The Mafia Godfather Don Trump | The World Wide Web’s (Cyber) Warfare | Great Expectations, Poor Execution

MARCH 1, 2019  /   SUBSCRIBE


“He never went out without a book under his arm, and he often came back with two.” (We hope that is how other people characterize us)

“To love or have loved, that is enough. Ask nothing further. There is no other pearl to be found in the dark folds of life.”

– Victor Hugo



Great Expectations, Poor Execution: When President Trump made the long journey to Vietnam for his second summit with North Korea’s Kim Jong un, he did so without an appreciation for how difficult complex high-level negotiations are with foreign adversaries. Trump has repeatedly said he makes decisions based on gut instinct, but as he learned Wednesday, when it comes to dealing with foreign leaders whose goals do not align with America’s, one’s gut is no substitute for intelligence briefings and assistance from seasoned, experienced veterans of global political power struggles.

From his initial meeting with Kim in Singapore last June, the president believed he had a close personal bond with the youthful, iron-fisted autocrat. Trump said: “We fell in love … He wrote me beautiful letters.” The joint statement issued after the Singapore summit stated North Korea was committed to the “complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula,” which Trump apparently interpreted as a pledge by Kim of total unilateral nuclear disarmament. However, to North Koreans the phrase is a routine regime slogan referring to a gradual defusing of tensions on the peninsula, and phased mutual disarmament, during which North Korea would be treated as a nuclear power. Kim appears to have interpreted Trump’s gushing behavior in Singapore and beyond as a sign of such desperation to strike a deal that he would agree to normalize relations with the US, lift sanctions, yet leave the bulk of Kim’s nuclear arsenal in place.

With such wildly divergent perceptions and expectations, it’s no wonder talks between the two leaders collapsed late Wednesday over questions of just how much denuclearization, and how much sanctions relief, there would be. The breakdown didn’t surprise most experts, considering Stephen Biegun, the US special representative for North Korea, who had taken part in preparatory talks with North Korean officials, was sidelined at the summit, replaced by acting White House chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, who has minimal foreign policy experience. Sadly, for all the president’s claims of being the ultimate deal-maker, Trump revealed himself to be a profoundly flawed negotiator who utterly failed to understand his counterpart.



To Brexit Or Not To Brexit, We Have Some Questions: On Wednesday Britain’s opposition Labor Party voted to support a new referendum on Brexit after parliament defeated its alternative plan for leaving the EU. The UK is due to leave on March 29, but a new timetable now pushes the date to June. Labor Party leader Jeremy Corbyn said: “After tonight’s votes in parliament, we’ll continue to push for a close economic relationship based on our credible alternative plan or a general election. We’ll also back a public vote in order to prevent a damaging Tory Brexit or disastrous no deal.” After enduring more than 2-1/2 years of uncertainty since the 2016 referendum, some business leaders are relieved to have a bit more time, but others said the delay will merely prolong the lack of clarity. (Reuters)

A Dove Flies Home: Pakistan’s prime minister said a captured Indian pilot will be returned Friday as a “peace gesture.” The pilot’s plane was shot down amid airstrikes, gunfire and shelling by both countries along the de facto border between Indian and Pakistani zones of Kashmir, a Himalayan territory that has been fought over for decades. The nuclear neighbors accused each other of invading rival airspace, and both claimed to shoot down the other’s fighter jets. India confirmed one of its pilots was “missing in action,” and video emerged of the man, bloodied and blindfolded, in Pakistani custody. (NPR)

Additional world news:



Israel’s House of Cards: The long-anticipated yet still stunning announcement was made Thursday by Israel’s attorney general, Avichai Mandelblit, that he will prosecute Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in three separate cases on charges of criminal wrongdoing: bribery, fraud and breach of trust. It is the first time that a sitting prime minister has been charged. The run-up to the indictments involved two years of intense deliberations and questionings, resulting in police recommendations that Netanyahu be indicted in all three cases. The decision to prosecute could severely damage the Prime Minister’s chances in the April 9 national election. An unapologetic Netanyahu, who had previously vowed not to resign if indicted, dismissed the accusations as a witch hunt encouraged by leftist opponents and orchestrated by the media. In a televised statement Thursday evening he said: “this entire house of cards will collapse.”

Netanyahu is Israel’s second-longest serving prime minister. His government is the most right-wing in Israel’s history. His party, Likud, petitioned the high court on Thursday in a last ditch effort to block the attorney general’s announcement, but the petition was rejected. Later the party described the charges as “political persecution.” He could face up to 10 years in jail if convicted of bribery, and a maximum three-year term for fraud and breach of trust. Last year the prime minister’s wife was charged with fraud and breach of trust for allegedly overspending roughly $100,000 on private meals at Netanyahu’s official residence, even though there was a full-time chef on staff. She denies the charges.


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Mob Boss Don(ald) Trump: The fallout continues over former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen’s public testimony Wednesday before the House Oversight Committee. Cohen repeatedly said long-time Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg had firsthand knowledge of alleged financial irregularities in the organization. Cohen spent Thursday in another closed-door hearing, this time before the House Intelligence Committee. Afterward committee chair Adam Schiff (D-CA) said his committee would call Weisselberg to testify in a public hearing. Schiff said going forward he would focus his investigation on examining whether President Trump had financial conflicts of interest that have influenced his actions in the government. New York prosecutors had granted Weisselberg immunity to provide information in their case involving hush money Cohen paid to women claiming to have had affairs with Trump. Multiple sources have said Weisselberg does not have an ongoing cooperation agreement with prosecutors. (NPR, NBCNews)



The Blackest Blacklist: A Dow Jones-owned “watchlist” of 2.4 million risky individuals and corporate entities was exposed after a company with access to the database left it on a server without a password. An independent security researcher found the Amazon Web Services-hosted database of the financial giant’s records, which companies use as part of their risk and compliance efforts. The researcher said the database was “indexed, tagged and searchable;” it included the names of current and former politicians, individuals or companies under sanctions or convicted of high-profile financial crimes such as fraud, or anyone with links to terrorism. Many financial institutions and government agencies use the database to approve or deny financing, or even in the shuttering of bank accounts. News organizations have reported that it can take little or weak evidence to land someone on the watchlists. The data is all collected from public sources, but the very inclusion of a person or company’s name, or the reason why a name exists in the database, is proprietary and supposedly closely guarded. (TechCrunch) Here are more lists you don’t want to be on:

Weekend reads:




“Laughter is sunshine, it chases winter from the human face.” – Victor Hugo

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