Saturday, April 15, 2017

Sucky Saturday

Related: Not So Good Friday

Up and down we go....

"China Warns of ‘Storm Clouds Gathering’ in U.S.-North Korea Standoff" by Gerry Mullany and Chris Buckley New York Times  April 14, 2017

HONG KONG — China warned on Friday that tensions on the Korean Peninsula could spin out of control, as North Korea said it could test a nuclear weapon at any time and an American naval group neared the peninsula in a show of resolve.

Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi’s comments were the bluntest this week from China, which has been trying to steer between the Trump administration’s demands for it to do more to stop North Korea’s nuclear weapons program and its longstanding reluctance to risk a rupture with the North, its neighbor and longtime partner. In a phone conversation with Trump on Wednesday, China’s president, Xi Jinping, also called for restraint.

The North Korean military issued a statement on Friday threatening to attack major US military bases in South Korea, as well as the presidential Blue House, warning that it could annihilate those targets “within minutes.”

The statement also denounced what it called the Trump administration’s “maniacal military provocations,” like threats of possible unilateral action coming from Washington and the deployment of warships near the Korean Peninsula.

“Nothing will be more foolish if the United States thinks it can deal with us the way it treated Iraq and Libya, miserable victims of its aggression, and Syria, which did not respond immediately even after it was attacked,” a spokesman of the General Staff of the North’s People’s Army said in a statement on its official Korean Central News Agency.

Analysts say recent satellite images from North Korea suggest that it might soon carry out another underground detonation, despite pointed warnings by the United States not to do so.

On Saturday, the North marks the 105th anniversary of the birth of its founder, Kim Il Sung, and it often uses such occasions as an opportunity to show off its military advances. The country said it could test a nuclear weapon whenever its current leader, Kim Jong Un, decided.

Russia echoed China in urging all parties on Friday to exercise caution....


The Syrian war is nearly over:

"Thousands of Syrians were bused out of their towns on Friday in the first stage of a widely criticized population transfer that reflects the relentless segregation of Syrian society along political and sectarian lines. The coordinated evacuations delivered war-weary fighters and residents from two years of siege and hunger, but moved the country closer to a division of its national population by loyalty and sect as diplomacy in Moscow focused on the US airstrikes targeting Syria. Madaya and Zabadani, once summer resorts to Damascus, have been shattered under the cruelty of government siege. The two towns rebelled against the authority of Damascus in 2011 when demonstrations swept through the country demanding the end of President Bashar Assad’s rule. Residents were reduced to hunting rodents and eating the leaves off trees. Photos of children gaunt with hunger shocked the world and gave new urgency to UN relief operations in Syria...."

The same images of children in Yemen elicited a Saturday brief.

"US sends about 40 troops to train Somalia’s army" by Abdi Guled and Cara Anna Associated Press  April 14, 2017

MOGADISHU, Somalia — The US military is sending dozens of regular troops to Somalia in the largest such deployment to the Horn of Africa country in roughly two decades.

The United States pulled out of Somalia after 1993, when two helicopters were shot down in the capital, Mogadishu, and bodies of Americans were dragged through the streets. Even now, Somalia’s fragile central government is struggling to assert itself after the nationwide chaos that began with the fall of dictator Siad Barre in 1991.

The US Africa Command said this deployment is for logistics training of Somalia’s army, which is battling the extremist group Al Shabab that emerged from the country’s years of warlord-led conflict. About 40 troops are taking part.

The US in recent years has sent a small number of special operations forces and counter-terror advisers to Somalia, and President Trump recently approved an expanded military role there. It includes carrying out more aggressive airstrikes against Al Shabab and considering parts of southern Somalia areas of active hostilities.

See: Obama's Shadow War in Somalia 

It is back in there again according to my pre$$.

The country’s new Somali-American president, Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, last week declared a new offensive against the group.


"Palestinian stabs UK woman in Jerusalem amid Easter fetes" AP  April 14, 2017

JERUSALEM — A Palestinian stabbed a young British woman to death in Jerusalem as she traveled on the light rail close to the Old City, which was packed with Christians from around the world celebrating Good Friday and Jews enjoying Passover, police and hospital officials said.

Police spokeswoman Luba Samri said that as the tram approached City Hall, the Palestinian pulled a knife out of his bag and stabbed the woman in her early 20s multiple times in the upper body.

An off-duty policeman, who was riding the tram with his family, pulled the emergency brake and charged at the Palestinian attacker, Samri said.

The 57-year-old Palestinian attacker had a history of mental illness, Israel’s Shin Bet intelligence service said.

The Hebrew University in Jerusalem said the woman killed, Hannah Bladon, was studying at the school as part of a student exchange program with the University of Birmingham.

She started her studies in Jerusalem at the end of January, the university said. ‘‘We extend our deepest condolences to her family and we share in their sorrow,’’ it said in a statement.

‘‘The university condemns such acts of terror that harm innocent people, and especially a student who came to Jerusalem to study and widen her academic horizons,’’ it said.

Jerusalem’s Hadassah Medical Center said the woman died soon after she was rushed there following the attack, despite efforts to save her.

The attack took place near the Old City that was packed with Christians, many of them tourists from around the world, celebrating the Good Friday holiday, as well as Jews celebrating Passover and Muslims gathered for Friday prayers.

Yeah, sure.


Time to start tunneling back:

"Islamic State has tunnels everywhere. It’s making them much harder to defeat" by Amanda Erickson Washington Post  April 14, 2017

It’s hard to know how many tunnels exist, or where. But anecdotal reports suggest that the network is extensive. After Mosul was liberated in 2015, for example.


They are still fighting in Mosul. 

So now my paper is anecdotes, 'eh?

The same was true under Fallujah. Iraqi forces say the tunnels have made an already difficult offensive harder, allowing Islamic State fighters to appear seemingly out of nowhere. This infrastructure allowed Islamic State fighters to creep quickly into position, then ambush advance troops from concealed locations.

Yeah, they are like ghosts.

‘‘It’s like we are fighting two wars in two cities,’’ Colonel Falah Al-Obaidi of the Iraqi counterterror forces told The Washington Post. ‘‘There’s the war on the streets and there is a whole city underground where they are hiding. Now it’s hard to consider an area liberated, because though we control the surface, ISIS will appear from under the ground, like rats.’’

OMG. Now they are vermin.

So where are the supplies and food coming in?

The network of tunnels illuminates something else: that it will be nearly impossible to bomb the Islamic State into submission.

Rukmini Callimachi, who covers the Islamic State for The New York Times, explains the strategic advantage on NPR: ‘‘It’s absolutely impossible,’’ Callimachi told NPR’s Terry Gross. ‘‘Unless you’re willing to court, you know, a real human catastrophe, you can’t just bomb this place indiscriminately.’’



.... he sure as hell is going to try!

"3 dozen fighters reported killed by massive bomb" by Erin Cunningham and Sayed Salahuddin Washington Post  April 14, 2017

KABUL — US forces in Afghanistan had not assessed the impact Friday of a massive strike on Islamic State militants in the eastern part of the country, a military spokesman said, raising questions about the already controversial decision to deploy a 22,000-pound bomb on the battlefield.

The Afghan Defense Ministry said three dozen fighters were killed in the attack, which used one of the largest nonnuclear bombs in the US arsenal, the GBU-43, against a network of tunnels and bunkers.

A Pentagon spokesman said its forces would not release an official statement on potential damage or casualties incurred from the strike Thursday night.

It was unclear why the Afghan government released casualty figures but US forces did not. For its part, the Islamic State-linked Amaq News Agency denied that the bombing caused casualties among the militants, according to the SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors online postings from extremist groups and others. The Islamic State offered no evidence to support its claim.

Do you just catch a whiff of.... ??!!

US and Afghan troops went on the offensive against the local Islamic State branch in March, even as they continue to battle a Taliban insurgency in the rest of the country. US and Afghan officials have said their goal is to ‘‘eliminate’’ the Islamic State from Afghanistan this year, but the Trump administration has not yet said if it plans to commit more troops to the fight. After 16 years of war, the United States and NATO have struggled with how to wind down the conflict here.

But the Islamic State affiliate emerged only recently, in the wake of the group declaring a caliphate in Iraq and Syria in 2014. Since then, it has staged deadly attacks on Afghan civilians, particularly in Kabul, but has largely failed to break out of its stronghold in the east. There, the group uses the proximity to Pakistan, which is also plagued by militancy, to build up weapons stockpiles and connect with jihadists across the border....

Uh-huh, yup! 


And look who is leading the protest:

"Trump’s bombs might be smart, but is his strategy?" April 15, 2017

The Obama administration dropped a mere 32,000 bombs in 2016. That’s one bomb every 20 minutes, day and night, for a year. 

Did you see that? 

President peace Prize?

Now we’re about to see what unshackling looks like. Airstrikes in Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan are up sharply.

As are corpses. I guess Trump won't be winning one.


HISTORY URGES skepticism. In the wake of World War II, extensive surveys by British and American experts found that the aerial bombing campaigns against German civilian and military targets had been surprisingly expensive and far less effective than anticipated. German morale didn’t collapse and spur an overthrow of the Nazi regime, while war production managed to continue despite the razing of dozens of European cities. Civilians, it seems, often came to rely more on the Nazis for relief and protection from the bombardment. (Little surprise: The British didn’t fold under the Nazi Blitz either.) Relentless bombing also failed to turn the North Vietnamese against Hanoi. Indeed, the United States dropped more tons of bombs on peripheral Laos than it did on Germany and Japan combined and still failed to “win.”

During three years of the Korean War, US bombs killed a staggering 20 percent of the population of North Korea. As future Secretary of State Dean Rusk noted, the Pentagon bombed “everything that moved in North Korea, every brick standing on top of another.” That included cities, towns, and dams, which led to flooding of croplands.


Instead of defeating the North or turning its population against the Kim Il Sung government, the bombing helped entrench a paranoid regime that has used the existential threat of US attacks as an excuse to stay in power ever since — mass starvation and international isolation be damned.

We don’t talk much about our bombing of North Korea. The cartoonishly despotic, homicidal fanaticism of the Kim dynasty has robbed us of any desire for serious self-reflection. Which is a shame. It might give us a slight peek into the North Korean mindset, which has prioritized the production of nuclear weapons over the production of calories. It isn’t coincidental with more US bombs in the air that North Korea is reportedly on the verge of testing another nuclear weapon.

Who is "us," and how about a slight peek into the mindset of a nation that "plans to spend $1 trillion over the next 30 years to modernize its air-land-sea triad of nuclear weapons?"

BOMBS, BY their awesome nature, are sometimes thought to have talismanic psychological powers against enemies. The Japanese hoped attacking Pearl Harbor would demoralize Americans. Germany’s V-2 rockets, the ancestors of the Tomahawk missiles, were intended to sow fear in England.

How’d that work out?

Still, Trump is doubtlessly hoping the sudden increase in American bombing will send a message to Pyongyang. In the past, US officials have said as much. When the first GBU-43 — which snagged the maternal moniker “Mother of All Bombs” — was first detonated at a range in the United States in early March 2003, then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said that the purpose of the test was psychological: “The goal is to not have a war. The goal is to have the pressure be so great that Saddam Hussein cooperates.”

Again, bombing didn’t work out as planned — “shock and awe” didn’t win the Iraq War.

In 2013, as the Iran nuclear negotiations continued, the Pentagon made a big show of announcing another enormous weapon — the 30,000 pound Massive Ordnance Penetrator — to destroy caves and bunkers, the kind that Iran (and North Korea) use to shield clandestine weapons projects. The audience then was the Israelis, it was reported, who were to take comfort knowing the United States could knock out the Iranian nuclear program should talks fail.

Needless to say, the bigger and better bunker buster didn’t allay Tel Aviv’s concerns.

“MOAB” WAS trending atop Twitter Thursday in the wake of the US strike. The world’s media amplified the explosion with breathless descriptions and a feedback loop of b-roll. When Trump promised to “bomb the [expletive]” out of ISIS, he was as good as his word. The message was loud, if not clear: America loves its terrifying weapons, whether they’re effective or not, and their use is only a tweet away.

Speak for yourselves!!


He's no Homer Simpson, that's for sure.

Not a very comforting thought. I hope he does a reversal if he's thinking about it.

"EPA chief calls for exit from Paris climate agreement" by Chris Mooney Washington Post  April 14, 2017

WASHINGTON — The statement aligns Environmental Protection Agency administrator Scott Pruitt with a more hard-line approach held by some in the Trump administration, such as Chief Strategist Stephen Bannon, rather than the more moderate take of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

It's Tillerson, Ivanka Trump, and her husband and Trump confidant Jared Kushner, against Bannon (they no longer have to worry).

If the Trump administration wants to take a more moderate approach to the Paris deal, it could consider modifying the United States’ current pledge to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions, rather than seeking to exit altogether.

That’s a tack advanced in a letter to Trump, previously reported on by E&E News, by Representative Kevin Cramer, Republican of North Dakota, who argued that the United States “should present a new pledge.’’

It is far from clear how the Trump administration could actually ‘‘exit’’ the Paris agreement, if it determines that it wants to. Now that the agreement is in effect, it takes three years under its terms for a party to withdraw, followed by a one-year waiting period — a length roughly equal to Trump’s first term in office....

Oh, it was written to outlast him!


He has a heart as black as coal.

White House won’t release its visitor records

They say it will save the taxpayers money.

On other matters, Trump is continuing to do the backstroke across all fronts.

"Where are these sudden changes coming from? Trump’s advisers don’t seem to think any of these flagrant flip-flops are a problem. He’s a new president, he’s new to politics, he’s new to governing. Of course he’s going to hear other views out...."

And that is the last word.