Monday, November 6, 2017

This Weekend's Airstrikes

Starting line was in New York:

"N.Y. tightens security around marathon after truck attack" by Tom Hays Associated Press  November 03, 2017

NEW YORK — The security detail will include hundreds of extra uniformed patrol and plainclothes officers, roving teams of counterterrorism commandos armed with heavy weapons, bomb-sniffing dogs and rooftop snipers poised to shoot if a threat emerges.

The Police Department is also turning to a tactic it has used to protect Trump Tower and the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade: 16-ton sanitation trucks filled with sand. The trucks, along with ‘‘blocker cars,’’ will be positioned at key intersections to try and prevent anyone from driving onto the course.

The New York Police Department said it has no information pointing to any credible threat against the race.

They always say that before the boom.

President Trump said Friday the US military is attacking the Islamic State ‘‘10 times harder’’ in response to Tuesday’s New York City truck attack. Officials later said the United States had conducted two airstrikes against ISIS-affiliated fighters in Somalia.

See: "The US military for the first time has conducted two airstrikes against Islamic State fighters in Somalia, where the group is a growing presence in a country long threatened by the Al Qaeda-linked extremist group al-Shabab. The US Africa Command said the two drone strikes killed ‘‘several terrorists’’ in northeastern Somalia, with the first around midnight local time and the second later Friday morning. The United States said the strikes were carried out in coordination with Somalia’s government. At least six missiles struck in Buqa, a mountainous village roughly 35 miles north of Qandala town in the northern state of Puntland, a Somali security official said. The airstrike may have targeted top leaders of the group, he said. The US military this year has carried out well over a dozen drone strikes against al-Shabab after the Trump administration approved expanded efforts against the group."

Blood on his hands.

It was not immediately clear whether the Somalia strikes were carried out as presidentially directed retaliation for the truck attack that killed eight people.

The alleged New York attacker, Sayfullo Saipov, told FBI interrogators that he was inspired by ISIS, and Trump wrote in a tweet that the group claimed Saipov as ‘‘their soldier.’’

Trump tweeted: ‘‘Based on that, the Military has hit ISIS ‘much harder’ over the last two days. They will pay a big price for every attack on us!’’

Asked about this later, Trump told reporters before he departed on his Asia trip, ‘‘What we’re doing is every time we’re attacked from this point forward — and it took place yesterday —we are hitting them 10 times harder. So when we have an animal do an attack like he did the other day on the west side of Manhattan we are hitting them 10 times harder.’’

Hitting who, and how is this helping, piling more violence upon violence?

Even some Globe folk are saying Trump is dead wrong on that.

The military’s daily rundown Friday of US and coalition airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Iraq and Syria reported nine strikes in Syria on Thursday and four in Iraq. That is consistent with strike levels throughout this week. 

I didn't know they gave a daily rundown since the pre$$ reported that until now.

Asked about Trump’s assertion that the military is striking ISIS ‘‘10 times harder,’’ the Pentagon issued a brief statement saying the United States continues to strike ISIS, along with Al Qaeda and other like-minded extremist groups, ‘‘wherever they are globally and at a time of our choosing.’’

Congress is looking to reign that in.

Marathoners from around the world who have been streaming into New York in anticipation of the race expressed mixed feelings about running so soon after the carnage.

There is no question that the course provides a security challenge, even for a police department with 35,000 officers.

The race starts in a relatively secure location. Runners gather at Staten Island’s Fort Wadsworth, a former military installation now partly occupied by the Coast Guard.

Yeah, forget the airstrikes, let's get running!

From there, though, the race heads through residential neighborhoods with hundreds of spots where an attacker could steer a vehicle onto the thickly packed course. Streets leading to the course are closed, but on many of them, in most years, the only barrier is a blue, wooden sawhorse and a thin plastic tape.

‘‘It will be an extraordinary event, as it always is,’’ Mayor Bill de Blasio said this week at a news conference. ‘‘It will be well protected, as it always is.’’

The Islamic State is using its propaganda to encourage radicalized ‘‘lone wolves’’ to cause harm with unsophisticated means in easily accessible settings.

They publish newspapers, too?

An online Islamic State magazine posted last year extolled using trucks to kill innocent victims, saying, ‘‘Vehicles are like knives, as they are extremely easy to acquire.’’ It also advised ‘‘surveying the route for obstacles, such as posts, signs, barriers, humps, bus stops, dumpsters, etc. which is important for sidewalk-mounted attacks.’’

CIA slop, and why are the social media platforms allowing that to go one as they fret over nonexistent Russian interference in the election?

The shift away from sophisticated large-scale attacks like the one on the World Trade Center’s twin towers on Sept. 11, 2001, to smaller ones on soft targets has forced law enforcement to become more adept at how to prevent and respond to terrorism, said Karen Greenberg, director of Fordham Law School’s Center on National Security.

What a crop of crap, and how pathetic for the alleged terrorists. 

Of course, this is all about increasing the level of surveillance and police state measures into the very basics of every day life. Body scanners everywhere!

Safety adjustments made by organizers of the New York City Marathon after the bombing of the Boston Marathon in 2013 — such as banning backpacks and costumes — remain in place, said Chris Weiller, spokesman for New York Road Runners.

Yeah, enough time has passed so they can flog that staged and scripted crisis drill gone live with the help of Kraft International security.

Despite widespread news reports and images of the trail of bodies left by the truck attack, the cancellation rate has remained about the same, he said.

Boston Marathon organizers, working with local, state and federal law enforcement, also significantly enhanced security along the course after the 2013 attack, including more officers deployed on race day, a no-fly zone over the course and drones to help with surveillance.....

I've stopped running.



Newton man injured in NYC attack recovering well

Investigators probe New York suspect’s communications 

You either jail him or deport him back to France.

That event didn't have much of a shelf life, did it, what with Texas and all?

And as for Vegasbumped down the ole memory hole.


"Islamic State, squeezed on two sides, loses Syrian city and Iraqi border crossing" by Anne Barnard New York Times   November 03, 2017

BEIRUT — Islamic State militants lost their last foothold in a major city and a strategic border crossing Friday, as the Syrian and Iraqi militaries made significant advances, squeezing the militant group into a shrinking patch of territory near the border.

Syrian government forces, supported by intense Russian airstrikes and Iranian-backed militias on the ground, drove the militants from the last few neighborhoods they controlled in the eastern provincial capital of Deir El-Zour, the Syrian army said.

Time to go to PLAN B for the PNAC/Yinon crowd.

Across the border, the Iraqi army and allied Iranian-backed militias seized control of a crucial border crossing after taking most of the town of Qaim, Iraq, from the Islamic State, according to the Iraqi military chief of staff.

The military advances dealt a severe blow to the militant group, leaving it with fragments of its self-declared caliphate that once extended from the center of Syria to the outskirts of Baghdad.

They also provided yet another indication that President Bashar Assad’s fortunes have rebounded and that, with help from Russian and Iranian allies, the Syrian army can take back territory.

The Islamic State now maintains just a few pockets of western Anbar province in Iraq and somewhat larger patches in Syria, where it controls about a third of the desert province of Deir El-Zour, including a string of small towns and villages, and an oil field.

The developments also set the stage for a battle for the Syrian border town of Bukamal, on the strategic highway from Baghdad to Damascus, and what appears to be the end game for the remaining ISIS territory.

The seizing of Deir El-Zour punctuates the turnaround Assad has managed in more than six years of war. Just two years ago, the idea that the government would manage to take back the city seemed remote.

Yup, Syria now a lost cause.

When the Syrian war broke out in 2011, soldiers were defecting from the Syrian army, and only a fraction of the troops could be counted on for loyalty in the field. But Assad hit hard at rebel-held neighborhoods, pummeling Syrian cities with airstrikes with the support of Iran and its Lebanese ally, Hezbollah.

In 2015, Russia entered the war on Assad’s behalf, carrying out airstrikes against the Islamic State and other insurgent factions. Russia’s backing allowed Assad’s forces to focus on one front at a time.

Once the non-Islamic State insurgents were contained, the progovernment alliance turned its attention to the Islamic State, which it has now mostly routed.

Still, Assad is faced with running a country that is still divided, politically and territorially, where major cities are devastated, the security forces deeply dependent on Russia and Iran, and the economy gutted.

The government’s announcement of victory in Deir El-Zour came just weeks after a US-backed, Kurdish-led militia, called the Syrian Democratic Forces, took over the city of Raqqa, which had served as the de facto capital of the Islamic State.

The militants never controlled the whole of the city of Deir El-Zour, although they held most of the surrounding province, an oil-rich region that provided an important source of revenue to the Islamic State.

That battle for the remaining Islamic State territory could inflame tensions among the competing forces fighting the militants as they converge on the region: the Russian and Iranian-backed alliance that supports the Syrian government; the rival US-backed SDF, and the Iraqi forces that are pursuing Islamic State holdouts on their side of the border.

Some are hoping!

The stakes are high, with the competing armies seeking not only to vanquish the Islamic State, but also racing against each other to win influence in the strategic border zone.

The fighting could escalate as the SDF, backed by US warplanes, and the progovernment alliance, which has Russian air support, both advance against the Islamic State’s remaining pockets in Deir El-Zour province.....



"Hezbollah says Saudis forced Lebanon leader to resign" by Philip Issa Associated Press  November 06, 2017

BEIRUT — Bahrain ordered its citizens in Lebanon to ‘‘leave immediately’’ and banned travel there [as] Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah, one of Lebanon’s most powerful figures, called for calm as Lebanese leaders consult over the next steps.

Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s abrupt resignation has set off anxious chatter about Lebanon’s unstable political configuration and put it at the center of a spiraling regional rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

They lost Syria so the backup plan is to destabilize Lebanon now.

It has also raised worries that the Gulf kingdom, under the leadership of its increasingly bullish Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, will squeeze Lebanon as a way to get to Iran’s proxy Hezbollah.

Bahrain’s travel ban against Lebanon portends broader prohibitions by Gulf states against the tiny Mediterranean country, which depends on Gulf investment and tourism to keep its economy running.

A harsher package of sanctions would be in line with the Gulf Cooperation Council’s abrupt trade boycott with Qatar over what Gulf states see as Doha’s unfavorably warm ties with Tehran. The boycott has been in place since June.

That crisis has been all but forgotten by my pre$$. 

As we can now see, pieces were being moved into place and battle lines were being drawn.

Hariri, who read his statement haltingly and glanced frequently off camera, has not been seen in Lebanon since Saturday, prompting speculation he may be held in Saudi Arabia against his will.

Lebanon has weathered waves of assassinations and terror blasts and numerous political crises since emerging from a 15-year civil war that ended in 1990. It also survived a war with Israel in 2006 and a protracted Israeli occupation of its southern territories until 2000. 

And the truth is, Hezbollah will likely kick Israel's ass again. It's one thing to beat on an unarmed, emaciated, demoralized occupants of concentration camps, it is quite another to take on a well-drilled and committed military. 

Yes, Israel can raze Beirut to rubble and take the political heat for it, but they lose when it comes to sandals on the ground.

Hariri’s resignation came on the same day as a stunning lockup of over three dozen Saudi princes, ministers, and businessmen, in a move seen as squashing the internal rivalry to ascendant Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman.....


About that palace coup in Saudi Arabia:

"Saudi Arabia announced the arrest Saturday night of prominent billionaire investor Prince al-Waleed bin Talal, plus at least 10 other princes, four ministers, and tens of former ministers. The sweeping campaign appears to be the latest move to consolidate the power of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the favorite son and top adviser of King Salman. The king had decreed the creation of a powerful new anticorruption committee, headed by the crown prince, only hours before the committee ordered the arrests (New York Times)."

That is what you do when you are going to war. 

Was this prince against that?

"Citigroup, Twitter, Lyft: Saudi prince’s arrest touches many" by Alexandra Stevenson, Anne Barnard and Neil MacFarquhar New York Times  November 05, 2017

HONG KONG — With the arrest of Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, the prominent billionaire investor, Saudi Arabia has touched one of the richest and most influential investors in the world.

Among Prince Alwaleed’s crown jewels: sizable stakes in Twitter, Lyft, and Citigroup. He has gone into business with some of the corporate world’s biggest titans, including Bill Gates, Rupert Murdoch and Michael Bloomberg.

His investments span the globe, including the Four Seasons Hotel George V in Paris, the Savoy in London and the Plaza in New York. He has also invested in the AccorHotels chain and Canary Wharf, the London business development.

So vast are his investments that he has been referred to as the Warren Buffett of the Middle East.

Prince Alwaleed’s arrest is likely to reverberate across dozens of companies around the world that count the investment company that he founded, Kingdom Holding Co., as a major investor or shareholder.

The move was part of a sweeping and unprecedented roundup of at least 10 other princes, four ministers and dozens of former ministers, hours after the Saudi ruler, King Salman, decreed the creation of a powerful new anti-corruption committee, led by his favorite son and top adviser, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Kind of like the, you know, guys in Germany in the 1930s.

The arrests appeared to be Crown Prince Mohammed’s latest step to make good on his ambitious modernization plans and to further consolidate the remarkable degree of power he has amassed at age 32 over military, foreign, economic and social policies. His ascent and brash approach have angered some members of the royal family.

Oh, it's in the interests of modernization, uh-huh.

Did you see the investments and connections he had? 

Seemed pretty modern to me.

Prince Alwaleed, with his Omar Sharif mustache, ubiquitous sunshades and penchant for publicity, is a relatively flamboyant figure for the royal family and is one of the most high-profile Saudis internationally. His arrest seems particularly aimed at demonstrating that no one is beyond the reach of the committee and the crown prince.

So unlike that OBL guy.

The arrests come as Crown Prince Mohammed has forged a close relationship with President Donald Trump, who shares his aggressive approach to Saudi’s regional rival, Iran, and a penchant for bold decisions.

Prince Alwaleed sparred with Trump on Twitter during the U.S. presidential election, referring to him as a “disgrace not only to the GOP but to all America.” Trump fired back, also on Twitter, that he was a “dopey prince” trying to “control our U.S. politicians with daddy’s money.”



Why isn't Mueller, the Congre$$, and the pre$$ investigating that!

It could also shake investor confidence in Saudi Arabia as the kingdom tries to shed its image as an oil-dependent petrostate. The move comes just days after Saudi Arabia held a major investment conference to drum up interest in that effort.

Making the timing of all this even more peculiar. 

Could the investment conference simply be a cover for a war council?

Prince Alwaleed made early bets on some of the technology world’s biggest stars, also including Snap, riding a boom that catapulted many young entrepreneurs to top the rich lists, and earned him handsome returns. Prince Alwaleed also made an early bet on, a Chinese online retailer, anticipating that country’s emergence as a vast e-commerce market.

Prince Alwaleed has worked closely with some of Wall Street’s biggest and best known banks and investors.

Just a month ago, Lloyd C. Blankfein, the chairman and chief executive officer of Goldman Sachs, sat across from Prince Alwaleed at a meeting in Riyadh. The two talked about investments and economic developments in the Middle East. A longtime banker for Kingdom Holding, Goldman Sachs recently helped Prince Alwaleed’s company acquire a 16 percent stake in Banque Saudi Fransi, the Saudi bank.

When he traveled to New York in 2016, Prince Alwaleed met with Blankfein and Bloomberg. After a meeting, Bloomberg agreed to support news programming on the Alarab News Channel, a venture that Prince Alwaleed owns privately. 


They are still seeking him.

"Saudi Arabia said Saturday that its forces shot down a ballistic missile fired from Yemen toward one of the kingdom’s major international airports on the outskirts of the capital, Riyadh. The missile was fired from across Saudi Arabia’s southern border by Yemen’s Houthi rebels, according to several Houthi-owned media outlets, including Al-Masirah and SABA. The rebels are at war with the kingdom (AP)."

Another nearly-forgotten and certainly undercover war.


"Amid worries over North Korea, Trump begins long Asia trip" by Mark Landler New York Times   November 03, 2017

WASHINGTON — President Trump has decided to attend a summit meeting of Pacific Rim leaders in the Philippines on Nov. 14, the White House said Friday, a decision that will tack an extra day onto his already lengthy tour of the region.

The president will visit Asia amid heightened concerns in Beijing, Seoul, and Toyko about the heightened threat of a war with a nuclear-armed North Korea.

Speaking to reporters as he left the White House for Hawaii, the first leg of his trip, Trump said he planned to spend an extra day in the Philippines at the end of his 11 days on the road. The trip also includes stops in China, Japan, South Korea, and Vietnam.

After Trump left, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders confirmed that he would attend the East Asia summit, a meeting of leaders from Australia, Japan, China, Russia, and other countries that his predecessor, President Barack Obama, had made a priority.

Trump’s earlier decision to skip the meeting had rattled officials in the region, who warned that it would raise questions about the United States’ commitment to Southeast Asia.

Coupled with Trump’s withdrawal of the United States from the Trans-Pacific Partnership and his heavy focus on the North Korea crisis, some analysts said that if he were a no-show at the summit, it would deepen questions about the United States’ future in the region.

North Korea’s fast-growing nuclear weapons programs and Trump’s escalating rhetoric on Pyongyang have raised worries in the region.

Trump’s national security adviser, Lieutenant General H.R. McMaster, told reporters this week that the world is ‘‘running out of time’’ to stop North Korea, which he described as “a threat to the entire world.”

During the trip, Trump’s aides said, he will apply more pressure on Pyongyang to head off its nuclear threat.

Under pressure from the United States, the UN Security Council has approved two rounds of stiffer economic sanctions, and a growing number of countries have severed diplomatic ties with Pyongyang and banished North Korean guest workers.

But few analysts believe such steps will persuade North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to abandon his pursuit of a nuclear weapon that can reach the US mainland, and that has raised questions about how real are Trump’s threats to use military force.

In a separate development Friday, a spokesman for the Kremlin said that US and Russian officials were discussing a meeting between Trump and President Vladimir Putin of Russia during the trip.

It could occur on the sidelines of the annual meeting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Danang, Vietnam, before Trump flies to Manila.


"Typhoon Damrey slammed into Vietnam’s south-central coast on Saturday, killing at least 15 people and leaving four others missing. In Khanh Hoa province, 14 people were killed by collapsing houses or washed away by floods. The typhoon destroyed 302 homes and damaged 25,000 others, sank dozens of commercial boats, and ruined crops (AP)..... The typhoon, the second to hit Vietnam in a month, also caused extensive damage to the region’s rice fields and other crops while 228 fishing boats were sunk or damaged, the Vietnam Disaster Management Authority said. Heavy rains are expected to last until Tuesday, just days before the start of an economic summit attended by Presidents Trump, Vladimir Putin of Russia, and Xi Jinping of China, among others. In Malaysia on Sunday, a northern state was paralyzed by a severe storm that led to three deaths and the evacuation of some 2,000 people in the worst flooding in years....."

That'll show Trump climate change is real.

“The importance for international affairs of any contact between the Russian and US presidents can hardly be overestimated,” the spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, told reporters Friday. On Thursday, McMaster did not rule out a meeting.

While Trump’s decision to stay longer in Manila will be widely welcomed in Southeast Asia, it could add to the concerns of White House officials about the grueling nature of the trip — the longest tour of Asia by a US president since President George H.W. Bush late 1991.

Any meeting between Trump and Putin would come amid continued tensions between the two countries. The US president has been under pressure in Washington for seemingly dragging his feet on implementing new sanctions against Russia over accusations that it meddled in the 2016 presidential election.

Since their first meeting in Hamburg, Germany, in July, relations have only deteriorated further.

Just this week, there has been a stream of revelations about Russia flooding US social media with propaganda and charges have been brought in an investigation about possible collusion with Russia during the campaign.

Washington and Moscow also have traded barbed remarks over North Korea, Syria, and nuclear arms proliferation.

Trump confirmed the possibility of a meeting, telling Fox News late Thursday that Putin could be helpful on North Korea and Syria, and that the two should discuss Ukraine.....


"US bombers from Guam conduct exercise over Korean Peninsula" Associated Press  November 03, 2017

SEOUL — Two US supersonic bombers flew over the Korean Peninsula for bombing exercises that are also a show of force against North Korea ahead of President Trump’s first official visit to Asia.

A South Korean military official said Friday the B-1B bombers based in Guam were escorted by two South Korean F-16 fighter jets during the drills Thursday at a field near the South’s eastern coast.

The drills simulated attacks on land targets, but didn’t involve live weapons, said the official, who did not want to be named, citing office rules.

North Korea’s state media denounced the exercise as a ‘‘surprise nuclear strike drill’’ and says ‘‘gangster-like US imperialists’’ are seeking to ignite a nuclear war.

The nuclear issue is expected to dominate Trump’s trip to Asia, which starts Sunday in Japan and will include stops in South Korea, China, Vietnam, and the Philippines.

In recent months, North Korea has tested intercontinental ballistic missiles that could reach the US mainland with further development and has conducted its most powerful nuclear test. It also flew powerful new midrange missiles over Japan and threatened to launch them toward Guam, the US Pacific territory and military hub.

The United States has responded by sending its strategic assets to the region more frequently for patrols or drills.

That has angered North Korea, whose foreign minister said in September the North had ‘‘every right’’ to take countermeasures, including shooting down the US warplanes, though many experts doubt it has the actual intent or ability to do so.

Pyongyang’s official Korean Central News Agency said Friday that the ‘‘US imperialist warmongers’’ should not act rashly.

‘‘The US imperialists are making last-ditch efforts to check the dynamic advance of the DPRK by deploying their nuclear strategic assets in succession, but its army and people are never frightened at such moves,’’ the report said, referring to North Korea’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

In a separate development, 48 percent of respondents to a survey for the Japanese newspaper Yomiuri Shimbun survey said the international community should place importance on ‘‘dialogue’’ in dealing with North Korea, exceeding the 41 percent who said ‘‘pressure’’ should be applied on the country. 

I'm sorry, the Japanese are antiwar?

The poll was coducted after the inauguration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his fourth Cabinet.


Bombers won't be able to do it:

"A ground invasion of North Korea is the only way to locate and destroy, with complete certainty, all components of leader Kim Jong Un’s nuclear weapons program, according to a Pentagon official. Rear Admiral Michael J. Dumont of the Joint Staff also mentioned the possibility that chemical and biological weapons might be used by the North in case of a conflict. In a joint statement Saturday, 15 Democratic lawmakers and one Republican— all military veterans — called the assessment that a ground invasion would be required to destroy the North’s nuclear arsenal ‘‘deeply disturbing’’ and that such an action ‘‘could result in hundreds of thousands, or even millions of deaths in just the first few days of fighting. It is our intent to have a full public accounting of the potential cost of war, so the American people understand the commitment we would be making as a nation if we were to pursue military action,’’ the lawmakers said. They also said the Trump administration ‘‘has failed to articulate any plans to prevent the military conflict from expanding beyond the Korean Peninsula and to manage what happens after the conflict is over.’’ ‘‘With that in mind, the thought of sending troops into harm’s way and expending resources on another potentially unwinnable war is chilling. The President needs to stop making provocative statements that hinder diplomatic options and put American troops further at risk,’’ they said."

Congress will not allow him to go to war without a declaration.

Whatta relief, huh?

"Trump’s Asia trip presents a crucial international test" by Jonathan Lemire Associated Press  November 04, 2017

HONOLULU — On his most grueling and consequential trip abroad, President Trump stands ready to exhort Asian allies and rivals on the need to counter the dangers posed by North Korea’s nuclear threat.

The 12-day, five-country trip, the longest Far East itinerary for a president in a generation, comes at a precarious moment for Trump. Just days ago, his former campaign chairman was indicted and another adviser pleaded guilty as part of an investigation into possible collusion between his 2016 campaign and Russian officials.

Trump is set to arrive Sunday in Japan, his first stop. The trip presents a crucial international test for a president looking to reassure Asian allies worried that his inward-looking ‘‘America First’’ agenda could cede power in the region to China.

They also are rattled by his bellicose rhetoric about North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. The North’s growing missile arsenal threatens the capitals Trump will visit.

‘‘The trip comes, I would argue, at a very inopportune time for the president. He is under growing domestic vulnerabilities that we all know about, hour to hour,’’ said Jonathan Pollack, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington.

During a stopover in Hawaii, the president and first lady Melania Trump paid a visit to the memorial at Pearl Harbor. They tossed white flower petals into the waters above the sunken hull of the USS Arizona. Nearly 1,200 crew members on the battleship died during the Dec. 7, 1941 surprise attack by Japan.

There he is, worshipping the LIHOP as opposed to calling it out.

Although the White House has long signaled that it wants to press China and other Asian countries on trade, Trump is not expected asking the Chinese for any major steps during this trip. Aides said he wants to seek a more thorough change in the trade relationship later.

Trump’s spontaneous, and at time reckless, style flies in the face of the generations-old traditions and protocol that govern diplomatic exchanges in Asia.

The grand receptions expected for him in Tokyo, Seoul, Beijing, and beyond are sure to be lavish attempts to impress the president, who raved about the extravagances shown him on earlier visits to Saudi Arabia and France.

The trip will also put Trump in face-to-face meetings with authoritarian leaders for whom he has expressed admiration. They include China’s Xi Jinping, whom Trump has likened to ‘‘a king,’’ and the Philippines’ Rodrigo Duterte, who has sanctioned the extrajudicial killings of drug dealers.

Trump may also have the chance for a second private audience with Russian President Vladimir Putin, on the sidelines of a summit in Vietnam.

The North Korean threat is expected to dominate the trip. One of Trump’s two major speeches will come before the National Assembly in Seoul. Fiery threats against the North could resonate differently than they do from the distance of Washington.

Trump will forgo a trip to the Demilitarized Zone, the stark border between North and South Korea. All US presidents except one since Ronald Reagan have visited the DMZ in a sign of solidarity with Seoul.....


He's not stopping in Taiwan?

"Taiwan’s once formidable military now dwarfed by China’s" by Steven Lee Myers New York Times   November 04, 2017

ZUOYING NAVAL BASE, Taiwan — Taiwan’s aging submarine fleet is but one measure of how far the military balance across the Taiwan Strait has tilted in favor of the island’s rival, mainland China.

A military modernization overseen by the Chinese president, Xi Jinping, whose political power reached new heights after last month’s Communist Party congress in Beijing, has proceeded in leaps and bounds, lifted by hefty budget increases that have made China the world’s No. 2 military spender after the United States, though it is a distant second.

Taiwan’s armed forces, by contrast, have fallen way behind, struggling to recruit enough soldiers and sailors — and to equip those they have.

A major obstacle is that countries that might sell it the most sophisticated weaponry are increasingly reluctant to do so for fear of provoking China, which claims Taiwan as part of its territory. The unwillingness to anger China extends even to the United States, on which Taiwan has long depended for its defense.

This shifting balance affects more than just Taiwan. The Taiwan Strait was once Asia’s most ominous flash point, with the potential to drag the United States into war with China. Now, it is just one of several potential hot spots between a more assertive China and its neighbors.

Yeah, right, the U.S. has to be dragged into acts of aggression.

Who wrote this pos anyway?

Taiwan’s experience could be a cautionary tale to Japan, South Korea, Vietnam, and others in the region who are also warily watching China’s rising military capabilities.

Adding to the unease over China’s military growth has been uncertainty over US policy under President Trump. As he makes his first visit to Asia, allies and others will look for signals about the depth of the US military commitment to the region.

When he was president-elect, Trump signaled a strong embrace of Taiwan by accepting a congratulatory phone call from its president, Tsai Ing-wen. Since taking office, he has shown more deference to China in hopes of winning its support in the nuclear standoff with North Korea.

When the Trump administration approved a new package of arms sales to Taiwan this summer, it was worth a relatively modest $1.4 billion, less than the $1.8 billion package approved by President Barack Obama two years ago.

Any weakening of the US defense commitment “is what Taiwan worries about most,” said Lu Cheng-fu, an assistant professor at National Quemoy University.....


Looks like Taiwan got thin while the Navy got fat:

‘Fat Leonard’ scandal expands to ensnare more than 60 admirals

I'm told "a defense contractor in Asia systematically bribed sailors with sex, liquor and other temptations, according to the Navy, with alcohol-soaked, after-dinner parties which sometimes lasted for days and often featured imported prostitutes, and that the Navy’s handling of the cases has been largely opaque to the public."

No wonder they are crashing into other ships over there!


Off we go, into the wild blue yonder.....

"Airstrikes carried out by the US military killed at least 13 civilians on Saturday in the northern Afghan province of Kunduz, according to residents and officials in the area, a difficult battleground for both Afghan and US forces. The airstrikes took place in the Chardara district, where Afghan commandos, often advised by the US military and backed by US air power, were carrying out operations (New York Times)."

They buried them in a brief!

"Reports suggest dozens of civilians killed in US strikes in Afghanistan" by Sayed Salahuddin Washington Post  November 06, 2017

KABUL — Afghanistan and the United States are investigating reports that dozens of civilians were killed during a weekend ground and aerial offensive by Afghan and US forces against Taliban insurgents.

Lawmakers from the northern province of Kunduz said they have received conflicting information on the casualties. Some unconfirmed reports put the death toll from the attack, in the Char Dara district, at nearly 60. The defense ministry’s chief spokesman, Dawlat Waziri, said in a press conference that the government has appointed a team to investigate.

President Ashraf Ghani’s office has not commented on the reports of civilian deaths in Kunduz. But former President Hamid Karzai, who was sharply critical of the coalition over civilian casualties when he was in power, said Sunday that children and women were among the victims.

Both the Afghan defense ministry and the coalition confirmed that they had launched a joint offensive against the Taliban in Kunduz.

Citing the ministry’s top commander in the area, the defense ministry said only militants were targeted and that more than 50 of them had lost their lives.

Lieutenant Jason Tross, a US military spokesman, said the US-led coalition was aware of the ‘‘allegations of potential civilian casualties’’ and was assessing it. On Saturday he said the coalition, ‘‘takes all allegations of civilian casualties and the responsibility of human life seriously, and is assessing the facts surrounding this incident.’’

Since significantly drawing down the number of troops in Afghanistan in late 2014, the US military has increased its aerial attacks in the country, largely against Taliban militants who have gained ground both in rural and in urban areas.

The most deadly aerial attacks in Kunduz happened in 2015 and 2016, when the Taliban briefly took control of the center of the city of Kunduz.

More than 40 staff and patients of a Doctors Without Borders hospital died in a US aerial attack in 2015 that drew stern international outcry. And last year, dozens of civilians were killed and wounded in US aerial strikes on the outskirts of Kunduz city.

President Trump in August approved a Pentagon plan to deploy as many as 3,800 additional US forces to Afghanistan, where there are already more than 11,000 serving. American and allied forces are battling a resurgent Taliban as well as an Islamic State affiliate in Afghanistan, which is still gripped by unrest 16 years after the US-led invasion.....


Oh, yeah, "a US service member died," too.


VA Secretary David Shulkin visits Bedford hospital

Hours before Niger ambush, US soldiers were targeting militants in Mali

"US citizen arrested in Zimbabwe, accused of insulting Mugabe" Associated Press  November 03, 2017

HARARE, Zimbabwe — Zimbabwe police charged a United States citizen with subversion for allegedly insulting President Robert Mugabe on Twitter as a ‘‘sick man,’’ lawyers said Friday. The offense carries up to 20 years in prison.

This is the first arrest made since Mugabe last month appointed a minister for cybersecurity, the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights said, in a move criticized by activists as aimed at clamping down on social media users. Zimbabwe last year saw its biggest antigovernment protests in a decade.

Police picked up 25-year-old Martha O’Donovan on Friday in the capital, Harare, the US Embassy said.

Police accuse O’Donovan of tweeting ‘‘We are being led by a selfish and sick man,’’ said her lawyer, Obey Shava, of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights. O’Donovan, formerly of Nw York, has been charged with undermining the authority of or insulting the president, and subverting a constitutionally elected government. She has denied the allegations.


Insult the man; just don't insult the woman:

"Zimbabwe’s first lady accused of assault in South Africa" Associated Press  August 15, 2017

JOHANNESBURG — The wife of Zimbabwe’s president has been accused of assaulting a young woman at an upscale hotel in South Africa, though she did not show up for court Tuesday as police had indicated.

It was not immediately clear where Grace Mugabe was. Minister of Police Fikile Mbalula said in a video posted by local broadcaster eNCA that she had turned herself in to police. But a police spokesman, Vishnu Naidoo, later said no arrest had been made.

The case draws yet more attention to the increasingly outspoken wife of the world’s oldest head of state, 93-year-old President Robert Mugabe. Last month she challenged her husband publicly for the first time to name a successor, positioning herself as a possibility as his advanced age takes a toll ahead of next year’s election.

Gabriella Engels, a 20-year-old model, accused Grace Mugabe of assaulting her Sunday night while she was visiting mutual friends of Mugabe’s sons in a hotel room in an upscale Johannesburg suburb. She said the first lady’s bodyguards stood by and watched as Mugabe attacked her.

Engels posted several photos on social media showing a gash in her forehead, which she called a result of the alleged encounter.

‘‘She flipped and just kept beating me with the plug. Over and over,’’ Engels told local news channel News24. ‘‘I had no idea what was going on. I was surprised. I needed to crawl out of the room before I could run away.’’

Police confirmed that a 20-year-old woman registered ‘‘a case of assault with intent to do grievous bodily harm’’ on Monday, but said the suspect could not be named as she had not yet appeared in court.

It was unclear whether Mugabe would qualify for diplomatic immunity if charges are brought against her.

There was no immediate comment by Zimbabwe’s government or ruling party. Zimbabwean press reported earlier this week that Grace Mugabe, 52, was in South Africa seeking medical attention.

It was not clear Tuesday night whether Mugabe was still in South Africa or had returned to Zimbabwe.

Grace Mugabe has been accused of assaults during other overseas trips, including a 2009 visit to Hong Kong in which a photographer accused her of beating him up.


"Grace Mugabe gets diplomatic immunity, returns to Zimbabwe" Associated Press  August 20, 2017

HARARE, Zimbabwe — Granted diplomatic immunity by South Africa, the wife of Robert Mugabe, the Zimbabwean president, returned home from Johannesburg on Sunday despite calls that she be prosecuted for allegedly assaulting a young model at a luxury hotel there.

Zimbabwean state broadcaster ZBC showed Grace Mugabe greeting government and military officials at the Harare airport after returning on an Air Zimbabwe plane with her husband, who had attended a summit of southern African leaders in Pretoria.

The Mugabe couple did not attend a state funeral for a senior ruling party official later in the day in the Zimbabwean capital; the president usually presides over such events.

South Africa’s foreign minister, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, granted immunity to Grace Mugabe in a government gazette notice that was published Sunday.

Signed on Saturday, the notice recognizes ‘‘the immunities and privileges of the First Lady of the Republic of Zimbabwe, Dr. Grace Mugabe.’’

South African police had previously issued a ‘‘red alert’’ at borders to ensure she didn’t leave undetected and had said they were waiting for a government decision on the immunity appeal.

The country’s main opposition party, the Democratic Alliance, called for a parliamentary inquiry into South Africa’s decision to let the Zimbabwean first lady leave and said on Twitter that the government has ‘‘no more legitimacy in the arena of international diplomacy and displays a total disregard for the rule of law.’’

John Steenhuisen, a senior opposition official, compared the South African handling of the Mugabe case to the government’s decision to allow Sudan’s president, Omar al-Bashir, to leave the country in 2015 even though he was wanted by the International Criminal Court for alleged war crimes, the African News Agency reported.

Gabriella Engels, a 20-year-old model, said Grace Mugabe attacked her on Aug. 13, whipping her with an extension cord that cut her forehead.

In reaction to the news that Mugabe had returned to Zimbabwe, a group representing Engels said Sunday it would go to court to challenge the South African government over the immunity issue.

‘‘We will take a long-term approach on this,’’ said Willie Spies, legal representative at AfriForum, an organization that primarily represents South Africa’s white Afrikaner minority.

‘‘She may be back in Zimbabwe, but it may mean that she will find it very difficult to come back to South Africa in the future,’’ Spies said.

Zimbabwe’s state media have largely remained silent on the scandal over Zimbabwe’s first lady.

The Zimbabwean president’s outspoken wife has been criticized for a fiery temper and lavish shopping expeditions, but her rising political profile has some asking whether she is maneuvering to succeed her husband. 

I'm getting the feeling my pre$$ doesn't like her.


"Zimbabwe’s first lady denies assault, says she was attacked" Associated Press  September 13, 2017

JOHANNESBURG — Representatives of Zimbabwe’s first lady say a young woman who accused her of assault was the aggressor, allegedly attacking Grace Mugabe with a knife while drunk, according to a court document filed in South Africa.

The court papers denying any wrongdoing by Mugabe were submitted Aug. 17 by Zimbabwean diplomats on behalf of Mugabe, who was granted diplomatic immunity by South Africa despite calls for her prosecution in the alleged attack on the woman in a Johannesburg hotel on Aug. 13.

The Associated Press obtained a copy of the court document from AfriForum, a group representing 20-year-old Gabriella Engels, who said she suffered head wounds while being whipped with an extension cord by Grace Mugabe.

Grace Mugabe went to see her sons in a hotel suite because they were ‘‘in trouble with a drunken young woman,’’ says the court document filed by Zimbabwean diplomats.

‘‘Upon her arrival Ms. Engels, who was intoxicated and unhinged, attacked Dr. Grace Mugabe with a knife after she was asked to leave the hotel room. Security removed Ms. Engels from the hotel suite,’’ according to the court filing.

Engels has said she was in a hotel room with mutual friends of Mugabe’s two sons, who live in Johannesburg, when the first lady burst into the room and assaulted her.


"Zimbabwe police hold reporter for story on Grace Mugabe" Associated Press  October 03, 2017

HARARE, Zimbabwe — Police in Zimbabwe detained a journalist for reporting that President Robert Mugabe’s wife allegedly donated used underwear and women’s nightgowns to ruling party supporters, a defense lawyer said Tuesday.

It had been laundered first, right?

Kenneth Nyangani, a reporter with the NewsDay newspaper, was detained on Monday in the eastern city of Mutare after the story was published, but police have not formally charged him, lawyer Passmore Nyakureba said.

In the story published Monday, Nyangani reported that a ruling party legislator donated the clothing items on behalf of Grace Mugabe. The first lady, whose political profile has risen in the recent years, routinely donates clothing and food items to ruling party supporters at her rallies.

Amnesty International appealed for Nyangani’s release, describing his arrest as an attempt to harass and intimidate him and other journalists.

‘‘The intention is to send a chilling message to journalists and media workers that they must self-censor rather than expose truths,’’ said Cousin Zilala, executive director of Amnesty’s Zimbabwe branch.....

The great thing about the AmeriKan pre$$ is they have already internalized the propaganda so they are by definition not self-censoring.


Now the WHO has a bug up their butt regarding Mugabe.

Must be because Zimbabwe’s leaders were not impressed by Trump.

From Z to A:

"Angola votes for 1st new president in nearly 4 decades" Associated Press  August 23, 2017

JOHANNESBURG — Angolans voted Wednesday in an election in which the defense minister is the front-runner to succeed President Jose Eduardo dos Santos, who will step down after 38 years in power in an oil-rich country beset by widespread poverty and corruption.

About 9.3 million Angolans were registered to vote for the 220-member National Assembly; the winning party will then select the president. Dos Santos’ chosen successor is Joao Lourenco, a former governor who fought in the war against Portuguese colonial rule as well as the long civil war that ended in 2002.

Dos Santos, accompanied by wife Ana Paula dos Santos, and Lourenco, voted separately in Luanda, the capital, reported the state-run Agencia Angola Press. The main opposition leader, Isaias Samakuva of the UNITA party, cast his ballot at a university in a Luanda suburb.

UNITA was/is a CIA front.

Minor flaws in the voting process included delays in the opening of some polling stations, especially in remote areas, said Andre da Silva Neto, president of the election commission.

The peaceful election, however, could serve as ‘‘an example to follow in those countries where, especially here in Africa, we constantly find that electoral processes are transformed into battlefields. Unnecessary deaths and unnecessary damage,’’ said the election chief, according to the Portuguese news agency Lusa.

Like in Kenya.

Angolan rights activists have alleged that the ruling MPLA party unfairly used state machinery ahead of the election, noting that most media coverage focused on the MPLA campaign. Opposition parties have said there were irregularities ahead of the voting.


"Angolan election commission says ruling party has big lead" Associated Press  August 24, 2017

JOHANNESBURG — Angola’s ruling party has a large lead over the main opposition with votes from nearly two-thirds of polling stations counted, the election commission said Thursday, opening the way for Defense Minister Joao Lourenco to succeed President Jose Eduardo dos Santos after his 38-year rule.

The announcement followed a day of conflicting claims by the rival parties, which fought each other in a long civil war in the southern African nation that ended in 2002.

Provisional tallies showed the ruling MPLA party with 64 percent with nearly 6 million ballots counted from Wednesday’s vote, while the UNITA opposition party had 24 percent and a smaller opposition group, CASA-CE, had 8 percent, election commission spokeswoman Julia Ferreira said on live television.

The MPLA earlier Thursday claimed victory, saying partial results from its own tally indicated it had won a majority. UNITA disputed that claim.

The MPLA made its claim after reviewing data relayed by its delegates from polling stations nationwide, said Joao Martins, a senior official at the party’s headquarters in Luanda, the capital, according to the Portuguese news agency Lusa.

About 9.3 million Angolans were registered to vote for the 220-member National Assembly; the winning party then selects the president.