Friday, December 19, 2014

Are Fears Of Russia Losing Control Of It's Nuclear Arsenal In The Event Of An Economic Collapse Realistic?

Photo: Soviet/Russian tactical nuclear warhead being loaded in the field. Nuclear Weapon Archive

Could Russia's Economic Meltdown Lead To Loose Nukes? -- The Hill

Senior lawmakers alarmed by Russia's collapsing economy fear some of the nuclear power's atomic arsenal could fall into the wrong hands.

While officials say there's no immediate reason to think Russia's weapons could be sold off to the highest bidder or stolen, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) intends to hold hearings next year on what Moscow is doing to keep its nukes safe.

“We’re going to be taking on that whole issue in Armed Services Committee and we’ll be figuring out what needs to be done,” McCain, who will chair the panel in the next Congress, told The Hill. “Particularly, the state of the nuclear inventory.”

Read more ....

My Comment: I asked that question when the Soviet Union was collapsing .... and I asked the same question in 1993 when the Russian constitutional crisis erupted in bloodshed .... in both cases the answer (from people who know these things) was the same .... no. Flash forward to today .... the restrictions and protections on Russia's nuclear weapons are even more extensive (thanks to U.S. cooperation since the fall of the Soviet Union) .... so the possibility of even one nuclear device disappearing is inconceivable. But I will concede that if history is any indication .... even the inconceivable has a habit of becoming conceivable .... much to the surprise of those who believed that it would never happen. I look forward to Senator McCain's hearings .... and I hope that it will be done in a non-political and open minded manner.

Putin Reveals He Is In A Relationship A Year After His Divorce

Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, wouldn’t say if he’s dating Russian gymnast Alina Kabayeva, right, during his annual three-hour press conference. ITAR-TASS/Reuters

From Russia With Love: Putin Reveals He Is In A Relationship A Year After His Divorce... But Refuses To Confirm Whether Former Olympic Gymnast Is Lucky Lady -- Daily Mail

* Putin was asked by journalist whether he 'had time for the opposite sex'
* Replied 'I tell you I do', before going on to say that he 'loves' and 'is loved'
* Putin is rumoured to have a secret family with athlete Alina Kabayeva

Vladimir Putin on Thursday admitted he is in love, fuelling rumours over a relationship with Olympic gymnast Alina Kabayeva.

Denying he had 'completely gone wild' in his romantic life, the divorced strongman revealed that he 'loves' and is loved in return, but refused to disclose the identity of his mystery partner.

If true, it could mean that Russia's 'most eligible man' is no longer available.

Read more ....

Update: Putin in love? Russian president says he loves and is loved at press conference -- New York Daily News

My Comment: This is the worst case secret in Russia. Yes ... they have been a couple for a few years .... and yes .... Putin in the past few years became a father again with a son and daughter from this relationship.

Now .... can we move on to more important things?

As The Russian Economic Meltdown Continues, Wealthy Russians Are Fleeing With Their Money

The home of Roman Ambrovich in Kensington Palace Gardens, London. Source: Neil Hall / Rex Features

Russian Economic Meltdown Sparks Wave Of Panic Buying London Homes -- The Telegraph

Russians protect their wealth from currency crisis by sinking it into London property

Wealthy Russians, desperate to get their money out of Moscow in the wake of the Russian economic crisis, are panic-buying in London this week, according to high-end estate agents.

Russia has lost control of its economy in the last few days after an interest rate hike by the central bank failed to stem the collapse of the rouble, accelerating the trend of Russian buyers in the UK capital.

Beauchamp Estates said it has seen as much as a 10pc uptick in sales of luxury London homes to Russians since the rouble started to spiral a year ago.

"I currently have half a dozen Russian clients urgently looking to spend over £20m each on buying a new home in central London. For them the address must be Belgravia, Knightsbridge, Mayfair and Regents Park, it's got to be a prestigious postcode and ideally a park side or leafy address," said Gary Hersham, founder of Beauchamp Estates.

There has also been a rise in Russians looking at investment properties, he continued.

Read more ....

My Comment: The Telegraph is a few weeks late .... but their reporting is spot on. The money is pouring out of Russia .... something that I first notice late October. Here are two examples ....

Being from Russia and having a large family that is sill involved in Russian business and politics means that I have a lot of contacts in Russia .... and (yes) some of them are extremely well off. All of them also know I live in Canada, and each year one or two of them do ask me on what are the investment opportunities in Canada .... but nothing ever comes out of it. That has now changed. In the past month I have received a dozen requests .... all of them serious .... from people who want to know if Canada is a safe place for their money (it is), and what are the investment opportunities (primarily in real estate) for them. They are all making plans to come to Canada (and the U.S.) in the New Year .... and it looks like I am going to be busy host in January/February even though I am one of those who prefers to hibernate during winter.

My cousin's daughter is a registered real estate agent in Miami. She is in her mid-twenties and her sole (and only) job right now is to handle real estate transactions for Russian/Ukrainian clients .... an easy job since all of these clients are from her mother (my cousin) who has extensive contacts in both Russia and Ukraine and is extremely well known back home (she is being constantly interviewed on the Russian equivalent of CNBC/Bloomberg/etc.). In the past month my daughter's cousin has closed 5 sales involving million dollar plus homes in the Miami area .... and she is booked for the next two months exclusively taking care of Russian/Ukrainian clients who want to invest and buy expensive properties in the Miami/Florida area.

So yes .... Russia's elites are now sending their money out .... and my read on this is simple .... these people have lost confidence in Putin and in the Russian economy, and they want to protect some of their assets. And while I do believe that Russia's economy will bounce back .... probably sooner rather than later .... for those who have a lot of money .... they are all telling me the same thing .... they just do not want to take the chance.

Update #1: Some are arguing that Russian money is not fleeing .... or at least not to London .... Russians Quit London Luxury Homes as Only Super-Rich Stay (Bloomberg).

Update #2: I agree .... Data show Russian cash has already fled (CNBC).

Thursday, December 18, 2014

After $28 Billion In Aid, The U.S. Is Still Unable To Get Pakistan To Confront Its Radical Militants

Despite Billions In Aid, U.S. Unable To Get Pakistan To Confront Militants -- Reuters

(Reuters) - Since 2001 the United States has tried virtually every strategy available to persuade Pakistan's army to take the threat of militancy more seriously, but 12 years and $28 billion in aid later, all the American approaches are widely viewed as having failed.

First, the Bush administration heaped praise on former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, agreed to reimburse the Pakistani army for anti-Taliban military operations and launched drone strikes that killed al Qaeda leaders and militants wanted by the Pakistani government.

Adopting a more confrontational stance, the Obama administration unilaterally carried out the raid that killed Osama bin Laden, vastly increased aid to Pakistan’s weak civilian institutions and, at times, cut off aid to the Pakistani military.

Read more ....

My Comment: After $28 billion I would say that it is now time to think of a new strategy .... my suggestion .... cut off the funds completely, and start to find new and more reliable allies.

Was North Korea Planning To Attack U.S. Nuclear Plants In The 1990s?

This photo of Kim Jong Un and his military advisors was released last week as North Korea announced it was preparing strikes against mainland U.S.

DIA: North Korea Planned Attacks on US Nuclear Plants -- Washington Free Beacon

Five commando units trained for strikes, sabotage

North Korea dispatched covert commando teams to the United States in the 1990s to attack nuclear power plants and major cities in a conflict, according to a declassified Defense Intelligence Agency report.

The DIA report, dated Sept. 13, 2004, reveals that five units of covert commandos were trained for the attacks inside the country.

According to the report, the “Reconnaissance Bureau, North Korea, had agents in place to attack American nuclear power plants.”

The document states that the North Korean Ministry of People’s Armed Forces, the ministry in charge of the military, “established five liaison offices in the early 1990s, to train and infiltrate operatives into the United States to attack nuclear power plants and major cities in case of hostilities.”

Read more ....

My Comment: Over the years I have read numerous reports on U.S. military/special forces/etc. conducting training exercises to infiltrate North Korea. Would the North Koreans do the same .... if the above report is accurate, I would have to say yes. But this should surprise no one .... the North Koreans themselves have been very blunt and public that they are prepared to wage nuclear war against the U.S. .... and they have been saying that for years .... North Korea says it has approval to use its 'cutting edge' nuclear weapons against America in a 'merciless' attack hours after U.S. warns of 'clear and present danger' (Daily Mail).

Has Hollywood Compromised The Tactics Used By U.S. Special Forces To Islamic Extremists?

U.S. Special Forces soldiers and Afghan commandos move through an open field toward a compound while clearing Bahlozi village in the Maiwand district of Afghanistan's Kandahar province, Jan. 1, 2014. U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Bertha A. Flores

Hollywood Endangers U.S. Special Forces By Revealing Tactics To Islamic Extremists -- Washington Times

Tweaks needed for hostage rescue, terrorist targeting missions with element of surprise lost

In the secretive special operations community, officials are debating whether to tweak tactics for daring and risky missions involving hostage rescue and terrorist targeting that have been compromised by years of detailed news accounts and Hollywood portrayals.

Some believe Islamic extremists have gone to school on special operations forces. The classroom is the U.S. media.

Special operations forces’ three most recent attempts to rescue American hostages failed. Last year, SEALs attempted a beach insertion to capture a terrorist leader in Somalia but were spotted and repelled. There was also the horrific loss of SEALs in a helicopter shoot-down that some family members believe was an ambush.

Read more ....

My Comment: Leaks from the White House have also not helped. But bottom line .... after recent failed rescue attempts by special forces .... the solution is now clear .... time to change tactics.

Senior Iranian Cleric: Iran Has Attained The Knowledge To Build A Nuclear Bomb

Tehran interim Friday Prayers leader Ayatollah Seyyed Ahmad Khatami. Press TV

Senior Cleric: Iran Has Knowledge To Build A Nuclear Bomb -- The Guardian

The Islamic republic has reached the expertise to enrich uranium not just to the 5% and 20% levels required for civilian uses but to higher levels required for a bomb, says Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami

An official site belonging to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) has quoted a senior conservative cleric as saying that Iran has attained the knowledge to build a nuclear bomb but doesn’t want to use it.

The IRGC site of Kurdistan province today quoted Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami, a leading cleric who often leads Friday prayers in Tehran, as telling a group of IRGC commanders in Iran’s Kurdistan province that Iran had the expertise to enrich uranium not just to the 5% and 20% levels required for civilian uses but to higher levels required for a bomb. “[We] can enrich uranium at 5% or 20%, as well as 40% to 50%, and even 90%,” he was quoted as saying. But he said the Islamic republic believed that the building of a bomb is religiously forbidden.

Read more ....

My Comment: After this Iranian admission the question needs to be asked .... what will be the White House's response to this threat? My prediction .... they will ignore it and hope that the P5 + 1 nuclear talks will produce something in the months ahead .... and if not .... they will do everything in their power to kick the can down the road for the next administration to face and handle.

Commentaries, Analysis, And Editorials -- December 18, 2014

KCNA/Reuters

U.S. Should Make North Korea Pay for Sony Hack -- Gordon G. Chang, Daily Beast

Pyongyang has given the Obama administration no choice but to retaliate now by imposing sanctions or even an embargo.

The New York Times today reported that the American intelligence community has determined that the regime of Kim Jong Un was “centrally involved” in the unprecedented hacking campaign against Sony Pictures Entertainment. CNN reports that the Justice Department will announce, perhaps as early as tomorrow, that hackers working for North Korea were behind the attacks, apparently intended to stop the release of The Interview, the Seth Rogen-James Franco comedy about the assassination of the regime’s supremo.

Why would the White House delay an announcement? The administration, the Times reports, “was still debating whether to publicly accuse North Korea of what amounts to a cyberterrorism campaign.” The concern is that a public accusation would result in an escalation.

Read more ....

Commentaries, Analysis, And Editorials -- December 18, 2014

As 'The Interview' is pulled, does this mean North Korea wins? -- Timothy Stanley, CNN

Hollywood's complete moral surrender -- Jeff Yang, CNN

Hollywood Surrenders to North Korea -- Marlow Stern, Daily Beast

Sony hack: No more North Korean bad guys? Or Russian? Or ...? -- Michael Holtz, CSM

As Washington and Havana talk, a question: Where is Fidel Castro? -- Nancy San Martin and Nora Gamez Torres, Miami Herald

Cubans imagine new, more prosperous life without an old foe -- Daniel Trotta, Reuters

As Cuba and U.S. mend ties will Venezuela follow their lead? -- Jim Wyss, Miami Herald

Syria: where modern and medieval warfare combines -- The Guardian

The Arab World’s Vanishing Christians -- Christian C. Sahner, Project Syndicate

How will Pakistan deal with armed groups? -- Inside Story/Al Jazeera

Avenging the Children of Peshawar: The Taliban's Massacre in Peshawar Must Be Its Last -- Mira Sethi and Shehrbano Taseer, NYT

Two Days After School Attack, Pakistan Court Lets Terrorists Walk Free -- Chris Allbritton, Daily Beast

Putin says Russia economy will be cured, offers no remedy -- Timothy Heritage and Alexei Anishchuk, Reuters

Putin’s Christmas Show -- John Cassidy, New Yorker

Oil Price Scenarios For 2015 And 2016 -- OilPrice.com

Here's How Much Oil The World's Biggest Oil Players Are Sitting On -- Shane Ferro, Business Insider

World News Briefs -- December 18, 2014 (Evening Edition)



Backed by U.S. Airstrikes, Kurds Regain Ground From ISIS -- New York Times

BAGHDAD — Kurdish forces, backed by a surge of American airstrikes in recent days, recaptured a large swath of territory from Islamic State militants on Thursday, opening a path from the autonomous Kurdish region to Mount Sinjar in the west near the Syrian border.

The two-day offensive, which involved 8,000 fighters, known as pesh merga, was the largest one to date in the war against the Islamic State, also known as ISIS and ISIL, according to Kurdish officials. It was also a successful demonstration of President Obama’s strategy for battling the extremist group: American airpower combined with local forces doing the fighting on the ground.

Read more ....

MIDDLE EAST

Top Islamic militants killed; more US troops going to Iraq. 3 senior ISIS leaders killed in U.S. airstrikes.

Islamic State fight to take at least three years: U.S. general.

IS siege of Mount Sinjar broken: Iraqi Kurd official. Kurds 'retake ground' from ISIL in Iraq. Kurdish peshmerga forces launch offensive to retake Isis held areas.

U.N. appeals for $8.4 billion for humanitarian relief to Syrians.

Suicide bombers kill at least seven in Yemen port: sources.

Iran nuclear negotiations resume in Geneva. At U.N., Iran urged to show more flexibility in nuclear talks.

Palestinians set deadline for Israeli occupation.

Netanyahu: Palestinian move at UN will lead to Hamas takeover in West Bank.

Yemen's new cabinet wins parliament approval.

ASIA

Thailand welcomes China's Li as U.S. ties cool over coup.

U.N. General Assembly condemns N. Korean abuses. N. Korea debate set for UN Security Council after assembly vote.

Pakistani school attackers ‘were told to kill soldiers’ after massacre of pupils. Pakistan angry at school killings, moves to execute convicted terrorists.

Some Pakistan militants denounce school attack, amid national outrage.

Pakistan grants bail to Mumbai attack accused.

Pakistan, Afghanistan vow to unite against militants.

New control center to fight rise in attacks in Afghan capital.

Chinese criminals blamed for record Japan Bank cybertheft.

Decades of complications and cleanup remain at Japan's Fukushima nuclear plant.

AFRICA

Fighting in Libya's Benghazi kills 25 in eight days: medics.

Militant video claims Tunisia politician assassinations in name of Islamic State group.

Amid fist fights, Kenya parliament passes controversial antiterror law.

Officials: Boko Haram kidnaps 185 women and children, kills 32 people. Women seized in Boko Haram raid on Nigerian village.

Cameroon army kills 116 Boko Haram militants, defense ministry says.

Official: 28 die in clashes in Central African Republic.

Armed groups recruit 10,000 child soldiers in Central African Republic: NGO.

South Sudan factions to discuss peace yet again.

South Sudan hires Ex-Blackwater chief to restore war-damaged oil facilities.

Ebola: 11th Sierra Leone doctor dies; fire destroys supplies.

EUROPE

OSCE extends observer mission at Russia-Ukraine border until March.

Putin seeks to ease fears over Russian economic crisis. Putin press conference: 'economy will rebound within two years'. Putin: I feel no responsibility for collapse of rouble.

Putin says Russia determined to protect interests, U.S. creates threats. Putin comments on possibility of peace in Ukraine during press conference.

Kiev reports 162 military personnel killed since September 5 ceasefire.

Russian sailors leaving France without warship.

EU leaders meeting about Russia, jump starting growth.

Greek presidential vote enters second round, fuelling economy fear.

Swiss National Bank will cut interest rate to minus 0.25%. Switzerland has so much money it pays consumers for bank loans.

Spain's state prosecutor steps down after spat over Catalonia.

AMERICAS

U.S. will respond to North Korea hack, official says.

IRS warns of possible shutdown.

U.S., Cuba restore ties after 50 years. U.S., Cuba make historic move to ease Cold War stance.

Obama and Raúl Castro thank pope for breakthrough in US-Cuba relations.

Sea boundary talks between U.S., Mexico, Cuba to take years: Mexico.

Latin America welcomes Obama's move to restore US-Cuba ties. US-Cuba rapprochement complicates LatAm politics.

Mexico troops sent to La Ruana after vigilante shoot-out.

Colombian gov't praises FARC cease-fire, rejects monitoring. Colombia rejects FARC's verification demand for ceasefire. Colombia's government rebuffs rebel truce.

TERRORISM/THE LONG WAR

Al Qaeda car bombs target Houthi fighters in Yemeni port city.

US backed talks between jihadi clerics and Isis in effort to save hostage’s life.

Boston bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev in court.

Islamic State penal code promises crucifixion, lashing for unbelievers.

US airstrike targets Pakistani, Afghan Taliban in Nangarhar.

ECONOMY/FINANCE/BUSINESS

Dow jumps 421 points. Best day since 2011.

Sony hacking fallout puts all companies on alert.

Oil tumbles after brief rebound; Brent back below $60.

Oil price fall is temporary, says Saudi minister.

UK oil industry ‘close to collapse’ as price plunges below $60 per barrel. North Sea oil industry 'close to collapse'.

The Interview: Sony shelves worldwide release.

Russian President Putin Discusses Ukraine In Today's News Conference



Putin Says He Is Seeking Resolution of Conflict in Ukraine -- Bloomberg

Russian President Vladimir Putin signaled no change in his approach to the conflict in Ukraine while saying that he is seeking a negotiated resolution to the crisis.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko is “of course” attempting to restore peace and Russia is ready to be an intermediary in talks with separatist rebels, Putin said at his annual media conference in Moscow today.

Poroshenko “wants to resolve the situation but he is not alone,” and others in Ukraine are more militaristic, Putin said. The country needs dialogue to ensure a single political space is maintained in Ukraine.

Read more ....

More News On Russian President Putin's Remarks On Ukraine In Today's News Conference

Ukrainian journalist to Putin: "When will you stop punitive operation in eastern Ukraine?" -- Charter 97
Putin signals he will not back down over Ukraine -- The Telegraph
Ukraine wouldn’t have civil war if not for West - Putin -- RT
Ukraine in 'punitive' war against rebels says Putin -- AFP
Vladimir Putin: Ukraine must remain 1 entity -- CBC/AP

My Comment:
The above video is from today's Putin news conference and it is from a Ukrainian reporter who holds back no punches in his question(s).

Airplane Graveyard: Donetsk International Airport In Ruins (Video)



Apocalyptic Donetsk Airport Video Reveals Aftermath Of E. Ukraine Standoff -- RT

Footage has emerged of Donetsk International Airport resembling an airplane graveyard. Strewn everywhere are torn parts, fuselages split in half and other debris – a remnant of months of fighting between the Kiev government and the Donetsk opposition.

The airport witnessed some of the heaviest fighting during the uprising in East Ukraine.

When RT visited the scene in October, it witnessed what correspondent Roman Kosarev described as “complete devastation.” The entire infrastructure of the airport had been replaced by a garbage heap of concrete and metal.

Read more ....

My Comment: According to my sources and news reports the front in eastern Ukraine is still quiet (relatively speaking) .... giving everyone a chance to assess what will happen next if this lull in the fighting stops .... Ukraine ceasefire leaves frontline counting cost of war in uneasy calm (The Guardian).

Are Islamic State Fighters Now At The Borders Of Israel?

A black flag belonging to the Islamic State is seen near the Syrian town of Kobani, as pictured from the Turkish-Syrian border near the southeastern town of Suruc in Sanliurfa province, October 6, 2014. REUTERS/Umit Bektas

Israeli Lookouts Scanning Syrian Landscape For Islamic State Flag -- Washington Free Beacon

Three groups close to border pledged fealty to IS

JERUSALEM—Israeli lookouts on the Golan Heights are scanning the Syrian landscape for the black flag of the Islamic State after three small jihadi groups close to the border this week pledged fealty to the radical group.

The jihadist militias are among a number of rebel groups, both Islamist and secular, fighting the Damascus regime of Bashar al-Assad in the area opposite the Golan Heights. During the three years of the Syrian civil war, none of the groups in this loose coalition has attacked Israeli border positions, focusing instead on their battles with regime forces. These skirmishes, sometimes only a few hundred yards from the border, are easily visible from Israeli positions on high ground.

Read more ....

My Comment: I give the Islamic State credit for being brash and cocky .... 'Jerusalem will be under Islamic State control in 8 years' (i24 News).

Report: Islamic State Executed 150 Girls And Women In Iraq Who Refused To Be Sex Slaves

Yazidi women have been persecuted by the brutal ISIS militants. (Reuters)

One ISIS Thug Suspected Of Killing 150 Girls, Women -- FOX News

One Islamic State militant is alone responsible for killing 150 women, including pregnant women and young teenagers, because they refused to marry members of the barbaric militant army, according to Iraqi officials.

Abu Anas Al-Libi is suspected of mercilessly gunning down the women,most of whom were Yazidi, because they refused to enter into sham temporary marriages with Islamic State fighters simply to have sex in what the terrorists believe to be a Koranic loophole.

“Abu Anas Al-Libi killed more than 150 women and girls, some of whom were pregnant after refusing to accept Jihad marriage,” the Iraqi Ministry of Human Rights said in a statement.

Read more ....

More News On Reports That The Islamic State Executed 150 Girls And Women Who Refused To Be Sex Slaves

ISIS Just Executed More Than 150 Women In Fallujah -- Business Insider/NOW
Single Islamic State militant 'has killed 150 women and girls' because they refused to marry members of the terrorist group -- Daily Mail
Iraq: ISIS murdered 150 women and underage girls for refusing sex acts -- Jerusalem Post
Isis Iraq news: Pregnant women among 150 'executed for refusing to be insurgents' sex slaves' -- IBTimes

My Comment: I do not know if this report is true or not .... but nothing from the Islamic State surprises me now.


Chairman of Joint Chiefs: U.S. Airstrikes Have Killed Three Key Islamic State Figures In Recent Weeks

Smoke and flames rise over a hill near the Syrian town of Kobani after an airstrike, as seen from the Mursitpinar crossing on the Turkish-Syrian border in the southeastern town of Suruc in Sanliurfa province, October 23, 2014. Credit: Reuters/Kai Pfaffenbach

Several Top ISIS Leaders Have Been Killed in Iraq, U.S. Says -- Wall Street Journal

Three Key Islamic State Figures Killed in Recent Weeks, Chairman of Joint Chiefs Says

WASHINGTON—U.S. airstrikes have killed several very senior military leaders of Islamic State forces in Iraq, the Pentagon’s top uniformed officer disclosed Thursday.

Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal that three key Islamic State military leaders in Iraq were killed there in recent weeks during operations that are part of an expanding coalition effort ahead of a planned offensive next year.

The strikes in which the Islamic State leaders were killed were designed to hamper the group’s ability to conduct its own attacks, supply its fighters and finance its operations, Gen. Dempsey said.

Read more ....

More News On U.S./Coalition Airstrikes Against The Islamic State

U.S. says three top Islamic State leaders killed in air strikes: WSJ -- Reuters
3 Islamic State leaders killed in airstrikes, say U.S. officials -- Washington Times
US General: 3 Top IS Commanders Killed in Airstrikes -- VOA
Islamic State leaders 'killed in air strikes' -- The Telegraph
Several top ISIS leaders killed in Iraq -- FOX News
Exclusive: As Easy Targets Thin, Syria Air Strikes By U.S. Allies Plunge -- Reuters
U.S.-led air strikes focus on Islamic State Kobani in Syria -- Reuters
U.S.-led coalition conducts 67 air strikes against Islamic State: task force -- Reuters
Surge in U.S. airstrikes backs Iraqi Kurds’ offensive against Islamic State -- Washington Post
US, allies continue airstrikes against Islamic State in Syria -- First Post
A-10 attacking Islamic State targets in Iraq -- Navy Times
Coalition air campaign against Islamic State in Iraq makes gains, official says -- Canada.com

A Look At North Korea's Cyberwarfare Capabilities



Watch Out World: North Korea Deep Into Cyber Warfare, Defector Says -- Kyung Lah and Greg Botelho, CNN

Seoul, South Korea (CNN) -- North Korea is one of the world's poorest countries, seen as well behind most everyone when it comes to most technologies and much more.

Hacking may not be one of them.

Scant resources or not, a defector who once worked as a computer expert for the North Korean government says that it has a vast network of hackers devoted to cyberwarfare against perceived enemies of the Stalinist state.

Jang Se-yul, who defected from North Korea seven years ago, told CNN that he thinks there are 1,800 cyberwarriors in the agency stationed around the world. But he says even the agents themselves don't know how many others work for the secretive group, called Bureau 121, whose mission is to "conduct cyberattacks against overseas and enemy states."

Read more ....

More News On North Korea's Cyberwarfare Capabilities

A look at North Korea’s cyberwar capabilities -- AP
Inside the secretive world of Bureau 121: The North Korean genius state-sponsored hackers believed to be behind the Sony take-down -- Daily Mail/AP/Reuters
N Korea's hacking capability is of the world's best standards: defector -- Channel News Asia
Here’s What We Know About North Korea’s Cyberwar Army -- Re/Code
Sony Hack: Secrets Of Unit 121, North Korea’s Elite Hackers Who Live Like Stars In Luxury Hotel -- Inquisitr

Update: North Korea's 'ruthless magic weapon': The cyber warrior factory 'behind Sony hack' which handpicks genius children to target enemies of Kim Jong un -- Daily Mail

Top U.S. General In The War Against The Islamic State: It Will Take A Minimum Of 3 Years To Defeat The IS

Photo: Lieutenant General James L. Terry

Islamic State Fight To Take At Least Three Years: U.S. General -- Reuters

(Reuters) - The general in command of U.S. forces involved in the fight against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria said on Thursday he thought it would take a minimum of three years to achieve a turning point against the group.

Asked at a Pentagon briefing about progress on the ground, Army Lieutenant General James Terry said that the first U.S. air strikes had taken place only four months ago and counseled patience, estimating it would "at least take a minimum of three years."

Read more ....

Update: Top U.S. general says training effort in Iraq will last 'three years minimum' -- Navy Times

My Comment: Three years!?!?!?! I am not that optimistic. Then again .... The US-Led Coalition Against ISIS Is Running Out Of Targets (Business Insider).

Update #2: More US troops going to Iraq in a couple of weeks -- AP

American Troops Battle Islamic State Forces For The First Time In Iraq

Ein al-Asad military airbase is located north-west of Baghdad (illustrated) and is a strategically important site for the Iraqi Army

American Troops Battle ISIS For First Time As They See Off Attempted Attack By Militants On Iraqi Base

* Islamic State militants attempted to overrun Ein al-Asad base on Sunday
* US support troops and advisers killed an unknown number of the militants
* The troops were supported during the battle by F18 fighter jets
* ISIS forced to retreat after suffering casualties during two hour firefight

A number of militants have been killed in Islamic State's very first battle with U.S. ground troops after the extremists attempted to overrun an Iraqi military base.

The militants attacked Ein al-Asad military base on Sunday where more than 100 U.S. military support troops are based.

Despite launching the surprise attack just after midnight, ISIS's offensive was swiftly repelled when U.S. troops and F18 jets joined in the skirmish in support of the Iraqi Army.

Read more ....

More News On Reports That American Troops Have Battled Islamic State Forces For The First Time In Iraq

Reports of U.S. Ground Fighters Emerge as ISIS Gains in Iraq -- Fiscal Times
US servicemen in first ground battle with ISIS – Kurdish media -- RT
ISIS Attacks American Base In Iraq In First Ever Clash With U.S. Troops -- Inquisitr
U.S. Ground Troops Clash With ISIS Fighters In Iraq For The First Time -- Opposing Views

My Comment: Apparently this was a large battle in which the Islamic State were attempting to overrun the base. I am not surprised that this has fight occurred .... nor am I surprise that ISIS forces were beaten back .... what I am surprised about is the zero coverage from the U.S. media on this battle.

Days After School Massacre Pakistan Grants Bail To Militant Commander Accused Of Orchestrating The 2008 Mumbai Terrorist Attacks



Pakistan Grants Bail to Key Suspect in 2008 Mumbai Attacks -- New York Times

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — A Pakistani court on Thursday granted bail to a militant commander accused of orchestrating the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks, drawing loud protests from India.

The suspect, Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, is a senior commander with Lashkar-e-Taiba, the group behind the blitz of attacks in the Indian city of Mumbai that left 166 people dead and gravely worsened the relationship between Pakistan and India. He has been on trial since 2009.

The slow pace of the trial, which is closed to the news media, has been a continuing source of contention with India, which accuses the Pakistani authorities of tacitly supporting Lashkar-e-Taiba.

Read more ....

More News On Pakistan Granting Bail To The Militant Commander Accused Of Orchestrating The 2008 Mumbai Terrorist Attacks

Pakistani judge grants bail to alleged key figure in 2008 Mumbai terror attack -- Washington Post
Pakistan court grants bail to alleged Mumbai attacks mastermind -- AFP
Mumbai attacks 'mastermind' Lakhvi bailed in Pakistan -- BBC
Pakistan Court Bails Man Accused of Masterminding Mumbai Attack -- VOA
Man accused of organizing Mumbai attacks granted bail -- USA Today
Pakistan court grants bail to alleged Mumbai attack mastermind -- BDLive
India Hits Out at Pakistan Court’s Bail for Alleged Mumbai Attack Plotter -- WSJ
26/11 mastermind Lakhvi gets bail, shocked India asks Pakistan to act -- Business Standard
Lakhvi’s release shows no change in Pakistan even after Peshawar carnage, experts say -- Times of India

My Comment: Why does this not surprise me. This release of an outspoken terrorist lays bare Pakistan's "double-standard" when it comes to stopping terror groups ... and why Pakistan is not capable of stopping the scourge of terrorism within its borders.

Another Mass Kidnapping By Boko Haram Reported In Nigeria



New Mass Kidnap By Boko Haram At Remote Nigerian Village As 185 Women And Children Are Abducted And 32 Residents Slaughtered -- Daily Mail

* Women and children are among those taken from Gumsuri in the northeast
* Locals are still counting those abducted from but the figure could pass 100
* Nigeria has sentenced 54 soldiers to death for refusing to fight extremists
* Boko Haram abducted more than 200 girls from a school in Chibok in April
* Nigerians are currently preparing for presidential elections on February 14

Boko Haram militants are reported to have kidnapped 185 women and children, after slaughtering 32 people in an attack on a remote village in northeast Nigeria.

Two officials, who requested anonymity, said the group gathered the women and children together and took them away in trucks after burning most of the village with petrol bombs

'After killing our youths, the insurgents have taken away our wives and daughters,' said Mukhtar Buba, who fled Gumsuri to the Borno state capital Maiduguri.

Read more ....

More News On Reports Of Another Mass Kidnapping By Boka Haram Reported In Nigeria

Suspected Islamic extremists kill dozens, kidnap almost 200 in Nigeria -- CBS/AP
Suspected Boko Haram gunmen kidnap 100 women, children in Nigeria -- Reuters
Nigeria on edge: Boko Haram abducts 185 including women, kids -- AFP
Boko Haram Kills 32, Kidnaps Nearly 200 Women, Children in Nigeria -- Sputnik
Boko Haram Kidnaps At Least 185 In Nigeria -- Radio Free Europe
Survivors of Boko Haram Raid Trek for Days to Reach Safety -- US News and World Report
Suspected Boko Haram militants kidnap at least 185 in Nigeria, witnesses say -- FOX News
Boko Haram Gunmen Kidnap 185 Nigeria Villagers -- SKY News

World News Briefs -- December 18, 2014



Boko Haram ‘Kidnaps Nearly 200 Villagers, Kills Dozens’ in Nigeria -- Wall Street Journal

Gumsuri Raided by Insurgents Two Days Ago Firing Machine Guns, Says Local Vigilante Group

Boko Haram kidnapped nearly 200 villagers and killed dozens more, said a witness and a local vigilante group on Thursday, in what appeared to be the latest dose of collective punishment exacted on a community that opposed the Islamist group.

Residents fleeing the village of Gumsuri walked into the city of Maiduguri on Thursday, saying their hometown had been raided two days earlier by insurgents driving pickup trucks and firing heavy machine guns haphazardly, according to two members of the Vigilante Group of Nigeria, a neighborhood patrol that has expanded into a Boko Haram-fighting militia.

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MIDDLE EAST

Islamic State fight to take at least three years: U.S. general.

Kurdish peshmerga forces launch offensive to retake Isis held areas.

U.N. appeals for $8.4 billion for humanitarian relief to Syrians.

Suicide bombers kill at least seven in Yemen port: sources.

Iran nuclear negotiations resume in Geneva.

Palestinians set deadline for Israeli occupation.

Netanyahu: Palestinian move at UN will lead to Hamas takeover in West Bank.

Yemen's new cabinet wins parliament approval.

ASIA

Pakistani school attackers ‘were told to kill soldiers’ after massacre of pupils. Pakistan angry at school killings, moves to execute convicted terrorists.

Some Pakistan militants denounce school attack, amid national outrage.

Pakistan grants bail to Mumbai attack accused.

Pakistan, Afghanistan vow to unite against militants.

New control center to fight rise in attacks in Afghan capital.

Chinese criminals blamed for record Japan Bank cybertheft.

Decades of complications and cleanup remain at Japan's Fukushima nuclear plant.

AFRICA

Officials: Boko Haram kidnaps 185 women and children, kills 32 people. Women seized in Boko Haram raid on Nigerian village.

Cameroon army kills 116 Boko Haram militants, defense ministry says.

Official: 28 die in clashes in Central African Republic.

Armed groups recruit 10,000 child soldiers in Central African Republic: NGO.

South Sudan factions to discuss peace yet again.

South Sudan hires Ex-Blackwater chief to restore war-damaged oil facilities.

Ebola: 11th Sierra Leone doctor dies; fire destroys supplies.

EUROPE

Putin seeks to ease fears over Russian economic crisis. Putin press conference: 'economy will rebound within two years'. Putin: I feel no responsibility for collapse of rouble.

Putin says Russia determined to protect interests, U.S. creates threats. Putin comments on possibility of peace in Ukraine during press conference.

Kiev reports 162 military personnel killed since September 5 ceasefire.

EU leaders meeting about Russia, jumpstarting growth.

Greek presidential vote enters second round, fuelling economy fear.

Swiss National Bank will cut interest rate to minus 0.25%. Switzerland has so much money it pays consumers for bank loans.

Spain's state prosecutor steps down after spat over Catalonia.

AMERICAS

U.S., Cuba restore ties after 50 years. U.S., Cuba make historic move to ease Cold War stance.

Obama and Raúl Castro thank pope for breakthrough in US-Cuba relations.

Sea boundary talks between U.S., Mexico, Cuba to take years: Mexico.

Latin America welcomes Obama's move to restore US-Cuba ties. US-Cuba rapprochement complicates LatAm politics.

Mexico troops sent to La Ruana after vigilante shoot-out.

Colombian gov't praises FARC cease-fire, rejects monitoring. Colombia rejects FARC's verification demand for ceasefire. Colombia's government rebuffs rebel truce.

TERRORISM/THE LONG WAR

Boston bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev in court.

Islamic State penal code promises crucifixion, lashing for unbelievers.

US airstrike targets Pakistani, Afghan Taliban in Nangarhar.

ECONOMY/FINANCE/BUSINESS

Oil price fall is temporary, says Saudi minister.

UK oil industry ‘close to collapse’ as price plunges below $60 per barrel. North Sea oil industry 'close to collapse'.

The Interview: Sony shelves worldwide release.

Military And Intelligence News Briefs -- December 18, 2014

Smoke rises after an U.S.-led air strike in the Syrian town of Kobani Ocotber 10, 2014. Credit: Reuters/Umit Bektas

Exclusive: As Easy Targets Thin, Syria Air Strikes By U.S. Allies Plunge -- Reuters

(Reuters) - As U.S. fighter jets pound Islamic State targets in Syria, Washington's coalition allies appear increasingly absent from the air war.

Although President Barack Obama's administration announced the Syrian air strikes three months ago as a joint campaign by Washington and its Arab allies, nearly 97 percent of the strikes in December have been carried out by the United States alone, according to U.S. military data provided to Reuters.

The data shows that U.S. allies have carried out just two air strikes in Syria in the first half of December, compared with 62 by the United States.

Read more ....

Military And Intelligence News Briefs -- December 18, 2014

Surge in U.S. airstrikes backs Iraqi Kurds’ offensive against Islamic State -- Washington Post

Hundreds of US troops now deployed in Iraq’s Anbar province -- Stars and Stripes

US, Cuba Relations Raises Questions on Guantanamo, Refugees and Military -- Sputnik

Intel concerns about Russia-Cuba ties preceded Obama’s deal to dismantle sanctions -- Washington Times

Freed U.S. spy, never before disclosed, was vital asset -- Washington Post

A look at North Korea’s cyberwar capabilities -- AP

Russian crews trained for Mistral ships leave French port — Russian Navy source -- ITAR-TASS

Shipbuilder: Russian Mistral Sailors To Leave France -- Defense News

Pentagon confirms military buildup along Russian borders for ‘peace and stability’ -- RT

Russia Continues Nuclear Arms Reductions in ‘Businesslike Way’: US Official -- Sputnik

Danger in the skies as Russia, NATO play cat-and-mouse -- AFP

Russia Blames Hash For Sweden's Report Of Fighter Near-Miss -- Defense News

Philippines to get frigates, gunboats, helicopters as tension simmers -- ZEE News

Top Secret Japanese Submarines Likely to Replace Australia's Aging Fleet -- Sputnik

Next Generation U.K. Boomers Benefit from U.S. Relationship -- USNI

Japan, Australia Selected for Pacific F-35 Sustainment -- Defense News

Japan, Australia to Provide Maintenance Hubs for US F-35 Warplanes in 2018 -- Sputnik

Pentagon Sets up F-35 Maintenance Plan in Asia -- DoD Buzz

South Korea balks as U.S. picks Japan, Australia to service F-35s in Asia -- Reuters

NASA launches study for Skunk Works SR-72 concept -- Flight Global

Humvees Sell for up to $42K in First Public Auction of Military Truck -- Defense Tech

U.S. Congress sets limits on overseas data collection -- Washington Post

Groups call for House to shake up spy oversight -- The Hill

Pentagon's floating missile defense future: a pair of billion-dollar blimps -- CSM

Pawlikowski On Air Force Offset Strategy: F-35s Flying Drone Fleets -- Colin Clark, Breaking Defense

Former sex workers who served US troops get day in court -- Stars And Stripes

When Interrogations Began: A View From Inside the CIA -- Joseph R. DeTrani, Defense One

How the Torture Could Start Again -- Frederick A.O. Schwarz, Politico

Hollywood endangers U.S. special forces by revealing tactics to Islamic extremists -- Washington Times

Putin: 'The Bear Never Asks Permission'



Russian State Media Promo For Putin Speech: 'The Bear Never Asks Permission' -- CNN

(CNN) -- Have no fear, Vladimir Putin is here. That seems to be the message in an epic promo released ahead of the Russian president's annual news conference as the country's economy plummets.

The promotion, released by a state-owned Russian channel, has the feel of a movie trailer, showing scenes of tanks, crying children and plenty of Putin.

He declares in a particularly memorable sound bite: "The bear never asks permission."

That seems to be a problem these days in Russia -- it's a bear, not a bull market.

Read more ....

My Comment: When I see political promo-ads like this one (whether in Russia or the U.S. ... or anywhere else) I am always "rolling my eyes" .... but sadly they are produced and shown because they do have an impact when promoting a message.