'A city of shadows': fear as Venezuela's crippling blackout enters day four

Washington: Military moves against Maduro in Venezuela

Wall Street Journal
Venezuela's President Nicolás Maduro and his wife, Cilia Flores, waving to supporters in Caracas
Wall Street JournalVenezuela’s President Nicolás Maduro and his wife, Cilia Flores, waving to supporters in Caracas

US pulls all staff from Venezuela as Maduro blames blackout on ‘demonic’ Trump plot

SANAA, (AIWA! NO!) – The White House national security adviser John Bolton said in a television interview yesterday night that Venezuelan military soldiers are communicating with members of parliament on how to support the opposition.

“There is a lot of talk going on between members of the Venezuelan parliament and military elements in Venezuela about what can happen and how they can move to support the opposition,” Bolton said in an interview with ABC television.

Bolton’s announcement follows the rally of thousands of Brazilians in Caracas in demonstrations against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and a major power cut that has plunged Caracas and most of the country’s cities into darkness for four days.

Meanwhile, supporters of Maduro took part in demonstrations in support of the president, who accused “imperialism” of causing his country’s crises.

Maduro had said the power failure was caused by an “electronic attack” on the electronic monitoring system at Gori Electric Station, which supplies Venezuela with 80 percent of electricity.

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"The V-shape formation is usually used when going through a crowd of people. But on Friday, it was likely used as a show of North Korea's meticulousness," the official told local news. The guards are the most elite soldiers of the North Korean army, reports say. While most North Korean male citizens are obligated to 10 years of military service, Kim's guards serve for at least 13 years.

North Korea: ‘Nobody—not even the diplomats, the strategists, or the scholars who have devoted their lives to the subject—is able to describe with confidence how Kim Jong Un thinks’

Kim Jong Un’s running bodyguards are back
Erin Burnett Out FrontKim Jong Un brings his running bodyguards while a Kim impostor runs his mouth in Hanoi. CNN’sJeanne Moos reports.
Source: CNN

North Korea’s ‘black box’ – CJR Editors jallsop@cjr.org via mailchimpapp.net

AIWA! NO!|Following the abrupt collapse of his nuclear summit with Kim Jong Un in Vietnam, President Trump, addressing reporters in Hanoi, said he walked because North Korea wanted full sanctions relief in exchange for partial denuclearization. It was a concession, Trump said, that the United States could not make. Later in the day, at a rare news conference, Ri Yong-ho, North Korea’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, denied Trump’s account, saying that his country asked only for a partial lifting of sanctions. In America, commentators argued over why Trump’s strategy failed, and whether he was right to bail. In North Korea, there was no such debate. State media glossed right over the collapse of the summit, describing it as an event of “great significance” that furthered “mutual respect and trust.”

North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un (2nd L) and his wife Ri Sol Ju (L) toast with South Korea's President Moon Jae-in (2nd R) and his wife Kim Jung-sook (R) during the official dinner at the end of their historic summit at the truce village of Panmunjom on April 27, 2018.
North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un (2nd L) and his wife Ri Sol Ju (L) toast with South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in (2nd R) and his wife Kim Jung-sook (R) during the official dinner at the end of their historic summit at the truce village of Panmunjom on April 27, 2018.


Since Trump entered the office, US relations with North Korea have swung between extreme hostility and unlikely rapprochement. In two meetings with Kim, Trump has broken diplomatic ground. Yet the international reporters covering North Korea have little idea what Kim’s regime is really thinking, or—at moments like this one—what it might do next. At this week’s summit, Kim, for the first time ever, took questions from Western reporters; his answers were short and terse, though they were symbolically important, and offered some (albeit limited) insight into the situation. But now that the summit is over, the normal silence will resume.
 
The information climate of North Korea is dire. For the past two years, Reporters Without Borders has ranked it the worst country in the world for press freedom. The state controls the internet; citizens caught accessing foreign media are sometimes sent to concentration camps. The Associated Press and Agence France-Presse have established bureaus in the country, in conjunction with state media, yet foreign reporters are tightly controlled. Before the summit, Andrew McCormick, my CJR colleague, spoke with journalists about their experiences covering North Korea. Several of them described it as “a black box.” The constant challenge, Simon Denyer, Tokyo bureau chief for The Washington Post, said, was resisting the temptation to provide complete narratives and limiting oneself to what is actually knowable.
 
In the absence of reliable sources, reporters, as well as academics and other experts, have had to get creative. In 2017, The Wall Street Journal reported that American scholars in Seoul fed North Korean state media through a high-powered mathematical engine for clues about the regime’s plans. Doug Bock Clark wrote for The New Yorker that advances in commercial satellite photography have allowed civilian think tanks to source their own imaging of North Korea’s nuclear sites. A month after Trump and Kim’s first summit, in Singapore, Joby Warrick, a Post reporter, turned to the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies to verify a tip from an intelligence source. Analysis by the Center for Strategic and International Studies and 38 North, a news-site-think-tank hybrid with a roster of high-powered experts, has been widely cited in the press.
 
These sourcing workarounds have been useful in challenging the Trump administration’s official narrative that North Korea is no longer a nuclear threat. With talks now collapsed, the value of such sleuthing is even higher. But satellite cameras can only see Kim’s test sites, not inside his head.
 
Below, more on North Korea:

  • Thumbs up: The Post’s David Nakamura became the first foreign reporter to ask Kim a question on Wednesday. “Once he began to speak, in his surprisingly deep voice, the Disney-like veneer faded,” Nakamura writes. “The bubble had been pierced, a reclusive control freak had revealed something, however small—the fundamental currency between a reporter and his subject had been exchanged.”
     
  • “The risk of nuclear war”: In 2017, with tensions between the US and North Korea running high, Evan Osnos was granted access for what became a terrifying piece in The New Yorker. “In eighteen years of reporting, I’ve never felt as much uncertainty at the end of a project, a feeling that nobody—not the diplomats, the strategists, or the scholars who have devoted their lives to the subject—is able to describe with confidence how the other side thinks,” he wrote.
     
  • Diplomatic overture: Last year, Evan Ramstad, a former Journalreporter in Seoul, wrote for CJR on his coverage of a New York Philharmonic goodwill concert in North Korea in 2008. “Competitive news organizations lower their reporting standards in return for access to a place that is exotic, scary, bizarre and even entertaining,” he observed. “Unfortunately, often enough, it has been able to count on journalists’ shortcuts and short memories for some extra polishing of its reputation in the world.”
     
  • Covering the Koreas: In our Fall 2018 magazine, E. Tammy Kim wrote about the role of the world press in shaping diplomacy with North Korea. In South Korea, the administration of Moon Jae-in “worries that its peace-first approach to North Korea could be undermined by the American media’s cynicism.”

PSA: The Lipman Center for Journalism and Civil and Human Rights at Columbia Journalism School is offering two $10,000 fellowship opportunities. Fellows work under Jelani Cobb, the Center’s director and a staff writer at The New Yorker, to report a 5,000-word story or series linked to civil and human rights. For information on how to apply, click here.

(Danish Ismail/Reuters) Indian soldiers stand next to the wreckage of an Indian Air Force helicopter after it crashed in Budgam district in Kashmir Feb. 27, 2019.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo calls for ‘restraint’ after Pakistan shoots down Indian fighter jets amid rising tensions in Kashmir

 Indian soldiers stand next to the wreckage of an Indian Air Force helicopter after it crashed in Budgam district in Kashmir Feb. 27, 2019.
(Danish Ismail/Reuters)  Indian soldiers stand next to the wreckage of an Indian Air Force helicopter after it crashed in Budgam district in Kashmir Feb. 27, 2019.

Tensions continue to rise between the two nuclear powers –
Guy Davies , abc

AIWA! NO!|Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called for “restraint” after two Indian jets flying in Pakistani territory were shot down Wednesday morning by the Pakistani military. Tensions continue to rise between the two nuclear powers over the disputed region of Kashmir.

After speaking to both the Indian and Pakistani ministers for foreign affairs earlier in the day, Pompeo said in a statement that he “expressed to both ministers that we encourage India and Pakistan to exercise restraint, and avoid escalation at any cost.”

Maj. Gen. Asif Ghafoor, a spokesman for Pakistan’s military, confirmed on Twitter that Pakistan Air Force’s shot down the jets.

Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor@OfficialDGISPR

In response to PAF strikes this morning as released by MoFA, IAF crossed LOC. PAF shot down two Indian aircrafts inside Pakistani airspace. One of the aircraft fell inside AJ&K while other fell inside IOK. One Indian pilot arrested by troops on ground while two in the area.105K6:19 AM – Feb 27, 2019Twitter Ads info and privacy71.1K people are talking about this

 Indian soldiers and Kashmiri onlookers stand near the remains of an Indian Air Force helicopter after it crashed in Budgam district, on the outskirts of Srinagar on Feb. 27, 2019.
(Tauseef Mustafa/AFP/Getty Images)  Indian soldiers and Kashmiri onlookers stand near the remains of an Indian Air Force helicopter after it crashed in Budgam district, on the outskirts of Srinagar on Feb. 27, 2019.

One of the aircraft fell inside Pakistani territory and the other was grounded in Indian-controlled territory, Ghafoor said. One Indian pilot was arrested and taken into custody and is “being treated as per norms of military ethics,” the military spokesman said.

The Indian aircraft entered Pakistani airspace after the Pakistan Air Force undertook “strikes” across the Line of Control, the border between Pakistani and Indian-controlled Kashmir, according to the Pakistan Ministry of Foreign Affairs. These airstrikes were launched against “non-military” targets, which were mostly empty areas, Asad Ali, a senior analyst for IHS Markit, told ABC News.

Dr Mohammad Faisal@ForeignOfficePk

#Pakistanstrikesback #PAF undertook strikes across LoC from Pakistani airspace. Sole purpose of this action was to demonstrate our right, will and capability for self defence. We do not wish to escalate but are fully prepared if forced into that paradigm#PakistanZindabad8,5266:19 AM – Feb 27, 2019Twitter Ads info and privacy3,359 people are talking about this

Mohammad Faisal of the Pakistan Ministry of Foreign Affairs posted on Twitter that the “sole purpose of this action was to demonstrate our right, will and capability for self defence.”

Pakistan’s ministry of information also released a video which appears to show the downed jets and a number of military personnel on the scene.

Information Ministry@MoIB_Official

Wreckges of Indian fighter planes burning. Well done Pakistan Air Force. The entire nation is proud of you.1,0096:59 AM – Feb 27, 2019522 people are talking about thisTwitter Ads info and privacy

Conflicting reports

The escalation in tensions comes after the Indian Air Force said it carried out an airstrike on Jaish-e Mohammad militants in Pakistani territory this week. The Indian government has blamed the militant group for a suicide bomb attack that killed 40 Indian security personnel in Kashmir on Feb. 14. India has accused Pakistan of harboring the militant group, a claim Pakistan denies.

In a meeting with the foreign ministers of Russia and China, India’s external affairs minister, Sushma Swaraj, said the airstrike on Monday was carried out “in the light of continuing refusal of Pakistan to acknowledge and act against terror groups on its territory.”

“The Pakistan Air Force was detected and the Indian Air Force responded instantly,” the Indian government said in a statement. “In that aerial engagement, one Pakistan Air Force fighter aircraft was shot down by a MiG 21 Bison of the Indian Air Force. The Pakistani aircraft was seen by ground forces falling from the sky on Pakistan side. In this engagement, we have unfortunately lost one MiG 21. The pilot is missing in action. Pakistan has claimed that he is in their custody. We are ascertaining the facts.”

The conflict between the two sides is characterized by contradictory official reports. On Tuesday, India claimed it had killed a “very large number” of Jaish e-Mohamed militants while the Pakistani military spokesperson said there were no casualties and the jets were successfully scrambled.

“This kind of misinformation, backed up by each country’s noisy media, is a useful strategy that allows both sides to claim victory,” Elizabeth Chatterjee, a lecturer in regional and comparative politics at Queen Mary University in London, told ABC News.

This is the first aerial battle between the two nations since their war of 1971. Since then both Pakistan and India have become nuclear powers.

Pakistan’s minister of finance, Asad Umar, accused Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi of “a mad attempt to pitch two nuclear nations in a conflict.”

“I hope there are no questions left about Pakistan’s capability and will to defend itself now,” he posted on Twitter. “Hope the sane voices in India will be able to stop narendra modi’s mad attempt to pitch two nuclear nations in a conflict that no sane person can want.”