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Russian Ambassador At Center Of Trump Scandals Visited Obama White House 22 Times

Russian Ambassador At Center Of Trump Scandals Visited Obama White House 22 Times

Posted: 03 Mar 2017 12:19 PM PST

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Article via Zero Hedge

Michael Flynn, Jared Kushner, Carter Page and Jeff Sessions, they all have something in common: they all met the Russian ambassador in the US, Sergey Kislyak, the object of non-stop leaks via the NYT/WaPo block, and substantial headaches for the Trump administration. Who is Sergey? The following profile of the Russian career diplomat courtesy of The Hill, should help answer some of lingering questions.

Russia’s ambassador to the U.S. has found himself thrust into the spotlight this week after the revelation that he twice spoke with Attorney General Jeff Sessions during the 2016 presidential campaign—contacts Sessions didn’t mention when asked about them under oath during his confirmation hearing.

Sergey Kislyak, Moscow’s soft-spoken ambassador to the U.S. who assumed his post in 2008, has gained significant notoriety following his conversations with several of President Trump’s associates.

Kislyak began making headlines early last month after revelations that, despite denials, Trump’s first national security adviser Michael Flynn spoke with him about sanctions before Trump took office. Flynn resigned after reports that he misled Vice President Pence about his conversations with the diplomat.

Then the The Washington Post reported Wednesday that Sessions, then an Alabama senator, spoke twice with the Russian envoy.

Sessions, who maintained Thursday he didn’t speak to the Russian official in his capacity as a surrogate of Trump’s campaign, announced that he would recuse himself from Department of Justice investigations involving Russia’s intervention in the 2016 presidential election.

Shortly after his press conference, the New York Times reported that Kislyak had met with Trump’s son-in-law and top adviser Jared Kushner, along with Flynn, in December. And USA Today reported that he had met with two other former Trump foreign policy campaign aides — J.D. Gordon and Carter Page —  in Cleveland as that city hosted the Republican National Convention last summer.

In a Thursday press conference, Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Maria Zakharova described Kislyak’s frequent meetings with Trump associates as just part of his job.

“I will reveal a military secret: diplomats work, and their work consists of making contacts within their assigned country,” Zakharova said. “This is written everywhere. If they do not make contacts and do not participate in talks, then they are not diplomats.” Former U.S. ambassador to Russia John Beyrle described Kislyak as a low-profile diplomat to ABC News.

“He likes to operate behind the scenes,” Beyrle said.

“He’s a professional diplomat, not a politician. I’m sure he’s surprised to have acquired such notoriety recently. I’m sure he’s probably not enjoying his time in the limelight.”

The Russian diplomat was born in 1950 and studied nuclear physics in Moscow before joining the Soviet foreign service in the 1970s.

From 1981 to 2008, Kislyak held numerous high-ranking positions within the Soviet and Russian Foreign Ministry, including his post as ambassador to Belgium and Russia’s representative to NATO. His term as the Russian ambassador reportedly ends this spring.

“You’re never confused about what country he’s representing here … he does it fantastically well” said former U.S. ambassador to Russia, Michael McFaul, while introducing Kislyak at a lecture event in November.

McFaul described the Russian envoy as “effective and experienced,” while noting that Kislyak had held “all the most important jobs in the Foreign Ministry — except one.”

Trump allies’ contacts with the Russian official have drawn intense scrutiny following the intelligence community’s assessment that Russia spearheaded a hacking campaign to help Trump win the 2016 election.

Still, Beyrle said, “It’s frankly not odd in the least for him to have met Jeff Sessions, a senior senator on the Armed Services Committee, up on Capitol Hill … To call him a spy is to misunderstand what a diplomat, even a Russian diplomat, does.”

Kislyak has attended a number of Trump events, most recently his address to a joint session of Congress on Tuesday, where he was pictured on on the House floor. An NBC News producer reported that there were nearly 100 seats reserved for the diplomatic corps.

The Russian ambassador also attended one of Trump’s foreign policy speeches in April 2016 and was slated to attend his inauguration in January, with a Russian embassy spokesman describing his invitation as common, according to The Daily Beast.

Kislyak also frequently comments on the state of relations between U.S. and Russia, urging for improvement in bilateral ties.

“The quality of the relations today is very deplorable,” Kislyak said while delivering a speech at The Economic Club in January. “The quality of these relations today, in my view, is the worst after the end of the Cold War.”

When asked about his conversation with Flynn, Kislyak said he was “disappointed” that they were intercepted by the U.S. intelligence, but added that he would not comment on the conversation.

“We have a policy of not commenting on our daily conversations with our interlocutors, because if everything that we discuss is going to be discussed then publicly, who is then going to be interested in talking to me?” he said.

Some Russian officials hope Trump’s broader policy of friendship toward Moscow will withstand the current political storm in Washington.

A top Russian senator lauded Trump on Wednesday for not mentioning “vicious nonsense” about Russia during his speech to Congress.
“Trump’s performance in Congress stood out due to self-restraint, balanced tone and absence of vicious nonsense toward Russia that was common for [former President] Obama,” Alexey Pushkov said.

And a final note: as The Washington Free Beacon writes, Kislyak appeared on Obama White House visitor logs at least 22 times between 2009 and 2016. The Daily Caller reported that the Kislyak appeared on the visitor logs as recently as September 2016. Kislyak had a meeting with John Holdren, one of Obama’s senior advisers, as well as Marina W. Gross, Alexander Ermolaev, Alexey Lopatin, Vyacheslav Balakirev, and Sergey Sarazhinskiy.

Kislyak met with National Security Council senior official Gary Samore on weapons of mass destruction four times during Obama’s first term. The ambassador also meet three times with Obama’s senior adviser Robert Malley on defeating the Islamic State (IS). Kislyak also paid the visitor’s office four visits.

Kislyak is listed an additional 12 times among other visitors for events like “holiday open houses” or “diplomatic corps reception.” The logs were released by the Obama White House as a push for transparency in his administration.

This article first appeared on ZeroHedge.com and was authored by Tyler Durden.

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Ex-Intercept Reporter Charged With Threatening Jewish Institutions to Vilify Ex-Girlfriend

Posted: 03 Mar 2017 11:33 AM PST

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A former Intercept reporter and journalist who was fired for making up details in stories, has been accused of making at least eight threats against Jewish institutions nationwide to harass and vilify his former girlfriend, federal officials said Friday.

Juan Thompson, 31, was arrested in St. Louis on Friday in connection to the threats to Jewish Community Centers, schools, and other institutions which have swept across at least three dozen states since January 9. Thompson is accused of making at least eight of those threats, beginning January 28. He was scheduled to appear in court in Missouri later the same day, and is also facing a charge of cyber-stalking.

Thompson has made quite the explicit tweets on the matter, particularly a pinned tweet accusing his girlfriend of sending him a bomb threat.

Know any good lawyers? Need to stop this nasty/racist #whitegirl I dated who sent a bomb threat in my name & wants me to be raped in jail. pic.twitter.com/B1IU0RkNCZ

— Juan M. Thompson (@JuanMThompson) February 24, 2017

But police say it was all a hoax, created to make the woman look guilty. He also made threats in which he identified the woman as the culprit. Among other allegations, he is accused of sending a note to the San Diego JCC that said the woman “hates Jewish people and is the head of a ring and put a bomb in the center to kill as many Jews asap,” authorities said.

University City, Missouri, police Lt. Fredrick Lemons revealed detectives will question Thompson about the 154 headstones toppled last month at a Jewish cemetery in the St. Louis suburb. He refused to comment on Thompson being a suspect.

The Intercept added in a statement: These actions are heinous and should be fully investigated and prosecuted. We have no information about the charges against Thompson other than what is included in the criminal complaint. Thompson worked for The Intercept from November 2014 to January 2016, when he was fired after we discovered that he had fabricated sources and quotes in his articles.

One of Thompson’s initial threats was to the Jewish History Museum, Manhattan, authorities added. He fabricated an email address to make it seem like the victim was sending threats in his name, and then sent messages to Jewish schools across Michigan and Manhattan. The Council on American Islamic Relations also got an anonymous email saying his former girlfriend had put a bomb in a Dallas Jewish Center.

Thompson has a history of racially motivated comments against whites littering his twitter feed, most recently lashing out at the Oscars, claiming “The Oscars & its relation to black art is the perf def of white supremacy.”

Thompson lost his job at the Intercept because of intentionally inserting lies and fake news into his articles, the Intercept adds: he was fired after we discovered that he had fabricated sources and quotes in his articles.

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Syrian Democratic Forces Handover Territory To Syrian Arab Army To Create Buffer Zone Against Turkish Army

Posted: 03 Mar 2017 11:13 AM PST

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Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) agreed to handover a massive area of territory they control to the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) to create a buffer zone against the Turkish Army and other Turkish-led forces in Syria.

The map you see at the top of this article is an estimation provided by Al-Masdar News and not official.

Recently a coalition of Turkey-led armed rebels, backed by the Turkish Armed Forces, launched an offensive against the SDF to capture the city of Manbij. This new operation against the SDF has been so brutal that it caused the Manbij Military Council (MMC) to adopt a military cooperation agreement with the SAA.

The MMC released the following on this decision:

“To reach these objectives [the defense of Manbij] we have transferred, after reaching a new alliance with Russia, the defence of the line to the west of Manbij – where the villages between us and the gang groups [FSA, Ahrar al-Sham] affiliated to the Turkish army are – to Syrian state forces.”

On Tuesday Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan had announced that Turkish Armed Forces would move toward the northern Syrian town of Manbij after completing their operation in al-Bab. Erdogan also ruled out any chance of working with the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

Syria’s ambassador to the United Nations, Bashar al-Ja’afari, who also serves as the head of the Syrian delegation to current peace talks, said on Thursday that Damascus reserves the right to use force against Turkish Armed Forces invading Syria.

Will Erdogan choose to continue the Turkish offensive in Manbij if it’s against the Syrian Arab Army? We’ll soon find out.

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US Carries Out New Strikes on Yemenese Al-Qaeda Militants

Posted: 03 Mar 2017 09:07 AM PST

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American Forces have executed another wave of strikes against Yemenese al-Qaeda militants following the latest order of increasing US military focus on the group due to their growth in strength from the Yemenese civil war.

Just a day after US forces executed more than 20 air strikes in Yemen. Citizens reported this assault in the Wadi Yashbum village in the southern Shabwah province. Another 10 to 15 air strikes were carried out overnight.

Approximately three hours later, residents in the Jabal Mugan area of neighbouring Abyan province had reported air strikes in the region. Citizens reported on ground battles between American soldiers and AQAP militants. Two US officials told Reuters that the latest operations did not involve ground combat.

“None of our troops were involved in a firefight over the last period of darkness,” one of the US officials claimed, speaking from anonymity.

Yemen is one of the Arab world’s poorest countries. It has been disenfranchised by a civil war. Forces loyal to the internationally-recognised government of President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi combat those allied to the Houthi rebel movement.

Al-Qaeda has been an important and dangerous concern since its attempt to blow up a Detroit-bound airliner on Christmas Day of 2009. This was subsequently traced back to the terrorist group. The group has exploited the civil war between the Iran-aligned Houth rebels and the US-allied government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.

Amid the civil war, the radical Islamic terror organisation has grown exponentially in strength and manpower. The newest strikes this week follow an initial raid on January 29th AQAP by US commandos. This raid resulted in the death of 14 militants and a Navy SEAL, as well as civilians. The raid has divisive perceptions. US officials believe it benefited the military with intelligence on AQAP operations. Critics condemn the raid, calling it a pointless disaster that only caused unnecessary deaths.

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Historically Black University Vandalized After Institution’s President Met With Trump

Posted: 03 Mar 2017 07:58 AM PST

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Howard University was vandalized after the institution’s president met with Donald Trump, and other leaders of historically black colleges and universities, on Monday.

Following Howard University President Wayne A.I. Frederick attending the meeting with President Trump, a message spray painted on the sidewalk accused him of being the “overseer” of the “Trump plantation.”

In today’s episode of Howard University Shenanigans pic.twitter.com/W6aEMrc98H

— Lauryn Kai (@1april_fools) February 28, 2017

“Make Howard Black Again,” a message spray-painted on a building read.

On today’s episode of Only @ Howard …??? pic.twitter.com/pqkui0zHKh

— Kiara Nelson (@KiaraLynne__) February 28, 2017

The vandals also took a cue from Kanye West, scrawling with chalk that “Wayne A.I. Frederick doesn’t care about black people.”

One day after Trump’s meeting with the leaders of HBCUs, he signed an executive order to help strengthen the institutions — a move which many lobbied the Obama Administration to undertake, though he never responded.

The order moves the Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities from the Department of Education into the executive office of the White House so that they will be prioritized in the federal budget and critical jobs initiatives.

Despite the positive outcome of the meeting, many students remain outraged despite the benefit to their own place of learning.

@Italia_calino In response to the vandalism on Howard’s campus from President Frederick. pic.twitter.com/AzF8oypoNT

— Italia (@Italia_calino) February 28, 2017

In a statement about the vandalism, Frederick wrote:

“Freedom of expression is embedded in our founding principles. As a campus administration, we have honored this principle by defending the right of community members who often express a wide range of often conflicting points of view. Howard University has long been a safe haven for such discourse, welcoming opposing views and providing a platform for stimulating dialog among students, faculty, staff, and alumni alike. Moreover, we are choosing to defend the right to free expression at a historic moment for our nation, when this right is once again of insurmountable importance,” the statement read. “While I respect freedom of expression, I strongly oppose vandalism as a form of expression.”

Frederick has also faced backlash after the university was visited by Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos.

“Howard University is pleased that Betsy DeVos, the new Secretary of Education, chose to visit our institution as her first official campus visit,” Frederick said in a statement at the time. “We have a longstanding, successful relationship with the Department of Education, and I look forward to advancing this relationship under the Secretary’s leadership.”

A radical left group on the campus, calling themselves HUResist, issued a series of demands that the university now reject federal funding in protest of Trump. It is unclear if they volunteered to pay for the lost funding from their own wallets. Howard received roughly $222 million in federal funding for the university and hospital in 2016, according to a report from The Washington Post.

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CNN Continues To Push Fake News: Don Lemon Called Out For Lying On Air

Posted: 03 Mar 2017 07:21 AM PST

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During a CNN segment on Wednesday, focused on pushing the opinion that Attorney General Jeff Sessions should recuse himself, Don Lemon was caught in a flat out lie.

“We have to remember, Loretta Lynch recused herself from any decision regarding Hillary Clinton because of that meeting of Hillary Clinton and Loretta Lynch, who was attorney general at the time, on the tarmac,” Lemon falsely asserted.

Lemon was immediately corrected by fellow CNN correspondent Dana Bash.

“Loretta Lynch, she did say she wouldn’t be involved in the decisions, but didn’t completely remove herself from the investigation, which could be an example of why [the Trump White House] potentially need to do it differently this time,” she said.

Lemon later half-admitted that he had misspoke, though he avoided mentioning his claim that the 83rd Attorney General had opted to recuse herself.

“Yeah, I may have misspoken. I meant Bill Clinton on the tarmac,” Lemon said.

Democratic lawmakers, and a the token anti-Donald Trump Republicans, have been calling for Sessions to resign over conversations that he had with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak during his time in the Senate Armed Services Committee. There has been no evidence released that there were inappropriate discussions relating to the Trump campaign.

During the election season, then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch met privately with Bill Clinton on an airport tarmac during her email investigation. The move was widely decried as inappropriate, yet she did not recuse herself. Days later, the FBI announced that they would not be recommending charges against the former Secretary of State.

Instead of recusing herself, Lynch announced that she would be accepting the recommendation made by FBI Director James Comey.

Unlike Lynch, during a news conference on Thursday, Sessions explained that he has examined ethics rules and will be recusing himself from any investigation now or in the future that involves the Trump campaign.

“During the course of the last several weeks, I have met with the relevant senior career department officials to discuss whether I should recuse myself from any matters arising from the campaigns for President of the United States,” Sessions said in a statement, released during the news conference. “Having concluded those meetings today, I have decided to recuse myself from any existing or future investigations of any matters related in any way to the campaigns.”

The first conversation in question took place amidst a group of ambassadors who had approached Sessions at a Heritage Foundation event during the Republican National Convention in July 2016, and again in an office meeting on September 8 of that same year. Sessions was not working for the campaign during those times.

The Trump administration has faced criticism for referring to CNN as “very, very fake news,” but it seems as though the network is continuing their attempts to mislead the American public.

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Tulsi Gabbard: To Solve Refugee Crisis, Stop Funding Terrorists

Posted: 02 Mar 2017 09:01 PM PST

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Article via The Anti-Media

Democratic Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, the politician who previously accused the U.S. of arming ISIS, is still calling on the U.S. government to stop its disastrous regime change policies in the Middle East.

According to a press release made public on Tuesday, Gabbard has again called for the U.S. to stop aiding terrorists like al-Qaeda and ISIS. Gabbard’s guest at the presidential address to Congress, a Kurdish refugee activist, also called for an end to the U.S. policy of “regime change in Syria.”

Gabbard said:

“In the face of unimaginable heartbreak, Tima has been a voice for the voiceless, a champion for refugees worldwide, and a strong advocate for ending the regime change war in Syria. I am honored to welcome her to Washington tonight as we raise our voices to call on our nation’s leaders to end the counterproductive regime change war in Syria that has caused great human suffering, refugees, loss of life, and devastation. We urge leaders in Congress to pass the Stop Arming Terrorists Act and end our destructive policy of using American taxpayer dollars to provide direct and indirect support to armed militants allied with terrorist groups like al-Qaeda and ISIS in Syria, who are fighting to overthrow the Syrian government.”

Gabbard also reportedly told Russian state-owned news station RT:

“For years, our government has been providing both direct and indirect support to these armed militant groups, who are working directly with or under the command of terrorist groups like Al-Qaeda and ISIS, all in their effort and fight to overthrow the Syrian government.”

The activist, Tima Kurdi, is more widely known as the aunt of a three-year-old boy who drowned on the shores of Turkey in September 2015. The image went viral on social media and was easily manipulated by the mainstream media to further the United States’ agenda in the region, never once laying blame to the U.S. military establishment for spending over $1 billion a year arming Syrian rebels.

According to the press release, Kurdi said the following:

“I am proud to stand with Tulsi and support her work to end regime change war in Syria. My people have suffered for more than six years—enough is enough. Tulsi understands that arming the so-called “rebels” in Syria has only led to more bloodshed, more suffering, and created more refugees. A military solution in Syria is not the answer. I hope that President Trump will stop arming terrorists and commit to a political solution in Syria—it is the only way to restore peace.”

Gabbard came under fire earlier this year when she took a secretive trip to Syria and met with President Assad, as well as a number of other people on the ground. The fact that her proposed policies have the backing of the relative of the drowned Syrian refugee — whose images the media exploited in 2015 to advance the western narrative against Assad — should speak volumes about the efficacy of Gabbard’s approach. Despite this, the media hardly pays heed to Gabbard’s ideas.

In 2014, PBS ran a report in which they interviewed Syrian rebels who had been trained by the CIA at a camp in Qatar. According to one of the fighters:

“They trained us to ambush regime or enemy vehicles and cut off the road…They also trained us on how to attack a vehicle, raid it, retrieve information or weapons and munitions, and how to finish off soldiers still alive after an ambush.”

The latter emboldened section is a blatant war crime and is also the standard operating procedure for ISIS. Regardless of the banner these rebels operate under, this is a terrorist tactic, and it is ultimately what American taxpayer dollars have been doing in Syria.

Creative Commons / Anti-Media / Report a typo

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Democratic Congressman Declares Russia Hacked US Election By Blogging

Posted: 02 Mar 2017 08:25 PM PST

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Rhode Island Congressman David Cicilline has declared that Russia hacked the election by blogging, and thus altering people’s perception of failed Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.

Appearing on Tucker Carlson Tonight on Fox News, Cicilline made a slew of outrageous claims, but his repeated assertions that Russia hacked the election by blogging was perhaps the greatest.

When asked, very directly, by Carlson if Russia influenced the outcome of the election, Cicilline puffed up his chest and interrupted, repeating the talking point that “17 intelligence agencies found that they did.”

The claim stems from a highly-anticipated declassified US intelligence report, which aimed to prove that Russia supported Donald Trump as the US presidential candidate, that turned out to be a huge embarrassment. The annex that contained factual material that was thought to provide evidence that the RT television channel influenced the American public was actually compiled in December 2012, right after the reelection of Barack Obama.

The report focuses on television shows and interviews that took place four years before Trump was elected, and well before he was even a politician. It also zeroed in on two RT shows, Breaking the Set and Truthseeker, which focused on criticism of US. The problem is, both of these shows were off air before the 2016 election season began. If the report is true and RT the Almighty was swinging votes in 2012, the only beneficiary of the coverage was the now-outgoing president of the United States, who won a landslide victory over Republican Mitt Romney.

Carlson went on to ask Cicilline, since he read the report, how exactly Russia influenced the outcome of the US election.

“They document a very sophisticated campaign at the direction of Vladimir Putin, that included fake news, online… uh… blogging, the hacking of the DNC, the releasing of the emails,” Cicilline rambled.

Carlson interrupted, once again straight forwardly asking if there is any evidence — any evidence at all — that Russia changed the outcome of the election with those alleged efforts.

“We don’t know that because it had to do with changing the voter’s perception,” Cicilline asserted, essentially saying that American citizens are incapable of critical thought. “There is evidence that they hacked into our election process, we’ll never know that.”

@BillyinUSA @CassandraRules @davidcicilline @TuckerCarlson they are going to blog our shores and then blog our women!

— Phil Mcgurckin (@cocoa_glenn) March 3, 2017

Carlson asked if he was alleging that Russia hacked into the voting machines and changed the outcome.

“No, no, they hacked into our system — where they released emails, they broke into the DNC, where they did online blogging, fake news…” Cicilline shouted. “Those things presumably effected some voter’s judgement.”

Carlson, stunned by Cicilline’s allegations, responded with, “online blogging? Should that be illegal? What are you talking about? They wrote things you don’t like? That’s hacking?”

Cicilline ignored the question, but went on to claim that the Russians were also responsible for Brexit.

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White House Is Exploring Use Of Military Force Against North Korea

Posted: 02 Mar 2017 07:28 PM PST

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Military Force Against North Korea?

Article via Zero Hedge

An internal White House strategy review on North Korean options includes the possibility of both military force and regime change to counter the country’s nuclear-weapons threat, the WSJ reports, a prospect that has some U.S. allies in the region on edge. The review comes amid recent events have strained regional stability including last month’s launch by North Korea of a ballistic missile into the Sea of Japan, and the assassination of the estranged half brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Malaysia.

The WSJ adds that U.S. officials have underscored the possible military dimensions of their emerging strategy in recent discussions with allies, suggesting that the planning is at an advanced stage.

President Trump has taken steps to reassure allies that he won’t abandon agreements that have underpinned decades of U.S. policy on Asia, his pledge that Pyongyang would be stopped from ever testing an intercontinental ballistic missile—coupled with the two-week-old strategy review—has some leaders bracing for a shift in American policy. During Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s two-day summit in February with Mr. Trump, U.S. officials on several occasions stated that all options were under consideration to deal with North Korea, according to a person familiar with the discussions.

It was clear to the Japanese side that those options encompassed a U.S. military strike on North Korea, possibly if Pyongyang appeared ready to test an ICBM. The Japanese side found that scenario “worrisome,” he said.

The proposal emerged roughly two weeks ago, when Deputy National Security Adviser K.T. McFarland convened a meeting with national-security officials across the government and asked them for proposals on North Korea, including ideas that one official described as well outside the mainstream.

The request was for all options, ranging from U.S. recognition of North Korea as a nuclear state to military action against Pyongyang. Ms. McFarland’s directive was for the administration to undergo a comprehensive rethink of America’s North Korea policy.

The national-security officials reported back to Ms. McFarland with their ideas and suggestions on Tuesday. Those options now will undergo a process under which they will be refined and shaped before they’re given to the president for consideration.

In addition to concerns about US intervention, there is speculation that China may itself pre-empt a move by Washingont: the heightened prospect of U.S. military action in North Korea could encourage China, which fears the fallout of a military confrontation with its neighbor, to take steps Washington has long sought to choke off Pyongyang’s economic lifeline.

Another unknown is how South Korea will act. In the wake of Mr. Trump’s election, leaders in Tokyo and Seoul have sought to intensify the existing U.S. strategy of exerting economic and diplomatic pressure against North Korea. “We will make sure that the North changes its erroneous calculations by further enhancing sanctions and pressure,” South Korea’s acting President Hwang Kyo-ahn said in a speech on Wednesday.

The speech came on the same day that South Korea and the U.S. kicked off major annual military exercises, part of a long-running strategy of prioritizing defensive military preparedness to ward off North Korean aggression. As annual military exercises were set to begin, U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis spoke Tuesday to South Korean Defense Minister Han Min-Koo, emphasizing that “any attack on the United States or its allies will be defeated, and any use of nuclear weapons will be met with a response that is effective and overwhelming,” said the Pentagon spokesman, Capt. Jeff Davis.

Finally, there is Japan, which is concerned it could get sucked into a regional conflict by a U.S. military strike on North Korea, said Tetsuo Kotani, a senior fellow at the Japan Institute of International Affairs, a Tokyo think tank. Another fear for Japan is a scenario in which the U.S. instead holds talks with North Korea and reaches a deal that would lead to Washington disengaging from the region, he said.

Japan, under its pacifist constitution, remains heavily dependent on U.S. military support, not only to counter North Korea, but also China, which has stepped up a territorial challenge against Japanese-administered islands in the East China Sea.

“Direct talks between Mr. Trump and Kim Jong Un would be a nightmare scenario for Japan,” Mr. Kotani said.

Trump has recently stated the U.S.’s commitment to defending both Japan and South Korea to leaders of both countries. A spokeswoman for Japan’s foreign ministry declined to comment on the details of Mr. Abe’s talks with Mr. Trump, while a spokesman for South Korea’s foreign ministry couldn’t be reached for comment.

Meanwhile, in yet another potential escalation point, the U.S. is in the process of installing advanced missile defenses, known as the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system, or THAAD, in South Korea. As part of that, South Korea said this week that it has completed a transfer of land needed as a station for the system, Capt. Davis said. In response to this deployment, on Wednesday China and Russia announced they have agreed to intensify their opposition to the US’ controversial THAAD missile defense system.

“Both sides said they will continue to strengthen their coordinated opposition to THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system),” the Chinese Foreign Ministry wrote on its website on Wednesday.

The statement follows a Tuesday meeting between China’s assistant foreign minister, Kong Xuanyou, and Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Igor Morgulov in Beijing. Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs also released a statement, saying that “both parties emphasized that collective political and diplomatic efforts should be stepped up to ease tensions and initiate the process of military and political detente across the board in Northeast Asia, in order to create conditions conducive to resolving the nuclear issue, as well as other issue, on the Korean Peninsula.”

It comes after the South Korean government signed a land swap deal with retail giant Lotte on Tuesday, which will see the company exchange a golf course for military-owned land near Seoul. The golf course will become the future home of THAAD. THAAD is an advanced system designed to intercept short, medium, and intermediate-range ballistic missiles during their terminal flight phase. Equipped with long-range radar, it is believed to be capable of intercepting North Korea’s intermediate-range ballistic missiles.

China has repeatedly spoken out against THAAD over fears that it will undermine its own ballistic missile capabilities, and previously urged Seoul and Washington not to go ahead with the system’s planned deployment.

Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) interceptor

Ahead of the Tuesday signing of the deal, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang warned of “consequences” against Washington and Seoul if the agreement were to go ahead, claiming the system “severely disrupts regional strategic balance and jeopardizes the strategic security interests of regional countries including China.”

China “will definitely take necessary measures to safeguard its security interests,” he said during a news briefing, adding that “all the consequences entailed will be borne by the US and the Republic of Korea.” Beijing has already taken measures which some claim are retaliatory against the deal, including halting Lotte’s multibillion dollar real estate project in China and canceling the visits of South Korean celebrities to the country.

As for Russia, the country previously urged those involved in the THAAD system to consider the escalated tensions it will inevitably cause. Last month, Moscow appraised the situation around the Korean Peninsula as “exhibiting a high likelihood of becoming volatile,” and emphasized the “counter-productiveness of the line being taken by certain governments in exacerbating these tensions and instigating an arms race in the subregion, as well as the increase in the scale of military drills.”

However, the US and South Korea maintain that THAAD is a defensive measure against Pyongyang. South Korean officials have said they expect the missile system to be deployed and operational this year, with one stating earlier this month that deployment could be completed by August.

And just like that, suddenly the very precarious peace in East Asia suddenly depends on the actions of an irrational dictator. While for now the US appears to be on the fence about a military intervention – or regime change – that will surely change should Kim Jong Un decide, unexpectedly, to launch another ballistic missile, something he is known to do with increasing frequency. Which means that suddenly the stability of a great part of Asia is in the hands of the man in the photo below.

This article first appeared on ZeroHedge.com and was authored by Tyler Durden.

The post White House Is Exploring Use Of Military Force Against North Korea appeared first on We Are Change.

Mike Pence Used Personal Email For State Business — And Was Hacked

Posted: 02 Mar 2017 05:38 PM PST

We Are Change

Article via The Anti-Media

A private email account Vice President Mike Pence used for official state business during his tenure as governor of Indiana was hacked last year, the IndyStar is reporting exclusively.

Vice President Mike Pence routinely used a private email account to conduct public business as governor of Indiana, at times discussing sensitive matters and homeland security issues.”

“Emails released to IndyStar in response to a public records request show Pence communicated via his personal AOL account with top advisers on topics ranging from security gates at the governor’s residence to the state’s response to terror attacks across the globe. In one email, Pence’s top state homeland security adviser relayed an update from the FBI regarding the arrests of several men on federal terror-related charges.”

Using a private email service for official government business is worrisome because of both security and transparency concerns. In fact, as IndyStar has reported, Pence’s AOL email account was hacked in the summer of 2016.

According to IndyStar:

Cybersecurity experts say Pence’s emails were likely just as insecure as [Hillary] Clinton’s. While there has been speculation about whether Clinton’s emails were hacked, Pence’s account was actually compromised last summer by a scammer who sent an email to his contacts claiming Pence and his wife were stranded in the Philippines and in urgent need of money.”

Transparency advocates also worry that private email accounts are used by government officials to hide information from constituents and FOIA requests.

This breaking news story will be updated if more details become available.

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The post Mike Pence Used Personal Email For State Business — And Was Hacked appeared first on We Are Change.

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