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Tyler Durden

Germany Backpedals On NATO Spending Promise As France Goes Full Throttle

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Germany is poised to renege on its promise to boost NATO spending, backtracking on a public commitment last year by Chancellor Angela Merkel to increase German military expenditure to 1.5 percent of gross domestic product by 2024 - bringing it closer to the 2 percent level set by NATO themselves, according to the Wall Street Journal.
If confirmed at a cabinet meeting on Wednesday, the move would mark a fresh step in the gradual estrangement between the US and its erstwhile loyal European ally and comes after Mr. Trump’s repeated attacks of North Atlantic Treaty Organization leaders for not meeting a 2 percent military-spending target. -WSJ
Berlin currently spends around €43 billion ($49 billion), equal to just over 1.2 percent of GDP on defense. Under a new plan unveiled on Monday by the finance ministry, the spending would rise to just 1.37 percent of GDP next year, then decrease again to 1.33 percent in 2019, 1.29 percent in 2022 and 1.25 percent in 2023.

"The commitment we have made to NATO states that spending should reach 2 percent if the budget conditions allow for it. We haven't abandoned the target but it remains a challenge that the federal government wants to master," said a senior government official.
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"Better 'No Deal' Than 'Bad Deal'": Walking Out Of Hanoi Summit Earns Trump Bipartisan Praise

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Though Kim Jong Un has a long train ride back to Pyongyang to ponder how the collapse of Thursday's talks in Hanoi might impact his relationship with Trump, senior officials in his government are already signaling that the detente between the two geopolitical rivals might be over, having deliberately undermined President Trump by contradicting his version events during a midnight press conference - even going so far as to suggest that Kim has "lost the will" to continue negotiating (since North Korea's "reasonable" position "will never change" - something that US intel analysts have been saying for months).
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Death Knell For Syria Pullout: 'We Have To Protect Israel' Says Trump

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After approaching two months of talk of a "full" and "immediate" US troop withdrawal from Syria, first ordered by President Trump on December 19 — which was predictably met with swift and fierce pushback from beltway hawks including in some cases his own advisers — it now appears the death knell has sounded on the prior "complete" and "rapid" draw down order.

Trump said in a CBS "Face the Nation" interview this weekend that some unspecified number of US troops will remain in the region, mostly in Iraq, with possibly some still in Syria, in order "to protect Israel" in what appears a significant backtrack from his prior insistence on an absolute withdrawal. 

“We’re going to be there and we’re going to be staying. We have to protect Israel,” he replied when pressed by CBS reporter Margaret Brennan. “We have to protect other things that we have. But we’re – yeah, they’ll be coming back in a matter of time.” He did note that “ultimately some will be coming home.”

“Look, we’re protecting the world,” he added. “We’re spending more money than anybody’s ever spent in history, by a lot.” Trump's slow drift and change in tune on the subject of a promised "rapid" exit comes after Israeli officials led by Prime Minister Netanyahu alongside neocon allies in Washington argued that some 200 US troops in Syria's southeast desert along the Iraqi border and its 55-kilometer “deconfliction zone” at al-Tanf are the last line of defense against Iranian expansion in Syria, and therefore must stay indefinitely.
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Twitter Bans 2,000 Pro-Maduro Accounts As Demands For Regime Change Escalate

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On the evening before National Security Advisor John Bolton reiterated that "all options [including, presumably, military intervention] are on the table" regarding the situation in Venezuela, Twitter announced that it had joined the US-backed coup by taking down 2,000 accounts that it said were engaged in a "state-backed influence campaign", according to RT.

In a blog post, Twitter said it removed 1,196 accounts located in Venezuela which it deemed to "appear to be engaged in a state-backed influence campaign targeting domestic audiences." The company also removed another 764 accounts, but said "we are unable to definitively tie the accounts located in Venezuela to information operations of a foreign government against another country."

The purge was part of a crackdown on "foreign information operations", which also serves as a resource for researchers hoping to investigate these operations. In the post, Twitter announced that it was adding five new sets of account sets to its archive of foreign influence campaigns.
Twitter has removed 764 accounts located in Venezuela. We are unable to definitively tie the accounts located in Venezuela to information operations of a foreign government against another country. However, these accounts are another example of a foreign campaign of spammy content focused on divisive political themes, and the behavior we uncovered is similar to that utilized by potential Russian IRA accounts. We are disclosing them out of an abundance of caution and welcome the feedback of researchers.

Additionally, we have removed 1,196 accounts located in Venezuela which appear to be engaged in a state-backed influence campaign targeting domestic audiences. We have shared information on these accounts with our industry peers, and continue to investigate malicious activity originating in Venezuela, both targeting audiences with in Venezuela and abroad.
Abby Martin, host of YouTube series Empire Files, lamented that amid Twitter censorship of pro-government supporters, "pro-coup Venezuelans and right-wing exiles dominate the media sphere."
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Pence Urges Venezuelans To Rise Up Against 'Dictator' Maduro After Failed Military Revolt

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It appears the White House is ready to stoke the flames of anti-Maduro unrest following Monday's dramatic failed military revolt launched by 27 low-ranking officers and their subsequent arrests in the Cotiza neighborhood of Caracas, which sparked overnight protests and sporadic clashes with police after opposition leader Juan Guaido made a broad appeal to the military in a speech, urging them to demand Maduro step down. Guaido and other opposition leaders in the National Assembly have declared Wednesday a nation-wide protest day seeking to topple the regime — itself a historic date commemorating the end of Venezuela's military dictatorship in 1958.
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Bolton Had Pentagon Draw Up "Far-Reaching Military Options To Strike Iran"

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The Wall Street Journal published an Iran bombshell Sunday morning, confirming the White House had the Pentagon prepare "military options" to strike the country last year. The sudden request, seen as an unprecedented Iraq-style "shock and awe" attack on Iran, caught the Pentagon off guard, to the point that "State Dept. and Pentagon officials were rattled by the request" which officials further told the WSJ was "mind-boggling" and "cavalier" in terms of how brazen it was. 

The request for military options came in early September after the United States accused Iran-backed militias in Iraq of firing three mortars at the US Embassy and diplomatic compound in Baghdad, and at a time that riots and political instability were spreading throughout some major cities in Iraq, especially in the south. It was also an opportunity for noted Iran hawk and national security advisor John Bolton to push for "far-reaching military options to strike Iran" — a regime change project he's pushed in public many years prior to taking his White House post last April.

The WSJ reports:
The request, which hasn’t been previously reported, came after militants fired three mortars into Baghdad’s sprawling diplomatic quarter, home to the US Embassy, on a warm night in early September. The shells—launched by a group aligned with Iran—landed in an open lot and harmed no one.

But they triggered unusual alarm in Washington, where Mr. Trump’s national security team led by John Bolton conducted a series of meetings to discuss a forceful American response, including what many saw as the unusual request for options to strike Iran.
Though it's unclear if the strike options ended up on President Trump's desk following the formal request from the National Security Council, or if they were ever seriously considered by the White House, “It definitely rattled people,” one former senior US administration official described. “People were shocked. It was mind-boggling how cavalier they were about hitting Iran,” the source said.
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LinkedIn Co-Founder Who Bankrolled Russian Bot "False Flag" Also Funded Left-Wing Midterm Meddling

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An online disinformation campaign conducted by a former Obama administration official leading up to the 2018 midterm elections was bankrolled by left-wing tech billionaire Reid Hoffman, according to the Daily Caller's Peter Hasson. 

Hoffman, who co-founded LinkedIn, admitted in December to funding American Engagement Technologies (AET) - which is currently embroiled in a "false flag" scandal stemming from the 2017 Alabama special election.

Now, AET and its founder Mickey Dickerson have come under fire for meddling in the 2018 midterm elections. 
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Cuban Crickets Blamed For Brain-Melting Sonic Embassy Attacks

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Forget Vladimir Putin and hi-tech microwave weapons, the mystery behind US Embassy workers in Havana suffering from "sonic attacks" has apparently been solved.

The culprit of the mystery ailments which include damaged hearing, vision, cognition, balance and sleep? According to a new study from the University of California, Berkeley, the mysterious noise heard by dozens of embassy workers may have been crickets. 
[A] new study indicates that the culprit behind this debacle is in fact… a cricket. According to Alexander Stubbs, a scientist in the Department of Integrative Biology and Museum of Vertebrate Zoology at the University of California, Berkeley, the mysterious noise is actually the echoing call of the Indies short-tailed cricket (Anurogryllus celerinictus). Stubbs will present his findings this week at the 2019 Annual Meeting of the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology in Tampa, Florida, based on a paper that was just released through the bioArxive online database. -NewsWise
Stubbs decided to investigate crickets after the Associated Press (AP) released a recording of the ear-shattering noise in October, 2017, which reminded him of insect calls he had heard while doing field work in the Caribbean. 

What about the US diplomats who have fallen ill in China with similar symptoms?
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