—–ON THE AGENDA—–
MLK ASSASSINATION ANNIVERSARY
Today marks 50 years since the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. outside the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee. King was in the city to support striking sanitation workers. Events are planned nationwide to commemorate the anniversary as many of us look around in shock and disgust at what our nation is today. Try and find a way to mark the occasion, preferably with others, so as to remind yourself that the majority of the American people are good people who are more interested in helping each other than destroying each other with racist, hateful bile.
GET READY TO RUMBLE: MOSCOW SECURITY CONFERENCE STARTS
The AP reports, “China’s new defense minister says his visit to Russia is a signal to the United States about the increasingly close military ties between Moscow and Beijing. The unusually bold statement Tuesday by Gen. Wei Fenghe at the start of his talks with Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu reflected the growing military cooperation between the two former Communist rivals.” The AP adds, “Speaking in Moscow, Wei emphasized that he chose Russia for his first trip abroad since becoming the international face of China’s military last month to ‘show the world a high level of development of our bilateral relations and firm determination of our armed forces to strengthen strategic cooperation.’ Wei added he would attend a security conference Wednesday hosted by the Russian Defense Ministry to ‘let the Americans know about the close ties between the armed forces of China and Russia.’” Did you catch that, Americans? The AP notes, “Moscow and Beijing have forged what they described as a ‘strategic partnership,’ expressing their shared opposition to the ‘unipolar’ world — the term they use to describe perceived U.S. global domination.” Also classical international relations theory. Good times ahead, folks. Azerbaijan’s Trend News Agency reports, “Iranian Defense Minister Brigadier-General Amir Hatami has arrived in the Russian capital, Moscow, to attend the Seventh Moscow Conference on Global Security.” Trend adds, “General Sergei Shoigu earlier said that delegations from 95 countries, as well as 30 defense ministers, 15 general staff chiefs and deputy defense ministers, will attend the Seventh Moscow Conference on Global Security. The Seventh Moscow Conference on Global Security is scheduled to be held on April 4-5,” just as missiles are flying over the Baltic Sea in what Russia is calling a “test”. Russian state-run Tass adds, “Serbia will neither join sanctions on Russia nor support anti-Russian hysteria until Aleksandar Vucic heads the country, Serbian Defense Minister Aleksandar Vulin said at a meeting with his Russian counterpart Army General Sergei Shoigu ahead of the Seventh Moscow Conference on Global Security.”
MISSILES OVER THE BALTIC SEA IN WHAT RUSSIA CALLS TEST STARTS
Public Broadcasting of Latvia reports, “Civil aviation is being diverted and Latvia’s military is keeping a wary eye on the situation as a three-day window begins April 4 during which Russia plans to fire missiles over parts of the Baltic Sea, including over Latvia’s exclusive economic zone. Following an announcement by the Russian military last week, airspace will be subject to restrictions for hours during April 4, 5 and 6 during the hours of 0600 to 1800 as countries bordering the sea wait to see exactly what sort of weapons will be fired and in which direction. Airspace up to an altitude of 18 kilometers in an area roughly 40 kilometers off the Latvian coast will be restricted. Two other areas of the Baltic Sea, near the Swedish and Polish coasts have been similarly restricted.” Public Broadcasting of Latvia notes, “The need for testing missiles in such busy areas is questionable, suggesting the whole thing is probably a stunt designed to generate international media coverage and divert Russia’s domestic opinion from other matters. It may also be another form of response to mass expulsions of Russian diplomats by Western nations last week.” Canada’s CTV reports, “Swedish authorities have issued a warning to civilian maritime traffic on the Baltic Sea due to the Russian Navy’s military drills and missile tests this week. Marie Hallerfelt of the Swedish Maritime Administration says Tuesday that Russian artillery exercises in three separate areas in the southern and southeastern Baltic Sea means those regions will be temporarily dangerous to navigation from early Wednesday until late Friday.” CTV adds, “The drills — which reportedly include firing missiles from Russian vessels — are taking place between Sweden, Poland and Latvia and come remarkably close to the southern Swedish city of Karlskrona, which hosts a key naval base.”
CHEMICAL WEAPONS WATCHDOG GROUP OPCW MEETING CALLED BY RUSSIA
The Guardian reports, “Looking ahead to Wednesday’s OPCW meeting, a Foreign Office spokesman said Russia had called it to try to undermine the work of the organisation. The spokesperson said: ‘This Russian initiative is yet again another diversionary tactic, intended to undermine the work of the OPCW in reaching a conclusion.’”
From The Guardian.
MINSK TALKS OVER UKRAINE
Unian Information Agency reports, “Ukraine is ready to hand over 23 Russian citizens who are serving their terms in Ukrainian prisons in exchange for Ukrainian hostages.” Unian Information Agency adds, “The release of Ukrainian hostages is on the agenda of a new round of the Minsk talks on April 4.”
From Unian Information Agency.
TRUMP IN MUELLER’S CROSS HAIRS + HE KNOWS IT
The Washington Post reports, “Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III informed President Trump’s attorneys last month that he is continuing to investigate the president but does not consider him a criminal target at this point”. The Washington Post adds, “In private negotiations in early March about a possible presidential interview, Mueller described Trump as a subject of his investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election. Prosecutors view someone as a subject when that person has engaged in conduct that is under investigation but there is not sufficient evidence to bring charges. The special counsel also told Trump’s lawyers that he is preparing a report about the president’s actions while in office and potential obstruction of justice”. The Washington Post notes, “Mueller reiterated the need to interview Trump — both to understand whether he had any corrupt intent to thwart the Russia investigation and to complete this portion of his probe.” The Washington Post adds, “The president has privately expressed relief at the description of his legal status, which has increased his determination to agree to a special counsel interview”. The Washington Post notes, “However, legal experts said Mueller’s description of Trump as a subject of a grand jury probe does not mean he is in the clear. Under Justice Department guidelines, a subject of an investigation is a person whose conduct falls within the scope of a grand jury’s investigation. A target is a person for which there is substantial evidence linking him or her to a crime.” Think of how bad it is then that our fake Russian bullshit president feels relief and takes comfort in this!
From The Washington Post.
DOOFUS DUTCH ATTORNEY SON-IN-LAW OF GERMAN KHAN GETS 30 DAYS
POLITICO reports, “Special counsel Robert Mueller obtained the first sentence in his high-profile investigation Tuesday, as a Dutch attorney who admitted to lying to investigators was ordered into federal custody for 30 days. Former Skadden Arps lawyer Alex van der Zwaan, 33, pleaded guilty in February to lying to FBI agents about his contacts with former Trump campaign official Rick Gates and Konstantin Kilimnik, a suspected Russian intelligence operative who worked closely with Gates and former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort.” POLITICO adds, “the judge said some time in jail was appropriate given van der Zwaan’s offense and the fact that he is a lawyer.” The judge said, “This was lying to a federal officer in the course of a criminal investigation…This was more than a mistake. This was more than a lapse or a misguided moment.” POLITICO adds, “In addition to the 30-day sentence, Jackson also imposed a $20,000 fine and two months of probation, but she said she would permit van der Zwaan to reclaim his passport and leave the country as soon as his month in custody is completed. It’s not immediately clear where or in what type of facility he will serve the 30 days.” POLITICO notes, “Van der Zwaan’s defense asked that he be permitted to serve at a Bureau of Prisons center in Allenwood, Pennsylvania. The judge said Tuesday that she would recommend that, but federal policies usually dictate that a sentence of less than six months be served at a halfway house or at the D.C. jail.” POLITICO adds, “One of van der Zwaan’s defense attorneys, William Schwartz, argued that leniency was appropriate given the impact of the episode on the Dutch lawyer’s family and on his legal career. He is likely to lose his license as a solicitor in the United Kingdom, Schwartz said. But Jackson was largely unmoved by those arguments, noting that van der Zwaan came from an upbringing of privilege and lacked any hardship that could have mitigated his actions.” POLITICO notes, “Van der Zwaan is married to the daughter of a Ukrainian-Russian energy mogul, German Khan, whom Forbes ranks 138th on its list of billionaires, with a net worth of $9.3 billion.” Of note, “Schwartz complained to the judge Tuesday that prosecutors mentioned the father-in-law in their pleadings, although they made no direct claim that the family connection influenced van der Zwaan’s decisions to withhold documents and lie to investigators.” Additionally, “Defense attorneys said he lied to Mueller’s team because he feared being fired if Skadden found out he had recorded work-related conversations without permission, including at least one with former Obama White House Counsel Greg Craig, a Skadden partner who oversaw the Tymoshenko report. Van der Zwaan was ultimately fired by the firm late last year, after his inaccurate statements to the Mueller team,” POLITICO writes.
TRUMP HOSTS BALTIC SUMMIT WITH BALTIC LEADERS
Public Broadcasting of Latvia reports, “President of the United States of America Donald J. Trump played host to the Presidents of the three Baltic states, plus their entourages, at the White House in Washington, D.C. March 3.” Public Broadcasting of Latvia notes the self-sycophancy and delusion of our Russian puppet president, “President Trump also took time to praise his own leadership and railed against his erstwhile election foe Hillary Clinton, declaring that he was responsible for NATO member states paying ‘many billions of dollars more’ than they would have done if she had, in theory, won the election.” Public broadcasting of Latvia notes, “In response to a question from LTV Trump said the Baltic states were ‘a great place to invest,’” which is interesting given a recent Guardian report shows his desire to invest in Latvia led Latvian authorities to tip off the FBI to the criminality of his investment partners there. Public Broadcasting of Latvia adds, “The most memorable line came from Estonia’s President Kersti Kaljulaid, who described the Baltics and the U.S. as an ‘axis of good’.” The obvious elephant in the room was Russia. CNN adds, “President Donald Trump declared ‘nobody has been tougher on Russia’ during a meeting with the heads of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania to the White House on Tuesday, while also repeating his desire to have a good relationship with President Vladimir Putin.”
MCMASTER ATTACKS RUSSIA ON WAY OUT THE WHITE HOUSE DOOR
POLITICO reports, “Outgoing national security adviser H.R. McMaster on Tuesday said the U.S., along with other nations, ‘have failed to impose sufficient costs’ on Russia — but also argued that there will be ‘triumph over new threats’ from the Kremlin. ‘For too long, some nations have looked the other way in the face of these threats. Russia brazenly, and implausibly denies its actions, and we have failed to impose sufficient costs,’ McMaster said during a speech at the Atlantic Council’s ‘100 Years of U.S.-Baltic Partnership’ event in Washington.” Bloomberg adds, “He urged the world’s democracies and their institutions to resist the Kremlin’s ‘pernicious form of aggression that combines political, economic, informational, and cyber assaults against sovereign nations.’” The Washington Post notes, “‘We are now engaged in a fundamental contest between our free and open societies and closed and repressive systems,’ he said, alluding to Russia, among other countries. ‘Revisionist and repressive powers are attempting to undermine our values, our institutions and way of life.’” The Washington Post observes, “McMaster becomes Trump’s second senior aide to leave the administration in a dramatic kiss-off with the Russian government.”
TRUMP SAYS MILITARY TO GUARD BORDER
CNN reports, “President Donald Trump said Tuesday that he’s calling on the military to guard the US-Mexico border until his long-promised border wall is complete.” CNN adds, “‘I spoke with (Defense Secretary James) Mattis, we’re going to do some things militarily. Until we can have a wall and proper security, we’re going to be guarding our border with the military. That’s a big step,’ he said during a luncheon with leaders of the Baltic states.” CNN continues, “Asked to clarify his comments during a joint news conference, Trump said he is ‘preparing for the military to secure our border’ and he would be attending a meeting on the topic of border security with Mattis and others ‘in a little while.’” CNN notes, “Trump’s statement took many Pentagon officials by surprise Tuesday, in that they know of his desire to ratchet up border security, but are not sure what he meant exactly, according to multiple Defense Department and military officials.” CNN adds, “To fulfill his wishes, border states could send National Guard activated by their own state governors, an issue long complicated by whether the states or the federal government pay for it. Alternatively, the Defense Department could send either active duty or federally activated National Guard. Federal troops require certain documents and regulations, including an operational requirement, a unit identified, a strategy, and, although perhaps not formal, an exit strategy. That option also requires identifying rotational forces.” Most bizarrely, “Trump also spoke Tuesday about the caravan of migrants from Central America currently moving through Mexico who plan to turn themselves in and request asylum once they make it to the US border. He has demanded a halt to the caravan in a series of tweets.” Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen later tweeted out in full xenophobic glory as if this was cattle instead of human lives, “the caravan is dissipating”.
TRUMP ESCALATES BEZOS + AMAZON FIGHT LIKELY OVER WASHINGTON POST
Vanity Fair reports, “Trump is discussing ways to escalate his Twitter attacks on Amazon to further damage the company. ‘He’s off the hook on this. It’s war,’ one source told me. ‘He gets obsessed with something, and now he’s obsessed with Bezos,’ said another source. ‘Trump is like, how can I fuck with him?’” Vanity Fair adds, “Trump wants the Post Office to increase Amazon’s shipping costs. When Trump previously discussed the idea inside the White House, Gary Cohn had explained that Amazon is a benefit to the Postal Service, which has seen mail volume plummet in the age of e-mail. ‘Trump doesn’t have Gary Cohn breathing down his neck saying you can’t do the Post Office shit,’ a Republican close to the White House said.” Vanity Fair notes, “Advisers are also encouraging Trump to cancel Amazon’s pending multi-billion contract with the Pentagon to provide cloud computing services, sources say. Another line of attack would be to encourage attorneys general in red states to open investigations into Amazon’s business practices. Sources say Trump is open to the ideas.” Of course, “Even Trump’s allies acknowledge that much of what’s fueling Trump’s rage toward Amazon is that Amazon C.E.O. Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post”.
From Vanity Fair.
TWITLER CONTINUES TO LASH OUT AT THE MEDIA EVERY WHICH WAY
POLITICO reports, “President Donald Trump spent a second day Tuesday attacking CNN and other mainstream media outlets while defending Sinclair Broadcast Group, the local-news giant whose anchors were required to deliver an on-air monologue denouncing ‘the troubling trend of irresponsible, one-sided news stories plaguing our country.’” POLITICO adds, “Trump spread around his anger on Monday morning, lobbing criticism at the Mexican government, Democrats and his own Justice Department, in addition to the media, but on Tuesday he seemed predominantly focused on the press, albeit with posts about immigration and his own poll numbers as well.” POLITICO notes, “Trump also lashed out more specifically Tuesday morning at CNN, the network whose coverage has prompted the most presidential complaints through his first 14 months in office. He attacked CNN executive Jeff Zucker, with whom he worked on his NBC reality-TV show ‘The Apprentice,’ and suggested, while offering no evidence, that disliking the president is a requirement for new hires at the network.” He revived one of his favorite taunts, “Little Jeff Zuker [sic]”.
TRUMP TOUTS FAVORABLE POLL, ATTACKS OBAMA AS “CHEATIN”
The Hill reports, “President Trump on Tuesday touted his job-approval rating in a conservative-leaning poll, saying it is now higher than former President Obama’s was during the same period of his presidency,” which is not even remotely true except as narrowly defined by this one ultra-conservative poll. The Hill adds, “‘Thank you to Rasmussen for the honest polling. Just hit 50%, which is higher than Cheatin’ Obama at the same time in his Administration,’ the president tweeted.” The Hill notes, “Half of voters told Rasmussen’s daily tracking poll on Monday that they approve of Trump’s performance in office, 4 points higher than Obama scored on the same tracking poll on April 2, 2010. Trump still faces a very polarized electorate heading into the November midterm elections, with Rasmussen finding that 49 percent of Americans disapprove of his performance.” Now that’s very high.
From The Hill.
PRO-TRUMP OUTLET CUTS HEAD OFF THE SNAKE ROGER STONE
One America News Network, an incredibly pro-Trump outlet, cuts the head off the Roger Stone snake, “In an email exchange obtained by One America News, former Trump campaign adviser Roger Stone tells former Trump campaign aide Sam Nunberg, ‘I dined with my new pal Julian Assange last nite.’ The emails show Nunberg sending Stone an article that put Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton up by 15 points in the polls. Also in the thread, Stone tells Nunberg to ‘enjoy it while u can’ and then says he dined with Assange.”
From One America News Network.
GOVERNMENT ACKNOWLEDGES ADVERSARY USE OF STING RAYS IN CAPITAL
The AP reports, “For the first time, the U.S. government has publicly acknowledged the existence in Washington of what appear to be rogue devices that foreign spies and criminals could be using to track individual cellphones and intercept calls and messages.” The AP adds, “The use of what are known as cellphone-site simulators by foreign powers has long been a concern, but American intelligence and law enforcement agencies — which use such eavesdropping equipment themselves — have been silent on the issue until now.” The AP reports, “In a March 26 letter to Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden, the Department of Homeland Security acknowledged that last year it identified suspected unauthorized cell-site simulators in the nation’s capital. The agency said it had not determined the type of devices in use or who might have been operating them. Nor did it say how many it detected or where.” The AP adds, “The agency’s response, obtained by The Associated Press from Wyden’s office, suggests little has been done about such equipment, known popularly as Stingrays after a brand common among U.S. police departments. The Federal Communications Commission, which regulates the nation’s airwaves, formed a task force on the subject four years ago, but it never produced a report and no longer meets regularly.” Wait task forces are useless?! Get out! The AP notes, “The devices work by tricking mobile devices into locking onto them instead of legitimate cell towers, revealing the exact location of a particular cellphone. More sophisticated versions can eavesdrop on calls by forcing phones to step down to older, unencrypted 2G wireless technology. Some attempt to plant malware.” Of course, “Thousands of members of the military, the NSA, the CIA, the FBI and the rest of the national-security apparatus live and work in the Washington area. The surveillance-savvy among them encrypt their phone and data communications and employ electronic countermeasures. But unsuspecting citizens could fall prey.” Conclusion: we are a lousy surveillance state. The AP notes, “The CEO of ESD America, Les Goldsmith, said his company has a relationship with DHS but would not comment further. Legislators have been raising alarms about the use of Stingrays in the capital since at least 2014, when Goldsmith and other security-company researchers conducted public sweeps that located suspected unauthorized devices near the White House, the Supreme Court, the Commerce Department and the Pentagon, among other locations. The executive branch, however, has shied away from even discussing the subject.”
From the AP.
FARABOOK ACKNOWLEDGES, SUSPENDS HUNDREDS MORE TROLL ACCOUNTS
The Verge reports, “Facebook says it has suspended 70 Facebook accounts, 138 Facebook pages, and 65 Instagram accounts controlled by the Internet Research Agency.” The Verge adds, “Around 95 percent of the pages with language-specific content were aimed at Russian speakers, and 1.08 million users followed at least one of the pages. The Instagram accounts had a total of 493,000 followers, and the accounts had collectively spent around $167,000 on ads since the start of 2015. Facebook’s sampling of IRA posts includes pages called RuOpen, Politkach, and Spicy Blogger, posting content like political jokes and a request for ‘strange or scary’ stories from readers. [Chief Security Office Alex] Stamos says they were removed purely for being secretly associated with the IRA, not for problems with the content.”
From The Verge.
UK DEFENSE LAB WON’T CONFIRM RUSSIA AS NOVICHOK SOURCE
The Guardian reports, “British scientists at the Porton Down defence research laboratory have not established that the nerve agent used to poison Sergei and Yulia Skripal was made in Russia, it has emerged. Gary Aitkenhead, the chief executive of the government’s Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL), said the poison had been identified as a military-grade novichok nerve agent, which could probably be deployed only by a nation state.” The Guardian adds, “The UK government moved quickly to make it clear that the prime minister, Theresa May, had always been clear the assessment from Porton Down was ‘only one part of the intelligence picture’. The comments came hours before an extraordinary meeting in The Hague of the executive council of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), called by Russia.”
From The Guardian.
UK INVESTIGATING RUSSIAN NATIONAL ABOARD YULIA SKRIPAL’S FLIGHT
The Daily Mail reports, “A Russian on the same flight into the UK as Yulia Skripal before returning to Moscow a few hours later is being investigated over the attack. Britain’s spy agencies have red-flagged an individual who arrived at Heathrow on the Russian state-owned Aeroflot flight AFL2570 from Moscow that landed at 2.32pm on Saturday, March 3. The Russian then got a flight to Moscow after a few hours on British soil, raising questions as to the purpose of the short visit”. The Daily Mail adds, “A senior Whitehall source said the individual had been identified as a ‘person of interest’ by intelligence agencies, and pointed to more than one person being investigated. It is not clear if the person is suspected of delivering the agent, administering the Novichok, or of being linked to the attack in some other way.”
From The Daily Mail.
TURKEY FINALIZES RUSSIAN WEAPONS DEAL AGAINST STATE DEPT WISHES
Greek newspaper Kathimerini reports, “Only a few hours after Russian President Vladimir Putin said that he and his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, had agreed to speed up the delivery of S-400 air-defense missile systems to Ankara, the US State Department expressed reservations about the purchase.” Kathimerini adds, “a State Department official repeated that the system being purchased from Russia is not compatible with NATO systems, including the F-35 fighter jet.” By countrast, the AP adds, “Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Tuesday that his country’s plan to purchase Russia’s long-range missile defense system is a ‘done deal,’ brushing aside concerns from some NATO allies.”
RUSSIA THREATENS LATVIA OVER LANGUAGE REFORM LAW IN EDUCATION
The Telegraph reports, “Russia’s parliament has threatened economic sanctions in response to a language reform in neighbouring Latvia that will see older schoolchildren taught in Latvian rather than Russian.” The Telegraph notes, “Although Latvian is the official language in that former Soviet republic, a quarter of the population are ethnic Russians, and nearly 100 state-funded schools offer Russian or bilingual teaching.” The Telegraph adds, “A language reform approved on Monday by president Raimonds Vejonis, however, will phase in Latvian-language instruction for all students in the 10th through 12th years by 2021, with the exception of some Russian language and literature courses.” The Telegraph continues, “Moscow reacted angrily to the reform. MP Sergei Zheleznyak called it a ‘language genocide’ and compared it to the ‘open Naziism toward the Russian population’ he claimed was occurring in Ukraine, which has been promoting Ukrainian language as it battles Russia-backed separatists in two breakaway republics.” The Telegraph notes, “Ethnic relations have long been a delicate issue in Latvia, where Russian speakers have staged protests against the language reform. The pro-Russian Harmony party controls a quarter of parliament and is led by the mayor of the country’s capital, Riga.” Some language genocide.
From The Telegraph.
—–KNOW YOUR ENEMY—–
UKRAINE WAS THE DRESS REHEARSAL FOR 2016
Timothy Snyder’s new book on “Unfreedom” is previewed at Lit Hub, “The first men the Kremlin sent to Ukraine, the spearpoint of the Russian invasion, were the political technologists. A war where Vladislav Surkov commands is fought in unreality. He was in Crimea and Kyiv in February 2014, and served as Putin’s advisor on Ukraine thereafter. The Russian political technologist Alexander Borodai was the press officer for Crimea during its annexation. In summer 2014, the ‘prime ministers’ of two newly invented ‘people’s republics’ in Ukraine’s southeast were Russian media managers.” The consequence was, “A real war became reality television, with Putin as the hero. Much of the press accepted its supporting role in the drama. Even as Western editors became more critical over time, their criticism was framed as their own doubts about Kremlin claims. When Putin later admitted that Russia had indeed invaded Ukraine, this only proved that the Western press had been a player in his show.” Snyder notes, “This trope of ‘a new cold war’ was spread by Marine Le Pen, the leader of the Front National, who used it on RT beginning in 2011 and during her July 2013 visit to Moscow. The leading American white supremacist, Richard Spencer, used the same term at the same time when interviewed by RT.” We can all now count on our fingers and toes many times over the occurrences we have each seen of that phrase in the Western press in the last 18 months. Snyder observes, “The pronouncements of former Republican congressman Ron Paul, who ran for president in 2008 and 2012, were particularly interesting. Paul, who described himself as a libertarian, had mounted powerful critiques of American wars abroad. Now he defended a Russian war abroad.” Snyder adds, The Nation writer “Stephen Cohen borrowed Russian media terms of abuse at the same time, on June 30, 2014,” when he “endorsed the Russian propaganda claim that the Russian invasion of Ukraine was justified by Ukrainian genocide.” And he does not even get into Glenn Greenwald in this excerpt!
From Lit Hub.
OF ACTIVE MEASURES FROM THE CLINT “TRAIL OF DEAD RUSSIANS” WATTS
The New York Times runs an op-ed on how Trump was a vehicle and not a target, according to Clint “Trail of Dead Russians” Watts who testified last year about Russia’s influence campaign, their “active measures,” on Capitol Hill. Watts writes, “as a former F.B.I. special agent who has watched the Kremlin’s infiltration of America since 2014,” that, “A standard Russian approach would have been to influence Mr. Trump through surrogates like Mr. Gates and Paul Manafort rather than through direct command through an individual”. Watts adds, “Russian intelligence develops options and pathways over many years; as objectives arise — like the election of Mr. Trump — they focus and engage all available touch points.” Watts notes, “Russia’s efforts to influence, known by the Kremlin moniker Active Measures, did not seek a single pathway into the Trump team. Instead, they targeted a wide spectrum of influential Americans to subtly nudge their preferred policy into the mainstream and sideline foreign opponents. Russian intelligence services establish campaign objectives and compromise foreign targets through espionage, but their principal focus is to recruit agents of influence.” Watts continues, “the Kremlin deploys layers of surrogates and proxies offering business inducements, information or threatened reprisals that can individually be explained away by coincidence while masking the strings and guiding hands of the Kremlin’s puppet masters and their objectives. When called upon by the Kremlin, oligarchs, contractors, criminals and spies (current or former) all provide levers for advancing President Vladimir Putin’s assault on democracies.” Watts concludes, “The problem for the president is that ignorance is not immunity. The problem for America is that ignorance of Russian interference is vulnerability.”
From The New York Times.
STORMY DANIELS LAWYER REQUESTS INFO FROM TREASURY
Courthouse News Service reports, “The lawyer representing adult film star Stormy Daniels asked the U.S Treasury Department Tuesday to share its suspicious activity report regarding an ‘illicit and shadowy’ payment made to Daniels as part of a nondisclosure agreement over her alleged affair with President Donald Trump. In a letter addressed to Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, attorney Michael Avenatti requested a Treasury report on Trump attorney Michael Cohen’s $130,000 payment to Daniels, which Avenatti said is ‘at the center’ of her federal lawsuit.” Courthouse News Service notes, “First Republic Bank, which Cohen used to make the payment, filed a suspicious activity report with the Treasury Department last month, as reported by the Wall Street Journal.” Courthouse News Service adds, “Avenatti says the payment ‘constituted an in-kind’ campaign contribution to Trump. Fair elections group Common Cause calls the payment a violation of federal election law.”
From Courthouse News Service.
FAKE RUSSIAN POTUS: WHY NOT 98%, SISI?
POLITICO reports, “The White House and State Department struck competing tones Monday in responses to Egyptian President Abdul Fattah el-Sisi’s controversial reelection victory, with President Donald Trump congratulating the leader after he won with 97 percent of the vote. President Donald Trump congratulated Sisi — who in July 2013 played a role in the military coup against Egypt’s first democratically elected president, Mohamed Morsi — in a phone call Monday, the White House said.” By contrast, “The State Department also highlighted the two nations’ ‘strategic partnership,’ but it encouraged ‘respect for and protection of basic rights and freedoms’ in a statement on Monday.” Of course, “Trump two weeks ago congratulated Vladimir Putin in a phone call after the Russian president was elected to a third six-year term with about 75 percent of the vote. Trump did not raise concerns about the validity of Putin’s win, nor did he mention Russian interference in the 2016 election or Moscow’s likely involvement in a recent nerve-agent attack in the United Kingdom,” but he did invite Putin to the White House.
ROGER STONE SUED FOR $100 MILLION BY CHINESE BILLIONAIRE
The Miami New Times reports, “Roger Stone, South Florida’s infamous political hit man,” is being sued by, “Guo Wengui, the mysterious, recently exiled Chinese billionaire known in America as ‘Miles Kwok,’” for, “defamation in Miami federal court after Stone criticized him on InfoWars earlier this year. Guo claims Stone slandered him when Stone accused Guo of funneling money to both Hillary Clinton and Steve Bannon; the billionaire now wants $100 million from the political consultant-turned-media figure.” The Miami New Times notes, “Guo is a mysterious figure,” adding, “He essentially showed up in America in 2015 after fleeing corruption charges in China. The Chinese media has accused Guo of a raft of crimes, including fraud, money laundering, bribery, and rape. But Guo claims the Chinese government is trying to nab him because he knows how corrupt that country’s government really is and is spilling its secrets from the comfort of his Manhattan palace. Reporters have otherwise been unable to confirm most basic details about Guo, including his age, how he obtained most of his money, how many tens of millions he paid for his seven-bedroom Manhattan apartment, and even his actual name.” The Miami New Times adds, “since moving to the States, which does not have an extradition treaty with China, Guo has begun live-streaming online every day and accusing high-ranking Chinese officials of corruption while he dines on luxury yachts and does cardio in his luxury apartment overlooking Central Park.” The Miami New Times continues, “Since moving to the U.S., he’s posed for photos at Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago (he’s reportedly a ‘long-standing member’) and, most curious, befriended former Breitbart publisher and Trump adviser Bannon.” The Miami New Times adds, “Guo admits he was imprisoned from 1989 to 1991 in China for aiding the Tiananmen Square protest movement, but his attorneys say that his record in the United States is clean and that any of the charges pending against him in China are the result of ‘intimidation tactics’ to prevent him from spilling secrets about high-level Commuinist Party officials.”
From The Miami New Times.
KREMLIN’S POWER CENTERS COMPETE AHEAD OF POSSIBLE RESHUFFLE
Voice of America reports, “Reelected to a new term, Russian President Vladimir Putin is due to announce his ministerial lineup next month, but there are already signs that his long-time prime minister, Dmitry Medvedev, is being reined in amid maneuvering by Moscow’s political clans, say analysts.” Voice of America adds, “One of Medvedev’s oligarch allies, Ziyavudin Magomedov, has been arrested and accused of large-scale embezzlement of state funds in connection with energy projects and the construction of a World Cup stadium in the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad. Few observers in Moscow believe the tycoon’s arrest could have happened without Putin’s approval.” Voice of America notes, “A newer generation of princelings – the sons of plutocrats and Kremlin bosses – is also vying for bigger roles.” Voice of America adds, “Some analysts see the hand of Igor Sechin, the head of Russian oil giant Rosneft, as behind the arrest. Sechin is widely viewed as the leader of the Kremlin’s siloviki faction and in the past, has blocked two of Ziyavudin Magomedov’s maritime and energy ventures – in the Baltic and the Black Sea – and stopped an expansion effort into shipbuilding, say business analysts.”
From Voice of America.
SHOCK AS RUSSIAN CULTURAL CENTER UNMASKED AS SPY DEN
The Weekly Standard reports, “The Russian Cultural Center, which sits in a restored mansion on a quiet, leafy block in Washington’s Kalorama neighborhood, hosts language classes, lectures, and concerts with the stated goal of maintaining positive relations between Russians and Americans. For the second time in five years, it has also been tied to espionage. Oleg Zhiganov, the center’s latest director, was among 60 Russian officials to receive an expulsion order from the Trump administration last week,” according to “a woman who identified herself as Zhiganov’s assistant”.
From The Weekly Standard.
CZECH MEDIA SAYS EXPELLED DIPLOMATS SPIES UNDER DIP COVER
Prague Daily Monitor reports, “The three Russian diplomats, who were expelled from Prague in reaction to the Skripal case, belonged to Russian secret services that operate in the Czech Republic under diplomatic cover, weekly Respekt writes in its issue out on Tuesday”. According to Prague Daily Monitor, “Two of the diplomats worked for the Russian foreign civilian intelligence SVR, one for the foreign military intelligence GRU, Respekt writes.” Prague Daily Monitor notes, “he most important of the three spies was one of the two working for the SVR who officially occupied the post of the security director at the Russian embassy in Prague,” adding, “Respekt’s sources said these spies tried to influence some new bills and gathered sensitive data about the country’s energy industry and security. One of the spies was a senior diplomat and one was a business representative.”
From Prague Daily Monitor.
IS DAVID BROOKS A KREMLIN WHORE NOW, TOO, OR JUST WHORISH?
The New York Times ran the op-ed of the little guy in the Kremlin’s dreams written by David Brooks under the superbly despicable headline, “Vladimir Putin, the Most Influential Man in the World”. Yes, Lubyanka shit sprayed all over the New York Times op-ed page, a veritable Lubyanka shit stain. In it, David Brooks opens with the most hagiographic lede possible, “Who is the most influential human being on the planet? My vote goes to Vladimir Putin.” Oh dear. Brooks boldly fawns, “Everybody expects him to ultimately falter because Russia’s economy is so creaky. But his hand isn’t that weak. That’s because his power base is not economic; it’s cultural and ideological.” He is right about the origin myth, “As Christopher Caldwell writes in Imprimis, Putin’s international prestige starts with the story he tells. He came to power, by his telling, after Western reformers nearly destroyed his country. Teams of American economists thought that if you privatized property correctly, the law and order and social cohesion would take care of themselves. Social catastrophe followed. Russia’s average life expectancy fell below that of Bangladesh. The government went bankrupt. Members of the old Communist nomenklatura plundered the nation’s resources. Successive American administrations humiliated Russia on the world stage.” Brooks believes, “In times of anxiety and distrust, it’s much easier to argue for clear centralized authority than dispersed, amorphous authority.” But what if that centralized authority are men who are murderers and thieves and criminals and mobsters? What then, David Brooks? He is right about one conclusion, “Putinism, like Trumpism, is based on a cynicism. It’s based on the idea that one should have no illusions, be wise to the ways of the world. People are, as Machiavelli put it, ungrateful and deceitful, timid of danger and avid for profit. Rivalry is inevitable. Everything is partisan. Anybody or any institution that claims to be objective and above the fray is a liar. In this world, everything is public relations, and the more shameless the charade the better because people will believe whatever is in their interest to believe.” But what if it always was and none of this is anything new except of course to those who maintained their illusions? And who said anything about anyone, certainly in this country, giving those up so fast?
From The New York Times.
—–RADIO MOSCOW: STORIES FROM THEIR PRESS AND OURS—–
RESISTANCE ADVICE: FIRST THE STUDENTS, NOW THE TEACHERS
The AP reports, “A teacher rebellion in red states from West Virginia to Arizona has put Republicans on the defensive, forcing them to walk a fine line in the months before midterm elections between placating constituents who are angry over education cuts and conservative supporters who want a smaller government and low taxes.” The AP adds, “In Oklahoma, most Republicans last week broke with the party orthodoxy and endorsed hundreds of millions of dollars in tax increases to fund public schools and give teachers a raise of 15 to 18 percent. They acted after Oklahoma teachers demanded action, inspired by a nine-day strike in West Virginia, where they won a 5 percent raise. The rebellion also has spread to Kentucky as teachers thronged the state Capitol on Monday to protest cuts in pensions. And in Arizona, restive teachers also are demonstrating, demanding a 20 percent pay raise.” The AP notes, “the epicenter of the revolt now is Oklahoma where lawmakers won little praise for approving major tax increases and instead caught flak from both sides of the political divide. Thousands of teachers converged on the state Capitol for a second day Tuesday demanding even more money, while anti-tax conservatives vowed to challenge incumbents who supported the plan.” The AP adds, “The Oklahoma strike showed no signs of ending with many of the largest school districts in the state planning to close for a third consecutive day to honor the walkout.”
From the AP.
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