Category Archives: Foreign Affairs

Ukrainian Plane Probable Downed by Iranian Missle

Given the timing, I doubt was intentional, but I bet Iran had a hand in it.

Evidence suggests an Iranian missile brought down a Ukrainian passenger plane that crashed near Tehran, possibly in error, Western leaders say.

The leaders of Canada and the UK called for a full and thorough investigation into the crash, which killed all 176 people on board.

Iran has ruled out a missile strike by its air defences.

The crash came just hours after Iran carried out missile strikes on two airbases housing US forces in Iraq.

Looking East

The news out of Iraq is disturbing, if not unexpected. Pray for the safety of our people and our allies.

Also, be very cautious about reacting to the news of the moment. We will know more tomorrow and even more next week. This could be a relatively empty show of force by Iran’s leaders for the benefit of domestic concerns. It could be the beginning of a full-scale attack (unlikely). It could be a hasty reaction with no clear strategic direction. It could be a lot of things. Time will tell. Right now, prayers and sober, thoughtful consideration is the order of the day.

This is What Socialism Looks Like

Yup.

Venezuelan opposition figure Juan Guaidó was denied entry to the National Assembly to be re-elected as its head.

Dissident opposition politician Luis Parra, Mr Guaidó’s rival, then declared himself parliament’s new Speaker by megaphone – a move denounced by the opposition as a “parliamentary coup”.

The opposition also said Mr Parra was sworn in without votes or quorum.

In a heated exchange at the doors, Mr Guaidó reportedly told a security officer: “This is unprecedented!”

Images later showed him and other politicians who support him trying to climb a fence to gain entry to the building in the capital, Caracas.

Ahead of the vote, Mr Guaidó had accused the government of attempting to thwart his re-election as parliamentary speaker by bribing and intimidating politicians.

U.S. Hits Back

Boom.

Revolutionary Guard General Qassem Soleimani, the powerful head of Iran’s elite Quds Force, has been killed in an airstrike at Baghdad International Airport, Iraqi TV and three Iraqi officials officials said Friday.

The officials said the strike also killed Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the deputy commander of Iran-backed militias in Iraq known as the Popular Mobilization Forces, which were responsible for the recent attack on the U.S. embassy in Baghdad.

An official with the PMF blamed the U.S. military for the strike. ‘The American and Israeli enemy is responsible for killing the mujahideen Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis and Qassem Soleimani,’ said Ahmed al-Assadi, a PMF spokesman.

A U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Reuters that strikes had been carried out against two targets linked to Iran in Baghdad on Thursday but declined to give any further details.

American officials have made no public comments on the strike yet. The Pentagon and the White House did not immediately respond to inquiries from DailyMail.com. Soon after news of the strike spread, President Donald Trump tweeted an image of an American flag, offering no remarks or explanation.

The audacious airport strike is a potential turning point in the Middle East as U.S.-Iran relations teeter on the brink, and is expected to draw severe retaliation from Iran and and its Shiite allies against Israel and American interests.

Experts say that the killing of Soleimani will be viewed by Iran as a massive military provocation. ‘The pressure to retaliate will be immense,’ tweeted Middle East scholar and John Hopkins professor Vali Nasr.

‘Soleimani had cult hero status within IRGC (Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps) and among Shia militias in the region, and was personally the most popular regime figure in Iran,’ said Nasr.

Confirmed.

The Pentagon confirmed he was killed “at the direction of the president”.

It comes after reports of a strike at Baghdad’s international airport, which is said to have killed a number of people.

Iran’s Revolutionary Guards also confirmed Gen Soleimani was dead, blaming an attack by US helicopters.

Iran has been escalating the pressure for a couple of years. This time, they pushed too hard by attacking American people on American soil… and we pushed back.

Remember… Chip Your Pets

In a country near you.

The consultation is looking into the effects of making the move mandatory on owners, rescue centres and on cats. The closing date for evidence is January 4.

A spokesman for the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), said: ‘This Government has always urged cat owners to microchip their pets as the right thing to do as responsible pet owners and is now taking steps to introduce compulsory cat microchipping to give pet owners peace of mind, help tackle cat theft and identify cats injured or killed on roads.’

Zac Goldsmith, animal welfare minister, added: ‘Microchips are often the only hope of reuniting lost pets with their owners so it truly is the best New Year’s resolution you could make to protect your furry friend in 2020.’

Since compulsory dog microchipping was introduced, 92 per cent of dogs are now microchipped. It is only mandatory for cats involved in the Pet Travel Scheme.

U.S. Beefs up Embassy Security After Attack

Things in the Middle East are not always as they seem and I am not convinced that we know the whole story here. It is exceedingly strange for Iranian militants to operate in Iraq as the Iraqis look on, but that appears to be what happened. Why? Who is really behind it? What was the purpose? What reaction are they trying to get out of the U.S.? In any case, beefing up security to make it clear that we will defend our people is a prudent course of action.

WASHINGTON (AP) — Charging that Iran was “fully responsible” for an attack on the U.S. Embassy in Iraq, President Donald Trump ordered about 750 U.S. soldiers deployed to the Middle East as about 3,000 more prepared for possible deployment in the next several days.

No U.S. casualties or evacuations were reported after the attack Tuesday by dozens of Iran-supported militiamen. U.S. Marines were sent from Kuwait to reinforce the compound.

Defense Secretary Mark Esper said Tuesday night that “in response to recent events” in Iraq, and at Trump’s direction, he authorized the immediate deployment of the infantry battalion from the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. He did not specify the soldiers’ destination, but a U.S. official familiar with the decision said they will go to Kuwait.

“This deployment is an appropriate and precautionary action taken in response to increased threat levels against U.S. personnel and facilities, such as we witnessed in Baghdad today,” Esper said in a written statement.

Additional soldiers from the 82nd Airborne’s quick-deployment brigade, known officially as its Immediate Response Force, were prepared to deploy, Esper said. The U.S. official, who provided unreleased details on condition of anonymity, said the full brigade of about 4,000 soldiers may deploy.

Another observation.

Tuesday’s crowds, which included militia leaders and Shiite politicians, did not breach the embassy compound itself, but they did make it past an outer wall, charging up to the embassy security gates, staring U.S. security personnel in the face and smashing and torching property outside.

How was that possible?

“Because it was planned,” said Ganyard. “Look at the overhead views of the protest. Carefully abiding by set limits. … It was staged and had the approval of the Iraqi government.”

“The Iraqi government was never going to let Iranian proxies take over the U.S. embassy,” he added. But they had to let them get far enough to let off steam and to dissipate some of the anger in those ranks.

Iran, however, doesn’t want things to go so far that the U.S. has a reason to strike its personnel.

Putin Thanks Trump

This is curious.

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin has thanked US counterpart Donald Trump for intelligence that helped foil “acts of terrorism” on Russian soil, according to a Kremlin statement.

Mr Putin and Mr Trump spoke on the phone on Sunday, it said.

The Kremlin said the information came via intelligence services, but it provided no further details.

Russian media is reporting the discovery of a plot to attack St Petersburg over the New Year period.

Tass news agency says two Russian nationals have been arrested and plans to attack a mass gathering were seized, according to a spokesperson from the FSB, the Russian intelligence agency.

Brexit Getting Closer

It looks like the politicos are finally giving in to the will of the public. Maybe. There’s a long way to go.

MPs have backed Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s plan for the UK to leave the EU on 31 January.

They voted 358 to 234 – a majority of 124 – in favour of the EU (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill, which now goes on to further scrutiny in Parliament.

The bill would also ban an extension of the transition period – during which the UK is out of the EU but follows many of its rules – past 2020.

The PM said the country was now “one step closer to getting Brexit done”.

Will Democrats Learn From Labour’s Loss?

No.

But the policies of Labour in the 2019 election are very different from what they were in 2005 when Tony Blair and the so-called “modernisers” held sway. Labour last Thursday went into the election with an unashamedly socialist set of policies, promising a massive increase in government spending, and big tax increases for the well-off. Nationalisation of some industries was back on the agenda. There would be massive increase in spending for the National Health Service – and an offer of free broadband for everyone. Why no offer of free puppies for all, one wag asked derisively.

The problem is that the pragmatic, working-class people of Sedgefield – and any number of other constituencies across the industrial towns and cities of the UK – held their collective noses and said you must be joking. These are smart, savvy people. They know that you don’t get something for nothing.

Electoral districts that all my life have been Labour – Blyth Valley, Bolsover, Rother Valley, Newcastle-under-Lyme, Dudley, Grimsby – are now held by the Conservatives. It is hard to overstate just how seismic this is. And remember social class in the UK has always been a bigger determinant of how people vote than it has been in the US. Just like the whole class system, frankly. Some of these constituencies have never, ever flirted with the right.

Of course, there is a massive caveat that makes reading across from what happened in the UK to what might happen in the US precarious. Brexit, no deal, the European Union Withdrawal Agreement will not be on the ballot in the 2020 US presidential election. Brexit did play a big part in this general election – how could it not given the turmoil in Britain of these past three-and-a-half years?

But as Phil Wilson, the man who succeeded Tony Blair as the Labour MP in Sedgefield – and who lost his seat on Thursday night, pointed out, Brexit was nothing like as big an issue on the doorstep as Jeremy Corbyn and Labour’s socialist policies.

Britain Wants Brexit

The elites keep saying that the people don’t want, or should’t want, Brexit, but the people keep making their wished known at the ballot box.

Boris Johnson has said he hopes his party’s “extraordinary” election win will bring “closure” to the Brexit debate and “let the healing begin”.

Speaking in Downing Street, he said he would seek to repay the trust placed in him by Labour supporters who had voted Conservative for the first time.

He said he would not ignore those who opposed Brexit as he builds with Europe a partnership “of sovereign equals”.

The Tories have won a Commons majority of 80, the party’s largest since 1987.

It means the UK is heading out of the EU at the end of next month, the BBC’s political editor Laura Kuenssberg said, with Mr Johnson’s “thumping” majority allowing him to get the laws required through Parliament “in a matter of weeks”.

The Conservatives’ victory in the 650th and final contest of the election – the seat of St Ives, in Cornwall – took their total number of MPs up to 365. Labour finished on 203, the SNP 48, Liberal Democrats 11 and the DUP eight.

House Finally Moves Forward on USMCA

Excellent. But let’s be honest here… Pelosi dragged her feet on this for months for domestic political and personal benefit at the same time she is planning to impeach the president for allegedly leveraging public policy for domestic political and personal benefit.

House Democrats and the Trump administration have reached an agreement to move forward with the White House’s replacement for the North American Free Trade Agreement, top Democrats said Tuesday.

The two sides had worked for more than a year to resolve Democratic concerns about enforcement tools for labor and environmental standards under the new deal, known as the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement. House Democrats, President Donald Trump, top Senate Republicans and labor leaders all cited progress toward a deal this week.

The Trump administration needs to submit ratifying legislation to Congress for the House to move forward with approving the agreement. Once the White House submits text — it could do so in the coming days — a 90-day window to approve USMCA starts.

The three countries’ representatives — U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, Canadian Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland and Mexican Deputy Foreign Minister Jesus Seade — signed the revised deal on Tuesday afternoon in Mexico City.

Terrorist Released Due to “Budget Cuts”

Budget cuts, eh?

Two people were killed and three were injured by Usman Khan, 28, a convicted terrorist who served half of his time.

PM Boris Johnson claimed scrapping early release would have stopped him.

But Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn will blame budget cuts for “missed chances to intervene” in a speech on Sunday.

As many as 70 convicted terrorists released from prison could be the focus of the government review.

Khan, 28, who was shot by police on Friday after carrying out the attack, was jailed over a plot to bomb the London Stock Exchange in 2012.

He was sentenced to indeterminate detention for “public protection” with a minimum jail term of eight years.

This sentence would have allowed him to be kept in prison beyond the minimum term.

But in 2013, the Court of Appeal quashed the sentence, replacing it with a 16-year-fixed term of which Khan should serve half in prison. He was released on licence in December 2018 – subject to an “extensive list of licence conditions”, Met Police Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu said.

Leonardo DiCaprio Burns the Amazon

Uh huh

Without offering proof, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro on Friday said actor Leonardo DiCaprio had funded nonprofit groups that he claimed are partly responsible for fires in the Amazon this year.

Bolsonaro’s remarks about the American actor were part of a wider government campaign against environmental nonprofit groups operating in Brazil.

“DiCaprio is a cool guy, isn’t he? Giving money to set the Amazon on fire,” the president said to supporters in Brasilia.

DiCaprio’s environmental organization Earth Alliance has pledged $5 million to help protect the Amazon after a surge in fires destroyed large parts of the rainforest in July and August. But the actor and committed environmentalist said in a statement sent to The Associated Press Friday his group had not funded any of the two nonprofits named by investigators so far.

“While worthy of support, we did not fund the organizations targeted,” the statement read. “The future of these irreplaceable ecosystems is at stake and I am proud to stand with the groups protecting them.”

Some members of Bolsonaro’s administration argue that civil society groups and environmental laws hinder economic development in the region.

Hackers Disrupt Nursing Homes

Ouch.

Russian hackers are holding hostage data from a Milwaukee-based company that provides technology services to more than 100 nursing homes across the country after the company couldn’t afford a $14 million ransom demand.

The hack against Virtual Care Provider Inc., which provides internet security and data storage services to nursing homes and acute-care facilities, means that some locations cannot access patient records, use the internet, pay employees or order crucial medications.

Virtual Care Provider Inc. said on its website it was working to restore services after the Nov. 17 attack. In an interview with cybersecurity reporter Brian Krebs, who runs the blog KrebsOnSecurity.com, chief executive Karen Christianson said the ransomware attack has affected 80,000 computers.

Some affected facilities could be forced out of business, and patients’ health is at risk if the data is not accessible, Christianson told Krebs.

“We have employees asking when we’re going to make payroll,” Christianson said. “But right now all we’re dealing with is getting electronic medical records back up and life-threatening situations handled first.”

New Asylum Policy Takes Hold

I guess things weren’t so bad in Honduras, after all.

The U.S. is increasingly aligning itself with wealthy countries in Europe and elsewhere to make asylum a more distant prospect.

On Thursday, American authorities sent a Honduran man from El Paso, Texas, to Guatemala. It marked the first time the U.S. government directed an asylum-seeker back to that country under the new policy, which gave him an option to file a claim there. He decided against filing a claim and returned to Honduras, according to Guatemala’s foreign ministry.

Hong Kong Protesters Fight with Arrows and Gas Bombs

This is why we have the 2nd Amendment… so we can use our guns – not arrows – to fight a totalitarian government.

Police have besieged a university campus in Hong Kong occupied by protesters who have been fighting back with arrows and petrol bombs.

Officers have warned that they could use live ammunition if protesters do not stop attacking them using such weapons.

A media liaison officer was earlier wounded in the leg with an arrow near the Polytechnic University (PolyU).

Months of anti-government protests have caused turmoil in the city.

The latest violence is however some of the worst the semi-autonomous Chinese territory has seen since the movement began. The police have become targets for radical demonstrators, who accuse them of excessive force.

Police have so far been responding to violence around the PolyU campus mostly with tear gas and water cannon.

Hong Kong Continues to Rage

Freedom fighters.

A Hong Kong police officer shot a masked protester at point blank range in a shocking skirmish broadcast on Facebook Live on Monday morning.

The outbreak of violence happened at a blockaded junction in Sai Wan Ho during rush hour as a police officer attempted to arrest a masked man during a wild scuffle in the city’s 24th straight weekend of pro-democracy demonstrations.

Footage showed the policeman drawing his sidearm as a second man moved towards the officer in an attempt to liberate his comrade.

The protester appeared to take a swipe at the officer’s pistol and just moments later he opened fire, hitting the masked demonstrator in the torso.

As shrieks pierced the air, other demonstrators rushed at the officer who quickly fired another two rounds.

The masked demonstrator he had originally tried to collar broke free in the struggle but another man went to ground as the shots were fired.

Mormons Fear in Mexico

Sad

By Lizbeth Diaz

COLONIA LEBARON, Mexico, Nov 9 (Reuters) – Members of a breakaway Mormon community tucked in the hills of northern Mexico buried the last of their dead on Saturday after a devastating massacre, and some headed for safer ground in the United States.

Hundreds of friends and family from both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border gathered in rural Colonia LeBaron to honor Christina Langford, who died in an ambush on Monday that killed nine. Family members say she exited her car with her arms outstretched to signal she was not a gang member – but not before wedging her infant daughter’s car seat on the floor of the vehicle.

The baby, Faith, was found unharmed in the bullet-riddled sport utility vehicle.

[…]

Tucked away in the fertile valleys of the Sierra Madre mountains a few hours drive south from the U.S. border, the communities stem from the late 1800s, when upheaval over polygamy in the Utah-based church led to their founding.

Shrouded in fog on Saturday morning, LeBaron showed its roots, with some aging buildings appearing to be straight from a Wild West movie set. LeBaron is scattered with signs touting religious life but also advertisements for rodeos featuring alcohol, hinting at traces of secularism.

Agriculture is the heart of the local economy and pecans are among the main crops, with children often helping collect the nuts on their families’ property. Many families send their sons to the United States to work when they get older, though they maintain deep roots in Mexico.

While fears of further violence may send some north, Rosa LeBaron, 65, said she had no doubt the tragedy would bring their community closer.

Twitter Employees Allegedly Recruited by Saudi Arabia

It’s not just social media companies who sell your data. Sometimes, people steal it.

Two former Twitter employees have been charged with spying after they reportedly obtained personal account information for critics of the government of Saudi Arabia.

A complaint unsealed on Wednesday in US district court in San Francisco detailed a coordinated effort by Saudi officials to recruit employees at the social media giant to look up the private data of thousands of Twitter accounts.

One of the former Twitter employees, Ahmad Abouammo, was arrested on Tuesday on charges of spying and falsifying an invoice to obstruct an FBI investigation. He is a US citizen. The other former employee, a Saudi citizen named Ali Alzabarah, was accused of accessing the personal information of more than 6,000 Twitter accounts in 2015 on behalf of Saudi Arabia.

al-Baghdadi Dead

This is a man who perpetrated a terrorist regime and a genocide of non-Islamists. Thanks to our Special Forces for getting this job done.

The fugitive leader of the Islamic State (IS) group has been killed in a US military operation in northwest Syria, President Donald Trump has said.

Speaking from the White House, Mr Trump said Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi detonated his suicide vest after being caught at the end of a tunnel by special forces.

Baghdadi came to prominence in 2014, when he announced the creation of a “caliphate” in areas of Iraq and Syria.