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1  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / President Trump wipes out hundreds more regulations on: Today at 03:07:30 PM
http://www.dailywire.com/news/18848/trump-wipes-out-800-more-federal-regulations-joseph-curl?utm_source=dwemail&utm_medium=email&utm_content=072117-news&utm_campaign=position5
2  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Hacking through the bonds of trust on: July 19, 2017, 05:45:32 AM
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It can be difficult to separate the important from unimportant on any given day. Reflections mean to do exactly that — by thinking about what happened today, we can consider what might happen tomorrow.

The diplomatic crisis in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) has taken another turn. The Washington Post reported Sunday that the U.S. intelligence community had information suggesting the United Arab Emirates arranged a cyberattack on Qatar's state news agency in late May that set the dispute in motion. Unnamed U.S. intelligence officials claimed that Abu Dhabi orchestrated a breach of the Qatar News Agency's website and social media accounts to post erroneous statements from Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani expressing support for Iran, Hamas and Hezbollah. The United Arab Emirates, along with Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Egypt, then used the false quotes as a pretext to sever diplomatic and economic ties with Qatar. The revelation doubtless will further complicate relations in and beyond the GCC. At the same time, however, it's hardly a surprise.

Though Emirati officials have flatly denied allegations of their involvement, Qatar's leaders have had no trouble believing Abu Dhabi could be behind what they described as a "shameful act of cyber terrorism." The United Arab Emirates, after all, has a long-standing reputation for meddling — along with Saudi Arabia — in Qatar's affairs. Early into their statehood in the 1960s and 1970s, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates quibbled over their territorial boundaries. Riyadh wound up the clear winner in the disputes, but Abu Dhabi benefited as well. Qatar accused the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia more than 30 years later of trying to instigate a countercoup against Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, who had recently overthrown his father. When his son, the current emir, then usurped his father in 2014, Abu Dhabi and Riyadh tried to bring the new leader to heel. They limited their relations with Qatar, demanding that Doha change what they considered destabilizing policies. The efforts met with some success, but they also set the stage for the current crisis in the GCC.

In light of its history with Qatar, the United Arab Emirates' alleged involvement in the hacking scandal seems par for the course. Abu Dhabi's deep distrust of Islamist and opposition movements has made it wary of Doha, which it sees as a force for instability in the region. From the United Arab Emirates' perspective, Qatar's support for groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood, the Taliban, Hamas and Hezbollah — as well as the leeway the country gives its media — encourage extremism and subvert order in the region. Abu Dhabi will tolerate only so much, as its past interferences in Doha's affairs have demonstrated.

Of course, pinning down a clear attribution for a cyberattack sometimes proves impossible. A media platform makes an easy target for a skilled hacker, and determining the United Arab Emirates' level of involvement in the the alleged breach will be tricky, to say the least. Though the new intelligence implicates Abu Dhabi as the coordinator of the attack, evidence has yet to surface that it carried out the hack. A third party, for instance a Russian mercenary hacker, may well have committed the intrusion. Russia's potential involvement in the incident would align with Moscow's strategy to destabilize the United States' strategic relationships, this time in the Middle East, and to pit the GCC members against one another.

Either way, the incident will make it next to impossible for the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia to muster greater U.S. support for their anti-Qatar initiatives. And the irony is that the United States' apparent support for Riyadh and Abu Dhabi's anti-terrorism efforts helped catalyze the crisis in the first place. By focusing on the fight against Islamic extremism during the Riyadh summit in May — just days before the alleged hack — U.S. President Donald Trump may have inadvertently sent Saudi and Emirati leaders the message that they had his backing, no matter what. The Pentagon and the State Department, however, took a more balanced approach to the crisis in deference to the United States' delicate relationship with Qatar, home to one of the largest U.S. military bases in the Middle East. (If the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia decided to run with the White House's seemingly unwavering support despite the rest of the government's hesitation, they weren't the first U.S. allies to do so. The seemingly mixed messages coming out of Washington have created plenty of confusion on the international stage over where the United States stands on issues such as Russia and North Korea.)

Revelations over the hack also stand to change the already shifting relationship between the U.S. intelligence community and that of the United Arab Emirates. The United States depends on its ties with the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Qatar to ensure regional security, as well as its own national security. The details about the alleged hack won't change that. But the incident will probably damage the trust that Washington and Abu Dhabi share, even aside from the fact that U.S. officials leaked information about the hack to the press.

In the GCC, likewise, the episode has shaken the already battered bonds of trust between the bloc's members. The UAE foreign affairs minister made reference on Monday to a possible "refashioning of the GCC" and said that its annual summit, scheduled for December, is unlikely to occur if the dispute continues. The diverse bloc has endured its share of problems in the past, but the latest upset could leave more damage in its wake than previous crises have. And relations in the GCC are likely to get worse before they get any better, jeopardizing future efforts at economic and security cooperation among the Gulf states.
3  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: This is how wars begin on: July 19, 2017, 05:43:39 AM
This is how wars begin: not through the rash actions of erratic warmongers, but through the slow confrontation of irreconcilable differences. When the threat of inaction appears to exceed the threat of action, and compromise is off the table, conflict looks unavoidable.

North Korea and the United States appear to be well past the point of compromise. Pyongyang feels that its security hinges on a deterrent that would make Washington think twice about trying to overthrow North Korea's leadership or launching military action against the country. Washington, meanwhile, can't tolerate Pyongyang's efforts to develop a reliable nuclear weapon and delivery system that could strike the continental United States. Having nearly attained its security goal, North Korea can't delay further missile tests without giving the United States time to build national and international political support for military intervention. The United States similarly can't stop at a moratorium on North Korea's missile tests since only a few steps separate Pyongyang from long-range weapons capability. And past measures have done little to roll back North Korea's progress.

In the absence of a suitable middle ground with Pyongyang, Washington is counting on China and Russia to finally pressure North Korea into cooperating. Under the best-case scenario, further sanctions and isolation would cause factions of North Korea's elite to revolt, overthrow the Kim government and divert the country from its current course. But that outcome is not likely. The risk of destabilizing the country, on the other hand, would be high — too high for Beijing and Moscow to accept, especially when they have doubts that the United States will make good on its threat of military action. North Korea sees hesitation on the part of China, Russia and even South Korea and figures their reluctance to act will restrain a U.S. strike against it.

North Korea's Arms Push

Neither side wants war. The threat of physical conflict must be credible, however, if Washington wants to change Pyongyang's behavior or to convince Beijing that the risk of inaction outweighs the risk of direct action. The more credible the threat of war, the more pressure Pyongyang would feel to complete its program, and quickly. The more the looming prospect of conflict pushes China and Russia to try to prevent war, calling for talks and claiming the real danger lies in U.S. military action, the more confident Pyongyang would become that it can finish testing before Washington intervenes. And the closer North Korea gets to realizing its weapons ambitions without China's interference, the closer Washington gets to military action. That's not to say that war is inevitable, though. Changes in intelligence assessments, in leadership, in interpretations and in perceptions can always intervene unexpectedly. Or it may be that our core assumptions are simply wrong.

The U.S. military has for several years operated under the assumption that Pyongyang already possesses a nuclear weapon and the ability to deliver it at least regionally. But North Korea is unlikely to use a limited number of nuclear weapons to start a war with the United States, with its vastly superior military and nuclear arsenal. Consequently, traditional forms of nuclear deterrence could still keep Pyongyang in check. Political will may be lacking in the United States to undertake military action against North Korea that would disrupt economic and trade activity and leave behind a massive reconstruction project in Northeast Asia, if not lead to a regional conflict.

North Korea's government may be more risk averse than it seems. Pyongyang may not be willing to push its testing far enough to incite the United States to intervene. Alternatively, North Korea might not respond to a surgical strike against some of its nuclear and missile facilities, enabling Washington to interrupt its weapons development without triggering a full-blown war on the peninsula. Some Chinese commentaries have suggested that limited attacks on North Korea — even a single symbolic strike on a mobile missile ahead of a test — would shake the government enough to change its behavior. Pyongyang otherwise may feel sufficiently confident in its progress with the missile program that it shifts focus to political reconciliation with South Korea in an effort to ensure both its national security and its future economic prospects.

Geopolitics does not teach determinism. Despite the constraints and compulsions it creates, a country's geography can't eliminate every possible option. For all their differences, the United States and North Korea, perhaps ironically, share the same goal: avoiding a war. But each sees the other's path as untenable for its own national security. A war between the United States and North Korea is not inevitable, but it is growing increasingly likely — and not because their leaders are crazy.
4  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Guro Dan Inosanto movie on: July 18, 2017, 10:54:51 PM
http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/heat-vision/bruce-lee-protege-who-helped-cowboys-win-super-bowl-get-film-treatment-1021755
5  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Iran giving Hezbollah missile factories; Israel real unhappy on: July 18, 2017, 04:46:26 PM
https://www.investigativeproject.org/6419/iran-lebanese-missile-factories-in-new-and-very
6  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Megyn Kelly going down in flames on: July 18, 2017, 04:30:56 PM
http://www.westernjournalism.com/ratings-show-megyn-kellys-new-show-still-losing-viewers/?utm_source=email&utm_medium=AE&utm_campaign=can&utm_content=2017-07-17
7  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Some US options on: July 18, 2017, 10:32:23 AM
True sanctions with those who trade with Norks (CHINA!) trade War with China, sailing the SCS, nukes to Japan (and Sorks?), rebuild/strengthen regional alliances (Australia, and others --Philippines may or may not be possible) build alliance with India.

These are all options.

8  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Anti-semitism Awareness Act on: July 18, 2017, 10:28:19 AM
http://www.meforum.org/6487/anti-semitism-awareness-act?utm_source=Middle+East+Forum&utm_campaign=d392fa1b76-romirowsky_asaf_2017_01_20&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_086cfd423c-d392fa1b76-33893945&goal=0_086cfd423c-d392fa1b76-33893945
9  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: True progress in Syria a distant prospect on: July 18, 2017, 10:04:31 AM
The United States and Russia have reached a cease-fire agreement in Syria, but the ramifications of the deal will almost certainly be less drastic than many would like. The July 7 accord covers the southwestern Syrian provinces of Quneitra, Daraa and Sweida, and marks a new level of cooperation between the United States and Russia in Syria. Prior to their bargain, coordination had been limited to deconfliction mechanisms aimed at preventing an accidental skirmish between the U.S.-led coalition and Russian-backed forces in the country.

The White House has made it clear that it hopes to use the agreement as a way to breathe new life into negotiations with the Kremlin on settling the ongoing conflict. But the end of the civil war remains a distinctly distant prospect, especially since the new cease-fire deal already has been violated several times in the past week.
Stability, or Else

The United States' newfound willingness to work with Russia in Syria didn't come out of nowhere. As the battle — or at least, the conventional battle — against the Islamic State reaches its final phases in Iraq and Syria, Washington can no longer escape the fact that it needs to plan for the aftermath. Based on the Islamic State's emergence in Iraq after the United States left, the extremist group will likely remain a persistent insurgent force for years to come, even after its conventional battlefield defeat. Absent a comprehensive and successful effort to at least stabilize Syria, the Islamic State and other extremist groups will continue benefiting from the security vacuum and chaos in the country. Indeed, it could easily rebuild and re-emerge as a powerful force: In Syria, the Islamic State already has been able to expand its power in less critical areas of the country while its enemies were distracted with one another.

It's abundantly clear that there needs to be a comprehensive stabilization effort in Syria, but whether Washington and Moscow can work together toward that goal is not as evident. A number of past cease-fire agreements spearheaded by the United States and Russia have collapsed amid bitter recriminations and violations. And beyond the implementation of the cease-fire, there is little evidence suggesting that Russia is truly interested in the same goals in Syria as the United States. Washington sees an eventual move away from Syrian President Bashar al Assad's government and toward a less divisive transitional government as a necessary step to repair damaged relations between loyalist factions and the opposition. But Moscow seems less willing to go out of its way in pushing for the dissolution of an allied government in Damascus. Moreover, as U.S. President Donald Trump emphasized in his recent address in Poland, the United States is aiming for a political solution in Syria that limits Iran's influence and reach. Considering Moscow has worked closely with Tehran on a number of fronts in Syria, it is unlikely Russia would share that same objective.
Russia's sway over the Syrian and Iranian governments is hardly exhaustive, and both countries would likely do little more than pay lip service to any Russian initiatives they deem to be against their core interests.
Easier Said Than Done

Even if Moscow held the same goals as the United States, it is not at all clear that it could actually deliver on them. There is no doubt that Russia has significant influence over the Syrian government and its Iranian patron. This influence has grown in recent years as Russia has backed loyalist forces on the battlefield and the Syrian government in the United Nations. However, Russia's sway over the Syrian and Iranian governments is hardly exhaustive, and both countries would likely do little more than pay lip service to any Russian initiatives they deem to be against their core interests. Loyalist forces have already violated numerous Russian-backed cease-fire plans, including the four de-escalation zones set up in the January negotiations among Russia, Turkey and Iran known as the Astana Process. Loyalist troops completely ignored two of the de-escalation zones as they maintained offensive operations against rebel units in those areas.

In fact, one of these failed de-escalation zones was eventually divorced from the Astana Process and taken up in the latest U.S.-Russian agreement, which also involves two other participants: Israel and Jordan. Israel is alarmed by Iran's rising influence in Damascus, heightened support for Hezbollah and growing focus on the Golan Heights. It is therefore even more determined than the United States to curb Iran's reach in Syria. But Israel remains critical of what it perceives to be a flawed cease-fire agreement between the United States and Russia. Israel is fully aware of Iran's ambitions in the region and is not convinced that the cease-fire will last. And with the United States, Jordan and Israel unwilling or unable to station monitoring forces on the ground in Syria at this time, it will be difficult to enforce the cease-fire or hold the rebels and loyalist forces accountable for any violations.

In the best-case scenario, even if local cease-fire efforts were to succeed, the greater systemic challenge of translating them into a strategic political agreement would remain. The Iranian and Syrian governments are nowhere near ready to make concessions to set up the inclusive transitional government needed to stabilize the country. Given their battlefield edge and momentum, Tehran and Damascus will instead continue with a maximalist position that seeks to increase their territorial control. Thus the alternative to the current pace of the Syrian civil war is unlikely to mark much improvement. At best, the country will be increasingly divided and partitioned into separate zones under different armed factions — hardly the stable environment that would preclude the re-emergence of the Islamic State or other violent extremist groups.
10  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Middle East: War, Peace, and SNAFU, TARFU, and FUBAR on: July 18, 2017, 10:03:38 AM
Iran may well be technically complying; the deal does not stop it from developing ICBMs or going nuke in ten years.
11  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: On a warpath paved with rational decisions part two on: July 18, 2017, 09:56:18 AM
The United States and North Korea appear to be on a collision course. Their differing interests are reaching a point of irreconcilability, and each side sees in the other a significant threat to its national interests. To understand the rapidly shrinking timeline for a potential conflict between the two, we must first state a few assumptions about each country's view of the other.

These assumptions are based on more than merely statements by individual leaders, which often are more about subjective desire than about objective reality. Instead, they are founded on a geopolitical analysis and intelligence study of the United States and North Korea drawing from assessments of history and strategic culture as well as studies of politics, economics and past behavior. Assumptions, of course, can be wrong and must be constantly tested; they also evolve over time, as circumstances and evidence change. But for now, these are our baseline assumptions about the key actors in the Korean crisis.

The View from Pyongyang

North Korea has long considered the United States, and not South Korea, its primary adversary. Pyongyang sees the long-term presence of U.S. military forces in South Korea as a direct, intentional hindrance to unification of the Korean Peninsula on its own terms. And when North Korea denounces joint exercises between U.S. and South Korean armed forces as practice for military action against it, it sincerely believes in the threat that it's decrying. North Korea has deterred the United States from military action for decades through a combination of political tactics and a robust military capacity that would create mass casualties for U.S. forces on the ground and for civilians in Seoul. Pyongyang, meanwhile, ensured that it never became enough of a threat that the cost of nonintervention would exceed that of intervention from Washington's point of view. 

Since the final years of Kim Jong Il's rule, however, North Korea's core leadership has reassessed its position. The government has begun to doubt that its frontline conventional weapons, even when supplemented with biological or chemical weapons, would deter U.S. military action or stop Washington from taking steps to overthrow it. A peace accord and nonaggression pact are no longer sufficient to guarantee the North Korean system's survival, a perception that has been reinforced again and again, most notably when the United States invaded Iraq despite the risks entailed. (Various so-called "color" revolutions, the Arab Spring uprisings, and the ouster and death of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi even after his country gave up its weapons of mass destruction program likewise put Pyongyang on edge.)

North Korea's Artillery Concentration

Under current leader Kim Jong Un, North Korea has drastically accelerated its nuclear and missile programs to try to develop a demonstrable capacity to strike at the continental United States with a nuclear weapon. The capability, from Pyongyang's perspective, would provide the only viable assurance that the United States would not work to overthrow the Kim administration through political, economic or military action. Pyongyang fully recognizes that the closer it gets to demonstrating the ability to strike the United States, the more pressure Washington will feel to stop the program, whatever the means. But the high cost of military action, which could rapidly expand beyond the Korean Peninsula, still keeps the United States from following through, as do political differences with its two regional allies, South Korea and Japan. China's objections have also deterred Washington from action.

North Korea, then, is caught in a conundrum: It feels it needs a nuclear capability to deter interference in its government, yet it understands that developing its deterrent will increase the chances of intervention. As a result, Pyongyang relies on the complexities of the region and the costs of military action to keep the United States at bay long enough that it can realize its nuclear ambitions. It's a dangerous gamble, but one that North Korea's leaders feel is worth the risk, since capitulation is the only alternative.

Washington's Perspective

For the United States, North Korea has long been a secondary problem. Though the country is a perpetual source of potential regional instability, its neighbors, and its own economic limitations, always manage to keep it in check. North Korea's nuclear program presented Washington with one of its first major post-Cold War crises. But the United States avoided military action in 1994 through diplomacy, and in the years since, its general policy toward Pyongyang has been to manage the issue and put off conflict. Confronted with the price of military intervention, the United States preferred declaring moratoriums on Pyongyang's missile testing, isolating it financially and making the occasional diplomatic deal. Washington, after all, has always expected North Korea to collapse at any moment, so waiting a while longer has been the more logical policy.

But in recent years, the U.S. view has started to change. Isolation, sanctions and stern statements from the United Nations have hardly slowed North Korea's drive toward a viable nuclear deterrent. Pyongyang no longer treats its nuclear and missile programs as bargaining chips to trade away in negotiations. And as its nuclear weapons development continues, nearing a point where the threat reaches the continental United States, moratoriums on testing are not enough. The sense is growing in the United States that Pyongyang's quest for nuclear capability is a crisis that can't be punted down the road any longer.

A North Korea armed with missiles that can deliver nuclear weapons to the United States is a danger Washington cannot accept. Even if the U.S. government assumes that Pyongyang wouldn't start a war (an idea not everyone agrees with), questions remain over how it would use its new capability. North Korea could, for example, use it to constrain Washington's responses to regional moves or perhaps share its weapons technology with other "rogue" states, thereby significantly altering the global nuclear landscape. Given the pace of Pyongyang's missile tests, Washington sees that the window for taking one last shot at non-military action is rapidly closing.

The United States wants to avoid war, but to do so, it feels it must make clear that it will use military action if necessary. Washington's airstrike against the Syrian government for allegedly using chemical weapons, recent ballistic missile tests and higher-profile military exercises on the Korean Peninsula were all meant in part to demonstrate that the United States is willing to resort to military action in the absence of a better option. The U.S. government is using the threat perhaps more to try to sway China and Russia than it is to change North Korea's behavior. From Washington's point of view, Beijing alone has the leeway to propose a nonmilitary solution to the North Korean crisis. Not only is China Pyongyang's primary economic backer, but it is also keenly interested in keeping the North Korean system in place as a buffer at its border.

From the Other Sides

But the risk of intervention outweighs the risk of inaction for Beijing. China still considers instability in North Korea, or the political and military repercussions of trying to overturn the leadership there, a greater danger than Pyongyang's nuclear weapons program. It continues to believe, moreover, that for all Washington's bluster, the United States wouldn't follow through on military action to stop North Korea's missile development because doing so would risk starting an East Asian war. For China, which already lives with a nuclear-armed North Korea at its border, not to mention a nuclear India, Pakistan and Russia, Pyongyang's growing capabilities are a problem, but not an unmanageable one. The United States poses a bigger risk to its strategic interests. At the same time, China's options to respond have dwindled as Pyongyang has steadily restricted Beijing's communications and influence with it.

South Korea, too, has been coping with the North Korean military threat for decades. North Korea's nuclear program threatens South Korea, aimed as it is at the U.S. alliance structure. Nevertheless, Seoul understands that its national interests and those of Washington may diverge in the future, or at least not fully coincide. South Korea also foresees little danger of North Korea trying to reunify through force; U.S. support notwithstanding, Seoul's military capabilities have grown since 1950, and the international system is no longer conducive to military action on Pyongyang's part. In the event of another war between the two Koreas, China would be just as likely to intervene on the side of the South as on that of the North, if only to prevent the United States from getting involved.

Seoul and Beijing are each interested in managing the situation and forestalling conflict rather than in resolving the issue immediately. The advancement in North Korea's ballistic missile range, though a paradigm shift for the United States, represented only a small change for the region's overall security. Consequently, South Korea and China are trying to convey through their remaining channels with North Korea that they are willing to delay a crisis to shield Pyongyang from potential military action. Their assurances may embolden North Korea, but for Seoul and Beijing alike, delaying a confrontation is the preferable path, especially since neither see much chance of a true compromise between Washington and Pyongyang. China, meanwhile, maintains a sliver of hope that Washington may eventually accept the reality in North Korea and adjust its behavior toward the government in Pyongyang accordingly, backing off from military threats in favor of dialogue and management.

Russia and Japan each play a slightly smaller role and differ in their views of the situation. Moscow, which wants to avoid a war but lacks much clout with Pyongyang, is using the crisis to emphasize the threat Washington poses to international peace and stability. And Japan feels the change in North Korea's nuclear development perhaps more acutely than does South Korea. The missiles Pyongyang has been testing serve a more valuable military purpose aimed at Japan and the U.S. bases there than they do trained on South Korea, a country that has long been within the demonstrated reach of North Koreas' missiles. Tokyo sees the standoff with North Korea as an opportunity to fortify its position as the key U.S. ally in the region and to counter China's growing influence. In addition, the threat of Pyongyang gives the Japanese government further justification for its decision to lift the constitutional restrictions on the use of its armed forces.

Population Density

If these assumptions stand, a time is fast approaching when the United States won't be able to sit back and delay action anymore. Washington still has several options short of military action, but history has so far shown that the tactics are only temporary. Every deferral enables North Korea to move closer to its goal of developing a long-range nuclear missile while reinforcing Pyongyang's notion that U.S. security guarantees are nonbinding and rarely outlast a single president. Whether each side's perceptions of the other are accurate matters less than whether North Korea and the United States believe them and make their decisions accordingly.
12  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: On a warpath paved with rational decisions on: July 18, 2017, 09:51:24 AM
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Editor's Note:

North Korea demonstrated at least a rudimentary capability to launch a road-mobile intercontinental ballistic missile with its latest test of the Hwasong-14. At the extreme estimates of its range, the missile has the ability to strike parts of the western United States. More tests and developments will be necessary to increase the Hwasong-14's range, payload and re-entry system, and questions remain about North Korea's ability to miniaturize a nuclear weapon and make it rugged enough to mount on the missile. Even so, Pyongyang is clearly well on its way to realizing its goal of a long-range nuclear weapons capability. This is the first installment in a three-part series examining the implications of this development for the United States' relationship with North Korea.

War is rarely the first option for countries trying to preserve or enhance their strategic positions. The United States and North Korea alike would rather avoid a conflict on the Korean Peninsula, which would be complicated and costly for all parties involved. Neither wants war; each side strongly prefers an alternative path to resolve the core issues underlying the crisis. Yet their differing strategic imperatives and desired end states leave little room for compromise.

As North Korea draws closer to achieving long-range missile capabilities, something it sees as a security guarantee, the United States faces mounting pressure to act. But as Washington tries to coerce North Korea to end its quest for more sophisticated arms, Pyongyang feels compelled to accelerate its nuclear weapons and missile development. Each country is merely acting to preserve its interests. But their interests are driving them closer to a physical confrontation.

The Rational Assumption

Geopolitics teaches us to assume rationality on the part of actors on the international stage. The assumption doesn't suppose that individual leaders are somehow beyond the influence of emotion, misinformation or miscalculation. Rather it acknowledges the deeper forces at work, from the interactions of place and people that shape national characteristics and strategic culture to the systems and structures that develop in countries over time. No leader operates free of these constraints and compulsions. Though they still have leeway to shape their policies and actions, leaders, as individuals and as a collective group, do so within limits defined in large part by the environments in which they emerged. The rationality we assume from leaders is not universal; it is the product of their place and time under the influence of factors such as history, geography and economics.

The key, then, is to understand what guides the rationality of a country's leadership, on an individual level and in the government as a whole. After all, no one individual rules a country, since no single person could extend power over an entire population without the help of intermediaries. And each layer of leadership adds another set of constraints to the exercise of power. Disagreements arise in governments and in the populations they preside over. But the forces that influence the options available to leaders are far larger than the concerns of the individual. It is an analyst's job to understand and explain these factors, and a policymaker's job to take them into account when considering how to achieve a desired outcome.

Even so, it is sometimes simpler in international relations to assume one's adversaries are crazy. They don't follow the desired path or react in the anticipated way, so they must be acting irrationally. If one makes the wrong assumptions of an adversary (or even of an ally), however, the response to a given action may be far from what was intended.

Of course, understanding the other side doesn't guarantee the desired outcome, either. Irreconcilable differences in interests and perceptions of risk can get in the way of compromise. The most viable solution often is to constantly adjust one's actions to manage these contradictions, even if they prove insurmountable. At times, though, the differences can be so intractable as to drive nations into conflict if each side's pursuit of contrary interests leads to fear and insecurity for the other. Moves by one nation to constrain the threatening behavior it perceives from another then perpetuate the cycle of action and reaction. In the case of North Korea and the United States, the contradiction in their interests is growing ever starker as Pyongyang accelerates its nuclear weapons program and nears its goal of developing a missile capable of striking the continental United States.

As Pyongyang draws closer to the deliverable long-range nuclear weapon it has long pursued, Washington will be forced to decide whether to accept North Korea as a nuclear-armed state and live with that reality or to take the necessary steps to disarm it.

A Mutual Misunderstanding

Misunderstandings, misapplied assumptions and mismatched goals have characterized relations between the United States and North Korea for decades. Washington expected — or at least hoped — that North Korea would collapse on its own under the force of economic and social pressures. The evaluation misjudged the country as the Asian equivalent of an Eastern Bloc state waiting for the Soviet Union's demise to break free from the shackles of a foreign-imposed power structure. North Korea hasn't collapsed. In fact, in times of trouble, its neighbors (and even the United States) have helped stabilize the government in Pyongyang for fear that the consequences of the country's failure would be more dangerous than the risks entailed in its survival. North Korea, meanwhile, considered itself a fixture on the United States' target list, a remnant of the Cold War that Washington was trying to toss on the ash heap of history.

The two have had many opportunities for some form of reconciliation over the years. Time and again, though, progress has run afoul of perceived threats, diverging commitments, changing priorities, domestic politics and even extraregional events. As Pyongyang draws closer to the deliverable long-range nuclear weapon it has long pursued, Washington will be forced to decide whether to accept North Korea as a nuclear-armed state and live with that reality or to take the necessary steps to disarm it. The cost of action is high, but so is the perceived threat of inaction.
13  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Nevada on: July 18, 2017, 08:58:15 AM
http://thehill.com/homenews/state-watch/342427-republicans-face-growing-demographic-shift-in-west?rnd=1500330574
14  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / California retirement plans underfunded 50% on: July 18, 2017, 08:54:27 AM
second post

http://www.capoliticalreview.com/capoliticalnewsandviews/california-government-retirement-plans-are-more-than-50-underfunded/
15  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Tax Revenues down $2.68B on: July 18, 2017, 08:51:00 AM
http://www.capoliticalreview.com/capoliticalnewsandviews/ca-controller-reports-revenues-2-68-billion-short-of-2016-17-budget-act/
16  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Middle East: War, Peace, and SNAFU, TARFU, and FUBAR on: July 17, 2017, 11:55:16 PM
Very glad you posted this while I was out of town.

I too noted the flagrant failure to name Obama.

I also noted the notion of the primal importance for Iranians of the Iraq War.  This seems a very fair point to me and one that I had not considered.  Note too the US's very active role in enabling this war-- in which one million died?  Yes we were doing this in part as payback for seizing our embassy, but nonetheless the point is worth noting.
17  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / former Russian intel officer at the meeting worked for US State Dept. on: July 17, 2017, 11:48:18 PM
This is Breitbart so let's double check this, but it appears that the former Russian intel officer at the meeting along with the Russian lawyer with Donnie of whom the Pravdas trumpet was

a) a double citizen of US and Russia (how does a former Russian intel guy get US citizenship?), and

, , , drum roll , , ,

b) had worked as an interpreter for Hillary's State Department:

http://www.breitbart.com/jerusalem/2017/07/17/new-york-times-omits-clinton-state-department-link-trump-jr-meeting/?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_term=daily&utm_content=links&utm_campaign=20170717

18  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Jordan: May 2017 on: July 17, 2017, 07:58:57 PM
fourth post

http://www.cnn.com/2017/02/03/middleeast/jordan-border-security-isis/index.html
19  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Jordan: May 2015 US to train Syrian rebels on: July 17, 2017, 07:57:34 PM
Third post

http://www.cnn.com/2015/05/06/politics/khaled-khoja-free-syrian-army-u-s-support/index.html
20  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Jordan: 2013 Patriot Missiles on: July 17, 2017, 07:56:08 PM
http://security.blogs.cnn.com/2013/05/31/u-s-jordan-discuss-placing-patriot-missile-batteries-in-jordan/
21  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Jordan military gives soldier life sentence for killing three American SF on: July 17, 2017, 07:35:09 PM
http://www.cnn.com/2017/07/17/middleeast/jordan-us-soldier-deaths/index.html

http://uk.reuters.com/article/uk-mideast-crisis-jordan-usa-idUKKBN1A20SM?il=0

http://www.cnn.com/2017/03/07/politics/report-us-green-berets-jordan/index.html

22  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Caveat Lector: Peter Smith suicide on: July 14, 2017, 12:04:38 AM
http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/politics/ct-peter-smith-death-met-0713-20170713-story.html
23  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: The fierce battle for Marawi City on: July 13, 2017, 11:47:10 PM
Stratfor Worldview

 
        See More

assessments

Jul 5, 2017 | 09:00 GMT
Visualizing the Fierce Battle for Marawi City
Satellite images show damage inflicted to Marawi City in the Philippines as government forces battle Islamic State-affiliated militants.
(Stratfor)
Connections

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Since late May, Marawi City in the Philippines has been the backdrop for fighting between the Islamic State-affiliated Maute group and Philippine government troops. On May 23, the militants began their offensive on the city, following a failed attempt by government forces to arrest militant commander Isnilon Hapilon. Hapilon, also known as Abu Abdullah al-Filipini, is the emir of Islamic State forces in the Philippines and a former leader of the Muslim separatist group Abu Sayyaf.

Since the offensive began, Marawi City has turned into an intense urban battleground. Though Philippine forces are advancing against the Islamic State fighters, militants still hold several hundred buildings throughout the city, and every position must be cleared. Philippine soldiers are having to adjust on the fly to the realities of urban combat, fighting from one house to the next and capturing between 40 to 100 houses per day, according to Philippine military sources.

Securing Marawi City comes at a cost, however, and so far 82 soldiers and police officers have died in the six weeks of fighting. Over 40 civilians have also reportedly been killed, though this number will likely rise as more areas are recaptured. The militants have taken hostage approximately 100 to 200 civilians, who they are suspected of using as human shields. Several hundred more civilians are trapped in their homes by the fighting. In addition to the human cost, the battle is taking a massive toll on the infrastructure of the city, as persistent artillery fire and airstrikes by government forces have reduced major sections of Marawi City to rubble.

At this point, there are believed to be about 100 militants still holding out in the city, with the military claiming to have killed close to 300 members of the opposition during its advance. The building-by-building nature of the advance means progress is slow, exacerbated by booby traps left behind by withdrawing militants. Government forces have been combing liberated areas for unexploded ordnance, which they will likely continue to do even after the militants are defeated. Several high-value targets are also believed to still be located in Marawi — including Hapilon — and Philippine forces will seek to isolate, capture or kill them if they have the opportunity.

Despite Philippine forces being located on all sides of the city on land, there is a risk that retreating militants could escape by water. Local boatmen have been found running the blockade around Marawi City, ferrying ammunition and supplies into the militant-held areas of the city and evacuating injured fighters. As government troops progress, militant leadership and foreign fighters could use these boatmen to escape.

Prior to the fighting in Marawi City, bombing and kidnapping campaigns conducted by the Abu Sayyaf and Maute groups resulted in very limited damage. By occupying Marawi City and engaging the Philippine armed forces, the militants have provoked a government response that has damaged the city far more than they could have managed on their own. And the destruction caused by the military further benefits the militant groups by providing a useful narrative for the Islamic State to exploit as it works to build support in the Philippines.
24  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Conflict without time limit on: July 13, 2017, 11:42:19 PM
    Articles

    Regions & Countries

    Topics

    Themes

Forecast Highlights

    The Pentagon's move to deploy more troops to Afghanistan, should U.S. President Donald Trump approve it, would be aimed at empowering the Afghan National Security Forces to eventually inflict enough casualties on the Taliban to encourage them to negotiate.

    Until the factors that contribute to the conflict — including the Afghan forces' weakness and Pakistan's support for the Taliban — have been addressed, the prospects for ending the war will be dim.

    Lax border enforcement between Afghanistan and Pakistan will ensure that militants continue launching attacks into both countries from the border regions, further complicating efforts to end the war.

The invasion routes into Afghanistan are well worn at this point in history. The pathways leading out of the country, on the other hand, are far less clear. This is the predicament U.S. President Donald Trump faces as he weighs the Pentagon's proposal to send up to 5,000 troops to Afghanistan to support the struggling Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) in their 15-year war against the Taliban. If Trump approves the measure, Washington will escalate its involvement in a conflict that has so far lasted through two presidencies. The move would entail granting U.S. troops greater authority on the battlefield, and may well invite a commensurate personnel contribution from Washington's allies in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

But as much as the Afghan military could benefit from reinforcements — the Taliban are intensifying their attacks as part of the group's annual spring offensive — Washington understands that more troops will only accomplish so much. The reasons for the war's endurance are much deeper and more complicated than the number of boots on the ground. And until these underlying factors are addressed, peace will continue to elude Afghanistan.

Enfeebled Forces

One of the biggest issues preventing a resolution to the conflict is the Afghan military's weakness. The ANSF lost a key source of support in 2014 when President Barack Obama ordered NATO troops to draw down from Afghanistan. In the years since, the country's forces have struggled to contain the Taliban insurgency on their own while simultaneously grappling with organizational problems such as corruption, defections and a lack of leadership. The Taliban wasted no time in capitalizing on the security vacuums that resulted, and today the group claims some 40 percent of Afghan territory.

In light of the Taliban's gains, Gen. John Nicholson, the top NATO commander in Afghanistan, requested a few thousand more troops in February. The Trump administration, which has so far been willing to delegate greater authority to the Pentagon to prosecute the war, looks likely to approve the request. Yet the president must also consider the political consequences of re-engaging the United States in a distant war when much of the U.S. electorate would rather focus on domestic affairs. Consequently, the troop increase, if approved, will be a modest one.

The measure aims to turn the stalemate in the ANSF's favor to keep it from losing the war altogether, even if it can't win. At the same time, the Pentagon hopes that more U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan will help the ANSF inflict a high enough cost on the Taliban that negotiations become a more appealing option for insurgent leaders than continued fighting. But as history has demonstrated, troops alone will not guarantee progress toward peace. After all, the presence of more than 100,000 U.S. military personnel on the ground in Afghanistan in 2010 couldn't persuade the Taliban to come to the negotiating table.
 
Internal Struggles

In some ways, additional U.S. forces in the country could further undermine the ANSF. The Taliban use the presence of foreign troops on Afghan soil to advance the narrative that their country is under occupation and to recruit new fighters to their cause. The group has also made the withdrawal of foreign forces a precondition for participating in peace talks. Despite the dangers of staying in the country, however, NATO forces understand that withdrawing troops from Afghanistan would be riskier still. The Taliban would likely take more territory — perhaps eventually claiming enough land to effectively reconquer the country. Though the United States is open to a power-sharing agreement that includes the Taliban in the interest of ending the war, it won't tolerate a government led by the group. After all, the last Taliban administration abetted transnational extremist organizations such as al Qaeda by hosting them on Afghan territory.

Afghanistan's mountainous terrain, meanwhile, defies unified governance and economic development alike, posing additional challenges to the peacemaking effort. The dearth of tax revenues makes it even harder for the central government in Kabul to project power in the country's hinterlands or, for that matter, to adequately fund its military. The country's complex milieu of ethnic groups, meanwhile, adds to the difficulties of governing. The current National Unity Government, for example, rests on a shaky compromise between President Ashraf Ghani, a member of Afghanistan's largest ethnic group, the Pashtun, and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah, an ethnic Tajik. The Taliban have skillfully exploited Kabul's limited reach by installing shadow governors in provinces across the country and establishing courts to mete out justice in accordance with Islamic law. Until the central government has addressed its shortcomings, the Taliban will continue to win hearts and minds in Afghanistan as they wage their insurgency.

Friends in High Places

The Taliban, moreover, has a powerful ally on their side — and just across the border. Pakistan has admitted to hosting elements of the Taliban's leadership on its territory and even nurtured the organization during its infancy, helping the group sweep across southern Afghanistan on its way to conquer Kabul in September 1996. Islamabad's long-standing support for the Taliban reflects its own national security interests: Installing a government in Afghanistan that shares some of its priorities would enable Pakistan to guard against potential encirclement by its archrival, India.

Islamabad's strategy derives in part from its experience with the Bengali independence movement of 1971. India intervened in the conflict that ensued to help East Pakistan achieve its independence as Bangladesh. In the process, Pakistan lost a chunk of its territory and half its population. Islamabad is determined to keep the episode from repeating in its restive western territories along the Afghan border, including Balochistan in southwest Pakistan. The province is home to a secessionist movement whose exiled leaders have sought India's assistance in their campaign against Pakistan's government. Cultivating a relationship with the Taliban offers Islamabad a way to keep neighboring Afghanistan from falling into India's orbit by ensuring that it will have a say in the country's post-war future.

Crossing the Line

The Durand Line, the 2,430-kilometer (1,510-mile) border that separates Pakistan and Afghanistan, has historically facilitated this effort. The border, which cuts through the inhospitable terrain of the Hindu Kush mountains, is porous, enabling Islamabad to project influence into Afghanistan through its support for the Taliban. But after 15 years of war on the other side, the boundary's permeability has become more of a liability than a selling point for Pakistan. Militant inflows into the country have aggravated Pakistan's own internal security problems, prompting Islamabad to try to secure the border. As Islamabad clears the way for a merger between its Federally Administered Tribal Areas and neighboring Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province, it is even putting up fencing along the Durand Line so that it can devote greater military attention to India.

But effective border management will require Afghanistan's cooperation — something that Pakistan is unlikely to secure. For one thing, the ANSF is already stretched thin in its nationwide fight against the Taliban. For another, by guarding the border, Afghanistan would be recognizing the Durand Line's legitimacy, which it has long contested. Enforcement along the boundary will remain lax, giving militants the continued leeway to launch attacks from the border regions into both countries — and further complicating efforts to end the war.

Beyond the number of soldiers deployed in Afghanistan, a complex set of factors underpins the conflict there. Even if a troop increase alters the stalemate in the Afghan government's favor, the ANSF and the Taliban will keep hammering away at each other until one of them relents. As the Taliban reportedly once put it, the United States has "the watches and we have the time." Trump will have to consider these factors as he decides whether to recommit his country to its longest-running war.
25  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Russian conspiracy, Comey, related matters on: July 13, 2017, 10:12:33 PM
A timely reminder.

Still, this remains:

"“What I find striking — and alarming — is less that these senior Trump officials stepped over the ethical line, but that they don’t seem to even understand that such a line exists,” Morell said."
26  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Bureaucracy and Regulations in action: The Fourth Branch of the US Govt. on: July 13, 2017, 10:11:02 PM
“Outlays for the Departments of Education and Housing and Urban Development increased by $33 billion and $21 billion respectively, because of upward revisions to the estimated net subsidy costs of loans and loan guarantees issued in prior years,” said CBO.

CBO also noted the impact of July beginning on a Saturday.

“Because July 1 fell on a weekend this year, certain payments scheduled for that date were instead made in June,” said CBO. “If not for that shift, the deficit in June 2017 would have been about $44 billion lower.”
27  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Israel's stake in Eastern Syria on: July 13, 2017, 10:09:05 PM
Note the date

US Strategy and Israel's Stake in Eastern Syria
by Jonathan Spyer
The Jerusalem Post
June 24, 2017
http://www.meforum.org/6794/us-strategy-and-israel-stake-in-eastern-syria
 
 
 
A corridor linking Shia in Iran, Iraq and beyond with Shia and Alawites (a related sect) in Lebanon and the Syrian coast would be a strategic nightmare for Israel.
The downing on June 18th of a Syrian Air Force SU-22 by a UA Navy F-18 Super Hornet over the skies of northern Syria sharply raises the stakes in the emergent stand-off in the country. This stand-off is no longer between local militias, nor between regional powers. Rather, through interlocking lines of support, it places the United States in direct opposition to Russia.

The last move has almost certainly not yet been made. And while events in north east Syria may seem a distance away, there is a direct Israeli interest in the outcome of the current contest.

This latest move was a probably inevitable outcome of two sharply opposing outlooks currently in play in Syria. The US seeks to maintain a divide between the war against Islamic State in the east of the country and the civil war between Assad and the rebellion against him in the west of it. In the east, US-supported Kurdish and Sunni Arab rebel forces are forbidden from attacking Assad's forces.

The US statement following the downing of the SU-22 reflected this position. Pentagon Spokesman Cpt. Jeff Davis noted that the US does 'not seek conflict with any party in Syria other than ISIS, but we will not hesitate to defend ourselves or our partners if threatened.'

From the point of view of the regime and its Russia and Iranian allies, by contrast, no such division exists. For them, the Syrian war is a single system, in which the 'legitimate government' (ie the Assad regime) is engaged in a fight against various illegitimate entities. The latter group includes ISIS, but also the Sunni Arab rebels and the Kurdish-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces, with whom the US is aligned.

The defeat of the Islamic State as an entity controlling territory is now only a matter of time.

The recent Astana agreement for the creation of four 'de-escalation' areas has freed up regime and allied forces to take a more active role in the war against ISIS further east. Regime forces are advancing along two axes – from Palmyra in the south, and from Aleppo province further north. The second axis is bringing the regime and its allies into direct and close proximity with the US-supported SDF. The incident this week took place, according to the US version, after regime forces attacked the SDF in the town of Jadin south of Tabqa. Further tactical clashes are probably inevitable as each side seeks to take control of areas abandoned by ISIS as it retreats.

But these tactical matters are part of an emergent strategic reality. The defeat of the Islamic State as an entity controlling territory is clearly only a matter of time. The actions of the Assad regime (or more accurately the Iranian and Russian interests that dominate it) equally clearly reflect their determination to confront and defeat all other armed elements within Syria. The United States is currently backing certain non-governmental armed elements in Syria, for the stated purpose of defeating Islamic State.

So the situation is leading the US inexorably toward a choice. At a certain point, perhaps after the final eclipse of IS, but also perhaps before it, Washington will need to decide if it wishes to abandon its allies to destruction at the hands of the regime, Iran and Russia, or whether it wishes to help to defend the forces it has armed and trained.
 
US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) fighters are leading the assault on Raqqa.

At this point, the US will need to decide its end objective in Syria. Is it a federalized, decentralized Syria, with the regime dominant in the west and US allies in the east? Is it the destruction of the Assad regime? The construction of safe zones and ongoing negotiation? Which is it to be?

None of this is easy and all choices have a price. Failure to decide, and a tactical, localized response to immediate threats is also a kind of choice, of course. So far, this type of response has resulted in the pro-Iranian forces reaching the Iraqi border, north of al-Tanf, and cutting off the US-backed rebels in the area from the possibility of further progress northwards.

As of now, on four occasions, US forces have responded to the regime coming too close. But this has the appearance of a piecemeal response. All sides await the discovery or emergence of US strategy in Syria.

If the US and its allies are eclipsed in eastern Syria, Iran will enjoy a contiguous land bridge to Israel's borders.

Why does all this matter for Israel? For the following reason: if the US and its allies are eclipsed in eastern Syria, the result will be the establishment of a contiguous land link from Iran, across Iraq and Syria and to Lebanon and the Israeli border. This in turn will transform the threat picture facing Israel in the event of a renewed war with Hizballah. This is not only or mainly to do with the transfer of weapons systems to the Lebanese Shia jihadis.

One must observe and study the style of war that Iran has conducted in Syria and Iraq over the last half decade to grasp this essential point. In both contexts, with no official Iranian declaration of war, a coalition of Teheran-aligned militias have acted in a coordinated fashion on behalf of Iranian allies and interests. This coalition of forces has played a crucial role in the survival of the Assad regime. In Iraq, a similar coalition of Iran-aligned forces played a crucial role in the fight against IS, and now constitutes the key instrument of power in that country.

At no time have the pro-Iranian forces been constricted by nominal state borders or 'national' divisions. Lebanese Hizballah personnel have played a vital role in Syria and have been present also in Iraq. Iraqi militiamen have been active in Syria. Afghan fighters were among the first to reach the Syria-Iraq border on June 9th.
Pro-Iranian forces aren't constricted by nominal borders or 'national' divisions.

There is no reason for Israeli planners to assume that a future war with Hizballah would be immune from this pattern. To reiterate, it does not require a formal declaration of war from Iran. Proxies are mobilized and deployed under the stewardship of the IRGC, but with no direct or acknowledged involvement given or demanded from Iran at any stage.

The loosely and ambiguously governed nature of these territories would serve as an advantage for the Iranian forces, perhaps providing the kind of diplomatic cover for them that the presence of the toothless Siniora government in Beirut did in 2006. Thus the tried and tested Iranian model of revolutionary warfare.

The creation of a contiguous corridor all the way from Iran to Lebanon would make possible the prosecution of such a war at an appropriate time and opportunity for Teheran, against Israel.

For this reason, the prevention of the emergence of this direct land route through eastern Syria is a direct Israeli national interest. Unfortunately, the tactical and piecemeal nature of the US response, and the apparent absence of a clearly formulated strategy to face the Iranian, Russian-supported advance may yet facilitate its creation. Perhaps a clear strategy will yet emerge. It is Trump's move.

Jonathan Spyer, a fellow at the Middle East Forum, is director of the Rubin Center for Research in International Affairs and author of The Transforming Fire: The Rise of the Israel-Islamist Conflict (Continuum, 2011).
28  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Clapper and Morell's analysis on: July 13, 2017, 05:14:45 PM


https://www.thecipherbrief.com/article/exclusive/clapper-trump-jr-emails-only-one-anecdote-much-larger-story-1091

This makes sense to me:

“What I find striking — and alarming — is less that these senior Trump officials stepped over the ethical line, but that they don’t seem to even understand that such a line exists,” Morell said.

29  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / DOJ arrests hundreds for Health Care fraud on: July 13, 2017, 05:07:14 PM
https://pjmedia.com/trending/2017/07/13/doj-arrests-hundreds-in-largest-combined-health-care-fraud-case-in-history/
30  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Israel-PA water deal on: July 13, 2017, 04:32:48 PM

Jul 13, 2017 | 20:33 GMT
Israel, Palestinian Territories: The Glass May Be Half Empty When It Comes to a New Water Agreement
(Stratfor)


Israel and the Palestinian Authority signed a water-sharing agreement under U.S. mediation. Israel agreed to provide 32 million cubic meters (about 8.5 billion gallons) of water annually to the Palestinian territories. Though the agreement is an advancement on a contentious issue, it is relatively little to ask of Israel. The 32 million cubic meters Israel will provide — until the desalination plant in Aqaba, Jordan associated with the Red Sea-Dead Sea Water Conveyance project is completed — is less than 10 percent of total Palestinian consumption.

Given the dire water scarcity situation facing the territories, The Palestinian Authority may divert a third of the water from this latest deal to the Gaza Strip where the scarcity is most acute (annual demand there is four times the natural groundwater supply). With demand outpacing supply, the Palestinian Authority needs a renewable source of affordable water.

Water ownership and control is a tense topic between the two governments. Israel may be a water-scarce nation, but it is also the world's leader in water management, water recycling and desalination technology. Despite scarce natural resources, Israel combined a series of canals and carriers, desalination plants, recycling facilities along with pricing schemes to ensure water security. The Palestinians rely mainly on groundwater resources within their territories to meet demand. Aquifers rarely respect national boundaries, however, and the drilling of water wells both in Israel and Palestinian territories has historically been a point of contention. The current deal provides Israel flexibility in terms of water sourcing until the desalination plant in Aqaba, Jordan is completed. A much more substantial advancement would be an agreement on cross-border groundwater resources and extraction.

From a political standpoint, the small amount of progress on water sharing is the first achievement in mediation by the new U.S. administration, which is desperate to advance the issue of Arab-Israeli peace. But within the complex peace negotiations, water is one issue among countless others that will be harder to resolve. While U.S. envoy and Special Representative for International Negotiations Jason Greenblatt said he hoped the July 13 water-sharing agreement is a "harbinger of things to come," Palestinian officials are less optimistic. The United States aims to use the agreement as a stepping off point for cooperation on more vexing issues, including settlements, Palestinian security, potential embassy moves and refugee resettlement. But the head of the Palestinian Water Authority said that, though the agreement is helpful, it does not touch on other aspects of the negotiations.


=========================================
Summary

Few geographic constraints are more universal than water scarcity. Although every country sees it in different ways and to different degrees, water stress is a problem that even water-rich states such as Canada experience. And with overuse, population growth and changing environments putting more strain on the world's limited fresh water resources, scarcity is becoming an even bigger concern. As global demand rises and supplies fall short, improving water purification methods will become an attractive option for countries looking to close the gap. Materials such as graphene are already paving the way to cheaper, more effective and more energy efficient filtration methods.

Desalination and water recycling can go a long way in making up for scant natural water resources. Israel, for example, has been highly successful in using both to overcome its inherent lack of water. The water reserves in the arid nation are extremely vulnerable both to its neighbors and its environment. These conditions have necessitated a rather unusual response: Israel recycles and desalinates a sizable share of its water. Recycled water, which is essentially reclaimed wastewater, accounts for 55 percent of agricultural water consumption, and Israel's desalination capacity is expected to equal its natural internal resources within the next four years.

Of course, Israel is a rare case whose small size and relative wealth have gone a long way toward making its water management strategy a success. In the short term, most countries will have a hard time replicating its achievements. Though Israel has advanced desalination technology enough to push costs down, there is still room for improvement. If desalination and water recycling are to be used on a broader scale, scientists will have to find a way to reduce the amount of energy consumed in the filtration process to make them more competitive with natural water resources. Even then, the high costs of transporting water over long distances would remain, limiting the effect seawater desalination could have.

Bringing down energy consumption is key, and some progress has recently been made on that front. Desalination by reverse osmosis — currently the industry standard — requires forcing water through cell membranes at high pressures to reduce the salt concentration present in either seawater or brackish water. Achieving those high pressures typically requires a large amount of energy, but graphene filters may soon change that. Graphene is much more permeable than the materials traditionally used to make desalination filters, reducing the amount of energy needed to separate salt from the water passing through it. According to some estimates, graphene filters can lower the monetary cost of producing water through desalination by as much as 20 percent.

 As is often the case with graphene products, though, the filter's limitation lies in the process of manufacturing it. Graphene and the materials derived from it often have fantastic properties, including great strength, high conductivity or increased permeability. However, these properties are lost when production is scaled up because of deformities introduced during fabrication. In light of this problem, graphene filters have been slow to develop, and efforts have been diverted to recycling wastewater for the oil and natural gas industry, which does not require as much uniformity in filters.

But a new manufacturing technique may make it possible to produce graphene filters with the size and standardization needed for large-scale desalination. Australian and U.S. researchers have developed a process that uses a blade to spread a viscous graphene-oxide material into a thin sheet. The sheet can remove virtually anything from water, including chemicals, salts, viruses and bacteria. Eventually, the process could allow for the faster production of large graphene-based desalination filters — a crucial step toward their wide-scale commercial development. While several hurdles still remain, the fact that the research had a commercial backer — Ionic Industries — makes it more likely that the experiment's results will be applied beyond the academic setting.

If they are, graphene-oxide filters could become a formidable tool in combating water scarcity, though they may not be widely used for at least another five to 10 years. As water resources become increasingly strained in some of the biggest cities and most populated countries, improvements in purification technologies will be important for more effectively using the limited water the world has left. 
31  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Stratfor: Water reclamation technology (Israel) on: July 13, 2017, 04:30:11 PM
Summary

Few geographic constraints are more universal than water scarcity. Although every country sees it in different ways and to different degrees, water stress is a problem that even water-rich states such as Canada experience. And with overuse, population growth and changing environments putting more strain on the world's limited fresh water resources, scarcity is becoming an even bigger concern. As global demand rises and supplies fall short, improving water purification methods will become an attractive option for countries looking to close the gap. Materials such as graphene are already paving the way to cheaper, more effective and more energy efficient filtration methods.

Desalination and water recycling can go a long way in making up for scant natural water resources. Israel, for example, has been highly successful in using both to overcome its inherent lack of water. The water reserves in the arid nation are extremely vulnerable both to its neighbors and its environment. These conditions have necessitated a rather unusual response: Israel recycles and desalinates a sizable share of its water. Recycled water, which is essentially reclaimed wastewater, accounts for 55 percent of agricultural water consumption, and Israel's desalination capacity is expected to equal its natural internal resources within the next four years.

Of course, Israel is a rare case whose small size and relative wealth have gone a long way toward making its water management strategy a success. In the short term, most countries will have a hard time replicating its achievements. Though Israel has advanced desalination technology enough to push costs down, there is still room for improvement. If desalination and water recycling are to be used on a broader scale, scientists will have to find a way to reduce the amount of energy consumed in the filtration process to make them more competitive with natural water resources. Even then, the high costs of transporting water over long distances would remain, limiting the effect seawater desalination could have.

Bringing down energy consumption is key, and some progress has recently been made on that front. Desalination by reverse osmosis — currently the industry standard — requires forcing water through cell membranes at high pressures to reduce the salt concentration present in either seawater or brackish water. Achieving those high pressures typically requires a large amount of energy, but graphene filters may soon change that. Graphene is much more permeable than the materials traditionally used to make desalination filters, reducing the amount of energy needed to separate salt from the water passing through it. According to some estimates, graphene filters can lower the monetary cost of producing water through desalination by as much as 20 percent.

 As is often the case with graphene products, though, the filter's limitation lies in the process of manufacturing it. Graphene and the materials derived from it often have fantastic properties, including great strength, high conductivity or increased permeability. However, these properties are lost when production is scaled up because of deformities introduced during fabrication. In light of this problem, graphene filters have been slow to develop, and efforts have been diverted to recycling wastewater for the oil and natural gas industry, which does not require as much uniformity in filters.

But a new manufacturing technique may make it possible to produce graphene filters with the size and standardization needed for large-scale desalination. Australian and U.S. researchers have developed a process that uses a blade to spread a viscous graphene-oxide material into a thin sheet. The sheet can remove virtually anything from water, including chemicals, salts, viruses and bacteria. Eventually, the process could allow for the faster production of large graphene-based desalination filters — a crucial step toward their wide-scale commercial development. While several hurdles still remain, the fact that the research had a commercial backer — Ionic Industries — makes it more likely that the experiment's results will be applied beyond the academic setting.

If they are, graphene-oxide filters could become a formidable tool in combating water scarcity, though they may not be widely used for at least another five to 10 years. As water resources become increasingly strained in some of the biggest cities and most populated countries, improvements in purification technologies will be important for more effectively using the limited water the world has left. 
32  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Qatar goes its own way on: July 13, 2017, 02:49:01 PM
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Forecast Highlights

    Qatar's vast wealth of liquefied natural gas (LNG) will enable it to weather economic pressure from Saudi Arabia as Riyadh tries to limit Doha's foreign policy.
    Doha will continue to balance its relationships with Saudi Arabia and with Iran while working to forge ties with larger powers such as Turkey, Russia and the United States.
    The ruling al-Thani family will not face threats to its power from within Qatar, so long as it keeps the wealth flowing.

Qatar has distinguished itself from its peers. Among the world's oil-producing states, it is one of the richest. Among developed countries today, it blossomed more quickly than almost any other. And among the members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), it is one of the few states that dares to push back against Saudi Arabia's ideas on culture, on economics and especially on foreign policy. But in the country's dazzling growth and development lie the seeds of its current dispute with three fellow members of the Gulf bloc. Thanks to its extensive natural gas reserves and the ruling family's resistance to Saudi control, Qatar will continue to challenge Riyadh and the United Arab Emirates in their attempts to dominate it.
Photos from the Qatari capital of Doha in 1953 (top) and 2014 (bottom) showcase the country's rapid development.

Photos from the Qatari capital of Doha in 1953 (top) and 2014 (bottom) showcase the country's rapid development.
(Keystone Features / Stringer, Francois Nel/Getty Images)
A Small Country With Big Riches
Qatar's significant natural gas wealth sets the country apart from its prosperous neighbors, which mostly depend on oil. By selling its gas to a wide range of partners abroad — currently mostly in Asia — the country has managed to establish economic security that reaches beyond the GCC.
 
But what Qatar has in money and resources, it lacks in people and territory. Its native population is only 300,000 people; foreign workers from Asia and the Middle East account for 89 percent of the total population of 2.6 million. With such a homogenous and small native population, Qatar doesn't face the same kinds of sectarian divisions that plague Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. (The lack of sectarian strife also helps Doha avoid domestic backlash when it gets involved in religious conflicts such as the Syrian crisis.) Nor does it have to worry about supplying enough jobs to its native population. Saudi Arabia, by contrast, is struggling to employ its 22 million native citizens while undertaking economic reform, and other GCC states, such as Oman, don't have the money to provide for their people as abundantly as Qatar does.
Qatar's GDP Per Capita
The tiny population has its downsides, however. Qatar's demographic size pales in comparison with that of Iran or Saudi Arabia. The country's leaders, moreover, have found it difficult to construct a shared aim and civic identity as they pursued nation building. Wahabbi Islam offered a sense of common purpose during the 20th century, but the state has become more secular in recent years. And though Qatar is a majority-Sunni state, it eschews the Sunni-Shiite divide between Saudi Arabia and Iran.
 
Because its geography makes it so vulnerable — Saudi Arabia sits on its only land border and the contentious Persian Gulf surrounds the rest — Qatar seeks the protection of stronger nations. As it developed into a modern state, it was firmly under the sway and protection of the United Kingdom. It joined the GCC in 1981, a decade after the British relinquished their protectorate. U.S.-Gulf relations were acrimonious throughout the 1970s largely because of Washington's pro-Israeli policies. But the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s and the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990 drove home the reality of Qatar's perilous position. Doha needed the protection of a more powerful ally. Qatar signed its first military agreement with the United States in 1992, and since then, the countries' military ties have flourished.
Qatar's Strategic Location
Seeking More Baskets
To keep Qatar relevant on the world stage, meanwhile, Doha created a liberal media environment including state-funded news network Al Jazeera, sponsored global sporting events, mediated in Middle Eastern conflicts and made sizable investments worldwide, especially in Europe. Qatar has also pursued policies independent of Saudi Arabia. It has shown a penchant for buying, or at least considering purchases of, Russian and Chinese military equipment. It has developed closer ties with Iran in recent years, as Doha and Tehran work out an arrangement to share the North Pars Gas Field, and has bolstered its military cooperation with Turkey. Elsewhere in the Middle East, Qatar has inserted itself into Lebanese and Palestinian politics. What's more, it was the first GCC state to toy with normalizing relations with Israel. In short, the country maintains a vast network of relationships with states large and small to avoid putting all its eggs in the GCC's basket.
 
But its activities don't always suit its neighbors in the bloc. Qatar has hosted multiple Taliban negotiations and has become a second home for Muslim Brotherhood figures in exile from countries such as Egypt that have turned against political Islamist movements. Embracing Islamism enables Qatar not only to reaffirm its Wahabbi mores, but also to extend its influence beyond the confines of its small territory and population. For Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, however, the groups' politics pose a challenge to their leadership.
The Al-Thani Dynasty
At the helm of the country's foreign policy is the ruling al-Thani family. The al-Thanis, who have ruled Qatar continuously since the early 20th century (with help from other influential families), have proved effective at using the country's geopolitical position to its advantage. As in the rest of the Arabian Gulf monarchies, Qatar's ruling family retains control over the state's means of generating and distributing wealth. A small handful of elites directs all policy behind closed doors, in what Qatar calls a "consultative monarchy."
 
For the al-Thanis, succession is done through controlled internal coups, in which a cousin usurps a cousin or a son usurps his father. The transition takes place with the help of the institutional bureaucracy, whose loyalty a rising emir cultivates over the years before he takes the throne. The dearth of intertribal conflict in Qatar denies its GCC neighbors opportunities to meddle with the al-Thanis' dominance, though the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia have tried.
 
Under Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, who usurped power from his father, the al-Thani family became known for its independence from the GCC. Qatar's current emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, doubled down on this strategy, while also working to build his support among Qataris. The current GCC crisis has reinforced his popularity, despite his efforts to trim some of the extensive social benefits available to Qatari citizens. (In 2015 he said that Qataris would need to wean themselves off of a "dependence on the state for everything.")
 
Still, Doha's commitment to self-determination is a double-edged sword. Though on the one hand, it has enabled Qatar to forge a diverse array of international relationships, on the other, it has jeopardized its relationship with the rest of the GCC. And the longer the crisis in the bloc goes on, the more it will strain Qatar's ties abroad. To solve the current crisis, Doha might be willing to oust some individuals tied to Islamist movements. But it won't budge on its sovereignty. The governing ethos of the al-Thani family may be complex and contradictory, but it leaves little room for Saudi Arabia to call the shots in Qatar.
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Tiny Qatar Goes Its Own Way



33  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Soros backing resistance to Trump Commission on: July 13, 2017, 02:41:45 PM
https://patriotpost.us/posts/50146
34  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: US and Russia almost agree on Venezuela on: July 13, 2017, 02:37:43 PM
The U.S. and Russia Almost See Eye to Eye on Venezuela
Protesters run from tear gas during an anti-government demonstration on during February in Caracas, Venezuela. A confrontation between government elites and a dissident faction of the ruling party is threatening to balloon into a wider conflict.
(JOHN MOORE/Getty Images)
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The political interests of Russia and the United States intersect in nations across the world, and Venezuela is no exception. Both global powers want political stability in the country, although for different reasons. The United States wants to avoid an escalation of violence there, and the Russians, as well as the Chinese, want to protect oil investments and the repayment of loans. And Washington and Moscow have ample reason to be concerned about Venezuela’s stability. A confrontation between government elites and a dissident faction of the ruling party is threatening to balloon into a wider conflict. Opposition-led protests have lasted more than 100 days, and unrest spurred by food shortages, inflation and deep dissatisfaction with the government is spreading. And because of the growing risk of a coup, middle-ranking officials in the armed forces are under increased surveillance. To further complicate matters, oil prices remain low and Venezuela's public finances are depleted, meaning that an economic recovery will take decades. In short, there is no simple way out of the crisis.
 
However intractable the country's long-term economic problems are, Russia or Cuba – a security ally to Caracas — may eventually provide some relief for Venezuela's immediate political problems through an offer of political asylum. Venezuela's deeply unpopular president, Nicolas Maduro, risks losing his office in an election scheduled for November 2018. The country’s ruling elites see this potential loss of power as an unacceptable risk to their political privileges and personal safety. In response, Maduro and political and military elites are pushing to rewrite the country’s constitution and purge dissenters from their ranks in an effort to cling to power. However, reports from Stratfor sources indicate that Maduro has also explored seeking political asylum. For more than a year, Stratfor has received persistent reports that he has considered asking for refuge in Russia or Cuba. He may have sweetened his request to Russia with offers of mineral concessions. But even if Maduro eventually secures an exile deal with Russia or Cuba, other military and political officials at risk of arrest in Venezuela or extradition to the United States will rely on the constitutional rewrite to improve their chances of political survival.
 
The talks on asylum appear to be part of larger discussions in which the interests of the United States, Cuba, Russia and China converge. According to a Stratfor source, Cuba is a key part of indirect talks between Russia and the United States on Venezuela. The government of Raul Castro conveys Russian and Chinese positions (as well as Maduro's) to the United States. And former Spanish prime minister and mediator Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero represents U.S. interests. Maduro ordered the release of opposition politician Leopoldo Lopez from prison on July 8 after months of negotiations involving Cuba and Zapatero. His decision, an apparent concession to the United States and the opposition, did not include input from key Venezuelan leaders like Vice President Tareck el Aissami or Diosdado Cabello, leader of the ruling party. Lopez's transfer to house arrest – a minor move compared to the larger forces affecting Venezuela — was likely intended to soften street protests. Lopez's release could also help Cuba curry favor with Venezuela's opposition. Given Cuba's reliance on access to Venezuelan fuel, Havana may hope that Lopez's release will help it curry favor with Venezuela’s opposition in case the Maduro government falls and the opposition finds itself in control.
 
For Moscow, its desire for a peaceful resolution in Venezuela likely lies in its vested interest in the country's resources. Russian oil company Rosneft owns stakes in joint ventures with the Venezuelan government in the Orinoco Belt. Separate reports from Stratfor sources suggest that the Russian government would like additional mineral concessions, although their nature and location are unclear. And an asylum deal may also have strategic implications. Brokering the departure of Maduro may give the Russians leverage in their broader negotiations with the United States on other contentious topics, such as Syria, Ukraine or the European borderlands. On the other hand, China is willing to work with any government in Caracas, as long as it respects China’s investments and repays loans made to the Venezuelan government, according to a source.
 
In contrast, specific U.S. interests in Venezuela are far clearer than those of the Russians. Although Venezuela is a secondary issue for Washington, a peaceful resolution is better than a violent confrontation. The United States would also like to see timely, fair elections in Venezuela, and the drug trafficking conduit through the country is also a continuing concern. However, Washington has few policy tools with which it can directly influence the political confrontation in the country. Aside from indirect discussions with Venezuela, the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump appears to be relying on the limited avenues its predecessors used. In February 2017 the Department of the Treasury sanctioned Venezuelan Vice President Tareck El Aissami for his suspected role in cocaine trafficking to the United States. Additional sanctions may be implemented against individual Venezuelan political leaders. The Trump administration is still deciding whether to adopt a more aggressive stance, and the possibility of sanctions against the oil sector have been floated as a means of pressuring the government to hold free elections. The White House has also moved to tighten sanctions on Cuban entities controlled by its armed forces. In the near term, that move will drive the Cubans to continue to support the Maduro government.
 
A negotiated transition from the Maduro government — in which power passes to the vice president — could temporarily reduce confrontation between the opposition and the government. However, it is no guarantee of long-term political stability. According to a Stratfor source, the Russian or Cuban governments would be willing to accept the president and his wife, Cilia Flores, but not other political figures. Cuba may be willing to take in Maduro and his entourage, but large numbers of Venezuelan political figures could become a liability, given the potential for U.S. demands for extradition. In the absence of a political solution that protects their interests, vulnerable officials, who include El Aissami, Cabello, Interior Minister Nestor Reverol and members of the Francisco de Miranda Front, will keep pushing for an assembly to rewrite the constitution. And barring a drastic event, such as a successful military coup, this drive will move forward and remain a trigger for unrest. So, despite U.S. and Russian hopes, there is no easy way out of the turmoil in Venezuela.
35  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Stratfor: US and Russia almost agree on Venezuela on: July 13, 2017, 02:36:57 PM
The U.S. and Russia Almost See Eye to Eye on Venezuela
Protesters run from tear gas during an anti-government demonstration on during February in Caracas, Venezuela. A confrontation between government elites and a dissident faction of the ruling party is threatening to balloon into a wider conflict.
(JOHN MOORE/Getty Images)
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The political interests of Russia and the United States intersect in nations across the world, and Venezuela is no exception. Both global powers want political stability in the country, although for different reasons. The United States wants to avoid an escalation of violence there, and the Russians, as well as the Chinese, want to protect oil investments and the repayment of loans. And Washington and Moscow have ample reason to be concerned about Venezuela’s stability. A confrontation between government elites and a dissident faction of the ruling party is threatening to balloon into a wider conflict. Opposition-led protests have lasted more than 100 days, and unrest spurred by food shortages, inflation and deep dissatisfaction with the government is spreading. And because of the growing risk of a coup, middle-ranking officials in the armed forces are under increased surveillance. To further complicate matters, oil prices remain low and Venezuela's public finances are depleted, meaning that an economic recovery will take decades. In short, there is no simple way out of the crisis.
 
However intractable the country's long-term economic problems are, Russia or Cuba – a security ally to Caracas — may eventually provide some relief for Venezuela's immediate political problems through an offer of political asylum. Venezuela's deeply unpopular president, Nicolas Maduro, risks losing his office in an election scheduled for November 2018. The country’s ruling elites see this potential loss of power as an unacceptable risk to their political privileges and personal safety. In response, Maduro and political and military elites are pushing to rewrite the country’s constitution and purge dissenters from their ranks in an effort to cling to power. However, reports from Stratfor sources indicate that Maduro has also explored seeking political asylum. For more than a year, Stratfor has received persistent reports that he has considered asking for refuge in Russia or Cuba. He may have sweetened his request to Russia with offers of mineral concessions. But even if Maduro eventually secures an exile deal with Russia or Cuba, other military and political officials at risk of arrest in Venezuela or extradition to the United States will rely on the constitutional rewrite to improve their chances of political survival.
 
The talks on asylum appear to be part of larger discussions in which the interests of the United States, Cuba, Russia and China converge. According to a Stratfor source, Cuba is a key part of indirect talks between Russia and the United States on Venezuela. The government of Raul Castro conveys Russian and Chinese positions (as well as Maduro's) to the United States. And former Spanish prime minister and mediator Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero represents U.S. interests. Maduro ordered the release of opposition politician Leopoldo Lopez from prison on July 8 after months of negotiations involving Cuba and Zapatero. His decision, an apparent concession to the United States and the opposition, did not include input from key Venezuelan leaders like Vice President Tareck el Aissami or Diosdado Cabello, leader of the ruling party. Lopez's transfer to house arrest – a minor move compared to the larger forces affecting Venezuela — was likely intended to soften street protests. Lopez's release could also help Cuba curry favor with Venezuela's opposition. Given Cuba's reliance on access to Venezuelan fuel, Havana may hope that Lopez's release will help it curry favor with Venezuela’s opposition in case the Maduro government falls and the opposition finds itself in control.
 
For Moscow, its desire for a peaceful resolution in Venezuela likely lies in its vested interest in the country's resources. Russian oil company Rosneft owns stakes in joint ventures with the Venezuelan government in the Orinoco Belt. Separate reports from Stratfor sources suggest that the Russian government would like additional mineral concessions, although their nature and location are unclear. And an asylum deal may also have strategic implications. Brokering the departure of Maduro may give the Russians leverage in their broader negotiations with the United States on other contentious topics, such as Syria, Ukraine or the European borderlands. On the other hand, China is willing to work with any government in Caracas, as long as it respects China’s investments and repays loans made to the Venezuelan government, according to a source.
 
In contrast, specific U.S. interests in Venezuela are far clearer than those of the Russians. Although Venezuela is a secondary issue for Washington, a peaceful resolution is better than a violent confrontation. The United States would also like to see timely, fair elections in Venezuela, and the drug trafficking conduit through the country is also a continuing concern. However, Washington has few policy tools with which it can directly influence the political confrontation in the country. Aside from indirect discussions with Venezuela, the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump appears to be relying on the limited avenues its predecessors used. In February 2017 the Department of the Treasury sanctioned Venezuelan Vice President Tareck El Aissami for his suspected role in cocaine trafficking to the United States. Additional sanctions may be implemented against individual Venezuelan political leaders. The Trump administration is still deciding whether to adopt a more aggressive stance, and the possibility of sanctions against the oil sector have been floated as a means of pressuring the government to hold free elections. The White House has also moved to tighten sanctions on Cuban entities controlled by its armed forces. In the near term, that move will drive the Cubans to continue to support the Maduro government.
 
A negotiated transition from the Maduro government — in which power passes to the vice president — could temporarily reduce confrontation between the opposition and the government. However, it is no guarantee of long-term political stability. According to a Stratfor source, the Russian or Cuban governments would be willing to accept the president and his wife, Cilia Flores, but not other political figures. Cuba may be willing to take in Maduro and his entourage, but large numbers of Venezuelan political figures could become a liability, given the potential for U.S. demands for extradition. In the absence of a political solution that protects their interests, vulnerable officials, who include El Aissami, Cabello, Interior Minister Nestor Reverol and members of the Francisco de Miranda Front, will keep pushing for an assembly to rewrite the constitution. And barring a drastic event, such as a successful military coup, this drive will move forward and remain a trigger for unrest. So, despite U.S. and Russian hopes, there is no easy way out of the turmoil in Venezuela.
36  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Germany moves troops from Turkey to Jordan on: July 13, 2017, 02:31:44 PM
I am told that since this piece on June 6, the Germans have acted


Posted by
Editor_Ben
Editor_Ben
June 6 in The Daily Round-Up
German foreign minister Sigmar Gabriel visited Turkey on June 5, but failed to obtain an authorization for German MPs to visit German soldiers at the military base of Incirlik. Gabriel said that, as a result, Germany will have to move its soldiers away from the base. German defense minister Ursula von der Leyen confirmed that German troops in Incirlik will be moved to Jordan, to the air base of Azraq.

Based on statements from Turkey yesterday, it seemed like Germany was only initiating the first practical steps towards making a real decision on this, but reports later in the day indicate that Germany has already put everything in place and is ready to make the actual move.

The 250 German troops and associated aircraft could be expected to move from Turkey to Jordan in the near future. While in military terms only a small logistical feat, it marks another continuation of the Europe-Turkey rift within NATO.
37  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Goldstone's role on: July 13, 2017, 02:22:06 PM
Can someone print this please? 

http://www.newyorker.com/news/benjamin-wallace-wells/rob-goldstones-pivotal-role-in-the-donald-trump-jr-scandal?mbid=nl_TNY%20Template%20-%20With%20Photo%20%2831%29&CNDID=50142053&spMailingID=11468581&spUserID=MjAxODUyNTc2OTUwS0&spJobID=1201179447&spReportId=MTIwMTE3OTQ0NwS2
38  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Stratfor: Presidents come and go on: July 13, 2017, 02:13:53 PM


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A serious challenge from populist politician Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador awaits Mexico's ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) in next year's presidential election. That's what polling data and the close results of the June 4 gubernatorial election in Mexico state suggest as Lopez Obrador looks ahead to a third presidential run in July 2018 after second-place finishes as the candidate for the Party of the Democratic Revolution in 2006 and 2012. Now leading his own party, the National Regeneration Movement, Lopez Obrador is in a statistical tie in recent polls with the PRI and National Action Party candidates.

While a Lopez Obrador victory would be historic, his ability to make sweeping changes in keeping with his populist rhetoric will be greatly constrained. Even if Lopez Obrador wins the presidency, Mexico's political and economic path will remain relatively stable.

As we've discussed the possibility of a Lopez Obrador victory with our contacts in Mexico, we've noticed that many of them believe he would seek to undertake a dramatic change in the way the government deals with Mexico's powerful criminal drug cartels. The idea is that as president, Lopez Obrador would seek to address Mexico's violence problem by cutting a deal with cartel leaders, and on the campaign trail, he has promised to end the deployment of military forces in the country. Such a deal would allow traffickers to operate in the country as long as they did so without violence. While the concept may sound possible in theory, there are simply too many obstacles to permit such a dramatic shift in policy.
A Look at History

The idea that a Mexican presidential candidate would place more emphasis on stopping violence in Mexico than on stopping the flow of narcotics to the United States is not new. Indeed, we heard similar talk during the 2006 and 2012 elections. Here is a quote from a Stratfor analysis I wrote in June 2011:

    One of the trial balloons that the opposition parties, especially the PRI, seem to be floating at present is the idea that if they are elected they will reverse [President Felipe] Calderon's policy of going after the cartels with a heavy hand and will instead try to reach some sort of accommodation with them. This policy would involve lifting government pressure against the cartels and thereby (ostensibly) reducing the level of violence that is wracking the country.

The people who believe such a shift is possible base their belief on a mistaken historical narrative. This holds that Mexican organized crime groups were controlled by the ruling PRI and were largely nonviolent until President Ernesto Zedillo, who was elected in 1994, abandoned the party's deal with the cartels after a corruption scandal enveloped his predecessor, Carlos Salinas de Gortari. When Zedillo unleashed the military on the cartels, this myth goes, violence spiked.

This rendition of events is deeply flawed. There were indeed close ties between the cartels and PRI figures at all levels of the Mexican government as well as between the cartels and powerful figures in other political parties. The cartels also fostered deep corruption into every level of law enforcement in Mexico. However, quite simply, the PRI did not control the cartels. Rather, the inverse was true. The cartels had a significant amount of control over some politicians and portions of the government.

The cartels were too rich and powerful to be corralled in this manner. In the 1980s, interdiction efforts forced an increasing amount of cocaine trafficking away from Caribbean routes and through Mexico. The vast wealth connected to the cocaine trade made the Mexican cartels far more powerful than they had ever been. It also caused them to become more protective of the source of their wealth. One of the first widely publicized manifestations of this protectionist streak was seen in the 1985 kidnapping, torture and murder of U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration Special Agent Enrique Camarena. While his death caused the United States to focus heavily on Mexico's powerful Guadalajara cartel and pressure the Mexican and regional governments to follow suit, cartel violence was not a new manifestation: The cartels assassinated rivals and journalists well before 1985.

After Miguel Angel Felix Gallardo and other leaders of the Guadalajara cartel were arrested in the wake of Camarena's murder, Gallardo's primary lieutenants assumed responsibility for the various areas where they operated. This resulted in the creation of the Tijuana cartel (Arellano Felix organization), the Juarez cartel (Carrillo Fuentes organization) and a group of cartels led by Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman Loera, Ismael Zambada and others, known as the Sinaloa Federation. Tensions quickly flared between Guzman and the Arellano Felix brothers over control of smuggling routes — and profits — resulting in a bloody turf war that began in 1989 and wracked northwestern Mexico in the early 1990s. One of the high-profile side effects of their battles was the May 1993 murder of Cardinal Juan Jesus Posadas Ocampo and six other people at the Guadalajara airport. It is believed that a Tijuana cartel hit team sent to assassinate Guzman accidentally killed the Catholic Church leader. After Posadas' murder, Mexican law enforcement began to dramatically step up operations against both the Tijuana cartel and the Sinaloa Federation. This heat caused Guzman to flee to Guatemala, where he was arrested in June 1993.

In the early 1980s, many cartel figures served as their own enforcers, but as tensions escalated among competing gangs over control of the cocaine trade, violence escalated as the Tijuana cartel and others began to employ teams of police officers and street gang members to serve as enforcer units. Competing gangs formed similar enforcer groups. Osiel Cardenas-Guillen, the leader of the Gulf cartel, upped the ante by hiring a unit of special forces soldiers, and Los Zetas were formed. Again, rival cartels followed suit and hired their own groups of soldiers to counter the power of Los Zetas, leading to the militarization of cartel enforcer groups. The introduction of paramilitary forces brought along with it military weapons, and cartel enforcers graduated from using pistols, shotguns and submachine guns to regularly employing fully automatic assault rifles, rocket-propelled grenades and hand grenades.

A careful review of cartel history makes it clear that cartel violence in Mexico was a significant security problem well before Zedillo came into office in 1994. In fact, Salinas in his inaugural address in December 1989 noted that "narcotics trafficking has become a grave risk to the security of the nation." It was cartel violence, and corruption within law enforcement agencies, that led Zedillo to put the military into the fight against the cartels. They were not the cause of the violence, and taking the military off the streets will not end the violence that is plaguing Mexico — especially when there is no other force to replace them.

Besides, like the violence between the Tijuana cartel and Sinaloa Federation that led to the Posadas assassination, a substantial percentage of the violence in Mexico is spawned by cartel-on-cartel attacks and is not initiated by the government.
The Impact of Balkanization

Another severe constraint on the Mexican government's ability to reach some sort of arrangement with the cartels is that the cartel landscape has changed dramatically. Two main groups — the Guadalajara and Gulf cartels — controlled most drug trafficking in Mexico in the 1980s. Even a decade ago, there were only a handful of groups controlling most of the activity. But today, infighting caused by greed and suspicion, as well as decapitation caused by the arrest or killing of cartel leaders, has led to the Balkanization of Mexico's cartels. This fracturing has caused us to change the way we think about and analyze these groups. Instead of a monolithic Sinaloa Federation, dozens of organized crime groups have splintered from it. Likewise, what was the Gulf cartel is now a constellation of geographic gangs that are often at odds — and at war — with one another. Even if the Mexican government wanted to pursue deals to end the violence, and even if each group in this array of criminal gangs was willing to entertain such an offer, it would be impossible to reach any sort of comprehensive peace agreement with this many parties.

The 2011 analysis quoted above referred to campaign rhetoric from PRI candidate Enrique Pena Nieto. However, after he won election in 2012, Pena Nieto has not been able to dramatically reverse course as he proposed on the campaign trail. In fact, he has struggled to enact many of the more gradual changes he proposed, such as "mando unico," or unified state command over police forces and the creation of a gendarmerie, or paramilitary police force, to replace the military force deployed against the cartels. Without a replacement, it is impossible to pull the military out of the fight because to do so would create a security vacuum in the areas where the military is deployed. This would be socially and politically unacceptable.

Speaking of politics, the Mexican Congress also serves as a severe constraint on the power of the president to enact reforms. Without congressional support, the president could make only limited changes, and lawmakers would resist making any radical shifts in cartel policy.

This means that, much like immediate predecessors Pena Nieto, Calderon and Vicente Fox, Mexico's next president will not have much freedom to change the country's cartel policy.
39  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Presidents come and go on: July 13, 2017, 02:13:18 PM


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A serious challenge from populist politician Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador awaits Mexico's ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) in next year's presidential election. That's what polling data and the close results of the June 4 gubernatorial election in Mexico state suggest as Lopez Obrador looks ahead to a third presidential run in July 2018 after second-place finishes as the candidate for the Party of the Democratic Revolution in 2006 and 2012. Now leading his own party, the National Regeneration Movement, Lopez Obrador is in a statistical tie in recent polls with the PRI and National Action Party candidates.

While a Lopez Obrador victory would be historic, his ability to make sweeping changes in keeping with his populist rhetoric will be greatly constrained. Even if Lopez Obrador wins the presidency, Mexico's political and economic path will remain relatively stable.

As we've discussed the possibility of a Lopez Obrador victory with our contacts in Mexico, we've noticed that many of them believe he would seek to undertake a dramatic change in the way the government deals with Mexico's powerful criminal drug cartels. The idea is that as president, Lopez Obrador would seek to address Mexico's violence problem by cutting a deal with cartel leaders, and on the campaign trail, he has promised to end the deployment of military forces in the country. Such a deal would allow traffickers to operate in the country as long as they did so without violence. While the concept may sound possible in theory, there are simply too many obstacles to permit such a dramatic shift in policy.
A Look at History

The idea that a Mexican presidential candidate would place more emphasis on stopping violence in Mexico than on stopping the flow of narcotics to the United States is not new. Indeed, we heard similar talk during the 2006 and 2012 elections. Here is a quote from a Stratfor analysis I wrote in June 2011:

    One of the trial balloons that the opposition parties, especially the PRI, seem to be floating at present is the idea that if they are elected they will reverse [President Felipe] Calderon's policy of going after the cartels with a heavy hand and will instead try to reach some sort of accommodation with them. This policy would involve lifting government pressure against the cartels and thereby (ostensibly) reducing the level of violence that is wracking the country.

The people who believe such a shift is possible base their belief on a mistaken historical narrative. This holds that Mexican organized crime groups were controlled by the ruling PRI and were largely nonviolent until President Ernesto Zedillo, who was elected in 1994, abandoned the party's deal with the cartels after a corruption scandal enveloped his predecessor, Carlos Salinas de Gortari. When Zedillo unleashed the military on the cartels, this myth goes, violence spiked.

This rendition of events is deeply flawed. There were indeed close ties between the cartels and PRI figures at all levels of the Mexican government as well as between the cartels and powerful figures in other political parties. The cartels also fostered deep corruption into every level of law enforcement in Mexico. However, quite simply, the PRI did not control the cartels. Rather, the inverse was true. The cartels had a significant amount of control over some politicians and portions of the government.

The cartels were too rich and powerful to be corralled in this manner. In the 1980s, interdiction efforts forced an increasing amount of cocaine trafficking away from Caribbean routes and through Mexico. The vast wealth connected to the cocaine trade made the Mexican cartels far more powerful than they had ever been. It also caused them to become more protective of the source of their wealth. One of the first widely publicized manifestations of this protectionist streak was seen in the 1985 kidnapping, torture and murder of U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration Special Agent Enrique Camarena. While his death caused the United States to focus heavily on Mexico's powerful Guadalajara cartel and pressure the Mexican and regional governments to follow suit, cartel violence was not a new manifestation: The cartels assassinated rivals and journalists well before 1985.

After Miguel Angel Felix Gallardo and other leaders of the Guadalajara cartel were arrested in the wake of Camarena's murder, Gallardo's primary lieutenants assumed responsibility for the various areas where they operated. This resulted in the creation of the Tijuana cartel (Arellano Felix organization), the Juarez cartel (Carrillo Fuentes organization) and a group of cartels led by Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman Loera, Ismael Zambada and others, known as the Sinaloa Federation. Tensions quickly flared between Guzman and the Arellano Felix brothers over control of smuggling routes — and profits — resulting in a bloody turf war that began in 1989 and wracked northwestern Mexico in the early 1990s. One of the high-profile side effects of their battles was the May 1993 murder of Cardinal Juan Jesus Posadas Ocampo and six other people at the Guadalajara airport. It is believed that a Tijuana cartel hit team sent to assassinate Guzman accidentally killed the Catholic Church leader. After Posadas' murder, Mexican law enforcement began to dramatically step up operations against both the Tijuana cartel and the Sinaloa Federation. This heat caused Guzman to flee to Guatemala, where he was arrested in June 1993.

In the early 1980s, many cartel figures served as their own enforcers, but as tensions escalated among competing gangs over control of the cocaine trade, violence escalated as the Tijuana cartel and others began to employ teams of police officers and street gang members to serve as enforcer units. Competing gangs formed similar enforcer groups. Osiel Cardenas-Guillen, the leader of the Gulf cartel, upped the ante by hiring a unit of special forces soldiers, and Los Zetas were formed. Again, rival cartels followed suit and hired their own groups of soldiers to counter the power of Los Zetas, leading to the militarization of cartel enforcer groups. The introduction of paramilitary forces brought along with it military weapons, and cartel enforcers graduated from using pistols, shotguns and submachine guns to regularly employing fully automatic assault rifles, rocket-propelled grenades and hand grenades.

A careful review of cartel history makes it clear that cartel violence in Mexico was a significant security problem well before Zedillo came into office in 1994. In fact, Salinas in his inaugural address in December 1989 noted that "narcotics trafficking has become a grave risk to the security of the nation." It was cartel violence, and corruption within law enforcement agencies, that led Zedillo to put the military into the fight against the cartels. They were not the cause of the violence, and taking the military off the streets will not end the violence that is plaguing Mexico — especially when there is no other force to replace them.

Besides, like the violence between the Tijuana cartel and Sinaloa Federation that led to the Posadas assassination, a substantial percentage of the violence in Mexico is spawned by cartel-on-cartel attacks and is not initiated by the government.
The Impact of Balkanization

Another severe constraint on the Mexican government's ability to reach some sort of arrangement with the cartels is that the cartel landscape has changed dramatically. Two main groups — the Guadalajara and Gulf cartels — controlled most drug trafficking in Mexico in the 1980s. Even a decade ago, there were only a handful of groups controlling most of the activity. But today, infighting caused by greed and suspicion, as well as decapitation caused by the arrest or killing of cartel leaders, has led to the Balkanization of Mexico's cartels. This fracturing has caused us to change the way we think about and analyze these groups. Instead of a monolithic Sinaloa Federation, dozens of organized crime groups have splintered from it. Likewise, what was the Gulf cartel is now a constellation of geographic gangs that are often at odds — and at war — with one another. Even if the Mexican government wanted to pursue deals to end the violence, and even if each group in this array of criminal gangs was willing to entertain such an offer, it would be impossible to reach any sort of comprehensive peace agreement with this many parties.

The 2011 analysis quoted above referred to campaign rhetoric from PRI candidate Enrique Pena Nieto. However, after he won election in 2012, Pena Nieto has not been able to dramatically reverse course as he proposed on the campaign trail. In fact, he has struggled to enact many of the more gradual changes he proposed, such as "mando unico," or unified state command over police forces and the creation of a gendarmerie, or paramilitary police force, to replace the military force deployed against the cartels. Without a replacement, it is impossible to pull the military out of the fight because to do so would create a security vacuum in the areas where the military is deployed. This would be socially and politically unacceptable.

Speaking of politics, the Mexican Congress also serves as a severe constraint on the power of the president to enact reforms. Without congressional support, the president could make only limited changes, and lawmakers would resist making any radical shifts in cartel policy.

This means that, much like immediate predecessors Pena Nieto, Calderon and Vicente Fox, Mexico's next president will not have much freedom to change the country's cartel policy.
40  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Rove: Ten Senate Dems in 2018 trouble on: July 13, 2017, 02:08:08 PM
Troubled Times for 10 Senate Democrats
They face re-election in states Trump won. Will they cozy up or join the ‘resistance’?
Heidi Heitkamp on Capitol Hill, July 11.
Heidi Heitkamp on Capitol Hill, July 11. Photo: reynolds/European Pressphoto Agency
By Karl Rove
July 12, 2017 6:39 p.m. ET
167 COMMENTS

The 25 Democratic senators who face re-election in 2018 are already gearing up for a fight. Their latest quarterly fundraising reports, released over the past two weeks, show impressive totals, ranging up to $3.1 million. But for the 10 Democrats from states carried by President Trump, a well-stuffed war chest may not be enough.

This is especially true for six senators in states where Mr. Trump’s victory last November was huge. He won Joe Manchin’s West Virginia by an astonishing 42 points; Heidi Heitkamp’s North Dakota by 36 points; Jon Tester’s Montana by 20; Joe Donnelly’s Indiana and Claire McCaskill’s Missouri by 19, and Sherrod Brown’s Ohio by 8.

Four other Democrats—Michigan’s Debbie Stabenow, Pennsylvania’s Bob Casey, Wisconsin’s Tammy Baldwin and Florida’s Bill Nelson —are in states where Mr. Trump’s margin of victory ranged from 0.2% to 1.2%. None of them can take re-election for granted.

They must all keep an eye on the president’s favorability ratings. On Election Day, Mr. Trump was viewed favorably by 37.5% of voters and unfavorably by 58.5%, according to the RealClearPolitics average. As of this Wednesday, his ratings stood at 40.4% favorable and 53.6% unfavorable.

Mr. Trump is likely to be more popular in states he won than his national average: The larger his margin in those states last November, the better he stands now. If this trend holds through 2018, Democrats in states Mr. Trump won by double or nearly double digits could face stiff re-election contests.

Though many endangered Democrats are now making bipartisan or even pro-Trump noises, voters won’t forget these incumbents’ loyal support for President Obama’s agenda. They can try hiding from their voting records but can’t escape them.

Furthermore, these Democrats are highly partisan. For example, Mr. Tester once led the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, and Ms. McCaskill can’t restrain herself from making needless partisan jabs. All eagerly campaigned for Hillary Clinton. Even Mr. Manchin personally pushed her last fall to make an appearance in West Virginia.

Cozying up now to Mr. Trump doesn’t square with the Democrats’ “resistance” agenda. For example, after hyping rumors that she might be named Mr. Trump’s agriculture secretary, Ms. Heitkamp voted to sustain an Obama administration regulation on methane emissions that North Dakota’s energy industry strongly opposed. She was trying to dampen opposition from the Democratic left, which was angry at her for playing footsie with the new president.

Consider also Indiana’s Mr. Donnelly. The Washington Examiner reports that he emphasized his strong support for ObamaCare in a fundraising email on June 21—the same day news broke that two of the four insurers remaining in Indiana’s health exchanges were pulling out. Another fundraising appeal a few days later claimed that Sen. Donnelly was “fighting back against Trump’s extreme agenda,” complicating his effort to look like a bipartisan moderate. Facing similar balancing acts, all these Democrats could easily fall off the beam.

Republicans do have their own 2018 challenges. Sen. Jeff Flake must play defense in Arizona (which Mr. Trump won by 3.5%) while Sen. Dean Heller is fighting an uphill battle in Nevada (which Mr. Trump lost by 2.4%). It doesn’t help that Mr. Heller has stumbled by threatening to scuttle his party’s plan to replace ObamaCare. Both seats are crucial to keeping the GOP’s Senate majority.

Since several of these Democrats are better-than-average campaigners, Republicans must also recruit strong challengers. The GOP can’t beat something without something better. Screaming “liberal, liberal, liberal” won’t work either. Republicans must show voters that these Democrats say one thing during elections and something else in between them.

The greater key to Republican success, however, is getting things done now in the halls of Congress. That’s why Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s decision to keep the Senate working for two weeks in August rather than breaking for recess is so vital. If Republicans don’t repeal and replace ObamaCare and reform the tax code, the party’s grass roots will lose enthusiasm, donors will shut their pocketbooks, and Republicans will lose.

But if the GOP Congress can get things done, 2018’s unusual mix—25 Democrats up for re-election versus only nine Republicans—could make it one of the 20% of midterm elections in the past century in which the party holding the White House actually picks up seats.

Mr. Rove helped organize the political-action committee American Crossroads and is the author of “The Triumph of William McKinley ” (Simon & Schuster, 2015).

Appeared in the July 13, 2017, print edition.
41  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Trump gives China a lesson on: July 13, 2017, 02:05:07 PM
second post


By Michael Auslin
July 12, 2017 6:37 p.m. ET
193 COMMENTS

With only six months in office, President Trump has put his signature on America’s China policy. A strategy that may appear capricious to his critics in fact has a logic consistent with Mr. Trump’s guiding beliefs. He sought a deal with China, then concluded he would not get one, and so acted in what he believes is America’s best interest.

Mr. Trump’s approach is undoubtedly transactional, but it’s surprisingly realistic given China’s kid-glove treatment by most U.S. presidents. In potentially putting Beijing and Washington at loggerheads, it is also undeniably risky.

In June, the White House delivered three blows to China. First, it imposed sanctions on a Chinese bank and two individuals for abetting North Korea’s financial transactions. Second, it listed China in the category of worst offenders in human trafficking. Finally, it announced a $1.4 billion arms sale to Taiwan. The Trump administration also made several lesser-order jabs, among them calling for more freedom in Hong Kong and conducting another freedom-of-navigation operation near the contested Spratly Islands in the South China Sea. It did all this as Chinese President Xi Jinping tried to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the return of Hong Kong to China from Britain.

–– ADVERTISEMENT ––

Any one of these actions would normally be enough to rock Sino-U.S. relations, at least for a while. Taken together, they constitute a significant break from the past two decades of diplomatic engagement between the two powers. Is this an enduring shift on the part of the Trump administration? Or simply shots across Beijing’s bow to get China to cooperate more with Washington and behave better abroad?

To Mr. Trump’s critics, the moves represent a recognition of his initial naiveté regarding China. When the president tweeted on June 20 that China’s efforts to help on North Korea had not worked out, he was derided for his apparent faith in Beijing’s promises and for flipping his opinion so quickly. The latest turnaround was seen as part of a pattern stretching back to the campaign and transition, when candidate and President-elect Trump warned that he would not shrink from putting economic and political pressure on China. Then, soon after taking office, the president radically shifted to a far more cooperative stance, going so far as to host Mr. Xi at Mar-a-Lago for a family-style summit.

But Mr. Trump’s moves are neither capricious nor naive, even if they do lack a certain diplomatic finesse. His interest has always been in the bottom line, and diplomatic niceties of the kind that have suffused Sino-U.S. relations since Richard Nixon’s epochal 1972 visit to Beijing are useful to him only if progress is being made.

Last month’s actions put Beijing on notice that Mr. Trump’s transactional approach is real, and so are the potential consequences for failing to make a deal. Moreover, each move serves some larger U.S. purpose, whether strategic (Taiwan) or tactical (North Korea). Chinese leaders have long been accustomed to strong words and no action from Washington; now they will have to consider how far the Trump administration may go.

By publicly calling out China, Mr. Trump risks chipping away at Beijing’s carefully polished image as a global leader and contributor to stability. Beijing, already upset by criticism leveled by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis about China’s militarization of the South China Sea islands, lashed back at the administration’s moves, especially the arms sale to Taiwan.

With a critical Communist Party Congress coming up in the fall, Mr. Xi will be loath to be seen as unable or unwilling to combat an activist U.S. policy in Asia. He may look for ways to check Mr. Trump’s recent moves, such as ratcheting up economic and diplomatic pressure on U.S. allies like South Korea, which is already in Beijing’s doghouse for accepting a new U.S. missile defense system. Mr. Xi may also try to regain some standing by challenging the U.S. Navy in the South China Sea.

Mr. Trump has made clear that he means what he says about deal-making. China said it would help and did not. That’s enough for Mr. Trump to put the world’s two most powerful countries on a potential collision course. He might be bluffing or he might be in earnest. Either way, the American president’s sharp dose of realism has the potential to reshape the world’s most important relationship.

Mr. Auslin is a fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University.
42  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Aviation accident rate on: July 13, 2017, 02:00:13 PM
WSJ
By The Editorial Board
July 12, 2017 7:14 p.m. ET
80 COMMENTS

On Monday 15 Marines and one Navy sailor died when a Marine KC-130 crashed, with debris covering a field in Mississippi. It’s too early to draw conclusions about what caused the transport plane to suffer a catastrophic failure on its flight from North Carolina to California, reportedly at cruising altitude. But such tragedies are becoming more routine and deserve some attention.

It is unknown what led to the crash, and it could be anything from equipment malfunction to human error. The plane appears to have been loaded with munitions that might have caused or contributed to the crash. The names of the service members on board still weren’t public by our deadline.

One reality is that Marine aviation has recently experienced a rise in “Class A Mishaps,” which are incidents that carry a body count or result in more than $2 million in aircraft damage. House Armed Services Chairman Mac Thornberry pointed out at a hearing last year that the rate for the Marine aviation community has “been increasing significantly.”

Over the past decade the rate has hovered around 2.15 events for every 100,000 hours flown, Mr. Thornberry noted. But in 2015 the figure increased to 3.29 and 3.39 in 2016; that year 12 Marines died when two helicopters crashed into each other off the coast of Hawaii. The rate so far for 2017 is 4.47, including Monday’s crash.

One hypothesis that deserves to be examined is a combination of old equipment and the fact that pilot hours have been reduced in recent years because of funding cuts. Planes like the F/A-18 are stretching past their lifetimes. Earlier this year Navy officials testified to Congress about a number of pilot “physiological episodes”—e.g. oxygen deprivation—that compound the risk of human error.

None of this will come as news to Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, who has made addressing readiness problems a central part of his agenda. But Marines and other service members sign up for duty knowing the risks of combat, and they shouldn’t have to endure an increasing threat to their safety from routine training or transport.
43  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The Chinese on their strategy on: July 13, 2017, 01:40:02 PM
http://nationalinterest.org/feature/three-plan-officers-may-have-just-revealed-what-china-wants-21458?page=show
44  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The Intel Community's role on: July 13, 2017, 01:27:44 PM
http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2017/07/12/democrat-and-ex-cia-trump-is-right-democrats-did-spread-british-dossier-so-did-intel-community.html
45  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Russian conspiracy, Comey, related matters on: July 13, 2017, 10:33:41 AM
Third post:

A major progressive friend cites this hard to read page https://www.dailykos.com/stories/2017/7/9/1679290/-Abramson-connects-the-dots-collusion-is-certain-and-Trump-knew

and summarizes it thus:

==============================================

To summarize the collusion (the individual pieces are now out there and this is my belief about how it all came together):

- Trump's clan was contacted by his friends in Russia once it was clear that he would win the Republican Party nomination.

- Russia knew it would be unlikely Trump would win but believed it could test out its information warfare capabilities, which it had been bragging about in open conferences in Russia but now needed a test case on the international stage (the low price of oil has gutted the Russian economy and the oligarchs have stolen hundreds of billions from the Russian people without punishment, so cyber warfare rather than physical warfare are now their game).

- Trump's people, not actually believing they could win, took the bait and started meetings as far back as April to see how hey might get help from the country that has been funding Trump's poorly performing businesses (via DeutcheBank as the paper processor).

- In characteristic fashion, the Russians mount a full court press, meeting with a half dozen or more people involved in the campaign and built strong roots with people who were already US citizens acting as foreign agents (Manafort, et al).

- Russia promised a whole slew of support which was all discussed in all the meetings with the Russians--from Sessions to Manafort to Carter Page, to Don Jr's meetings--and included discussions of how the Trump camp could feed Russia information that Russia could use for micro targeting through Facebook (which has been proven).

- These meetings and discussions entangle the Trump campaign in a way that, even if the campaign wanted to get out, were stuck (proof is in how Flynn was brought in as national security advisor, in a giant coup for the Russians, proving to them that their entanglement works at the highest levels).

- The lack of cloaking is so evident that Trump gets on stage in early June 2016, 4 days after the meeting with Don Jr and the other cronies he brags that he is going to reveal a whole bunch of Clinton dirt! It was planned, it was orchestrated and colluded upon, no question about it.

- Russia knew that if their information warfare techniques could actually shift the election, with the recordings the Russians had on Trump's people, they owned the entire group and could see their bought and sold Trump people all the way into the White House (both to have morons who would repeal the sanctions but also to fundamentally destabilize the world and the US leadership role, which have now already happened in only a few months, and not even with Trump needing to be told what to do!).

- Trump was so highly undesirable that only an information warfare approach in the key districts (the now legendary 77,000 votes) created the painful secret anti-Clinton vote that allowed those districts to flip red and the Electoral College to go for Trump despite a massive popular vote win for Clinton (this was all aided by the stupid overconfidence of Clinton by not anticipating the flipping and not playing as dirty as Trump-Russia).

- When Trump can't seem to lose by saying the most extraordinary things, the Russians double-down on true fake news (Clinton running a sex ring...etc.) and find that people continue to believe it. In fact more than 75% of the Facebook impressions during the campaign were for fake rather than real news, affecting 15 million people, more than enough to sway 77,000 votes in key districts.

- When journalists (thank g-d) started penetrating the strange new world and leakers (thank g-d) started leaking at the greatest levels ever seen, we got to see a picture of exactly what a purchased, compromised executive branch looks like--state attorney generals who were promised a job but who were investigating Russian ties being fired, compromised people like Flynn being pushed in, firings of Comey who were close to the truth, and now the unstoppable cascade of new revelations coming out.

We will look back on this day and say, my g-d, it was all right there in front of us but too surreal to believe. From the likes of Michael Crichton or John Le Carré novels, this is real. The Russians have created the most powerful bioweapon: our own self-loathing and gullibility.

Believe.

46  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Kushner's digital campaign alleged to have directed Russian mis-intel on: July 13, 2017, 10:19:34 AM
http://www.mcclatchydc.com/news/nation-world/national/article160803619.html
47  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / of interest on: July 13, 2017, 10:08:02 AM
https://www.craigmurray.org.uk/-- no evidence of actual Russian interference

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4690834/Don-Trump-Jr-lawyer-linked-dirty-dossier-firm.html
This matter of the money laundering case does seem to have a whiff to it

Comey testifies FBI never got hands on DNC server
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SqIY8KvuoJo

48  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Trump's real estate dealings in Russia on: July 12, 2017, 11:45:14 PM
https://www.yahoo.com/news/new-details-emerge-moscow-real-estate-deal-led-trump-kremlin-alliance-190126219.html
49  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Bedouins in 1898 on: July 12, 2017, 11:39:57 PM


http://mashable.com/2016/09/17/bedouins/?utm_cid=mash-com-fb-retronaut-link#GzbEidKxbiqk
50  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Connecticut seriously narrows civil forfeiture on: July 12, 2017, 11:29:34 PM
https://www.forbes.com/sites/instituteforjustice/2017/07/11/connecticut-just-banned-civil-forfeiture-without-a-criminal-conviction/#6a83d6f552e7
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