Vitaly Churkin, Russian ambassador to the United Nations, dies suddenly, age 64

The Russian Foreign Ministry reports today that Russia's ambassador to the United Nations, Vitaly Churkin, died suddenly today in New York. He died on Monday age 64, just one day before his 65th birthday.

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U.S. spies are withholding intelligence from Donald Trump, who has none

Capping off Donald J. Trump's No Good Very Bad Horrible Day today, the Wall Street Journal reports that senior U.S. intelligence officials are deliberately withholding sensitive information from the President because they don't trust him. Today's report cites sources inside the White House, and underscores the deep mistrust between career spies and the imploding kakistocracy.

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Trump aides were in constant contact with top Russian officials during campaign

This is so much bigger than Watergate. America has not seen a political crisis of this magnitude for generations. The other shoe drops on #Flynngate tonight. Trump, Manafort, and Flynn's activities “raise a red flag.” The U.S. government is in "unbelievable turmoil." Who is in charge of America?

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Russia may turn Snowden over to U.S. as 'gift' to 'curry favor' with Trump (who wants to kill the NSA leaker)

U.S. intelligence officials say Russia 'is considering' sending Edward Snowden back to the United States as a "gift" to President Donald Trump, who has consistently referred to the NSA leaker as a "spy" and a "traitor" for whom the death penalty would be appropriate punishment.

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US investigators corroborate elements of Russia dossier on Trump, CNN reports

Reporters with CNN interviewed federal investigators who confirm for the first time that some elements in that mysterious British spy's dossier on Donald Trump's Russia hijinks are legit.

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Russia's slot-machine bans let criminals buy machines on the cheap and reverse-engineer them

In 2009, then-PM Vladimir Putin engineered a Russian ban on slot machines in a bid to starve Georgian mafiyeh of funds, the resulting glut of used slots gave Russia's own criminal gangs cheap testbeds to use in a project to reverse-engineer the machines and discover their weaknesses -- now, Russian gangs roam the world's casinos, racking up careful, enormous scores. Read the rest

Chair made out of gold-plated AK-47s

Rainier Weber pays tribute to Rainier Weber with this chair, "upholstered in luxurious hand woven fabric from London and Venice" and matching lamp. The 22k-plate set is $127,000. (via Crazy Abalone) Read the rest

Lollypop Lorry - a good Ska band from Russia

Lollypop Lorry plays old-schoolish Ska music. They're from Yekaterinburg, Russia. Their music is available on Bandcamp. Read the rest

Deutsche Bank fined for laundering Russian money

U.K. and U.S. authorities fined Deutsche Bank of Germany $629 million for helping crooked Russian plutocrats move $10 billion out of Russia.

Via Bloomberg:

From April 2012 to October 2014, mirror trades were used by Deutsche Bank customers to transfer more than $6 billion from Russia, through the German lender’s arm in the U.K., to overseas bank accounts including in Cyprus, Estonia, and Latvia, the FCA said. Another nearly $4 billion in suspicious "one-sided trades" were also carried out.

The mirror trades allowed clients to buy local blue-chip shares for rubles, while the same stocks would be sold in London for dollars, in order to obtain the U.S. currency. Although such trades can be legal, there was a lack of controls in place at Deutsche Bank to prevent money laundering and other offenses.

A couple of weeks ago Western Union was fined $586 million for colluding with organized crime. The CEOs of both companies kept their jobs.

By Christoph F. Siekermann - Fotografiert am 17. September 2005, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link Read the rest

Trump to sign yet another trash executive order, this time on 'the cyber'

'President' Donald Trump is expected to sign an executive order addressing cybersecurity today, Reuters reports in an item that cites "two sources familiar with the situation.” The EO is expected to be Trump's first action to address what he called a top priority of his administration during the Presidential campaign.

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Law decriminalizing wife-beating and kid-smacking sails through Russian Duma

A bill that demotes domestic violence to a civic offense has passed Russia's lower parliamentary chamber, the Duma. Read the rest

Surveillance camera vandalized in Russia

An apartment-dweller in Tver, Russia installed a video camera on his or her front door, looking out into the stairwell, then uploaded a compendium of amusing and/or interesting moments to YouTube. The neighbors seem generally hostile to surveillance, though some of them are in no condition to notice it.

Google Translate suggests the following caption: "Pensioner, hammer and inadequate man camera shot war neighbors in apartment building in Tver."

Tip: use stickers. Legal, easily carried, completely effective, no damages. Read the rest

After Trump's press-conference, a Russian journalist commiserates with his "doomed" American colleagues

Alexey Kovalev is a critical Russian journalist who's lived through Putin's gutting of the Russia's press freedoms, producing a tame, whipped domestic press who act as stenographers for Putin's annual four-hour Christmas press-conferences. Read the rest

€9m Russian loan to French far-right leader Marine Le Pen is called in

The Russian Bank Deposit Insurance Agency has demanded repayment by French National Front leader Marine Le Pen -- daughter of open neo-Nazi and party founder Jean-Marie Le Pen -- of €9m borrowed from the First Czech-Russian Bank, which is now defunct. Read the rest

Obama team expected to announce measures to punish Russia for election hacking

If you're concerned about what, if anything, the outgoing presidential administration can do to fight back against Russia hacking the U.S. elections for Trump——stay close to your phones as this lame duck end of the year week rounds up.

Tomorrow, team Obama is rumored to be “announcing a series of measures to punish Russia for its interference in the 2016 presidential election, including economic sanctions and diplomatic censure.”

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Santa teaches busy mum a lesson in charming Russian christmas ad

Enjoy Moskovskiy Kreditniy Bank's special Christmas commercial, wherein Grandfather Frost helps a businesswoman learn to appreciate her daughter and perhaps her place. [via] Read the rest

'Russians were responsible for hacking the DNC,' says Obama in final 2016 press conference

U.S. President Barack Obama met with reporters today for the final press conference of 2016, before the new administration is due to take over. Live tweets below.

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