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ON ALLEGED US ELECTIONS HACK BY RUSSIANS - TRUMP PRAISES PUTIN FOR NOT RETALIATING VS OBAMA'S EXPULSION OF RUSSIAN DIPLOMATS
[RELATED: US kicks out dozens of Russian diplomats over election hacking]


DECEMBER 31 TRUMP WILL GET THE FACTS FROM REPUBLICAN PROBE -President-elect Donald Trump on Friday expressed his appreciation to Vladimir Putin after the Russian president said he would not expel American diplomats in response to new U.S. sanctions over hacking as a gesture to the incoming administration. “Great move on delay (by V. Putin),” Trump tweeted Friday afternoon. “I always knew he was very smart!” The tweet is Trump’s latest nod to Putin, whom he has praised as a strong leader – inspiring considerable backlash from U.S. politicians from both parties who call the Russian president an authoritarian leader who poses a danger to U.S. interests. President Barack Obama’s administration on Thursday announced it will expel 35 Russian “intelligence operatives” and shutter facilities in Maryland and New York believed to be used for the Kremlin’s intelligence-gathering purposes, as a way to punish Moscow. U.S. intelligence agencies have alleged that Russian state-backed hackers leaked information about then-presidential candidate Hillary Clinton to sway the election in Trump’s favor. Russia denies the charge. READ MORE...RELATED, US kicks out dozens of Russian diplomats over election hacking...

ALSO
OBAMA & ISIS - Barack Obama warns leaders of Islamic State in a an 8-minute speech: 'You are next'
[RELATED: Syrian Conflict May Go Down in History as Obama’s Key Failure]
[RELATED(2): SECURITYCOMMENTARY - On ISIS, Barack Obama Refuses to Lead]


DECEMBER 14 -Flanked by Vice-President Joe Biden, the defence secretary, Ash Carter, and three military generals, Obama condemned Isis leaders as thugs, thieves and killers and confirmed the death of Mohammed Emwazi, a Briton known as “Jihadi John”, in an airstrike last month.
In an eight-minute statement, Obama revealed a change in emphasis from his recent Oval Office address and rare details on special forces operations Speaking after consulting with top Pentagon officials, Barack Obama claimed that Isis is losing territory and fighters in Iraq and Syria. Barack Obama sought to reassert himself as commander-in-chief on Monday, standing with military top brass at the Pentagon and warning leaders of Islamic State: “You are next.”  The blunt tone, with its echoes of President George W Bush’s reference to “Wanted, dead or alive” posters in the wake of the September 11 terror attacks, appeared intent on defying critics who accuse the president of lacking aggression against jihadists in Iraq and Syria. But it disappointed those seeking a change of direction. READ MORE... RELATED, Syrian Conflict May Go Down in History as Obama’s Key Failure... RELATED(2) SECURITY COMMENTARY: On ISIS, Barack Obama Refuses to Lead...

ALSO: New Year revelry defies terror threats in world, including Manila(And, at the stroke of midnight, the celebrations will last one second longer—a leap second—decreed by the International Earth Rotation and Reference Systems Service to allow astronomical time to catch up with atomic clocks that have called the hour since 1967).


DECEMBER 31 -NEW YEAR'S EVE SPECTACLE Fireworks display ushers in the first day of the year. FILE PHOTO
TERROR attacks have cast a pall over New Year celebrations but the world’s capitals, including Manila, defied the threats, saying goodbye to tumultuous 2016 and welcoming 2017 with fireworks and noise-making. Recent blasts in the Visayas and Mindanao, which left 52 dead, have prompted the police to declare full alert nationwide and deploy 25,000 troops all over Metro Manila. “Everybody is on alert as ordered by our PNP (Philippine National Police) chief. We are also being accommodated by other police officers who are assigned from different regions here in the metro,” said Chief Insp. Kimberly Molitas, spokeswoman of the National Capital Region Police Office. Molitas however said there was no specific terror threat in the capital. “We have been checking the security preparations since this morning. And so far, everything is okay,” she said. READ MORE...

ALSO: Ten international headlines coming in 2017


DECEMBER 31 -The biggest headlines in the year to come will feature some of the international figures painted on to Matryoshka dolls, Russian nesting dolls, sold in a Moscow souvenir shop. They include Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin, in the middle. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, U.S. Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, French President Francois Hollande, Britain's Queen Elizabeth II, Soviet state founder Vladimir Lenin, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Soviet dictator Josef Stalin, are displayed for sale at a souvenir shop in central Moscow, Russia, (SERGEI KARPUKHIN / REUTERS) The biggest headlines in the year to come will feature some of the international figures painted on to Matryoshka dolls, Russian nesting dolls, sold in a Moscow souvenir shop. They include Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin, in the middle.
This is your lucky day. Why put yourself through a year of nervous waiting to discover what the biggest international news stories will be in 2017? To end the suspense, here is a confidential peek at the Top 10 world headlines of the coming year. READ MORE...

ALSO: World begins celebrating New Year amid heightened security
[RELATED: New Year's Eve 2017 parties in Metro Manila and beyond]


DECEMBER 31 -Uunderway in Sydney, Australia. Picture by Rick Rycroft AP/Press Association Images Thousands of police are being deployed across the globe today to protect crowds ringing in 2017 Celebrations around the world to welcome in 2017 are being held amid heightened security in the wake of the deadly terror attacks in Berlin and Nice. A number of Pacific islands - including Tonga and Samoa - were the first to countdown to the New Year at 10am Irish time. Auckland in New Zealand welcomed the New Year at 11am Irish time, with a countdown at the city's Sky Tower followed by a firework and laser show. In Australia, which will celebrate the New Year at 1pm Irish time, around 1.5 million people are expected at Sydney harbour to watch the fireworks spectacular. CONTINUE READNG...RELATED, New Year's Eve 2016 parties in Metro Manila and beyond...


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Trump praises Putin’s decision to not retaliate against Obama’s expulsion of Russian diplomats


TRUMP, PUTIN COMPOSITE PHOTOS

MANILA, JANUARY 2, 2016 (WASHINGTON POST) Karoun Demirjian, Juliet Eilperin and Adam Entous, Washington Post | December 30, 2016 | Last Updated: Dec 30 9:53 PM ET - President-elect Donald Trump on Friday expressed his appreciation to Vladimir Putin after the Russian president said he would not expel American diplomats in response to new U.S. sanctions over hacking as a gesture to the incoming administration.

“Great move on delay (by V. Putin),” Trump tweeted Friday afternoon. “I always knew he was very smart!”

The tweet is Trump’s latest nod to Putin, whom he has praised as a strong leader – inspiring considerable backlash from U.S. politicians from both parties who call the Russian president an authoritarian leader who poses a danger to U.S. interests.

President Barack Obama’s administration on Thursday announced it will expel 35 Russian “intelligence operatives” and shutter facilities in Maryland and New York believed to be used for the Kremlin’s intelligence-gathering purposes, as a way to punish Moscow. U.S. intelligence agencies have alleged that Russian state-backed hackers leaked information about then-presidential candidate Hillary Clinton to sway the election in Trump’s favor. Russia denies the charge.

READ MORE...

Meanwhile, a code associated with the Russian hacking operation dubbed Grizzly Steppe by the Obama administration has been detected within the system of a Vermont utility, according to U.S. officials.

While the Russians did not actively use the code to disrupt operations of the utility, according to officials who spoke on condition of anonymity in order to discuss a security matter, the penetration of the nation’s electrical grid is significant because it represents a potentially serious vulnerability.

American officials, including one senior administration official, said they are not yet sure what the intentions of the Russians might have been. The penetration may have been designed to disrupt the utility’s operations or as a test by the Russians to see whether they could penetrate a portion of the grid.

Vermont utility officials identified the code within their operations and reported it to federal officials Friday, the official added.

VIDEO: US Shuts Russian Compounds, Expels 35 Diplomats 0:53

https://youtu.be/CxSRNg6cWRg?t=37
US Shuts Russian Compounds, Expels 35 Diplomats Global News Global News Subscribe146 Add to Share More No views 0 0 ShareEmbedEmail Published on Dec 30, 2016

DHS and the FBI also posted information on the malware publicly Thursday as part of its joint analysis report, saying the Russian military and civilian services’ activity “is part of an ongoing campaign of cyber-enabled operations directed at the U.S. government and its citizens.”

According to the report by the FBI and DHS, the hackers involved in the Russian operation used fraudulent emails that tricked their recipients into revealing passwords.

On Friday, Putin announced that he “won’t create problems for American diplomats” in retaliation while he waits for the new administration to take office, adding that he would “plan further steps for restoring the Russian-American relationship based in the policies enacted by the administration of President Donald Trump.”

In the meantime, Putin extended an invitation to the children of American diplomats in Russia to a holiday party in the Kremlin.

Trump remained relatively quiet about the substance of the sanctions announced Thursday, even as Republican lawmakers said they were a necessary, overdue action that should be expanded in the future. The president-elect said only that it was “time for our country to move on to bigger and better things” and promised that he would meet with intelligence leaders next week to get more details.

McCain chairs the Senate Armed Services Committee, which on Friday scheduled a Jan. 5 hearing to investigate foreign cyber threats. Outgoing Director of National Intelligence James Clapper Jr., Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence Marcell Lettre and Adm. Michael Rogers, the head of U.S. Cyber Command, are expected to testify.

The hearing will likely be the first of several promised for the coming weeks and months to look into allegations of Russian hacking and other nefarious activities, a subject upon which Republican members of Congress and the president-elect do not regularly see eye to eye.

In the past, Trump has dismissed the intelligence community’s findings that Russia was behind hacks of the Democratic National Committee and Clinton’s campaign chairman John Podesta, among other election-related breaches. Trump argued that the culprit could just as easily be China or “some guy in his home in New Jersey.”

Related

Obama slaps Russia with new sanctions, banishes diplomats from embassy in response to election hacking

On Friday, Trump’s incoming chief of staff, Reince Priebus, rushed to clarify that Trump’s comments were not an indication that the new administration would not take hacking allegations seriously.

“We agree that foreign governments shouldn’t be hacking American institutions, period,” Priebus told Fox News.

“So it’s not like we condone the hacking of institutions and entities and businesses in America – of course not.”

Late Friday, Trump again took to his Twitter account to critique how the media has been covering the issue, tweeting: Russians are playing @CNN and @NBCNews for such fools — funny to watch, they don’t have a clue! @FoxNews totally gets it!

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RELATED FROM THE NEW YORK POST

US kicks out dozens of Russian diplomats over election hacking By Daniel Halper and Danika Fears December 29, 2016 | 2:16pm | Updated


Modal Trigger US kicks out dozens of Russian diplomats over election hacking Getty Images

President Obama booted 35 Russian spies Thursday and shuttered a massive Long Island compound owned by Moscow in retaliation for interfering with the 2016 election.

“All Americans should be alarmed by Russia’s actions,” Obama said while on vacation in Hawaii. “Such activities have consequences.”

The State Department declared each unidentified intelligence operative “persona non grata” and ordered them out of the US within 72 hours.

Obama also imposed sanctions on six Russians back in the motherland, including four spy-agency officials.

He furthermore targeted a combined five Russian agencies and private firms. They include two intelligence services that the White House has accused of tampering with the presidential election.

Sources said the Long Island property is used for “intelligence-related purposes.”
The Obama administration is also closing down a 45-acre estate at Pioneer Point, Md., outside Baltimore.

Both properties will be closed by Friday at noon.

The Russians control two large properties in Nassau County. It was not clear which was being shuttered.

The larger of the two is the Killenworth estate on Dosoris Lane in Glen Cove, a storied property once owned by philanthropist George Dupont Pratt.

The estate was bought by the Soviet Mission to the United Nations in 1951 and served as a country home and weekend retreat for Russians.

In 1982, federal officials alleged it was being used to eavesdrop on Long Island’s defense-contracting and technology industries, according to The New York Times.

The second mansion is in nearby Oyster Bay. According to a 2009 book by journalist Peter Early, it was used by Russia’s intelligence agency, while the Glen Cove estate was available only to the ambassador and his top deputies.

The Kremlin wasted little time responding to the sweeping rebuke by Obama, vowing to retaliate by Friday.

On Thursday, Russia reportedly closed the Anglo-American School of Moscow, a facility for the children of American and Canadian diplomats.It also shuttered a US Embassy vacation house in Serebryany Bor, near Moscow, according to CNN.

More retaliatory measures were expected.

“I cannot say now what the response will be, although, as we know, there is no alternative here to the principle of reciprocity,” said Russian presidential spokesman Dmitri Peskov.

SEE ALSO
Russia dismisses Obama as lame duck after US sanctions

“The response will be formulated in a direction determined by the president of the Russia.”

The Russian Embassy in London blasted the punishment as a throwback to the Cold War, in a tweet that included a photo of a duckling with the word “lame” over it.

“President Obama expels 35 diplomats in Cold War deja vu. As everybody, incl people, will be glad to see the last of this hapless Adm.,” it read.

Russian political leader Konstantin Kosachev had a similar message.

“This not just an agony of the ‘lame ducks,’ but of the ‘political corpses,’ ” he said, according to the Interfax news agency.

Four Russian intelligence officials were sanctioned: Lt. Gen. Igor Valentinovich Korobov, who heads the agency known as the GRU, and three of his deputies.

Two Russian nationals who have been wanted by the FBI for cyber-crimes, Alexei Belan and Yevgeny Bogachev, also were sanctioned, along with three companies that “provided material support to the GRU’s cyber operations,” Obama said.

Russian officials, including Putin, have denied having any involvement in the hacking, which included cyberattacks on the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

US intelligence agencies concluded that Russia aimed to help Donald Trump win the White Hosue, an assessment the president-elect has dismissed without offering contrary evidence.
Obama’s move now puts Trump in the position of having to decide whether to roll back the measures once he takes office.

“It’s time for our country to move on to bigger and better things,” Trump said in a statement Thursday evening.

“Nevertheless, in the interest of our country and its great people, I will meet with leaders of the intelligence community next week in order to be updated on the facts of this situation.”

Several politicians released statements saying the sanctions were merited and long overdue.

“While today’s action by the administration is overdue, it is an appropriate way to end eight years of failed policy with Russia,” said House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.).
“And it serves as a prime example of this administration’s ineffective foreign policy that has left America weaker in the eyes of the world.”

FILED UNDER 2016 ELECTION AFTERMATH , RUSSIA , SANCTIONS , VLADIMIR PUTIN


THE GUARDIAN.COM UK

Barack Obama warns leaders of Islamic State in speech: 'You are next' David Smith Monday 14 December 2015 21.31 GMT Last modified on Friday 11 November 2016 12.27 GMT
View more sharing options This article is 1 year old Shares 402 Comments


Flanked by Vice-President Joe Biden, the defence secretary, Ash Carter, and three military generals, Obama condemned Isis leaders as thugs, thieves and killers and confirmed the death of Mohammed Emwazi, a Briton known as “Jihadi John”, in an airstrike last month.

In an eight-minute statement, Obama revealed a change in emphasis from his recent Oval Office address and rare details on special forces operations

Speaking after consulting with top Pentagon officials, Barack Obama claimed that Isis is losing territory and fighters in Iraq and Syria.

Barack Obama sought to reassert himself as commander-in-chief on Monday, standing with military top brass at the Pentagon and warning leaders of Islamic State: “You are next.”

The blunt tone, with its echoes of President George W Bush’s reference to “Wanted, dead or alive” posters in the wake of the September 11 terror attacks, appeared intent on defying critics who accuse the president of lacking aggression against jihadists in Iraq and Syria. But it disappointed those seeking a change of direction.

READ MORE...

Flanked by Vice-President Joe Biden, the defence secretary, Ash Carter, and three military generals, Obama condemned Isis leaders as thugs, thieves and killers and confirmed the death of Mohammed Emwazi, a Briton known as “Jihadi John”, in an airstrike last month.

“As we squeeze its heart, we’ll make it harder for Isil to pump its terror and propaganda to the rest of the world,” the president said, using an alternative acronym for the extremist group, in an eight-minute statement after meeting his national security council.

America’s strategy of hunting down leaders, training forces and stopping the group’s financing and propaganda is moving forward “with a great sense of urgency”, he said, and had been intensifying even before the terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, California. But he acknowledged: “We recognise that progress needs to keep coming faster.”

DIFFICULT FIGHT

Obama told reporters: “This continues to be a difficult fight. Isil is dug in, including in urban areas, and they hide behind civilians, using defenceless men, women and children as human shields. So even as we’re relentless, we have to be smart, targeting Isil surgically, with precision.”

Fighters, bombers and drones have been increasing the pace of airstrikes, now up to nearly 9,000 as of today, he said. In November, the coalition dropped more bombs on Islamic State targets than in any month since the campaign started. “We are hitting Isil harder than ever.”

He listed several prominent Isis leaders, commanders and killers who have been “taken out”, including Emwazi, “who brutally murdered Americans and others”.

The statement came at the start of a weeklong push to explain his strategy for combating Islamist extremism abroad and its sympathisers at home. Obama is also slated to attend a briefing at the National Counterterrorism Center later in the week.

But Republicans were unimpressed by the show of military muscle. House majority leader Kevin McCarthy said: “The American people are smart enough to know when something is working or not, and it’s obvious that the president’s current strategy isn’t working.”

Seven in 10 Americans rate the risk of another attack in the US as at least somewhat high, according to an Associated Press-GfK poll, up from five in 10 in January. Asked if Obama had consciously chosen to make his rhetoric more aggressive for public benefit, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said when the president meets the national security council, “he is not looking at public opinion polls”.

In a change of emphasis from an Oval Office address just over a week ago when he appeared tired, Obama promised: “We’re going after Isil from their stronghold right in downtown Raqqa, to Libya, where we took out Abu Nabil, the Isil leader there. The point is, Isil leaders cannot hide. And our next message to them is simple: You are next.”

Since this summer, Isis has not had a single successful major offensive operation on the ground in Iraq or Syria, Obama said. “So far Isil has lost about 40% of the populated areas it once controlled in Iraq, and it will lose more ... Isil’s lost thousands of square miles of territory it once controlled in Syria and it will lose more. The special forces that I ordered to Syria have begun supporting local forces as they push south, cut off supply lines and tighten the squeeze on Raqqa.”

FAILING TO MATCH HIS WORDS WITH DEEDS

But analysts accused Obama of posturing and failing to match his words with deeds.

Bilal Saab, senior fellow for Middle East security at the Atlantic Council, said: “If Christmas were not around the corner, he would not be making this speech. If you look at the content, nothing much has changed. The four elements of the strategy have stayed the same. I would call it a political speech because he’s been hammered by his opponents.”

Thomas Sanderson, director of the transnational threats project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said the US could make a difference with special forces and diplomacy but was far from being able to combat Isis recruitment, propaganda and training and equipment.

“The president is now imbued with reluctant enthusiasm,” he said. “He doesn’t have a choice now. San Bernardino really forced his hand.”

At the Pentagon Obama also claimed that Isis is losing the propaganda war. “More people are seeing Isil for the thugs and the thieves and the killers that they are. We’ve seen instances of Isil fighters defecting. Others who’ve tried to escape have been executed. And Isil’s reign of brutality and extortion continues to repel local populations and help fuel the refugee crisis. ‘So many people are migrating,’ said one Syrian refugee. Isil, she said, will “end up all alone”.

“All this said, we recognise that progress needs to keep coming faster ... Just as the United States is doing more in this fight – just as our allies France, Germany and the United Kingdom, Australia and Italy are doing more – so must others.”

Carter will go to the Middle East from Monday to work with the coalition to secure greater contributions, Obama said.

Bruce Riedel, a security and counter-terrorism expert at the Brookings Institution thinktank in Washington, said:

“What strikes the most is the open admission that the Arab allies are not doing enough. Secretary of defence Carter is sent to get the Saudis and others to focus on Isil (instead of Yemen), an implicit acknowledgement that the coalition has an Arab deficit. Since the strategy is based on their contributions to win, it’s an urgent priority.”

He added: “The president’s strategy has always been nuanced, promising the defeat of Isil but without American combat troops and another quagmire. This rhetoric has more about achieving success but the constraints and risks are still there in the president’s assessment.”

--------------------------------------------------------------

RELATED FROM SPUTNIK NEWS ONLINE

Syrian Conflict May Go Down in History as Obama’s Key Failure - By Official © REUTERS/ Yuri Gripas POLITICS 19:30 30.12.2016Get short URL319624


OBAMA -The conflict in Syria may become the worst failure of outgoing US President Barack Obama’s administration, Obama's former Middle East Adviser Dennis Ross said Friday. © PHOTO: CARLA ORTIZ

MOSCOW  (Sputnik) – Ross stressed that the United States demonstrated reluctance with regard to meddling in the Syrian conflict "for reasons that are understandable given the nature of the conflict," adding that Obama feared being "sucked into a quagmire" recalling the Iraqi situation.

"I think history will record this [Syrian conflict] as probably the greatest failure of Obama administration," Ross said in an interview with the Bloomberg television.

The US-led coalition invaded Iraq in 2003, without a UN mandate, after accusing then Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein of possessing weapons of mass destruction, which were never found.

After Hussein's rule was brought to an end, the conflict in Iraq, which is widely believed to have been triggered by the 2003 invasion, continued.

In 2011, US troops left the country, after which an internal conflict emerged in Iraq between the government and militant groups, resulting in multiple terror attacks and ongoing violence.

Since 2011, Syria has been engulfed in a civil war, with government forces fighting against numerous opposition and terrorist groups, including Daesh, which is banned in a range of countries, including Russia.

Read more: https://sputniknews.com/politics/201612301049148681-syria-conflict-obama-failure/

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RELATED(2) THE DAILY SIGNAL ONLINE (COMMENTARY)

SECURITYCOMMENTARY: On ISIS, Barack Obama Refuses to Lead Nile Gardiner / @NileGardiner / November 20, 2015 / comments


COMMENTARY BY Portrait of Nile Gardiner Nile Gardiner @NileGardiner
Nile Gardiner, a leading authority on transatlantic relations, is director of The Heritage Foundation's Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom. Read his research.


President Obama (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Following the ISIS attacks on Paris, to say that President Obama looks weak on the world stage would be an understatement. And Monday’s performance at the G-20 summit in Antalya, Turkey, was an embarrassment.

In tone, his remarks were defiant, arrogant, and dismissive. In substance, he offered no ideas or proposals for combating the ISIS threat. Indeed, he openly rejected the idea that America should lead, saying:

"But what I’m not interested in doing is posing or pursuing some notion of American leadership or America winning, or whatever other slogans they come up with that have no relationship to what is actually going to work to protect the American people, and to protect people in the region who are getting killed, and to protect our allies and people like France. I’m too busy for that. "

This could have been a Churchillian moment for the U.S. president, rallying the free world at a time of great crisis.

But as we know from Obama’s extensive track record of inaction and foreign policy disasters, he is no Winston Churchill.

Obama is in denial with regard to the scale of the threat facing the free world. He refuses to acknowledge that we are at war with a vicious and brutal enemy driven by Islamist ideology.

NO STARTEGY FOR WINNING ISIS

Instead, it was clear that the leader of the free world has no strategy for winning against ISIS and nothing to say except to condemn his critics at home, whom he seems to think are his biggest enemy. Even French President François Hollande has shown more resolve in the wake of the Paris attacks than the U.S. president, which is a damning indictment of the White House’s approach.

This is all music to the ears of America’s enemies, who are taking advantage of Washington’s weakness on the world stage. President Obama is in denial with regard to the scale of the threat facing the free world. He refuses to acknowledge that we are at war with a vicious and brutal enemy driven by Islamist ideology. T

hese are not merely “violent extremists,” as Obama likes to call them. As British Prime Minister David Cameron has noted, the West cannot rest until “we have defeated this evil terrorist death cult, and the poisonous ideology on which it feeds.”

We must be under no illusions about the nature of the enemy we face and what needs to be done. Our enemies seek to destroy us and everything we stand for. In other words, our civilization faces a grave threat. Such times demand resolve and strength on the international stage.

The United States and its allies in Europe, the Middle East, and the Anglosphere must be prepared to emphatically crush ISIS and defeat the Islamist scourge. But in order to achieve this, the president of the United States must be prepared to lead. Unfortunately, Mr. Obama seems unable or unwilling to do so.

Originally published at Fox News.


MANILA TIMES

New Year revelry defies terror threats BY MICHAEL JOE T. DELIZO, TMT AND AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE ON DECEMBER 31, 2016 HEADLINES


NEW YEAR'S EVE SPECTACLE Fireworks display ushers in the first day of the year. FILE PHOTO

TERROR attacks have cast a pall over New Year celebrations but the world’s capitals, including Manila, defied the threats, saying goodbye to tumultuous 2016 and welcoming 2017 with fireworks and noise-making.

Recent blasts in the Visayas and Mindanao, which left 52 dead, have prompted the police to declare full alert nationwide and deploy 25,000 troops all over Metro Manila.

“Everybody is on alert as ordered by our PNP (Philippine National Police) chief. We are also being accommodated by other police officers who are assigned from different regions here in the metro,” said Chief Insp. Kimberly Molitas, spokeswoman of the National Capital Region Police Office.

Molitas however said there was no specific terror threat in the capital. “We have been checking the security preparations since this morning. And so far, everything is okay,” she said.

READ MORE...

“We are celebrating with the public, but we are also asking for their cooperation,” she added.

Deadly attacks

2016 saw repeated bloodshed across the globe, including a deadly truck attack at a Berlin Christmas market, a similar incident on Bastille Day in France that killed 86, and atrocities in Turkey and the Middle East.

New South Wales state premier Mike Baird however urged “business as usual” in Australia’s biggest city.

“My encouragement to everyone is to enjoy New Year’s Eve…in the knowledge that police are doing everything they can to keep us safe,” Baird said.

Some 2,000 extra officers were deployed following the arrest of a man for allegedly making threats against Sydney’s big show in an online blog.

There have been a number of other reported threats this holiday period, in Asia-Pacific and elsewhere.

In Melbourne, police foiled a “significant” Islamic State-inspired terror plot planned for Christmas Day targeting the city with explosives.

Indonesia also said it foiled plans by an Islamic State-linked group for a Christmas-time suicide bombing.

Israel on Friday issued a warning of imminent “terrorist attacks” to tourists and western targets in India, telling its citizens to avoid public places.

Safety measures

Security concerns have hit many New Year events with truck blockades a new tactic to try to prevent vehicles ramming into crowds. Sydney is using garbage trucks as safety barriers.

The German capital has beefed up security after the December 19 carnage, deploying hundreds more police, some armed with machine-guns.

“This year, what’s new is that we will place concrete blocks and position heavy armored vehicles at the entrances” to the zone around Brandenburg Gate, a police spokesman said.

In Cologne, after a wave of sexual attacks last year, 1,800 police were to be deployed—compared to just 140 in 2015.

In neighboring Austria police planned to hand out 6,000 free pocket alarms—which emit a shrill noise when activated—to help stop assaults on women.

In Paris, a fireworks display was again scheduled this year, after muted 2015 celebrations in the aftermath of the November 13 massacre of 130 people.

Nearly 100,000 police, gendarmes and soldiers were to be deployed across France against the jihadist threat.

With more than a million people expected to turn out to watch the ball drop in Times Square, New York is deploying 165 “blocker” trucks and some 7,000 men.

Rome has deployed armored vehicles and greater numbers of security forces around the Coliseum and at St. Peter’s Square where the Pope will give midnight Mass.

Moscow police was set to deploy more than 5,000 officers backed by 8,000 members of the new national guard and 2,000 volunteer militia to maintain order.

Thousands traditionally gather in Red Square, but for the second year in a row, the area will be open solely to 6,000 invitees.

London has 3,000 officers on patrol with crowds flocking to line the banks of the Thames to watch the fireworks around the London Eye ferris wheel.

In Dubai, the gigantic pyrotechnics off the world’s highest skyscraper are going ahead, despite a major tower block blaze nearby last year.

Up to two million people are expected to party at Rio’s Copacabana beach.

But with Brazil mired in its worst recession in a century, the fireworks have been cut to just 12 minutes as the state government fights bankruptcy.

Normally boisterous Bangkok will see in the New Year on a more somber note, with prayers and candles replacing parties as the nation grieves for King Bhumibol Adulyadej who died in October.

And, at the stroke of midnight, the celebrations will last one second longer—a leap second—decreed by the International Earth Rotation and Reference Systems Service to allow astronomical time to catch up with atomic clocks that have called the hour since 1967.


THE TORONTO STAR ONLINE

Ten international headlines coming in 2017 By TONY BURMAN Foreign Affairs Columnist Sat., Dec. 31, 2016

BURMAN, the Toronto Star's foreign affairs columnist predicts the biggest news in the year to come.  Tony Burman is former head of Al Jazeera English and CBC News Canada


The biggest headlines in the year to come will feature some of the international figures painted on to Matryoshka dolls, Russian nesting dolls, sold in a Moscow souvenir shop. They include Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin, in the middle. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, U.S. Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, French President Francois Hollande, Britain's Queen Elizabeth II, Soviet state founder Vladimir Lenin, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Soviet dictator Josef Stalin, are displayed for sale at a souvenir shop in central Moscow, Russia, (SERGEI KARPUKHIN / REUTERS)

The biggest headlines in the year to come will feature some of the international figures painted on to Matryoshka dolls, Russian nesting dolls, sold in a Moscow souvenir shop. They include Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin, in the middle.

This is your lucky day. Why put yourself through a year of nervous waiting to discover what the biggest international news stories will be in 2017?

To end the suspense, here is a confidential peek at the Top 10 world headlines of the coming year.

READ MORE...

The 21st century unravels

Decades from now, historians will remember 2017 as the year when everything changed. It will resemble 100 years ago when the First World War unleashed forces that ultimately produced the horrors of the 20th century. Donald Trump’s election, by accelerating America’s retreat from its global role, will be the catalyst, with its echoes being heard worldwide. Undermined in the process will be the very democratic institutions and values that were put into place to prevent history from repeating itself.

Trump’s presidency implodes

Donald Trump will begin his presidency with the lowest approval ratings in modern American history. And that may be his high mark. His proposed policies, which were incoherent and contradictory during the campaign, will be proven disastrous when he tries to implement them. Tax reductions for his friends, massive social spending cuts for the rest of Americans and a feckless foreign policy that places the planet at risk: except to the delusional, this is not a recipe for political success.

America risks war with China

All signs suggest that the first global crisis for the new Trump administration will be with China. It was no accident that Trump broke decades of American policy and spoke directly to the leader of Taiwan. Afterward, the president-elect indicated that he might scrap the “one China” policy if the U.S. doesn’t get a “better deal” from China. Quarrelling with China over trade or military manoeuvres is one thing. Challenging China over Taiwan would risk war.

Russia’s Putin makes his move

The real winner in the U.S. election was Vladimir Putin. In his wildest dreams, he could not have expected that America would end up being led by a pro-Russian president with a secretary of state whom Putin regards as a personal “friend.” As Russia prepares to celebrate the centenary of the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution, what better time for Putin to indulge his fantasy of trying to regain control over Ukraine and other parts of the former Soviet Union? He will try.

Europe’s far-right parties surge

Fuelled by racism and a fear of immigrants, Europe’s once-marginal populist wave will achieve dramatic breakthroughs in 2017. Far-right political parties will surge in Dutch general elections in March, and in France later in the spring. In their aggressive effort to break into the mainstream, they will exploit the same angry, nationalist mood that Trump so effectively tapped. The only exception, although just barely, will be in Germany, where Chancellor Angela Merkel will eke out a re-election victory in spite of her pro-immigration policies.

Stain of Aleppo resolves nothing

There is little doubt that Syrian and Russian forces committed war crimes in December in the battle over the historic Syrian city of Aleppo. But the international uproar that this generated will not last. The Syrian civil war will continue, resembling the same ongoing insurgency that still plagues neighbouring Iraq. The only positive note is that the terrorist group Daesh, also known as ISIS, is on its way to being defeated, at least in Syria and Iraq. But, in all of the Middle East and beyond, the battlefields will still be littered with danger.

Iran’s nuclear deal survives

Against all odds, Iran and the world’s major powers, including the United States, reached a historic nuclear agreement in 2015. It shocked Iran’s enemies, such as Israel’s government and American conservatives, who predicted Iran would violate the deal. Iran has done no such thing. In the campaign, Trump promised to “scrap” the agreement. But there are increasing signs this will be reversed.

Turkey edges closer to dictatorship

Not long ago, Turkey was regarded as a model for the developing world. It was a secular Muslim nation, straddling Asia and Europe, proud of its democratic traditions. But that, it appears, is no more. Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, is using a failed military coup to jail activists, leftist and any journalist that challenges him. As he increases his power, the haunting spectre of dictatorship looms large.

Britain loses faith in Brexit

Last June, Britain narrowly voted to leave the European Union. But polls suggest there are growing signs of “buyer’s remorse.” The route out of the European Union is proving to be long and tortuous, and the negative impact on the economy is already being felt. Meanwhile, Europe, for its part, says it will be tough and unforgiving when negotiations begin. Might there be a second referendum to ratify the final agreement? That possibility is no longer far-fetched.

The nuclear threat returns

Not since the Cold War has the fear of a nuclear strike been so genuine. U.S. military officials say that North Korea already has a nuclear capability, and some say it may be able to hit the western United States with a nuclear strike by 2020. In addition, if a Trump-led America retreats from its alliances, there will be talk in the rest of Asia — and in the Middle East — about whether they should explore their own nuclear option. The ticking of the Doomsday Clock resumes.

My track record

So how have I done in the past? On behalf of narcissists everywhere, I have taken the outrageous step of scoring myself. For my 2014 and 2015 predictions, I was correct on roughly 60 per cent of them.

This past year, I also scored 60 per cent. (Do I detect a pattern here?) I had six correct predictions for 2016, including on China, Europe and Latin America.

But the ones I got wrong were eye-popping — such as predicting that Hillary Clinton would win the U.S. presidency and that Britain would vote to stay in the European Union. In my defence, I quote an expression that I could imagine only Trump using if he were in my position: “No one is perfect … that’s why pencils have erasers.”

Happy New Year.


Tony Burman is former head of Al Jazeera English and CBC News.
Tony Burman tony.burman@gmail.com Tony Burman is former head of Al Jazeera English and CBC News, and was visiting professor at Ryerson University’s School of Journalism between 2011 and 2016. While Managing Director of Al Jazeera’s English news channel in Qatar from 2008-2010, its worldwide reach more than doubled to 220 million households, and he led the campaign that brought Al Jazeera to Canada in 2009 and expanded it throughout the United States. While at the CBC, he spent more than three decades as an award-winning news and documentary producer, working in 30 countries, including seven years as CBC’s Editor-in-Chief.


NEWSTALK.COM

World begins celebrating the New Year amid heightened security Newstalk.com December 31, 2016

Thousands of police are being deployed across the globe today to protect crowds ringing in 2017


Fireworks explode around the Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge as New Year's celebrations get underway in Sydney, Australia. Picture by Rick Rycroft AP/Press Association Images

Celebrations around the world to welcome in 2017 are being held amid heightened security in the wake of the deadly terror attacks in Berlin and Nice.

A number of Pacific islands - including Tonga and Samoa - were the first to countdown to the New Year at 10am Irish time.

Auckland in New Zealand welcomed the New Year at 11am Irish time, with a countdown at the city's Sky Tower followed by a firework and laser show.

In Australia, which will celebrate the New Year at 1pm Irish time, around 1.5 million people are expected at Sydney harbour to watch the fireworks spectacular.

CONTINUE READING

An extra 2,000 police officers have been drafted in to the city while buses will be used to close off some pedestrian areas amid fears about a repeat of this year's extremist attacks in France and Germany.

In Berlin, where 12 people were killed when a hijacked lorry was driven into a busy Christmas market, barriers have been installed around the landmark Brandenburg Gate to protect revellers.

Security has also been ramped up in Cologne in a move to prevent a repeat of last year's trouble, when police failed to failed to prevent a string of robberies and sexual assaults blamed largely on foreign men.

PARIS

Hundreds of thousands are expected to attend a light show at the Champs-Élysées in Paris, with major road closures and traffic restrictions in place alongside the deployment of thousands of officers.


A soldier stands guard at the courtyard of the Louvre museum, in Paris, Friday, Dec. 30, 2016. Picture by Christophe Ena AP/Press Association Images

New Year's Eve fireworks and festivities are also going ahead in Brussels, after last year's celebrations were cancelled over fears of an attack.

In New York's Time Square, where the famed glitter ball is due to descend at 5am UK time on 1 January, dozens of 20-ton refuse lorries weighted with an extra 15 tons of sand will block the streets around the celebrations, while there will be about 7,000 police officers on patrol.

The US security crackdown is not just confined to New York. In Las Vegas FBI and Secret Service agents are working alongside local police departments in order to keep safe more than 300,000 expected visitors for the extravagant celebrations.

In the Indian capital New Delhi and many other of the country's cities, security has been tightened around shopping centres and restaurants.

OTTAWA, CANADA


Extra security planned for New Year's Eve in Ottawa: CTV National News: New Year's Eve security Security teams are transforming the familiar into fortresses for New Year's Eve after attacks on soft targets. Mercedes Stephenson reports. Ottawa Police confirm that recent terrorism in Europe has caused them to ramp up security measures in the capital ahead of New Year’s Eve. The most noticeable changes are large concrete barriers that will block off important intersections. Police say the barriers will help prevent truck attacks like the one that killed 86 in Nice, France in July and the deadly attack on a Berlin Christmas market, which killed 11 people earlier this month. For those attending the fireworks display on Parliament Hill, police will be checking bags.CTVNews.ca Writer @JoshDehaas Published Thursday, December 29, 2016 7:59PM EST Last Updated Thursday, December 29, 2016 10:18PM EST

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ARELATED FROM BS-CBN

New Year's Eve 2017 parties in Metro Manila and beyond ABS-CBN News
Posted at Dec 30 2016 11:36 AM


City of Dreams Manila brings you a glittery “Candyland” themed New Year's Eve countdown party featuring international electronic dance music (EDM) DJ Duo CITY OF DREAMS MANILA

These are not endorsed by ABS-CBN News.

MANILA – Welcome 2017 with colors, spectacle and style by joining these New Year’s Eve parties in Metro Manila and beyond.


StadiumX. ABS-CBN News/Handout photo -

A glittery, supercharged and Candyland-themed New Year’s Eve countdown party featuring international electronic dance music duo StadiumX will thrill the nightlife elite at Chaos, City of Dreams Manila.

The party will also feature Chaos resident DJs Supmerman, MVRXX and Marc Marasigan, and MC Ronthug.
A cover charge of P1,000 inclusive of one drink is required. For VIP table reservations, call (0917) 886-3678 or e-mail chaostablereservations@cod-manila.com

DIAMOND HOTEL
Diamond Hotel celebrates as the world bids adieu to 2016 and greets the New Year with dazzling offers.
A superb buffet spread awaits guests at Corniche where they can indulge in a New Year’s Eve dinner with a glass of cava, party favors and access to the countdown party with performances from bands Red Picasso and Zyncxation.
Yurakuen features a Japanese dinner feast to usher in the New Year which includes cava and acoustic duo for entertainment.
Guests can celebrate with class at the Lobby Lounge with its midnight buffet spread and access to the New Year’s countdown party. A 20% discount is extended for every order of a bottle of wine. At the Mezzanine Area, they can also have a midnight buffet meal.
At Bar 27, J-Project Band and DJ Gladwin Gutierrez are set to perform for the New Year’s Eve countdown.
For reservations, call (02) 528-3000 extension 1121.

EASTWOOD CITY
Join Eastwood City as it welcomes 2017 with an event featuring American singer-songwriter Phoebe Ryan and local performers Rachelle Ann Go, Darren Espanto, Up Dharma Down, Quest, Autotelic, Sud, Maude, and Lenses.
Party starts at 6 p.m. at the Eastwood Mall Open Park, with the Grand Fireworks Display and Dazzling Star Drop happening at 12 midnight.

HOLIDAY INN & SUITES MAKATI
Count down to 2017 at the Oz Bar at Holiday Inn & Suites Makati. From 10 p.m. to 1 a.m., celebrate in style with sparkling wine, local beers and selected cocktails as you enjoy the music of featured DJs.
Rates are at P2,000++ per person, P750 for children from 7 to 12 years old, and free for children below 6 years old.
Spend New Year’s Eve with Holiday Inn’s Countdown to 2017 room package and get 50% on your second night of stay, free two tickets to the Oz Bar NYE event, late check-out at 3 p.m. on the day of departure, 30% off massage services as well as buffet for two at Flavors.

HONG KONG


Here’s what people in Hong Kong can expect this New Year’s Eve. ABS-CBN News/Handout photo

Going to Hong Kong at the end of 2016? On December 31, the Hong Kong Tourism Board will stage a pyromusical over the Victoria Harbour to welcome the New Year.
This year’s show will be extended from eight to ten minutes, with new firework patterns of stars and butterflies on display, creating a symbol of hope and joy.
When the clock strikes midnight, the numerals 2017 will be displayed on the façade of the unique wing-shaped landmark – the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre – with fascinating fireworks and pyrotechnics launched concurrently from the waterfront and from the tops of surrounding skyscrapers on Hong Kong island.
Visit www.discoverhongkong.com for more information.

MANILA PAVILION
For P500 nett per person, welcome 2017 at the Manila Pavilion with cocktails, sparkling wine, juices or beer.
Complete the experience with a special New Year’s Eve promo that includes an overnight stay, breakfast for two and a dinner buffet at Seasons Restaurant.

MARCO POLO ORTIGAS MANILA

At Vu’s Sky Bar and Lounge. ABS-CBN News/Handout photo
Marco Polo Ortigas Manila’s Vu’s Sky Bar and Lounge will host a New Year’s Eve countdown high above the city.
Toast to 2017 with the Spirit of ’67 Band as it takes center stage from 9 p.m. onwards. For P1,250 per person, enjoy one welcome drink with a cool vibe and a stunning view of the city. Complementing the party is a well-curated lineup of Filipino, Spanish and other Mediterranean favorites.
For reservations, call (02) 720-7777 or visit Marco Polo Ortigas Manila’s Facebook and Twitter pages.

MARRIOTT MANILA
Marriott Manila goes full throttle this New Year’s Eve as it brings the biggest artists in music and comedy – Lea Salonga, Bamboo, Jon Santos and illusionist Sophie Edelstein.
Young party goers will love the Grand Countdown Kid’s Zone where they can do crafts, watch movies, make s’mores and revel in a kid-friendly midnight countdown.
For reservations, call (02) 988-9999.

NEW WORLD MANILA BAY HOTEL
Dance the night away with DJ Khai’s music mix leading up to the midnight celebrations. Then toast the New Year in with a selection of cocktails and liquors as you watch the fireworks display by the bay. Rate is at P1,500 per person that includes three rounds of drinks, with choice of spirits, local beer and wine.
For reservations, call (02) 252-6888.


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