Sunday, April 23, 2017

Venezuela In Crisis -- News Updates April 23, 2017



Daily Mail: Violent protests imminent in Venezuela as civilians are urged to block the streets and grind the country to a halt following the weekend's peaceful protest in Caracas over riots that left 20 dead

* Demonstrators took to the streets to honour the 20 people who have died in clashes over the last month
* The weekend's protest saw demonstrators march towards the city's slums for the first time in Venezuela
* Marchers in Caracas did not encounter any resistance from law enforcers, according to reports in Venezuela
* But on Monday, civilians are being urged by the government's opposition to wreak havoc on Caracas' streets

After a peaceful protest on the weekend went uncontested by Venezuelan authorities, civilians are poised to ramp up their demonstrations on Monday.

Thousands of protesters dressed in white marched into the west of Venezuela's capital on Saturday- an act likened to 'crossing the Berlin Wall' - in reaction to the deaths of 20 people during anti-government riots.

Three weeks of constant protests have involved violent clashes between the people of Caracas and riot police, and after a short respite over the weekend, things look set to turn ugly once more.

Civilians are being urged by the opposition to the government to flood the streets and block off the roads in order to grind the country to a halt.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: The formation of these groups is what will probably (in the end) push Venezuela to the edge of revolution .... Armed Civilian Bands in Venezuela Prop Up Unpopular President (New York Times).

Venezuela In Crisis -- News Updates April 23, 2017

Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro threatens opponents in bizarre video while playing catch -- New York Daily News
Thousands march in Venezuela in honour of those killed in unrest -- The Guardian/AP
Venezuela opposition march to honor those killed in violence -- Reuters
Venezuela opposition holds silent protest rally as campaign goes on -- DW
Venezuela On The Verge Of Revolution As Hyperinflated Currency Crashes To New Record Low -- Zero Hedge
What the world needs to do about Venezuela -- José Miguel Vivanco and Tamara Taraciuk Broner, CNN
The art of surviving a Venezuela on the brink -- Marcos Gomez, Al Jazeera
Hold the celebrity enablers of Venezuela's hellhole accountable -- Monica Showalter, American Interest
Venezuela’s broken system cannot fix itself -- Daniel Lansberg-Rodriguez, Financial Times
Venezuela's Tiananmen Square: Woman Stands In Front Of Armored Truck -- RCW

Report: Islamic State's Caliphate 'Is On A Path To Collapse'



Business Insider: New report finds ISIS' caliphate 'is on a path to collapse'

A new report from the Rand Corporation found that the terrorist group ISIS has lost most of the territory it once controlled and that its self-declared "caliphate" is now "on a path to collapse."

The report found that ISIS, also known as the Islamic State, "has lost substantial control of territory and people since 2014 in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Libya and Nigeria," putting it in danger of losing its state, which it calls a "caliphate," altogether.

But control over territory and people isn't the only thing that makes ISIS a formidable terrorist organization. The group has recently been focusing heavily on external attacks, some of which are mounted without any direct orders from ISIS leaders.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: The RAND report is here. If current tends continue .... the war to finally defeat the Islamic State will probably end within a year.

President Trump To Speak With Chinese President Xi And Japanese Prime Minister Abe Tonight

Chinese President Xi Jinping welcomes Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to the G20 Summit in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, China September 4, 2016. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj

Reuters: Trump to speak with China's Xi, Japan's Abe on Sunday, official says

U.S. President Donald Trump will speak on Sunday with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Chinese President Xi Jinping, a senior administration official said, speaking on condition of anonymity, with North Korea expected to be discussed.

Tensions have risen sharply with North Korea over its advancing nuclear and missile programs. Pyongyang said on Sunday it was ready to sink a U.S. aircraft carrier to demonstrate its military might and detained a U.S. citizen on Saturday as he attempted to leave the country.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: I cannot recall the last time a U.S. President talked with the Chinese President and the Japanese Prime Minister on the same night/day. The topic of discussion has to be North Korea, and I can only imagine what will be discussed. My hope is that the focus will be on finding a political/diplomatic solution to the Korean crisis .... but a part of me is wondering if President Trump is requesting a pre-clearance from both governments to launch a preemptive strike against North Korea. Bottom line .... something is "cooking".

A Chinese Assessment On Strength Comparison Between The Chinese Navy And The U.S. Navy

Chinese aircraft carrier Liaoning

Global Times: Military strength comparison: PLA navy vs US navy

China

When Xiao Jin'guang, a former naval commander of the People's Liberation Army, wanted to inspect a fleet base on an island 67 years ago, he could only find a fishery ship to take him there.

With a stern expression on his face, he told his entourage, "Remember, Navy Commander Xiao Jin'guang took a fishery boat on his inspection tour on March 17, 1950."

The People's Liberation Army (PLA) Navy was founded on April 23, 1949, in Taizhou, East China's Jiangsu Province, with just nine warships and 17 boats obtained after a unit of the Kuomintang's second coastal defense fleet defected to the PLA. In its early stages, the PLA fleet was mainly composed of wooden ships and sailing boats.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: A fair assessment from the Chinese.

U.S. Defense Secretary Mattis Wants A Political Solution To Yemen But Will Support Saudi Arabia's Military Campaign

U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis is greeted by Saudi Armed Forces Chief of Joint Staff General Abdul Rahman Al Banyan (L) upon his arrival at King Salman Air Base, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

Reuters: Yemen war needs a political solution: U.S. defense secretary

A political solution through U.N.-brokered negotiations is needed to resolve the conflict in Yemen, U.S. Defence Secretary Jim Mattis said on Tuesday as he made his first trip in the role to Saudi Arabia.

At the same time, officials have said the United States is considering deepening its role in the Yemen conflict by more directly aiding its Gulf allies, who are fighting Iranian-supported Houthi rebels.

At least 10,000 people have been killed and more than 3 million displaced in the war, now in its third year. Millions of people are also struggling to feed themselves.

The Houthis control the capital Sanaa and large swathes of territory. The United States backs the Saudi-led coalition which is trying to restore the Aden-based government of Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi to power, including through a devastating aeriel bombing campaign.

Read more ....

More News On The Yemen War

Jim Mattis, in Saudi Visit, Calls for Political Solution in Yemen -- New York Times
US Weighs Giving Saudis More Military Aid for Yemen Efforts -- AP
US to step up support for Saudis, says Pentagon chief -- The Hill
US Considering More Military Assistance for Saudi Arabia in Yemen's Civil War -- Newsweek
Mattis: US must overcome destabilizing Iranian influence in Yemen -- The Hill
U.S. defense secretary: must overcome Iran's destabilization efforts to help Yemen -- Reuters
Mattis Wants a Political Solution in Yemen -- American Interest
Yemen government, coalition vow to expel Al Houthi militia from Hodeida -- Gulf News
20 soldiers killed or injured in Yemen -- SKY News
Drone kills 5 Al Qaeda suspects in Yemen -- The National
Suspected US drone strike kills three al-Qaida operatives in Yemen – report -- The Guardian
Mass graves, torture, and a big battle in Yemen: The cheat sheet -- IRIN
Yemen: The Graveyard of US Policy Myths -- Kevin Schwartz, War on the Rocks

Pirates Have Returned To The Waters Off Somalia



Washington Post: Piracy back on the rise in Somali waters, U.S. military says

CAMP LEMONNIER, Djibouti — After years of relative calm, piracy is on the rise again off the coast of Somalia, U.S. officials here said Sunday.

Gen. Thomas Waldhauser, the Marine officer in charge of the U.S. Africa Command, said there have been “five or six” piracy incidents in the region in two months.

Waldhauser, speaking at a news conference here with Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, attributed the spike in attacks to the widespread drought and famine gripping the region. He said the ships the pirates were targeting have been small in size and carried goods such as food and oil.

“I wouldn’t say it’s a trend, but we’ll watch it,” he said.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: The above video is a recent deadly fight between Somali pirates and private security guards on board a cargo ship.

More News On Piracy Returning Off The Coast Of Somalia

US officials say pirates have returned to waters off Somalia -- Washington Post/AP
U.S. watching piracy increase off Somalia, sees ties to famine -- Reuters
Pirate attacks rising off East Africa, Pentagon and shipping records show -- USA Today
Why Somali piracy is staging a comeback -- The Economist

More Details Emerge On The Taliban Attack That Killed Almost 200 Afghan Soldiers





CNN: Taliban 'started firing at anyone who came in front of them,' soldier says

(CNN)The crowd of soldiers barely had time to finish their prayers before the Taliban came to kill them.

Atiqullah was one of soldiers praying at the northern Afghan army base. As he left, he saw the carnage unfold.

"I saw a ranger model military vehicle with three or four attackers. Two of them had suicide vests -- they blew themselves up," said Atiqullah, a member of the 209th Shaheen Corps.

Another similar vehicle "went to mosque side -- they had M16 weapon(s) and started firing at anyone who came in front of them."

By the end of the bloodshed Friday, "I saw more than 80 to 100 people killed in front of me," the 25-year-old soldier said.

Read more ....

More News On Friday's Taliban Attack That Killed Almost 200 Afghan Soldiers

Taliban ‘infiltrated’ Afghan Army to carry out deadly attack in north -- Long War Journal
Taliban fighters infiltrate Afghan army base -- The Australian
Hundreds killed in Taliban raid on Afghan military base -- Th Australian/The Times
Taliban’s surprise attack forced 30 coalition troops to ‘shelter in place’ -- FOX News
Afghans mourn casualties of deadliest Taliban attack on army base -- France 24
Corpses being sent home for burial after Taliban attack -- Washington Post/AP
Afghanistan reels from Taliban's deadliest attack on army since 2001 -- The Guardian
Deadly Taliban raid shakes Afghan government -- Financial Times
Taliban attack prompts resignation calls in Afghanistan -- Al Jazeera

Italian Prosecutor: Rescue Boats And NGOs Are Colluding With People Smugglers


BBC: Italy migrant crisis: Charities 'colluding' with smugglers

An Italian prosecutor says he has evidence some of the charities saving migrants in the Mediterranean Sea are colluding with people-smugglers.

Carmelo Zuccaro told La Stampa (in Italian) phone calls were being made from Libya to rescue vessels.

Organisations involved in rescue operations have rejected accusations of collusion, saying their only concern is to save lives.

Italy is the main route for migrants trying to reach Europe.

Almost 1,000 people are thought to have drowned in waters between Libya and Italy this year, according to the UN refugee agency.

Read more ....

More News On Claims That Mediterranean Rescue Boats And NGOs Are Colluding With People Smugglers

Italy prosecutor says rescue boats in contact with people smugglers -- Reuters:
Sicily prosecutor probes possible NGOs-smuggler 'contacts' -- AP
Italy prosecutor stirs migrant 'taxis' row with NGOs -- AFP
Refugee death toll passes 1,000 in record 2017 as charities attacked for conducting Mediterranean rescues -- The Independent
Italian prosecutor accuses NGOs of colluding with human traffickers in Libya -- RT

French Election Results Are In -- Macron vs. Le Pen Will Be In The Final Round On May 7





Daily Mail: BREAKING NEWS: Shock waves through France as far-right Marine Le Pen makes it into the second round of nation’s presidential elections

* Marine Le Pen made it into the second round of nation’s presidential elections, according to exit polls
* She stormed into the final ballot in second place to face centrist independent Emmanuel Macron
* A polling station in Eastern France was forced to close as bomb squad was deployed to deal with a vehicle
* The worrying incident comes after a deadly ISIS gun attack on the Champs-Elysees in Paris on Thursday

France’s far right National Front sent shock waves through Europe tonight after leader Marine Le Pen made it into the second round of nation’s presidential elections, according to exit polls.

The hard-line anti-immigration candidate stormed into the final ballot to face centrist independent Emmanuel Macron.

Le Pen, 48 came second in the national poll behind Macron with 22 per cent of the vote in the tense election which saw 11 candidates vying for the role, according to Belgian broadcaster RTBF.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: French voters have clearly shifted to the right. The ruling Socialist Party was wiped-out. Conservative Francois Fillon who was expected to win when the election race started but ho ended up being mired in scandal .... has failed in his bid to be in the run-off.

LIVE UPDATES

French Election Results: Live -- France 24
French Election: Live Coverage -- BBC
French election: Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen estimated to be through to second round – live -- The Guardian
French Elections 2017 -- Reuters
The Latest: French Socialist candidate Hamon concedes defeat -- AP
Macron, Le Pen qualify for second-round of French presidential election: projections - live updates -- DW

More News On Today's French Presidential Election

Projections say Macron, Le Pen go through to runoff in French vote -- Reuters
French exit polls point to showdown between right-wing firebrand and unconventional centrist -- Washington Post
Pollsters project Macron vs. Le Pen in French runoff -- AP
France elections: Macron-Le Pen through to run-off, projections say -- BBC
Macron, Le Pen lead in 1st round of French presidential elections – projection -- RT

After Dropping A Massive Ordnance Air Blast Bomb In Afghanistan, Questions Linger

Afghan Special Forces keep watch at the site of a MOAB, or ''mother of all bombs'', which struck the Achin district of the eastern province of Nangarhar, Afghanistan April 23, 2017. REUTERS/Parwiz

Reuters: Few clues on casualties at site of huge U.S. bomb in Afghanistan

The remote site in eastern Afghanistan where the U.S. military dropped its largest non-nuclear bomb ever deployed in combat earlier this month bears signs of the weapon's power, but little evidence of how much material and human damage it inflicted.

Reuters photos and video footage - some of the first images from journalists allowed to get close to the site - reveal a scarred mountainside, burned trees and some ruined mud-brick structures.

They did not offer any clues as to the number of casualties or their identities.

Since the GBU-43 Massive Ordnance Air Blast bomb was dropped on a fortified tunnel complex used by suspected Islamic State fighters in Nangarhar province, access to the site has been controlled by U.S. forces who are battling the militant group alongside Afghan troops.

Read more ....

Update: After US Drops 'Frankenbomb' on Afghanistan, Questions Linger (Military.com)

Previous Post: U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis Will Not Release 'Body Counts' (April 22, 2017)

WNU Editor:  I would want to know what was the impact on the enemy from such a blast. But apparently this is not the opinion of those who are fighting the war.

NATO Interception Of Russian Military Planes Are Now At Cold War Levels

Two Tu-95 Bear H Russian bombers were identified and intercepted by F-16s from Portugal. © Wikicommons

The Independent: Nato intercepting highest number of Russian military planes since the Cold War as 780 incidents recorded in 2016

Figures revealed after Russian planes approach Alaskan coast four nights in a row

More Nato fighter jets are being scrambled to monitor and intercept Russian planes than at any time since the end of the Cold War as tensions continue to rise.

Around 780 deployments were made from European military bases last year in response to Russian aircraft, compared to just 410 in 2015.

British planes have been scrambled in numerous operations involving the RAF, which has pilots in the Quick Reaction Alert force ready to launch 24-hours a day.

Read More ....

Update: NATO Fighter Jets Scrambled About 780 Times in 2016 to Observe Russian Aircraft (Sputnik)

WNU Editor: Russia has been saying (and doing) the same thing for months now .... Russian Aircraft Intercept NATO Planes (Military.com).

This Is Why The C-130 Is An Awesome Flying Machine



Eric Tegler, Popular Mechanics: Why the C-130 Is Such a Badass Plane

It's the go-anywhere, do-anything flyer that's much more than a jack of all trades.

Amidst the chaotic withdrawal of American forces from Saigon in April 1975, a young man in the South Vietnamese Air Force (VNAF), Tinh Nguyen, peered out from a bunker at Tan Son Nhut Air Base. The airfield had been under North Vietnamese mortar fire all night and more than 100 aircraft had been destroyed. But there was still one flyable C-130A (the initial production version). During a lull in the firing, it taxied toward the runway navigating around the smoking debris.

This massive plane's rear ramp was still open with a crowd of people huddling on it, and Nguyen knew he had to get to it.

"It was either leave right then or stay and get killed."

Read more ....

WNU Editor: Like the B-52, it has been around forever.

Call Customer Service If Your Sniper Rifle Fails During A Firefight



Jared Keller, Task & Purpose: A Marine’s M-107 Sniper Rifle Failed During A Firefight — So He Called Customer Service

The Barrett M-107 .50-caliber long-range sniper rifle is a firearm made for the modern war on terrorism. Officially adopted by the U.S. Army in 2002 and boasting a 2,000-meter range, a suppressor-ready muzzle brake, and recoil-minimizing design, the semi-automatic offers “greater range and lethality against personnel and materiel targets than other sniper systems in the U.S. inventory,” in an assessment by Military.com.

While Barrett’s reputation of “flawless reliability” has made the M-107 the Army sniper’s weapon of choice, the rifle is just like any other essential tool: It often breaks when you need it most. And that’s apparently what happened to one Marine Corps unit pinned down in a firefight, according to one of Barrett’s longtime armorers.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: Now that is what I call customer service.

President Trump's Base Is Still Supporting Him



Washington Post: Nearing 100 days, Trump’s approval at record lows but his base is holding

President Trump nears the 100-day mark of his administration as the least popular chief executive in modern times, a president whose voters remain largely satisfied with his performance, but one whose base of support has not expanded since he took the oath of office, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

Trump’s first months in office have produced some tangible successes. Beyond the continued enthusiasm of his most loyal supporters, a small majority of Americans see him as a strong leader. A bigger majority approves of his efforts to pressure U.S. companies to keep jobs in this country. Those who say the economy is getting better outnumber those who say it’s getting worse by the biggest margin in 15 years in Post-ABC polling.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: I know among by American friends who voted for Trump .... not one has said to me that they regret their vote. Among those who did not vote for him .... a mixture of fear and outright hostility.

Update: I am not surprised .... Wash Post poll hides: Trump still beats Clinton, 43%-40% (Washington Examiner).

US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis Visits Djibouti

U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis is greeted by Djibouti's Minister of Defense Ali Hasan Bahdon as he arrives at Djibouti-Ambouli International Airport in Ambouli, Djibouti, April 23, 2017.

VOA: Defense Secretary Mattis Arrives at Only US Base in Africa

DJIBOUTI — US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis is in Djibouti, the tiny east African nation that’s home to the United States’ only military base on the continent.

Mattis arrived Sunday at Camp Lemonnier before visiting the Djiboutian president and minister of defense.

Officials say Camp Lemonnier is one of the most strategically important areas for the United States military due to its geographic location.

The base is critical for U.S. exercises and operations on the continent, and U.S. special forces use the facility to conduct counter-terror operations against al-Shabab in neighboring Somalia, according to officials.

Read more ....

More News On US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis Visiting Djibouti

Pentagon chief visits African nation home to key US base -- AP
U.S. defense secretary arrives in Djibouti to visit key military base -- Reuters
US Defense Secretary Mattis visits strategic Djibouti -- Daily Mail

How U.S. Secretary Of Defense James Mattis Made His Comeback

US defence secretary James Mattis watches president Donald Trump as he speaks during a meeting with Medal of Honor recipients in the Oval Office on March 24, 2017. Carlos Barria / Reuters

Brian Adam Jones, Task & Purpose: How Mattis Made His Comeback

James Mattis’ ascension from a battle-tested Marine general to President Donald Trump’s widely praised and supported secretary of defense enforces his reputation as a “warrior monk” and illustrates his strategic mind. Since 2010, Mattis has gone from being a deputy unified combatant commander with a cult following among Marines but little public profile, to running U.S. Central Command in the Obama administration during a key time, to being unceremoniously ousted from that role, to resisting calls to launch an independent bid for the White House in the 2016 election, and now, to being one of the most influential and consequential defense secretaries in American history.

It’s been a whirlwind decade for the cerebral, combat-tested Marine. In being confirmed as secretary of defense, Mattis required a congressional waiver because it had been such a short period of time since he retired from the military. Such a waiver had only ever been granted once before — to former Army Gen. George Marshall, one of the United States’ most iconic generals and statesmen.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: This blog has been following James Mattis for years (go here). His journey has truly been incredible .... and his life story is still ongoing.

Is There A Method To President Trump's Foreign-Policy "Madness"?

Donald Trump at the Department of Homeland Security. Wikimedia Commons/Public domain

James Jay Carafano, National Interest: Trump Has a Foreign Policy Strategy

Yes, there is a method to Trump's foreign-policy "madness."

For two weeks, the White House has unleashed a foreign-policy blitzkrieg, and Washington’s chattering classes are shocked and, if not awed, at least perplexed.

CNN calls Trump’s actions a “u-turn.” Bloomberg opts for the more mathematical “180 degree turn,” while the Washington Post goes with “flipflop.” Meanwhile, pundits switched from decrying the president as an isolationist to lambasting him as a tool of the neocons. Amid all the relabeling, explanations of an “emerging Trump Doctrine” have proliferated faster than North Korea’s nuclear arsenal.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: The above author is correct on one point .... President Trump's critics have been consistently wrong on all things Trump since he announced his candidacy for the Presidency almost 2 years ago .... and they still do not understand how he sees government, the policies that government should follow (both domestic and international), and how he uses the media to push his agenda. As to what is my take on President Trump's foreign policy priorities and approach .... I find it to be a work in progress, and prone to change. I will also admit that at times he makes me feel uncomfortable .... to him foreign policy is a negotiation, and his demands and expectations I find are at times unreasonable or an obvious negotiation position. Will it work .... I do not know .... but he is certainly making the foreign policy establishment feel very uncomfortable with what is happening .... both here and abroad .... and maybe that is what is needed.

Israeli Attack In Syria Kills 3 Pro-Assad Militiamen After Mortars Struck Israel

DW: Israel kills three in Syria strike on pro-Assad militia

An attack by Israeli military on pro-government forces in southern Syria has killed three fighters, the militia and a monitoring group said. Israel rarely publicly acknowledges its occasional strikes in Syria.

Britain-based war monitoring group the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, along with the National Defense Forces (NDF) militia in southern Syria reported that a military base in Quneitra province was attacked on Sunday.

It remained unclear whether the bombardment came from an air strike or shelling, the British watchdog said, adding that it had struck a "weapons warehouse" in the camp.

Read more ....

More News On Today's Border Skirmish On The Golan Heights

Israeli fire kills three in Syria at pro-government military base: militia, monitor -- Reuters
Deadly Israeli strikes target Syria's Quneitra province -- Al Jazeera
Israeli attack on Syria military camp kills three -- AFP
Report: IAF strike on Syrian base near Quneitra kills 3 -- Israel Hayom
Reports that Israel hit Syrian military post in Quneitra, killing three fighters -- i24 News
Report: Israel strikes pro-Assad militia base -- YNet News
Alleged Israeli Strike Killed 3 Syrian Defense Forces Fighters in Golans -- Sputnik