Trump’s Claim That Putin Is A Better Leader Than Obama Is Utterly Insane

Trump’s Claim That Putin Is A Better Leader Than Obama Is Utterly Insane

Photo via Kremlin.ru

POLITICUS USA

Since last night’s Commander-in-Chief forum on NBC, Republicans have been on the defensive about Donald Trump’s reiterated praise for Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Here’s what Trump said:

“If he says great things about me, I’m going to say great things about him,” Trump said of the Russian president. “The man has very strong control over a country.”

The GOP nominee added that Putin has been a leader “far more than our president’s been a leader.”

Essentially, Trump’s case for why Putin is a good leader is this: 1. The Russian president has high approval ratings; 2. He has complimented Trump.

We know that there are few things Trump values more than polls and praise.

With that said, the Republican nominee’s decision to wrap his arms around Putin isn’t just insane, but it also shows that Trump’s definition of leadership is pretty frightening.

First of all, Putin is presiding over a terrible economy, which was made even worse by U.S.-led sanctions imposed following his illegal annexation of Crimea and Russia’s overall meddling in Ukraine.

In a Reuters report from yesterday, one Russian employer said, “The Russian economy has hit bottom, but who would have thought the Russians would start digging?”

VOA News also reported earlier this week that Putin’s economy “has plunged millions of people into poverty…”

It’s not just economic conditions that are dire in Russia; life also isn’t so good for those who support a free press.

Since Putin came to power, 25 journalists have been killed. The majority of those killings were carried out by military or government officials, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.

If this is the type of strength and leadership that Donald Trump wants to emulate as the President of the United States, then we’re all in trouble.

Meanwhile, in President Obama’s America, the economy has rebounded from the worst downturn since the Great Depression. More than 15 million jobs have been created over the last 78 months – the longest streak of private sector job growth in history. The uninsured rate is at record lows, the stock market is soaring, and the unauthorized immigrant population has actually fallen.

In a recent analysis conducted by Gallup, the American people report that their lives have gotten better during Obama’s two terms as president. Obama’s rising approval ratings only confirm that reality.

All of this despite Trump’s repeated attempts to paint the country under Obama as a hellscape overrun by “illegals.”

For score-keeping purposes: Putin isolated his country from the rest of the world, drove his economy into the ground, and ordered the killing of journalists. Obama halted a second Great Depression, laid the groundwork for sustained economic growth, provided health insurance to millions, and improved – yes, improved – America’s reputation abroad.

The contest of which of these two men is a better leader isn’t even close. In fact, Putin would likely trade his record for Obama’s in a heartbeat.

Ultimately, all of this says more about the Republican nominee than it does about either Putin or Obama. If Putin’s is the leadership that Donald Trump admires then he should be nowhere near the White House.

A Powerful Russian Weapon: The Spread of False Stories

Sergey Ponomarev for The New York Times

THE NEW YORK TIMES

STOCKHOLM — With a vigorous national debate underway on whether Sweden should enter a military partnership with NATO, officials in Stockholm suddenly encountered an unsettling problem: a flood of distorted and outright false information on social media, confusing public perceptions of the issue.

The claims were alarming: If Sweden, a non-NATO member, signed the deal, the alliance would stockpile secret nuclear weapons on Swedish soil; NATO could attack Russia from Sweden without government approval; NATO soldiers, immune from prosecution, could rape Swedish women without fear of criminal charges.

They were all false, but the disinformation had begun spilling into the traditional news media, and as the defense minister, Peter Hultqvist, traveled the country to promote the pact in speeches and town hall meetings, he was repeatedly grilled about the bogus stories.

“People were not used to it, and they got scared, asking what can be believed, what should be believed?” said Marinette Nyh Radebo, Mr. Hultqvist’s spokeswoman.

As often happens in such cases, Swedish officials were never able to pin down the source of the false reports. But they, numerous analysts and experts in American and European intelligence point to Russia as the prime suspect, noting that preventing NATO expansion is a centerpiece of the foreign policy of President Vladimir V. Putin, who invaded Georgia in 2008 largely to forestall that possibility.

In Crimea, eastern Ukraine and now Syria, Mr. Putin has flaunted a modernized and more muscular military. But he lacks the economic strength and overall might to openly confront NATO, the European Union or the United States. Instead, he has invested heavily in a program of “weaponized” information, using a variety of means to sow doubt and division. The goal is to weaken cohesion among member states, stir discord in their domestic politics and blunt opposition to Russia.

“Moscow views world affairs as a system of special operations, and very sincerely believes that it itself is an object of Western special operations,” said Gleb Pavlovsky, who helped establish the Kremlin’s information machine before 2008. “I am sure that there are a lot of centers, some linked to the state, that are involved in inventing these kinds of fake stories.”

The planting of false stories is nothing new; the Soviet Union devoted considerable resources to that during the ideological battles of the Cold War. Now, though, disinformation is regarded as an important aspect of Russian military doctrine, and it is being directed at political debates in target countries with far greater sophistication and volume than in the past.

The flow of misleading and inaccurate stories is so strong that both NATOand the European Union have established special offices to identify and refute disinformation, particularly claims emanating from Russia.

The Kremlin’s clandestine methods have surfaced in the United States, too, American officials say, identifying Russian intelligence as the likely source of leaked Democratic National Committee emails that embarrassed Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.

The Kremlin uses both conventional media — Sputnik, a news agency, and RT, a television outlet — and covert channels, as in Sweden, that are almost always untraceable.

Russia exploits both approaches in a comprehensive assault, Wilhelm Unge, a spokesman for the Swedish Security Service, said this year when presenting the agency’s annual report. “We mean everything from internet trolls to propaganda and misinformation spread by media companies like RT and Sputnik,” he said.

The fundamental purpose of dezinformatsiya, or Russian disinformation, experts said, is to undermine the official version of events — even the very idea that there is a true version of events — and foster a kind of policy paralysis.

Disinformation most famously succeeded in early 2014 with the initial obfuscation about deploying Russian forces to seize Crimea. That summer, Russia pumped out a dizzying array of theories about the destruction ofMalaysia Airlines Flight 17 over Ukraine, blaming the C.I.A. and, most outlandishly, Ukrainian fighter pilots who had mistaken the airliner for the Russian presidential aircraft.

Photo

Sweden’s defense minister, Peter Hultqvist, last month at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland. He has tried to counteract disinformation that has threatened to sway public debate in Sweden about a proposed military partnership with NATO. CreditSaul Loeb/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The cloud of stories helped veil the simple truth that poorly trained insurgents had accidentally downed the plane with a missile supplied by Russia.

Moscow adamantly denies using disinformation to influence Western public opinion and tends to label accusations of either overt or covert threats as “Russophobia.”

“There is an impression that, like in a good orchestra, many Western countries every day accuse Russia of threatening someone,” Maria Zakharova, the Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, said at a recent ministry briefing.

Tracing individual strands of disinformation is difficult, but in Sweden and elsewhere, experts have detected a characteristic pattern that they tie to Kremlin-generated disinformation campaigns.

“The dynamic is always the same: It originates somewhere in Russia, on Russia state media sites, or different websites or somewhere in that kind of context,” said Anders Lindberg, a Swedish journalist and lawyer.

“Then the fake document becomes the source of a news story distributed on far-left or far-right-wing websites,” he said. “Those who rely on those sites for news link to the story, and it spreads. Nobody can say where they come from, but they end up as key issues in a security policy decision.”

Although the topics may vary, the goal is the same, Mr. Lindberg and others suggested. “What the Russians are doing is building narratives; they are not building facts,” he said. “The underlying narrative is, ‘Don’t trust anyone.’”

Photo

 Debris from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, which was shot down over Ukraine in 2014 by insurgents using a missile supplied by Russia. One of Russia’s theories was that Ukrainian fighter pilots had downed the airliner after mistaking it for the Russian presidential aircraft. CreditMauricio Lima for The New York Times

CONTINUE READING 

Is Comrade Trump Playing Us For Fools?

Is Comrade Trump Playing Us For Fools?

REUTERS/Eric Thayer

THE NATIONAL MEMO

Are we watching an American presidential campaign or the pilot episode of a bizarre new TV series? Or both? The hallmark of “reality TV,” of course, being its extreme unreality.

On a daily basis, the Trump campaign invites sheer disbelief. Recently, Ivanka Trump, the statuesque daughter her father talks about dating, posted an Instagram photo of herself sightseeing in scenic Croatia with Wendi Deng Murdoch.

The New York Daily News explains that “Deng, who was divorced from Rupert Murdoch in 2013…has been linked romantically to Russian strongman Vladimir Putin.” The newspaper adds that “the optics of the photo could raise further questions about the relationship between Ivanka’s father and Putin.”

Geez, you think? Maybe I’ll ask Boris and Natasha, my pet names for the Russian operatives who started sending me obscene emails after a recent column critical of Trump. (The original Boris and Natasha were smarter and funnier.) The subject line in Boris’s latest message reads “TRUMP SHOULD [DEFECATE] IN YOUR TRAITOROUS MOUTH!”

With impressive tradecraft, Boris calls himself “Jason Larenzen,” a name that appears not to exist in the United States.

Anticipating the latest Fox News fantasy theme, Natasha (masquerading as “Karyn”) asks “Will lying c**t Hillary last to the election before brain blood clot ruptures?” Her IP address links to Yandex.com, which a Google search locates in Moscow, within walking distance of the Kremlin.

They aren’t especially subtle.

Of course, in Putin’s Moscow offending journalists get shot dead in the street, so I shouldn’t complain. Besides, having grown up in New Jersey, profanity makes little impact on me.

Yo, Natasha, you eat with that mouth?

But think about it: Russian operatives are openly intervening in an American presidential election: hacking Democratic Party emails and harassing obscure political columnists.

Always on Donald Trump’s side. You’ve got to ask yourself why.

One possible answer may have appeared in the New York Times. Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort’s name turned up 22 times on a secret ledger detailing $12.7 million in illegal payola handed out under deposed Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych.

Supposedly, Manafort was also involved in a “murky” $18 million deal to sell Ukrainian cable TV “to a partnership put together by Mr. Manafort and a Russian oligarch, Oleg Deripaska, a close ally of President Vladimir V. Putin.”

Him again.

The information was given to Times reporters by the Ukrainian government’s “National Anti-Corruption Bureau,” no doubt tasked with putting as many of the current regime’s political rivals as possible in prison.

At the expense of being a spoilsport, I’ve learned to be highly skeptical of New York Times “blockbusters.” From the Whitewater hoax onward, the newspaper has produced a series of abortive Clinton scandal stories, culminating in last April’s abortive attempt to hint that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had corruptly engineered the sale of a Wyoming uranium mine.

“Look,” I wrote last April “there’s a reason articles like theTimes‘ big expose are stultifyingly dull and require the skills of a contract lawyer to parse. Murky sentences and jumbled chronologies signify that the ‘Clinton rules’ are back: all innuendo and guilt-by-association. All ominous rhetorical questions, but rarely straightforward answers.”

So it comes as no great surprise that Ukrainian investigators “have yet to determine if [Manafort] actually received the cash.”

So is Manafort a victim of the “Clinton Rules?” Could be.

But there’s no doubt about this: “Before he fled to Russia two years ago, Mr. Yanukovych…relied heavily on the advice of Mr. Manafort and his firm, who helped them win several elections.”

On evidence, little things like democratic institutions and the rule of law don’t appear high on Manafort’s priority list. Among his previous clients were Philippines dictator Ferdinand Marcos and Zaire’s infamous Mobutu Sese Seko, aptly described as “the archetypal African dictator.” Both regimes were essentially kleptocracies, characterized by nepotism, brutality and extreme corruption.

Comparatively speaking, Vladimir Putin would appear to be one of Manafort’s more savory associates.

So when candidate Trump expresses a Russia-friendly foreign policy agenda—musing aloud about recognizing Putin’s illegal occupation of Crimea, and hinting that President Trump might refuse to defend NATO allies against Russian attack, it’s reasonable to wonder what’s being said behind closed doors.

Or when Trump invites Boris and Natasha to conduct cyber-warfare against his Democratic opponent. “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing,” Trump said in July.

Later, of course, the candidate alibied that he was being sarcastic. He’s a great kidder, Trump. Something blows up in his face, it was a joke.

Washington Monthly‘s David Atkins poses the million ruble question: “How much does [sic] Trump and his team need to do before we start asking serious questions about whether they’re a Manchurian Candidate campaign actively working on behalf of a foreign nation?”

Basically, that depends upon how big a piece of Trump Russian oligarchs own—one big reason we’ll never see his income taxes.

Photo: Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks at Youngstown State University in Youngstown, Ohio August 15, 2016. REUTERS/Eric Thayer

‘The Russians are going to have a cow’: The US’ latest message to Putin ‘is a really big deal’

Carolyn Kaster/AP

BUSINESS INSIDER

The US will devote a substantial portion of its defence spending to building up its military presence in Eastern Europe in an effort to deter Russian aggression in the region, Obama administration officials told The New York Times.

Countries belonging to the NATO alliance in central and Eastern Europe will apparently receive heavy weaponry, tanks, and other equipment from the US, which quadrupled its budget from $789 million to more than $3.4 billion for military spending in Europe through 2017.

“This is a really big deal, and the Russians are going to have a cow,” Evelyn N. Farkas, the Pentagon’s top policy official on Russia and Ukraine until October, told The Times on Tuesday. “It’s a huge sign of commitment to deterring Russia, and to strengthening our alliance and our partnership with countries like Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia.”

The move comes four months after Russia launched an air campaign in Syria to prop up embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in a move widely seen as an attempt by Russian president Vladimir Putin to secure and expand Russia’s influence in the Middle East.

Russia’s presence in Syria, however, has “undermined” virtually everything the West is trying to accomplish in Syria and beyond, British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said in an interview with Reuters from a refugee camp in Jordan on Monday.

That includes the US’ attempts to bolster “moderate” Syrian rebel groups — who have been targeted by Russian airstrikes — and the US-led anti-ISIS coalition’s attempts to wipe out the Islamic State in Syria (who have largely been spared the brunt of Russia’s punishing air campaign.)

As such, the new funding being allocated to fortify Eastern Europe against Russian aggression “is not a response to something that happened last Tuesday,” a senior administration official told the New York Times.

“This is a longer-term response to a changed security environment in Europe. This reflects a new situation, where Russia has become a more difficult actor,” the official added.

Russia is unlikely to react kindly to an expanded NATO military presence along its western flank. In an interview with the German daily newspaper BILD in January, Putin asserted that Russia’s tensions with the West largely resulted from NATO’s eastward expansion after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

“Of course every state has the right to organise its security the way it deems appropriate. But the states that were already in NATO, the member states, could also have followed their own interests — and abstained from an expansion to the east.”

He added: “NATO and the USA wanted a complete victory over the Soviet Union. They wanted to sit on the throne in Europe alone.”

Incidentally, Russia is now trying to dethrone NATO and position itself as an alternative to US influence in the Middle East, as evidenced by its alliance with Iran, Syria, and Iraq — under the guise of fighting ISIS.

“Russia is of course trying to leverage the entire intervention [in Syria]as a way to lap up as much real estate in the Middle East as possible,”Tony Badran, a research fellow at the Foundation for the Defence of Democracies, told Business Insider in September.”It’s classic Putin.”

In pushing himself to the forefront of an “anti-ISIS coalition” and creating a distraction from Ukraine, Putin has tried to coerce the US into accepting — and potentially embracing — Russia’s role in the conflict.

But Obama’s new funding plan to bolster NATO’s presence in Eastern Europe shows that his administration is trying to put a damper on Putin’s plans to dislodge the West from the Middle East entirely by re-asserting the US’ role in the region.

From The Times:

Administration officials said the new investments were not just about deterring Russia. The weapons and equipment could also be deployed along NATO’s southern flank, where they could help in the fight against the Islamic State or in dealing with the influx of migrants from Syria.

Another anonymous administration official speaking to The Times put it bluntly: “This is a message that we see what they’re capable of, and what their political leadership is willing to do.”

NATASHA BERTRAND

 

Putin Says Russia Ready to Cooperate With U.S. Coalition on ISIS

Russian President Vladimir Putin Meets French President Francois Hollande

MOSCOW, RUSSIA – NOVEMBER,26: Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) and French President Francois Hollande (L) attend a joint press conference in the Kremlin on November 26, 2015 in Moscow, Russia. Hollande is having a one-day trip to Moscow. (Photo by Sasha Mordovets/Getty Images)

TIME

The announcement came after a meeting with French President Francois Hollande

(BEIRUT) — Russian President Vladimir Putin says Russia is ready to cooperate with the U.S.-led coalition fighting the Islamic State group.

Putin said after talks with French President Francois Hollande that Russia is open to closer cooperation with both France and the U.S.-led coalition on selecting IS targets.

At the same time, he lashed out at the U.S. over the downing of a Russian warplane by Turkey, saying the U.S. should have prevented its coalition ally Turkey from making such a move.

He said that Russia will hold “serious consultations” with the U.S. over the incident.

Associated Press

Putin Promises Increased Syrian Airstrikes After Confirming Bomb Destroyed Passenger Plane

MEDIAITE

Vladimir PutinThe Kremlin officially confirmed today that the passenger plane that crashed over Egypt weeks ago was brought down by a bomb, and that Vladimir Putin will pursue revenge against those responsible.

In the wake of the crash that left 224 dead in the Sinai Peninsula, U.S. and foreign investigators have been taking action based on intelligence reports that strongly suggest a bomb was planted on the plane. Security chief Alexander V. Bortnikov spoke at a late-night meeting of Russia’s security council, according to the New York Times, and gave the first definitive confirmation that the country was recognizing the act as terrorism.

While the Russian government previously called for letting international investigations run their course, Bortnikov concluded that explosive materials were smuggled on board and Putin would take action against those responsible. While it is still inconclusive as to whether this was the work of ISIS, as its affiliates have claimed previously, the Kremlin said the group has exported terrorism to other countries and that there would be an increase of airstrikes in Syria.

“We will search for them everywhere, no matter where they are hiding,” Putin said. “Our military work in Syria must not only be continued, but strengthened so that criminals understand that punishment is inevitable.”

This marks an increase of activity against ISIS in Syria, seeing as their stronghold in Raqqa has been bombed by the French over the past few days in retaliation for the attacks in Paris.

[image via shuterstock]

Ken Meyer

Not Good: Report: Russia, China Crack Snowden Docs

   REUTERS/Mark Blinch (CANADA - Tags: POLITICS SCIENCE TECHNOLOGY MEDIA EDUCATION) - RTR4NZE6
Former U.S. National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden appears live via video during a student organized world affairs conference at the Upper Canada College private high school in Toronto, February 2, 2015. | Mark Blinch/Reuters

This result was the catalyst for my opposition to Snowden seeking asylum in a communist country…

THE DAILY BEAST

Russia and China have allegedly decrypted the top-secret cache of files stolen by whistleblower Edward Snowden, according to a report from The Sunday Times, to be published tomorrow. The info has compelled British intelligence agency MI6 to withdraw some of its agents from active operations and other Western intelligence agencies are now actively involved in rescue operations. In a July 2013 email to a former U.S. Senator, Snowden stated that, “No intel­li­gence ser­vice—not even our own—has the capac­ity to com­pro­mise the secrets I con­tinue to pro­tect. While it has not been reported in the media, one of my spe­cial­iza­tions was to teach our peo­ple at DIA how to keep such infor­ma­tion from being com­pro­mised even in the high­est threat counter-intelligence envi­ron­ments (i.e. China).” Many in the intelligence agencies at the time greeted this claim with scepticism. Now, one senior British official said Snowden had “blood on his hands,” but another said there’s yet no evidence anyone was harmed. Snowden eventually fled to Russia via Hong Kong after downloading some 1.7 million documents from U.S. government computers and leaking them to journalists out of a desire to protect “privacy and basic liberties.” The revelations of mass spying outraged populations and governments around the world, at least temporarily damaged relations, and eventually led to changes in the mass surveillance policies of the NSA and British GCHQ.

Read it at BBC News >>

10 things you need to know today: February 22, 2015

Kutluhan Cucel / Getty Images

The Week

1.Sec. Kerry threatens Russia with more sanctions
Secretary of State John Kerry on Saturday said the U.S. could impose more sanctions on Russia should Moscow violate the latest truce in Ukraine and continue with its “land-grabbing” in the region. Though a delicate cease-fire aimed at ending the year-old conflict between Ukraine and pro-Russian separatists went into effect last weekend, both sides accused the other of continued aggressions. “If this failure continues, make no mistake there will be further consequences including consequences that will place added strains on Russia’s already troubled economy,” Kerry said.

Source: The Guardian

2.Turkey evacuates soldiers, remains from Syrian tomb
The Turkish Army on Saturday rescued about 40 military guards from a shrine in northern Syria that had been encircled by ISIS. The Turkish Foreign Ministry said more than 500 troops, aided by tanks and armored vehicles, retrieved the soldiers from the Tomb of Suleyman Shah, which lies within Syria but is considered part of Turkey. Turkey also temporarily relocated the tomb’s remains to prevent ISIS from obtaining or desecrating them. “The ongoing conflict and state of chaos in Syria posed serious risks to safety and security of the tomb,” the foreign ministry said in a statement.

Source: CNN

3.Defense Secretary says U.S. may slow Afghan withdrawal
Making an unannounced visit to Kabul on Saturday, new Defense Secretary Ash Carter suggested that the United States’ troop withdrawal from Afghanistan may be slowed to ensure that “progress sticks” in the war-torn nation. “President Obama is considering a number of options to reinforce our support for President [Ashraf] Ghani’s security strategy, including possible changes to the timeline for our drawdown of U.S. troops,” Carter said. The current schedule would wind the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan down to about 5,000 by the end of 2015, with a target of lowering that to a “normal” troop presence at the U.S. embassy in Afghanistan by the end of 2016.

Source: Reuters

4.Scott Walker: ‘I don’t know’ if Obama loves America, is a Christian
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R ) on Saturday declined to answer basic questions about President Obama’s faith and commitment to the nation. “I don’t know,” Walker said when The Washington Post asked him if the president is Christian. “I’ve actually never talked about it or I haven’t read about that.” In a separate interview with The Associated Press, the prospective 2016 candidate also shrugged off a question about Rudy Giuliani’s claim Obama does not love America, saying, “I’ve never asked him so I don’t know.” A Walker spokesperson later clarified the governor thinks Obama is indeed Christian, and that he was simply trying to avoid answering “gotcha questions.”

Source: The Washington Post

5.Bangladesh ferry capsizes, kills at least 30
More than two dozen people died Sunday after a ferry carrying more than 100 passengers collided with a cargo ship on the Padma River. Early estimates put the death toll between 30 and 40, though that could change as rescue divers search for people trapped inside the submerged vessel.

Source: The Los Angeles Times

6.Chris Bosh out for season with blood clots in lung
Miami Heat forward Chris Bosh will miss the remainder of the 2014-15 season after developing blood clots in one of his lungs, the team announced Saturday. Bosh had been dealing with pain in his side for days before doctors discovered the clots, which can be fatal; former NBA player Jerome Kersey died Wednesday of a blood clot in his lung. “His health will be restored,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said Saturday. “That’s the most important thing. That’s bigger than basketball.”

Source: ESPN

7.Study: India’s polluted air cutting short 660 million lives
More than half of India’s population may be facing a shortened life expectancy due to filthy air, according to a study published Saturday in the journal Economic & Political Weekly. Using previous research on China’s air pollution, the study found that 660 million people were breathing in unsafe levels of fine particulate matter and losing at least 3.2 years of their lives as a result. “The extent of the problem is actually much larger than what we normally understand,” Anant Sudarshan, one of the study’s co-author’s and the India director of the Energy Policy Institute of Chicago, said.

Source: The New York Times

8.Sprawling storm brings fatal snow, ice to South and East
Yet another weekend storm dumped snow, sleet and, and ice across the South and East from Saturday into Sunday. At least 21 people died in Tennessee from storm-related fatalities, including hypothermia, as Gov. Bill Haslam (R) upgraded the state of emergency there to Level 2. Further north, Washington, D.C., and New York City each saw about five inches of snow, while snowed-in Boston received about another inch of powder.

Source: USA Today, CBS

9. NASCAR driver Kurt Busch loses final appeal
NASCAR driver Kurt Busch on Saturday lost the final appeal of his indefinite suspension from racing. NASCAR suspended Busch on Fridayafter a Delaware judge ruled he choked and beat his ex-girlfriend. The ruling means Busch will miss Sunday’s season-opening Daytona 500.

Source: The Chicago Tribune

10.Academy Awards to crown best in film Sundaynight
The 87th Academy Awards will be held tonight as Hollywood’s award season culminates with its most prestigious event. Birdman and Boyhoodare expected to take home the night’s top honors. Neil Patrick Harris will host the show for the first time.

Source: ABC

10 things you need to know today: February 8, 2015

Johannes Simon

The Week

1.Russia, Ukraine to meet this week for peace talks in Minsk
The leaders of Russia, Ukraine, France, and Germany plan to meet in Minsk, Belarus, on Wednesday for talks aimed at ending the conflict in eastern Ukraine. “They expect that their efforts during the Minsk meeting will lead to the swift and unconditional cessation of fire by both sides,” Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko’s office said in a statement. Fighting between Ukrainian troops and pro-Russian separatists has intensified since the failure last year of a delicate cease fire. Last week, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande traveled to Russia to discuss a last-ditch peace plan.

Source: BBC

2.Brian Williams to take leave from NBC News
NBC News anchor Brian Williams said Saturday he would take a temporary leave from the network amid an internal investigation into his account of a 2003 helicopter mission in Iraq. “In the midst of a career spent covering and consuming news, it has become painfully apparent to me that I am presently too much a part of the news, due to my actions,” he said in a statement. Williams is under investigation for allegedly embellishing a story about an attack on a helicopter convoy he was part of at the outset of the Iraq war.

Source: USA Today

3.North Korea test-fires short-range missiles
North Korea on Sunday fired five short-range missiles into the sea, according to the South Korean government. Fired near the coastal town of Wonsan, the missiles traveled about 125 miles before crashing into the water. The second such test this year, the launch dims the hopes of the two nations resuming peace talks that stalled last year.

Source: The New York Times

4.Legendary college hoops coach Dean Smith dead at 83
Dean Smith, the longtime University of North Carolina men’s basketball coach, died on Saturday at the age of 83. “We lost a man of the highest integrity who did so many things off the court to help make the world a better place to live in,” current Tar Heels coach Roy Williams said in a statement. Smith coached North Carolina from 1961 to 1997, leading the team to national titles in 1982 and 1993. He retired with 879 victories, the most in college basketball history at the time.

Source: ESPN

5.Israeli PM vows to block Iranian nuclear deal
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday he would do everything possible to scuttle “bad and dangerous” nuclear negotiations between the U.S. and Iran. “We will do everything to thwart a bad and dangerous deal that will cast a dark cloud on the future of the state of Israel and its security,” he said in a weekly cabinet meeting. The remarks come amid a backlash over Netanyahu’s planned speech to Congress next month, which some Democrats and the White House believe could undermine the ongoing nuclear talks.

Source: CBS

6.Maryland court to hear appeal in ‘Serial’ murder case
In a case popularized by the podcast Serial, Adnan Syed will be allowed to appeal his murder conviction. The Maryland Court of Special Appeals filed its decision on Friday, and Syed’s lawyers can now move forward with the appeals process, which can include the presentation of new evidence. A former classmate who did not testify at the original trial, Asia McClain, says she can provide an alibi for Syed in the 1999 murder of his former girlfriend and high school classmate Hae Min Lee.

Source: The Washington Post

7.New England braces for more snow
A slow-moving winter storm could dump as much as two feet of snow on parts of New England over the next two days. The region is already reeling from two massive storms that left behind record snow totals. In Boston, 49 inches of snow fell over a 14-day period, smashing the previous two-week record of 40.2 inches.

Source: The Boston Globe

8.Iran’s top cleric endorses developing nuclear agreement
Iran’s religious leader on Sunday offered his support for a potential nuclear deal with the U.S. in which both sides give ground. “I would go along with any agreement that could be made,” Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said in a statement, adding that “negotiations mean reaching a common point.” The two sides have until late March to establish the basic framework of a nuclear agreement.

Source: Reuters

9. Teen arrested in connection with weekend mall shooting
Police on Sunday arrested a 17-year-old in connection with a weekend shooting at a mall outside Pittsburgh that injured three people, two of them critically. Police said the suspect, Tarod Thornhill, is believed to have been targeting one person when he opened fire Saturday night in the Monroeville Mall. Thornhill is charged with attempted homicide, aggravated assault, and reckless endangerment.

Source: NBC

10.The Grammy Awards ceremony is tonight
The 57th annual Grammy Awards will be held Sunday night in Los Angeles. Beyonce, Sam Smith, and Pharrell Williams, all of whom are up for Album of the Year, lead the pack with six nominations each.

Source: Billboard

Edward Snowden Was Allegedly Recruited To Work At Russian Spy Agency

Edward Snowden (AP Photo)

The Huffington Post

BERLIN (AP) — A close ally of Edward Snowden has told filmmakers that Russia’s intelligence agency sought to recruit the former NSA contractor, but he declined the offer.

WikiLeaks staffer Sarah Harrison says the Russian FSB intelligence security service approached Snowden while he was stuck in the transit area of Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport for six weeks in 2013.

At the time, Snowden was unable to enter Russia or fly elsewhere because his passport had been canceled by U.S. authorities seeking to arrest him for leaking secret documents.

Harrison told German filmmakers in a documentary airing late Monday that the FSB asked only once, and he “didn’t give anything to the Russians at all.” The FSB did not respond to an AP request for comment.

Russia granted Snowden temporary asylum in August 2013.