Saturday, April 30, 2016

Ukraine And Pro-Russian Rebel Forces Have Agreed To An Orthodox Ceasefire

DW: Ukraine troops and pro-Russia rebels agree Orthodox Easter ceasefire

Ukraine's government has agreed a new truce with pro-Russian insurgents, which is set to take effect on Orthodox Easter weekend. The ceasefire comes amidst reports that fighting has reached levels not seen for months.

An agreement has been reached to halt violence in eastern Ukraine - at least until May 9, announced the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) on Friday.

The truce is set to begin at midnight on Saturday and covers Orthodox Christian Easter and International Workers' Day on May 1, as well as the ex-Soviet Union's May 9 commemorative celebrations of the end of World War II.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: Some are not respecting the ceasefire .... Two Ukrainian soldiers killed, four wounded as guns supposed to go silent before Easter (Ukraine Today).

U.N. Report: 10,000 Killed Since Ukraine Conflict Began

A member of the forces of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic stands by the wreckage of a car destroyed in an explosion in the rebel-controlled village of Yelenovka outside Donetsk, Ukraine, April 27, 2016. PHOTO: REUTERS/ALEXANDER ERMOCHENKO

Radio Free Europe: UN Raises Ukraine Death Toll Estimate To 9,333

The United Nations on April 28 raised its estimate of the total killed during the conflict in eastern Ukraine to 9,333 from 9,160 in March.

UN Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs Taye-Brook Zerihoun told the UN Security Council that the total number of casualties now stands at 30,729, including 9,333 people killed and 21,396 injured.

He said the latest incident occurred on April 27, when shelling killed at least four civilians and injured at least eight people in Olenivka near the city of Donetsk.

Read more ....

Update #19,333 Killed Since Ukraine Conflict Began, U.N. Says -- AP
Update #2UN says nearly 10,000 killed since Ukraine conflict began -- Global News/Canadian Press

WNU Editor: Everyone that I knew has been telling me for the past few months that the numbers are  20,000 killed, 50,000 wounded, 2,000,000 displaced. But like any other conflict the true numbers will not be known until the war is over, and everyone can then tally up the cost.

U.S. Foreign Surveillance Intelligence Court Has Never Denied Any FBI Or NSA Surveillance Request

Image from Slashgear

Bruce Brown, Digital Trends: Can you say ‘rubber stamp?’ FBI and NSA requests never denied by secret court

You likely don’t know much about the U.S. Foreign Surveillance Intelligence Court. Though it keeps a low profile, this is the court the Federal Bureau of Investigation and National Security Agency go to when they want permission to put someone under surveillance. And they don’t get turned down, according to Reuters, citing a Justice Department memo. In 2015 the court received and approved 1,457 requests from the FBI and NSA. There were a bit fewer requests in 2014, but all of those were approved as well.

The surveillance requests are for email or telephone intercepts. If granted, which is apparently always, they generally are carried out with the assistance of Internet telecommunications service providers.

Read more ....

Update: US spy court didn't reject a single government surveillance request in 2015 (ZDNet).

WNU Editor: Not even one request denial. Talk about being a "rubber stamp".

North Korea Vows To Continue Developing Its Nuclear Weapon Capabilities

Bloomberg: N. Korea Vows to Rapidly Advance Nuclear Attack Capabilities

* S. Korea-U.S. drills 'worst' provocation: official news agency
* Kim Jong Un regime to hold Worker’s Party Congress on May 6

North Korea vowed to make rapid advancements on nuclear attack capabilities if South Korea and the U.S. continue with joint military drills, with the warning coming days before predictions that the nation may conduct its fifth nuclear test for the Worker’s Party Congress on May 6.

“Our capability to make nuclear attacks will make fast advancement every time enemies conduct war exercises,” the regime’s official news agency reported, citing an unidentified spokesman at its foreign ministry. North Korea called a joint military drill between South Korea and the U.S. “the worst military provocation.”

Read more ....

Update: North Korea Calls US-South Korea Drills ‘Open Declaration Of War,’ Report Warns It May Conduct Fifth Nuclear Test Next Week (IBTimes).

WNU Editor: More signs that the North Korean leadership wants to make Worker’s Party Congress on May 6 a huge success.

Politicians Allied To Iranian President Hassan Rouhani Gain In Run-Off Elections

Iran's President Hassan Rouhani speaks during a news conference in Islamabad, Pakistan, in this March 26, 2016 file photo. REUTERS/FAISAL MAHMOOD

Reuters: Iran's moderates make modest gains in run-off election

Politicians allied to President Hassan Rouhani came out strongest in a second round of parliamentary elections in Iran, early results showed on Saturday, but his moderate faction appeared unlikely to clinch an overall majority.

If confirmed, the results suggest Iran's next parliament will be more supportive of Rouhani's drive for economic reforms, but conservatives will remain a powerful force and could limit the prospects for social change.

Iranians voted on Friday for 68 seats where no candidate had won decisively in the first round. Rouhani's allies made significant gains in that vote, held in February, ending conservative dominance of the 290-seat assembly.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: The power still resides with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei .... Iran elections: Nothing will change as long as Khamenei is alive, says Nobel laureate Shirin Ebadi (IBTimes).

White House Iraq Plan Thrown Into Disarray After Today's Storming Of The Parliament By Pro-Shiite Protestors

Washington Post: Protests in Baghdad throw administration’s Iraq plan into doubt

President Obama’s plan for fighting the Islamic State is predicated on having a credible and effective Iraqi ally on the ground in Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi.

And in recent days, the administration had been optimistic, despite the growing political unrest in Baghdad, about that critical partnership.

But that optimism — along with the administration’s strategy for battling the Islamic State in Iraq — was thrown into severe doubt after protesters stormed Iraq’s parliament on Saturday and a state of emergency was declared in Baghdad. The big question for White House officials is what happens if Abadi — a critical linchpin in the fight against the Islamic State — does not survive the turmoil that has swept over the Iraqi capital.

The chaos in the Iraqi capital comes hours after a visit by Vice President Biden that was intended to help calm the political unrest and keep the battle against the Islamic State on track.

As Biden’s plane was approaching Baghdad on Thursday, a senior administration official described the vice president’s visit — which was shrouded in secrecy prior to his arrival — as a “symbol of how much faith we have in Prime Minister Abadi.”

Read more ....

WNU Editor: So much for Vice President Biden's trip to Iraq only a few hours earlier to show support to Prime Inister al-Abadi .... U.S. Vice President Biden Makes A Surprise Visit To Iraq

Editor's Note

Blogging will return later tonight.

Iraq Government In Chaos. Shiite Protesters Storm Parliament. Baghdad In A State Of Emergency

New York Times: Iraq Protesters Storm Parliament, Demanding End to Corruption

BAGHDAD — Hundreds of protesters stormed Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone on Saturday and entered the Parliament building, waving Iraqi flags, snapping photographs, breaking furniture and demanding an end to corruption.

As the chaos unfolded in the afternoon, Baghdad Operations Command announced a state of emergency, deploying additional forces around the capital city. Checkpoints at city entrances were closed, even as the protests remained largely nonviolent.

The scenes of protest, circulated in photographs and videos on social media sites, were potent demonstrations of the anger that had grown during months of protests by Iraqis who have demanded that Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi carry out measures to end sectarian quotas in politics and fight corruption.

Read more ....

More News On Today's Protests In Baghdad

The Latest: Iraqi forces stand down amid protests -- AP
Sadr followers storm into Baghdad's Green Zone, political crisis deepens -- Reuters
State of emergency declared in Baghdad as protesters take Iraqi parliament -- Washington Post
Iraqi protesters breach Green Zone, storm parliament -- AP
Protesters storm parliament in Iraq's Green Zone -- AFP
Reports: Protesters storm Iraqi parliament, use barbed wire to contain lawmakers -- UPI
Iraq Declares Baghdad Emergency as Protesters Storm Parliament -- Bloomberg
Baghdad In State of Emergency After Supporters of al Sadr Storm Green Zone -- NBC
Iraqi Shia protesters storm Baghdad parliament -- BBC
Protesters storm Iraqi parliament -- The Hill
Baghdad in state of emergency as protesters storm Green Zone -- USA Today
Protesters Storm Iraqi Parliament -- WSJ
Iraq: Sadr supporters storm Baghdad's Green Zone -- Al Jazeera
Anti-corruption protesters storm Baghdad’s Green Zone, enter parliament -- RT
Who Is Muqtada Al-Sadr? Supporters Of Iraqi Shiite Cleric Rush Green Zone As Baghdad Protest Heats Up -- IBTimes

Fly With The Fighter Pilots Of The Chinese Air Force (Video)

Popular Mechanics: Scramble with Fighter Pilots of the Chinese Air Force

​This video promoting China's air arm has a little bit of everything​.

A video promoting the People's Liberation Army Air Force—informally known as the Chinese Air Force—has surfaced on YouTube. The video attempts to show the PLAAF as a service fully prepared to defend the country's air space, as well as contribute to fights on the ground and at sea, at a moment's notice.

The video starts with children playing in a field of flowers, wearing various national dresses of China's various regions. Suddenly, shattering the peace of this scene, Chinese air force pilots quickly scramble to their planes.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: They are getting better with these promotional videos.

The F-35 Prepares For War Against China Or Russia

U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Brian West watches an Air Force F-35 Lightning II joist strike fighter aircraft approach for the first time July 14, 2011, at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. (U.S. Air Force photo by Samuel King Jr.)

National Interest: F-35 Stealth Fighter Prepares for the Unthinkable: War with China or Russia

The Air Force F-35 is using “open air” ranges and computer simulation to practice combat missions against the best Chinese and Russian-made air-defense technologies – as a way to prepare to enemy threats anticipated in the mid-2020s and beyond.

The testing is aimed at addressing the most current air defense system threats such as Russian-made systems and also focused on potential next-generation or yet-to-exist threats, Harrigian said.

Air Force officials have explained that, looking back to 2001 when the JSF threat started, the threats were mostly European centric – Russian made SA-10s or SA-20s. Now the future threats are looking at both Russian and Chinese-made and Asian made threats, they said.

“They have got these digital SAMS (surface-to-air-missile-systems) out there that can change frequencies and they are very agile in how they operate. being able to replicate that is not easy,” Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Harrigian, Director of the F-35 Integration Office, told Scout Warrior in an interview.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: They can boast all that they want on what the F-35 is capable of, but the 10 million individual lines of code in the JSF system are still causing problems .... Five of six F-35 fighter jets were unable to take off during testing because of software glitches but the Air Force still plans to declare the aircraft combat-ready this year (Daily Mail).

Update: Here is an interesting story .... Commentary: An unusual view of the U.S. Air Force's F-22 (Reuters)

U.S. Congress Tells The Pentagon To Not Retire The A-10 Fleet


FoxTrotAlpha: The A-10 Warthog May Be Kept Out Of Retirement By Law

The U.S. Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt II AKA “Warthog” has become one of the most-recognized and beloved warplanes since it started flying in the 1970s. We’ve been hearing about its impending retirement—and the reason many in the armed services community are against that—for ages, but proposed legislation could keep it in the sky for at least a little longer.

This week House Armed Services Committee (HASC) Chairman Rep. Mac Thornberry submitted his latest version of the defense policy bill that would dictate how military money would be spent. Subtitle D, Section 142 of H.R. 1735 basically says the Air Force would not be able to use any fiscal year 2017 funds “to retire, prepare to retire, or place in storage or on backup aircraft inventory status any A–10 aircraft.”

The bill also requires the USAF to keep at least 171 A-10s as “primary mission aircraft inventory;” in other words, ready to rock and roll.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: Will this pass the U.S. Senate and be signed by President Obama ....  weshall see.

Why All Of Us Should be Afraid Of The Group 'The Hacking Team'

David Kushner, Foreign Policy: Fear This Man

To spies, David Vincenzetti is a salesman. To tyrants, he is a savior. How the Italian mogul built a hacking empire.

As the sun rose over the banks of the Seine and the medieval, half-timbered houses of Rouen, France, on July 13, 2012, Hisham Almiraat opened his inbox to find “Denunciation” in the subject line of an email. “Please do not mention my name or anything,” wrote the sender, Imane. “I do not want any trouble.”

The editor and co-founder of Mamfakinch, a pro-democracy website created in Morocco during the Arab Spring, Almiraat was one of his country’s most outspoken dissidents and someone accustomed to cryptic emails: Moroccan activists faced jail time for their views and risked their jobs, or even their lives, for speaking out against their government. From Normandy’s capital city, where Almiraat was in medical school, the bespectacled 36-year-old spent his time — in between classes and hospital shifts — mentoring, coaching, and editing more than 40 citizen journalists. The group covered the roiling unrest back in Almiraat’s homeland, where he would soon return after completing his studies. (Almiraat contributed to Foreign Policy in 2011.)

Read more ....

WNU Editor: When Foreign Policy posts a news story that is not behind it's firewall .... you know it is important. And in this case .... it is. It is a long read .... but it impacts all of us. On a side note .... The Hacking team pales when compared to this group .... Russian Researchers Discover America's Crown Jewel In Cyber Spying And This Spyware Is On All Computers.

China Claims Okinawa

The Ryukyu Islands, as seen on a map at the Pacific Aviation Museum at Pearl Harbor. Samurai Wiki

Michael Peck, National Interest: China Claiming Okinawa Is Like Japan Claiming Hawaii

Unless you are nostalgic for the last two world wars, let's hope it’s nothing more than posturing.

Hawaii belongs to Japan, the Japanese press suddenly proclaims. Tokyo publishes ancient maps and documents that purport to show that the Hawaiian islands were historically part of the Japanese homeland until they were illegally annexed by the Americans. To hammer the point home, a Japanese warship sails into Hawaiian waters.

Does this sound totally insane? It's no more crazy than Chinese claims that the Ryukyu Islands—which include the island of Okinawa—belong to China rather than Japan.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: I have been covering this story for quite a long time ....

China Wants Okinawa (January 1, 2016)
More Chinese Claims That Okinawa Belongs To China (June 15, 2013)
China Continues To Lay Claims To Okinawa (May 16, 2013)

This is what I wrote early this year on this topic, and it still holds true today ....

These Chinese claims on the Ryukyu islands (Okinawa included) have been around for a long time. I even heard about it in the mid-1980s when I was working in China .... and even though I said that such claims were beyond ridiculous, my Chinese hosts were very blunt to me that these islands (like Taiwan) belong to them. 30 years later .... it looks like they are "upping" the pressure.

An Interview With A Former Islamic State Fighter

Harry Sarfo appeared in an Isis propaganda video issued in 2015, where two prisoners were executed by other militants

The Independent: Former Isis militant who grew up in the UK says coalition bombing campaign will drive more jihadists to launch attacks

In an interview with The Independent, the former jihadist revealed he once worked for Royal Mail as a postman

The US-led bombing campaign against Isis will drive more jihadists to launch terror attacks in the West, a former militant who grew up in the UK has said.

Harry Sarfo joined the so-called Islamic State in Syria and appeared in one of its notorious propaganda execution videos before becoming disillusioned with the scale of brutality he saw and fleeing the group.

In an exchange with The Independent from the German prison where he awaiting trial on terror charges, Sarfo claimed that the use of air strikes by the US-led coalition is inspiring more followers to commit atrocities in places including mainland Europe.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: The impression that I have of him after reading this post is that he is a lost soul .... and a dangerous one at that.

A Look At how Japan Lost The $40 Billion Australian Submarine Deal

Australia's then Prime Minister Tony Abbott speaks with Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during a trilateral meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama (not pictured) at the G20 leaders summit in Brisbane November 16, 2014. REUTERS/Ian Waldie/pool

Tim Kelly, Cyril Altmeyer and Colin Packham, Reuters: How France sank Japan's $40 billion Australian submarine dream

In 2014, a blossoming friendship between Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott and his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe looked to have all but sewn up a $40 billion submarine deal. Then French naval contractor DCNS hatched a bold and seemingly hopeless plan to gatecrash the party.

Almost 18 months later, France this week secured a remarkable come-from-behind victory on one of the world's most lucrative defense deals. The result: Tokyo's dream of fast-tracking a revival of its arms export industry is left in disarray.

Interviews with more than a dozen Japanese, French, Australian and German government and industry officials show how a series of missteps by a disparate Japanese group of ministry officials, corporate executives and diplomats badly undermined their bid.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: The Japanese thought they already had the deal, but the French and Germans realized that they did not, and the deal maker was on the issue of Australian jobs. This is a surprise .... the Japanese are the ones who have the reputation of making tough deals, but it looks like this reputation is no longer deserved.

U.S. Army Chief Warns Cadets That They Must Prepare For 'Little Green Men' And 'Hybrid Armies'

Inquisitr: U.S. Military Prepping For Alien Invasion? Army Chief Warns Cadets, "Prepare For Little Green Men And Hybrid Armies Hybrid Armies"

At a symposium marking the 100th anniversary of the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) program held at Norwich University on Thursday, April 21, 2016, General Mark A. Milley, U.S. Army Chief of Staff, delivered a speech in which he warned an audience composed mainly of ROTC cadets that as officers they would be dealing with “little green men” and “hybrid armies.”

Members of the UFO community took the message from the army chief and began spreading rumors in the conspiracy theory blogosphere that the U.S. army chief has admitted that the U.S. government is aware of a looming threat of alien and alien-human hybrid space invasion and is preparing the military to confront the threat.

General Mark A. Milley, the 39th Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army, talked about “little green men” and “hybrid armies” during the Norwich University’s Reserve Officer Training Corps Centennial Symposium while highlighting to the cadets the qualities they would need to face challenges in the near-future as global conflicts increase in complexity.

Note: The general’s statement referring to “hybrid armies” and “little green men” occurs in the 34:10-50 time interval in the video below

Read more ....

WNU Editor: I think he was referring to the Russian army and on how they seized Crimea and not aliens .... I think .... maybe .... hmmmm ....

East - West Tensions Grow Over The Baltics

WSJ: NATO Allies Preparing to Put Four Battalions at Eastern Border With Russia

U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense says buildup is response to Moscow’s military activity near the Baltics

Western allies are preparing to put four battalions—a force of about 4,000 troops—in Poland and the Baltic countries as part of an effort by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to reinforce its border with Russia as Moscow steps up military activity, officials said Friday.

The U.S. is likely to provide two battalions, while Germany and Britain would likely provide a battalion each, according to Western officials.

U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert Work, visiting Brussels, confirmed the overall size of the force and said the buildup was a response to more Russian activity around the Baltics—Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia—where tensions have been rising.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: Russia's response to NATO's build-up in the Baltics .... Russia says Baltics should be more grateful (US News and World Report). What irks Russia even more is the German deployment .... Germany Will Deploy Troops in Lithuania to 'Contain' Russia (Sputnik).

Update: So true .... Forward Basing NATO Airpower in the Baltics Is A Bad Idea (Maj. Gen. Ralph S. Clemapril, War On The Rocks).

More News On Growing Tensions In the Baltics

NATO reportedly plans to send 4 battalions to eastern border with Russia -- FOX News
Spooked by Russia, Lithuania spares no money for defense -- Reuters
Germany mulls sending NATO troops to Lithuania – defense official -- RT
U.S. F-22 Jets Land In Lithuania In Show Of Regional Support -- RFE
Analysis: Baltic Sea Heating Up as Friction Point Between U.S., NATO and Russia -- USNI

Watch A F-22 Do A Low-Level Pass In Lithuania (Video)

U.S. Air Force: F-22 Raptors fly into Lithuania as part of European tour

ŠIAULIAI AIR BASE, Lithuania (AFNS) -- A pair of F-22 Raptors and one KC-135 Stratotanker arrived at Šiauliai Air Base on April 27, following a short stay in Romania.

The F-22s, with about 20 supporting Airmen, are from the 95th Fighter Squadron at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida. The KC-135 is from the 100th Air Refuel Wing at Royal Air Force Mildenhall, England.

The aircraft and Airmen were welcomed by Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaitė and other distinguished visitors from the Lithuanian government and military.

Read more ....

Tweet For Today

This Video Lines Up U.S. Military Weapons From Small To Large (Video)

Popular Mechanics: This Two-Minute Video Lines Up U.S. Military Weapons From Small to Large

Aircraft carriers, they are big.

The best way to appreciate the size difference between objects is just to lay 'em all out in a row and behold. That's what this two-minute video does with the weaponry of the U.S. military.

The clip starts at the small end with a .45-caliber bullet, which measures just 3.2 centimeters long, or about an inch and a quarter. Then things get bigger, through grenades and guns, through drones and tanks, through fighters and bombers until it reaches the macro end of the military, the 1,100-ft. Gerald R. Ford class of aircraft carriers.

WNU Editor: Awesome.

Picture Of The Day

A radio transmission operator, 1st Armored Division takes the brunt of debris caused by the firing of an M777 howitzer as he calls in another strike for his gun, at Fort Bliss, Texas, Nov. 3, 2015.

Decorated Green Beret Will Not Be Discharged From The Army Because He Confronted A Child Rapist

FOX News: Army retains decorated Green Beret it planned to kick out over confronting Afghan child rapist

EXCLUSIVE: In a stunning reversal, the U.S. Army decided late Thursday to retain a decorated Green Beret it had planned to kick out after he physically confronted a local Afghan commander accused of raping a boy over the course of many days.

Sgt 1st Class Charles Martland, confirmed the Army's decision to retain him when reached by Fox News, who has been covering the story in depth for the past eight months and first broke the story of the Army's decision in August to kick out Martland over the incident, which occurred in northern Afghanistan in 2011.

"I am real thankful for being able to continue to serve," said Martland when reached on the telephone by Fox News. "I appreciate everything Congressman Duncan Hunter and his Chief of Staff, Joe Kasper did for me."

Read more ....

WNU Editor: His case is still ongoing .... but at least he now has a reprieve on his discharge.

Friday, April 29, 2016

The Old Oil Order Has Collapsed

Michael Klare, Real Clear World/Tom Dispatch: The Collapse of the Old Oil Order

Sunday, April 17th was the designated moment. The world's leading oil producers were expected to bring fresh discipline to the chaotic petroleum market and spark a return to high prices. Meeting in Doha, the glittering capital of petroleum-rich Qatar, the oil ministers of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), along with such key non-OPEC producers as Russia and Mexico, were scheduled to ratify a draft agreement obliging them to freeze their oil output at current levels. In anticipation of such a deal, oil prices had begun to creep inexorably upward, from $30 per barrel in mid-January to $43 on the eve of the gathering. But far from restoring the old oil order, the meeting ended in discord, driving prices down again and revealing deep cracks in the ranks of global energy producers.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: This is telling .... OPEC oil output near record high in April as Iran, Iraq growth offsets outages: Reuters survey (Reuters). Also here .... ExxonMobil profits slide 63% on low oil prices (BBC). We are living in a different time .... and so much for "peak oil".

An Analysis On Chinese President Xi Jingping

Chinese President Xi Jinping (pictured) has been dogged by foreign media reports of great family wealth. Daily Mail

Andrew J. Nathan, New York Review of Books: Who Is Xi?

More than halfway through his five-year term as president of China and general secretary of the Chinese Communist Party—expected to be the first of at least two—Xi Jinping’s widening crackdown on civil society and promotion of a cult of personality have disappointed many observers, both Chinese and foreign, who saw him as destined by family heritage and life experience to be a liberal reformer. Many thought Xi must have come to understand the dangers of Party dictatorship from the experiences of his family under Mao’s rule. His father, Xi Zhongxun (1913–2002), was almost executed in an inner-Party conflict in 1935, was purged in another struggle in 1962, was “dragged out” and tortured during the Cultural Revolution, and was eased into retirement after another Party confrontation in 1987. During the Cultural Revolution, one of Xi Jinping’s half-sisters was tormented to the point that she committed suicide. Jinping himself, as the offspring of a “capitalist roader,” was “sent down to the countryside” to labor alongside the peasants. The hardships were so daunting that he reportedly tried to escape, but was caught and sent back.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: My Chinese contacts told me 2 years ago that Xi Jinping was an apologist for Mao .... I did not believe them then .... but if this Andrew J. Nathan's post is correct .... it looks like he is. But is he like Mao .... no .... not even close. Xi Jingping is pursuing his own agenda and his own view on where he believes China should be, and spreading the ideals of Mao is not one of them.

This NYRB post is a good analysis on the President of China .... and is a must read for any China watcher. As to what is my take .... President Xi has two and a half years left in his term .... and then he is gone. In his place I will not be surprised that there will be someone who will pull back on many of the political/military/economic policy decisions that President Xi has implemented .... and more importantly temper and scale back the anti-corruption drive that President Xi has been pushing. The only thing that concerns me is .... what happens if President Xi decides to not respect the term limit that he is under. What happens if he decides to stay in power beyond his mandate. This is what my Chinese friends are worried about .... and that is why they are telling me to watch out for flashpoints like the South China Sea and/or troublesome economic trends. If there is a crisis .... President Xi may stay in power longer than what many had originally expected and/or hoped for.

Russian Authorities Are Preparing For Mass Protests

Riot police stand guard during a march to commemorate Kremlin critic Boris Nemtsov, who was shot dead in central Moscow on March 1, 2015. (Sergei Karpukhin/Reuters)

Washington Post: This is how the Russian police say they will put down mass protests

MOSCOW — It has been years since Russia's protest movement showed much moxie, sending tens of thousands onto the streets of Moscow for raucous demonstrations against electoral fraud and Vladimir Putin's third term as president. But with the economy now mired in its longest recession in 20 years and parliamentary elections set for this September, Russia's police are drilling for a new rise in discontent.

Earlier this month, Putin announced the formation of a new, national guard, whose commander (a former head bodyguard for Putin) would answer directly to the Kremlin (as opposed to the Ministry of Internal Affairs) and which may be given the right to fire into crowds with live ammunition, Russian lawmakers have suggested. Officially, the National Guard will fight terrorism, weapons trafficking, and organized crime, along with public unrest. Informally, the agency, called Rosgvardia, has been panned as Putin's "praetorian guard."

Read more ....

WNU Editor: Are people in Russia unhappy and worried about the future .... the answer is yes. Are they unhappy and mad enough to riot .... no. Will they be unhappy enough to protest and riot next year .... maybe .... but that is why the Kremlin is now running scared. My analysis is that the Kremlin is in the dark on what is going to happen, and they certainly do not have any confidence in reading the public's mood and sentiment .... and that in itself speaks volumes on how insecure they feel right now.

Tonight's Movie Is 'Enemy of the State' (1998)

Commentaries, Analysis, And Editorials -- April 29, 2016

A lookout watches on the bridge of the U.S.S. John C. Stennis aircraft carrier in the South China Sea on April 25, 2016. Chiara Goia for TIME

Hannah Beech, Time: The Dispute About the South China Sea Is Also a Dispute About History and America’s Role

After patrolling Asia-Pacific waters for 160 years, the U.S. feels a historic interest in the region's security. Beijing couldn't see things more differently

The U.S.S. John C. Stennis, a Nimitz-class nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, plowed through the azure waters of the South China Sea in late April, as implacable as one of the world’s largest warships ought to be. Escorting the supercarrier, which was carrying more than 3,000 military personnel on a route some 125 nautical miles east of Malaysia, were a trio of guided-missile destroyers and an Aegis cruiser. Overhead, F-18 strike fighters, Seahawk helicopters and Hawkeye early-warning radar aircraft swooped through the sky. “We’re committed to security at sea,” said Rear Admiral Marcus Hitchcock, who commands the Stennis Strike Group. “We are very invested in the economic development and building of commerce in the region.”

Read more ....

Commentaries, Analysis, And Editorials -- April 29, 2016

Water Wars: Looming Arbitration Decision Tests Regional Partnerships -- Chris Mirasola, Lawfare

What Ceasefire? Assad and Russia Are Gearing Up to Seize Syria's Second-Largest City -- VICE News

Aleppo action clarifies Russian ambitions in Syria -- David Gardner, Financial Times

Why warring factors target hospitals -- Helen Coster, Reuters

Photo Essay: The Battle for Palmyra -- Tom Wescott, Carnegie Endowment

Why Obama's 'cold peace' with Iran will turn hot -- Andrew L. Peek, The Hill

Here’s What You Need To Know About Growing Extremist Violence In Bangladesh -- Nikhil Kumar, Time

Ask a North Korean: ​does anyone talk about sex? -- Ji-Min Kang for NK News/The Guardian

Libya: A Long, Hard Slog Against ISIS in Sirte? -- Newsweek/Reuters

Will Russia Go into Libya Next? -- Atlantic Sentinel/Geopolitics Made Super

To burn or sell ivory: Which can put an end to elephant poaching? -- Louise Osborne, DW

50,000 People Are Dead. So Why Won’t Obama Push for an Arms Embargo in South Sudan? -- Siobhan O'Grady, Passport/Foreign Policy

Obama’s legacy: Politics of anger, fights, division -- Anita Kumar, McClatchy News

Venezuela's Political Crisis Unfolds -- Allison Fedirka, Geopolitical Futures

How bad is it on Wall Street? Like no more third home in Hawaii bad -- Turney Duff, CNBC

Trump, Le Pen and the enduring appeal of nationalism -- Mark Mazower, Financial Times

World News Briefs -- April 29, 2016 (Evening Edition)

Reuters: 'Monstrous' violence in Syria as government excludes Aleppo from truce

Syria called local truces near Damascus and in a northern province on Friday but no halt to combat on the main battlefield in Aleppo, after a surge in fighting the United Nations said showed "monstrous disregard" for civilian lives.

A new "regime of calm" would begin from 1:00 a.m. on Saturday and last one day in the capital's eastern Ghouta suburb and three days in the northern countryside of the coastal province of Latakia, the army said in a statement.

But by excluding the city of Aleppo, scene of the worst recent violence, the narrow truces were unlikely to resurrect a ceasefire and peace talks that have collapsed this week.

Read more ....


Lavrov, Kerry discuss ways to strengthen Syria ceasefire: Russian Foreign Ministry.

Aleppo onslaught: New air strikes hit medical facility. Syria conflict: Aleppo rocked by fresh fighting.

Russia and US introduce ceasefire regime in Latakia’s north. Syrian military calls temporary "regime of calm" in parts of country.

Russia: US deployment violates Syria's sovereignty.

'No point talking to Iraqi PM': Qatar in secret talks with Shia tribes to free hunters.

Iran touts Israel invasion to recruit teenage boys to fight in Syria.

Iran votes in key run-off elections for parliament. Voting under way in Iran parliamentary runoff.

Iran asks U.N. chief to intervene with U.S. after court ruling.

Thousands march in Yemen to call for cease-fire.


U.S. stands by South Korea defense talks despite China, Russia objections.

Third missile test by Pyongyang in two weeks fails.

U.S. strike on Afghan hospital in 2015 not a war crime: Pentagon.

Shrinking US presence in Afghanistan ‘creates security concerns’.

North Korea sentences American to 10 years hard labor.

North Korea sets date for first Party Congress since 1980.

Russia, China in agreement on North Korea, South China Sea.

US lawmaker: More operations in South China Sea.

US 'drops planned Pakistan F-16 fighter jet subsidy'.

Watchdog: US spent $760 million on Afghan schools without tracking progress.

India's sizzling heat wave claims more than 300 lives.


U.N. demands restoration of Western Sahara mission.

Britain sees no immediate threat from Islamic State bases in Libya.

US moves surveillance drones into skies over Libya to gather intelligence, consider military options against Islamic State militants.

Libya outlines ambitious plans to restore oil output.

Somalia: AU forces face resurgent Al-Shabaab.

South Sudan forms new coalition government of national unity.

Five killed in gun attack in opposition district of Burundi capital.

South Africa's high court rules Jacob Zuma should face corruption charges.

Kenya’s about to light a $100 million ivory bonfire to save elephants.


Ukraine, pro-Russian rebels agree Orthodox Easter truce.

Russia says Baltics should be more grateful.

British support for EU membership split 50-50: ORB poll.

Irish leaders end deadlock, make deal for new government.

Eurozone recovery picks up speed.

German minister concerned migrant numbers via Libya, Italy will rise.

Italy struggles to house migrants in third year of mass arrivals.

Moscow concerned over deteriorating situation in security zone of Transdniestria conflict.

Russia jails manager over Vostochny space centre fraud.

Russia's nuclear nightmare flows down radioactive river.

13 feared dead in Norway helicopter crash. Briton among 13 people in helicopter that crashed off Norwegian coast.

Belgium says its nuclear plants are safe but here are some iodine pills - just in case.


On eve of default, Puerto Ricans are broke and feel out of luck.

Atlantic City, America’s worst-rated town, stares at default.

White House 2016: Clinton gears up for Trump in fall race.

Protests rage outside Trump rally in Orange County; 17 arrested, police car smashed.

Argentine unions flex muscle in anti-government street protest.

Opinion poll puts Peru's Fujimori slightly ahead in presidential run-off race.

Venezuela's Congress orders food minister sacked over shortages.

Venezuela crisis: Opposition claims big win in push to recall Maduro.

Cuba finds it hard to dampen afterglow of Obama visit.

Exclusive: No wall, but more high-tech gear, fencing sought by U.S. border agents.

Brazil losing forest the size of two soccer fields per minute.


Islamic State-linked hackers post target list of New Yorkers.

Russia: Terrorism is the fault of the West.

ISIS reveals how Jihadi John evaded security en route from UK to Syria.

Egyptian cleric defends CIA agent convicted over his rendition.


How the Dow Jones industrial average fared on Friday.

OPEC oil output near record high in April as Iran, Iraq growth offsets outages: Reuters survey.

ExxonMobil profits slide 63% on low oil prices.

Saudi Arabia to pump more oil to meet domestic demand.

Billionaire investor Carl Icahn sells entire stake in Apple.

Russian Fighter Jet 'Barrel Rolls' Over Another U.S. Air Force Reconnaissance Plane

CNN: First on CNN: Russians 'barrel roll' over another U.S. Air Force plane

Washington (CNN)A Russian SU-27 conducted a "barrel roll" Friday over the top of a U.S. Air Force RC-135 which was flying a reconnaissance mission in international airspace above the Baltic Sea, two U.S. defense officials told CNN.

The SU-27 approached alongside within 100 feet of the U.S. aircraft and then flew inverted over the top of the plane to the other side. The U.S. considers this a very unsafe aerial maneuver and is expected to voice its concerns to the Russians, one of the officials said.

This is the second barrel roll maneuver over a U.S. aircraft by the Russians this month. On April 14, a Russian jet "performed erratic and aggressive maneuvers" as it flew within 50 feet of a U.S. aircraft's wing tip, Danny Hernandez, a spokesman for U.S. European Command, said in a response to a question from CNN.

Read more ....

Update #1: Russian jet fighter 'did barrel roll over US reconnaissance plane' (The Telegraph)
Update #2: Russian War Plane Flies in 'Unsafe' Manner Near U.S. Aircraft (NBC)
Update #3: Russian jet fighter did barrel roll over U.S. reconnaissance plane: CNN (Reuters)

WNU Editor: This follows an earlier incident this week .... Russian Jet Intercepts U.S. Spy Plane In Asia. What's my take .... the Kremlin has green-lighted its military to approach any Western aircraft near it's borders (even if it is international space), and to make life miserable for them. If this continues .... it is only a question of time before a serious incident occurs.

Fighting Intensifies In The Syrian City Of Aleppo As Government Prepares To Retake The City

Washington Post: In Syria’s battered Aleppo, death toll rises as international outrage mounts

ISTANBUL — The battered Syrian city of Aleppo faced another wave of airstrikes and shelling Friday, activists said, killing worshipers at a mosque and damaging a clinic after an earlier air blitz left dozens dead, including patients and staff at a main hospital.

The attacks — apparently carried out on both sides — further eroded efforts to rebuild a cease-fire and halt what a United Nations envoy described as a “monstrous disregard for civilian lives” by all factions in the conflict.

More than 200 people have been killed in the past week in Aleppo from pro-government airstrikes and rebel barrages on regime-held neighborhoods, said a Britain-based monitoring group, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: Even though a truce is being called in other parts of Syria, it is safe to say that the Syrian ceasefire is now dead.

More News On The Battle For The Syrian City Of Aleppo

'Catastrophic deterioration' in Aleppo in last 2 days, says U.N. -- UPI
Aleppo braces for 'war of all wars' as regime prepares to retake key Syrian city -- Telegraph
'Monstrous' violence in Syria as government excludes Aleppo from truce -- Reuters
Despite carnage, Syria's Aleppo not in fighting 'freeze' -- AFP
Rebels shell mosque in Aleppo as truce declared for other parts of Syria -- AP
Aleppo airstrikes continue amid renewed violence in Syrian city -- The Guardian/Reuters
Rising Violence Kills Over 200 in a Week in Syria's Aleppo -- NYT/AP
Aleppo onslaught: New air strikes hit medical clinics -- Al Jazeera
Worshippers killed in Syria's Aleppo as government plans new offensive -- USA Today
NGOs demand end to Syria atrocities as Aleppo airstrikes continue -- The Guardian
Regime Airstrikes Bombard War-Torn Aleppo As City Braces For Siege -- IBTimes
What Ceasefire? Assad and Russia Are Gearing Up to Seize Syria's Second-Largest City -- VICE News
Aleppo action clarifies Russian ambitions in Syria -- David Gardner, Financial Times
A Week of Slaughter in Aleppo Also Destroyed Its Hospital -- Bryan Schatz, Mother Jones

Iraq's War Against The Islamic State Facing Numerous Problems

U.S. News And World Report: Coalition In-Fighting Threatens the War Against ISIS in Iraq

Recent skirmishes hint at a problem in the war-torn country that far exceeds the extremist threat.

It was just another skirmish in an historically violent part of Iraq that, aside from the few dozen fighters who died, would not normally raise concerns far beyond the township's borders.

But the recent confrontation in the northern Iraqi city of Tuz Khurmatu signals a significantly larger problem facing a central government in Baghdad already on shaky footing as it tries to hold together a political and military coalition it desperately needs to defeat the Islamic State group threat.

Hostilities broke out over the weekend between two groups considered critical components of the ground war. Troops from the predominantly Shiite Muslim militias – known as the popular mobilization units or PMUs – reportedly attacked the home of an officer with the Kurdish fighting force known as the peshmerga, according to media reports. The militiamen claimed they were retaliating against an unprovoked peshmerga attack.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: The above Euronews video is a must see. In short .... the war against the Islamic State is not going to be easy.

More News On Iraq's War Against The Islamic State

In Iraq, the Mosul offensive is off to a slow and shaky start -- David Ignatius, Washington Post
Iraqi army makes modest advance south of Mosul -- Reuters
Anti-ISIS Coalition Faces Challenges in Mosul -- US News and World Report
Mission Mosul: Local allies in ‘SAS-aided’ mission to retake city start killing each other -- RT
Military Strikes Continue Against ISIL Targets in Iraq, Syria -- US Department of Defense
Iraqis, Kurds nearly ready for fight to reclaim Mosul from ISIS: Pentagon -- Washington Times
US Army, Iraqi forces will not advance on Mosul before Ramadan -- Al Bawaba
Mosul will not be surrounded before Ramadan, official says -- UPI
Residents of Iraq's IS-Held Fallujah Suffer Under Siege -- AP
In northern Iraq, longstanding tensions surge even as ISIS is pushed back -- Mohammed A. Salih, CSM

Report: Italian-British Special Forces Ambushed By Islamic State In Libya

An image which the Libyan Air Force has claimed shows US special forces in Libya (Libyan Air Force)

Debka: Italian-British force ambushed by IS in Libya

ISIS fighters smashed a force of Italian and British Special Ops troops on Wednesday, April 27 in the first battle of its kind in Libya, DEBKAfile’s military and intelligence sources report. This battle will result in the delay of the planned Western invasion of Libya, as the encounter proved that European forces are not ready for this kind of guerilla warfare. The sources also said the planners of the invasion were surprised by the high combat skills of the ISIS fighters.

Our sources report the following details:

The convoy of Italian marines, British special forces and Libyan troops was traveling from the northwestern city of Misrata toward the ISIS stronghold of Sirte, located 273 kilometers to the southeast, when it was ambushed and hit hard by ISIS forces.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: No one else is corroborating this story, but we do know that Western special forces are in Libya and are near the Islamic State stronghold .... British special forces troops set to launch double attack on ISIS in Iraq and Libya within weeks after teaming up with French and US counterparts (Daily Mail).

Libya's U.N.-Backed Unity Government Tells Militias To Hold-Off On Attacking The Islamic State

Reuters: Libyan government urges factions to hold off attacking Islamic State in Sirte

Libya's U.N.-backed unity government called on Thursday on military factions to hold off from any campaign against the Islamic State-controlled city of Sirte until a unified military command structure is created.

The statement came amid signs that factions from both eastern and western Libya could be gearing up for an advance on Sirte, although such operations have repeatedly been announced in recent months without taking place.

Islamic State has held Sirte since 2015, taking advantage of a conflict between loose alliances of armed brigades allied to Libya's rival governments to seize a 250-km (155-mile) strip of coastline around the central Mediterranean city, which lies between the eastern and western power bases.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: The U.S. appears to be getting ready for its own military action .... US moves surveillance drones into skies over Libya to gather intelligence, consider military options against Islamic State militants (AP).

More News On Libya

Libya tells militias to delay anti-ISIS offensive -- RUDAW
Libyan Forces to Attack Daesh Stronghold of Sirte in 48 Hours -- Sputnik
Libya unity government to set up joint force to combat IS -- Middle East Eye
Libya unity government vows to end jihadist 'scourge' -- AFP
UAE Donates Armored Personnel Carriers, Trucks to Libya -- Defense News
US Backs NATO Force Off Libya as Migrant Numbers Soar -- VOA
US Support a Naval Operation in Libya: German Seeks EU Command -- EU Bulletin
Libya outlines ambitious plans to restore oil output. -- Reuters
Libya: A Long, Hard Slog Against ISIS in Sirte? -- Newsweek/Reuters
In Libya, the Race to Defeat the Islamic State Begins: Analysis -- Stratfor

Pentagon Warns That Chinese Claims On The Scarborough Shoal Off The Coast Of Philippine May Lead To A Regional Conflict

Washington Free Beacon: Pentagon Warns of Conflict Over Chinese Buildup on Disputed Island

Beijing asserts Scarborough Shoal is Chinese territory.

China’s plans to build up a disputed island near the Philippines could lead to a regional conflict, Defense Secretary Ash Carter told Congress on Thursday.

Carter was asked about the strategic significance of China’s plan to add military facilities to a disputed island known as Scarborough Shoal located about 120 miles—within missile range—of Subic Bay, Philippines, where U.S. warships will be based.

The defense secretary said Scarborough is “a piece of disputed territory that, like other disputes in that region, has the potential to lead to military conflict.”

Read more ....

WNU Editor: Some in the U.S. Senate are pushing for a more robust U.S. response .... McCain to SECDEF Carter: U.S. South China Sea Presence Operations Should Be ‘Magnified’ Not ‘Classified’ (USNI News).

Pentagon: China Has Rejected A Hong Kong Port Call By US Aircraft Carrier

The Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) transits the Strait of Hormuz, in this November 12, 2011 file photo. REUTERS/U.S. NAVY PHOTO BY MASS COMMUNICATION SPECIALIST 3RD CLASS KENNETH ABBATE/HANDOUT (MILITARY)

South China Morning Post: US aircraft carrier denied entry to Hong Kong, American consulate official says

Refusal comes after US defence chief Ash Carter visited the USS Stennis in South China Sea.

Beijing denied a US aircraft carrier permission to make a port call in Hong Kong, a US consulate official says, a rejection that comes amid escalating tensions in the South China Sea.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry told the US on Thursday night the visit by the USS John C. Stennis would not be allowed, said the official, who requested anonymity.

US defence chief Ash Carter visited the Stennis earlier this month.

Read more ....

More News On Reports That China Has Rejected A Hong Kong Port Call By A US Aircraft Carrier

China denies request for Hong Kong visit by U.S. carrier group: Pentagon -- Reuters
China denies U.S. aircraft carrier Hong Kong port visit -- CNN
China denies US aircraft carrier Hong Kong visit -- BBC
China Denies U.S. Carrier Hong Kong Visit Amid Maritime Tension -- Bloomberg
Beijing Rejects US Aircraft Carrier Entry In Hong Kong Port Amid Rising South China Sea Tensions -- IBTimes
'They Said No': China Denies US Aircraft Carrier Entry to Hong Kong -- Sputnik

Pentagon Officials Defend Islamic State War Strategy

U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter (L) defers to Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff U.S. Marine General Joseph Dunford as they testify on operations against the Islamic State, on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., April 28, 2016 © Jonathan Ernst / Reuters

Washington Post: Facing skepticism, military leaders say Islamic State strategy is making headway

Top U.S. military leaders faced skepticism Thursday on Capitol Hill as they made the case that President Obama’s strategy in Iraq and Syria is beginning to show results against the Islamic State.

Appearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter and Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, described growing momentum against the group, which has lost ground to U.S.-backed fighters in Syria and Iraq in recent months. Carter and Dunford also outlined new military measures designed to make local forces more effective.

In the past two weeks, Obama has approved plans to allow American advisers to accompany local troops closer to the front lines in Iraq, and the use of attack helicopters and long-range artillery in a highly anticipated offensive to recapture the northern city of Mosul. In Syria, the president substantially increased the size of a Special Operations advisory force, which officials say in recent months has made headway in identifying and bringing together local forces that may eventually be able to press into the militant stronghold of Raqqa.

The U.S. strategy centers on equipping and advising partner forces in both countries while using American air and artillery support to help those forces advance into well-defended militant areas.

Read more ....

More News On Pentagon Officials Defending Their Islamic State War Strategy

Counter-ISIL Effort Makes Gains in Iraq, Syria, Chairman Tells Senate Panel -- US Department of Defense
As Syrian Cease-fire Falters, Anti-IS Campaign Questioned on Capitol Hill -- VOA
Carter Defends US Strategy for Defeating Islamic State Group -- NYT/AP
Ashton Carter, lawmakers clash over Iraq ‘war’ rhetoric -- Washington Times
Top U.S. General Outlines Needs for Fighting Islamic State in Syria -- WSJ
'Hope is not a strategy': Pentagon chief struggles to sell ISIS plan in Senate -- RT
Pentagon working to ‘take out’ ISIS’ internet -- AFP
Carter: Apache Helicopters Will Attack ISIS -- Scout