Saturday, December 31, 2016

Ten Elections To Watch in 2017

James M. Lindsay, Council of Foreign Relations: Ten Elections to Watch in 2017

Millions of people around the world went to the polls this year. The results provided plenty of surprises. British voters defied the pollsters and voted to leave the European Union. Colombians did much the same in rejecting their government’s peace deal with FARC, though Colombia’s president found a way to complete the deal a few months later without a vote. The biggest electoral surprise of all might have been in the United States, where Donald Trump defied the political experts and defeated Hillary Clinton. Perhaps 2017 will produce similarly surprising results. Here are ten elections to watch.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: The French and German elections are the big ones.

China Issues Its 'Red Lines' For 2017

Chinese President Xi Jinping delivers a New Year speech at 7:00 o'clock Beijing time on December 31, 2016.[Photo: Xinhua]

Bloomberg: China’s Xi Vows to Defend Maritime Interests, Sovereignty in ’17

* New Year’s speech focuses on reforms to help more people
* Nation will adhere to peaceful development in new year: Xi

Chinese President Xi Jinping said the country will deepen reforms as he vowed to safeguard its sovereignty and maritime interests in 2017, a year that will present fresh international and domestic challenges for the leaders in Beijing.

In a New Year’s speech published Saturday by Xinhua, Xi said the outcome of reforms should benefit more people and he vowed to address difficulties in areas such as employment, education, health care and housing. He also said the country adheres to peaceful development and resolutely safeguards its sovereignty and maritime interests.

“Chinese people will not agree to whoever that wants to make trouble on this,” Xi said in the annual address, referring to the country’s sovereignty rights and maritime interests. China’s claims to territory in the South China Sea have been contested by other nations.

Read more ....

Previous Post: China Moves To Contain Taiwan

Update #1: President Xi extends good wishes in New Year speech (
Update #2: A good year for Xi Jinping – but trouble is heading his way (Tom Phillips, The Guardian)
Update #3: "This Would Cross Our Red Line" - Chinese Military Considering Measures To "Cripple" Taiwan (Zero Hedge)

WNU Editor: Everyone that I know in China is nervous right now.  No specific reason why .... but there is a sense in China right now that the country's steady rise for the past 25 years is now coming to an end. Tariffs, border disputes, a slowing economy, an Asian arms race, a changing of the guard  in much of the Chinese leadership (with the exception of President Xi) .... 10 years ago none of these issues were present .... the focus was on growth and economic.political stability. Today ... the China of today is the complete opposite .... hence the reason why many Chinese are now nervous.

Nigeria's Boko Haram Leader Vows To Continue The War

The Hill: Leader urges Boko Haram members: 'Kill, slaughter and abduct'

The leader of terror group Boko Haram instructs fighters to "kill, slaughter and abduct" in a new video message, according to the Associated Press.

"Kill all the infidels and detonate bombs everywhere," Abubakar Shekau says in the video. "Yes! I want you to kill, slaughter and abduct."

Nigerian president Muhammadu Buhari said earlier this week that “the terrorists are on the run,” claiming the military had pushed Boko Haram out of its last territory in the northeast part of the country.

Read more ....

More News On Nigeria's War Against Boko Haram

Boko Haram leader: "The battle is just beginning" -- AP
Boko Haram chief denies losing stronghold in new video -- France 24
Boko Haram leader Shekau resurfaces in new video, says group "safe and not flushed out of anywhere" -- Gistmaster
Boko Haram leader disputes loss of Nigerian stronghold -- DW
Army dismisses latest Boko Haram video as propaganda -- The Guardian
War against Boko Haram 'is far from over' -- News24

Massacre At Istanbul Nightclub That Was Celebrating New Years Eve

Daily Mail: Terrorist caught on CCTV dressed as Father Christmas shoots 35 dead and wounds 40 in Istanbul celebrity nightclub as terrified New Year's Eve revellers dive into Bosphorus to survive

* The gunmen appear to be wearing Santa costumes in CCTV footage
* The pair opened fire in the Reina nightclub, one of Istanbul's most popular venues
* The city's governor said 35 people were killed in the New Year's Eve attack
* A police officer is among the dead, Vasip Şahin revealed
* An estimated 17,000 police officers are believed to be on duty tonight in Istanbul
* Nightclub owner Mehmet Kocarslan said security had been stepped up after US intelligence warnings
* The celebrity haunt is popular with stars including Kevin Costner, Uma Thurman, Salma Hayek and Sting

Thirty five people have been killed in an armed attack in an Istanbul nightclub, the city's governor has revealed.

The gunman, believed to have been dressed in a Santa costume, opened fire inside the Reina nightclub in Istanbul's Ortaköy district, where hundreds were celebrating the New Year.

A further 40 people are thought to have been wounded in the attack, which has been captured in CCTV footage. It happened at 1.30am local time.

Read more ....

More News On Tonight's Massacre In Istanbul

The Latest: Witness describes scene inside Istanbul club -- AP
Istanbul nightclub attack: at least 35 killed in New Year's Eve mass shooting – live updates -- The Guardian
Istanbul governor: at least 35 dead in attack on nightclub -- AP
Gun attack kills at least 35 at Istanbul nightclub -- Reuters
Istanbul nightclub attack 'leaves 35 dead' -- BBC
35 killed and 40 wounded in New Year's attack on Istanbul night club -- FOX News
Istanbul nightclub 'Santa attack' kills 35 -- AFP
Turkey attack: Gunman who launched terror attack on Istanbul nightclub was 'dressed as Santa' -- The Independent
Turkey nightclub attack: Dozens killed after attacker opens fire, official says -- CNN
At least 35 people killed in Istanbul nightclub attack, reports city governor -- DW
Scores dead in attack at Istanbul nightclub -- Al Jazeera
At least 35 killed, 40 injured in Istanbul nightclub terrorist attack (GRAPHIC VIDEOS) -- RT

On The Front-lines In Ukraine

President Poroshenko, U.S. Senators visit command post near Shyrokine in Donbas.

Daily Mail: It looks like a scene from WW2 but this is the frontline in Ukraine at Xmas 2016 as troops take to TRENCHES in the fight against pro-Russian rebels

* Ukrainian soldiers using trenches to fight pro-Russian rebels in country's east
* Images show troops sheltering in icy man-made ditches near Luganske village
* It comes amid reports of gunfire between the two sides despite a recent truce

These are the crude battle trenches being used by Ukrainian troops on the front line in the fight against pro-Russian rebels.

In scenes reminiscent of the Second World War battle for Stalingrad, a soldier crouches down for shelter in the icy ditch near Luganske village in the east of the country.

Another image shows a fighter using the walls of the man-made trench as protection as he fires off rounds from a machine gun.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: A brief summary (and my take) on what is happening in Ukraine.

These U.S. senators are not helping the situation .... McCain visits frontline Ukraine troops in anti-Putin gesture (USA Today). This is going to hurt "big-time" .... For Europe Bound Gas, Russia Successfully By-Passing Ukraine (Forbes) .... and the Russian press is gleefully reporting on it .... Ukraine sees significant cuts in Russian gas transit (RT). It looks like those who are trying to get rid of the corruption are corrupt themselves .... A Ukrainian Anti-Corruption Activist Is Now Being Investigated for Corruption (Fortune). In the Western press there is talk of abandonment .... The West Abandoned Ukraine to Its Own Detriment (Terrell Jermaine Starr, NYT) .... and talk of progress .... Ukraine is making progress (L. Todd Wood, Washington Times). But on the ground the misery continues to grow .... Millions in Ukraine are in need of humanitarian assistance, UN relief wing reports (UN News Centre). More details on the humanitarian disaster in Ukraine can be read here .... Humanitarian Bulletin: Ukraine: 1 October - 31 December 2016 (Relief Web). As to what is my prediction for 2017 .... Ukraine has to compromise with its eastern Russian population and with Russia itself .... Ukraine Must Make Painful Compromises for Peace With Russia (Walter Pinchuk, WSJ). Unfortunately .... I do not see that happening .... in fact .... I see the economic situation getting worse, and the war will just continue to grind on.

Everybody Is Taking Selfies In The Battle For Mosul

Lt. Gen. Abdel Wahab Saadi, Iraqi Special Forces commander, center, does not have a Facebook account but has posed for enough selfies that troops recognize him - and request more. (Molly Hennessy-Fiske / Los Angeles Times)

Chicago Tribune/L.A. Times: In the battle for Mosul, everybody's taking selfies — and some of them may be incriminating

With the offensive to reclaim the Iraqi city of Mosul now in its third month, smartphones are everywhere on the battlefield, where the appetite for selfie photos is proving to be irresistible — and problematic.

Troops and commanders pose atop tanks, Humvees, checkpoints and even on the front lines with bullets flying. They snap pictures of themselves with a mix of generals, civilians, reporters, priests, doctors, babies and anything associated with the Islamic State, including flags, detainees and bodies.

They document themselves with reality-show glee clearing Islamic State tunnels, hoisting salvaged weapons, pointing to graffiti, prisoners and corpses. The photos are far from an official archive of events. But as questions arise about the Iraqi military's treatment of detainees and the bodies of dead fighters, amateur images may become evidence.

Human Rights Watch has cited the amateur photos and videos in complaints about extrajudicial executions of prisoners and other abuses during the offensive.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: If I was there .... I would also be taking selfies.

The Battle For The Iraqi City Of Mosul -- News Updates December 31, 2016

Reuters: Baghdad blasts kill 29 as Mosul fighting intensifies

Three bombs killed 29 people in Baghdad on Saturday as fighting intensified in the northern city of Mosul, where Iraqi government forces are trying to rout Islamic State militants from their last major stronghold in the country.

Blasts, including one suicide attack, tore through a busy market in the Sinak neighborhood, police said. A pro-Islamic State news agency said the target was Shi'ite Muslims, whom the militants regard as apostates.

A third blast later in the day killed four people in the eastern New Baghdad district, where a minibus packed with explosives blew up in a busy commercial street, police and medics said.

Islamic State has continued to launch attacks in the heavily fortified capital, even after losing most of the northern and western territory it seized in 2014.

Read more ....

The Battle For The Iraqi City Of Mosul -- News Updates December 31, 2016

Caution marks Iraqi army advance against Islamic State north of Mosul -- Reuters
Iraqi army makes gains in Mosul as ISIS suicide blasts kill 28 in Baghdad -- RUDAW
Elite Iraq units link up for Mosul assault: officers -- AFP
North of Mosul, Iraqi army aims to cut off Tel Kaif -- RUDAW
70 ISIS fighters killed as two villages are liberated to the north of Mosul -- AMN
Iraqi Forces Free Mosul Neighborhood on Day 3 of Renewed Push -- Tasnim News Agency
In Mosul Fight, Winter Delays Slow Push to Tal Afar -- VOA
US soldiers pound ISIS in Mosul with M777 artillery shells -- RUDAW
Civilians flee eastern Mosul as Iraqi forces battle ISIL -- Euronews
No big New Year's celebrations for Iraq's displaced -- AP
Some in Mosul wary of Iraqi government's return: 'Before Daesh, there was too much corruption' -- Chicago Tribune
As bombs rock Baghdad, Abadi must translate battlefield victory into safer streets -- RUDAW

The Syrian Archive Is Documenting The Atrocities Of The War Online

A man being treated after what activists claimed was a nerve gas attack in the Damascus suburbs of Jesreen in August 2013. Photograph: Reuters

DW: Syrian Archive catalogues war atrocities online

Two Berliners have developed a new database to catalogue and standardize video footage of atrocities in the war in Syria. The Syrian Archive was presented at the Chaos Computer Club conference in Hamburg.

Two young men working from their homes in Berlin with 3,000 euros ($3,130) in funding have created a database of atrocities in the Syrian war that is being used as a source by the United Nations, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, as well as lawyers and activists all around the world.

The Syrian Archive (, presented at the Chaos Computer Club in Hamburg on Wednesday, has so far documented more than 2,200 illegal actions in the ongoing five-and-a-half-year civil war with the help of a network of volunteers around the world, and especially in Syria, who verify the material.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: Syria is not the only place where such a database should be established. The Syrian Archive link is here.

Russian Special Forces Wear Hezbollah Patch In Syria

Tyler Rogoway, The Drive: Russian Special Operations Commando Seen Wearing Hezbollah Patch In Syria

It’s not like the US hasn’t been accused of doing similar things recently.

Russian special operations forces, which have been increasingly modeled on those of the US, were critical in realizing the fall of Aleppo. The longtime rebel holdout has been blitzed by a surge of Russian and Syrian air power, Assad’s troops, Iranian-backed Hezbollah fighters and Russian special operations forces since early November. This cocktail of capabilities proved far more than the rebels could handle, with the city falling officially on December 14th.

Photos and video of Russia’s special operations forces operating in Syria have trickled out over the last year or so, but leading up to and following the sacking of Aleppo we have seen more of them and heard how their abilities were applied to take Assad’s ultimate objective. These highly-trained units were used to advise Syrian and Hezbollah forces on tactics and strategy, to go after key leadership targets, to quickly fuse actionable intelligence with operations, and to help direct the brutal onslaught of air power that broke the city.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: The above video provides a rare glimpse on what Russian special forces are doing in Syria. The bat logo tells me that they are Russian military intelligence. An image of the bat is at Moscow's GRU/FSB building .... Russian Intelligence Is Playing A Key Role In Putin's Foreign Policy Strategy (October 15, 2015).

Syrian Truce Unravelling After Only Two Days

Reuters: Syrian rebels threaten to abandon truce if violations continue

Syrian rebel groups threatened on Saturday to abandon a two-day-old truce if violations continued, and urged the U.N. Security Council not to endorse the deal until the Syrian government and its ally Russia had shown they would respect it.

The deal, brokered during the week by Russia and Turkey, which back opposing sides, reduced the level of violence, but firefights, air strikes and shelling continued in some areas.

Factions belonging to the Free Syrian Army - a loose alliance of militias excluding more radical Islamist groups - said government forces and Lebanese Hezbollah fighters had been trying to push rebels back in the Wadi Barada valley, northwest of Damascus.

Read more ....

More News On The Syrian War

Syria rebels say they will consider ceasefire 'null and void' if government violations continue -- The Independent
Rebels: Syrian ceasefire violations could put truce in jeopardy -- CNN
Syria's rebels say ceasefire 'null and void' if government continues violations -- DW
Rebels: Ceasefire 'void' if government bombing persists -- Al Jazeera
Syria rebels threaten to declare ceasefire 'null and void' -- Euronews
What Is Happening In Syria? UN To Vote On Russia Resolution As Ceasefire Threatens To Unravel -- International Business Times
Who Is Fighting In Syria? Rebel Group Calls Deal 'Waste Of Blood And Revolution' Against Assad -- IBTimes
Sporadic fighting mars second day of Syria cease-fire -- AP
Syria conflict: UN to vote on Syria ceasefire deal -- BBC
Russia pushes for UN security council support for Syria ceasefire -- The Guardian
Video: Syrian regime emboldened ahead of Russia-backed peace talks -- France 24
Kurds to Be Included in Syrian Gov't If They Lay Down Arms - Ankara -- Sputnik
Putin, Iran's Rouhani Discuss Syria Ceasefire, Peace Settlement in Phone Talks -- Sputnik
Russian, Iranian presidents agree to work closely on Syria: Kremlin -- Reuters
Russia and Its Armed Forces 'Turned the Tide of Syrian War' -- Sputnik
The Winners And Losers In The New Syrian Ceasefire -- Robin Wright, New Yorker
Until a ceasefire covers all rebel groups, war will rage on in Syria -- Ranj Alaaldin, The Guardian

U.S. Senator McCain: Russian Cyberintrusions Are An 'Act Of War'

CNN: McCain: Russian cyberintrusions an 'act of war'

(CNN)Sen. John McCain said Friday that Russia's alleged meddling in the 2016 presidential election amounted to an "act of war."

The Arizona Republican, who is chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, also has scheduled a hearing for next week on foreign cyberthreats to the US, which will also focus on Russian cyberhacking, a committee aide told CNN earlier Friday.

McCain, who is one of Washington's most prominent foreign policy hardliners, has criticized the recent sanctions and expulsions announced by the Obama administration this week as insufficient and belated. He made his latest comments in Ukraine, a nation threatened by a resurgent Russia, after meeting with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko.

"When you attack a country, it's an act of war," McCain said of the recent hackings on Ukrainian TV, according to a transcript compiled by Reuters. "And so we have to make sure that there is a price to pay so that we can perhaps persuade Russians to stop this kind of attacks on our very fundamentals of democracy."

Read more ....

WNU Editor: This is going to be a circus .... McCain schedules hearing on foreign cyber threats to US (The Hill).

More News On U.S. Senator McCain's Remarks That Russian Cyberintrusions Are An 'Act Of War'

Senator McCain says Russia must pay price for hacking -- Reuters
U.S. Senators Vow No 'Faustian Bargain' With Russia, Pledge To Target Putin 'Harder' -- RFE
John McCain: Russian cyberattacks 'an act of war' -- Washington Examiner
Graham, McCain want Russia sanctions after election hacking -- FOX News

In His Weekly Address President Obama Hints That He Will Be Active After He Leaves Office

Washington Examiner: Obama: I won't leave on Jan 20

President Obama used his final weekly address in 2016 to assure Americans that he will remain committed to defending the "progress" made by his administration after handing over the White House to Donald Trump on Jan. 20.

Offering what might be the clearest indication yet of his plan to stay in the political scene post-presidency, Obama said Saturday, "As I prepare to take on the even more important role of citizen, know that I will be there with you every step of the way to ensure that this country forever strives to live up to the incredible promise of our founding — that all of us are created equal, and all of us deserve every chance to live out our dreams."

While the president initially indicated that he looked forward to a quiet retirement, at a time when many polls showed Democrat Hillary Clinton marching to victory in the presidential election, Obama has said his plans have changed since Trump ran away with the win.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: President Obama will always have an audience, and I am sure that many in the mainstream media will always run to him for his opinion on an issue .... doubly so since there is no "Democrat leader" on the stage. But he will no longer have the bully pulpit .... nor the same media coverage that he got as President. But unlike past Presidents .... he will be very active and visible .... and I predict that he will be opposing most (if not all) of President Trump's initiatives.

Russian President Putin Congratulates President-Elect Trump But Ignores President Obama In His New Year's Message

© Mikhail Metzel/TASS

TASS: Putin congratulates world leaders on New Year

Putin has congratulated the American people in the person of US President-elect Donald Trump rather than outgoing US President Barack Obama

MOSCOW, December 30. /TASS/. Russian President Vladimir Putin has congratulated the heads of the G7 Group of industrialized nations with Christmas and the coming New Year, the Kremlin press office reported on Friday.

The congratulatory messages address the leaders of the United Kingdom, including the British Queen, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Canada and the United States. Moreover, according to the congratulatory address, Putin congratulated the American people in the person of US President-elect Donald Trump rather than outgoing US President Barack Obama.

At the same time, Putin conveyed congratulations to Obama in a special statement on Russia’s response to a new wave of Washington’s anti-Russian sanctions.

Read more ....

Update #1: Putin congratulates Trump, not Obama, in New Year's statement (CNN).
Update #2: Putin snubs Obama in favor of Trump in holiday greeting (Politico)

WNU Editor: Russian President Putin's New Year's Message is here .... New Year greetings to foreign heads of state and government (Kremlin).

Update #3: Russian President Putin did, however, include a very short greeting for Obama in a separate news release — the one announcing his decision not to retaliate for the sanctions imposed by the U.S. president.

“It is regrettable that the Obama Administration is ending its term in this manner,” Putin said. “Nevertheless, I offer my New Year greetings to President Obama and his family.”

That entire statement is here.

Update #4:
Russian President Putin is right about this .... Vladimir Putin's New Year message: Russia had a 'difficult year' in 2016 (SKY News).

China Launches A Global Television News Network

Asia Times: CCTV launches global platform in Xi push to rebrand China

'China needs to know better about the world and the world needs to know better about China,' Xi says. But only the good stuff

China’s leading television network, CCTV, is launching a new global media platform aimed at rebranding the country. The announcement was made on the state-owned company’s website, but the force behind the initiative was made clear in comments from President Xi Jinping carried by Xinhua news agency.

“The relationship between China and the rest of the world is undergoing historic changes. China needs to know better about the world and the world needs to know better about China,” Xi said in a congratulatory letter to the China Global Television Network, as CCTV’s new arm will be called. Xi urged CGTN to “tell China stories well,” Xinhua reported.

CGTN will have six TV channels, three overseas branches, a video content provider and a digital media division, and will offer content in multiple languages, Xinhua said.

Read more ....

Update #1: China's CCTV launches global 'soft power' media network to extend influence (Reuters)
Update #2: China’s CCTV Launches Global “Soft Power” Media Network to Extend Influence (Fortune)
Update #3: China's CCTV launches global 'soft power' media network to extend influence (Channel News Asia)
Update #4: China’s state broadcaster CCTV rebrands international networks as CGTN in global push (AP)

WNU Editor: The official announcement is here .... CCTV to launch CGTN (CCTV). I find CCTV good on covering international news stories that do not involve China. But when it does involve China .... a bias (propaganda) slant is all but guaranteed. Will this new "Global News Network" succeed .... probably. But as I have said more than once on this blog .... always be sceptical when checking out the news .... regardless of the source. The CGTN homepage is here .... CGTN.

China Moves To Contain Taiwan

Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen speaks on the phone with U.S. president-elect Donald Trump at her office in Taipei, Taiwan, in this handout photo made available December 3, 2016. Taiwan Presidential Office/Handout via REUTERS/File Photo

Reuters: China considering strong measures to contain Taiwan: sources

China's military has become alarmed by what it sees as U.S. President-elect Donald Trump's support of Taiwan and is considering strong measures to prevent the island from moving toward independence, sources with ties to senior military officers said.

Three sources said one possibility being considered was conducting war games near the self-ruled island that China considers as a breakaway province. Another was a series of economic measures to cripple Taiwan.

It was not clear whether any decisions had been taken, but the sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the Taiwan issue had become a hot topic within the upper echelons of China's People's Liberation Army (PLA) in recent weeks.

Read more ....

Update #1: China considering tougher measures to contain Taiwan: 'We're ready, let's hit them hard' (International Business Times)
Update #2: China urges US to block Taiwan president Tsai Ing-wen from stopover (The Guardian/Reuters)

WNU Editor: Taiwan has issued the following statement to China .... Taiwan's president urges China to stay 'calm and rational' amid rising tensions (DW) .... but I am willing to bet that the Chinese are not listening.

Did Russia Try To Hack Into A Vermont Power Utility?

Bloomberg: Russian Hacking Code Found in Vermont Power Utility Computer

* Utility said the laptop wasn’t connected to the power grid
* Homeland Security alerted power providers to search for code

Computer code connected to Russian cyberattacks by U.S. intelligence agencies has been found hidden in a laptop at a Vermont public utility, a development that emerged a day after the Obama administration hit Russia with sanctions for hacking in this year’s U.S. election.

The laptop wasn’t connected to the power grid at the time, the Burlington Electric Department said in a statement Friday. It said it scanned its computer network and found the malware after the U.S. Department of Homeland Security sent out an alert about the code to owners and operators of critical infrastructure.

“We took immediate action to isolate the laptop and alerted federal officials of this finding,” utility spokesman Mike Kanarick said in the statement. “Our team is working with federal officials to trace this malware and prevent any other attempts to infiltrate utility systems. We have briefed state officials and will support the investigation fully.”

Read more ....

Update #1: Russia-linked malware found on US electric company’s laptop (AP)
Update #2: 'Russia hacking code' found on Vermont utility computer (BBC)
Update #3: Cyberattacks Raise Alarm for U.S. Power Grid (WSJ)

WNU Editor: The Washington Post is pushing this story (it is behind a paywall) .... Russia-linked malware found on US electric company's laptop (Washington Post) .... but it is raising more questions than answers. For one .... they found this code one day after the warning was issued by DHS .... I know a little bit about computers, doing a review and finding a code this fast is next to impossible. Two .... the computer that was infected was not even linked to the grid .... so why the panic? Three .... malware and in its many forms are everywhere on the internet .... the claim that it is Russian is a stretch in my book.

Update #4: Not surprising .... this story is now getting ripped apart as "fake news" ....

The somewhat dubious “Russia hacked the Vermont power grid” story (Hot Air)
'The Grid Was Not in Danger': Media Raced to Publish Story on Russia Hacking Our Power Grid Before the Facts (Town Hall)
Washington Post flubs report on Russia hacking utility company (Washington Examiner)

Update #5: Russia responds .... ‘Russian hackers’ penetrate US power grid with ‘outdated Ukrainian malware’ (RT).

A U.S. Army Colonel Explains Why He Has Doubts That The U.S. Military Is The Best In the World

U.S. military vehicles parading near Russia's border in Narva, Estonia on Feb. 24. (Estonian Defense Forces)

Thomas E. Ricks, Foreign Policy: Hey, shut up about being the best military in the world, because we might not be

So writes Army Lt. Col. Terrence Buckeye in the new issue of ARMOR magazine.

After two years of teaching at the Australian Army’s School of Armour, he reports, “My primary takeaway from this assignment is that Australian mounted tactics training at the company level and below is much better than our U.S. tactics.” They’re notably better at live fire training, he adds.

If you don’t believe me, he adds, just go and look. “For those who doubt how poor our tactics training is now, a visit to an Australian ROBC [Regimental Officer Basic Course] or Crew Commander’s Course (six-week tactics course for corporal and sergeant vehicle commanders) will likely change your view.”

Read more ....

WNU Editor: The article that caught Thomas E. Ricks' attention is here .... Think We’re the Best? A Look Down Under Might Change Your Mind (Army Lt. Col. Terrence Buckeye,

German Chancellor Angela Merkel: 'Islamist Tterrorism Is The Biggest Challenge Facing Germany Today'

BBC: Merkel: Islamist terror is 'greatest threat' to Germany

Islamist terrorism is the biggest challenge facing Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel has said in her New Year message.

Referring to the deadly truck attack in Berlin by a Tunisian asylum seeker, she said it was "sickening" when acts of terror were carried out by people who had sought protection.

She said 2016 had been a year of "severe tests".

But she also said she was confident Germany could overcome them.

"As we go about our lives and our work, we are saying to the terrorists: 'You are hate-filled murderers, but you do not determine how we live and want to live. We are free, considerate and open'," Mrs Merkel said.

Twelve people were killed when Anis Amri drove a truck at crowds at a Berlin Christmas market two weeks ago.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: The Germany of today is a Germany whose streets are filled with police cradling machine guns, checkpoints, and backed-up with surveillance cameras everywhere. More here .... European cities ramp up security for New Year after Berlin attack (Reuters). This is not what the German people wanted, and they are going to exact a price on Angela Merkel when she runs next year for reelection. If there are two or three more terror attacks in 2017 .... her political obituary and how she failed Germany is what people will be talking about this time next year.

More News On German Chancellor Angela Merkel's New Year's Message

Merkel: 'We are stronger than terrorism' -- DW
Islamist terrorism is ‘greatest threat’ to Germany says Angela Merkel, months after letting more than a million Middle Eastern migrants into her country -- Daily Mail
In New Year’s Address, Angela Merkel Pledges to Protect German Public -- WSJ
Merkel Tells Germans Their Country Is Stronger Than Terror -- AP
Merkel says Islamist terrorism is biggest test for Germany -- Reuters
Attacks by refugees ‘bitter & repulsive,’ Islamic terrorism ‘most serious test’ for Germany – Merkel -- RT
Merkel Urges Calm Against Terror in Election-Year Stability Bid -- Bloomberg

Here Are Some Of The Famous Figures Who Died In 2016.

Tweet For Today

Picture Of The Day

Supporting Iraqi Forces
U.S soldiers execute a fire mission to support Iraqi security forces during the Mosul counteroffensive in northern Iraq, Dec. 24, 2016. The soldiers are assigned to Battery C, 1st Battalion, 320th Field Artillery Regiment, Task Force Strike, which is supporting the Iraqi forces with indirect fire in their fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. Army photo by 1st Lt. Daniel Johnson

Friday, December 30, 2016

Russia Starts To Open Up On Its Bolshevik Past And How Their Brutal Rule Resulted In Famine And The Death Of Millions

The suffering of the Russian people did not end with Wold War I, the Bolshecik Revolution, and the Civil War. The destruction and devastation resulted in a terrible famine, made worse by the Bolshevik willingness to use food as a weapon. The most vulnerable were the children. This photograph was taken somewhere in the Volga region (1921-22).

Daily Mail: The communist cannibals: Shocking images reveal the depravation suffered by peasants forced to eat HUMANS during the 1920s Russian famine

* The Russian famine of 1921–22, also known as Povolzhye famine, occurred in Bolshevik Russia
* It began in early spring of 1921 and lasted through 1922
* Civil war and Lenin's policy of seizing food from peasants caused the devastating man-made famine
* Around 30 million people were affected and around five million died
* WARNING: Distressing images

Standing solemnly in their thick winter coats behind a table laden with children's body parts, this is the grave photo of a couple that shows how starving people turned to cannibalism to survive during a man-made famine in 1920s Russia.

More than five million people died during the catastrophe, which began in 1921 and lasted through 1922.

Russian communist revolutionary Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov, better known as Lenin, had been in charge of the country since 1917. In a chilling disregard for the suffering of his fellow countrymen he instructed food to be seized from the poor.

Lenin's Bolsheviks party believed peasants were actively trying to undermine the war effort and by taking their food away it reduced their strength.

The famine was able to take root with ease due to the economic problems caused by World War I, five years of civil war, and a drought in 1921 which led to 30 million Russians becoming malnourished.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: I was surprised to read this in a Western news site .... and the Daily Mail of all websites. But they are onto something. Everyone in Russia has a story on how their parents and grandparents suffered during this time .... especially after the Bolsheviks had solidified their power .... so for most Russians this is really not news. And while most Russians do not talk about their family history publicly .... these is now a push in Russia to educate the public .... starting within the school system .... on how brutal the Soviet state was towards its citizens after they came to power in 1917. Fortunately .... it will not be hard to make this case. Just like the Nazis who documented their atrocities .... so did the Soviets .... documenting and photographing the ravages of the famines that they caused. My friends in the Russian government tell me that the government continues to maintain the archives of this period. But because of its content .... especially the tens of thousands of pictures and hundreds of news reels that document this catastrophe .... they are still reluctant to release it to the public (they just do the bits here and there). I give it another 10 years before this history is finally open for all to see .... if not sooner. And when that happens .... that is when I predict the debate will start to get very interesting ... within Russia .... and definitely outside of Russia.

Tonight's Movie Is 'The Desert Fox: The Story of Rommel' (1951)

Commentaries, Analysis, And Editorials -- December 30, 2016

Al Jazeera/Inside Story: How will a Trump presidency impact sanctions on Russia?

Moscow opted to wait for Trump's move rather than retaliate after US expulsion of Russian diplomats.

US President Barack Obama slapped sanctions on Moscow and gave 35 Russian diplomats just 72 hours to leave the United States over alleged Russian interference in the US election.

Russia's foreign minister recommended Moscow does the same, but Russian President Vladimir Putin decided against that.

Putin wants to know where President-elect Donald Trump stands on the issue.

US intelligence agencies accuse Russia of cyber attacks in the recent election aimed at helping Trump defeat Hillary Clinton for the presidency.

Trump has praised Putin's leadership in the past - so will his first move in the White House be to lift the sanctions?

Read more ....

Commentaries, Analysis, And Editorials -- December 30, 2016

Putin’s Masterstroke of Nonretaliation -- Oliver Carroll, Foreign Policy

We're living through the first world cyberwar – but just haven’t called it that -- Martin Belam, The Guardian

The hacking is 21st-century, but US-Russia relations are stuck in the past -- Simon Jenkins, The Guardian

Russia and America's Cyber Deterrence Dilemma -- Matthew Rojansky, National Interest

Trump Must Choose Between Obama Sanctions and Putin Detente -- Nick Wadhams and Justin Sink, Bloomberg

Why Russia-brokered Syrian ceasefire has chance of succeeding -- Patrick Wintour, The Guardian

How Russia and Turkey brokered peace in Syria — and sidelined the US -- Tim Lister, CNN

What it means that the U.S. is not part of the Syria cease-fire -- PBS News Hour

The Syrian ceasefire agreement has shifted the balance of power to Assad -- Patrick Cockburn, The Independent

A good year for Xi Jinping – but trouble is heading his way -- Tom Phillips, The Guardian

Explaining China’s Involvement in the South Sudan Peace Process -- Aly Verjee, The Interpreter

Why the Resilience of Islamist Militants Will Threaten Security Across Africa in 2017 -- J. Peter Pham, Newsweek

Al Qaeda: Quietly and Patiently Rebuilding -- Bruce Hoffman, Cipher Brief

Serbia: The land of guns -- Nemanja Rujevic, DW

2017: Europe's year of rage: Across the continent, the pro-EU establishment has reason to fear the coming year's elections -- James Forsyth, The Spectator

Shattering All Those 'Norms' in 2016 -- Paula Dwyer, Bloomberg

World News Briefs -- December 30, 2016 (Evening Edition)

BBC: Syria conflict: Clashes reported despite truce

Fighting between government and rebel forces has been reported in parts of Syria despite a nationwide truce coming into force early on Friday.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based monitoring group, said there had been fierce clashes and air strikes in northern Hama province.

It added that rebel-held Wadi Barada near Damascus was also bombarded. But the military denied doing so.

There has been no comment from Turkey and Russia, which brokered the truce.

Read more ....


Former Nusra Front criticises Syria ceasefire agreement.

Syria conflict: Nationwide truce holding despite 'clashes'. Syria's cease-fire holding despite minor violations. Syrian truce holding despite minor clashes.

Russian jets target Islamic State around Syria's al-Bab: Turkish military. Syrian Observatory says warplanes carry out 16 raids in Hama province. Syrian forces and allies clash with rebels near Damascus: monitors, rebel official.

Iraqi forces face Islamic State car bombs, fierce resistance in south Mosul.

Commission clears draft expanding Erdogan's power.

With clock ticking, Palestinians pin hopes on Paris summit.

US-Israeli tensions spill into the open in closing days of Obama administration.

Saudi invites rival Iran for talks on hajj return.


Kazakh leader orders foreign ministry to prepare for Syria talks.

Taiwan announces U.S. itinerary for president, upsetting China. China urges U.S. not to allow Taiwan president to stop over.

China Communist Party office attackers shot dead by police after killing two.

China blocks India's request for UN to blacklist militant chief.

India: Deadline for discontinued rupee notes looms. India cash crunch: Rupee deposit deadline looms.

Australia distances itself from Obama administration's stance against Israeli settlements.

Hundreds of North Korea workers in Oman sent home, report says.


Congo deal reached for Kabila to step down after 2017 elections.

Many feared dead as Nigerian troops, Boko Haram battle in Borno.

South Sudan bishop decries media indifference as violence continues.

Congo opposition leader says talks on political deal faltering.

Tunisian foreign fighters to be dealt with under anti-terrorism law: PM.

Somalia: Welcoming new Federal Parliament, Ban urges completion of electoral process.

Economy strained for OPEC-member Angola.

Mali sends back migrants deported by France.


Record 2016 pushes migrant arrivals in Italy over half million.

European cities ramp up security for New Year after Berlin attack.

Russia, brushing off Obama, looks to friendlier Donald Trump.

Putin: Russia will not expel anyone in response to US sanctions. Putin says Russia won't expel US diplomats in tit-for-tat measure.

Romanian president designates Grindeanu new prime minister.

Berlin mayor supports German government's call for increased video surveillance.

Downing Street criticises US comments on Israel. Britain, edging towards Trump, scolds Kerry over Israel.

Children from Calais, France, camp sue Britain over denial of asylum.

UN envoy sees 'historic opportunity' for Cyprus reunification in 2017.

Poland buys private art collection with da Vinci painting at bargain price.

Queen Elizabeth II health update: Latest as Queen remains indoors for 10th consecutive day.


Trump praises Putin for holding back in U.S.-Russia spy dispute.

Moscow says 96 Russians expected to leave United States due to expulsions.

Tennis, sailing or spying? US shuts 2 Russian compounds.

Obama faces difficult choices amid stream of last-minute clemency requests.

Trump’s border wall, deportation plans face pushback from GOP.

Venezuela: President Maduro extends money swap deadline.

Hunger is driving up crime in Venezuela as violence hits new highs, report says.

Brazilian President Michel Temer eyes labor reforms as unemployment hits record high.

Body found in Rio may be missing Greek ambassador: Brazil police. Brazil policeman confesses to killing Greek ambassador: TV report.

Cubans surf the web at home in Havana pilot project.


Threat of New Year attack in U.S. low but 'undeniable': agencies.

U.S., Iraqi sources say Islamic State leader Baghdadi alive despite death reports.

US adds Lashkar-e-Taiba student wing to terrorism list.

Terrorism squad arrests man at Sydney Airport over New Year's Eve 'threat'.


Apple to cut iPhone production in first quarter of 2017: report.

Disney wins 'Cars' copyright suit in China.

China takes new step to downgrade the dollar’s prominence.

Texas oil survey reveals OPEC pessimism.

President-Elect Trump Praises Russian President Putin Amid Hacking Expulsions

BBC: Russia-US row: Trump praises Putin amid hacking expulsions

US President-elect Donald Trump has praised Vladimir Putin after the Russian president ruled out a tit-for-tat response to the expulsion of diplomats in a row over hacking.

Mr Trump tweeted: "Great move on delay (by V. Putin) - I always knew he was very smart!"

Mr Putin had earlier said Russia would not stoop to "irresponsible diplomacy".

Washington expelled 35 diplomats over hacking related to the US election. Moscow denies any involvement.

Mr Trump emphasised his statement on the row by pinning his tweet to the top of his account.

It was unclear exactly what he was referring to with the term "delay".

Read more ....

More News On President-Elect Trump Praising Russian President Putin Over Hacking Expulsions

Trump praises Putin’s response to sanctions, calls Russian leader ‘very smart!’ -- Washington Post
Trump praises Putin for holding back in U.S.-Russia spy dispute -- Reuters
Putin says Russia won't expel diplomats; Trump offers praise -- AP
Trump praises Putin over response to US sanctions, calls him 'very smart' -- FOX News
Trump tweets praise of Putin: ‘I always knew he was very smart!’ -- Politico
Trump praises Putin over US sanctions – a move that puts him at odds with GOP -- The Guardian
Team Trump: We’re the true target of Obama’s sanctions -- Politico

Growing Doubts On The U.S. Russian Hacking Story

Matt Taibbi, Rolling Stone: Something About This Russia Story Stinks

Nearly a decade and a half after the Iraq-WMD faceplant, the American press is again asked to co-sign a dubious intelligence assessment.

In an extraordinary development Thursday, the Obama administration announced a series of sanctions against Russia. Thirty-five Russian nationals will be expelled from the country. President Obama issued a terse statement seeming to blame Russia for the hack of the Democratic National Committee emails.

"These data theft and disclosure activities could only have been directed by the highest levels of the Russian government," he wrote.

Russia at first pledged, darkly, to retaliate, then backed off. The Russian press today is even reporting that Vladimir Putin is inviting "the children of American diplomats" to "visit the Christmas tree in the Kremlin," as characteristically loathsome/menacing/sarcastic a Putin response as you'll find.

This dramatic story puts the news media in a jackpot. Absent independent verification, reporters will have to rely upon the secret assessments of intelligence agencies to cover the story at all.

Many reporters I know are quietly freaking out about having to go through that again. We all remember the WMD fiasco.

"It's déjà vu all over again" is how one friend put it.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: I expect more questions and doubts on the U.S. case against Russia to be raised after the holidays. I also expect many in Congress and in the Senate stepping up to demand the imposition of even more sanctions.

Senior Chinese Spy Chief Arrested For Bribery And Corruption

File photo of Ma Jian

South China Morning Post: China to prosecute former senior spy chief for corruption

Ma Jian, who ran counter-espionage at the State Security Ministry, tried to hide wealth, use his power to help relatives’ businesses and interfere with the judiciary, Communist Party says

China will prosecute a former senior spy chief for bribery and abuse of power, the Communist Party said in a brief statement on Friday.

Ma Jian led counter-espionage operations at the Ministry of State Security, the vast secretive intelligence agency that monitors both citizens and foreigners in China.
His detention, which the South China Morning Post first reported in January 2015, led to revelations about massive abuses of power and political jockeying within the intelligence agency.

Read more ....

Update #1: Former vice minister of state security expelled from CPC (CRI English)
Update #2: China Communist party expels former spymaster Ma (AFP)

WNU Editor: 2017 is not going to be an easy year for Chinese President Xi .... Xi Jinping’s year of living dangerously (Minxin Pei, Livemint).

On The Front Lines Against The Islamic State

Washington Post: On the road to Raqqa

A Kurdish-Arab force is closing in on the Islamic State’s capital in Syria, but there is still no plan to seize it.

TAL SAMAN, Syria — “Raqqa we are coming” say the words spray-painted in Kurdish at the entrance to this empty little town, which lies on the front line of a U.S.-backed advance toward the Islamic State’s capital.

The city of Raqqa is 17 miles away, a tantalizingly short hop to the place showcased in the militants’ propaganda videos as an Islamist utopia, where the terrorist attacks in Paris and Brussels were planned and where, U.S. officials warn, new plots against the West are being forged.

But a full offensive to retake the city could still be months or more away, despite hopes in Washington that an operation to take the Islamic State’s most symbolically significant stronghold would be well underway before President Obama left office.

A rare visit to the Raqqa front line illustrated how near and yet far off the defeat of the Islamic State may be. The battle for Mosul in neighboring Iraq has stalled, the attack in Berlin has brought home the continued threat of terrorism, and there is still no plan for an offensive on Raqqa, making the war one of the most immediate, and complicated, challenges the Trump administration will have to confront.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: Here is another interesting story on the frontlines in the battle against the Islamic State in Mosul .... Inside an ISIS Bunker (Kimberly Dozier, Daily Beast). Also a photo gallery .... The Frontlines of Mosul (Reuters).

7 Day Truce Declared In Mozambique's 'Silent War'

RFI: Mozambique Christmas truce fuels hopes of peace

The people of Mozambique has welcomed a seven day ceasefire to end hostilities between Renamo opposition fighters and the ruling Frelimo government. Renamo leader Afonso Dhlakama, declared the truce on Tuesday to allow the public to enjoy the New Year festivities. It comes after an upsurge in fighting that has displaced thousands.

The truce comes at the end of a gruelling year, with rights groups reporting that more than 15,000 people have been forced to flee the fighting between Renamo opposition fighters and the ruling Frelimo government this year alone.

Read more ....

More News On Mozambique

Mozambique: 'New Year' ceasefire brings rare calm as optimism grows for long-lasting truce -- International Business Times
Mozambique's Opposition Agrees to 7-day Truce After Call with President -- VOA
Mozambique's escalating violence forces thousands to flee -- AFP
Killings in Mozambique Target Lawyers, Judges -- VOA
Mozambique's descent into an old civil war, from a Marine who helped train them -- SOFREP

The Battle For The Iraqi City Of Mosul -- News Updates December 30, 2016

Reuters: Iraqi forces face Islamic State car bombs, fierce resistance in south Mosul

Iraqi forces faced car bombs and fierce resistance from Islamic State militants in southern Mosul on Friday, the second day of a renewed push to take back the city after fighting stalled for several weeks.

An officer in the federal police forces, which joined the battle on Thursday, said there were heavy clashes in the southeastern Palestine district, but they had made progress in two other neighborhoods, disabling a number of car bombs.

Another officer, from an elite Interior Ministry unit fighting alongside federal police, said his forces were gaining ground in the Intisar district despite heavy clashes there.

Iraqi forces in the east and north of the city were clearing areas they had recaptured on Thursday before advancing any further, officers said, and the army was trying to cut supply lines to the town of Tel Keyf, north of Mosul.

Read more ....

The Battle For The Iraqi City Of Mosul -- News Updates December 30, 2016

Iraq’s resumed assault on IS in Mosul makes gains -- AP
Iraqi forces launch second phase of Mosul offensive against IS group -- France 24
Iraqi forces face Islamic State car bombs, fierce resistance in south Mosul -- Iraqi News
Fighting in Mosul Resumes After Two Weeks of Calm -- VOA
Islamic State abruptly evacuates its members from 4 areas near Mosul -- Iraqi news
Iraqi Army Expected to Secure 'Major Victory' in Eastern Mosul Within Days -- Sputnik
US military says Mosul airstrike may have killed civilians at hospital -- The Guardian
Coalition: Airstrike may have killed civilians at Mosul hospital -- UPI
ISIS 'defense wall' runs through eastern Mosul -- RUDAW
Some in Mosul wary of return of Iraq's government -- AP
US soldiers build bonds with Iraqis near Mosul front -- Stars and Stripes

Syria War News Updates -- December 30, 2016

Reuters: Clashes, air raids tarnish Russia and Turkey's Syria truce

Clashes, shelling and air raids in western Syria marred a Russian- and Turkish-backed ceasefire that aims to end nearly six years of war and lead to peace talks between rebels and a government emboldened by recent battlefield success.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, a key ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, announced the ceasefire on Thursday after forging the agreement with Turkey, a longtime backer of the opposition.

The truce went into force at midnight but monitors and rebels reported almost immediate clashes, and violence appeared to escalate later on Friday as warplanes bombed areas in the country's northwest, they said.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: Not everyone is on board for this ceasefire .... Syrian rebel group rejects cease-fire agreement at last moment (Market Watch).

Syria War News Updates -- December 30, 2016

The State of the War in Syria -- New York Times
Syria ceasefire threatened by attack on rebel-held towns near Damascus -- The Guardian
Syria ceasefire backed by Russia and Turkey in doubt amid fresh clashes -- The Independent
Russian jets target Islamic State around Syria's al-Bab: Turkish military -- Reuters
Clashes erupt near Damascus despite truce -- Al Jazeera
Syrian Observatory says warplanes carry out 16 raids in Hama province -- Reuters
'Clashes erupt' near Damascus despite Syria truce -- France 24
Syrian forces and allies clash with rebels near Damascus: monitors, rebel official -- Reuters
Syria conflict: Nationwide truce holding despite 'clashes' -- BBC
Syria's cease-fire holding despite minor violations -- AP
Syrian Cease-Fire Appears to Be Holding, for Now -- NYT
Syrian truce holding despite minor clashes -- DW
Syria’s cease-fire holding despite minor violations -- USA Today
Fragile Calm Settles Over Syria -- WSJ
Air strikes kill 10 children in ISIL-held Deir Az Zor -- Al Jazeera
Russia to ask U.N. Security Council to endorse Syria ceasefire: ambassador -- Reuters
Kazakh leader orders foreign ministry to prepare for Syria talks -- Reuters
Russian embassy mocks Britain over its silence on Syria ceasefire deal -- The Independent
Iran: Saudi should play no role in Syria talks -- Middle Easy Monitor
Turkey says Kurdish YPG should not be involved in Syria talks -- Reuters
After promising start, 2016 has been worst for civilians in Syria – UN expert -- UN News Centre
Russia And Turkey Have Agreed On Cease-Fire For Syria, What's Next? -- NPR