adviser Susan Rice called Daniel into her office and demanded he cease and desist from working on the cyber options he was developing. ‘Don’t get ahead of us,’ she warned him. The White House was not prepared to endorse any of these ideas. Daniel and his team in the White House cyber response group were given strict orders: ‘Stand down.’ She told Daniel to ‘knock it off,’ he recalled.” Unlike Putin hearing that, he listened. Some Deep State, guys.
– Now for the follow up moment of total horror: “Obama and his top aides did view the challenge at hand differently than the NSC staffers. ‘The first-order objective directed by President Obama,’ McDonough recalled, ‘was to protect the integrity of election.’ Confronting Putin was necessary, Obama believed, but not if it risked blowing up the election. He wanted to make sure whatever action was taken would not lead to a political crisis at home—and with Trump the possibility for that was great. The nation had had more than 200 years of elections and peaceful transitions of power. Obama didn’t want that to end on his watch.” So he chose to flip the keys to an autocrat and watch it burn down on his watch and do no pushback against Russia. Some Deep State, guys.
– Now here is how badly Obama and his aides misunderstood Russia: “Most of all, Obama and his aides had to figure out how to ensure the Russians ceased their meddling immediately. They came up with an answer that would frustrate the NSC hawks, who believed Obama and his senior advisers were tying themselves in knots and looking for reasons not to act. The president would privately warn Putin and vow overwhelming retaliation for any further intervention in the election. This, they thought, could more likely dissuade Putin than hitting back at this moment. That is, they believed the threat of action would be more effective than actually taking action.” Horror. Where was Deep State? Oh, right. Some deep state, guys.
From Mother Jones.
THERE WILL BE A MILITARY PARADE, ON VETERAN’S DAY AT LEAST
ABC News reports, “A military parade ordered by President Donald Trump will take place on Veteran’s Day, according to a memo from Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford.” At least it’s not to be on our fake Russian bullshit president’s birthday? And, gratefully, “The memo directs the use of period uniforms and a lot of aircraft, but no tanks as to ‘minimize damage to local infrastructure.’” Washington has enough traffic problems for tanks to increase pothole size would be an additional middle finger to the men and women who form our various agencies and, you know make things actually work in our country. Sadly however, “There is also a request to ‘include a heavy air component at the end of the parade, to include older aircraft as available,’” because don’t we already have airshows everywhere nationwide in the summer and they are not the cheapest things either? Also sadly less we forget which fake Russian bullshit president ordered this, “The parade, which will go from the White House to the Capitol.” Maybe he will not be our fake president by then? Hard to believe in anything beyond a horoscope as long as we have a fake president and his name is Trump. At least the parade is not on his birthday or some such horror?
From ABC News.
EACH CENT REPRESENTS 1 MILLION EXTORTED FROM ELSEWHERE
The Washington Post reports, “President Trump’s hotels made $151,470 in profit from doing business with foreign governments in 2017, the Trump Organization announced Friday. The company donated that amount to the U.S. Treasury in late February, in keeping with a promise that Trump made before he was inaugurated.” Wait until the check clears, and remember, each cent is a million extorted from elsewhere, at least. The ever generous Qusay, Eric Trump, said, “Although we are not legally obligated to do this, we have pledged to account for all profits from foreign government business at our hotels and clubs and have donated that money back to the United States of America”. Now, the backstory: “The Trump Organization announced several days ago that it had made the donation — but at first, declined to give the amount. That seemed to undercut the purpose of the donation, which was to reassure Americans that foreign governments are not using Trump’s businesses to buy the president’s favor. This week, however, the company had come under increased scrutiny from Capitol Hill. Both Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) — respectively, the top Democrats on the Finance and Foreign Relations committees — had sent letters asking for more information about the gift.” Very generous Qusay! Now even better, The Washington Post adds, “The Trump Organization did not release any details about how the donation was calculated, other than to say it was in accordance with ‘our policy’ and common accounting standards,” so you know something funny is up with that number, especially since, “Several foreign governments are known to have spent significant amounts at Trump’s D.C. hotel: The Saudi government spent more than $250,000 on hotel rooms, and the embassies of Kuwait, Bahrain and Azerbaijan held events in the ballrooms.” So the Saudis alone spent decidedly more than the Trumps are so generously giving back to our treasury. Vomit everywhere. Maybe they can spend $151, 470 to clean it up. Government Executive called it “a cynical, half-hearted gesture—merely reminded us that the Trumps do not take the Constitution seriously.” Duh. Of course, “The announcement raised more questions than it answered and highlighted this administration’s disregard for norms of transparency, ethics, and the public interest. This was nothing more than a publicity stunt,” Government Executive wisely notes, adding, “It’s impossible to give Trump the benefit of the doubt here, especially given the family’s well-documented record of overstating and misrepresenting its philanthropy.”
NEO-NAZI + FOX NEWS PROPAGANDIST AT WHITE HOUSE FOR DINNER
The Daily Beast reports, “On Monday night, President Donald Trump welcomed Seb Gorka back into the White House—not for a job, but for a meal. The president was joined for dinner in the White House residence by Fox News personalities, including host Jesse Watters and Gorka, a former White House official and aide to former chief strategist Steve Bannon. According to a White House official and two other sources familiar with the meeting, President Trump invited Gorka and Watters because ‘he couldn’t get enough of them on TV,’ as one source put it”. Ew. The Daily Beast notes, “On Thursday night, Watters tweeted out an image of a menu—which includes a dessert of milk chocolate mousse—signed by Donald J. Trump, reading, ‘To Jesse[,] You are great!’” Of course, “Gorka, currently a Fox News contributor, is an academic fraud, an anti-Muslim zealot, and even an ally to Nazi and fascist sympathizers who never should have set foot on White House grounds,” The Daily Beast recalls.
From The Daily Beast.
ARYAN PRINCESS IVANKA’S TIES TO TRUMP ORG STILL A MASSIVE PROBLEM
McClatchy reports, “Ivanka Trump’s continued relationship with the businesses affiliated with the Trump Organization creates countless potential conflicts of interest prohibited by federal law and federal ethics standards as she works as a special assistant to the president. And just like her father, she is being accused of violating the so-called emoluments clause of the U.S. Constitution that forbids government officials — not just presidents — from accepting gifts from foreign governments without the approval of Congress.” McClatchy adds, “Trump, who just returned from a trip representing the United States in South Korea, faces serious questions as a result of her decision to be involved in both the family business and the White House: Is a foreign government gaining access to her through the business? Are business deals a factor in U.S. foreign policy? Are foreign governments able to build goodwill with her because of the company?” Of note, “Ivanka Trump is believed to still have only an interim security clearance nearly 14 months into her father’s tenure because of the complex finances of her husband, top presidential aide and New York real estate developer Jared Kushner. But her continued ties to the family businesses, whose developent deals often involve international financing and buyers, could actually be causing the delay, according to former administration officials and attorneys familiar with clearance guidelines.” McClatchy notes, “Since she joined the White House, Ivanka Trump’s vague government responsibilities have led her to travel to Saudi Arabia and South Korea and meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping at Mar-a-Lago, a Trump resort in Florida.” All things she actually has zero business doing on behalf of the American people, only herself.
FORMER WH CHIEF STRATEGIST BANNON ENCOURAGES FRENCH RACISM
The Hill reports, “Former White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon encouraged members of France’s far-right National Front party on Saturday to embrace backlash to their positions as ‘a badge of honor.’” The Hill quotes Bannon, “Let them call you racists, let them call you xenophobes, let them call you nativists, wear it as a badge of honor”. The Hill adds, “Bannon spoke at the National Front’s annual convention in the French city of Lille after traveling through Europe in recent weeks for meetings with populist leaders of various parties. From his travels, Bannon said he is now certain ‘history is on our side.’” The anti-globalist globalist?
From The Hill.
RUSSIA HAS HIT SOME TURBULENCE IN SYRIA
Al Monitor reports, “A Russian An-26 military transport plane crashed March 6 while approaching Khmeimim air base in Syria, killing everyone on board — six crew members and 33 passengers. A few hours after the catastrophe, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu reported to President Vladimir Putin the preliminary findings: The crash was believed to be caused either by pilot error or technical malfunction. The plane was built in 1980. The incident — Russia’s single-biggest military loss in Syria — claimed the lives of Russian Maj. Gen. Vladimir Yeremeyev, a colonel, six majors, two captains and 29 junior officers and sergeants.” Al Monitor notes, “Jaish al-Islam claimed responsibility for the incident, saying it fired on the plane when it was about to land. The attack supposedly came in retaliation for the Russia-supported Syrian army offensive in Eastern Ghouta. The Conflict Intelligence Team, a Moscow-based independent investigative group, suggested the statement was false given the limited presence of Jaish al-Islam in the area adjacent to the crash site. The team also pointed out that the statement was only released by the Lebanese Ad-Diyar newspaper and hadn’t appeared on any of Jaish al-Islam’s social networks.” Al Monitor adds, “The plane crash is the latest development in the recent streak of bad luck Moscow has faced in Syria,” so naturally, “such moves are largely perceived as a product of ‘American efforts to poke Putin in the eye,’ but a bigger worry in Moscow is how far it can all go before endangering Russia’s efforts in Syria. A Kremlin official who spoke with Al-Monitor not for attribution said there’s ‘clear evidence’ the United States seeks to make things more complicated for Russia.” That should surprise no one after February 7. Al Monitor notes, “Lavrov added that Moscow ‘receives more and more information from different sources that Americans formed a narrow, non-inclusive group that fosters plans on the dissolution of the Syrian state.’” Al Monitor continues, “Russia once saw a return on its investments like the de-escalation zones, its use of private military companies (PMC) and engaging opposition groups. But these efforts are no longer producing the kind of results Moscow wants. Perhaps others have learned to adapt and deal with them. But Russia will not back down in the face of challenges, even if it means more political losses or physical expenditures. Instead, it will revise its course. Moscow already appears to be shifting its military and diplomatic strategies. Russia’s Defense Ministry plans to make use of the ‘gray zone,’ that Cold War-like area between peace and conventional warfare.” Additionally Al Monitor notes, “The day the plane crash occurred, Gerasimov was at Khmeimim air base. No details of his Syria visit are known and, were it not for the crash, his presence might not have been revealed at all.” Furthermore, “An investigative report by Russian media outlet Znak suggests more Wagner Group mercenaries — at least 150 fighters — are being prepared to deploy in Syria within the next couple of weeks.”
From Al Monitor.
MELANIA’S FORMER “MODELING AGENT” HANDS OUT FAKE NEWS CNN SHIRTS
The New York Post’s Page Six reports, “Paolo Zampolli — the Italian-born diplomat who introduced Melania to Donald Trump — had T-shirts in the gift bags for his guests on Thursday night, emblazoned with what looked like the CNN logo. On closer inspection, it was FNN — ‘Fake News Network.’” Isn’t that clever? It is so original. The New York Post’s Page Six adds, “Zampolli, the UN ambassador for the Caribbean country Dominica, laughed, ‘They can’t dislike my friend [Trump] any less.’” Recall Zampolli claims he was a modeling agent to Melana, but you can decide for yourself based on a close read of a New York Times profile whether he may closer resemble a man brokering women for other purposes.
PULL OUT THOSE BINDERS FULL OF WOMEN
GQ reports, “March is Women’s History Month, and that’s as good an excuse as any to try and combat the bad press that the GOP gets the rest of the year. So, enter the party’s official Instagram account, @GOP: ‘Contrary to mainstream belief, @realdonaldtrump has appointed more women to senior-level government and campaign positions than previous administrations. He’s empowering ALL Americans with his winning agenda. Take a look at some of these leading ladies.#WomensHistoryMonth’.” Ready for it? GQ notes, “there’s Ivanka Trump, who’s now a White House adviser, and Melania Trump, who was appointed first lady as soon as Trump became president. But it’s not just Trump’s relatives: in January 2018, Karen Pence became the first woman to be second lady since earlier that month.” GQ jabs, “Unfortunately, the positions of first and second lady aren’t exactly senior-level government positions. Nor are they, strictly speaking, ‘jobs.’ And while we can make a case that Donald Trump did technically make Melania first lady, it’s a real stretch to say that he picked Mike Pence’s wife for him.” As GQ notes, “Let’s also consider the men Trump has appointed. There’s noted female athleticism skeptic, Stephen Miller, for example. There’s Rob Porter, who was accused of domestic abuse then vigorously defended by the Trump administration until shocking photos of Porter’s ex-wives surfaced. Former adviser Steve Bannon faced similar accusations from his ex-wife. And Trump himself has been accused of sexual misconduct by more than a dozen women. But his press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders assures us that none of those women can be trusted.”
DRUDGE + RUSSIA
Media Matters for America reports, “Conservative website The Daily Caller’s decision to publish an op-ed in which infamous Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska attacks special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into interference with the 2016 presidential election drew harsh criticism from journalists but quickly earned a link on The Drudge Report. Drudge regularly promotes Russian propaganda, providing more than 400 links to the websites of Russian state-media outlets RT, Sputnik, and Tass since 2012.” Media Matters for America notes, “The Daily Caller describes Deripaska at the bottom of his piece only as ‘the founder of UC Rusal, the world’s leading producer of aluminum using clean, renewable hydropower,’ while his bio elsewhere on the site calls him the ‘Founder of UC Rusal, a large Russian aluminum company.’ Critics quickly pointed out that Deripaska is far more than a mere mining mogul — he is a key ally of Russian president Vladimir Putin and a central figure in Mueller’s investigation by virtue of his close relationship with former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort, whom Mueller has charged with ‘a dizzying array of tax, financial, and bank fraud crimes.’ Manafort has sizable financial ties to Deripaska and reportedly offered to provide him with private briefings on the election shortly before Trump became the Republican presidential nominee.” However, “as The Daily Caller drew criticism, the outlet received a boost from Matt Drudge, the right-wing internet journalist whose highly trafficked aggregation website is the top source of referral traffic to a host of right-wing and mainstream news websites.” The Drudge headline gave it reveals other sympathies, “DERIPASKA: Russia Narrative is ‘Wag the Dog’ Scenario”. Media Matters for America notes, “Drudge’s decision to boost the signal of an op-ed written by a close Kremlin ally is consistent with his emergence in recent years as a web traffic pipeline for Russian propaganda sites.”
WHAT WAS DERIPASKA EVEN DOING PUBLISHING THIS DEEP STATE DRIVEL?
Bloomberg columnist Leonid Bershidsky asks, “Why has Deripaska published this? He is not known as an op-ed writer, and his few interviews have been colorless affairs. He’s a man of action, not ideas, the victor of the so-called aluminum wars of the 1990s, a brutal struggle that filled entire cemeteries in Siberia.” Of course, “Because of his history of ruthless corporate invasion, Deripaska, who spent hundreds of millions of dollars in the 2000s paying off former partners, has long been unwelcome in the U.S. He has struggled to get a visa or do business there. In an effort to gain a foothold, he has paid one Washington lobbyist after another, trying different firms with different party affiliations.” So here follows a brief history of Deripaska in DC. Bershidsky begins, “He paid Alston & Bird, the law firm of Bob Dole, which managed to get him a visa. That lasted a year, then he was barred again. He also paid Democrat-linked lobbyist Adam Waldman, who has apparently been in contact with Senator Mark Warner and former British spy Christopher Steele, both heavily involved in shaping the Trump-Russia narrative,” but, “his biggest mistake was working with Paul Manafort”. Bloomberg adds, “Deripaska bankrolled Manafort’s failed Ukraine investment plans, receiving a introduction to Senator John McCain in return. Nothing happened as a result, which would’ve have been disappointing enough for Deripaska. But the aluminum tycoon has suffered the further consequence of becoming mired in the Trump-Russia scandal through the association.” Now wait for it: “To add insult to injury, Deripaska’s industry is one of the biggest targets of Trump’s new aluminum tariff. Russia, where Deripaska’s company is the No. 1 aluminum producer, is the second-biggest supplier of the metal to the U.S.” Bershidsky concludes, “Deripaska is angry and frustrated. His remarkable life, which started in a southern Russian village and led him, by way of some of the roughest parts of Russia, to palaces, French villas and yachts, taught him never to be a sucker. But the U.S. establishment has — at least as he must see it — repeatedly suckered him. It has taken his money and continued rejecting him. For good measure, it’s now smearing him with this sticky Trump-Russia mud that may never wash off.” Good.
THIS IS HOW THEY PISS + MARK THEIR TERRITORY, LIKE DOGS
The Daily Mail reports, “Glamorous spy Anna Chapman has branded poisoned double agent Sergei Skripal a ‘traitor’. Chapman was traded for Skripal, who is fighting for life in hospital, in a 2010 spy swap. She however found no words of comfort for the 66-year-old.” The Daily Mail adds, “Instead Chapman attacked Britain by saying: ‘As always Russia is guilty by default – despite the fact that traitor Skripal was pardoned by the President, and released. ‘In any case, Russia is definitely not interested in such scandal. ‘Does the West needs proof to blame Russia?’” Oh yes, we are all Russophobes because they used a nerve agent against an enemy in a Western city. The Daily Mail notes, “Since the spy swap, glamour SVR spy has become a multi-millionaire with her Russian business ventures including her own fashion line and work as a TV presenter.”
From The Daily Mail.
—–TOWARDS A PEACEFUL NUCLEAR EXCHANGE—–
FAILURE WITH NK NOW COULD PUSH US TO BRINK OF WAR
The New York Times carries an opinion piece by Victor Cha, former National Security Council director on Asia, “The announcement at the White House on Thursday evening that President Trump will meet the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, within two months raises more questions than it answers. While the unpredictability of a meeting between these two unconventional leaders provides unique opportunities to end the decades-old conflict, its failure could also push the two countries to the brink of war.” TRUMPISTAN WATCH fully concurs and believes perhaps that is the point, to emotionally force us into a greater relationship of co-dependency on mercurial leaders for our safety, our very lives even. Cha adds, “The South Korean national security adviser, who had met with Mr. Kim in North Korea on Monday, made the announcement at the White House after meeting with Mr. Trump. He said that the North would consider denuclearization, agree to cease weapons testing for now and accept the start of the annual United States-South Korea military exercises this spring.” Cha notes, “The temperature on the Korean Peninsula seems to have been lowered for now.” Cha writes, “I have learned that the regime never gives anything away for free. To the extent that this administration has thought about diplomacy during its first year in office, it went no further than listing the things that the United States would not do in future negotiations — for example, not give up sanctions, not pay for meetings, not make the mistakes of past negotiations.” Be prepared to watch Trump surrender the full weight of American power for nothing or for an attempt at more personal power as he already has with Russia.
From The New York Times.
—–RADIO MOSCOW: STORIES FROM THEIR PRESS AND OURS—–
LIZA PESKOVA DOESN’T UNDERSTAND WORLD AS WELL AS SHE THOUGHT
The Sun reports, “Elizaveta Peskova is the 20-year-old daughter of Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov, 50. She receives torrents of abuse on social media due to her dad’s line of work. Elizaveta said: ‘My intellectual abilities, my assumed lifestyle, my looks, my relatives – everything is a target for insults and humiliation.’” Sad! The Sun quotes her, “Every single mistake, even the smallest one, raises a new wave of hatred. I have no desire to live on social networks, or even to live in general.” Sad! Of course, “Elizaveta is repeatedly slammed on social media for flaunting her luxurious lifestyle.” And how has she responded? The Sun adds, “Last June she jokingly wrote: ‘I got lucky because my dad is the country’s top-thief and he teaches me this art. I am not studying anywhere, because I am stupid, but this is not a problem. If I need something I’ll just buy a slave with Russian people’s money! I am the future!” She sounds nice.
From The Sun.
54 SEVERED HUMAN HANDS FOUND IN A BAG IN SIBERIA
USA Today reports, “Russian police launched an investigation after a mysterious bag of 54 severed human hands was discovered at a popular fishing place near the Siberian city of Khabarovsk,” citing Siberian Times reports. USA Today adds, “A single hand was spotted first, and then the bag containing the remains was found on an island in the Amur River, about 20 miles from the Chinese border. It is unclear why the hands were chopped off and police do not know who the hands belonged to. At least one hand has fingerprints that authorities are checking”. USA Today notes, “Local media reported that medical bandages and hospital-style plastic shoe covers were found next to the remains.”
From USA Today.
RESISTANCE ADVICE: SOME WORDS FROM ARMANDO IANNUCCI
The New York Times features an op-ed Friday from Armando Iannucci of “The Death of Stalin”. In it, Iannucci writes, “The Russian minister of culture has banned my new movie, ‘The Death of Stalin.’ He said its satire was part of a Western plot to destabilize the country. Now the Russian presidential election is looming, and we all know how vehemently Vladimir Putin despises the idea of anyone interfering in the elections of a foreign power; so onto the blacklist my movie went, and no one in Russia is officially allowed to see it.” Iannucci continues, “The last thing I expected was hearty congratulations, but that’s what I got from many film industry insiders. Bouquets of tweets and emails arrived telling me what smart publicity this was and how great this would look on our posters; the Russians had given us a marketing campaign no money could buy.” Iannucci is right to say, “this act of censorship gave me no joy; the overwhelming emotion has been one of sad disappointment that in the world of instant communication, and the anarchic dissemination of information, people still think it’s O.K. to ban stuff they don’t like. That they should ban a film making fun of repression is wonderfully ironic, I know, but I still don’t get any kick out of it.” Iannucci notes, “It’s amazing to me that in 2018 people still think censorship works. A poll last month in Russia found that most respondents knew about my film primarily because it had been banned.” He added as it’s easy to get things free and online now, “Someone tweeted me a photo of himself watching it on a laptop in Red Square, right under Mr. Putin’s office window”. Iannucci adds, “There’s something rather mid-20th century about censorship. Then again, that’s no surprise, since international politics is going through a retro phase — the Chinese Communist Party leader granting himself leadership for life, the Russian president announcing he has developed a nuclear superweapon, right-wing parties assuming power in Europe by comparing immigrants to vermin, spies-on-the-run getting poisoned in London. Like ghosts from the past, these old tropes now haunt the present.” Iannucci reminds us, “In a real democracy, many opinions can exist in harmony. If we don’t allow for other opinions, then little by little we grow resistant to democracy.”
From The New York Times.
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