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World Politics

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Bibi goes to Moscow to get a deal before the election (Putin is due to step down in 2024 - unless he changes the rules for Presidential rule)
Five days before the snap parliamentary election, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is set to visit Moscow for talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin, which are expected to focus on Syria, Kommersant writes. This may be the first time when the Israeli prime minister leaves the country in the run-up to the election, which will be crucial for his political future. According to experts, Netanyahu would not have decided on coming to Moscow if he hadn’t expected success at the talks, which could become an important trump card for him ahead of the polls.
Apparently, the Israeli prime minister seeks a breakthrough in Syria, Kommersant writes. Moscow wants an agreement on withdrawing foreign military from Syria, most notably US troops, and is not against Israel’s joining an effort on coordinating this pullout. However, Israel is among the supporters of maintaining the US presence in Syria, including at the Al-Tanf military base, in order to curb Iran’s moves. So, it is unclear whether Israel is ready for the proposed format of cooperation if no exact conditions on the departure of pro-Iranian forces from Syria are agreed on.

Amid the ongoing political struggle in Israel, the news about reaching a consensus on a deconfliction mechanism may be described by Netanyahu as Moscow’s carte blanche for continuing Israeli strikes on Syria, even if Russia does not really mean this. This "gift" ahead of the election may significantly strengthen Netanyahu’s positions, the paper writes.
A German politician could become an "absolutely controlled" MP in the Bundestag, according to Russian documents seen by BBC Newsnight.

The politician, Markus Frohnmaier, is a member of the German parliament from the far-right AfD party.

The documents date back to April 2017, when Mr Frohnmaier was a candidate for election to the Bundestag. He was subsequently elected in September 2017.

Mr Frohnmaier told the BBC he had no knowledge of the documents.
The email was sent by Petr Premyak, a former naval counterintelligence officer and a former member of the upper house of the Russian parliament.

Mr Premyak confirmed to a reporter from ZDF that he wrote the email, but said he was not the author of the attached strategy document.

The recipient was Sergei Sokolov - a senior official in President Putin's administration.

It is not clear whether the Kremlin acted on the recommendations in the document, and there is no evidence that Russia provided any "material support" to Mr Frohnmaier's campaign.
Separately, the BBC obtained another document, also from April 2017, that appears to be a request for help written on behalf of Mr Frohnmaier's campaign.

This document is written in occasionally faulty English, and is entitled: "Frohnmaier election campaign/action plan (draft)".

"For the election campaign we urgently would need some support," the letter states.

"Besides material support we would need media support as well […] any type of interviews, reports and opportunities to appear in the Russian media is helpful for us."

Mr Frohnmaier told the BBC he had no knowledge of the Russian document obtained by the Dossier Centre, nor of document apparently written on behalf of his campaign.

"I think that's a fake document," he said.
Wikileaks said about a week ago that Assange would be thrown out, and now I suppose it's off to the courts for a long series of appeals and charges. The US Democratic party will be eager for him to testify about Guccifer 2.0, Roger Stone etc
The Swedish charges against Assange were dropped after they expired because of the delay (Assange did testify from the Ecudorian Embassy - the whole Assange in Sweden story is weird. I followed it closely) These new charges are from the US about Manning's leak. Assange was only given asylum not citizenship.

EDIT - I await Trump's response.

EDIT 2 - https://thehill.com/homenews/senate...erves-to-spend-the-rest-of-his-life-in-prison
Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) is applauding the arrest of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange by British police acting on a U.S. extradition warrant.

“This arrest is good news for freedom-loving people. Julian Assange has long been a wicked tool of Vladimir Putin and the Russian intelligence services," Sasse said in a tweet early Thursday. "He deserves to spend the rest of his life in prison,” the senator added.

This arrest is good news for freedom-loving people. Julian Assange has long been a wicked tool of Vladimir Putin and the Russian intelligence services. He deserves to spend the rest of his life in prison.https://t.co/LJAQeKhrj6 https://t.co/LQpoOoTv1y
— Ben Sasse (@BenSasse) April 11, 2019

Not mincing his words!
Nov. 16, 2018 https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/16/...sange-indictment-wikileaks.html?module=inline
The Justice Department has secretly filed criminal charges against the WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, a person familiar with the case said, a drastic escalation of the government’s yearslong battle with him and his anti-secrecy group.

Top Justice Department officials told prosecutors over the summer that they could start drafting a complaint against Mr. Assange, current and former law enforcement officials said. The charges came to light late Thursday through an unrelated court filing in which prosecutors inadvertently mentioned them.

“The court filing was made in error,” said Joshua Stueve, a spokesman for the United States attorney’s office for the Eastern District of Virginia. “That was not the intended name for this filing.”

Robert5091 said:
The Swedish charges against Assange were dropped after they expired because of the delay (Assange did testify from the Ecudorian Embassy - the whole Assange in Sweden story is weird. I followed it closely) These new charges are from the US about Manning's leak. Assange was only given asylum not citizenship.

EDIT - I await Trump's response.

EDIT 2 - https://thehill.com/homenews/senate...erves-to-spend-the-rest-of-his-life-in-prison
Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) is applauding the arrest of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange by British police acting on a U.S. extradition warrant.

“This arrest is good news for freedom-loving people. Julian Assange has long been a wicked tool of Vladimir Putin and the Russian intelligence services," Sasse said in a tweet early Thursday. "He deserves to spend the rest of his life in prison,” the senator added.

This arrest is good news for freedom-loving people. Julian Assange has long been a wicked tool of Vladimir Putin and the Russian intelligence services. He deserves to spend the rest of his life in prison.https://t.co/LJAQeKhrj6 https://t.co/LQpoOoTv1y
— Ben Sasse (@BenSasse) April 11, 2019

Not mincing his words!

They weren't dropped, they were suspended and the prosecutor said they'd be brought back if Assange could be brought to Sweden. I don't really understand how the Swedish system works as it's different to the UK, but during all the appeals a lot of the judgements accused Assange's lawyers of pretty much out-right lies and attempting to pervert the course of justice from what I remember by playing off the differences in the systems. There was a good review of it all around 2012, I'll see if I can find it.

Unchained said:

This put many people and their families at risk. Roger Stone reaching out to this Wikifreak is inexcusable. The data breaches of military personnel records are of equal or greater importance than the Wikileak exposure of government lying,murder and breaking international law and treaties.

That article says the data was obtained from LinkedIn. What breach has occurred? It reads like all Wikileaks did was spend the time gathering and curating publicly available data.
According to Assange's lawyer Per E Samuelson, the European Arrest Order was withdrawn in May 2017 (when the prosecution's case was dropped) so the US request for extradition is the main thing, but first there's the UK charge of jumping bail (into the Ecuadorian Embassy) which is up to 12 months in jail.

The US charges are for hacking a password - why?
It is not unusual for journalists to publish classified material they obtain from sources and such a prosecution against Assange would have raised concerns that reporters could face similar charges, according to Steve Vladeck, a professor of national security law at the University of Texas.

Assange is likely to argue that the conspiracy charge was a pretext and the government really is prosecuting him for the publication of classified documents, lawyers not involved in the case said.

David Miller, a former federal prosecutor in New York and Virginia, said Assange's defense would likely face "an uphill battle" assuming the government's proof of communications and contacts with Manning is strong.

Prosecutors will emphasize that cracking a password is far outside the realm of what respectable journalists do, Chesney at the University of Texas said.

"All of this turns on the idea that Assange tries to hack a password," Chesney said. "That's not journalism, that's theft."
Danes get rich on exporting pork to China as African Swine Flu decimates Chinese pigs

February 1, 2019 https://edition.cnn.com/2019/02/01/china/china-african-swine-flu-in-year-of-the-pig-intl/index.html
The Year of the Pig might begin next week, but right now it's looking pretty dire for swine in China.
Almost 1 million pigs have been slaughtered over the past six months as the country battles African swine fever. And with no sign of the disease coming under control, more culls are set to come which could cripple the domestic pig farming industry.

China produces more than half the world's pigs -- 700 million a year. Most of those stay within China's borders, with just 1.6 million exported last year, according to the United States Department of Agriculture.

African swine fever is not harmful to humans and is unlikely to become zoonotic -- pass from animals to humans -- in our lifetime, says Dirk Pfeiffer, an expert in infectious diseases at City University of Hong Kong. But the most virulent strain of the disease is almost 100% deadly to pigs.

The dirty air in Asia pushes also up the demand for pork for more "unscientific" reasons

Whenever dust particles hang thick in the air in South Korea, sales of pork rise.

This quirky correlation in Asia's fourth-largest economy, where air pollution outstrips industrialized peers, stems from an old belief attributed to coal miners, that the slippery pork oil helped cleanse dirt from their throats.

For middle school student Han Dong-jae, eating greasy barbecued pork belly on a smoggy day is a life lesson imbibed from his mother.

"I eat more pork when fine dust is dense like today," said the 15-year-old as he dug in over a sizzling grill at a barbecue restaurant in Seoul with his mother after school.

"I think it's somewhat helpful, because pork meat has oil and the oil soothes my throat."

Scientists say there is no rationale for the belief, but pork sales jumped about a fifth on the year from Feb. 28 to March 5, when pollutants blanketed most areas, data from major retailers E-Mart and Lotte Mart showed.
U.S. authorities have made the first arrest related to the mysterious raid of North Korea’s Embassy in Spain in which masked assailants tied up staff, stole computers and fled to the United States, according to two people familiar with the matter.

On Thursday, federal authorities arrested Christopher Ahn, a former U.S. Marine and a member of Free Joseon, a group dedicated to the overthrow of North Korea’s Kim Dynasty. He appeared in a federal-district court in Los Angeles on Friday where his attorney requested that the case be sealed. The court ruled in the attorney’s favor over the government’s objections, a Justice Department spokesman said.

Separately, federal agents raided the apartment of Adrian Hong, the leader of Free Joseon, said people familiar with the incident, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive law enforcement issue.

A spokesman with the FBI deferred questions on the case to the Justice Department.

“We will not comment on this particular matter at this time,” said Nicole Navas Oxman, a spokeswoman for the Justice Department.

The developments mark a dramatic turn of fate for the revolutionary group, which sought to assist U.S. authorities by handing over computers and other items stolen from the North Korean embassy that it characterized as potentially having “enormous” intelligence value.

In a statement to The Washington Post, Hong’s lawyer, Lee Wolosky, said he was “dismayed that the U.S. Department of Justice has decided to execute warrants against U.S. persons that derive from criminal complaints filed by the North Korean regime.”

This story is going to run and run ... wait until someone asks who's paid these guys. ;)
There’s a 90% chance he’ll be a disaster, but I’m going to vote for him anyway,” said Alyona Sych, a 36-year-old nurse, strolling through Kyiv in the spring sunshine and explaining why she plans to vote for an untested actor and comedian in Ukraine’s presidential election on Sunday.

“I know 100% that the current guy is a disaster, so of course I’ll go for the 10% chance we could really change things.”

For three seasons of the popular Ukrainian television show Servant of the People, Volodymyr Zelenskiy has played a frustrated everyman teacher, implausibly propelled to the country’s presidency.

Now he’s standing for the job for real, and most polls give him a commanding lead over the incumbent, Petro Poroshenko. By Sunday evening, Zelenskiy could have secured a fourth season as president, but his first one in real life.
While ordinary people contemplate giving a political novice a turn at running the country, in the embassies and businesses of Kyiv there has been a flurry of activity trying to work out even the most basic things about Zelenskiy.

Will he get more serious once he’s in office? Should they be watching his show for clues to his policies? Do his links to Ihor Kolomoyskiy mean he will do the controversial oligarch’s bidding as president? And how will he approach the conflict in the east of the country, which has claimed more than 13,000 lives?

“He doesn’t really have any idea of practical solutions to real issues, it’s just a set of phrases. It’s crazy,” said one western diplomat in Kyiv. “His people come in to see us and the first question we ask them is what they know about his commitments to Kolomoyskiy, and they tell us they themselves have no idea,” the diplomat said.

Talk about a blank sheet ... :eek:
Sri Lanka bombings -
Sri Lanka's government was "aware of information regarding a possible attack" before a series of deadly bomb blasts rocked hotels and churches in the capital Colombo and two other cities, according to the country's prime minister.

Ranil Wickremesinghe, speaking to reporters late on Sunday, acknowledged that "information was there" about possible attacks.

"We must also look into why adequate precautions were not taken," he said.
Al Jazeera's Minelle Fernandez, reporting from Colombo, described the prime minister's statement "as a dig" at President Maithripala Sirisena, who heads the security forces.

Ties between the two leaders are at an all-time low following Sirisena's sacking of Wickremesinghe in October. The move triggered a weeks-long political crisis that ended only when the Supreme Court overturned that decision.

Fernandez said Wickremesinghe's statement on receiving warning "reflects the rather turbulent relationship between the two leaders" following October's constitutional crisis.

"The president retained charge of the police, but the prime minister said neither he nor his ministers had been informed of this information that was available," she said

French agency Agence France Presse reported it had seen documents showing Sri Lanka's police chief Pujuth Jayasundara issued an intelligence alert to top officers 10 days ago, warning that suicide bombers planned to hit "prominent churches". He cited a foreign intelligence service as reporting that a little- known Islamist group was involved.

Meanwhile -
Ukrainian comedian Volodymyr Zelensky has won a landslide victory in the country's presidential election, exit polls suggest.

The polls give the political newcomer, who dominated the first round of voting three weeks ago, more than 70% support.

EDIT - #Anthony Atamanuik2020 :D
Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe acknowledged that “information was there” about possible attacks and that an investigation would look into “why adequate precautions were not taken”.

Telecommunications Minister Harin Fernando tweeted: “Some intelligence officers were aware of this incidence. Therefore there was a delay in action. Serious action needs to be taken as to why this warning was ignored.”

He said his father had even heard of the possibility of an attack and had warned him not to enter popular churches.

Mano Ganeshan, the minister for national integration, said the security officers within his ministry had been warned by their division about the possibility two suicide bombers would target politicians.
... a suicide bomber killed three police officers as they raided a house in a northern suburb of the city.(Colombo)

The police were quick to know where to go - this is beginning to smell a little fishy.
A U.S. marine veteran accused of raiding North Korea's Embassy in Madrid was denied bail Tuesday by a federal judge in Los Angeles, pending a hearing on his possible extradition to Spain.

Details: Christopher Philip Ahn, 38, is accused of being part of an armed dissident group that allegedly robbed the embassy in February. U.S. Magistrate Judge Jean P. Rosenbluth agreed with a Department of Justice submission that Ahn could be a flight risk if released from custody.

So who at the FBI got the info from the raid?
Mercenaries affiliated to a security company operating in Iraq and the UAE travelled secretly from Iraq to Libya to fight alongside the troops of General Khalifa Haftar, according to electronic newspaper Arabi21.

Weeks ago, Haftar launched a military campaign against the internationally recognised government in the city of Tripoli.

Sources told Arabi21 that the Frontier Services Group security company run by Erik Prince, who previously ran the Blackwater security company, had recently sent fighters from Iraq's Kurdish region to Libya to fight alongside Haftar, following a secret deal.

The news site said a subsidiary of the company is based in Dubai but it is still unknown whether the UAE was involved in the operation.

Haftar is known for receiving military and political support from Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Egypt. A report issued by the UN has shown that Abu Dhabi bought various weapons from many countries and international companies. Those weapons were then used by a militia fighting for Haftar in Libya.

Erik Prince previously ...(Nov 2017) https://www.theguardian.com/world/2...uell-libya-migrant-crisis-with-private-police
Erik Prince, the founder of the private military contractor Blackwater, is pushing a plan to intervene in the migrant crisis in Libya with a proposal involving a privately trained police force that would mirror his company’s work in Afghanistan.

The proposal, he said, would be a more humanitarian option for the European Union compared to the chaos that is now gripping the oil-rich nation, given widespread reports of grave human rights abuses by militia groups against migrants.

Prince, who is close to the Trump administration and is mulling a run for Senate in Wyoming, said it would be relatively easy for his company, Frontier Services Group, to stop, detain, house and “repatriate” hundreds of thousands of African migrants who are seeking a path to Europe through Libya.
more on Venezulea coup attempt -
Early Tuesday, Guaidó surprised the country by releasing a video recorded at the Carlota Air Force Base in Caracas. Surrounded by heavily armed military forces, Guaidó said the time had come to peacefully force Maduro out of office and asked his followers to surround military bases, including La Carlota.

“Our armed forces, brave soldiers, brave patriots, brave men who follow the constitution have heard our call,” he said.

Leopoldo López, a former presidential candidate and Guaidó’s political mentor, who has been jailed since 2014 — most recently under house arrest — also made an appearance in the video. Later he said he’d been freed by military loyal to Guaidó.
Venezuela Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza blamed Washington and Colombia for backing the coup attempt against Maduro.

It’s unclear how much military backing Guaidó has, but some feared the division within the ranks could lead to bloodshed. Local TV said there were reports of gunfire near the Carlota base.

José Antonio Colina, a former Venezuelan military official and the president of Veppex, an advocacy group in South Florida that represents politically persecuted Venezuelans, said he was following the news closely on Tuesday morning.

“It’s been an important step,” he said. “Now we hope that this inspires a strong public response. The support of the people is needed.” Otherwise, he added, Venezuela could be facing a battle between pro- and anti-Maduro military forces.
As the day unfolded, it became less clear that Guaidó had the support of the full military, said Venezuela security expert Brian Fonseca, a former Marine and U.S. Southern Command intelligence analyst who now serves as the director of the Jack D. Gordon Institute for Public Policy at Florida International University.

“What we saw today so far is some elements of the National Guard, some general officers from the National Guard” actually support Guaidó, Fonseca said. He estimated that the total number of forces behind Guaidó was likely only in the hundreds. “To me, the most important, powerful branch is the Army and we are not seeing the types of fractures there,” Fonseca said.

Guaidó took a risk announcing the military support, Fonseca said, and if the Army does not back him it could be crippling. “If today’s movement falls flat -- what does that mean for credibility of the Guaidó movement? “
Juan Guaidó has appealed for his supporters to take to the streets of Venezuela again on Wednesday, after a day of violent clashes on Tuesday.

President Nicolás Maduro, whom the opposition leader is trying to unseat, remains defiant despite the protests.

In a television address he described Guaidó's supporters as a "small group" whose plan had failed.
Later on Tuesday, it emerged Mr López had sought safety in the Chilean, then the Spanish embassy, along with his family.

Chilean Foreign Minister Roberto Ampuero said it was Mr López's "personal decision", because he and his wife Lilian Tintori are of Spanish descent.

"Thanks for busting me out of house arrest - we're off to Spain - keep throwing those molotov cocktails - adios!"

Edit - update - if there's gunfire, then Erik Prince is bound to be around
Erik Prince - the founder of the controversial private security firm Blackwater and a prominent supporter of US President Donald Trump - has been pushing to deploy a private army to help topple Venezuela's socialist president, Nicholas Maduro, four sources with knowledge of the effort told Reuters.

Over the last several months, the sources said, Prince has sought investment and political support for such an operation from influential Trump supporters and wealthy Venezuelan exiles.

In private meetings in the United States and Europe, Prince sketched out a plan to field up to 5,000 soldiers-for-hire on behalf of Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido, according to two sources with direct knowledge of Prince's pitch.

One source said Prince has conducted meetings about the issue as recently as mid-April.

Erik Prince is quickly becoming the Chuck Colson of the Trump administration.
The U.S. military is focused on gathering intelligence in Venezuela, the military’s top general said Wednesday, with the crisis appearing to reach a critical stage.

“The situation is a little bit unclear today from our perspective between Maduro and Guaido,” Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford told the House Appropriations Committee defense subpanel.

“We’re doing what we can now to collect intelligence and make sure we have good visibility on what’s happening down in Venezuela and also be prepared to support the president should he require more from the U.S. military," Dunford added.
Dunford added that U.S. Southern Command chief Adm. Craig Faller has been coordinating with regional partners on the issue.

“What I have seen in unclassified surveys that have been done lately is actually U.S. influence in the region and the perception of the United States in the region is actually moving in the right direction,” Dunford said. “As we manage the crisis in Venezuela, we need to manage it in a way that continues that trend.”

"we manage the crisis" ? Ugh?
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