2018-01-01 00:00:00 ..
2018-01-17 20:14:45 UTC
2018-01-18 08:18:51 UTC
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Something is definitely going on in Saudi Arabia:
Saudi authorities arrested at least 11 princes, several current ministers and dozens of former ministers in a sweeping move reportedly designed to consolidate power for the son of King Salman bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud. According to media reports citing Saudi-owned television network Al Arabiya, an anti-corruption committee ordered the arrests hours after King Salman directed the creation of the committee, headed by his favorite son and adviser, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
The committee was established by the royal decree, The Associated Press reports, "due to the propensity of some people for abuse, putting their personal interest above public interest, and stealing public funds." Billionaire investor Prince Alwaleed bin Talal is among those detained, The Wall Street Journal reports. Alwaleed holds stakes in some of the world's major companies, including Apple and Twitter.
Remember Prince Alwaleed? Bitcoin could outlive him.
Separately, the heads of the Saudi National Guard and Saudi Royal Navy have also been replaced.
BBC notes that the reform faction is in control here:
BBC security correspondent Frank Gardner says Prince Mohammed is moving to consolidate his growing power while spearheading a reform programme. [...] Prince Mohammed recently said the return of "moderate Islam" was key to his plans to modernise Saudi Arabia. Addressing an economic conference in Riyadh, he vowed to "eradicate the remnants of extremism very soon". Last year, Prince Mohammed unveiled a wide-ranging plan to bring social and economic change to the oil-dependent kingdom.
Some Soylentils have been skeptical of Saudi Arabia's recent moves towards liberalization (some listed below). Has this apparent purge of internal political opposition changed your mind about the viability of these reforms?
Previously: SoftBank May Sell 25% of ARM to Vision Fund; Chairman Meets With Saudi King
Saudi Arabia, UAE to Donate to Women Entrepreneurs Fund
Saudi Arabia to Lift Ban on Online VoIP and Video Calling Services
Saudi Arabia Will Lift Ban on Women Drivers Next Year
Saudi Arabia Planning $500 Billion Megacity and Business Zone
Robot Granted "Citizenship" in Saudi Arabia, Sparking Backlash
Saudi Arabia Announced Plans to Extract Uranium for Domestic Nuclear Power Program
According to The Daily Beast, Jenna Abrams was not a real person at all, but was part of a Russian plot to turn Americans against themselves:
Her opinions about everything from manspreading on the subway to Rachel Dolezal to ballistic missiles still linger on news sites all over the web.
[...] Her account was the creation of employees at the Internet Research Agency, or the Russian government-funded "troll farm," in St. Petersburg.
[...] Abrams' pervasiveness in American news outlets shows just how much impact Russia's troll farm had on American discourse in the run-up to the 2016 election—and illustrates how Russian talking points can seep into American mainstream media without even a single dollar spent on advertising.
While the the [sic] typical image of a Russian troll may be a hastily put together Twitter account blaring out non-stop political messages, Abrams' account went to great lengths to simulate a real, American person who existed outside of Twitter fights and amplifying racist disinformation.
Her Twitter account was created back in 2014. She had a personal website, a Medium page, her own Gmail, and even a GoFundMe page.
takyon: More Russia stuff follows:
SAN FRANCISCO — As many as 126 million people — or one-third the U.S. population — may have seen material posted by a Russian troll farm under fake Facebook identities between 2015 and 2017, according to planned testimony by Facebook's general counsel obtained by USA TODAY.
The weekend after Trump's election, thousands of people attended a left-wing anti-Trump protest in New York City that was secretly organized by Russian operatives, ads released by the House Intelligence Committee revealed.
More than 16,000 people RSVP'd on Facebook for the protest, which was titled: "Trump is NOT my President. March against Trump."
Also at Politico.
The Democratic National Committee is hiring IT people for these positions:
I personally would prefer that you not forward to cisgender straight while males, since they're already in the majority.
The Daily Wire blogger posted a different screenshot of the e-mail on Twitter.
Also at The Hill
Manafort and Gates, were charged with "conspiracy against the United States," "conspiracy to launder money" and other offenses. The two were expected in court in Washington by the afternoon.
The Justice Department indictment on Manafort and Gates contains 12 counts: "conspiracy against the United States, conspiracy to launder money, unregistered agent of a foreign principal, false and misleading FARA statements, false statements, and seven counts of failure to file reports of foreign bank and financial accounts."
Papadopoulos pleaded guilty to making false statements to the FBI.
The Manafort and Gates indictment unsealed on Monday morning does not make any reference to Russia's influence campaign against the presidential election, but it does allege extensive financial ties between Manafort and Gates and powerful Ukrainians.
The Papadopoulos materials, on the other hand, detail the many contacts investigators say he had with Russian-linked operatives. He met at least two people, a man and a woman, who the FBI says were working for the Russian government and had boasted to him about the help it could offer the Trump campaign against Clinton.
After RT published excerpts from Twitter's "limited offer" to spend millions on US election marketing, the company abruptly banned all advertising from the news network. This makes full disclosure and transparency imperative, so here goes.
On Thursday, the micro-blogging platform announced a policy decision to ban ads from RT and Sputnik, citing alleged meddling in the 2016 US election.
It followed Twitter's report implying that RT was trying to influence US public opinion, crucially without providing context that virtually all news media organizations spend money on advertising their news coverage.
RT was thereby forced to reveal some details of the 2016 negotiations during which Twitter representatives made an exclusive multi-million dollar advertising proposal to spend big during the US presidential election, which was turned down.
Having since been banned, and in order to set the record straight, we are publishing Twitter's presentation and details of the offer in full.
Lenin said it: "The Capitalists will sell us the rope with which we will hang them."
The last step to render I:8:11 a dead letter is currently being debated in a federal appeal.
A Trump administration attorney said Friday that federal courts cannot evaluate whether a president is waging an illegal war, even if the war clearly has no grounding in a congressional authorization of force and someone directly impacted sues.
The claim was made during oral arguments in an appeal filed by Nathan Michael Smith, a now-former Army intelligence analyst who sued last year claiming former President Barack Obama was illegally fighting Islamic State terrorists without an authorization for use of military force, or AUMF, from Congress.
[...] "What if the president were to initiate hostilities with a nation or organization that wasn't plausibly within these AUMFs, would that be subject to review?" Griffith asked.
"No, I think, is the short answer. No," said Thomas Byron, an experienced Justice Department attorney.
This afternoon, Catalonia declared independence. At the same time, Spain invoked article 155, to strip Catalonia from its governing powers putting it under direct rule from the federal government. A vote for independence was raised in Catalonian parliament, with part of parliament leaving before the vote on independence started. The motion declaring independence was approved with 70 in favor, 10 against, and two abstentions of the normal 135 total.
From RT: https://www.rt.com/news/407956-catalan-parliament-votes-independence/
From Aljazeera: http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2017/10/catalan-parliament-begins-vote-independence-171027115908493.html
From BBC: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-41780116
It will be interesting to see how things unfold. In my opinion, Madrid using violence to stop a referendum gave it the legality they later claim the referendum didn't have. The lack of dialogue paved the way into the only possible outcome, Catalonia declaring independence and Madrid denying it. Whatever happens next, I hope will be peaceful. As to how the EU reacts, I'm hoping they ask for an official referendum, and whatever the outcome, pledges that both Catalonia and Spain will be able to remain in the EU if they desire. That may release tensions a bit.
The WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said on Wednesday that he had rebuffed a request for help last year from the head of a data firm that worked for Donald J. Trump and is now facing congressional scrutiny.
On Twitter, Mr. Assange said he had been approached before the 2016 election by Alexander Nix, the chief executive of Cambridge Analytica, which worked for Mr. Trump during the final months of the campaign. Mr. Assange did not disclose what kind of help Mr. Nix sought, only that he had declined the request. "I can confirm an approach by Cambridge Analytica," Mr. Assange wrote, "and can confirm that it was rejected by WikiLeaks."
But The Daily Beast reported on Wednesday that Mr. Nix had emailed Mr. Assange looking for copies of more than 30,000 emails that were deleted from Hillary Clinton's private server and never publicly released. Mrs. Clinton has said that the emails were personal in nature.
[...] It is also unclear why Mr. Nix would have believed that Mr. Assange had copies of the missing emails. Earlier last year, WikiLeaks had posted a searchable database of more than 50,000 emails from Mrs. Clinton's private server, all of them previously released by the State Department. But Mr. Trump himself seemed eager to find the missing emails: At a campaign rally in July, Mr. Trump publicly asked Russia to obtain the deleted emails.
"There's no such thing as a dumb question." :-) 😂😂😂
Japan's Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) coalition has won big in the recent elections and may eventually push for changes in Japan's constitution, although such plans are tentative:
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's ruling bloc scored a big win in Sunday's election, bolstering his chance of becoming the nation's longest-serving premier and re-energizing his push to revise the pacifist constitution. Abe's Liberal Democratic Party-led (LDP) coalition won a combined 312 seats, keeping its two-thirds "super majority" in the 465-member lower house, local media said.
A hefty win raises the likelihood that Abe, who took office in December 2012, will secure a third three-year term as LDP leader next September and go on to become Japan's longest-serving premier. It also means his "Abenomics" growth strategy centered on the hyper-easy monetary policy will likely continue.
[...] The U.S.-drafted constitution's Article 9, if taken literally, bans the maintenance of armed forces. But Japanese governments have interpreted it to allow a military exclusively for self-defense. Backers of Abe's proposal to clarify the military's ambiguous status say it would codify the status quo. Critics fear it would allow an expanded role overseas for the military. Abe said he would not stick to a target he had floated of making the changes by 2020. "First, I want to deepen debate and have as many people as possible agree," he told a TV broadcaster. "We should put priority on that."
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe reportedly benefited from tensions with North Korea and is likely to serve as Prime Minister until 2021:
The elections were a result of a risky move on Abe's part. He dissolved the lower house of parliament last month and called for fresh elections a year earlier than scheduled to "face a national crisis" in North Korea. It was a gamble, considering Abe's approval ratings over the past year have ranged from iffy to dismal. One Washington Post headline from the summer read "Japanese prime minister's poll numbers are so low they make Trump's look good." "Abe is personally not that popular of a guy," Hu said. "But after North Korean missiles flew over Japan two times this year, Abe's popularity shot back up."
Related: How Japan and the U.S. Remember World War II
Land Deal for Nationalist School Linked to Japanese Prime Minister Abe by Critics
MonarchyNews: The King is My Co-Pilot and Japanese Succession "Crisis"
Hundreds of students march in Tokyo against Japanese PM Abe's plans to change pacifist constitution
Japan Clears Way for Emperor to Step Down in 1st Abdication in 200 Years
North Korea Has Reportedly Miniaturized a Nuke, and is Threatening Guam
North Korea Claims Successful Hydrogen Bomb Test; Seismic Activity Reported
The United States has formally notified the UN's world heritage body Unesco that it is withdrawing its membership of the organisation citing "continuing anti-Israel bias".
The announcement by the Trump administration was followed a few hours later by news that Israel was also planning to quit the financially struggling cultural and educational agency.
The body is best known for its world heritage listings of outstanding cultural and natural sites but has often drawn the ire of Israel and the Trump administration for a series of decisions, including the listing of Hebron, a city in the southern part of the occupied Palestinian territories, as a Palestinian world heritage site.
Disclosing the US government's decision, the state department said in a statement it would seek to "remain engaged ... as a non-member observer state in order to contribute US views, perspectives and expertise".
The statement added: "This decision was not taken lightly, and reflects US concerns with mounting arrears at Unesco, the need for fundamental reform in the organisation, and continuing anti-Israel bias at Unesco," the US state department said. The withdrawal will take effect on 31 December 2018.
The New York Times
The administration also cited mounting arrears at the organization as a reason for the decision.
"We were in arrears to the tune of $550 million or so, and so the question is, do we want to pay that money?" Heather Nauert, a spokeswoman for the State Department, said Thursday at a news briefing. She added, "With this anti-Israel bias that's long documented on the part of Unesco, that needs to come to an end."
Cultural organizations in the United States criticized the decision, saying Unesco played a key role in preserving vital cultural heritage worldwide.
"Although Unesco may be an imperfect organization, it has been an important leader and steadfast partner in this crucial work," said Daniel H. Weiss, the president and chief executive of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
Analysts said that withdrawing from the organization was a significant escalation by the United States in its criticism of United Nations bodies.
"This is another example of the Trump's administration's profound ambivalence and concern about the way the U.N. is structured and behaves," said Aaron David Miller, a former Middle East negotiator and adviser in Republican and Democratic administrations.
In July, Unesco declared the ancient and hotly contested core of Hebron, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, as a Palestinian World Heritage site in danger, a decision sharply criticized by Israel and its allies. And in 2015, Unesco adopted a resolution that criticized Israel for mishandling heritage sites in Jerusalem and condemned "Israeli aggressions and illegal measures against freedom of worship."
In a statement announcing its withdrawal, Israel called the US administration's decision "courageous and moral", and accused UNESCO of becoming a "theatre of the absurd".
"The prime minister instructed the foreign ministry to prepare Israel's withdrawal from the organisation alongside the United States," Benjamin Netayanu's office said in a statement.
Thursday's development demonstrates the US administration's "complete and total bias" towards Israel, says Mustafa Barghouti, secretary-general of the Palestinian National Initiative, a political party comprising mostly secular intellectuals.
"This behaviour is counterproductive and shameful," he told Al Jazeera by phone. "Sooner or later they will see Palestine in every UN agency. Will the US respond to that by withdrawing from the WHO or the World Intellectual Property Organization? They will be hurting only themselves."
Russia's foreign ministry said it regreted the decision, adding that the move would disrupt a number of important projects planned by UNESCO.
"We share the concern by many countries that the activity of UNESCO has been too politicised lately," the ministry said in a statement.
Barghouti, of the Palestinian National Initiative, said it is "as if Israel is dictating US policy not only in the Middle East but also in international organisations.
"This is going to have a very harmful effect on the idea of the US being a mediator between the Palestinians and the Israelis."