Chem Attack in Syria, Back Channel to Russia
Tuesday, April 4, 2017
Vol. 6, No. 87
ChemWar: A chemical warfare attack appears to have been carried out in northwestern Syria, killing at least 58 people and injuring dozens. The victims display signs of having been exposed to nerve gas.
Witnesses were not certain whether the attack was by Syrian or Russian forces.
Russian Terror: Russian authorities say a suicide bomber from Kyrgyzstan is responsible for the subway train explosion that killed at least 14 people yesterday while the train was between stations in St. Petersburg, the second largest city in the country. Some reports say the man blew himself up in the attack.
Injured passengers, some of them bleeding and wearing shredded clothing, stumbled along the tracks to the platform and the street. All of the metro stations in the city were immediately closed as a second device was found and disarmed.
Russian President Vladimir Putin was in St. Petersburg at the time. No one has claimed responsibility for the attack.
The attack brought immediate suspicion that Putin himself was behind the bombing in what’s known as a “false flag.”
Chess master Gary Kasparov, a vocal Putin opponent, tweeted, “Putin routinely uses terror pretext to crack down on peaceful dissent. Such dark suspicions are based on 18 yrs of similarly well-timed attacks in Putin’s Russia.”
Back Channel: The Washington Post reports that the Trump transition sent the founder of the Blackwater security firm to the United Arab Emirates to set up a back-channel of communications with Vladimir Putin.
The paper reports that, “The United Arab Emirates arranged a secret meeting in January between Blackwater founder Erik Prince and a Russian close to President Vladimir Putin as part of an apparent effort to establish a back-channel line of communication between Moscow and President-elect Donald Trump, according to U.S., European and Arab officials.
The meeting took place around Jan. 11 — nine days before Trump’s inauguration — in the Seychelles islands in the Indian Ocean, officials said. Though the full agenda remains unclear, the UAE agreed to broker the meeting in part to explore whether Russia could be persuaded to curtail its relationship with Iran, including in Syria, a Trump administration objective that would be likely to require major concessions to Moscow on U.S. sanctions.”
DefCon 3: Despite four defections, Senate Democrats now have 41 votes, enough to filibuster the appointment of Judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. A filibuster would force the Republicans to do as they’ve promised and invoke the “nuclear option” by changing the Senate rules to require only a simple 51 vote majority rather than the current 60.
White House spokesman Sean Spicer said, “We’re obviously disappointed that the overwhelming majority of them are still playing politics with the nation’s highest court,” a statement that’s laughable after the Republican refusal to even hold hearings on President Obama’s court nominee in the last 10 months of his tenure.
Changing the rules could deepen the partisan divide, making it unnecessary to curry the votes of anyone from the minority party. South Carolina Sen. Lindsay Graham said, “The Senate’s traditions are going to change over this man. This says more about the Senate than it does Judge Gorsuch.”
Fantastic Job: President Trump yesterday met with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi, the former general who deposed the elected president in a military coup that left 1,000 people dead. President Obama refused to meet with el-Sissi, but Trump said he has done “a fantastic job” fighting terrorism.
Tweeter-in-Chief: With a handful of intelligence agencies at his disposal, President Trump’s most reliable source still appears to be Fox News. Trump cited Fox News yesterday in his renewal of his unproven claim that he was the target of electronic surveillance. “@FoxNews from multiple sources: ‘There was electronic surveillance of Trump, and people close to Trump. This is unprecedented.’”
Dining Trend: A Denver man choked to death during a doughnut-eating contest when he was trying to eat a half-pound doughnut in 80 seconds. It’s the second eating-challenge death in several days. A 20-year-old female college student at Sacred Heart University in Connecticut choked to death on pancakes.
Finally: Gonzaga gave North Carolina a tough time last night, but North Carolina ended up winning the NCAA basketball championship 71-65 in Phoenix last night. It’s North Carolina’s sixth title.