News Roundup (Week of Feb. 12-18, 2017)

news roundup, February, 2017, globe, space, vector

Hello, readers! I must begin with an apology. I have found quite a bit of information for this News Roundup, but alas, I haven’t had the time to properly summarize what I found at the moment.

I plan to revise this post before Wednesday, so stay tuned. For now, I will share a few international items. There is an important item on the international level I want to address later, and it involves depleted uranium.


Table of Contents

Here are the stories I have curated for this week:

International

National

Internet

Entertainment

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In International News …

This section kicks off with some news out of North Korea. And there are some troubling developments in the South China Sea, with Russia, and in the Middle East.

Here’s Some North Korean News.

A member of North Korea’s ruling family died of mysterious causes while pressure is being put on China to corral the nation.

Kim Jong-Nam Died in Kuala Lumpur.

South Korea reported that Kim Jong-nam, the older half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Joun-un, may have been assassinated in Malaysia on Monday. He was headed to a flight home to Macau.

Datuk Sri Abu Samad, the chief police officer of the Royal Malaysian police, told reporters that an investigation was ongoing. The body had yet to be positively identified, since the deceased was using a passport that identified him as Kim Chol with a June 20, 1971 birthdate.

There are conflicting accounts. The cause of death may have been a poison attack at Kuala Lumpur International Airport, in the Malaysian capital. According to officials, witnesses either said they saw Kim being splashed with a chemical or has a cloth placed over his face. Others said a spray or a needle was being used.

If an attack happened, it occurred at 09:00 local time (01:00 GMT) on Monday.

There might be a lead. The police are looking into security camera footage of two women next to Kim shortly before he died. The women later left the airport in a taxi.

At the moment, there were no suspects identified and the motive was unclear. But of course, it is suspected that North Korea was behind this. It has attempted assassination attempts outside its own borders for defectors. And Chang Song-thaek, the late Kim Jong-il’s brother-in-law and confidant, was executed in 2013.

Who Was Kim Jong-nam?

Kim Jong-nam was late Korean leader Kim Jong-il’s oldest son. Kim Jong-nam was believed to be born on May 10, 1971. His mother was North Korean film actress Song Hye-rim. For a time, the common-law relationship of Kim Jong-nam’s parents and his existence were hidden from Kim Jong-il’s father, Kim Il-sung.

For a time, the young Kim lived behind palace gates, although he did meet his grandfather and would study abroad in Russia and Switzerland. While abroad from 1979 until the late 1980’s, the exposure caused Kim to question North Korea’s political and economic system.

This disillusionment would be exacerbated in the 1990’s when Kim joined the family business and did audits of the country’s factories. He witnessed the executions of managers accused of stealing from the factories.

Kim Jong-nam had long been a critic of the North Korean government. In a 2012 book, he criticized his younger brother’s leadership qualities.

Kim Jong-nam had been living outside of North Korea since he fell out of favor with his half-brother. He spent much of his time in Macau, mainland China, and Singapore.

South Korean officials said China was protecting Kim, who had long been a target of the North Korean government.

Was North Korea Behind Kim Jong-nam’s Death?

The passport incident was believed to have killed any possibility that Jong-nam would serve as a successor to his father, but Michael Madden said that was not the case. However, the incident was used to position one of Ko Yung Hee’s sons to succeed their father, Kim Jong-il.

Madden also dismissed the possibility that the current leader of the DPRK had his older brother killed.

With numerous pronouncements and analyses that Jong-un is engaged in a “reign of terror” targeting North Korean political leaders or that his leadership (not to mention his mental health) are “unstable”, it doesn’t serve Jong-un’s public image or political interests to have his half-brother assassinated.

It would just feed the rumours, and one doubts that Jong-un would give his South Korean counterpart that kind of satisfaction.

Jong-nam was not a threat or a credible rival to Jong-un’s leadership. He had no interest in the job itself.

Living outside the country as long as he has, Jong-nam could not form a power base among DPRK elites and was largely clueless about how to seize the regime’s nodes of control.

Also, Kim Jong-nam had “useful” Chinese connections. Not only did China provide some measure of protection for him, but Kim was connected to Chinese elites. The DPRK leans on China as an ally and the assassination of Jong-nam would damage that relationship.

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The United States Urges China to Put Economic Pressure on North Korea.

Last week, the United States urged China to ramp up the pressure on North Korea. In April, China, North Korea’s largest trading partner, promised to limit the coal imports sent from the DPRK. On Saturday, China said it would finally take action today, Feb. 19. The ban of coal imports would last until Dec. 31.

North Korea launched an intermediate-range ballistic missile earlier this month. It’s the first since the change of power in Washington, D.C.

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China and South Korea Have a Talk Connected to North Korea.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and South Korean foreign minister Yun Byung-se talked at the Munich Security Conference on Saturday. During their talk, Wang said his country was aware of South Korea’s concerns about the North. However, China is concerned about a U.S. missile defense system.

Later this year, South Korea plans to deploy the U.S. Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system. Seoul and Washington contend that such a system is needed against North Korea. China opposes the system over concerns the radar may penetrate its territory.

The Korean War was actively fought in from 1950 to 1953. Technically, both Koreas are still at war because the fighting ended in a truce as opposed to a peace treaty. The North consistently threatens to destroy South Korea and its greatest ally, the United States.

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The Indian Rupee Crisis May Affect The Election.

In Nov. 2016, Prime Minister Narendra Modi banned 500- and 1,000-rupee notes. He said he instituted the ban to stop corruption and to disable terrorists. However, his critics argue the PM did what he did for political reasons.

The ban on the currency notes is called demonetization by Indian authorities and economists. It is called “notebandi” (Hindi for stopping of notes) by regular civilians.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s demonetization plan was announced on Nov. 8, 2016. The move to ban the 500- and 1,000-rupee notes was supposedly intended to stem the flow of black money and to preclude corruption.

“Black money” is a term used for illegal cash holdings. People who participate in a “black economy” to evade taxes include politicians, lawyers, traders, white-collar professionals, and dealers. Much of the illegal cash is held in assets like jewelry or stashed in foreign banks. The “shadow economy” in India is estimated to be more than 20% of its GDP.

India has tried demonetization three times: in 1946, 1978, and now in 2016-2017. Each time has been met with negative effects.

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The Immediate Effects of Demonetization

Demonetization led to a cash shortage. Within two hours of the PM’s announcement, the 500- and 1,000-rupee notes were no longer accepted as legal tender.

With demonetization, 86% of India’s cash supplies were immediately taken out of circulation. In India, around 90% of the transactions are done in cash. The cash-to-GDP ratio is 12%, four times that of Brazil, Mexico, and South Africa.

In a cash-driven nation like India, the “black money” crackdown had a negative effect on the poor and middle class. Over half of Indians lack bank accounts and around 300 million lack government identification. Some residents also point out that the PM said the change was to promote digital money, but in certain areas, people do not have the option of using digital money accounts.

The rupee ban has negatively impacted workers across industries, including farmers, vegetable sellers, traders, and weavers.

As people rushed to turn in their expired currency notes, others had to get creative and find ways to either trade the money for property that could be sold or transfer the money into banks via third parties. In one case, a business owner gave his workers a two-year advance with expired notes while leaving the workers with the task of exchanging that money.

On the week of Jan. 31-Feb 4, 2017, the India government’s Economic Survey released a report the day before the national budget would be approved. The report might not have fully taken monetization into account, but the country’s growth in the first quarter is expected to be slower than it was last year in the same time period.

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The Possible Implications of Demonetization on Indian Elections

Uttar Pradesh is the most populous state in India with 222 million people. The population size rivals that of entire nations. Eighty members of parliament are sent by the state.

Uttar Pradesh is currently holding a seven-phased election to choose a new government. UP is a key state in this election cycle.

Political parties in India include the following:

  • Samajwadi Party (SP)
  • Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP)
  • The Congress
  • Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)

The first two parties listed became a force in the 1990’s. They have consistently taken 1st and 2nd place in Uttar Pradesh. SP is currently in control of the state, while being in an alliance with the Congress.

PM Modi belongs to the BJP.

Many middle-aged and older voters feel betrayed by Modi and the BJP. Modi still remains popular with the youth.

The final phase of the election will be held on Mar. 11.

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The U.S. Sent a New Carrier Group to Patrol in South China Sea.

On Saturday, a day after China finished war game exercises in the South China Sea, the United States sent a carrier group to carry out patrols in that region. The South China Sea is a contested region with five Asia countries laying claim to the waters.

China’s Foreign Ministry sent a warning to the U.S. on Wednesday about challenging its sovereignty in the South China Sea.

About $5 trillion passes through the South China Sea annually. There are rich fishing grounds, gas and oil deposits in that region.

China lays claim to much of the sea and its neighbors are getting more and more nervous about China’s war game exercises in the region. The other countries that lay claim to the waters include Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan, and Vietnam.

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Is Russia Trying to Intimidate the U.S.?

Russia might be trying to test the Trump administration, amid concerns the two are too close for comfort.

Run-ins with a U.S. Warship

On Friday, Feb. 10, the USS Porter, a guided-missile destroyer, had a few run-ins with Russian aircraft in the Black Sea. The aircraft, including one IL-38 and two Su-24’s, came very close (1,000 yards laterally from the ship and 1,000 feet over the water) to the warship.

Igor Konashenkov is a Russian Defense Ministry spokesman. He denied reports of such an incident.

Deployment of a Missile

On Tuesday, a senior military official said that Russia deployed a ground-launched cruise missile. Russia move have tested a missile like that in 2014, as well. Each of those actions would appear to be a violation of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty. And the range of the cruise missile threatens NATO’s European neighbors.

The 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty might have been violated. According to the treaty, Russia is barred from possessing, producing, or flight-testing a ground-launched cruise missile that can reach 500-5,500 kilometers. Russia is also barred from producing a launcher of those types of missiles.

Positioning of Spy Ship

Russia has also positioned a spy ship, the SSV-175 Viktor Leonov, off the coast of Delaware and carried out flights near a U.S. Navy warship.

The Leonov was stationed off the coast of Florida in 2014. The same spy ship was also used in a similar patrol in 2015.

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The Fighting in Ukraine Has IntensifNorma McCorvey Has Died.ied This Month.

Fighting in the Ukraine between pro-Russian rebels and Ukrainian armed forces escalated at the end of January.

The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe Special Monitory Mission to Ukraine said there were numerous violations of the ceasefire from Jan. 29-30.

The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry reported that eight Ukrainian soldiers were killed in the Donbass region by “Russian occupation forces” during those two days. The ministry said “massive attacks” were carried out with weapons that included tanks, artillery, and mortars. At least 26 Ukrainian Troops were injured.

The Russian Foreign Ministry alleged that the Ukrainians were trying “to seize positions held by self-defense forces” and hitting residential areas .Supposedly, the Ukrainians were using heavy artillery and rocket-launching systems to take those positions.

The Ukrainians cited the Minsk Package of Measures. The ceasefire agreement of February 12, 2015 called for the removal of heavy weapons from the contact line of between the towns of Avdiyivka and Yasynuvata. Some of the fiercest fighting has happened in Donetsk, which is near the critical line now.

Now, it was pointed out by an expert on Central and Eastern Europe that the U.S. statement after the escalation in Ukraine only condemned the violation of the Minsk Agreement. There was no mention of Russia or the customary expression of support for Ukraine.

In 2014, Russia intervened in Ukraine after a popular revolution. Russia annexed Crimea on March 18, 2014, although much of the world still recognizes Crimea as part of Ukraine.

On Wednesday, Feb 15, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharava told reporters that Russia had no plans to return Crimea to Ukraine. She referred to Crimea as “our territory” and “part of the Russian Federation.”

U.N. Ambassador Nikki Hailey Challenges Russia on Crimea.

On Thursday, Feb. 2, Nikki Haley made her first appearance at the U.N. Security Council. She called on Russia to de-escalate the violence in eastern Ukraine. Haley also said the sanctions placed on Russia would also remain in place until Russia withdraws from Crimea.

Haley made it clear during her confirmation hearings that she differed from Trump on the issue of Russia. Someone from the National Security Council said there was prior knowledge of the tone of Haley’s speech beforehand and that there was no problem with Haley’s remarks.

Is President Trump Changing His Position on Russia?

On the same day Haley made her speech, the Treasury Department slightly eased a sanction on Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB). The sanction was placed during the Obama Administration in response to Russia’s actions in Crimea.

Trump implied that he might loosen, if not totally abandon, sanctions against Russia during his 2016 presidential campaign.

However, in a press conference on Tuesday, Sean Spicer said that Nikki Haley’s words to the U.N. Security Council represent the Trump administration’s position on the situation in Ukraine.

Russia Says Another Ceasefire Will Be in Effect This Week.

On Saturday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov announced that another ceasefire between Ukraine and Russia will be reached on Monday, Feb 20. According to a statement:

On Feb. 20, the ceasefire regime will start, and withdrawal of heavy military hardware will also start to the places where they are supposed to be.

As noted by Phil McCausland at NBC News, it wasn’t exactly clear which side would be required to move heavy weapons and where the weapons would be moved to. But Lavrov credited his French and German counterparts with giving their input and the deal appears to be backed by European governments.

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Let’s Take a Look at NATO.

There is much uncertainty when it comes to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization since Trump assumed office. While on the campaign trail, Trump said that NATO was antiquated and he made threats toward the countries that weren’t paying their dues.

Also, many countries from the former Soviet Union look to the organization to protect them from Russia. Many suspect that Russian President Vladimir Putin, a former KGB agent, wants to rebuild the Soviet Union anew.

Russia Considers Romania a Threat.

In a Thursday interview with the Interfax news Agency, Alexander Botsan-Kharchenko, a senior Russian foreign ministry official, called Romania a NATO outpost and a threat (to Russia). The comments come as Romania is hosting part of a U.S. anti-missile shield and there is a buildup of NATO forces in Baltic States, and southeastern Europe. The United States also plans to build another part of the shield in Poland.

The U.S. said the shield was meant to protect itself against Iran and not threaten Russia. Also, the NATO buildup is said to reassure other members after Russia annexed Crimea amid the fighting in Ukraine.

Mike Pence Reassures NATO Allies of the U.S.’s Commitment.

On Saturday, Vice President Mike Pence told the Munich Security Conference that the United States maintains “unwavering” support for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. While Pence also said the United States intended to support Europe, he said that European countries in NATO have failed “to pay their fair share,” a comment that echoed things Trump said on the campaign trail.

During the 2016 presidential election, Trump said the United States might not come to the aid of the countries who hold up their end in terms of dues. NATO countries are asked to pay 2% of their GDP to NATO each year for defense. Pence said that only 5 countries (Estonia, Greece, Poland, the United Kingdom, and the United States) have been faithful to their commitments.

When the North Atlantic Treaty Organization was founded in 1949, its 12 charter members were: Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherland, Norway, Portugal, the United Kingdom, and the United States. NATO currently has 28 members, including Turkey and much of the former Soviet Union.

Pence also said that the United States would hold Russia accountable when trying to find common ground. Russia is being called to hold to the agreement made in Minsk, Belarus in 2015 in order to foster peace in Ukraine.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel spoke before Pence and she used her time to take digs at Trump reference the controversy swirling around his administration and the suspected ties to Russia. She said she hoped the U.S. would cooperate with Europe and find an answer for properly dealing with Russia.

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The Offensive in Mosul (Iraq) Is Moving to the Next Phase.

The coalition in Iraq is moving toward the Western side of Mosul to finish the battle against ISIS in that city. The first phase of the Mosul offensive against ISIS began in October 2016 and concluded in January 2017.

Residents of western Mosul were warned about the upcoming battle via leaflets dropped by Iraqi planes. There are 650,000 civilians in the western side of Mosul. Many of the civilians there were evacuated from the eastern side of the city as the U.S.-led coalition carried out the first phase of the sweep.

According to Lise Grande, the United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq, up to 400K civilians could be displaced as the offensive takes place. Civilians are going to suffer food and fuel shortages because markets are closed.

There is no independent media in Mosul so various reports cannot be verified. The United States claims that it hit a large medical complex where ISIS fighters were hiding out. The militant group claims the U.S. killed 18 civilians, mostly women and children.

Mosul is the last major ISIS stronghold in Iraq. In 2014, the terrorist group announced it planned to build a caliphate. Parts of Iraq and Syria made up that caliphate. Mosul became ISIS’s Iraqi capital with Raqqa serving as the terrorist group’s Syrian capital.

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The U.S. Is Using Depleted Uranium Rounds in Syria.

In 2015, the Pentagon said it would use depleted uranium in combat missions. However, months later, in Nov. 2015, depleted uranium was used in thousands of rounds in Syrian combat missions. On Wednesday, the Pentagon acknowledged that this.

In March 2015, Capt. John Moore, a spokesman for the U.S.-led anti-ISIS coalition in Iraq and Syria, responded to an inquiry from a reporter via email. In his response, Moore said the following:

U.S. and Coalition aircraft have not been and will not be using depleted uranium munitions in Iraq or Syria during Operation Inherent Resolve.

The United States changed that position by Nov. 2015 and decided that depleted uranium, which would give munitions the greater ability to pierce armor, would be the most effective to target Islamic State oil trucks in the hopes of stopping the terrorist network’s cash flow.

The joint Air Wars-Foreign Policy released its report on Tuesday detailing this in its investigation.

Maj. Josh Jacques, spokesman for U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), spoke with reporters about the use of depleted-uranium munitions.

“The combination of Armored Piercing Incendiary (DU) rounds mixed with HEI rounds was used to ensure a higher probability of destruction of the truck fleet ISIS was using to transport its illicit oil,” Major Jacques told RT.

Jacques did not discount the possibility the U.S. military would use the munitions again.

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What Is Depleted Uranium?

Depleted uranium (DU) is the byproduct of enriched Uranium 235. DU is exceptionally hard, so it has been used by militaries in order to penetrate armored vehicles and to reinforce their own vehicles.

DU is less radioactive than Uranium 235, (0.7 times as much) but it is still toxic. According the Environmental Protection Agency, DU is a “radiation health hazard when inside the body.”

Depleted uranium is usually used on armored vehicles, like tanks and troop transports. No international treaty explicitly bans the use of depleted uranium.

Depleted uranium residues will find their way to soils, vegetables, water, and surfaces. According to a 2014 United Nations report, when they confined, they might not pose a radiological risk to populations, but direct contact to the residues (for instance, through the handling of scrap metal), could pose a radiological risk to people.

It is suspected that depleted uranium is a cause of the Gulf War Syndrome, a serious of adverse health effects suffered by Iraqi citizens and troops who served in the war zone.

Depleted Uranium has been blamed for causing cancer and birth defects. But there is not enough research to support the theory that DU causes cancer or birth defects.

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How Has the U.S. Used Depleted Uranium?

About 1 million rounds were estimated to have been used between the 1991 Gulf War and the 2003 invasion of Iraq.The munitions were used hundreds of thousands of times during the invasion of Iraq in 2003 alone.

Rounds with the depleted uranium were also used during the 1999 NATO bombing campaign in Kosovo.

In 2015, the United States military shot roughly 5,265 rounds of the ammunition from A-10* ground attack aircraft during Operation Tidal Wave II. Islamic State targets in Syria, including oil supplies, were hit on Nov. 16 and 22, 2015.

The Nov. 16 attacks, part of Tidal Wave II, occurred in the early morning near Al-Bukamal, a city in the governorate** of Deir Ezzor. That is near the border with Iraq. The military reported that it destroyed 46 oil tankers.

In the Nov. 22 attack, the military reported destroying 283 oil tankers. The attacks occurred between Al-Hasakey and Deir Ezzor. Those are the capitals of the governorates of the same names.

During the air raid, over 300 vehicles, mostly civilian tanker trucks, were hit with the cannon fire, rockets, and guided bombs. Video footage of the hits can be found on YouTube.

The airstrikes in which depleted Uranium was used occurred in Deir ez-Zor and Hasakah provinces in eastern Syria.

The first attack destroyed 46 vehicles. About 1,790 rounds of “combat mix” were used, with 1,490 of those rounds containing DU.

The second attack led to 293 oil tankers being destroyed. About 4,530 rounds were fired, with 3,775 of those being DU.

The U.S. military says it used the munitions because the area was due for a cleanup afterward. However, the area is still controlled by ISIS and chances are the scrap metal has probably been moved and sold off already.

* A-10’s usually fire high explosive cannon rounds. The ammunition containing the Uranium is a 30mm bullet called PGU-14.

** A governorate is an administrative division of a country (like a state or province). It is run by a governor. Syria has 14 governorates (muhafazat, singular muhafazah).

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No international treaty explicitly bans the use of depleted uranium. But the type of use by the U.S. goes against its own standards.

From the Pentagon’s current Law of War Manual:

Depleted uranium (DU) is used in some munitions because its density and physical properties create a particularly effective penetrating combination to defeat enemy armored vehicles, including tanks.

A recent analysis of the opening salvos of the War in Iraq shows that “soft targets,” including troop positions and trucks, were hit. The oil tanks hit in Syria would also qualify as “soft targets.” They were unarmored and likely were being driven by civilians.

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What Is Gulf War Syndrome?

Gulf War Syndrome (GWS) is also known as “Desert Storm Diseases” or “Gulf War Illness.” It is a collection of symptoms reported by war veterans, civilians (including Iraqi residents, members of the press, and government workers), and anyone in the areas where the Gulf War was fought since August 1990. There have been reports of similar symptoms from veterans of the second Gulf War. Additionally, there were reports about workers in Kansas suffering the same symptoms when they handled archived materials from the first Gulf War.

The symptoms reported by veterans include (via the Environmental Illness Resource):

  • Fatigue
  • Persistent Headaches
  • Muscle Aches/Pains
  • Neurological Symptoms e.g. tingling and numbness in limbs
  • Cognitive Dysfunction – short term memory loss, poor concentration, inability to take in information
  • Mood and Sleep Disturbances – Depression, Anxiety, Insomnia.
  • Dermatological Symptoms – Skin Rashes, Unusual Hair loss.
  • Respiratory Symptoms – Persistent Coughing, Bronchitis, Asthma
  • Chemical Sensitivities
  • Gastrointestinal Symptoms – Diarrhea, Constipation, Nausea, Bloating.
  • Cardiovascular Symptoms
  • Menstrual Symptoms

A total of 7 possible causes of Gulf War Syndrome were listed, including: infectious diseases, biological weapons, chemical weapons, other chemical agents, oil well fire smoke, vaccinations, and depleted uranium. DU can be inhaled and a number of Gulf War veterans who were exposed to it (via inhalation or being hit by DU-contaminated shrapnel) were reported to have uranium isotopes in their urine even ten years after exposure.

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In National News …

This week, I really wanted to cover the DNC chair race, but there is too much information to include here. So, I will do my best to include a separate post for that topic before Wednesday.

But there is still much American news to cover.

The Intelligence Community Is Not Pleased.

Current and former U.S. intelligence officials have revealed that the intelligence community is withholding sensitive information from Donald Trump. The information includes intelligence-gathering methods. The officials do not trust Trump with the information and fear that it might be leaked or compromised.

The officials cite two concerns. One is Trump’s team’s possible connections to Russia. The other concern is Trump’s rhetoric regarding the intelligence community. On Wednesday, Trump accused American intelligence agencies of leaking information in order to undermine him.

However, Trump relies less on intelligence briefings than his predecessors have. He doesn’t appear to care about intelligence gathering methods and in fact, agencies have been told to pare down their reports for him.

Three Probes for Russia!

The FBI is launching three probes connected to the alleged hacking into U.S. elections by Russian operatives.

The FBI’s Pittsburgh field office is trying to identity who was behind the Democratic National Committee Hacks. There were a series of breaches, in 2015 and 2016. The information mined from the leaks concerned internal communications even before the nomination process began.

The FBI’s San Francisco office is looking into who posed as “Guccifer 2.” The hacker or hackers who called themselves “Guccifer 2” was behind the leaks from John Podesta’s emails. Podesta was Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager and the information mined from his emails showed communications within the campaign and Clinton Foundation secrets. It was later revealed that his email was hacked after he fell for a fishing scam.

In Washington, FBI counterintelligence agents are following leads from informants and foreign communications intercepts. Among the things the agents are looking at are financial transactions by Russian companies and individuals with connections to Trump.

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Norma McCorvey Has Died.

Norma McCorvey, the woman once known as “Jane Roe” in the infamous Roe v. Wade case, died at the age of 69. She was in a Texas Care Hospital when she died.

When McCorvey was 25 years old, she was pregnant with her third child. She wanted to get an abortion and challenged her state’s (Texas) antiabortion law, which only allowed for abortions in cases where the health of the mother was in danger. Henry Wade was the Texas attorney general who supported the law.

McCorvey claimed she was raped in order to speed the case along. But the case, which was first brought in 1969, wouldn’t get a Supreme Court Ruling (in favor of legalizing abortion, while allowing state restrictions) until 1973.

But the time the ruling came down, McCorvey had already given birth to a girl. That girl had been put up for adoption.

In later years, McCorvey found religion and stood firmly against abortion. She tried to get the Supreme Court to repeal the 1973 decision, but the court ruled 7-2 that it had not the power to outlaw abortions in states.

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In Internet News …

Is PewDiePie and anti-Semite? Disney thinks so.

Disney Parts Ways with PewdiePie.

Disney has cut ties with Swedish YouTuber Felix Kjellberg, A.K.A. PewDiePie. Kjellberg, the most successful content creator on the video-sharing website, was signed with Maker Studios, a Disney company. He was let go after a series of jokes he admitted were offensive.

Also: PewDiePie’s YouTube Red program has been cancelled.

Recently, PewDiePie made video in which he: said the N-word, paid two young men in India to hold up a sign with an anti-Semetic message and paid a Jesus lookalike to say something about Hitler. While again, Kjellberg admitted those jokes could offend, he and many Internet-savvy users can tell you the context of those jokes.

In the Jan. 5, 2017 video I WON AN AWARD (NSFW language), PewDiePie is seen reacted to the video entitled Top 100 Most Handsome Faces of 2016. He was ranked #18 on the list, to which he yells, “18 N—” around the 1:50 mark. The word is cut off.

Another time, PewDiePie went to Fiverr, where he paid those three individuals. Kjellberg wanted to show that people would do anything, even say the most ridiculous things, for $5.

Philip DeFranco talked about this on his channel and pointed out Kjellberg’s statement about the controversy and the use of Nazi imagery.

The Wall Street Journal pointed out that references to Hitler and the like were on PewDiePie videos at least 9 times, while 3 of those videos were deleted.

Around the web, some white supremacists liked PewDiePie’s use of the imagery, despite the fact that Kjellberg was lampooning Nazism. However, it is understood if many viewers will find those jokes in poor taste.

This is not the first time Kjellberg has dealt with controversy. In Sep. 2016, PewDiePie was temporarily suspended from Twitter after making a joke about ISIS.

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In Entertainment News …

The music world lost a jazz legend and new information came out about athletes’ drug usage.

Al Jarreau Passed Away at Age 76.

Al Jarreau died on Sunday, Feb 12, in Los Angeles. The legendary Jazz singer died just days after announcing that he was retiring from touring due to exhaustion. He was 76 years old.

Ebony shared a statement from Jarreau’s manager, Joe Gordon.

Al Jarreau was born and raised in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He attended the University of Iowa, Ripton College, where he earned his Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology. After he performed with the Indigos, he moved to San Francisco. He eventually moved to Los Angeles in order to pursue a full-time music career.

During his career, Jarreau released 16 studio albums and a few live albums. He debuted with the album We Got By and he won seven Grammys over four decades.

Some of Jarreau’s hits include “We’re in This Love Together” and the theme for Moonlighting, a 1980’s television show that starred Bruce Willis and Cybil Sheppard.

Jarreau leaves behind his wife, Susan, and a son, Ryan.

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Michael Phelps Used Meds That Are Banned for Horses.

A hacking group known as Fancy Bear* released documents from the World Anti-Doping Agency in late 2016. The information pertained to international athletes’ use of banned drugs.

Recently, the same group released information from the United States Anti-Doping Agency. The trove of information includes a list of prominent athletes and their declared drug usage.

Among the athletes are Olympic Swimmer Michael Phelps, gymnast Simone Biles, and basketball players Draymond Green and Suzanne Bird. On April 13, 2016, Phelps revealed that he used three tablets of gabapentin on his Declaration of Medication form. The medication is used to treat epilepsy, neuropathic pain, hot flashes, and restless leg syndrome. However, it banned for equine sports.

The other three used medication out of competition. Biles in particular used Focalin XR to treat her ADHD, but she was cleared to use it by the WADA.

* As some will remember, Fancy Bear was also behind the hacks of Hillary Clinton’s campaign and the Democratic National Committee. People were alerted to the group by CrowdStrike, which was hired by the DNC and allowed to release the information they found on the hacks. CrowdStrike connected the group to Russia.

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