The weekend’s big news was the huge WannaCry cyber attack that hit an estimated 300,000 computers across 150 companies, locking them up and demanding ransom payments for releasing them. Major corporations and government offices–in particular Britain’s National Health Service–were crippled for much of the weekend. The outbreak appears to have been brought under control via, of all things, the purchase of an internet domain found in the malware’s code, which seems to have acted as a “kill switch” for the virus, and everybody who was affected is hopefully patching the Windows vulnerability that this attack exploited. That vulnerability was apparently known to the National Security Agency, which opted not to notify anybody about it so as to preserve the vulnerability for its own uses, so when Vladimir Putin says this attack was caused by American intelligence agencies, he’s not telling the truth, but he’s not 100 percent lying, either. As I noted earlier, the malware shares some code with older malware believed to have come from North Korea–specifically, malware used in the Sony hack–so North Korea is the prime early suspect here.
Speaking of movie companies, hackers are now threatening to release the new Pirates of the Caribbean film unless Disney pays their ransom, to which I have to say: haven’t we suffered enough?
YES, ACTUALLY I DO WANT TO CRY
President Trump revealed highly classified information to the Russian foreign minister and ambassador in a White House meeting last week, according to current and former U.S. officials, who said Trump’s disclosures jeopardized a critical source of intelligence on the Islamic State.
The information the president relayed had been provided by a U.S. partner through an intelligence-sharing arrangement considered so sensitive that details have been withheld from allies and tightly restricted even within the U.S. government, officials said.
The partner had not given the United States permission to share the material with Russia, and officials said Trump’s decision to do so endangers cooperation from an ally that has access to the inner workings of the Islamic State. After Trump’s meeting, senior White House officials took steps to contain the damage, placing calls to the CIA and the National Security Agency.
The White House sent H.R. McMaster out to obliterate whatever was left of his personal credibility by non-denying the Post story (he said Trump never revealed sources or methods, which isn’t what the Post alleges).
Look, I don’t give a shit about classified material. The military and intelligence community routinely overclassify stuff, plus fuck those guys in general, and anyway the president has almost total leeway to declassify things if he wants so there’s really no wrong that’s been done here. Nor do I think he blabbed whatever he blabbed to Sergey Lavrov because he’s a deep cover Russian agent or whatever. But I do kind of care if the man we saw fit to elect president is so badly afflicted with whatever prion disease and/or type of dementia Donald Trump has that he’s no longer able to stifle his gaping hole of a mouth in any way, no matter whom he’s talking to or what he’s talking about. That’s very troubling, it seems to me, and this very uncomfortable subject is starting to become a massive elephant in the room when it comes to the Trump administration’s ongoing follies.
Hey, speaking of Donald Trump’s broken brain:
NATO is scrambling to tailor its upcoming meeting to avoid taxing President Donald Trump’s notoriously short attention span. The alliance is telling heads of state to limit talks to two to four minutes at a time during the discussion, several sources inside NATO and former senior U.S. officials tell Foreign Policy. And the alliance scrapped plans to publish the traditional full post-meeting statement meant to crystallize NATO’s latest strategic stance.
On May 25, NATO will host the heads of state of all 28 member countries in what will be Trump’s first face-to-face summit with an alliance he bashed repeatedly while running for president. NATO traditionally organizes a meeting within the first few months of a new U.S. president’s term, but Trump has the alliance more on edge than any previous newcomer, forcing organizers to look for ways to make the staid affair more engaging.
“It’s kind of ridiculous how they are preparing to deal with Trump,” said one source briefed extensively on the meeting’s preparations. “It’s like they’re preparing to deal with a child — someone with a short attention span and mood who has no knowledge of NATO, no interest in in-depth policy issues, nothing,” said the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “They’re freaking out.”
Ha ha! It’s fun to live like this, with a toddler as President of the United States, an angry fat orange baby whose attention span isn’t sufficient to allow him to capably undertake literally any of the responsibilities of his office! What a blast this is! Can somebody put him back in the Big Boy Truck please?
Speaking of Trump’s meeting with Sergey Lavrov on Thursday, that same day he took a meeting with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin, and then–of course–he tweeted about both meetings:
He even managed to fuck this up–by putting the “LETS [sic] MAKE PEACE” ad underneath those two photos, Trump suggested that both countries are equally at fault for what’s happening in eastern Ukraine and must equally compromise to make peace happen. This is…not US policy, to say the least. If Trump is changing US policy toward the conflict in eastern Ukraine, there are more constructive ways to do that, but he obviously isn’t changing the policy because he doesn’t know what the policy is to begin with. I know, diplomacy is silly and formal and often bullshit, but when you’re the President of the United States you have to deal with the bullshit or else you send messages that you probably aren’t trying to send.
Meanwhile, in Ukraine, four civilians were killed on Saturday when rebels shelled the town of Avdiyivka. Government forces also fired on rebel positions but there was no clear word on casualties–at least two civilians are believed to have been injured.
Vladimir Putin says he’s not sure he’s going to stand for reelection in 2018. Folks, I believe him, but to be fair I did just drive a railroad spike into the frontal lobe of my brain, so my thinking may be a little off on this one.
On Friday, Finance Minister Andrej Babiš volunteered to step down from the Czech cabinet to allow his deputy, Alena Schillerova, to succeed him, thereby presumably ending the crisis in which the Czech government currently finds itself. Today, Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka rejected Schillerova as being too close to Babiš. And so the crisis continues. Like sands through the hourglass, these are the days of our lives.
The Czech interior ministry is holding a week-long conference for representatives from 27 nations, including the US, on how to strengthen electoral processes and prevent outside (i.e., Russian) influence on any more elections. Here’s one idea: stop worshiping at the altar of sterile center-right technocracy and start governing in a way that materially improves people’s lives. Oh, I’m sorry, you were just looking for a way to make Facebook less fake newsy. My bad.
Austria is probably looking at snap elections in its immediate future, after popular young Finance Minister Sebastian Kurz took over the center-right People’s Party (OVP) over the weekend. OVP is the junior partner in the current governing coalition alongside the center-left Social Democrats (SPO) of Chancellor Christian Kern, but Kurz is so popular that with him in the driver’s seat OVP stands to win big if elections are held soon, so OVP is likely to join forces with the far right Freedom Party (FPO) to try to force those new elections. Together those two parties are only three votes shy of the majority they’d need to call for a snap poll, so chances are pretty good they’ll get their way. Kurz apparently reminds people of France’s new president, Emmanuel Macron, so, hey, about that center-right technocracy thing…
The one leader who seems sure to survive the anti-incumbent wave sweeping over Europe is German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Her Christian Democrats won the state election in North Rhine-Westphalia on Sunday, and their string of state election victories, combined with some very good polling, makes a CDU victory in September’s national election seem almost like a foregone conclusion. Germany’s far-right party, Alternative for Germany (AfD), appears to be collapsing internally, so I’m sure that’s helped.
Talks on a coalition government coming out of March 15 elections have collapsed, as Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s VVD party hasn’t been able to agree on immigration policy with the Greens, who had been approached about participating in the government along with VVD and two other center/center-right parties. Rutte will likely try for a smaller coalition by replacing the Greens with the libertarian ChristenUnie party.
Emmanuel Macron named his prime minister on Monday, choosing Republican Party politician Édouard Philippe, the mayor of the city of Le Havre. In doing so, the new French president signaled a willingness to challenge political norms by bravely reaching across the gulf that has traditionally divided center-right technocrats like Philippe from center-right technocrats like Macron. It’s called “courage,” folks.
Among what I’m sure are many other talents, Philippe is known to speak fluent German, which should come in handy. Macron, you see, was in Berlin on Monday for a meeting with Merkel, where the two European leaders pledged to save the European Union, or something like that. Save it for whom, you ask? Well, that’s not terribly clear. Merkel signaled that she’d like to reduce Germany’s trade surplus with France for the sake of comity, and both leaders want to Do Something about youth unemployment, but one of the EU reforms Macron likes to talk about is a common Eurozone budget, which would exclude EU members that haven’t yet joined the common currency, like Poland and Hungary, whose governments already believe they’re getting the shaft in EU politics as it is (and to be fair, on some things they are).
With the Tories still staring at a potential landslide victory in next month’s snap election, British Foreign Secretary
Albino Alpaca Boris Johnson says there’s a “real possibility” that Russia might try to interfere in the vote. This is, to use the proper English, my bollocks. Why in the ever-loving hell would Russia interfere to try to cost the Tories this election when the Tories are helping to break up the EU, which is one of Putin’s long-term foreign policy goals? Johnson thinks Russia will intervene to “undermine faith in democracy,” but Russian political meddling has, so far, consistently been in the service of its preferred parties and candidates. With UKIP being rendered an afterthought as the Tories lurch right to capture the dipshit xenophobe vote, which British party could Putin possibly prefer over Johnson’s?
At least one more anti-government protester was killed on Monday, this time in Tachira state, which brings the total number of people, both pro- and anti-government, killed since major protests broke out almost two months ago to somewhere around 40.
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