HOW TO KEEP TRUMP BUSY ON THURSDAY
Fired FBI Director James B. Comey said Donald Trump told him: “I need loyalty, I expect loyalty,’’ in a testimony submitted to the Senate Intelligence Committee, a day before he testifies. “I didn’t move, speak, or change my facial expression in any way during the awkward silence that followed,” Comey’s testimony says. Meanwhile, alone in the White House in recent days, President Trump — frustrated and defiant — has been spoiling for a fight, according to his confidants and associates. They say he is infuriated that the media has heaped praise on Comey. His aides have been urging him to resist engaging, and they hope to keep him busy during the testimony. But they are also bracing for a worst-case scenario: that he ignores their advice and tweets his mind. After all, Trump must think, ‘I tweeted my way to the presidency’.
PUTIN DOESN’T HAVE ‘NATURAL CYCLES’
Russia’s strongman Vladimir Putin does not have bad days because he is “not a woman”. Yes, that is what he said in a documentary by the film-maker Oliver Stone. “I am not trying to insult anyone. That’s just the nature of things. There are certain natural cycles,” Putin said. He also would not prefer to shower next to a gay man because he wouldn’t want to “provoke him”. And how did the American National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden wind up Moscow? Putin has now changed his story. “Our first contact with Mr Snowden was in China,” said Putin. “We were told back then that this was a person who wanted to fight against violations of human rights.” He also said that Snowden was “not a traitor”. “He did not betray the interests of his country,” Putin said.
CHINA’S NEW OVERSEAS BASES
China is set to expand its military capabilities across the globe, with new overseas bases in countries such as Pakistan as the world’s largest army seeks an increased role in defending China’s interest abroad, a Pentagon report said. Military expansion overseas also ties into a $900 bln infrastructure initiative championed by Beijing to create a new Silk Road, with some of the planned projects in unstable regions like Afghanistan and Pakistan. China spent $180 bln on the People’s Liberation Army last year, a figure that still would not account for all spending due to “poor accounting transparency”. Last year China began building its first overseas base in the African nation of Djibouti. Despite the increasing assertiveness and the prospect of airbases in the South China Sea, it is unclear if China can maintain squadrons so far from the mainland for extended periods of time.
QATAR’S SIN – CHALLENGING MIDDLE EAST STATUS QUO
In the opaque world of Arab diplomacy, things are never quite as they seem. On the surface, the reason Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt cut air, land and sea travel to the small peninsula state of Qatar this week was straightforward enough: that Qatar supported to Islamist extremism, including the so-called Islamic State. In reality, Qatar has been ostracised for not kowtowing to the collective vision for the Middle East now largely shared by the United States, Saudi Arabia and Israel, said a column in The New York Times. Doha acknowledges that Iran occupies a position as an important regional power and that political Islamists like Hamas and Hezbollah have a role to play in determining the future of the Middle East. Qatar is refusing to accept the status quo of the past 40 years, and questioning the established orthodoxy.
TRUMPLEAKS IS HERE!
American documentary film maker and activist Michael Moore has launched a website that allows whistleblowers to securely leak information about the Trump administration. And it is called Trumpleaks. It encourages Americans to use encryption software to share documents, photographs, video and audio recordings pertaining to Donald Trump and
his associates. Trump, incidentally, has called for a crackdown on leaks to the media “Patriotic Americans in government, law enforcement or the private sector with knowledge of crimes, breaches of public trust and misconduct committed by Donald J Trump and his associates are needed to blow the whistle in the name of protecting the United States of America from tyranny,” Moore wrote in an open letter. “I know this is risky. I knew we may get in trouble. But too much is at stake to play it safe.”