Sunday, April 23, 2017

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 (

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

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

Who Do Americans See As An Enemy

Zero Hedge: Which Country Is America’s Biggest Enemy?

Between alleged interference in U.S. elections by Russia, recent nuclear posturing by North Korea, and chemical weapon atrocities in Syria – it’s hard to keep track of which country is supposed to be the bona fide number one “enemy” of the United States.

While we can’t tell you exactly what people are thinking in this moment, Visual Capitalist's Jeff Desjardins has access to about 15 years worth of polls on the subject. The data ends up painting an interesting backdrop for America’s foreign policy decisions over the same timeframe, as well as the narratives being pushed by major media outlets.

Between alleged interference in U.S. elections by Russia, recent nuclear posturing by North Korea, and chemical weapon atrocities in Syria – it’s hard to keep track of which country is supposed to be the bona fide number one “enemy” of the United States.

While we can’t tell you exactly what people are thinking in this moment, Visual Capitalist's Jeff Desjardins has access to about 15 years worth of polls on the subject. The data ends up painting an interesting backdrop for America’s foreign policy decisions over the same timeframe, as well as the narratives being pushed by major media outlets.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: North Korea and Iran are regarded by Americans to be their "biggest enemy". As to what is my take .... ignoring non-states like the Islamic State and Al Qaeda and what is happening in places like Afghanistan and Iraq .... I am most worried about North Korea.

These Maps Explain The Geopolitics Of Nuclear Weapons

Mauldin Economics

Business Insider: 3 maps that explain the geopolitics of nuclear weapons

North Korea has received a lot of focus due to a recent missile test and the expectation of another nuclear test. It is a poor country whose nuclear program has allowed it to punch above its weight internationally. This has also forced superpowers to approach it with great caution.

Nuclear bombs are in their own category of weapon. They are useful in that they deter aggression. The potential for massive destruction on both sides forces countries to rethink moves that may threaten an adversary’s national security interests.

If North Korea’s used a nuclear weapon, its deterrent capability would be gone. This would be akin to committing certain suicide.

Read more ....

North Korea Is Threatening To Sink The U.S. Aircraft Carrier Carl Vinson

The aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) transits the Sunda Strait April 15, 2017. U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Sean M. Castellano/Handout via REUTERS

Reuters: North Korea says ready to strike U.S. aircraft carrier

North Korea said on Sunday it was ready to sink a U.S. aircraft carrier to demonstrate its military might, as two Japanese navy ships joined a U.S. carrier group for exercises in the western Pacific.

U.S. President Donald Trump ordered the USS Carl Vinson carrier strike group to sail to waters off the Korean peninsula in response to rising tension over the North's nuclear and missile tests, and its threats to attack the United States and its Asian allies.

The United States has not specified where the carrier strike group is as it approaches the area. U.S. Vice President Mike Pence said on Saturday it would arrive "within days" but gave no other details.

Read more ....

More News On The USS Carl Vinson And Its Deployment Off The Coast Of The Korean Peninsula

North Korea threatens to strike US aircraft carrier to show 'military's force' -- FOX News
North Korea 'ready to strike' US aircraft carrier -- DW
North Korea 'ready to sink' US aircraft carrier -- SKY News
N. Korea ready to sink US aircraft carrier with a ‘single strike’ – official paper -- RT
Japanese Ships Join US Carrier En Route to Korean Peninsula -- VOA
US carrier heading for Korea trains with Japanese destroyers -- Washington Post/AP
US warship in west Pacific for Japan navy drills -- AFP
USS Carl Vinson begins drills with Japanese destroyers -- CNN
USS Carl Vinson to arrive near Korean peninsula next week -- UPI
Carl Vinson to arrive in East Sea 'in days' -- Korea Times

Tweet For Today

Picture Of The Day

Greyhound Landing
A C-2A Greyhound aircraft lands on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson in the South China Sea, April 10, 2017. Navy photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Sean M. Castellano

Afghanistan In Mourning After Friday's Deadly Taliban Assault On An Afghan Base Killed Over 140 Soldiers

Al Jazeera: Afghanistan mourns after deadly Taliban attack on base

President Ashraf Ghani calls for an investigation into the deadliest ever Taliban attack on an Afghan military base.

President Ashraf Ghani declared a national day of mourning on Saturday after scores of soldiers were killed by Taliban fighters disguised as fellow troops in the deadliest attack of its kind on an Afghan military base.

Afghan officials said the death toll jumped to 140 following Friday's assault on the army headquarters in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif.

Another 160 people were wounded in the attack, Mohammad Ibrahim Khair Andesh, head of the provincial council, announced.

Read more

More News After Friday's Deadly Taliban Assault On An Afghan Base That Killed Over 140 Soldiers

Afghanistan in mourning after Taliban attack on army base -- DW
Mourning declared after scores of troops die in Afghan base attack -- Reuters
Afghanistan Declares National Mourning After Army Base Attack Kills More Than 130 -- RFE
Confusion, chaos after Taliban breach Afghan base in deadly attack -- Fiscal Times
Afghan anger mounts as death toll from army base attack soars -- France 24

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Civilian Casualties From U.S.-Led Coalition Airstrikes Are Seldom If Ever Investigated

L.A. Times: Civilian casualties from airstrikes grow in Iraq and Syria. But few are ever investigated

A recent airstrike by the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq is believed to have caused more than 270 civilian deaths, a tragedy that provoked an international outpouring of grief and outrage.

But the uproar over the March 17 deaths in the Jadidah neighborhood of Mosul masks a grim reality: Hundreds, and perhaps thousands, of other civilians have died in hundreds of airstrikes in Iraq and Syria during the war against Islamic State, and it appears likely that the vast majority of those deaths were never investigated by the U.S. military or its coalition partners.

It also appears that the number of civilian casualties has risen in recent months as combat has shifted to densely populated west Mosul and the coalition has undertaken the heaviest bombing since the war began almost three years ago.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: The focus right now is on defeating the enemy .... conducting investigations on civilian casualties, body counts, etc. .... this is not the current priority for the US coalition or even for the Iraqi government.

Islamic State Moves Its Capital In Syria From Raqaa To Deir el-Zour

FOX News: ISIS moves its capital in Syria

In the wake of increased airstrikes and pressure applied from three directions by U.S.-backed Syrian forces, the Islamic State has essentially moved its so-called capital in Syria, U.S. defense officials told Fox News.

ISIS is now centered in Deir ez-Zur, roughly 90 miles southeast of Raqqa, the officials said.

U.S. military drones have watched hundreds of ISIS “bureaucrats,” or administrators, leaving Raqqa in the past two months for
the city of al-Mayadin located further down the Euphrates River from Deir el-Zour where U.S. Central Command announced that it killed mid-level ISIS “operative” Abdurakhmon Uzbeki.

The looming battle for Raqqa is imminent but the ISIS government is no longer there, according to officials.

Read more ....

More News On The Battle For Raqqa

ISIS ‘essentially moved’ its Syria stronghold from Raqqa to Deir ez-Zor province – report -- RT
Islamic State moves caliphate to new capital in Syria -- Iraqi News
Over 10,000 Civilians Rescued During 'Operation Euphrates Rage' in Raqqa -- Sputnik
Life inside ISIS capital Raqqa: Impossible to live, impossible to leave -- FOX News
U.S.-allied Syrian groups already have a plan to govern Raqqa after ISIS is defeated -- Reuters
After Raqqa "Liberation" US to give Control to 'Rebels', not Syrian Government -- MINA
Syria's Assad Mocks Delay of Assault on Raqqa -- VOA
MAPPED: The battle against ISIL -- Al Jazeera

The Battle For The Iraqi City of Mosul -- News Updates April 22, 2017

DW: Mosul: The battle for Iraq's future

Three-fourths of the Iraqi metropolis have been freed from "Islamic State." As anti-IS forces advance on the northwestern city of Mosul, what's needed is a political strategy.

The drones are especially dangerous. Islamic State fighters have been sending more and more unmanned aircraft into the air, according to the Iraqi army. Buzzing overhead, the ground-controlled drones release deadly explosives down upon the ranks of their opponents.

In the mean time, the Iraqi military has adapted to the aerial threat, but the drones - small and, therefore, difficult to distinguish from afar - are still dangerous, particularly in street battles, when soldiers don't have the time to keep an eye on what might fly overhead.

Read more ....

The Battle For The Iraqi City of Mosul -- News Updates April 22, 2017

Iraqi forces retake two more western Mosul districts as hundreds more join exodus -- Military Times/Reuters
Iraqi forces tighten the noose around Daesh in Western Mosul -- Al Bawaba
Iraqi army announces liberation of new west Mosul neighbourhood -- RUDAW
63 targets controlled, 20 IS leaders killed since February in western Mosul: Federal Police -- Iraqi News
Drone video shows ISIS moving civilians into home as human shields -- ABC news
Video: ISIS Using Mosul Residents as Human Shields -- US News and World Report
The Pentagon says this video shows ISIS using 'sinister' new tactics in Mosul -- Military Times
Coalition confirms ISIS used chemical weapons in Mosul -- RUDAW
Islamic State using home-made rockets to deliver mustard gas in Mosul -- SOFREP
Kuwaiti in charge of training IS snipers killed in western Mosul -- Iraqi News
Iraqis displaced in Mosul fight sickened by toxic oil fires -- UPI
‘No other place to take them’: Devastated Mosul hospital struggles to treat injured patients (VIDEO) -- RT
Resentment festers in Mosul: just ask Saddam Hussein -- Reuters
This is life inside Mosul's Old City -- Salma Abdelaziz, Scott McWhinnie and Nick Paton Walsh, CNN
Revenge or Reconciliation — The Future of Mosul -- Jamie Dettmer, VOA

North Korea Threatens Australia With A Nuclear Strike If It 'Blindly Toes The U.S. Line'

© Damir Sagolj / Reuters

ABC News Online: North Korea threatens nuclear strike against Australia if it doesn't stop 'blindly toeing US line'

North Korea has warned Australia it could be hit with nuclear weapons if it continues to "blindly" follow the United States.

The comments came after Foreign Minister Julie Bishop earlier this week said on the ABC's AM program that North Korea's nuclear weapons program posed a "serious threat" to Australia unless it was stopped by the international community.

A spokesman for the North Korean Foreign Ministry accused Australia of "spouting a string of rubbish" about the isolated regime, and warned against following the US.

"The present Government of Australia is blindly and zealously toeing the US line," the spokesman said.

Read more ....

More News On North Korea Threatening Australia With A Nuclear Strike If It 'Blindly Toes The U.S. Line'

North Korea warns Australia of possible nuclear strike if it 'blindly toes US line' -- The Guardian
North Korea threatens nuclear war with Australia saying the country is 'within range' of Kim Jong-un's missile arsenal and warning Malcolm Turnbull not to cosy up to Trump's U.S. -- Daily Mail
North Korea warns Australia of nuclear strike over Julie Bishop's comments -- Sydney Morning Herald Tribune
North Korea warns Australia to stop 'zealously toeing the US line' -- AFR Weekend
Labor concerned as NKorea ups rhetoric -- 7News
N. Korea accuses Australia of ‘blindly toeing US line,’ threatens nuclear strike -- RT

Commentaries, Analysis, And Editorials On France's Presidential Election

Kevin Lees, Suffragio: The Six possible Runoffs That Could Result From France's Sunday Election

On Sunday, voters in France — soon to be the second-most populous member-state of the European Union — will decide the two finalists, out of a field of 11, who will battle for the French presidency next month.

Since February, polls have consistently shown centrist independent Emmanuel Macron and hard-right Marine Le Pen, the leader of the eurosceptic and anti-immigrant Front national, most likely to advance to the May 7 runoff. Macron, a former economy minister in outgoing president François Hollande’s administration, has waged an unorthodox and personalized campaign, pulling supporters from both the center-right and the center-left under the banner of a new political movement, En marche (Forward).

Read more ....

Commentaries, Analysis, And Editorials On France's Presidential Election

French election: Vote for president could reshape Western world: ANALYSIS -- ABC News Online
How to Win France’s Election: Four candidates have a real path to the presidency. -- Helene Fouquet, Bloomberg
French election reflects death of the political party -- John Lloyd, Reuters
French polls show populist fever is here to stay as globalisation makes voters pick new sides -- Christophe Guilluy, The Guardian
The Upward Spiral of France's Far Left -- Robert Zaretsky, RCW
In or out? EU is hot-button issue in French vote -- Cécile Feuillatre, AFP
In France, If Le Pen Cracks 30% 'She Could Win It All' -- Kenneth Rapoza, Forbes
What Would a Le Pen Victory in France Mean for Markets? -- WSJ
What are Marine Le Pen’s odds of victory? -- The Economist
Why Marine Le Pen May Sway France's Undecided and Apathetic Voters -- Oscar Lopez, Newsweek
Le Pen win in France could hit markets, endanger the euro -- FOX News/AP
Terrorism in France: What ISIS Hopes to Get out of Attacking France so Close to the Elections -- Newsweek
Why you should care about the French election -- Analysis by Chris Cillizza, CNN
French elections 2017: disintegrating left-right divide sets stage for political upheaval -- The Guardian/Observer
The Battle for France -- Scott McConnell, American Conservative
The French, Coming Apart: A social thinker illuminates his country’s populist divide. -- Christopher Caldwell, CJ
The Observer view on the French presidential election -- Observer editorial
Is France the next domino to fall in the far right populist movement? -- L.A. Times editorial
Social media timeout as French election reaches final stage -- Raphael Satter, AP
How France's election could have a big impact on the US -- Rich Edson, FOX Nnews

Intelligence Agencies Warn Of Riots After Sunday's French Presidential Elections

A photo illustration shows a French voter card in front of pictures of the candidates for the French presidential election, April 22, 2017. REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol/Illustration

The Telegraph: Presidential election could lead to rioting in French cities, intelligence agencies warn

Riots could break out in cities across France after results are announced of the first round of the presidential election, intelligence services have warned, as the most unpredictable vote in decades goes ahead amid a heightened terror alert.

Trouble is almost certain if the far-Right leader Marine Le Pen and her far-Left counterpart Jean-Luc-Mélenchon are the two candidates who make it through to the second and final round on May 7, according to a report issued by French intelligence services.

The confidential document, leaked to Le Parisien newspaper, said that at the top of the list of potential security problems as millions of France cast their ballots was the “jihadist threat.”

Read more ....

WNU Editor: Everyone is nervous .... and running up the fear seems to always happen in close elections.

France Prepares To Go To The Polls -- News Updates April 22, 2017

AFP: France on edge as presidential vote looms

Paris (AFP) - France was on edge Saturday on the eve of its most unpredictable presidential election in decades, which will take place under heightened security after the jihadist killing of a policeman.

The shooting on Paris's world-renowned Champs Elysees avenue on Thursday, claimed by the Islamic State group, thrust questions of security to the fore of campaigning after nine months of relative calm.

On Saturday, police arrested a man carrying a knife at Paris's Gare du Nord station, briefly causing panic as some passengers rushed out of the way.

France goes to the polls on Sunday in an election seen as crucial for the future of a deeply divided country and the beleaguered European Union.

Surveys suggest that nearly a quarter of voters are still undecided and that until now the French have been more concerned about jobs and the economy than terrorism.

Read more ....

France Prepares To Go To The Polls -- News Updates April 22, 2017

France kicks off presidential vote overseas; security tight -- AP
Overseas voters kick off crucial French presidential election -- Reuters
France on edge as presidential vote looms -- Channel News Asia/AFP
Security dominates French election after shooting -- Reuters
Shadow of terror attacks hangs over France as polls prepare to open -- The Guardian
France gets ready for a rocky vote -- FOX News
France votes in cliffhanger presidential election on Sunday -- Reuters
Tight race for the Elysee Palace -- DW
France set for crucial presidential election -- Al Jazeera
France's 11 presidential hopefuls stake out positions on TV -- FOX News/AP
Fake News Floods France Ahead of Sunday’s Presidential Election -- Fortune/Reuters
Tear gas, smoke grenades & flares: Violence erupts at Paris protest day before election (VIDEO) -- RT
French election: What voters in Paris' Barbes Market think about the candidates -- ABC News Online
Dispatch: Marine Le Pen rides high in France's bellwether town that always backs the winning president -- The Telegraph

Crisis In Venezuela -- News Updates April 22, 2017

CBC: Venezuela spiralling into chaos amid looting, militarized police

At least 20 have died since April 4 as frustrated Venezuelans protest Maduro government

The smell of tear gas and smoke from fires filled the air in several Caracas neighbourhoods on Friday after a night that saw at least 12 people die. In the humble district of El Valle, people screamed, while the sound of gunshots sent neighbours and protesters running for safety

Protesters are vowing to continue their opposition to the government of President Nicolas Maduro, after the deadliest day in three weeks of one anti-government protest after another.

Among the dead were eight people who were electrocuted in a bakery as it was being looted. About 20 have died in the past month, most shot in the head.

Read more ....

Crisis In Venezuela -- News Updates April 22, 2017

Venezuelans march in memory of those killed in unrest -- AP
Venezuela opposition holds silent march to honour dead -- BBC
Venezuela opposition march to honor those killed in violence -- Reuters
Venezuela opposition vows further anti-govt protests -- Straits Times/AFP
Venezuela protests: Looting, shootings leave 13 dead in one day -- CNN
Venezuela braces for new protest in wave of unrest -- Al Jazeera
As Venezuela's Unrest Grows, Security Forces Struggle to Boost Ranks -- VOA
Government opponents appeal to Venezuela’s military as chaos grows -- Washington Post
Venezuela opposition boss asks Wall Street to cut off Maduro -- Washington Post/AP
Venezuela Only Has $10 Billion Left in Reserves -- FOX 40/CNN Wire
Protests Against President Maduro In Venezuela Near Breaking Point -- NPR
Why is Venezuela in crisis again? -- Javier Farje, Al Jazeera
Venezuela: How paradise got lost -- Ray Sanchez, CNN

President Trump Has Only Nominated 15% Of His Executive Branch

President Donald Trump's Cabinet gathers in the Oval Office on March 13, 2017. Donald Trump/Twitter

Business Insider: WHO'S RUNNING THE GOVERNMENT? Trump has yet to fill 85% of key executive branch positions

Nearly 100 days into his term, President Donald Trump hasn't nominated anyone for 85% of key executive branch positions that require Senate confirmation.

Of the 554 positions requiring confirmation, as of Saturday, 473 have no nominee, 35 have been announced but not formally nominated, 24 have been nominated, and just 22 have been confirmed thus far, according to a database put together by the Washington Post and the nonpartisan Partnership for Public Service.

By this point in his first term, former president Barack Obama had 120 people nominated and just 54 confirmed, according to data provided to Business Insider by the Partnership for Public Service.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: If President Trump wants to implement his agenda, this needs to be fixed ASAP. All the positions that need to be filled can be viewed here.

The Story Of 2 Marines In The Path Of A Truck Bomb

Paul Szoldra, Business Insider: Everyone should read John Kelly's speech about 2 Marines in the path of a truck bomb

Nine years ago, two US Marines from very different walks of life met for the first time when they were put on guard duty at 7:30 in the morning.

Just minutes later, the pair of Marines guarding a gate in Ramadi, Iraq, were staring down a large blue truck packed with 2,000 pounds of explosives. They could have sought cover, like an Iraqi policeman on the scene who ran away and lived.

Instead, Lance Cpl. Jordan Haerter and Cpl. Jonathan Yale stood their ground. Their split-second choice saved the lives of 50 people.

In 2010, then-Lt. Gen. John Kelly — who now serves as Secretary of Homeland Security — told their story to a packed house just four days after he had lost his own son, Robert, to combat in Afghanistan.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: No comment necessary.

Mexico's Drug Cartels Are Ramping Up Heroin Production

VOA: Mexico Heroin Output Jumps; US Offers to Help Fund Eradication

MEXICO CITY — The United States has offered to help fund Mexico’s efforts to eradicate opium poppies, the U.S. assistant secretary for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) said Friday, as Mexican heroin output increased again last year.

“We would be prepared to support (opium eradication efforts) should we reach a basic agreement in terms of how they would do more and better eradication in the future,” William Brownfield of INL, part of the State Department, said in an interview.

“That is on the table, but I don’t want you to conclude that it’s a done deal, because we still have to work through the details,” he said, without specifying how much money the United States could provide.

Read more ....

More News On Mexico's Drug War/Crisis

Mexico has enlisted the US military in its war on heroin -- Reuters
US offers to help fund Mexico’s heroin eradication efforts ‒ report -- RT
In a First, Mexico Opens Heroin Fight to US, UN Observers -- VOA/Reuters
Top drug cartel leaders killed in Mexico near US border -- DW
Mexico kills Gulf cartel boss in Reynosa shootout -- Reuters
Treasury targets two Mexican companies connected to drug cartel -- The Hill
Drug cartels reusing Mexican tunnels already discovered but left unfilled -- FOX News
Ruthless, but charming female members are taking over Mexico's drug cartels -- Houston Chronicle
7 Mexican Leaders with Ties to Drug Cartels -- Breitbart
Mexico's brutal drug violence has hit a new level of complexity -- Christopher Woody, Business Insider

The Trump Administration Is Intensifying Its Campaign To Find And Eliminate Al Qaeda Leader al-Zawahiri Gone

Osama bin Laden, left, sits with his adviser and successor Ayman al-Zawahri, on November 10, 2001. Zawahiri, an Egyptian, is now the head of Al-Qaeda. REUTERS/HAMID MIR/EDITOR/AUSAF NEWSPAPER FOR DAILY DAWN

Jeff Stein, Newsweek: Ayman al-Zawahiri: How a CIA Drone Strike Nearly Killed the Head of Al Qaeda

He has been the forgotten man in the West’s desperate campaign to obliterate the Islamic State militant group (ISIS). He didn’t even merit a cameo in the celebratory coverage of Osama bin Laden’s death at the hands of U.S. Navy SEALs in 2011. For several years, he has been described as the leader of a spent force.

Yet Ayman al-Zawahiri, bin Laden’s mentor and successor, remains a key player in an attack threat to America that retired Marine Corps General John Kelly, the U.S. homeland security secretary, says is "worse today than what we experienced 16 years ago on 9/11.” And if officials in the Donald Trump administration have their way, al-Zawahiri’s name will soon be as familiar to the world as bin Laden’s once was.

The White House signaled a new, tougher approach to eliminating al-Zawahiri and his militant allies in early April with the appointment of Lisa Curtis to head the South Asia desk for the National Security Council. A well-known former CIA analyst, congressional staffer and foreign policy hawk in Washington, D.C’s think-tank circuit, Curtis caused a stir in February when she co-authored a piece arguing that the U.S. “should...hold Pakistan accountable for the activities of all terrorist groups on its soil.”

Read more ....

WNU Editor: Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri has always been a high priority target for U.S. intelligence and the military, doubly so if theses reports are true .... An Islamic State - Al Qaeda Alliance? (April 18, 2017). But if reports that Pakistan is protecting him are true .... Ayman al-Zawahiri, Al-Qaeda chief Osama Bin Laden's successor, sheltered by Pakistan's ISI: Report (IBTimes) .... he is not going to be an easy target to get.

The U.S. Is Building Airfields In Syria

War Is Boting: The U.S. Military Expands Its Network of Syrian Airfields

Bases make it easier to bring in supplies for the SDF

A recent article in the Russian state-owned Sputnik Turkey outlet speculated that the airfield the United States built from scratch in the Syrian-Kurdish Kobani region could become a substitute for Turkey’s Incirlik Air Base.

The assertion is likely correct—but only to an extent. The United States has never been able to completely rely on Incirlik, where the U.S. Air Force bases a modest fleet warplanes and drones along with thousands of service members. Incirlik is also the home for around 50 of America’s B-61 nuclear bombs.

Today is no different. Ankara vehemently disapproves of U.S. support for Syrian-Kurdish militants fighting the Islamic State in Syria. Turkey fears the militants will seek to aid Kurdish insurgents in Turkey itself, and frequently rose the prospect of prohibiting American warplanes from using the base in recent months.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: I can see the U.S. using these airbases as a means to bring in supplies and (maybe) being a forward base for helicopter gunships. But basing fighter jets and bombers .... the logistics and manpower would be too great.

A Look At What Is Needed To Sink A U.S. Aircraft Carrier

The Nimitz-class aircraft carriers USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74), and USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) (R) conduct dual aircraft carrier strike group operations in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations in support of security and stability in the Indo-Asia-Pacific in the Philippine Sea on June 18, 2016. Courtesy Jake Greenberg/U.S. Navy/Handout via REUTERS

Robert Farley, Fox Trot Alpha: What It Would Really Take To Sink A Modern Aircraft Carrier

The modern aircraft carrier is a global symbol of American dominance, hegemony, peace, even empire. But at over 1,000 feet long, and displacing more than 100,000 tons, is it a sitting duck? Is the massive emblem of American greatness just an obsolete, vulnerable hunk of steel?

There’s a lot of consternation about whether or not the United States should even have massive supercarriers anymore. Obviously, the answer here is “depends on how much explosives you’ve got.” But while sinking an aircraft carrier is difficult, it’s not impossible. The key is what it’s used for, and who it’s used against. But if you wanted to sink one, here’s what you’d have to do, and what you’d be up against.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: Bottom line .... not impossible, but it will be difficult.

Is The North Korean Submarine Fleet A Threat?

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un (L) stands on the conning tower of a submarine during his inspection of the Korean People's Army (KPA) Naval Unit 167 © KCNA / Reuters

Kyle Mizokami, National Interest: North Korea's Submarine Fleet: A Big Threat or a Big Joke?

North Korea should by all rights be a naval power. A country sitting on a peninsula, Korea has a long naval tradition, despite being a “shrimp” between the two “whales” of China and Japan. However, the partitioning of Korea into two countries in 1945 and the stated goal of unification —by force if necessary—lent the country to building up a large army, and reserving the navy for interdiction and special operations roles. Now, in the twenty-first century, the country’s navy is set to be the sea arm of a substantial nuclear deterrent.

The Korean People’s Navy (KPN) is believed to have approximately sixty thousand men under arms—less than one-twentieth that of the Korean People’s Army (KPA) ground forces. This, as well as comparable budget makes the KPN’s auxiliary role to the KPA. KPN draftees spend an average of five to ten years, so while Pyongyang’s sailors may not have the latest equipment, they do end up knowing their jobs quite well.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: They are a threat only within North/South Korean waters. Beyond that .... not much (at least from what we know).

Editor's Note

WNU Editor: Just a small plug here for another website that I have been involved with for a very long time. It has nothing to do with war, defense, military, or international politics. It is a free ebook library with about 20,000 ebooks. I started this with a business partner after 9/11 (our response to that day .... free ebooks and education .... not war) ....  and I have been told it is the second oldest ebook library website on the web (Gutenberg is the oldest). I will be updating/editing/correcting/adding 20,000 more ebooks/and modernising the site (after renovating my home this is now my next big project) .... but fear not .... it will not impact my posting on War News Updates nor my travel plans later this summer. But for the moment, everyone's support by simply visiting this site will be appreciated.

The link to the site is here .... Bookyards

North Korea's Nuclear Test Site Is Back In Business

RCD/38 North: North Korea's Nuclear Site Back in Action

Commercial satellite imagery of the Punggye-ri Nuclear Test Site from April 19 indicates probable trailers near the North Portal, the tunnel that North Korea appears to have been preparing for a nuclear test. While no recent dumping is observed, there are at least five mining carts along the tracks leading to the spoil pile and one probable small equipment trailer adjacent to the support building. A net canopy remains in place, presumably concealing equipment, and the pumping of water out of the tunnel to maintain an environment optimal for instrumentation and stemming seems to have ceased.

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Update #1: Volleyball Over, North Koreans Go Back to Work at Nuclear Site, Analysts Say (NYT)
Update #2: Report: North Korea Appears Ready for Nuclear Weapons Test (VOA)

WNU Editor: If they do a test .... it will be North Korea's way of giving a finger to everyone .... and I mean everyone.

This Is When I Know The U.S. Is Serious When It Comes To Sanctions Against North Korea

The Golden Triangle Bank is the primary bank of the Rason City, North Korea. Daily Mail

David S. Cohen, Washington Post: One powerful weapon to use against North Korea

In dealing with North Korea, the Trump administration should look to Iran. Specifically, it should take a page out of the Obama administration’s Iran sanctions playbook and apply against North Korea the tool used successfully to bring Iran to the nuclear negotiating table — “secondary sanctions” on those who do business with the regime.

North Korea is not, by any stretch, “sanctioned out.” Despite a broad set of international and U.S. sanctions, North Korea has gotten off relatively easy, especially as compared with Iran. That is largely because the United States has historically been reluctant to impose secondary sanctions to isolate North Korea, particularly against China, the regime’s principal legitimate trading partner. Certainly, the Trump administration should do its best to bring the Chinese government on board. But if China drags its feet, President Trump should proceed anyway.

Secondary sanctions are both simple and enormously powerful. They work by presenting a stark choice to a foreign bank: It can process transactions for a bank already facing sanctions (for example, one of the many North Korean banks that have been listed by the United States) or it can maintain its access to the U.S. financial system, but it cannot do both. That presents an easy choice, because access to the U.S. financial system, which also means access to the U.S. dollar, is a practical necessity for almost any bank anywhere in the world.

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WNU Editor: Sanctioning banks and companies from doing business with North Korean entities and individuals is the most effective form of sanctions. If a major Chinese bank is given a choice between doing business with North Korea or having access with the international banking system ..... they will choose the international banking system in a heart-beat. But so far .... this is a nuclear option that the U.S. is not ready to take. My guess is that it is the other countries in the region .... South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, and China .... that are advising the U.S. to hold back.

North Korea Warns China Of 'Catastrophic Consequences' If Sanctions Are Stepped-Up

Yonhap News Agency: N. Korea apparently slams China for stepped-up sanctions

SEOUL, April 22 (Yonhap) -- North Korea has apparently asked China not to step up anti-North sanctions, warning of "catastrophic consequences" in their bilateral relations.

Pyongyang issued the warning through commentary written by a person named Jong Phil on its official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), which was released Saturday.

It's rare for Pyongyang's media to level criticism at Beijing, though the KCNA didn't directly mention China in the commentary titled "Are you good at dancing to the tune of others" and dated Friday.

The commentary instead called the nation at issue "a country around the DPRK," using North Korea's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

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Update #1: China says enforcing North Korea coal ban seriously, no violation (Reuters)
Update #2: Gas stations in North Korea's main city restrict services, speculation that China is reducing supply (FOX News)

WNU Editor: What sanctions .... North Korean ships dock in Chinese port despite coal embargo (CNN).

U.S. Approves $300 Million In Military Aid To Iraq's Peshmerga

A member of the Kurdish Peshmerga pictured in 2015 in Makhmur front, southwest of Erbil. Photo: Rudaw

Newsweek: US Military Set to Make $300 Million Deal to Arm Kurds Fighting ISIS in Iraq

The U.S. Department of State has approved a $295.6 million military contract with Iraq intended to supply local Kurds involved in the battle against the Islamic State group (ISIS).

The State Department told Congress Tuesday that the Pentagon's Defense Security Cooperation Agency was authorized to sell the nearly $300 million worth of weapons. vehicles and other equipment to Kurdish peshmerga units, Reuters reported Wednesday. The sale cannot be concluded until it is approved by lawmakers. The move comes as Kurdish forces and Shiite Muslim militias, supported by Iran, are preparing a major offensive into the heart of ISIS territory.

Read more ....

More News On The U.S. Approving $300 Million In Military Aid To Iraq's Peshmerga

US approves $295.6 million military equipment sale to Iraq: Pentagon -- CNBC/Reuters
U.S. State Department approves arms sale for Peshmerga forces -- UPI
US multi-million weapons sale to help Peshmerga wireless communication -- RUDAW
Humvees & howitzers: US approves $300mn sale of military equipment for Iraq’s Kurdish forces -- RT
Government Approves $300 Million Sale Of Guns And Humvees To The Kurds -- Daily Caller

Taliban Storm Major Afghan Military Base Killing More Than 160 Afghan Soldiers

Reuters: Taliban attackers kill at least 140 soldiers at Afghan base: officials

At least 140 Afghan soldiers were killed by Taliban attackers apparently disguised in military uniforms, officials said on Saturday, in what would be the deadliest attack ever on an Afghan military base.

One official in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif, where the attack occurred, said on Saturday at least 140 soldiers were killed and many others wounded. Other officials said the toll was likely to be even higher.

They spoke on the condition of anonymity because the government has yet to release exact casualty figures.

Read more ....

More News On The Taliban Storming A Major Afghan Military Base And Killing More Than 160 Afghan Soldiers

140 Soldiers Killed in Taliban Attack on Afghan Base, Official Says -- New York Times
At least 160 dead after Taliban attack on major Afghan army base, official says -- Washington Post
Taliban kill more than 140 Afghan soldiers at army base -- The Guardian
Afghan officials: 100 casualties in Afghanistan attack -- AP
Taliban fighters attack Afghan army base, 'killing 140' -- Al Jazeera
Afghan casualties in Taliban Mazar-e Sharif attack pass 100 -- BBC
Casualty count from Afghan base attack rises to 100 – Defense Ministry -- RT
Taliban attack underlines shortcomings in Afghan security -- DW

U.S. Special Forces Raid in Syria Kills Turkish Night Club Attack Mastermind

Turkish police stand guard outside the Reina nightclub by the Bosphorus, which was attacked by a gunman, in Istanbul, Turkey, Jan. 1, 2017

ABC News: ISIS leader who planned Istanbul nightclub attack killed in US ground raid

A "close associate" of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was killed in a U.S. ground raid in Syria on April 6, U.S. Central Command said today. The raid targeted him for his role in planning the deadly New Years Eve nightclub attack in Istanbul, which killed 39 civilians.

"Abdurakhmon Uzbeki, an ISIS operative, was killed by U.S. forces working on operation near al Mayadin Syria to kill him," Colonel John Thomas, the spokesman for U.S. Central Command, told Pentagon reporters in phone briefing today.

Al Mayadin is southeast of Dayr Az Zawr in the Euphrates River Valley.

Thomas described Uzbeki as "a close associate" of al-Baghdadi who "was known to interact with him in various ways over time." Centcom has confirmed over the past two weeks that Uzbeki was killed in the raid.

Read more ....

More News On The U.S. Special Forces Raid in Syria That Killed The Turkish Night Club Attack Mastermind

Syria war: US ground troops kill 'leading IS member' -- BBC
US forces in Syria kill associate of ISIS leader linked to Istanbul nightclub strike -- CNN
U.S. Raid Kills ISIS Terror Plotter in Syria, Says Pentagon -- NBC
IS Official Linked to Istanbul Nightclub Attack Killed in Syria, US Says -- VOA
Top Islamic State associate, Turkey plotter killed in U.S. raid in Syria -- UPI
US forces kill Isis militant linked to Istanbul nightclub attack -- The Independent

Tweet For Today

Defense Secretary James Mattis Has Privately Told Congress That President Trump's Budget Will Not Fully Rebuild The Military

CNN: Sources: Mattis tells Hill Trump budget won't fully rebuild military

Washington (CNN)Defense Secretary James Mattis has privately told Congress the Trump administration's Pentagon budget request isn't sufficient to cover the cost of rebuilding the military as President Donald Trump has vowed to do, four sources familiar with the conversations told CNN.

Trump has repeatedly said he would rebuild the military with a massive defense spending increase, but the funding planned for next year's budget is less than what the Pentagon sought, according to sources with knowledge of the deliberations.

Mattis is not publicly raising concerns about the $603 billion Pentagon budget plan, aligning himself with the White House's decision, though it's a stance that's sparking frustration from some Republican defense hawks in Congress. But the Pentagon's private assessment matches lawmakers' public criticisms of Trump's budget plan.

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Update #1: Mattis tells lawmakers Trump budget won't fully rebuild military: report (The Hill)
Update #2: Mattis doubts Trump budget will cover military buildup: Report (Washington Examiner)

WNU Editor: Apparently the hawks in Congress want $640 billion.

Picture Of The Day

Hawkeye Launched
An E-2C Hawkeye aircraft launches from the USS Carl Vinson in the South China Sea, April 10, 2017. The Hawkeye crew is assigned to Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron 113. Navy photo by Seaman Jake Cannady

U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis Will Not Release 'Body Counts'

© REUTERS/ Francois Lenoir

The Hill: Mattis won't reveal death toll from 'mother of all bombs'

Defense Secretary James Mattis is staying mum on the casualties that resulted from the U.S. dropping its largest non-nuclear bomb in Afghanistan last week.

During a trip to Israel on Thursday, Mattis told reporters that the Pentagon doesn't usually measure an attack's effectiveness by how many people are killed, and he refused to provide details about the damage caused by the Massive Ordnance Air Blast.

"For many years we have not been calculating the results of warfare by simply quantifying the number of enemy killed," Mattis said, according to The Associated Press.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: he may not want to disclose 'body counts", but others are talking .... Massive Bomb In Afghanistan Killed Uzbeks, Tajiks, Russians, Pakistanis (RFE).

More News On U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis Refusing To Release 'Body Counts'

Pentagon chief: US won't reveal 'mother of all bombs' toll -- AP
Citing Vietnam, Mattis Won’t Do ISIS Body Counts -- DoD Buzz
Mattis steers away from body counts as measure of battlefield effectiveness -- USA Today
Mattis: U.S. won’t dig into ‘mother of all bombs’ damage in Afghanistan -- Politico
Mattis: Counting Casualties in MOAB Attack ‘Not a Good Use of Troops’ Time’ -- Sputnik

Friday, April 21, 2017

No Russian Sanctions Waiver For Exxon

L.A. Times: Trump administration refuses to let Exxon Mobil drill for oil in Russia

The Trump administration has denied a request from Exxon Mobil Corp. to waive U.S. sanctions against Russia to allow the company to resume oil drilling around the Black Sea.

Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin said Friday in a brief statement that the administration “will not be issuing waivers to U.S. companies, including Exxon, authorizing drilling prohibited by current Russian sanctions.”

Exxon said it understood the decision, while suggesting that the outcome will merely help European oil companies operating under less-stringent restrictions.

The decision comes two days after the news that the energy giant was seeking a waiver to resume a joint venture with Rosneft, a Russian state-owned oil company.

Read more ....

Update #1: US refuses to waive Russian sanctions, denies Exxon request to drill in Black Sea (DW)
Update #2: No waivers for Russia sanctions, Treasury tells Exxon (RT)

WNU Editor:  If the White House had said yes .... the optics and the media frenzy that would follow would be ruthless.

A U.S. Back-Channel To Russian President Putin?

Vladislav Surkov and Russian President Putin.

Buzz Feed: Trump Administration Expected To Open Diplomatic Channel With Top Putin Aide

The new US envoy would be responsible for negotiating over the fate of war-torn Ukraine.

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration is expected to appoint a new special envoy to communicate directly with Vladislav Surkov, a top aide to Russian President Vladimir Putin once known as the Kremlin’s “grey cardinal,” two European officials told BuzzFeed News.

The job of the new envoy, who has not yet been named, would be to negotiate over the fate of war-torn Ukraine, where a floundering peace deal has yet to bring an end to the three-year conflict, the officials said.

One Western diplomat said German Chancellor Angela Merkel supported the opening of the channel, and raised it with President Donald Trump during their meeting at the White House last month. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson would oversee the selection of the envoy, a full-time role that is expected to include a supporting staff.

A State Department official acknowledged that “there is currently a discussion of the idea,” but said “no final decisions have been made.”

Read more ....

WNU Editor: Vladislav Surkov does have Russian President Putin's ear.