February 10, 2017

Trump nixed candidate for State Department job over campaign criticism: report

President Trump has rejected a top candidate for deputy secretary of State who criticized him during the 2016 presidential campaign, CNNreported Friday.

A meeting between Trump and Elliott Abrams went well, CNN reported, but Trump nixed Abrams for the State Department role once he learned that Abrams criticized him during his White House run.

Abrams, who worked for former presidents Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush, was considered a top contender for the No. 2 job.
He had the backing of White House chief of staff Reince Priebus and senior adviser Jared Kushner. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson also supported Abrams for the job because of his experience, CNN reported.


Russia suspected over hacking attack on Italian foreign ministry

Exclusive: Italian government official says no classified emails were compromised in attack believed to have lasted more than four months last year

Italy’s prime minister, Paolo Gentiloni
Italy’s prime minister, Paolo Gentiloni, was foreign minister at the time of the hack, but sources say he was not affected. Photograph: Dadi/AGF/REX/Shutterstock

Russia is suspected by Italian officials of being behind a sustained hacking attack against the Italian foreign ministry last year that compromised email communications and lasted for many months before it was detected, according to people familiar with the matter.

An Italian government official confirmed that the attack hit the foreign ministry last spring and lasted for more than four months but did not infiltrate an encrypted system used for classified communications.


Britain’s entire fleet of attack submarines ‘out of action’Laura Hughes,

The Royal Navy’s fleet of attack submarines are all currently out of action, according to reports.

Britain’s seven ‘hunter-killer’ vessels are understood to be ‘non-operational’ as they undergo repairs and maintenance.

HMS Astute is the only vessel currently at sea, but she is still “weeks away” from active service.

Theresa May is said to have been kept in the dark by Defence chiefs, the Sun reports.


French Jews will have to renounce their Israeli citizenship if Marine Le Pen is elected as president, the National Front leader reveals

  • Far-right leader said citizens with dual nationalities from non-European countries will have to choose one or the other
  • She was quizzed on whether she includes Israel within proposed rules
  • Le Pen said those who do not choose French nationality will not necessarily be forced to leave
  • She has previously called for Jews to stop wearing kippahs in public 

French Jews who have dual Israeli nationality will have to give up one of their nationalities if far-right candidate Marine Le Pen is elected.

The Front National leader said she would not allow citizens to hold dual citizenship in two non-European countries.

She will, however, not include Russia in the policy, stating she considers it to be part of the ‘Europe of nations’.


Girl, 16, is among four people arrested in France on suspicion of plotting a suicide bomb attack in Paris using ‘Mother of Satan’ explosives

  • The four are suspected of planning a terror attack on the French capital
  • They were arrested today in the southern city of Montpellier
  • Reports from France suggest they may have been identified on social media
  • Explosives were reportedly found by anti-terrorist teams 

A 16-year-old girl has been arrested in the French city of Montpellier on suspicion of plotting a suicide attack in Paris.

She was one of four suspects arrested after investigators from the anti-terrorist sub-directorate swooped this morning.

Agents had been monitoring their computers for several weeks, and it thought the four may have been identified on social media.

A ‘bomb-making laboratory’ was found in the single flat raided in Montpellier, said a source close to the case.


Trump tells Chinese president US will honor ‘one China’ policy

President Donald Trump told China President Xi Jinping the U.S. would honor the “one China” policy months after Trump suggested he might use American policy on Taiwan as a bargaining chip between the two sides.

Trump “agreed at the request of President Xi,” to honor the policy, the White House said in a statement late Thursday.


Michael Flynn talked sanctions with Russia before Trump took office: Reports

– The Washington Times – Friday, February 10, 2017

National Security Adviser Michael Flynn discussed U.S. sanctions against Russia with the Russian ambassador before President Trump took office, according to new reports.

Mr. Flynndenied he had discussed the sanctions with Ambassador Sergey Kislyak to The Washington Post on Wednesday before a spokesman said Thursday that while Mr. Flynn had no recollection of discussing sanctions, he “couldn’t be certain” that the topic never came up.

The Post said its report relied on “nine current and former officials” who were in senior positions at multiple agencies at the time of the calls.


Ukraine will hold live-fire drills with Buk-M1 antiaircraft missile systems at the Yagorlyk practice range in the Kherson Region in the country’s southeast, spokesman for the Ukrainian Defense Ministry Dmitry Gutsulyak said on Friday. About 50 tactical exercises have been planned with the command posts of brigades, regiments and basic units, almost 25 tactical drills with Buk-M1 surface-to-air missile batteries at practice ranges, and also about 35 tactical and special maneuvers with logistics teams to ensure cohesion of antiaircraft missile formations, TASS quoted him as saying. “Units of S-300 air defense systems will take part in tactical live-fire drills during the multinational exercises Saber Guardian – 2017 at the Shabla training range in Bulgaria,” Gutsulyak added.


Russia’s Baltic Sea Pipeline Scares The Life Out Of Ukraine

Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own.

Despite opposition last year from anti-trust authorities in Poland, Russia is not backing down. Energy giant Gazprom insists it will build the Nord Stream II pipeline through the Baltic Sea even if it has to do it alone. The pipeline will sit right beside the Nord Stream I pipeline that already exists.  And if it gets built, Ukraine is convinced it’s future as a transit line for Russian gas into Europe is finished.

“As it is, Russia is moving its traditional Ukraine transit to Nord Stream I,” says Andriy Kobolyev, CEO of Naftogaz in Ukraine. “If you look at the numbers on gas consumption in Europe out to 2020, it is obvious to me that if we get a Nord Stream II and if we get the expansion of Turkish Stream, which is already happening, with two pipelines there now instead of one, then that will mean Ukrainian transit of Russian gas into Europe with equal zero.”


Top commander: Russia ‘legitimizing’ Taliban to undermine US, NATO

Russia is trying to legitimize the Taliban in order to undermine the United States and NATO, the top U.S. general in Afghanistan said Thursday.

“The Russian involvement this year has become more difficult,” Gen. John Nicholson told the Senate Armed Services Committee. “First, they have begun to publicly legitimize the Taliban. This narrative that they promote is that the Taliban are fighting Islamic State and the Afghan government is not fighting Islamic State and that, therefore, there could be spillover of this group into the region. This is a false narrative.”

“I believe its intent is to undermine the United States and NATO,” he later added.


Turkey’s Erdoğan paves way for April vote on new sweeping powers

Referendum to be held after president approves bill on constitutional changes that could allow him to rule until 2029

Turkey’s president has approved a major constitutional reform bill granting him broad new powers under an executive presidential system, paving the way for a referendum on the bill on 16 April.

The 18-article bill was passed by parliament last month without garnering the two-thirds majority needed to become law.President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s approval allows the changes to go to a referendum in the deeply polarised country, which is still under emergency law.


STR | AFP | Getty Images

China ‘beefing up military’ on disputed islands in the South China Sea, says US think tank

Kristin Huang

Satellite images suggest China has upgraded its military ­infrastructure in the disputed ­Paracel Islands in the South China Sea, ­according to a U.S. think tank.

The Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies in Washington said on Wednesday that China now ­occupied 20 outposts in the ­Paracels, and that there had been an extensive military build-up on eight islands.


But on Friday, the California-based chip maker GlobalFoundries announced a $10 billion project in China, showing how the center of gravity continues to shift across the Pacific.

The new advanced semiconductor factory, in the central Chinese city of Chengdu, is only the most recent in an array of investments, often by major multinationals, into China with the support of the Chinese government. The projects have become markedly more sophisticated, making more modern microchips, memory chips or flat-panel displays.

Italian businessman dumped North Korean nuclear waste in ocean near Taiwan

Environmental groups demand investigation

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – An Italian businessman dumped radioactive nuclear waste in the ocean near Taiwan in the 1990s, according to documents from an Italian intelligence service declassified Wednesday.

The information was contained in 61 documents from SISMI, an Italian military intelligence department, which were submitted to an Italian parliamentary investigation commission, according to the Italian media.

The reports named Giorgio Comerio as a businessman who made a fortune by sending ships loaded with nuclear and other dangerous materials to the bottom of the sea in the Mediterranean and near Somalia and Taiwan.

Comerio began collaborating closely with the government of North Korea around 1995, the documents said. In return for the payment of US$227 million (NT$7 billion), he disposed of 200,000 barrels of radioactive waste, whose final resting place must be the ocean near Taiwan, according to SISMI.


Only 1 of Germany’s 8 Airbus A400M military planes ready for use – air force

Just one of Germany’s eight Airbus A400M military transport aircraft can be used at the moment, the country’s air force has said. The news comes after one of the planes broke down while the German defense minister was visiting Lithuania.

Recently, three planes – including the one in Lithuania – were out for unscheduled repairs, and two more were set to be checked, a spokesman for the German Air Force said, as cited by Reuters.

The spokesman added that a seventh plane was still undergoing the acceptance process following the arrival on January 31.


Stealth, Super Bombs and Lasers: All of the Reason Iran Should Fear America’s Military

Should the U.S. have to resort to the military option against Iran’s nuclear program, the B-2 stealth bomber would figure prominently in the operations. One of Iran’s best defenses is its massive and unforgiving geography. The country is three times larger than Iraq and roughly equivalent to the size of all of Western Europe. Most of its major nuclear facilities, as well as some of its important military sites, are located deep inside the country. Some of these are also located near important cities, such as the Fordow nuclear enrichment plant that is located near the important religious city of Qom. This and four others, make up the weapons America would use to go to war against Iran. 



Saboteur from inner circle must be identifed ASAP

Officials in the White House are looking into leaks about President Donald Trump’s phone calls with foreign heads of state, including Russian President Vladimir Putin, calling them “very concerning.”

“We’re looking into the situation, yes, and it’s very concerning,” White House press secretary Sean Spicer said on Thursday as quoted by the Hill.

Spicer stressed that the way parts of the information are being revealed “is clearly a breach of a lot of protocols and laws.”

The spokesperson noted that Trump is worried by the leaks, adding that “the idea that you can’t have a conversation without that information getting out is concerning,” Spicer said.


Kremlin says Turkey provided intel for “friendly fire” strikes

By Christian Lowe and Tulay Karadeniz | MOSCOW/ANKARA
The Kremlin and the Turkish military gave conflicting accounts on Friday of who was responsible for the accidental death of three Turkish soldiers in Russian air strikes in Syria.

The “friendly fire” incident occurred during an operation against Islamic State near the northern Syrian city of al-Bab on Thursday, highlighting the risk of unintended clashes between the numerous outside powers in a complex war. [nL5N1FU3WP]

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the air strikes had been launched based on coordinates provided to Russia by the Turkish military.

“Unfortunately, our military, while carrying out strikes on terrorists, was guided by coordinates given to them by our Turkish partners, and Turkish servicemen should not have been present on those coordinates,” he told a conference call with reporters.


Russia’s ‘Humpty Dumpty’ hackers: What were they trying to do?

Russian police have arrested members of a prominent group of hackers that leaked information about Russian officials and state ministries. BBC Moscow correspondent Steve Rosenberg meets a “Humpty Dumpty” member hiding out in Estonia who explains why the notorious group did what they did.

In a restaurant in the city of Tallinn, Alexander Glazastikov tells me how he got into the business of stealing and leaking information.

“I was bored with my job, I wanted to try something else. Something interesting.”

Along with former journalist Vladimir Anikeev, Glazastikov created “Anonymous International”. The group became known as “Shaltai Boltai” – the Russian name for “Humpty Dumpty”. Mr Anikeev is now under arrest in Moscow.


Feds Bust Alleged Russian Bank Hacker in Los Angeles

Alexander Tverdokhlebov, whom authorities describe as an ‘extremely sophisticated and well-connected cybercriminal,’ allegedly stole cash from thousands of U.S. bank accounts.


A federal investigation into a Russian cybercrime ring led Secret Service agents to the doorstep of a 29-year-old Los Angeles man the United States calls an “extremely sophisticated and well-connected cybercriminal” who allegedly used malware to steal cash from thousands of U.S. bank accounts.

Alexander Tverdokhlebov was arrested in an early-morning raid on Feb. 1 on a four-count wire fraud indictment alleging that he worked with a Russian colleague in 2009 and 2010 to attack U.S. financial institutions. He allegedly used a botnet of 10,000 hacked PCs.


‘Paranoid Republicans’ are reportedly using an app that auto-deletes messages over hacking fears

In 2016, the emails of Democratic Party officials were hacked and leaked to Wikileaks — an incident that defined the US presidential election and helped Donald Trump achieve his shock victory over establishment favourite Hillary Clinton.

Republicans are now determined not to let the same happen to them.

Axios’ Jonathan Swan and David McAbe are reporting that some members of Trump’s administration and other senior Republican officials have taken up using Confide, a secrecy-focused messaging app backed by Google.

These days, plenty of apps — from iMessage to WhatsApp — offer end-to-end encryption to help protect users’ data from prying eyes. But Confide takes it a step further by deleting messages once they have been read, Snapchat-style, and makes it difficult to even screenshot them.


Army drone that vanished on flight found stuck in a tree

An Army drone that disappeared on a training flight in southern Arizona turned up hundreds of miles away in Colorado, stuck in a tree, and the military is trying to figure out how it got there.

A hiker spotted the Shadow drone in the foothills west of Denver on Thursday, officials at Fort Huachuca in Arizona told the Colorado Springs Gazette.

The $1.5 million drone was missing a wing, The Associated Press reported. “An investigation into what happened is the next step,” Fort Huachuca spokeswoman Tanja Linton said.


The colonels shaping Trump’s Middle East policy

WASHINGTON — Underneath the drama and chaos of the Donald Trump White House — the rival power centers, combative press conferences mercilessly mocked on Saturday Night Live, leaked transcripts of Trump’s phone calls to allied leaders, and the often inflammatory tweeter-in-chief, fuming over the latest perceived insult while watching “Morning Joe” — a cadre of deeply serious, tested military intellectuals at the National Security Council is shaping Trump’s Middle East policies.


Girl, 16, who planned to blow up a Jewish school in Denmark becomes the first female in the country’s history to be charged with terrorism

  • A 16-year-old girl has been charged with plotting to bomb schools in Denmark
  • She has become the first female in Danish history to be arrested for terrorism 
  • Prosecutors said she planned ‘to make bombs’ using Acetone peroxide (TATP) 
  • She had targeted a private Jewish school in Copenhagen and her own school

A 16-year-old girl has become the first female to be arrested on terrorism charges in Denmark’s history after she planned to bomb two schools, including her own.

Prosecutor Lise-Lotte Nilas says, the Danish student from the small town of Kundby, is accused of ‘having made preparations to make bombs’ using the explosive known as TATP.

She had targeted a private Jewish school in Copenhagen and the school she attened, Sydskolen, in the town of Fårevejle.


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