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1  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Bulllet Train: He was for it, now he is against it on: Today at 08:49:39 PM
2  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Crossing the line of actual control on: Today at 08:43:48 PM

Crossing the Line of Actual Control
A woman works in the fields of Arunachal Pradesh, a territory India controls but China claims as part of Tibet.

    Pakistan's involvement in Kashmir will make it harder for India and China to resolve their disagreement over the strategically significant territories of Aksai Chin and Arunachal Pradesh.
    The enduring border dispute will further strain security ties between China and India and could spill over into other parts of their relationship.
    Confrontations between the two nuclear powers will become more frequent along the Line of Actual Control as China asserts its claim to disputed territories more aggressively, and as nationalism gains traction on both sides of the border.

The Line of Actual Control (LAC), the 4,057-kilometer boundary that runs between China and India along the arc of the world's highest mountains, has caused its share of strife. Over the years, the LAC has sparked standoffs, skirmishes and war between the two expanding nuclear powers. To try to keep the peace, Beijing and New Delhi began a dialogue in 2003 called the Special Representatives Meeting on the India-China Boundary Question. Yet 19 rounds of talks later, China and India still disagree on the location of the border between them — and over which side rightfully controls the territories of Aksai Chin and Arunachal Pradesh.

Despite their enduring differences, India and China largely have managed to keep their border disputes from spilling over into other aspects of their relationship, such as trade. But that may start to change. As China forges deeper ties with India's nuclear archrival, Pakistan, and as each side of the LAC tries to emphasize its sovereignty along the contested border, New Delhi and Beijing could have a harder time avoiding conflict.

A Wolf in Sheep's Clothing?

For Beijing, control of Arunachal Pradesh boils down to a matter of national security. One of China's main geopolitical imperatives is to secure a buffer on its western flank that, along with the Pacific Ocean on the east, would protect its densely populated core territory. Annexing the Kingdom of Tibet in 1950 enabled Beijing to realize that goal, so long as it could maintain control over its western buffer by thwarting challenges to its sovereignty. The Dalai Lama presented one such challenge. The prominent monk participated in a failed uprising against Beijing in March 1959. (His role in the revolt doubtless is one of the reasons the Chinese government views the Dalai Lama not as a spiritual figure but as a separatist whom it often describes as a "wolf in sheep's clothing.") After that, he fled to India — the birthplace of Buddhism, no less — where he received a warm welcome.

The Dalai Lama's presence was a boon for India. Hosting the exiled religious leader, for example, enabled New Delhi to draw international attention to the issue of Tibetan sovereignty, a tactic it still uses today. But India's support for the Dalai Lama vexed China, all the more so because New Delhi has long held control of Arunachal Pradesh and, with it, the strategic town of Tawang. As an important site in Tibetan Buddhism, Tawang represents an essential piece of China's strategy to assert its sovereignty over Tibet. Beijing often cites the town's significance in Tibetan Buddhism to support its claim to Tawang, and it probably won't give up its quest for control of the town anytime soon. China, in fact, may be disputing India's claim to Arunachal Pradesh, a territory Beijing would likely struggle to control, as a bargaining tactic to secure Tawang. Yet considering that relinquishing the town would give China greater access to India's vulnerable Siliguri corridor, New Delhi would hardly entertain the idea.

Kashmir: The Crown of India

Along the Western reaches of the LAC, India has its own bone to pick with China in the 38,000-square kilometer territory of Aksai Chin. New Delhi claims the area as part of Kashmir, a region whose control it has contested with Pakistan, as well, ever since the Partition of 1947. Today, India's authority in Kashmir extends to the regions of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh, collectively known as Jammu and Kashmir, while Pakistan administers two other constituent territories, Azad Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan. (New Delhi also claims another territory, the Trans-Karakoram Tract, which Islamabad ceded to Beijing in 1963.) Recognizing China's authority over Aksai Chin is a dangerous prospect for the Indian government, since doing so could signal to Pakistan that New Delhi's claims to its portion of Kashmir were similarly negotiable. In response, Islamabad could increase the military pressure on New Delhi along the Line of Control, where India and Pakistan have been fighting intermittently for decades.

A Tale of Two Disputes

And Pakistan isn't the only factor preventing New Delhi from making a compromise in Aksai Chin. Renouncing India's claims to the region could come at a prohibitive cost for Prime Minister Narendra Modi's political career. Members of the opposition and of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party alike would condemn the action as appeasement, a sign of weakness when India is trying to establish itself as a rising global power. The country, after all, is trying to exercise greater sovereignty in its border regions by building 73 new strategic roads to serve them. At the same time, China probably won't yield to India's demands over Aksai Chin, since it knows Pakistan would oppose the gesture and since a vital road, the G219 highway, runs through the region. Beijing would give New Delhi a portion of Aksai Chin at most as part of a border negotiation.

Succession, Not Secession

Because each side administers a territory that the other claims, compromise is the only solution to the dispute along the LAC. But neither Beijing nor New Delhi has much leeway to meet the other's demands. The situation likely will become even more tense as succession looms for the 81-year-old Dalai Lama. China has promised to observe the Tibetan Buddhist traditions to find a successor, which dictate that the reincarnated Dalai Lama must be born in Tibetan territory and approved by the central government. The process could come back to haunt Beijing if the 15th Dalai Lama is born in Tawang, thereby further shifting the spiritual center of gravity in Tibetan Buddhism to India. To try to weaken Beijing's power over his successor, meanwhile, the Dalai Lama has hinted that he may opt for emanation — that is, choosing the next Dalai Lama himself — rather than reincarnation.

In the meantime, relations between India and China seem to be entering a more contentious phase. Beijing continues to test its neighbors' limits and military responsiveness by asserting control over disputed territories, including those in the South China Sea and the Doklam Plateau, more and more brazenly. As China looks to hone its own military response, it may temporarily suspend its infrastructure projects as it has in the past. But once it resumes construction on these ventures — such as the road it was trying to extend through Doklam when its latest standoff with India began — China will provoke another confrontation. And the growing nationalist movements in both countries suggest that the next border dispute is not a question of if but of when.
3  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Rosneft-Kurd deal! on: Today at 08:29:41 PM
third post


    Russian state energy firm Rosneft's relationship with Iraqi Kurdistan will expand dramatically with the construction of a natural gas pipeline to Turkey.
    Iraqi Kurdistan has relied on Turkey in the past to export its oil, but the new natural gas pipeline will increase Turkey's dependence on the autonomous region.
    Turkey will welcome an alternative to Iranian and Russian natural gas, though buying from the Kurds will limit its influence over them.

The budding relationship between Russian energy firm Rosneft and Iraq's Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) is closer than ever. The company announced Sept. 18 that it was in the final stages of negotiating a deal with the KRG to finance and build a $1 billion natural gas export pipeline to Turkey. Once complete, the pipeline will transform the way the autonomous region in northern Iraq exports its energy. And its effect on regional politics will be no less dramatic.

Pipelines and Power

As a landlocked region, Iraqi Kurdistan relies on pipelines through nearby territories to carry the energy it exports to markets abroad. Its dependence on its neighbors has proved a vulnerability, though. The Kirkuk-Ceyhan pipeline that transports oil from Kurdistan to southern Turkey, for instance, gave Baghdad considerable influence over KRG leaders in Arbil because it crosses through territory under the Iraqi federal government's control. To squeeze concessions from Kurdistan, the Iraqi federal government could block the KRG's access to the pipeline.

The negotiating tool lost its power in 2014 when Arbil closed a 50-year export agreement with Ankara that enabled it to construct its own oil pipeline to Turkey through Iraqi Kurdistan. Under the new arrangement, however, the KRG simply traded its reliance on Iraq's federal government for dependence on Turkey. And though Ankara is a less demanding administrator than Baghdad was, it still has a great deal of power over Arbil, its energy exports and even its oil revenues, since the KRG conducts its energy transactions through Turkish Halkbank. Turkey, moreover, could shut off the KRG's access to the pipeline without jeopardizing its energy security because it, like Iraq, consumes only a small portion of the Kurdish oil that passes through its territory.

So far, Ankara hasn't exploited its advantage over the KRG as Baghdad did. Nevertheless, Arbil is well aware of the risk. Turkey's support for KRG President Massoud Barzani is based largely on convenience and could waver as the leader continues to back an independence referendum scheduled for Sept. 25. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan recently announced that his government would reveal its planned response to the referendum after meetings of his Cabinet and national security council Sept. 22. Though it's unclear whether Ankara's response will involve the KRG's pipeline, the possibility is worrisome for Arbil and has prompted it to look for a way to even the playing field with Turkey.

Enter Russia

The Rosneft-financed natural gas export pipeline would do just that. With a planned annual capacity of 30 billion cubic meters (98.43 billion cubic feet), the pipeline will be able to transport nearly two-thirds of the total volume of natural gas that Turkey imported last year. Not all of that natural gas would wind up in Turkey; some would likely travel on to markets in southeastern Europe. Even so, the pipeline would boost Turkey's consumption of natural gas from Iraqi Kurdistan, particularly since Ankara is eager to find alternative sources to reduce its dependence on Iranian and Russian supplies. The more natural gas Turkey imports from Iraqi Kurdistan, the less leverage Ankara will have over Arbil.

Rosneft stands to gain from the new pipeline, too. The firm's expansion in Iraqi Kurdistan not only dovetails with the Kremlin's strategy to insinuate itself into as many global hotspots as possible, but it also supports Rosneft's strategy to compete with Russian natural gas giant Gazprom. Rosneft has long tried to break Gazprom's monopoly on piped natural gas exports from Russia. With its plans to export natural gas each year from Iraqi Kurdistan to Turkey and southeastern Europe, Rosneft has set its sights on two of Gazprom's most important markets.

But Rosneft's pipeline deal is just the latest of in a string of recent agreements that bode well for the Kurdish energy sector. Earlier this year Rosneft became the first major oil company to start pre-purchasing Kurdish oil exports, throwing Arbil a financial lifeline. The Russian firm then used the arrangement as a springboard for the pipeline deal, along with an agreement to explore and develop five blocks in Iraqi Kurdistan. Apart from forging deeper ties with Rosneft, the KRG also finally settled its long-standing dispute with the Pearl Petroleum Co. over energy payments. The two sides reached an agreement that included future investments into natural gas production, which will contribute to the initial feedstock for the Rosneft pipeline.

The natural gas export pipeline that Rosneft and the KRG are negotiating could immediately change the way regional powers operate and behave. Although the infrastructure won't alter countries' individual interests in the region, it will change the factors at play in the dispute between Arbil and Baghdad — a dispute that will only intensify as Iraqi Kurdistan's independence referendum approaches.
4  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Kurds and Iraq government and the referendum on: Today at 08:26:11 PM
second post

Negotiations are underway between the Iraqi government and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) over the planned Kurdistan independence referendum, scheduled for Sept. 25. Numerous international powers oppose the referendum — including the United States, the United Kingdom, Turkey, Iran, Germany and other EU powers — and pressure is mounting on KRG President Massoud Barzani to delay the referendum. Meanwhile, Barzani is trying to turn popular approval among Iraqi Kurds for the referendum into a mandate that will improve his bargaining position. But the rallying support — and opposition — is bringing a political charge that's already spilled over into violence and could do so again.

The prospective referendum includes territories that the central government in Iraq and the KRG both claim as their own. As political negotiations continue, the security situation in the disputed territories is tense and risks escalating. In one such province, Diyala, Iranian-backed Shiite militias recently tried to claim territory, with militia leaders saying that the Kurds had no right to it. In Kirkuk province (which is more valuable than Diyala in part because of its oil reserves), not only do both the Iraqi and Kurdish governments lay claim to overlapping portions of the province, but outside powers Turkey and Iran also claim some degree of ownership and maintain ties to militia forces on the ground.

On Sept. 18, clashes erupted in Kirkuk between Kurdish paramilitary forces and Turkmen, resulting in the death of one Kurdish fighter and the wounding of a total of five men from both sides. As of Sept. 19, a nighttime curfew had been issued in Kirkuk to quell the violence and circumvent an escalation. Earlier the same day, in a pro-referendum rally in Kirkuk, provincial Governor Najmiddin Karim made an appearance in support of Kurdistan independence, underlining the political tension in the province. Many Kirkuk residents, particularly Arabs and Turkmen, do not support the referendum. Because neither Baghdad nor Arbil wields ultimate power over the militia forces scattered throughout the province, there is the risk further clashes will occur. More unrest could, in turn, invite the deployment of even more military forces — from both the Iraqi government and the KRG — to the province. Going forward, Kirkuk will be a province to watch as a bellwether for the mounting risk of violence over the upcoming referendum.
5  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor on the Kurd vote on: Today at 08:19:39 PM
Several detailed maps in the original:

In less than a week, the largest nation in the world without a state of its own — the Kurds — may finally hold a vote on whether to declare one. The approaching independence referendum, which Iraqi Kurdistan has planned for Sept. 25, marks the culmination of a long-running battle between the Kurdish government in Arbil and the central government in Baghdad. Thanks to the former's disarray and the latter's international backing, the vote seems doomed to fail in producing a distinct territory that the Kurds may call home. However, it could set Iraqi Kurdistan on a path toward greater autonomy, shaking the region from its stagnation and threatening further instability in the volatile Middle East.

A Cause That Unites and Divides

Though a familiar (and often futile) refrain throughout Iraq's history, calls for Kurdish independence have recently reached a crescendo. To most Iraqi Kurds, the referendum is a legitimate attempt to increase their autonomy from a central government that they believe to be unresponsive to their needs. Moreover, many within the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) believe that the promise of a vote — whether or not it is actually held — will help solve the troubled region's financial and political woes by giving Arbil leverage over Baghdad in the governments' negotiations over budget battles, the distribution of oil revenue and the status of disputed territories.

The rest of Iraq views the vote differently. Baghdad, along with citizens in the country's central and southern regions, has cast the plebiscite as a controversial and unconstitutional effort to destroy Iraq's territorial integrity and rob it of coveted land on the nation's fringes. The central government also worries about the precedent a Kurdish referendum might set for other regions of Iraq that have flirted with the idea of seeking more autonomy.

As history has shown, though, translating the referendum's likely "yes" result into action won't be easy. After a vote in favor of independence in 2005, Kurdish officials were thwarted in its implementation by a process rife with political and legal barriers. Many of those obstacles persist today, including infighting among Kurdish parties. Though many of Iraqi Kurdistan's factions support the plebiscite that the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) has championed, they disagree with the ruling party's motives. After all, the KDP hopes to use the vote as a mandate to keep Kurdish President Massoud Barzani or his son in power, maintaining its control over the KRG's economy in the process.

For Arbil, an Uphill Battle

Aided by inertia and the country's distraction with the Islamic State's rise, the KDP has had little trouble keeping its grip on Iraqi Kurdistan for the past few years. In fact, Arbil's participation in the fight against the extremist group has helped sway public opinion in favor of allowing the president to extend his tenure in the name of security. At the same time, Kurdish and Iraqi officials have temporarily set aside their deep-seated differences to beat back their common enemy.

But as the campaign against the Islamic State comes to an end, sparring between Arbil and Baghdad has begun to resume, driven in part by the looming independence vote. And given the immense popular support behind the initiative, it will likely be tough to stop. Nevertheless, the Gorran party is determined to try. Prominent members of Gorran, the second-largest party in the Kurdish parliament, have spearheaded a campaign to stall the referendum in hopes of weakening the position of their longtime KDP rival at the head of Kurdish politics. Though in the past the opposition party has proved willing to negotiate with its political competitors on matters related to oil revenue-sharing and the payment of civil servants' salaries, it has consistently refused to budge in its dissent regarding Barzani's extended presidency. Unless an opportunity arises to install an alternate candidate, Gorran and its allies will continue to try to block many of the KDP's proposals.

Meanwhile, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) — the third-largest party in the Kurdish Parliament — has remained steadfast in its support of the referendum and the KDP. Just last week, the smaller organization backed the ruling party's play to reopen the shuttered Kurdish Parliament so that lawmakers could issue a decision on the vote in time for its scheduled kickoff on Sept. 25. The PUK, however, is so deeply fractured that it has become an unreliable partner. The party's divisions were on full display Sept. 16 when prominent PUK leader Barham Salih defected to form a new ticket ahead of the KRG's presidential and parliamentary elections on Nov. 1. These electoral contests will lay bare the rifts running throughout Kurdish politics, regardless of whether the independence referendum takes place as planned.

Baghdad, for its part, is exhausting every legal avenue it has to make sure the vote is canceled. A nonbinding resolution by the Iraqi parliament, a ruling by the Federal Supreme Court of Iraq and firm statements by the prime minister have all challenged the constitutionality of the referendum and have demonstrated the central government's willingness to wield its legislative and judicial power against Arbil. Baghdad will continue to use these tools, and others, to try to coerce the KRG into delaying the vote in exchange for economic and political concessions. Because the two governments boast loyal military forces, however, there is a considerable risk of clashes breaking out as each side defends its interests and the territories both claim as their own, such as Kirkuk.

A Local Vote With Regional Impact

Though only Iraqi Kurds are participating in the referendum, its consequences will extend well beyond the bounds of the KRG and into the Kurdish communities of Iran, Syria and Turkey. Estimated to number some 25 million to 30 million throughout the Middle East, the Kurds live on lands that stretch across several countries' borders, and the century-long quest for statehood has repeatedly galvanized them all. Because of the overlap in the region's Kurdish communities, two of the KRG's closest neighbors — Turkey and Iran — have watched preparations for the referendum with mounting trepidation. Though long-standing rivals, Ankara and Tehran grapple with Kurdish insurgencies and secessionism at home, and in trying to stop the approaching plebiscite, they have found common ground.

Of the two, Turkey has more reason to be concerned about the vote. Home to a larger Kurdish population spread over valued arable land and strategic territory, Turkey faces more severe ramifications within its borders than Iran does in the event that Iraqi Kurdistan declares independence. In fact, Ankara's determination to prevent the Kurds from carving out a space of their own was one of the primary motives behind its military intervention into northern Syria in August 2016. Turkey will continue to work toward this goal, maintaining its pressure on Syrian Kurds while pounding the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) in northern Iraq. Ankara has already threatened to ramp up its military presence in Iraqi Kurdistan if the PKK, which has waged an insurgency within Turkey's borders, continues to threaten its security. Ankara could even increase pressure by using its position as one of Arbil's largest trade partners and as the host of a Kurdish oil pipeline to cut off energy revenues to the KRG. In addition, some rivers that feed into Iraqi Kurdistan flow through Turkey, giving Ankara the ability to curtail the region's water supplies.

While Iran has a smaller stake in events in Iraqi Kurdistan, it, too, has an interest in blocking the referendum. Tehran maintains a close relationship with Iraq's central government and strong ties to many of the Shiite militias that are loosely under Baghdad's control. Some of those groups have condemned the approaching vote for fear of losing the country's disputed territories to Arbil and have moved fighters into heavily contested areas, including Diyala and Kirkuk. On Sept. 17, Iran's National Security Council chief backed the militias by vowing to close Iran's border with the KRG, blocking the passage of goods and people across it.

The Kurds do enjoy the support — at least rhetorically — of one of the most powerful external actors with a foothold in Iraqi Kurdistan: the United States. Washington, long an ally of the KRG, is sympathetic to the Kurds' push for greater autonomy. But for the United States, timing is everything. An independence referendum could disrupt the international fight against the Islamic State, which will not end for several more months. Concerned about Tehran's attempts to gain influence over Baghdad, Washington would also prefer that Iraqi leaders have the ability to prepare for the country's 2018 elections without having to address the problem of a Kurdish referendum.

Over the past few years, the United States has funneled hundreds of millions of dollars to Kurdish peshmerga fighters combating the Islamic State. In theory, Washington could try to leverage some of this aid to persuade Arbil to postpone the vote. Since doing so could be detrimental to the coalition against the extremist group, however, U.S. officials will likely stick to less contentious tactics as it asks the Kurds for patience in their pursuit of independence. At best, they will acquiesce and use the specter of the referendum (or the mandate it yields) to revive stalled talks between Arbil and Baghdad. At worst, the Kurds will dig in their heels, worsening the conflict between Iraq's north and south while giving foreign players an excuse to intervene as they seek to protect their own interests.
6  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Serious read from Andrew McCarthy on Manafort's legal problems on: Today at 08:14:30 PM
For proper formatting, see here:


Paul Manafort Is in Legal Jeopardy fullscreen Paul Manafort (Reuters file photo: Carlo Allegri) Share article on Facebook share Tweet article tweet Plus one article on Google Plus +1 Print Article Adjust font size AA by Andrew C. McCarthy September 20, 2017 7:28 AM @AndrewCMcCarthy But Trump may not be We already knew that Paul Manafort was in a heap of trouble. It was almost two months ago — July 26, to be precise — that his Virginia residence was raided by the FBI in the predawn hours. As I said at the time, prosecutors do not obtain warrants to toss the homes of people they regard as cooperating witnesses. When they are dealing with cooperators, prosecutors politely request that documents be produced, expecting the witness (and his lawyers) to comply. If some coercion is thought necessary, they will issue a grand-jury subpoena — an enforceable directive to produce documents, but one that still allows the witness to hand over the materials, not have them forcibly seized. The execution of a search warrant, even if it goes smoothly, is a show of force. It is intimidating. When we first learned of the raid, I also emphasized its timing: predawn. Under federal law, search warrants are supposed to be executed during daytime hours, when agents can be expected to knock on the door, announce their presence and purpose, and be admitted by the occupant of the premises. If investigators want to search a home before 6 a.m., they need permission. To get it, they have to convince the judge that, if the occupant were alerted to the agents’ presence before they entered, it is likely he would destroy evidence or pose a danger. When I pointed that out, some said I was reading too much into it. To promote agent safety, they countered, the FBI proceeds in the early morning whenever possible. In fact, that is not always the case; and, in any event, the FBI’s preference to proceed in “the early morning” (e.g., at 6 a.m.), is not the same thing as barging in even earlier — for which, again, special permission is required. But now you needn’t take my word for it. Assuming Monday’s New York Times report is correct, the FBI entered covertly by picking the lock on Manafort’s front door while he was sleeping. Clearly, that is not standard operating procedure — certainly not in a white-collar case. Mueller’s investigators wanted to start grabbing files and copying hard drives before Manafort had a chance to call his lawyers or impede the search in any way. It was their way of saying Manafort could not be trusted. That’s intimidating, too. Powered by In light of the latest revelations (which our David French has outlined well in a Corner post), I stand by what I said when news of the raid first surfaced: There are two possible rationales for a search warrant under the circumstances. First, the legitimate rationale: Investigators in good faith believed Manafort, who is either a subject of or witness in their investigation, was likely to destroy rather than surrender relevant evidence. Second, the brass-knuckles rationale: The prosecutor is attempting to intimidate the witness or subject — to say nothing of others who are similarly situated — into volunteering everything he may know of an incriminating nature about people the prosecutor is targeting. Note that these rationales are not mutually exclusive. A few points are worth mulling over at this stage. 1. The current Manafort probe is a criminal investigation, which special counsel Mueller is pursuing with a grand jury in the Eastern District of Virginia. The July search involved a regular criminal-law search warrant. By contrast, the prior surveillances of Manafort were counterintelligence investigations conducted by the Obama Justice Department and FBI with the assistance of the secret court created by the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). Counterintelligence investigations are thus often called “FISA investigations” or “national-security investigations.” The difference, as we’ve pointed out several times, is significant. A criminal investigation is an effort to make a prosecutable case that a suspect has committed a crime. A FISA investigation is an effort to understand the actions and intentions of a foreign power by monitoring one of its suspected agents — i.e., by eavesdropping on communications or conducting searches under FISA. Being a foreign agent is not a crime, per se; whether the relationship is criminal depends on the nature of the actions the operative takes (including whether he has disclosed his agency, as required by federal law). So in a FISA investigation, it is not necessary to show probable cause that a suspect has committed a crime in order to search his home or tap his phone; all that is needed is probable cause that he is acting as an agent of a foreign power. According to CNN’s latest revelations, the FISA surveillance took place in two phases: the first, from 2014 until sometime in early 2016; the second in late 2016 into early 2017. This suggests that they were probably two separate FISA investigations: Initially, I suspect Manafort was investigated as an agent of the Kremlin-backed Yanukovich faction in Ukraine (for which he had done political consulting work for many years, reportedly for millions of dollars); subsequently, Manafort was investigated as a suspected agent of Russia in connection with the Putin regime’s meddling in the 2016 election. I am betting the probable-cause evidence was overwhelming in Phase I, and sketchy in Phase II. While criminal and FISA investigations are critically different, they can also be closely related — intelligence derived from FISA can incidentally bolster a criminal case, although the federal government is not permitted to use FISA as a ruse to conduct what is actually a criminal investigation. Mueller wants to prosecute Manafort, so criminal-law investigative tactics are now being used. 2. As I pointed out in the aforementioned column, the criminal search warrant executed at Manafort’s home on July 26 would give us insight into what suspected crimes Mueller is investigating. There would have to have been a probable-cause showing of specific crimes before a judge authorized the warrant; and the warrant itself had to have described the evidence the agents expected to find. We still do not know what crimes are under investigation, because the Justice Department did not comply with a regulation that calls for it to provide a factual description of the criminal investigation the special counsel has been authorized to conduct. But Manafort has a good idea of what Mueller is after, because the agents were required by law to provide Manafort with a copy of the warrant and an inventory of what they seized. These have not been publicly revealed. 3. Prosecutors do not like it when other investigative bodies, including congressional committees, are trying to scrutinize the same matters they are probing. We should bear this in mind in considering the timing of the search warrant. Not only did Manafort meet with Senate Intelligence Committee investigators the day before the search; he was also scheduled to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee on the very day of the search. Indeed, by pouncing at the precise time Manafort was cooperating with Congress, Mueller’s investigators were able to seize binders of documents that Manafort and his counsel had prepared to assist his Senate testimony. After the early-morning raid, Manafort ended up not testifying before the Judiciary Committee. The committee’s senior senators, chairman Charles Grassley (R., Iowa) and ranking member Dianne Feinstein (D., Calif.), later issued a joint statement that their subpoena to Manafort had been withdrawn because he produced documents (reportedly over 300 pages’ worth) to the committee. Obviously, though, Manafort would not have the same willingness to testify before Congress if he suddenly had reason to believe he was likely to be indicted (such that any testimony he gave could be used against him in a criminal case). The New York Times reports that Mueller’s prosecutors have told Manafort they intend to indict him. That, too, is intimidating. It is more plausible that the first FISA surveillance was aborted because it was not turning up any useful intelligence about the Putin regime and its Ukrainian puppets. 4. CNN claims that the first FISA surveillance of Manafort was shut down in 2016, after over a year, due to “lack of evidence.” That is strange. Again, the point of FISA surveillance is not to build a criminal case but to gather intelligence about the foreign power for which the subject is allegedly acting as an agent. To say FISA surveillance was aborted for “lack of evidence” makes it sound like Manafort was not an agent for the Ukrainian faction after all. But we know he was: Not only is this common knowledge; he belatedly registered as a foreign agent. It is more plausible that the first FISA surveillance was aborted because it was not turning up any useful intelligence about the Putin regime and its Ukrainian puppets. That implies that the Obama Justice Department and FBI concluded that Manafort was no longer an active foreign agent in early 2016 — before he (briefly) joined the Trump campaign. 5. CNN elaborates that the second FISA surveillance, apparently begun in late 2016, “was part of the FBI’s efforts to investigate ties between Trump campaign associates and suspected Russian operatives.” This is not news: Months ago, we began discussing reports that there may have been FISA surveillance of Manafort and longtime Trump confidant (and Manafort partner) Roger Stone, as well as Carter Page, a tangential figure who was identified by the Trump campaign as a foreign-policy adviser but does not seem to have been much of one or to have much of a relationship with Donald Trump. CNN says it is “unclear” when the second FISA surveillance started, but that the FBI’s interest in Manafort was rekindled “last fall because of intercepted communications between Manafort and suspected Russian operatives, and among the Russians themselves.” This FISA counterintelligence investigation of Manafort is said to have included a search warrant, executed in early 2017 on a storage facility he controlled. Because this was a FISA search warrant, it is classified; there has been no leak (yet) about what the Obama Justice Department’s application alleged and what the agents found. Assuming these claims are true (and of that we cannot be sure), the timing of the surveillance and search would be of great importance. Was it before the November election, in the immediate aftermath of which President Obama said the Russians did not and could not rig it? Or was it later, when Democrats had settled on a narrative that Russia stole the election in collusion with the Trump campaign? 6. It has been reported that during the campaign’s final weeks, the FBI was dealing with Christopher Steele, the former British spy retained to compile the so-called Trump dossier by the opposition research firm Fusion GPS. As the Washington Examiner’s Byron York reports, the FBI and Justice Department have been stonewalling the House Intelligence Committee’s efforts to find out whether any part of the dossier factored into in the Russia investigation. The dossier’s allegations, which former FBI director James Comey has described as “salacious and unverified,” were said to come from Steele’s well-placed Russian sources, and the research effort was backed by wealthy Hillary Clinton supporters. So, the question naturally arises: Was any part of Steele’s claims used by the FBI in applications to the FISA court for surveillance and searches of Manafort or other Trump associates? 7. On a parallel track with the 2016–17 FISA investigation, we also know that Obama’s national-security team was involved in a startling amount of “unmasking” in intelligence reporting — i.e., revealing the names of Americans who were incidentally caught up in foreign-intelligence-collection efforts targeting other people. Normally, unmasking just means that these identities get revealed in classified reports disseminated among intelligence agencies, not that they get revealed to the public. Yet, we now know that there was considerable leaking — very likely by design. Thus, another obvious question: Was there correlation between (a) the intelligence generated by the FISA surveillance of Manafort and (b) the unmasking of people associated with the Trump campaign? Obama’s national-security team was involved in a startling amount of ‘unmasking’ in intelligence reporting. We should stress, of course, that if there was solid evidence of an espionage relationship between Manafort and the Kremlin, there would be nothing necessarily inappropriate in conducting surveillance and unmasking relevant American identities. The question is: Was there solid evidence? 8. Some Trump enthusiasts are suggesting that the latest revelations about the surveillance of Manafort “vindicate” the president in his March tweets, which accused his predecessor of tapping his phone lines at Trump Tower. Even if Trump had been proven 100 percent correct about this — and he clearly has not — he would not be vindicated. It was an irresponsible allegation for him to make, especially the way he made it: (a) FISA investigations are classified; (b) it was an explosive thing to accuse a former president of; (c) since Trump had access to the relevant information, he had a special responsibility to be ironclad accurate if he chose to speak about it; and (d) Twitter is not a proper or sensible forum in which to make a startling claim regarding a surveillance process that requires some explanation. All that said, though, I have been arguing for months that the Obama camp’s denials, for all their strident indignation, have been narrow and Jesuitical. Some Obama apologists made the point that the president neither orders FISA surveillance nor directs the steps taken to carry it out. This was silly: Every sentient person understood that Trump was talking about the Obama administration under Obama’s guidance; he was not claiming that Obama personally interacted with the FISA court or personally conducted any surveillance. When interviewed by the press, former Obama officials, such as his national intelligence director, James Clapper, gave denials that sounded sweeping but, when parsed, told us nothing more than that Trump’s tweet was literally wrong — his personal phone lines at Trump Tower had not been targeted for eavesdropping. That carefully avoided addressing other phone lines that may have been subjected to surveillance, and it was not a categorical denial that Trump’s conversations had ever been monitored. The artful answers left open the possibility that Trump, even though not named as a target in a FISA application, may have been monitored incidentally, perhaps even under circumstances in which his interception had been quite foreseeable (because the actual FISA targets were associates of his known to be in contact with him). Now we have more reason to believe Manafort was targeted for FISA surveillance at a time when he had a residence at Trump Tower and was in periodic contact with Trump. Again, this doesn’t make Trump’s tweets correct or justifiable. But it does once again raise the question whether Trump’s conversations were tapped. If they were, the Obama camp’s denials would seem, shall we say, lawyerly. Bottom line: Paul Manafort appears to be in serious jeopardy, but any suspected criminality may involve matters having nothing to do with President Trump. It is worth recalling former FBI director James Comey’s congressional testimony: Trump wanted it made clear that he personally was not under investigation, but agreed that “if some of my satellites did something wrong, it’d be good to find that out.” Maybe we’ll soon find out. It has never necessarily followed that legal trouble for Manafort is legal trouble for Trump — even if it does portend tremendous political trouble for the Trump administration.

Read more at:
7  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / President Trump at the UN-- full speech on: Today at 03:42:23 PM
8  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: All Mr. Comey's Wiretaps on: Today at 03:34:23 PM
All Mr. Comey’s Wiretaps
Congress needs to learn how the FBI meddled in the 2016 campaign.
By The Editorial Board
Sept. 19, 2017 7:13 p.m. ET

When Donald Trump claimed in March that he’d had his “wires tapped” prior to the election, the press and Obama officials dismissed the accusation as a fantasy. We were among the skeptics, but with former director James Comey’s politicized FBI the story is getting more complicated.

CNN reported Monday that the FBI obtained a warrant last year to eavesdrop on Paul Manafort, Mr. Trump’s campaign manager from May to August in 2016. The story claims the FBI first wiretapped Mr. Manafort in 2014 while investigating his work as a lobbyist for Ukraine’s ruling party. That warrant lapsed, but the FBI convinced the court that administers the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) to issue a second order as part of its probe into Russian meddling in the election.

Guess who has lived in a condo in Trump Tower since 2006? Paul Manafort.

The story suggests the monitoring started in the summer or fall, and extended into early this year. While Mr. Manafort resigned from the campaign in August, he continued to speak with Candidate Trump. It is thus highly likely that the FBI was listening to the political and election-related conversations of a leading contender for the White House. That’s extraordinary—and worrisome.

Mr. Comey told Congress in late March that he “had no information that supports those [Trump] tweets.” Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper was even more specific that “there was no such wiretap activity mounted against—the President-elect at the time, or as a candidate, or against his campaign.” He denied that any such FISA order existed. Were they lying?

The warrant’s timing may also shed light on the FBI’s relationship to the infamous “ Steele dossier.” That widely discredited dossier claiming ties between Russians and the Trump campaign was commissioned by left-leaning research firm Fusion GPS and developed by former British spy Christopher Steele—who relied on Russian sources. But the Washington Post and others have reported that Mr. Steele was familiar to the FBI, had reached out to the agency about his work, and had even arranged a deal in 2016 to get paid by the FBI to continue his research.

The FISA court sets a high bar for warrants on U.S. citizens, and presumably even higher for wiretapping a presidential campaign. Did Mr. Comey’s FBI marshal the Steele dossier to persuade the court?

All of this is reason for House and Senate investigators to keep exploring how Mr. Comey’s FBI was investigating both presidential campaigns. Russian meddling is a threat to democracy but so was the FBI if it relied on Russian disinformation to eavesdrop on a presidential campaign. The Justice Department and FBI have stonewalled Congressional requests for documents and interviews, citing the “integrity” of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.

But Mr. Mueller is not investigating the FBI, and in any event his ties to the bureau and Mr. Comey make him too conflicted for such a job. Congress is charged with providing oversight of law enforcement and the FISA courts, and it has an obligation to investigate their role in 2016. The intelligence committees have subpoena authority and the ability to hold those who don’t cooperate in contempt.

Mr. Comey investigated both leading presidential campaigns in an election year, playing the role of supposedly impartial legal authority. But his maneuvering to get Mr. Mueller appointed, and his leaks to the press, have shown that Mr. Comey is as political and self-serving as anyone in Washington. No investigation into Russia’s role in the 2016 campaign will be credible or complete without the facts about all Mr. Comey’s wiretaps.
9  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Tucker on the Manafort taps on: Today at 10:08:10 AM
10  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The Raise Act on: Today at 09:59:24 AM
While I don't agree with some of this article's comments, I do post it because of its description of the specifics of the RAISE Act bill.
11  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / U PA Law School Profs attack "bourgeois values" on: Today at 09:55:30 AM
12  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / GPF: George Friedman: Unsavory Choices on: September 19, 2017, 07:59:38 PM
Reality Check

By George Friedman

The US Faces Unsavory Choices in the Korean Peninsula

In its attempt to deal with the threat from Pyongyang, the U.S. is facing another obstacle: South Korea.

For months now, the U.S. has been trying different measures to get North Korea to give up its nuclear program. In recent weeks, many have assumed that an attack on North Korea was no longer on the table – that there would be some sort of diplomatic solution, mainly focused on sanctions, that would force Pyongyang to fall in line.
But it’s dubious to believe that sanctions would cause North Korea to abandon something that it believes is so fundamental to its national security.

That seems to have been confirmed over the weekend by U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, who said that the U.N. Security Council has exhausted its options in dealing with North Korea and that the matter might have to be handed over to the Pentagon. We are therefore at the point where the possibility of military action must be taken seriously again. But in its attempt to deal with the threat from Pyongyang, the U.S. is facing another obstacle: South Korea.

Nikki Haley, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, speaks during a meeting of the U.N. Security Council concerning North Korea at U.N. headquarters, Sept. 11, 2017, in New York City. Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Enormous Casualties

South Korea has rejected the idea of attacking North Korea, asserting that it cannot risk another war on the Korean Peninsula, especially a conflict likely to cause even more bloodshed than the Korean War. Until a few weeks ago, we had assumed that, though South Korea was reluctant to go to war, it would remain subordinate to the United States. Both would participate in a war, and Seoul would allow the U.S. to use its forces, facilities and airspace. An attack without South Korean cooperation would be possible but would raise serious challenges.

North Korea would respond to a U.S. attack by inflicting enormous casualties on Seoul, South Korea’s capital and economic hub, using the artillery that is in range of the city. The South Koreans rejected the war option precisely because they could not accept these casualties. The North’s artillery is just as dangerous to South Korea as nuclear weapons are to the United States. The U.S. intention was to attack and destroy this artillery over time – but the problem was time. The longer it would take to neutralize this position, the greater the casualties. There doesn’t seem to be a rapid solution, given North Korea’s air defenses around the artillery.

Any nation must oppose an action that might lead to the destruction of its capital city and hundreds of thousands of citizens. If the United States gave South Korea prior warning of an attack, the South might feel compelled to inform the North in an attempt to save the city. If the United States attacked without informing the South Koreans, and the North Koreans opened fire, the South might make a sudden and radical decision to publicly repudiate its defense treaty with the U.S. in order to get North Korea to halt shelling. In the heated atmosphere, with North Korea under air attack and South Korea being shelled, the political exchanges would be unpredictable, and the political consequences long lasting.

This could shift the strategic reality of the Western Pacific. If an attack did trigger a radical shift in South Korea that included the removal of U.S. forces in the South, the Korean Peninsula would consist of two powers hostile to the United States – which might lead to some understanding between the two on coexistence. Japan, to this point armed but not officially, would have to accommodate itself in some way to the Korean Peninsula or, alternatively, openly arm itself. The Chinese would have an open opportunity to fish in the troubled waters of the Koreas.

This is all speculation, of course, but embedded in this speculation is a truth: South Korea cannot allow the destruction of its capital. The United States has been trying to persuade the South to accept this risk, but to no avail. Seoul prefers dealing with the North Koreans directly, without the Americans at its side.

A Confident Pyongyang

The North Koreans, on the other hand, clearly feel secure. They have sufficiently obfuscated the status of their program and hope that the U.S. is uncertain as to its progress. Washington would need sufficient, reliable intelligence about the status of the North’s nuclear program and the location of its nuclear facilities to launch an attack. Once North Korea has deliverable nuclear weapons able to reach the United States, any attack on Pyongyang might lead to a strike against the U.S. – Washington would need to be confident North Korea hasn’t reached this stage yet.

The North Koreans also understand that getting the Security Council to agree on anything is unlikely – Haley’s statement over the weekend is essentially an admission of that fact. Pyongyang also has significant control over its population, and once it gets nuclear weapons, its position in the world will change.

The U.S. still has the option to attack, but whether it does or not, it’s position in the Western Pacific will weaken. If the United States doesn’t attack and North Korea acquires nuclear weapons that can reach the U.S., the value of the U.S. defense treaty with the South will plummet – the basis of the alliance is after all the North Korean threat, and the likelihood that the U.S would engage a nuclear-armed Pyongyang would be very small.

It is possible the U.S. could persuade South Korea to change its position, but the potential casualties are daunting. For the United States, finding a way to eliminate North Korea’s artillery within the first hours of a war, while attacking its nuclear facilities, would be a key part of its attack plan. But even this would appear too risky to the South Koreans.

South Korea must make some sort of arrangement with North Korea. The South seems to be saying that it would be interested in such an entente, and the North would likely be interested in finding a basis for commerce with the South. Another option would be allying with a third power. An alliance with Japan is a historical impossibility, and China is not loved by either side. It is an option, but an option that both North and South Korea would not enjoy.

A very coldblooded analysis places the destruction of North Korea’s nuclear capability as the logical choice strategically for the U.S. The case can be made that protecting the U.S. from nuclear attack must take precedence for an American president over the fate of Seoul. It’s all logical and coldblooded, but among the more unsavory choices I have seen. There could, however, be another solution out there – one based in technology. In the United States, people tend to think technology solves all ills. Perhaps this could be the solution to the crisis.

13  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Dog Brothers 2017 Opening Gathering of the Pack on: September 19, 2017, 07:53:01 PM
1.   Avery Winter
2.   Al Romo
3.   Alexander Bondarenko  “Cunning Dog”
4.   Andrew Flores Sr  “C-Cholo Dog”
5.   Billy Poston
6.   Christopher Stacy
7.   Christopher Saari
8.   David Aranda
9.   David Frank  “Dog”
10.   Eric Bryant  “Tennessee Dog”
11.   Eduardo Garcia
12.   Ed Pfannenstiel
13.   Greg McNamee  “C-Donnybrook”
14.   Gerry Hibbitts  “Dog”
15.   Jason Heatwole
16.   Jason Jones
17.   Joel Charbonneau  “C-Go Gadget Dog”
18.   Jesse Pedregon
19.   Josh Rogers  “Lazy Eye Dog”
20.   James Pont  “Ice Dog”
21.   Jason Jones
22.   Joe Nepo  “Crash Dog”
23.   Kenneth Dudley
24.   Kia Javier
25.   Katherine Hendry  “Wicked Bitch”
26.   Lamont Glass  “C-Wile E. Dog”
27.   Mark O’Dell  “Fu Dog”
28.   Mario Ramirez  “C-Beast Hound”
29.   Matt Berry  “Foxhound”
30.   Michael Penafiel  “C-Omega Dog”
31.   Mark Whennen
32.   Nick Papadakis  “Pappy Dog”
33.   Peter Andrada  “Dungeon Dog”
34.   Pete Juska  “Smiling Dog”
35.   Richard Estepa  “Seeing Eye Dog”
36.   Roan Grimm  “Poi Dog”
37.   Romeo Kovacevic
38.   Ryan Napalan
39.   Steve Sachs  “Dog”
40.   Steve Shelburn  “Iron Dog”
41.   Taylor Brown
42.   Timothy Nelson
43.   Tom Moore
44.   Vinsent Franke  “Dancing Dog”

14  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Hillbillary Clintons long, sordid, and often criminal history on: September 19, 2017, 06:26:17 PM
"F.  The only unknown is what role Bill played.  The private server was his idea.  The Foundation was his idea.  The trading favors was likely his idea.  Their consultations behind the scenes are protected by husband-wife privilege.  Whether or not he falls with her is up to her."

And,  as we have previously noted her,  their marriage is domiciled in NY which considers money to one as money to both e.g. Bill's speech money is imputed to Hillary as well.
15  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / ISIS has 11,000 blanks Syrian passports on: September 19, 2017, 06:14:44 PM

Islamic State (ISIS) holds some 11,100 blank Syrian passports which German authorities fear could be used to bring potential terrorists into Europe, a report said.

The passports, stolen from Syrian government sites, are genuine identity papers that have not yet been filled out with an individual’s details, making them a valuable tool for forgers, German security services said according to a report by the Bild am Sonntag newspaper.

Investigators have assembled a list of serial numbers of the blank passports and the authorities that issued them, the newspaper reported, citing confidential documents from federal police and the interior ministry.

“Developments in connection with the refugee situation have shown that terrorist organizations are using the opportunity to infiltrate potential attackers or supporters into Europe and Germany undetected,” a spokeswoman for the BKA federal criminal police told Bild am Sonntag.

A number of the ISIS jihadists behind the Paris attacks that claimed 130 lives in November 2015 were found to have used fake or altered Syrian passports.

Some 8,625 passports checked by German migration authorities in 2016 turned out to be fake according to documents seen by Bild am Sonntag

16  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Trump was right, Feds were wiretapping Trump Tower (Manafort) on: September 18, 2017, 08:20:45 PM
17  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Barry Diller's Hudson River Dream Dies on: September 18, 2017, 08:13:51 PM
18  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / President Trump's golf ball on: September 18, 2017, 07:41:15 PM
19  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Military Science, Military Issues, and the Nature of War on: September 18, 2017, 08:21:00 AM
Good article!


"There is no need to rely on the word of missile defense boosters, or, for that matter, trust the analysis of jaded missile defense critics. We could stop testing for success and begin testing for actual performance, with “red team – blue team” tests, for example, to simulate a determined foe"

I get the point of course, but it misses another point-- our need to put uncertainty in the adversary's mind.  If we do "red team blue team" tests, our capabilities become known.  If things are as bad as this writer says, then the adversary will become emboldened.
20  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / GA Supreme Court: Students can argue self-defense to justify school fights on: September 18, 2017, 08:13:10 AM
21  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Houston ABC reporter regrets it on: September 18, 2017, 01:08:58 AM
22  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Horny Sen.Ted Cruz? on: September 17, 2017, 11:59:17 PM
My son has been having good fun with this for a couple of days.  He says (unconfirmed by me) that Cruz "liked" and incest clip.

23  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / GOP considering ending blue slip rule to help Trump fill the courts on: September 17, 2017, 11:51:23 PM
24  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Enquiring minds want to know: Col. Sanders and KFC on: September 17, 2017, 09:35:07 PM
As I was driving along today, a question popped into mind about all these Confederate statues:  Does this mean that black people who eat at Col. Sanders' Kentucky Fried Chicken are Uncle Toms and white customers are racists?  Enquiring minds want to know , ,,
25  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Analysis from a Bodega in Queens NYC to Egypt on: September 17, 2017, 09:27:16 PM
26  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Big Expansion of the Green Zone in Kabul on: September 17, 2017, 09:18:56 PM
27  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / China's Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region on: September 17, 2017, 09:13:42 PM
Another Paradise Lost to China's Ambition
A Keriyan senior citizen picks Euphrates poplar tree branches in China's Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region.
(China Photos/Getty Images)

The tale of the Silk Road is one of intrigue, war and cities lost. But within this complex and quixotic tableau, it is the story of China's Tarim Basin that best echoes the age-old warning: History is doomed to repeat itself.

The ill-fated river network comprises the Kashgar, Yarkant, Hotan and Aksu rivers, which stream from the glacial and snow melt of surrounding mountaintops to converge at Aral, where they merge into the Tarim River. The waterway then flows through the Taklamakan Desert, a sea of sand in the shadow of the Tianshan Mountains and one of the driest regions in the world. The name Taklamakan means "once you enter, you don't come out" — an accurate description, not just of the experiences of hapless ancient travelers but also of the river system whose waters never escape the desert.

The remains of the lost city of Niya lie deep in the Taklamakan Desert.
(International Dunhuang Project/Wikimedia Commons)

Few of the rivers that feed the Tarim flow year-round, particularly in recent decades as agriculture has strained the limited basin's supplies. But the burden farming has placed on the region's resources is hardly new. The westernmost reach of the Chinese world has long been essential to the country's aspirations of building a buffer against foreign invasion, and at the height of the Silk Road era, it provided the empire with access to lucrative trade networks that stretched across the Eurasian landmass. Sustaining the sizable populations needed to secure and defend the region naturally required funds and food, resulting in the adaptation of intensive agricultural practices and irrigation. From antiquity to modernity, this practice has caused rivers to run dry and lakes to vanish.

Even so, some areas of China have begun to make an effort to restore the vital waters. Nationwide environmental reforms, backed by growing popular support, have only bolstered this local initiative. But sprawling cotton farms, an emerging energy sector and the surrounding Xinjiang province's role as a link in Beijing's crucial Belt and Road Initiative could jeopardize the basin's nascent recovery.

By the Waters of the Taklamakan

Throughout history, the parched lands of the Taklamakan Desert have experienced some brief flashes of relief. Cities and kingdoms thrived near oases, creating stops along the Silk Road's northern branch. And where the Tarim River spilled its waters near the Kuruk-tagh ("dry mountain"), there was once a lake known by some as Lop Nur, and by others as the Puchang Sea. The body of water is estimated to have been somewhere between Lake Ontario and Lake Michigan in size, and it fed the Loulan Kingdom from 200 B.C. to 220 A.D. during the Han dynasty.

By 645, however, the settlement had been abandoned. According to recent sediment studies, its rapid collapse stemmed from the overuse of the region's water resources, which reached a level comparable to the desiccation of the Aral Sea taking place in this century. Lop Nur — and the Tarim Basin that fed it — simply wasn't up to the task of sustaining the needs of an empire. The westward expansion that the Han dynasty oversaw brought an unprecedented number of people to the region to live in fortified cities and trading posts. Large-scale irrigation emerged in the first century A.D., a novelty in a corner of the world where cultivation was confined to lands surrounding natural oases.

A satellite image shows the dried up lake of Lop Nur.
Growing Cotton in the Desert

Over a millennium later, the waters of the Tarim Basin are once again straining to meet the needs of the local population and economy. Already showing increasing levels of salinity — a sign of overuse — the waters began to face worse conditions in the latter half of the 20th century. Between 1959 and 1983, the rate of desert absorption of the Tarim Basin increased from 66 to 81 percent. Lop Nur, which had persisted in a diminished form as a "wandering lake," disappeared completely in 1964.

Many factors led to the unsustainable consumption behind these waterways' decline, but agriculture was undoubtedly the most culpable. The Chinese government has built numerous reservoirs and dams to alter the flow of the region's intermittently supplied rivers, including the Tarim, and today farming accounts for nearly half of Xinjiang's gross domestic product. Lately the region has only gotten thirstier. Throughout most of the past century, 60 to 80 percent of the land has been dedicated to growing grain, but by the 1990s the production of cash crops — primarily cotton — had skyrocketed.

Xinjiang's cotton industry is now caught in the middle of the tug-of-war taking place between China's geopolitical imperatives and the environment's limits. The region contributes more than 50 percent of China's total cotton production and about 10 percent of the world's supply each year — output supported by the Taklamakan Desert's water resources. At the same time, Xinjiang's population is expanding once again, and by some estimates it will maintain its double-digit growth through 2020. As a result, the pressure mounting on the Tarim Basin is unlikely to ease in the years ahead, even as the Chinese government sinks billions of yuan into restoring parts of the river.

Ironically, climate change has granted the Tarim River a temporary reprieve: Warming temperatures have accelerated the runoff from nearby glaciers, adding to its supplies in the short run. Still, this much-needed boost is finite. Current temperature projections indicate that glacial waters, which account for roughly 40 percent of the volume of rivers nearby, could permanently dry up in the long run.

Brimming With Discontent

To make matters even more complicated, the issue of water scarcity is closely intertwined with the fraught minority politics of Xinjiang — a region that China's Han majority shares with the Turkic Uighur minority. The Han control much of the area's cotton production through the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps, which functions as a blend of paramilitary and business units. Such bingtuan systems have deep roots: In the final centuries B.C., Han troops were responsible for implementing the region's first massive irrigation and land reclamation projects. This "Tuntian" model of military colonization was highly successful, leveraging the power of the state to see through the massive and complicated undertakings needed to ensure that agriculture flourished in Xinjiang.

The Tuntian model still exists today, though it has given rise to a glaring imbalance between large quasi-military operations and small civilian farmers. While local family plots in the region rely on public infrastructure for access to water, subjecting them to usage regulations, bigger farms can afford to install their own pumps, which aren't necessarily beholden to the same laws. Meanwhile, the runoff from agricultural pursuits pollutes what water resources are left. Each of these issues disproportionately affects native Uighurs, an ethnic group that has traditionally relied on oasis-based smallholdings and animal husbandry to survive. Alterations in the water system are deeply disruptive to this way of life, and as water scarcity worsens in Xinjiang, so, too, may the discontent simmering among its Uighur community.

Such discord could certainly throw a wrench in Beijing's plans for Xinjiang. The region is a cornerstone of China's newest Silk Road, the sprawling Belt and Road Initiative. Through Xinjiang, Beijing hopes to connect its lands westward to Europe, by way of Central Asia, and southward to the Indian Ocean, by way of Pakistan. But doing so would require maximizing Xinjiang's output — including in cotton-based textiles — for export along these trade routes.

After nearly two decades of restoration efforts in the Tarim Basin, it is still unclear whether the the region's water resources will be able to shoulder their newest burden. After all, attempts to line canals and improve irrigation efficiency can only go so far when it comes to growing cotton in the desert. If Xinjiang maintains its current level of production, it will likely come at the expense of an ecosystem that boasts one of the highest concentrations of rare vegetative species in the world. And though it won't be the first time a nation's imperatives trump environmental conservation, it could be the last in the Tarim Basin if Beijing stretches the river's resources too far.
28  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / President Trump pressing State Dept to get off its ass and release emails on: September 17, 2017, 11:43:24 AM
29  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: President Trump on: September 17, 2017, 11:03:57 AM
Hyper-ventilation in my opinion.
30  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Vote machines can be hacked without a trace on: September 17, 2017, 11:01:44 AM
31  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / PJ O'Rouke's new e-magazine on: September 16, 2017, 06:11:06 PM
32  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / MleaniaTrump on: September 16, 2017, 06:09:20 PM

33  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Cuba: Sonic Attacks on: September 16, 2017, 05:55:38 PM
34  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Ataques con sonido on: September 16, 2017, 05:55:00 PM
35  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Facebook and the Russians on: September 16, 2017, 05:49:52 PM

36  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Gov. Eric Greitens of MO on: September 16, 2017, 12:09:11 PM
A Former Democrat Rises in Trump Country
Missouri’s governor talks about his journey to the right, his fights with the unions, and his experience as a Navy SEAL.
Illustration: Ken Fallin
By Matthew Hennessey
Sept. 15, 2017 6:10 p.m. ET

Jefferson City, Mo.

A few years ago, Eric Greitens was a Democrat—not that you’d know it from his first eight months as the hard-charging Republican governor of Missouri. A Rhodes scholar and former Navy SEAL, Mr. Greitens has pursued an unexpectedly muscular conservative agenda, enacting free-market reforms and gleefully going toe-to-toe with unions. While the GOP in Washington seems bent on squandering its legislative and executive power, Mr. Greitens, 43, illustrates how Republicans in many states are intent on making the most of theirs.

A day after taking office in January, Mr. Greitens signed an executive order to freeze pending state regulations. It also required agencies to review rules already on the books to ensure not only that they are “essential to the health, safety, or welfare of Missouri residents” but that they pass a cost-benefit test. In July he assented to a law overriding St. Louis’s $10-an-hour minimum wage. “This increase in the minimum wage might read pretty on paper, but it doesn’t work in practice,” he said at the time. “Government imposes an arbitrary wage, and small businesses either have to cut people’s hours or let them go.”

Mr. Greitens’s most contentious actions have challenged union power. His Democratic predecessor, Gov. Jay Nixon, repeatedly vetoed right-to-work legislation, under which workers can’t be forced to join a union as a condition of employment. Mr. Greitens signed a right-to-work bill within a month of his inauguration.

During a 75-minute interview at the governor’s mansion, Mr. Greitens explains that his inspiration came from another Midwestern state. “I read Mitch Daniels’s book, ‘Keeping the Republic,’ several times” before running for office, he says. The former Indiana governor’s 2011 paean to fiscal discipline and personal responsibility provided an example, as did the right-to-work law Mr. Daniels signed in 2012. “Look at the data,” Mr. Greitens says. “Indiana became a right-to-work state, and today Indiana has more private-sector union members than before . . . because it was good for the economy.”

Not surprisingly, the unions don’t share that view. They formed a group called We Are Missouri, which last month turned in more than 300,000 signatures—only about 100,000 were required—to force a referendum on right to work. If Missouri’s secretary of state certifies the names, right to work will go before voters in 2018—and the law will remain on hold until then. The tactic has succeeded before: In 2011 a referendum campaign styled We Are Ohio defeated Gov. John Kasich’s collective-bargaining reforms for public employees.

Mr. Greitens launched another salvo at the unions in May. He signed a law banning so-called project labor agreements, which require that all workers hired under a given government contract be paid union wages. In a move calculated for confrontation, Mr. Greitens invited Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker —whose 2011 collective-bargaining reforms stuck, unlike Mr. Kasich’s—to attend a bill-signing ceremony in a St. Louis suburb. The unions and their Democratic allies got the message. “Eric Greitens is rubbing salt in the wounds of working families by celebrating another attack on their paychecks,” said Missouri’s Democratic chairman, Stephen Webber.

Mr. Greitens is unruffled by the criticism. “I think that you’ve got to take action that actually helps people,” he says. “We know that we’re always going to get criticized and we recognize that there are certain liberal media institutions in the state of Missouri that will always see whatever we do in the worst possible light.” But the economic data, he insists, tell a different story: “Since I’ve been in office, Missouri has been outpacing the nation in job growth. Missouri has moved up nine places in the ranking of best states to do business. We’ve got more jobs in Missouri than ever before.”

What explains his appetite for bare-knuckle fights with the unions? More to the point, how did a lifelong Democrat announce he was switching parties the year before the 2016 election, run as a gun-toting conservative, win a Republican primary against three veteran officeholders, and—in his first try for public office—defeat a sitting state attorney general on the November ballot?

Mr. Greitens’s critics—Republican and Democratic alike—have implied it was mere opportunism. During last year’s campaign a Kansas City Star reporter suggested Mr. Greitens was “an ideological weather vane” whose “conservative bona fides” were in question. His evolution has matched the state’s. Missouri was a longtime presidential bellwether—carried by the winner of every election between 1960 and 2004—but has shifted Republican in the past decade. Donald Trump won here by 18.5 points.

Mr. Greitens’s explanation? “My parents were both Democrats and I grew up as a Democrat,” he says. “Basically I was told that the Democrats were the party that cared about people. I liked people and I cared about them, so I was a Democrat.”

His politics began shifting rightward while he was in college, he says, after an encounter with a Bosnian refugee during a trip to the Balkans in 1994: “This guy says to me, ‘Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad you’re here. I appreciate that there’s a roof over my head and that there’s food for my kids and that there’s a kindergarten for them . . . but if people really cared about us, they’d also be willing to help to protect us.’ ”

That, he says, led to the realization, that “if you care about people, then you’re willing to act not just with compassion, but you’re also willing to act with courage.” In January 2001, ink not yet dry on his Oxford doctorate, he enrolled in the Navy’s Officer Candidate School. By 9/11 he was training to become a SEAL. Then he served four overseas deployments—in Afghanistan, Southeast Asia, the Horn of Africa, and Iraq. In the Philippines he commanded a detachment of 20 men on two 82-foot Mark V special operations craft patrolling the waters of the Sulu Archipelago in support of Filipino marines battling the Islamic terrorists of Abu Sayyaf. In Iraq, he was in charge of an “al-Qaeda-targeting cell.”

After returning stateside in the mid-2000s, Mr. Greitens started a security consulting business and founded The Mission Continues, a nonprofit that helps veterans readjust to civilian life. The organization’s success gave Mr. Greitens a national profile. He wrote two best-selling books, 2011’s “The Heart and the Fist” and 2015’s “Resilience.” In 2013 Time magazine named him one of the world’s 100 most influential people.

With his star on the rise, Mr. Greitens entertained the advances of Missouri Democrats who wanted him to run for Congress. All the while, he says, his politics were evolving. He announced his party switch in a July 2015 op-ed at “I was raised to stand up for the little guy, for working families and the middle class,” he wrote. “If I thought the Democratic Party had the right ideas to do that, I’d still be one of them. But they don’t.”

The change in his thinking, he says, grew out of experience more than philosophy: “Seeing what it took to actually start a business, while at the same time working with all of these other veterans who are trying to start businesses, just gave me a very practical sense of what it means to deal with burdensome regulations.” He didn’t know policy, so he turned to think tanks. “I read things that are put out by the Manhattan Institute. I read things that are put out by the American Enterprise Institute. I also read things that are put out by left-leaning organizations,” he says. “I think that it’s important to see what works.”

Last month Mr. Greitens traveled to Springfield, in the state’s southwest, to greet President Trump, who was in town stumping for tax reform. Unlike in many states, Mr. Trump did better in Missouri than other Republicans running statewide, beating Mr. Greitens’s vote total by more than 150,000. A recent SurveyMonkey poll gives the president a respectable 50% approval rating in the Show Me State.

When I ask Mr. Greitens if he has a good relationship with Mr. Trump, he grins broadly and doesn’t quite answer. “The president, on multiple occasions, has been great to Missouri,” he offers. He cites a February incident in which vandals desecrated a Jewish cemetery in St. Louis. Mr. Greitens, who is Jewish, organized an interfaith initiative to restore the damaged headstones. The president called the next day to thank him, the governor recalls, for “standing up to anti-Semitism” and “bringing people together.”

Isn’t that a contrast with Mr. Trump’s initial equivocation last month after white supremacists marched in Charlottesville, Va.? Mr. Greitens is quick to condemn that rally. “I grew up in this household where we always talked about, ‘Never again. Never again,’ ” the governor says. “You have to be willing to stand up and fight and defend people.” But he declines to criticize the president directly, observing only that in a crisis, it’s important for a leader “to send a very clear and strong message.”

He faults his predecessor, Gov. Nixon, for failing to do so in 2014 when riots erupted in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson. “The great tragedy of Ferguson,” Mr. Greitens says, “was that if you had had a leader who had shown up with any kind of command presence and courage and calm and clarity, we could have had peace by the second night.” Mr. Greitens’s time as a SEAL taught him how to assess whether a tense situation is about to spin out of control: “What you saw in Ferguson was a complete abandonment of the situation by our political leadership.”

Same with the 2015 disruptions on the University of Missouri’s flagship Columbia campus. The Mizzou administration, Mr. Greitens says bluntly, “was too willing . . . to appease the left.” There was “a failure to act,” as in Ferguson. “One of the things that I’ve found in everything that I’ve done: People want leaders to create a sense of direction and to lead and to act,” he says, “and they know that we will never get everything perfectly right, but they want us to lead.”

While Mr. Greitens is conservative, he isn’t always predictable. When I ask his opinion of Mr. Trump’s proposal to ban transgender military service members, he opposes it vigorously. “The military is not a place for us to have culture wars,” he says. “The No. 1 criteria that we should be looking at for every person who joins the military is, ‘Can they close with and kill the enemy in close-quarters battle?’ ”

Then last month Mr. Greitens earned praise from opponents of capital punishment when he stayed the scheduled execution of Marcellus Williams. A DNA test had raised serious doubt about whether Mr. Williams had in fact killed Felicia Gayle, a St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter who was stabbed at home in 1998. Mr. Greitens says he’s not against the death penalty but views it as “the ultimate irrevocable punishment.” A board of inquiry will now review the evidence against Mr. Williams and make a recommendation. “Ultimately, it’ll be my decision,” the governor says, “and I will make it.”

Mr. Greitens is the nation’s second-youngest governor, after 42-year-old Chris Sununu of New Hampshire. If he survives what is sure to be an unrelenting union assault on his 2020 re-election, Mr. Greitens will be only 50 when term limits require him to leave the governor’s mansion in 2025. What comes after? Mr. Greitens is too disciplined to bite. “There are certain times I think in your life where you feel like you’re in exactly the right place at the right time,” he says. “I love doing this job.”

Mr. Hennessey is an associate editorial features editor at the Journal.
37  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Solar Panel Protectionism on: September 16, 2017, 12:04:05 PM
Solar Power Death Wish
Subsidies aren’t enough. Now solar-panel makers want tariffs.
Photo: istock/Getty Images
By The Editorial Board
Sept. 15, 2017 6:15 p.m. ET

Billions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies haven’t made the U.S. solar industry competitive, and now two companies want to make it even less so. Suniva Inc., a bankrupt solar-panel maker, and German-owned SolarWorld Americas have petitioned the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) to impose tariffs on foreign-made crystalline silicon photovoltaic cells.

Solar cells in the U.S. sell for around 27 cents a watt. The petitioners want to add a new duty of 40 cents a watt. They also want a floor price for imported panels of 78 cents a watt versus the market price of 37 cents. In other words, they want the government to double the cost of the main component used in the U.S. solar industry. Solar electricity prices could rise by some 30% if the ITC says they’ve been injured by foreign competition—a decision is due by Sept. 22—and the Trump Administration goes along with the tariff request.

U.S. manufacturers won countervailing and antidumping duties against imports from China and Taiwan in 2012 and in 2015. But now they’re resorting to Section 201 of the Trade Act of 1974 because they don’t need to show they are victims of dumping or foreign government subsidies. They only need to show that imports have harmed them.

The harm is real but that’s due to changes in the marketplace. The U.S. solar industry has discovered that its comparative advantage lies not in making panels, a basic product, but in adding value to imported cells and modules. This involves making and installing racking or framing systems and incorporating innovations like trackers that orient toward the sun.

To turn sunshine into energy requires inverters that translate the energy captured on a solar panel into something that can be sent on the electrical grid. While there are fewer than 1,000 jobs in U.S. panel manufacturing, some 260,000 jobs rely on access to imported panels.

Not even the investment firm financing the Suniva legal team for the petition believes in the future of U.S. solar panel manufacturing. SQN Capital Management, which is owed an estimated $51 million by Suniva, wrote a letter in May to the Chinese chamber of commerce indicating that the 201 case would go away if a Chinese company bought Suniva’s $55 million in manufacturing equipment.

Higher prices for panels will also hurt utilities that have invested in renewable fuels. In an August 21 letter to the ITC, Diane Denton of Duke Energy wrote that over the last five years Duke has invested heavily in solar and has plans for more. But Duke needs “access to solar CSPV modules at globally-competitive prices” so it can “provide cost-competitive solar power to our customers,” Ms. Denton wrote.

The ITC hasn’t investigated a 201 trade case since the Bush Administration slapped a 30% tariff on steel imports in 2002. That fiasco cost an estimated 200,000 jobs in U.S. steel-consuming industries before the Administration dropped the tariffs 18 months later.

Solar tariffs would be another destructive exercise that benefits a handful of Suniva and SolarWorld investors at the expense of everyone else—including the rest of the solar industry. This is protectionism at its worst.
38  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Baraq the Dissembler on: September 16, 2017, 12:01:51 PM
 By William McGurn
Sept. 11, 2017 7:05 p.m. ET

Throughout his political life, Barack Obama has been hustling America on immigration, pretending to be one thing while doing another.

Now he’s at it again. Mr. Obama calls it “cruel” of Donald Trump both to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program that protected hundreds of thousands of people who came to the U.S. as children illegally—and to ask Congress to fix it. The former president further moans that the immigration bill he asked Congress to send him “never came,” with the result that 800,000 young people now find themselves in limbo.

Certainly there are conservatives and Republicans who oppose and fight efforts by Congress to open this country’s doors, as well as to legalize the many millions who crossed into the U.S. unlawfully but have been working peacefully and productively. These immigration opponents get plenty of attention.

What gets almost zero press attention is the sneakier folks, Mr. Obama included. Truth is, no man has done more to poison the possibilities for fixing America’s broken immigration system than our 44th president.
Opinion Journal Video
Opinion Journal: Obama’s Dreamer Dishonesty
Main Street Columnist Bill McGurn on how the former president has poisoned the immigration reform debate. Photo Credit: Getty Images.

Mr. Obama’s double-dealing begins with his time as junior senator from Illinois, when he helped sabotage a bipartisan immigration package supported by George W. Bush and Ted Kennedy. Mr. Obama’s dissembling continued during the first two years of his own presidency, when he had the votes to pass an immigration bill if he had chosen to push one. It was all topped off by his decision, late in his first term, to institute the policy on DACA that he himself had previously admitted was beyond his constitutional powers.

Let this columnist state at the outset that he favors a generous system of legal immigration because he believes it is good for America. Let him stipulate too that a fair and reasonable solution to 800,000 children who are here through no fault of their own should not be a sticking point for a nation as large as America. But once again, here’s the point about Mr. Obama: For all his big talk about how much he’s wanted an immigration bill, whenever he’s had the opportunity to back one, he’s either declined or actively worked to scuttle it.

Start with 2007, when a coalition of Republican and Democratic senators came up with a bill that also enjoyed the support of the Bush White House. It wasn’t perfect, but it extracted compromises from each side—e.g., enhancements for border security, a guest-worker program, and the inclusion of the entire Dream Act, the legislation for children who’d been brought here illegally that Mr. Obama claims he has always wanted.

Sen. Obama opted to back 11th-hour amendments that Kennedy rightly complained were really intended as deal-breakers. At a critical point, Kennedy urged that President Bush ask then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to keep the Senate in session to get the last few votes the bill needed. Mr. Reid opted for the Obama approach: Concluding he’d rather have the political issue than actual reform, he adjourned the Senate for the July 4 recess.

A year later Mr. Obama was running for president. Before the National Council of La Raza, he vowed: “I will make [comprehensive immigration reform] a top priority in my first year as president.” Yet notwithstanding the lopsided Democratic majorities he enjoyed in Congress his first two years, he didn’t push for immigration legislation, which makes his promise to La Raza rank right up there with “if you like your health care plan you can keep it.”

Mr. Obama frequently noted the limits on his powers. “I know some here wish that I could just bypass Congress and change the law myself. But that’s not how democracy works,” he said. Then in 2012 he decided he would indeed change the law himself. A June 2012 Journal editorial captures the cynicism built into the DACA memo.

The president’s move, the Journal predicted, “will further poison the debate and make Republicans more reluctant to come to the negotiating table and cut a deal.” The editorial went on: “One begins to wonder if anything this President does is about anything larger than his re-election.”

Today Carl Cannon, executive editor and Washington bureau chief for RealClearPolitics, is almost alone in the national press in pointing to this history, in a piece pegged to the Democratic response to President Trump’s pitch to codify DACA into law. “Instead of responding to this overture in a spirit of compromise,” Mr. Cannon writes, “Democrats chose vitriol and name-calling, their default position in the Trump era.”

Perhaps, suggests Mr. Cannon, a “certain ex-president” is accusing Mr. Trump of cruelty “to help us forget” that when he and other Democrats “had the chance to grant 11 million immigrants access to the American dream, they instead chose, for partisan purposes, to keep them in the shadows.” Fair enough to criticize Mr. Trump and Congress for whatever they do going forward to clean up this mess. But let’s remember the Obama duplicity that created it.
39  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Russians about to adjiust strategy in Ukraine? on: September 16, 2017, 08:34:30 AM
Russia may soon change its strategy on the conflict in Ukraine. According to a report from independent Russian news publication RBC on Sep 15, Russia will cut humanitarian aid to the breakaway territories of Donbas in Eastern Ukraine beginning in 2019-2020. These plans were reportedly outlined in the minutes of a meeting, which allegedly came into the possession of RBC. Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak chaired the meeting Sept. 1.

Kremlin Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov refuted the reports, saying that Russia, the primary military and financial supporter of separatists in the region, had not and would not consider refusing humanitarian aid to Donbas residents. However, Peskov also said that a restructuring of the Russian Finance Ministry's funding process was underway. The comments are notable because they suggest Russia is contemplating a shift in how — if not how much — it finances the breakaway territories in Donbas.

The timing of the report is also notable. Russia and Ukraine are expected to hold discussions next week over Russian President Vladimir Putin's proposal for a U.N. peacekeeping force in Donbas. The proposal, made on Sept. 5, called for a peacekeeping force to protect monitors from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) on the line of contact between Ukrainian security forces and Russia-backed separatists in Donbas.

Ukraine and the West have criticized the proposal for being too limited in scope. Kiev has instead called for a U.N. peacekeeping force with access to all of Donbas, including along the border with Russia. Nevertheless, the proposal has breathed new life into the long-running negotiation process over the Ukrainian conflict. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko is slated to present Kiev's plan for a U.N. peacekeeping mission in Donbas before the U.N. General Assembly (UNGA) in New York on Sep. 20. Putin has even indicated openness to expanding his initial proposal to include more locations where OCSE monitors already carry out inspections in accordance with the Minsk agreements.

The upcoming UNGA will be important to watch for diplomatic movement in the conflict between Ukraine and Russia, as well as for the involvement in these talks of key Western players such as Germany, France, and the United States. Given the conflicting positions and divergent demands of the various sides, it's unlikely that a U.N. peacekeeping force will actually be deployed in the near future. However, the UNGA will offer an opportunity to de-escalate growing animosity between Moscow and the West. At the very least, these recent developments suggest Russia is looking at ways to ease Western pressure against its involvement in Ukraine. Russia will continue to support of Donbas because of the region's position on the country's borderlands. But Moscow is demonstrating a willingness to be more flexible in how it approaches — and how much it supports — Donbas.
40  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / What Shapiro learned at Berkeley on: September 16, 2017, 08:22:28 AM
41  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Dog Brothers 2017 Opening Gathering of the Pack on: September 15, 2017, 05:16:52 PM
37. Joe Nepo     Crash Dog
38. Tom Moore
39.  Romeo Kovacevic
42  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Native Americans 150 years ago on: September 15, 2017, 03:38:58 PM
43  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Wave of Bomb Threats on: September 15, 2017, 01:30:09 PM
second post

An unprecedented rash of bomb threats across Russia this week has left the country's emergency and security services scrambling to evacuate major cities. Though Russia is no stranger to bomb threats, it has never experienced so many at once. So far, over 115 threats have forced more than 130,000 people to evacuate 420 schools, shopping malls, theaters, train stations, airports, government facilities and universities across 22 cities stretching from Kaliningrad to Vladivostok. Meanwhile, some 40 threats have been made in Moscow alone, though emergency responders have not found explosive devices in any of the locations targeted.

Notably absent throughout these incidents has been media coverage by Russia's state-owned outlets. At first, Federal Security Service (FSB) sources told several outlets that the threats originated from IP-based phone lines outside Russia's borders, later claiming that the lines were traced to Ukraine. FSB sources then suggested on Sept. 14 that the threats could be linked to extremist groups, perhaps even the Islamic State. Some local media outlets, on the other hand, attributed the events to drills by law enforcement officials. National and local security services, for their part, have downplayed the threats.

Many actors, both at home and abroad, have an interest in wreaking havoc in Russia. Within the country, criminal groups and anarchists have a history of targeting U.S. airlines, Russian schools and Australian community centers with automated "robocall" bomb threats in hopes of forcing evacuations and sowing chaos. Beyond Russia's borders, other entities have motive for causing mayhem throughout the nation, particularly in the wake of Moscow's own hybrid warfare operations in Ukraine and Europe. The Islamic State, too, may seek to pressure Russia as the country's military intervention in Syria continues. Though the extremist group has little interest in warning of its own impending attacks, the evacuations could play into its hands by spurring the movement of large groups of people from relatively safe structures to more exposed locations in the surrounding area. Up to this point, however, the crowds removed from Russian buildings have not been targeted in this manner.
44  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Repeal Proposition 14! on: September 15, 2017, 06:21:44 AM
45  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Second American Civil War on: September 15, 2017, 06:12:36 AM
Often a bombastic over the top source, but posted for the info on the next play my Milo
46  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Trump blocks Chinese from buying semiconductor company on: September 15, 2017, 01:21:06 AM
Stratfor Worldview



Sep 14, 2017 | 23:24 GMT
U.S.: Why Trump Blocked a Semiconductor Company Takeover



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U.S. President Donald Trump has stopped a foreign investment into a U.S. company. On Sept. 13, Trump blocked Canyon Bridge Capital Partners' proposed purchase of Lattice Semiconductor Corporation for $1.3 billion, the fourth time a U.S. president has done so. The reason? The trail of Canyon Bridge Capital Partners' financial backing leads directly to the China Reform Fund Management Co., meaning the fund has substantial backing from the Chinese state. By blocking the purchase, Trump is making clear his opposition to Chinese state-led investment in strategic sectors.

Canyon Bridge Capital Partners' attempted takeover faced intense scrutiny since it was announced in November 2016. The deal was filed three times with the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), the interagency committee that reviews potential purchases of U.S. companies by overseas entities. Canyon Bridge Capital Partners made an appeal to Trump to overrule CFIUS. Although Trump's statement explaining his decision mentioned the potential effects to the U.S. defense supply chain, it focused on China's attempt to acquire U.S. technology. Lattice technology has legitimate defense applications, but the U.S. military is not known to be one of the company's customers. By contrast, CFIUS recommended a planned takeover of German semiconductor company Aixtron — whose products are used in certain military applications — by China's Fujian Grand Chip Investment Fund LP be dropped, citing issues of national security.

We may now be seeing an expanded definition of national security from CFIUS and Trump. Under this expanded definition, it isn't just important to keep other states from gaining control over companies directly involved in military applications. Rather, it's also important to keep companies producing technologies with greater prowess than their overseas competitors out of foreign hands. By keeping China, the world's largest semiconductor market, from purchasing U.S. semiconductor companies, the United States is able to protect its place ahead of China in the chip industry.

The deal's death has implications for the future of similar deals. Other technology sector takeovers are still being reviewed, including one led by Chinese magnate-owned Ant Financial and another by Chinese conglomerate HNA Group, which has already pulled out of a deal in the United States this year. Trump's decision to block the purchase by Canyon Bridge Capital Partners casts a shadow over those deals. That shadow, as well as EU opposition to Chinese investments, could force Chinese companies to distance themselves from state backing in specific takeovers.
47  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Russian Assassins on: September 15, 2017, 01:15:49 AM
At 6:08 p.m. on Sept. 8, the cacophony of Kiev's Friday evening rush hour was pierced by an explosion under a black Toyota Camry in the middle of heavy traffic near Bessarabska Square in the heart of the capital. The car's driver, Timur Mahauri, a Chechen with Georgian citizenship, was killed instantly. His wife and their 10-year-old child who were riding with him were hurt, but they survived.
Mahauri was reportedly a member of a Chechen militant group fighting with Ukrainian troops against separatist and Russian forces in eastern Ukraine. Media reports suggested that Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov considered him an enemy. In addition to these two possible motives for his assassination, Kiev has recently become a hot spot for the assassination of Moscow's enemies, and opponents of the Chechen government are being killed in a worldwide campaign. Indeed, given Mahauri's enemies and location, it is surprising that he didn't check his car for bombs before he got into it. This case provides important lessons for others.

Moscow's Wetwork

As I've discussed elsewhere, Russia's intelligence agencies have a long history of involvement in assassinations, refered to by its intelligence officers as "wetwork" or "wet affairs." Indeed, they have pursued the enemies of the Russian government around the globe: Alexander Litvinenko was murdered in London in November 2006; and Mikhail Lesin died under mysterious circumstances in Washington, D.C., in November 2015. They are not the only examples. It should come as no surprise then that people considered to be enemies of the Kremlin — including opposition politician Boris Nemtsov — are being murdered in Russia itself as well as in adjacent countries.
However, there does seem to be a discernible difference in the tactics used in different geographies. For example, in Russia itself, targeted individuals tend to simply get shot. Although Russian agents will publicly deny any involvement in such activities, in domestic operations, they don't really take too much effort to cloak their hand. Indeed, they seem to relish flexing their muscle to intimidate opponents. But outside Russia, they attempt to be more discreet. Even though the Litvinenko case ended up becoming highly publicized because of sloppiness in the operation, the use of the rare and radioactive isotope polonium 210 to poison him was intended to create a slow and subtle decline so as to create an air of mystery around his death, like the shadowy fates met by Moscow opponents Badri Patarkatsishvili in 2008, and Boris Berezovsky in 2013, both also in the United Kingdom.

Danger Lurks in Kiev

But in Ukraine, the Russians and their Chechen surrogates have operated with a mostly unveiled hand. In July 2016, Belorussian journalist and Russia critic Pavel Sheremet was killed when a sticky bomb planted under his car exploded shortly after he left his home for his office. As we noted at the time, the Sheremet assassination was a precise and professional operation.

In August 2016, Alexander Shchetinin, a Russian-born journalist and prominent critic of President Vladimir Putin, was found dead on the balcony of his Kiev home with a gunshot wound to the head. On March 23, Denis Voronenkov, a former Russian Communist Party lawmaker and another a well-known Putin critic, was shot dead as he walked down a Kiev street on the way to a meeting in a hotel. The brazen assassination occurred at 11:30 a.m. in central Kiev, despite the fact that Voronenkov had been accompanied by an armed bodyguard who shot the assassin dead.
On June 1, Adam Osmayev, a critic of the pro-Kremlin Chechen government, narrowly escaped death when his wife, a Chechen militant, shot and wounded a would-be assassin, who had shot him twice in the chest. The assailant, Artur Denisultanov-Kurmakayev, a Russian national born in Chechnya, had posed as a French journalist and had arranged an interview.
On June 27, Col. Maxim Shapoval, a Ukrainian military intelligence officer, was killed in an assassination similar to the Sheremet hit. A small sticky bomb had been planted under Shapoval's car; it probably used a plastic explosive and was command-detonated as he was on his way to work. Kiev has clearly become a dangerous place for those perceived to be enemies of Putin and his Chechen vassal, Kadyrov.

Not Amateur Bombmakers

And this brings us back to the Mahauri assassination. The device used to kill him spared his passengers, indicating that it employed a small shaped charge, also likely a plastic explosive, judging from video of the explosion. It also looks as if it had been command-detonated. The assassination carried all the hallmarks of a professional, state-sponsored operation. The device that killed him almost certainly had been built by an experienced bombmaker who calibrated its explosive potential to kill without causing too much collateral damage. Although this attack happened in the evening rather than during the morning drive to work, it carried many similarities to the assassinations of Shapoval and Sheremet. Ukrainian investigators will certainly be looking for forensic evidence to conclusively link the three bombings.
In addition to his activities in Ukraine, Mahauri had fought with the Georgian military when the Russians invaded that country in 2008, Ukrainian press reports say. That would have put him in the crosshairs of Russian intelligence, which reportedly had attempted to kill him on three past occasions, including placing a bomb in the stairwell of his apartment building in Tbilisi in March 2009. Given that history and the recent spate of assassinations in Kiev, Mahauri would have been wise to have taken more precautions.
The best defense against a sticky bomb attack is to keep a vehicle locked in a secure area to prevent easy access. After the Sheremet killing, video emerged showing the assassins putting the bomb under his car as it sat by the curb outside his apartment. If a vehicle must be parked in an unsecured area, a small mirror with a light on a telescopic pole can be used to check the underside for sticky bombs. Given the tempo of Russian and Chechen activity in Kiev, it is hard to believe that Mahauri had grown complacent. Investigators will be attempting to reconstruct his schedule before the detonation to clarify where and when the bomb had been stuck under his vehicle.
A number of Russia's enemies remain in Kiev. Given the recent deadly events, it would not be surprising if more murders followed there. To escape Mahauri's fate, those who find themselves at odds with the Kremlin will need to be more careful.
48  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Changes coming to Saudi Arabia on: September 15, 2017, 01:12:07 AM
Stratfor Worldview

Sep 14, 2017 | 23:24 GMT
Saudi Arabia's Next Generation Makes Ready
A portrait shows King Salman bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud Salman (R) and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
(AMER HILABI/AFP/Getty Images)


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.
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Change is coming to the kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and it may soon reach the top of the nation's monarchy. Amid the sweeping economic and political shifts underway throughout the tightly controlled country, anticipation is building about further adjustments to come. Chief among them is the king's impending abdication, which he is rumored to be planning for the near future in order to clear a path to the throne for new Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

The king's departure would come at a time when the nation is struggling to enact an ambitious and much-needed plan for economic reform. Many of the program's details are unclear or unsettled, and Riyadh is so determined to find the most effective mix of measures that it is heavily revising its National Transformation Plan a little more than a year after its introduction. Like its Gulf neighbors, Saudi Arabia has a penchant for drafting five-year economic initiatives: It has done so repeatedly since 1970. However, it has rarely revisited those plans so soon after implmementing them. As Riyadh rethinks its approach, it will likely set more achievable targets for employers in the private sector while scheming up new ways to bring in revenue from sources other than the oil on which it currently relies. Even the centerpiece of the kingdom's multilayered reform package — the initial public offering of a portion of state-owned energy giant Saudi Arabian Oil Co. — may be delayed until 2019, a year after its target deadline.

Riyadh's attempt to overhaul the Saudi economy has come alongside an effort to revamp the nation's politics. In addition to updating the rules of succession, King Salman bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud Salman named Mohammed bin Salman crown prince. Having already streamlined unwieldy ministries and established governing committees over the past two years, the freshly appointed prince wasted no time in creating a security directorate that united some of the intelligence functions of the kingdom's investigative police under his control. The king's expected abdication will mark an even more momentous political change, ushering to the throne the youngest Saudi king in nearly a century and the first monarch from the third generation of Saudi Arabia's founder, Abdulaziz Ibn Saud.

The king's decision to step down is not a matter of if, but when. The real intrigue, however, lies in the changes that it heralds at the country's core, in the strict social mores and political Islam that form the backbone of Saudi society. To smooth the way for the kingdom's approaching leadership transition, the crown prince is likely tightening his grip over political expression, even as he tests the waters of social reform.

This crackdown was made clear in a recent string of arrests that raised questions about the motives behind them. So far this month, authorities have detained dozens of activists, scholars and popular clerics, some of whom are connected to the Muslim Brotherhood-aligned Sahwa movement. Of course, there could be a simple explanation for the arrests: They may merely be part of Saudi Arabia's ongoing dispute with Qatar. The sheikhs in question publicly advocated mending ties with Doha, and Riyadh doubtless found the clerics' stance troubling — particularly since they boast millions of Twitter followers and the ability to shape public opinion.

By the same token, it's logical to expect the crown prince to try to rein in popular dissent. Given Twitter's popularity in Saudi Arabia, the ruling family has every reason to silence influential voices that spread narratives contradicting Riyadh's own. Protests are not unheard of in the kingdom, especially with regard to labor issues. And although mass demonstrations against the ruling family are rare, calls for popular dissent have circulated widely on social media channels in recent weeks. Whether the public will actually answer those calls with action is unclear, but the possibility is one Riyadh cannot afford to ignore at such a critical juncture.

Nevertheless, the recent arrests could also portend a larger, more gradual change underway. Much like the neighboring United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia may be adopting a more stringent stance against Islamist movements that resemble the Muslim Brotherhood and its anti-establishment ideology. The detainees, after all, belonged to the ranks of Saudi Arabia's independent clerics rather than those who work closely with the royal family and rely on Riyadh for financial and political support. The fate of the prisoners' independent peers in the months ahead will be an important indicator of whether some strains of political Islam are truly falling out of favor in the kingdom — and whether, by extension, a more liberal social atmosphere is in the offing.

Meanwhile, Stratfor sources indicate that when the crown prince takes the throne, he plans to separate the titles of "king" and "custodian of the two holy mosques," which are currently intertwined. (The latter refers to Saudi Arabia's control over Mecca and Medina, two of Islam's holiest sites.) Though Saudi monarchs have used the second moniker only since the 1980s, it is a centuries-old label intended to communicate the kingdom's religious legitimacy and power in the Islamic world. Should the crown prince abandon it, the move would position the king as a secular civil leader rather than a guiding spiritual figure. And though a small adjustment in some ways, it would make a big statement by a young ruler seeking to forge a new path for an ever-changing kingdom while managing dissent along the way.
49  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / MOVED: Myanmar (Burma): on: September 15, 2017, 01:08:22 AM
This topic has been moved to Politics & Religion.
50  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The Rohingya of Myanmar on: September 15, 2017, 01:07:46 AM

    Given that Myanmar's current political environment is dominated by the country's military, the Rohingya crisis will likely worsen even if the current military crackdown ends.
    Buddhist nationalist and ethnic nationalist voices will continue to grow in the country, exacerbating the situation.
    External condemnation will continue to come from leaders across the Muslim world.

Though the Southeast Asian nation of Myanmar is predominantly Buddhist, it is also home to a variety of Muslim, Sikh, Hindu and Christian groups, and the country has long been marked by powerful ethnic divisions. Its most recent conflict centers on the Muslim Rohingya population, a minority that Myanmar does not recognize as a valid ethnic group and whose members are not granted citizenship. After a group of Rohingya insurgents attacked 30 police and military outposts in late August, the military cracked down and violence has run rampant. It is estimated hat nearly 400,000 of the country's 1.1 million Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh in the past two weeks alone. This massive exodus has spurred outcries from protesters and politicians across the Muslim world. But even if the current crackdown ends, the Rohingya's precarious position within Myanmar means their plight will not.

Rage Within Rakhine State

The Rohingya's situation in Myanmar has always been fraught. Almost all of the group's members reside in the state of Rakhine, which is shared with another ethnic group known as the Buddhist Rakhine (or Arakanese). Both groups have a long history of insurgencies, and the central government has played them off each other for decades in order to maintain centralized control over the fractured geographic space. Though the Rakhine have legitimized political parties, whereas the Rohingya have arguably no power and have been the subject of government monitoring, the Rakhine are actively working to consolidate their political position. And they see the Rohingya — whose population of 2.4 million within Myanmar and beyond equals that of the Rakhines — as a threat.

After the late August attacks by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA), a Rohingya insurgency group formerly known as Harakah al-Yaqin, the Myanmar military cracked down on the ethnic group, and in recent weeks, Rakhine Buddhists have reportedly been burning Rohingya villages. An estimated 2,600 homes have been burned so far, according to reports. The Rohingya insurgents primarily used homemade firearms, sticks, swords and some explosives in their attacks, but the ARSA has no more than 500 fighters — small potatoes compared with other Myanmar insurgencies, such as the 30,000-strong United Wa State Army, which controls an area the size of Belgium on the Chinese border. Despite ARSA's limited capability, both the military and the Rakhine have responded with extreme force.

ARSA's demands are fairly straightforward: They wish for the Rohingya to be legally recognized as an ethnic group and granted citizenship, and for Myanmar to allow the 1.4 million Rohingyas abroad to return to the country if they wish. On Sept. 10, after two weeks of violence and the displacement of hundreds of thousands of Rohingya, the insurgent group declared a unilateral truce and called for humanitarian access to assist civilians. But Myanmar's military has insisted it will not negotiate with the militants and may not abide by the truce.

Managing Muslim-Buddhist Conflict

The chaos within Rakhine state has drawn the attention of Myanmar's Buddhist nationalist activist groups, who believe that Buddhism should be at the core of Myanmar's identity and governance and that Muslims, Hindus and Christians are foreigners who do not properly belong. The nationalists have taken up common cause with local Rakhine Buddhists in rallying against the Rohingya and agree with the Rakhine's claims that the Rohingya are recent Bengali immigrants who deserve no ethnic rights. Recently, a 400-person Buddhist mob formed in Magwe division (300 kilometers away from Rahine) with plans to attack local Muslims. The mob dispersed before attacks began, but it's highly possible that the country will see a repeat of the anti-Muslim riots of 2013.

The tug of war between Myanmar's military and its civilian government has exacerbated the Rohingya conflict. The military, which directly ruled the country for five decades, has often portrayed itself as protecting Buddhists and ethnic minorities from those it refers to as Muslim terrorists. And though the country has recently transitioned to a government closer to a democracy, the military still holds deep institutional and business power, as well as a guaranteed 25 percent of parliamentary seats.

State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi, the country's de facto leader and onetime human rights icon, has come under fire for failing to be an advocate for the Rohingya. But her ruling National League for Democracy is on unsteady ground. Though it beat out the military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party in the 2015 elections, rising Buddhist nationalism and stalling peace negotiations with armed ethnic groups nationwide have put the party at risk of losing power. If Suu Kyi steps in to defend the Rohingya, she could see a nationalist backlash that would allow the military to translate its institutional power into a greater civilian role.

Defenders of the Faith

Popular outcry over the Rohingya crisis has reverberated across the Muslim world and compelled political leaders to react. In fact, given that the Rohingya crisis is playing out between two minor countries in Southeast Asia, the situation serves as a low-stakes, strategic opportunity for many world leaders to satisfy their domestic bases and tout their credentials to other Muslim heads of state.

In the Middle East, for example, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan continues his efforts to position Turkey as a pre-eminent benefactor and leader in the Muslim world. He has condemned the Rohingya situation in Myanmar as genocide and vowed to raise it at the U.N. General Assembly during Sept. 12-25. And on Sept. 6, Erdogan's wife and son traveled to Bangladesh alongside Turkey's foreign minister to distribute aid to displaced Rohingya. Iran has also moved to take advantage of the Rohingya's struggle, with its Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and its paramilitary Basij arm saying they will mobilize all diplomatic means to help the group. Although Iran is a majority Shiite country, it has long worked to present itself as a champion of all Muslims, not a mere sectarian actor, and the Sunni-inflected Rohingya are an ideal target for such rhetoric.

Strong reactions have also come from Muslim representatives in the Asia-Pacific region. In Indonesia, President Joko Widodo is fighting to prevent an alliance between a growing movement of hard-line Islamists and his opposition. He has thus been quick to condemn the situation in Myanmar, and he sent his foreign minister to the country in an effort to set up a hospital and provide relief donations. Islamist protests in 2016 led to the defeat of the president's close ally in the Jakarta governor polls, and his government faces both general elections and a presidential vote in 2019, so Jokowi must take a strong stance in support of the Rohingya if he hopes to remain in power.

And Malaysia is already home to 150,000 Rohingya refugees and economic migrants. Prime Minister Najib Razak has recently been reaching out to Islamist allies amid a high-profile scandal. Given that snap elections could happen anytime before June 2018, it is important for the prime minister to maintain the support of these groups by offering to intercede with the Rohingya. On Sept. 7, the country offered to accept Rohingya refugees fleeing the crisis, and Minister of Defense Hishammuddin Hussein has directed the Malaysian military to consider a humanitarian mission in Rakhine state.

But perhaps the most powerful reaction in the Muslim world has come from the Russian Republic of Chechnya. On Sept. 4, about 30,000 Chechens took to the streets of Grozny to protest in solidarity with the Rohingya. At the event, Chechnya's leader Ramzan Kadyrov called on Moscow not to support the "crimes" of the Myanmar government and said he was "against Russia's position" on the issue. Russian media was quick to accuse Kadyrov of attempting to become the leader of the wider Muslim world, which is a deep concern for the Kremlin after having fought two wars in Chechnya. Kadyrov earned a reprimand from Russian President Vladimir Putin, and the Russian Foreign Ministry said on Sept. 8 that the United Nations should not pressure Myanmar "using unproven charges of cruelty against Muslims." But smaller protests in support of the Rohingya have continued to break out in Russia, and Kadyrov called for an end to the persecution during a Sept. 10 rally.

In the wake of such strong condemnation from around the world, the United Nations has made its position clear: On Sept. 11, the U.N. high commissioner for human rights, Jordanian Prince Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, called the situation in Myanmar an "ethnic cleansing" by the Rakhine and Myanmar government. The U.N. Security Council is set to discuss the matter.

Nowhere to Turn

Myanmar has had its defenders, mainly because of the role it plays in a number of giant development projects. China, for example, has targeted the country with its sprawling Belt and Road Initiative. Indeed, Rakhine itself plays a key role as the origin point of an oil and natural gas pipeline into Yunnan province and the home of the planned Kyaukphyu Special Economic Zone. In the wake of U.N. pressure on Myanmar, Beijing has offered to protect Naypyidaw from censure in the international body. And China is also stepping in to help Myanmar's bid to rein in powerful ethnic insurgencies elsewhere along its borders. India, too, has abstained from condemning the Myanmar government's actions and even doubled down on its plans to expel all Rohingya from India, an issue that overlaps with local Hindu nationalism. New Delhi, after all, has plans to use Rakhine state as part of its Act East initiative.

Though the actions of the Myanmar military against the Rohingya have few supporters abroad and many detractors, the maligned ethnic group is staring at a dark future. Countries such as Bangladesh and India have expressed no interest in welcoming Rohingya refugees, and within Rakhine state, the Rakhine are committed to securing their position of power, which means they will continue to find ways to remove or limit the actions of the Rohingya. The restrictions that Myanmar's military has placed on the country's constitution and government further exacerbate the Rohingya's struggle, because their ideal ally, Suu Kyi, has found herself in a position where she cannot express her support for the group. So, even if the current military crackdown ends, the Rohingya will likely remain in dire straits.
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