Venezuela

Yesterday Venezuela held elections to fill a new Constituent Assembly charged with re-writing the nation’s Constitution. For months, outside sources have cut off access to food and basic supplies leading to widespread famine. Violent clashes led by Maduro opponents have killed at least 105 Venezuelans in the last 3 months.

Today the Maduro government has declared success on state media. TeleSurTV reports 8 million votes cast and estimates 41% of eligible voters participated.

The US is not happy with the Maduro government, and has openly spoken out against it. UN Ambassador Nikki Haley already decried the election as invalid before a single vote was cast.

US media continues to assault Maduro:

Venezuela Socialists celebrate new Congress, pariah status looms

Venezuela Vote Marred by Violence, Including Candidate’s Death

In the meantime, the US considers sanctions against the nation’s oil industry.

Just before the election, US Vice President Mike Pence spoke with opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez, presumably offering support for the “revolution.”

Which brings us to….

Mike Pence tour

US Vice President Mike Pence has embarked a 3-day tour of the Baltics. He is scheduled to meet with the leaders of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania today to express US support for the nations.

“That is that ‘America First’ doesn’t mean ‘America Alone,'” Pence told Fox News. “Our message to the Baltic states — my message when we visit Georgia and Montenegro— will be the same: to our allies here in Eastern Europe, we are with you.”

This seems to go against the feel of the “America First” message President Trump spread during the campaign.

On Sunday the Vice President met with Estonian Prime Minister Juri Ratas. Ratas later told press the topic of Patriot missile emplacements in Estonia was discussed. Estonia and Lithuania are reportedly quite interested in having the systems built in their nations.

The Vice President will also make stops in Georgia and Montenegro.

Bear in mind, the area is already quite active militarily. Russia and Ukraine are engaged in nearly daily clashes in Donbass. Also both NATO and Russia are in the midst of various military exercises in the region.

Military Exercises

The area has been active for some time. But this week things heat up. Russia just celebrated Navy Day with a show of naval force. This comes on the heels of NATO Sea Breeze actions in the Black Sea. China and Russia held joint exercises in the Baltic Sea.

On land, Russia is moving troops into place early in preparation for Zapad 2017, a joint wargame with Belarus scheduled for September. NATO has just begun Saber Guardian 2017, a U.S. European Command, U.S. Army Europe-led annual exercise taking place in Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria. This exercise involves more than 25,000 service members from over 20 ally and partner nations.

At the same time, the US is involved in Noble Partner, a joint exercise in Georgia, at the military base ‘Vaziani’ in the suburbs of Tbilisi. Reuters also reports. BBC puts it together here.

This isn’t the only area hot with “joint military exercises” of course….

North Korea

In continued defiance of US threats, Pyongyang last week completed another missile test, this time landing the projectile in Japanese commercial waters. This caused a panic among Western pundits.

North Korea missile test shows it could reach New York, say experts

North Korean missile test proves US is well within range

US slams North Korea missile test as Kim claims ‘whole US mainland’ in reach

This caused the US to hold joint anti-air exercises and practice bombing runs with the South Korean militaryU.S., Allies Fly Bombers, Fighter Jets in Display of Force Against North Korea Following ICBM Test, reports NBC News.

China responded with a show of force. Xi’s show of force declares China’s battle readiness to the world, writes the South China Morning Post. Also remember that the US, India, and Japan have been working together in the Bay of Bengal. Japan PM Shinzo Abe has reported speaking with Donald Trump about taking “further action” in regards to North Korea.

Recently Nikki Haley said the time for talk about North Korea was over.

DHS Secretary

Elaine Duke was announced today as President Trump’s pick to head the Department of Homeland Security. PBS reports she has previously served three Presidents. She is a graduate of New Hamphire State (B.A. Bus Mgmt) and Chaminade (MBA). Prior to her current position, Deputy Secretary Duke was the principal of Elaine Duke & Associates, LLC, where she provided acquisition and business consulting services to large and small businesses.

More:

Who Is Elaine Duke? Longtime Government Veteran To Be Acting DHS Secretary

Who is Elaine Duke, the deputy at Homeland Security?

Kevin Newsom to 11th Circuit Court

The Senate is expected to meet at 4:00pm today to consider the nomination of Alabama’s Kevin Newsom to the 11th Circuit. He is a graduate of Samford and Harvard Law. He clerked for Justice Souter. Newsom has been a member of the Federalist Society since 1999.

While Newsom is seen as a quiet and safe choice by many, concerns have been raised.

People for the American Way wrote a letter to Chuck Grassley expressing concerns. Among the issues they cited: Federalist Society has been a favorite agency for Trump’s judicial nominees, Caperton v. Massey Coal Company where Newsom argued against a litigant’s claims that a judge financially supported by the defendant had been unduly swayed, and a litany of other gender and abortion based topics.

Health Care – Subsidies/$8 billion owed

This set off a firestorm of joy from the right-wing as well as some on the left. The idea of US Congresspeople being “brought down a peg” is obviously attractive to many. But one would think that insurance companies, already bailing from state markets due to uncertainty, are going to be less compliant.

In fact, this threat comes on the heels of a new piece by Politico reminding us that the US government is still on the hook to insurers to the tune of about $8 billion, with that number expected to grow. With Trump’s expressed wish for implosion (https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/890820505330212864) insurers may consider bailing en masse.

Zimbabwe

This week Zimbabwean Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa said the country could soon introduce a new currency as it has engaged in a program of stockpiling gold and diamonds to back the new currency. It was also announced that 92-year old Robert Mugabe will stand for election as President next year. Mugabe continues to be under US sanctions and is considered a “war criminal” by the US government.

We must remember what happened to the last African nation that attempted to issue its own gold-backed currency.

Derwick/Global-Infotek/Evolver

We finish this week with a few names to watch.

Derwick Associates is tied to Fusion GPS and the Crisis in Venezuela:

News-For-Hire Scandal Deepens: ‘Fusion GPS’ Sleazy Venezuela Links Shed New Light on Trump Dossier

Meet Bernard Aronson and Venezuela Blackouts

Global Infotek has Top Secret government contracts:

It is owned by Iranian Gholamreza Emami.

The VP of Strategic Development for Global Infotek is Chip Block.

Chip Block owns Evolver, Inc. which has been has been contracted to migrate US government data to “the cloud.”

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