Month: January 2018

Pompeo: North Korea ‘Handful of Months’ Away from Threatening U.S. with Nuclear Weapons

Speaking at an American Enterprise Institute (AEI) forum on the future of U.S. intelligence operations, CIA Director Mike Pompeo warned that North Korea could be a “handful of months” away from plausibly threatening the continental United States with nuclear weapons. Pompeo warned North Korea’s nuclear weapons program is advancing at a “very rapid clip.” He added that U.S. intelligence fears Kim would aggressively use nuclear weapons as a tool to conquer the entire Korean Peninsula. Pompeo repeated his recent warnings that “North Korea is ever closer to being able to hold America at risk,” but said the intelligence community is helping to hold them just shy of achieving their goals. “I said that was a handful of months,” he recalled. “I said the same thing several months before that. I want everyone to understand that we are working diligently to make sure that a year from now, I can still tell you they are several months away from having that capacity.” Later in his appearance, Pompeo clarified that he was not laying out a timeline where North Korea might be fielding nuclear missiles by the end of the summer, or anything quite so immediate. He said it was inappropriate to think in terms of timelines to landmark missile test launches. Instead, the real issue is reliability—“Can they reliably deliver the pain which Kim Jong-un wants to be able to deliver against the United States of America?” He explained: ” It’s one thing to be able to say, ‘Yes, it’s possible if everything went right, if the missile flew in the right direction, we could do it,’ as opposed to certainty. This is the core of deterrence theory. In the deterrence model, you have to be certain that what you aim to deliver will actually be successful. At the very least, you need to make sure your adversary believes that it is certain.” “That’s what Kim Jong-un is driving for. He is trying to put in our mind the reality that he can deliver that pain to the United States of America. Our mission is to make the day that he can do that as far off as possible,” Pompeo said. He disputed the commonly reported notion that the intelligence community was caught by surprise when North Korea’s nuclear program surged forward. “We’ll never get the week or the month right on something that’s this complicated, but we can get the direction of travel and the capacity for the rate of change right, and we did,” he insisted. During a question-and-answer session with AEI’s Marc Thiessen, Pompeo cautioned that he was not at liberty to divulge sensitive intelligence about North Korea, other than to say, “They have moved at a very rapid clip, make no mistake about it.” “They’re testing capacity has improved. The frequency that they have tests which are more materially successful has also improved, putting them ever closer to a place where Americans can be held at risk,” he said. Pompeo said the CIA believes Kim Jong-un to be a “rational actor,” and that his rational strategy is about more than achieving deterrence against conventional military action by the United States and its allies since the massive North Korean artillery threat to South Korean cities already provides such deterrence. Pompeo said the CIA believes that Kim wants “more than just regime preservation,” which is why the Trump administration is so determined to prevent him from achieving nuclear ICBM capability. They suspect Kim will not be content to become merely the latest authoritarian ruler sitting on an inventory of nuclear weapons he would never dare to use. Thiessen asked if Kim’s status as a “rational actor” meant limited military action to dismantle North Korea’s nuclear program is possible since a rational state would not respond in a manner that guaranteed its own destruction. “I’m thrilled that you asked that. I’m equally happy not to answer,” Pompeo replied. “Let me say this, though: the American people should know we’re working to prepare a series of options to make sure that we can deliver a range of things, so the president will have the full suite of possibilities.” “We are in a much better place today than we were twelve months ago,” he said. “We are still suffering from having gaps. Part of that is not the intelligence community’s fault per se. These are difficult target sets. I’ll concede that at the outset. But it’s completely inadequate for the CIA to say, ‘Well, that’s a hard problem.’ Of course it’s a hard problem. That’s why you pay us.” He said the CIA’s top priorities in North Korea included analyzing its command structure, determining how sanctions affect various individuals and layers of North Korean society, and who might be helping the Kim regime mitigate the effects of sanctions.

Federal Spending Set Record During Shutdown

Federal spending for the fourth Monday in January set a record of $16,596,000,000 for that day in January even though the federal government was shut down, according to the Daily Treasury Statement. The House of Representatives did not pass the current short-term continuing resolution to fund the government and end the latest shutdown until 6:09 p.m. Eastern Time on Monday. That was after the close of the business day in Washington, D.C., which made Monday the one federal-government business day effected by the lastest shut down. (The other two days of the shut down were a Saturday and a Sunday.) But the $16,596,000,000 that the federal government spent on Monday–when it was shut down–was more in constant inflation-adjusted dollars than the federal government has spent before on the fourth Monday in January, according to the Daily Treasury Statements (going back to 1998) that are posted on the website of the Treasury Department’s Bureau of the Fiscal Service. The second highest federal spending on a fourth Monday in January came on Monday, Jan. 26, 2009—six days into Barack Obama’s presidency. On that Monday, the federal government spent $14,667,000,000 in constant December 2017 dollars (adjusted using the Bureau of Labor Statistics inflation calculator). The third highest federal spending on a fourth Monday in January came on Monday, Jan. 24, 2011, when the government spent $13,761,140,000 in constant December 2017 dollars. In 1998, the earliest year for which the Bureau of the Fiscal Service has posted Daily Treasury Statements online, the federal government spent $7,725,230,000 on the fourth Monday of January (Jan. 26, 1998) in constant December 2017 dollars. Although the federal government spent a record $16,596,000,000 on the fourth Monday in January this year—and even though the federal government was shut down that day—the federal government did not run a deficit on that day. That is because it brought in $17,117,000,000 in tax revenue. That was not a record for tax revenue for the fourth Monday in January. On Jan. 23, 2018—the fourth Monday in January of last year—the federal government brought in $17,117,000,000 in tax revenue in constant December 2017 dollars. The largest expenditure the federal government made on Monday—when it was shut down—was $3,746,000,000 in “marketplace payments,” which are subsidies for health insurance plans purchased on the Obamacare exchanges. The second largest expenditure was $1,971,000,000 for Medicare and other Centers of Medicare and Medicaid Services expenses. The third largest was $1,764,000,000 spent on Department of Education programs.

Comcast hopes for a TV windfall from Super Bowl, Olympics

Comcast’s NBC is airing both the Super Bowl and the Olympics in February, a double-whammy sports extravaganza that the company expects to yield $1.4 billion in ad sales, helping it justify the hefty price it’s paying for both events. NBC is banking heavily on these sports events since traditional TV ratings have slumped in recent years. Live sports are marquee TV events that draw most of the largest TV audiences, but even those ratings have declined. More Americans are dumping their cable packages — Comcast lost 33,000 video customers in the fourth quarter and 151,000 for all of 2017 — and advertisers are following consumers to their phones. Spending on U.S. TV ads is expected to grow an anemic 0.4 percent this year, according to eMarketer. In the October-December quarter, NBCUniversal’s broadcast TV ad revenue fell 6.5 percent, after a boost in 2016 from election ads. As it adapts to a slowing TV market, NBC is continuing some digital efforts from Rio and expanding others to meet viewers wherever they are — whether in front of a TV or not. The Super Bowl reaches more than 100 million people in the U.S., outstripping every other TV event. It’s the most expensive ad time on TV. This year’s Super Bowl is Feb. 4 and follows a two-year slump in regular-season NFL ratings, according to ESPN . But NBC has said it is not worried about a lack of interest. The game is an event that “transcends sport and even the game itself,” Dan Lovinger, an NBC Sports ad-sales executive, said in January, about three weeks before the game. NBC said then that it had nearly sold out Super Bowl ad spots and that on average, companies are paying more than $5 million for 30-second ads during the game. Kantar Media expects rates slightly higher than last year’s $5.05 million. Fox aired the Super Bowl in 2017, and said it had $500 million in ad revenues for the day. NBC has predicted about $500 million for the game and associated events this year. NBC also makes money from ads during events before and after the game and a special episode that day of its hit drama, “This is Us.” For the first time, it’s selling ads for the game that will only appear on its app or website. NBC is paying $963 million for the broadcast rights to the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, which follow a Summer Olympics in Rio two years ago that disappointed in some ways. NBC ruled the airwaves during the Rio Games, besting other networks, and raked in $250 million in profit. But ratings for the prime-time broadcast declined compared to the London Olympics in 2012, so NBC had to give advertisers some extra ad slots to make up for it. This time around, NBC will sell ads for this Olympics based on total viewership, counting cable and digital viewers as well as those who tune into NBC proper. That gives them more leverage with advertisers, said Brian Wieser, an ad analyst for Pivotal Research Group. NBC expects to sell more than $900 million worth of ads for the Olympics, which it says would be the highest ever for a Winter Games. (Summer Games are more popular.) The company is offering more hours of programming this year, both on TV and online, than it did for the Sochi Games in 2014. Past Olympics have been criticized by fans for tape-delayed events. This year, NBC will air its nightly prime-time broadcast simultaneously across the country. That means the West Coast evening broadcast will start early, at 5 p.m.

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Air Force deploys A-10s to Afghanistan to ramp up Taliban fight

The U.S. Air Force has deployed A-10 Thunderbolt jets to Afghanistan for the first time in more than three years to provide close-air support for American and Afghan troops — the latest sign of escalating military operations and deepening U.S. military involvement by the Trump administration against the Taliban, more than 16 years after the 9/11 attacks. “As we’ve applied increased pressure on the Taliban and their revenue sources with precision airpower, we’ve gained considerable momentum in our effort to force them to reconcile or face defeat,” said Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Harrigian, head of U.S. Air Forces Central Command, in a statement to Fox News. “As U.S. advisors move closer to the front lines in support of our Afghan partners, this additional airpower will give them the decisive advantage necessary to advance with confidence.” The newly arrived A-10s flew their first combat missions in Afghanistan less than 24 hours after arriving at Kandahar Airfield on Friday, January 19. The jets are from the 303d Expeditionary Fighter Squadron from Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri. In addition to the A-10s, Air Force Central Command has sent more MQ-9 Reaper drones, and HH-60G helicopters used by Air Force special operations forces for combat search and rescue. The additional jets and helicopters will report to the 455th Air Expeditionary Wing at Bagram Airfield, located an hour north of Kabul. The Air Force is sending 12 A-10 jets to Kandahar Airfield. The Air Force Reserve unit was previously scheduled to replace the A-10s operating out of Incirlik Air Base, Turkey, to take part in the ISIS fight in Iraq and Syria — but with the terrorist group having lost 98 percent of the territory it once controlled due to in part a relentless air campaign, top military brass decided the jets were needed in Afghanistan to support Afghan and American troops on the ground. The U.S. Air Force says more than 4,300 bombs were dropped last year in Afghanistan, far fewer than the nearly 40,000 dropped against ISIS in Iraq and Syria over the same period. This fall, 3,000 additional U.S. troops arrived in Afghanistan. By April, the U.S. Army is planning to send up to 1,000 more from Fort Benning, Ga. — the first soldiers from the U.S. Army’s Security Force Assistance Brigade, a unit made up of experienced officers and enlisted soldiers to advise Afghan troops closer to the front lines. The additional troops will bring the U.S. total to roughly 15,000. There were roughly 8,400 U.S. troops on the ground in Afghanistan when President Trump took office. The U.S. military dropped more bombs in Afghanistan in 2017, than in 2012 when the U.S. military had nearly 100,000 troops on the ground, according to the Air Force. The spike in airstrikes began after Trump took office last year. As the war against ISIS winds down in Iraq and Syria, more Air Force jets and drones are being sent to Afghanistan. The new jets arrive at a time when both the Taliban and an ISIS-affiliate have stepped up their attacks on Afghanistan’s capital. The Taliban claimed responsibility for an attack lasting more than 13 hours at Kabul’s Intercontinental Hotel by six gunmen, killing an estimated 18 civilians, mostly foreigners, according to local media reports. A significant number of the air strikes in Afghanistan last year targeted an ISIS-affiliate, responsible for other attacks inside Kabul at the end of the year, killing more than 100 civilians. Senior military leaders want to attack the Taliban using the same tactics used successfully against ISIS in Iraq and Syria — destroy major revenue sources to dry up funding which supports the organization. The top American commander in Afghanistan, Army Gen. John W. Nicholson Jr., wants to go after the Taliban’s poppy crops used to make heroin, in much the same way the U.S. relentlessly attacked a major funding source for ISIS — oil. “This is allowed under the authorities that I was granted under the new U.S. strategy,” Nicholson told reporters late last year. “I could not do that previously.” “(Afghanistan) President (Ashraf) Ghani said, he believes we have turned the corner and I agree,” Nicholson added. Air Force Brig. Gen. Lance Bunch said in December that U.S. airstrikes destroyed 25 narcotics-processing labs worth $80 million from the Taliban inventory in Helmand Province, not far from neighboring Kandahar Province in southern Afghanistan, where the new A-10s will be based. The A-10 dates back to the mid-70s, a jet made famous for its 30mm Gatling gun, which can fire 3,900 rounds a minute, the preferred air asset by U.S. ground troops for decades — to take out enemy forces at close range. The “Warthog,” as the jet is known, was designed to loiter above the battlefield at low altitudes protected by reinforced armor around the cockpit with a bulletproof-glass canopy. The newest A-10 was built in 1984, however. Because of its age, the jet has been a target for Air Force cuts in recent years as budgets tightened. But the jet maintains strong support on Capitol Hill, and has continued to be requested on the frontlines. A squadron of 12 A-10s deployed to Turkey in 2015 to strike ISIS. Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson told the Senate Armed Services Committee in December that she supported keeping the aging jets until the mid-2020s. “I happen to be a fan of the A-10,” she said.

As are we, here at The Daily Buzz!  Glad to see they’ll be joining the fight in Afghanistan!  Having spent some time personally in Afghanistan, I know just how much the troops on the ground love to see Warthogs softening the battlefield and chewing up the enemy.  Excellent!!   🙂

Illegal Alien Uber Driver Allegedly Raped Four Women in Sanctuary State California

A previously deported illegal alien Uber driver is accused of raping four women, three of whom were allegedly intoxicated when he assaulted them, prosecutors say. Alfonso Alarcon-Nunez, a 39-year-old illegal alien from Mexico living in San Luis Obispo, California, has been charged with raping and robbing four women while he was driving for the ride-sharing company Uber, according to the Daily Mail. San Luis Obispo County District Attorney Dan Dow told the media that Nunez’s alleged rape victims are between the ages of 19-years-old and 22-years-old, with three of them being intoxicated from alcohol when he allegedly robbed and raped them. Dow said the illegal alien would target women leaving parties while he was on duty as an Uber driver. The illegal alien would allegedly go back to the women’s homes where he would rape them and rob them, prosecutors say. Nunez is facing 10 charges for the rape, assault and robbery accusations. In 2005, Nunez was deported from New Mexico back to his native Mexico. Between 2005 and 2017, he re-entered the U.S. illegally again. The state of California is considered a “sanctuary state,” as it prevents businesses and statewide public officials and offices from cooperating with federal immigration officials to help deport criminal illegal aliens. Instead, the state acts as a safe-haven for criminal illegal aliens.

NBC’s Lester Holt ripped for saying he’s been ‘treated with respect’ in North Korea

NBC News anchor Lester Holt is facing backlash on social media after he said he and his crew were “treated with respect” by North Korean officials during their trip to the Masikryong Ski Resort in the totalitarian country. Mr. Holt was reporting Monday from the ski slopes where athletes from North Korea and South Korea will train for the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang. NBC News cameras showed dozens of colorful and seemingly cheerful North Koreans enjoying the “bunny slope” as Mr. Holt described his crew’s experience traveling to the Hermit Kingdom from Beijing. “This is the bunny slope at a very modern ski resort here in North Korea,” Mr. Holt said. “We’re here because some of the athletes from the South and North, based on this new alliance, will be doing some of their training here. It’s been announced the North Koreans will field 22 athletes in the upcoming Winter Games in South Korea. That’s fueling some sense of hope and optimism of cooperation in other ways between the two countries.” “We arrived in North Korea on Saturday, we flew the North Korean state airline,” Mr. Holt continued. “It’s about an hour and a half flight from Beijing, they even make an announcement in flight when you eventually cross the border into North Korea. We quickly passed through immigrations, went through a very lengthy and very detailed customs inspection of not only our equipment but our personal items down to the novels we were reading, even in one case, a toothbrush of our crew members. “But we have been treated with respect here,” he added. “We had been invited and are guests of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. We stayed in a guest house outside Pyongyang last night and then made our way to this ski resort to get a look at a part of North Korea that most Americans don’t see and certainly a part they would like us to see.” The Masikryong Ski Resort, built by North Korean soldiers and civilians in just 10 months, is a pet project by dictator Kim Jong-un to create the illusion of wealth and prestige in the impoverished nation. NBC News reported last January that men, women and children — some as young as 11 and 12 — are tasked with shoveling snow at the luxury resort where trucks and snowplows are virtually nonexistent. Mr. Holt was accused of peddling regime propaganda.

..which is exactly what he did.  What a moron!  I’m sure Kim Jong Ding Dong is laughing his way to the local communist propaganda print shop.  Thanks a lot, Lester..

Senate confirms Jerome Powell as Fed chairman in 85-12 vote

Senators delivered a show of confidence in Jerome Powell, President Trump’s pick for chairman of the Federal Reserve System, voting overwhelmingly Tuesday to confirm him to the position. Mr. Powell, who’s been part of the Fed’s board of governors, will replace Janet Yellen, whom Mr. Trump declined to nominate for a second term. As chairman, Mr. Powell will be the most important voice in deciding how the Federal Reserve moves forward with the economy appearing to be humming yet again, even as banks chafe against restrictions imposed in the wake of the 2008 Wall Street collapse. Tuesday’s 85-12 vote saw just four Republicans and eight members of the Democratic Caucus vote against Mr. Powell, who had enjoyed bipartisan support before. “He has served as a steady voice and thoughtful leader,” Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said in urging his confirmation. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce called Mr. Powell the “right man at the right time.” The Federal Reserve is an independent government agency charged with keeping inflation in check and supporting job growth. It took on an outsized role in the Wall Street collapse, sparking criticism from some quarters that it had overstepped. More recently the Fed has raised some key interest rates, hoping to keep the economy growing without overheating. Mr. Trump had criticized Ms. Yellen’s performance during the presidential campaign, but in office he changed his tone, even calling her tenure “excellent.” But he did not give her a second term, making her the first chair in decades to be ousted after one four-year period. Her predecessor, Ben Bernanke, served for two terms, and before that Alan Greenspan served for nearly two decades.