Friday, June 26, 2020

Last Call For Russian To Judgment, Con't

Vladimir Putin offered bounties to Taliban militia groups in Afghanistan to target and kill US and NATO troops and wreck any peace deal between the Taliban and the US.

Trump knew back in March. He has done nothing about it.

American intelligence officials have concluded that a Russian military intelligence unit secretly offered bounties to Taliban-linked militants for killing coalition forces in Afghanistan — including targeting American troops — amid the peace talks to end the long-running war there, according to officials briefed on the matter.

The United States concluded months ago that the Russian unit, which has been linked to assassination attempts and other covert operations in Europe intended to destabilize the West or take revenge on turncoats, had covertly offered rewards for successful attacks last year.

Islamist militants, or armed criminal elements closely associated with them, are believed to have collected some bounty money, the officials said. Twenty Americans were killed in combat in Afghanistan in 2019, but it was not clear which killings were under suspicion.

The intelligence finding was briefed to President Trump, and the White House’s National Security Council discussed the problem at an interagency meeting in late March, the officials said. Officials developed a menu of potential options — starting with making a diplomatic complaint to Moscow and a demand that it stop, along with an escalating series of sanctions and other possible responses, but the White House has yet to authorize any step, the officials said.

An operation to incentivize the killing of American and other NATO troops would be a significant and provocative escalation of what American and Afghan officials have said is Russian support for the Taliban, and it would be the first time the Russian spy unit was known to have orchestrated attacks on Western troops.

Any involvement with the Taliban that resulted in the deaths of American troops would also be a huge escalation of Russia’s so-called hybrid war against the United States, a strategy of destabilizing adversaries through a combination of such tactics as cyberattacks, the spread of fake news and covert and deniable military operations.

The Kremlin had not been made aware of the accusations, said Dmitry Peskov, the press secretary for President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia. “If someone makes them, we’ll respond,” Mr. Peskov said. A Taliban spokesman did not respond to messages seeking comment.

Spokespeople at the National Security Council, the Pentagon, the State Department and the C.I.A. declined to comment.

So yeah. Russians paid Taliban militias to kill US and NATO troops, and the militias collected some cash.   Putin paid terrorists to kill US/NATO troops, and Trump has done absolutely nothing about it.

It also means Republicans in Congress knew about it, at the minimum Mitch McConnell and Senate Foreign Affairs chair Jim Risch, and they did nothing.

So who leaked the story?

My guess is now outgoing House Democratic Foreign Affairs Chair Eliot Engel, who lost his primary this week, he was absolutely crushed by newcomer Jamaal Bowman after a 32-year career, suffering a 35-point loss.

Engel ditched his NY-16 district during the height of the NYC COVID-19 epidemic and hid out in Maryland, and then was caught on hot mic saying he wouldn't even be at a news conference of community leaders on police reform in his district if he didn't have a primary challenger.

The voters absolutely destroyed him for it. So, Engel figured he had nothing left to lose and figured he'd hurt Trump on the way out. It's not a coincidence this story blows up just days after Engel loses his primary.

I bet there's a lot more Engel is sitting on.

Orange Meltdown, Con't

President Donald Trump canceled a planned trip to New Jersey on Friday, a decision the White House said was unrelated to a new order requiring visitors to the Garden State to quarantine after being in states with increasing numbers of coronavirus cases.

Trump had been scheduled to fly Friday afternoon on Air Force One to Morristown, New Jersey, and then planned to stay the weekend at his golf course in Bedminster.

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy had told CNBC earlier in the day that his quarantine order would not have applied to Trump, because “by any definition the president of the United States is an essential worker.”

White House spokesman Judd Deere said the trip’s cancellation “had nothing to do with that” quarantine order.

Two days ago, Deere said that Trump still planned to go to New Jersey despite the order mandating that visitors who have been in states with high numbers of coronavirus cases quarantine for 14 days.

Murphy’s order mirrored identical directives issued this week by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont.

Phil Murphy clearly folded anyway, and Trump still canceled his trip to his golf resort in Jersey because of pique.

My guess is somebody close to Trump tested positive for COVID-19 and that he wants to make sure he's not sick. I'm sure he'll enjoy parking his orange ass in front of the TV to tweet all weekend anyway, so what else is new?

The Country Goes Viral, Con't

As I've been warning for months now, "re-opening the economy" in states and the effective end of social distancing, especially in red states, has led directly to a massive spike in COVID-19 cases, which will translate very soon into a massive spike in COVID-19 deaths.

The coronavirus pandemic is getting dramatically worse in almost every corner of the U.S.

The big picture: The U.S. today is getting closer to the worst-case scenario envisioned in the spring — a nationwide crisis, made worse by a vacuum of political leadership, threatening to overwhelm hospitals and spread out of control. 
Nationwide, cases are up 30% compared to the beginning of this month, and dramatically worsening outbreaks in several states are beginning to strain hospital capacity — the same concern that prompted the nationwide lockdown in the first place. 
This is the grimmest map in the eight weeks since Axios began tracking the change in new cases in every state.

By the numbers: Over half the country — 26 states — have seen their coronavirus caseloads increase over the past week. 
New cases are up 77% in Arizona, 75% in Michigan, 70% in Texas and 66% in Florida. 
California, which has seen steady increases for weeks, recorded a 47% jump in new infections over the past week. 
These steep increases come after weeks of steadily climbing cases or back-and-forth results across the South, Midwest and West Coast. Only the New York region and parts of New England — the earliest hotspots — have consistently managed to get their caseloads down throughout May and June.

Increased testing does not explain away these numbers. Other data points make clear that we’re seeing a worsening outbreak, not simply getting better data. 
Seven states, including Arizona, have set records for the number of people hospitalized with coronavirus, and the percentage of all tests that come back positive is also increasing. 
The whole point of the national lockdown was to buy time to improve testing and give infection levels a chance to level off without overwhelming hospitals. That worked in New York, but as other parts of the country begin to see their outbreaks intensify later, the same risks are back at the forefront.

Again, we're now approaching the worst-case scenario, where hospitals in multiple states, in multiple areas of the country, are inundated with COVID-19 ICU patients, and the death rate skyrockets because there are no additional resources to treat people.

We're literally coming up on instances where treatable patients will instead die on gurneys in hospital hallways, and it will happen all across the country.

States are scrambling to try to stave off a preventable apocalypse.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott paused any further phases to reopen the state on Thursday and issued an order to ensure hospital beds be available for Covid-19 patients. 
Abbott's moves came as his state, California and Florida -- the three-most populous -- set records for new coronavirus cases daily amid fears of "apocalyptic" surges in major Texas cities if the trend continues.  
California Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a budget emergency to free up $16 billion to fight the pandemic, according to a release from his office. 
And the head of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the US has only counted about 10% of coronavirus infections. That might mean as many as 20 million Americans have been infected. 
Officially, coronavirus has killed at least 122,238 people and infected almost 2.4 million nationwide, according to Johns Hopkins.

 July is going to be horrific.  August and September may be even worse.


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