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151  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Heading off China at Doka la Pass on: July 28, 2017, 08:54:06 AM
 

Forecast Highlights

    India will back down from its standoff with China only if Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has room to portray the resolution as a diplomatic victory to his political constituents back home.
    New Delhi won't have the means, however, to alter China's strategy in its periphery, even if it can temporarily halt construction on Beijing's road project in Bhutan.
    To defend against China's encroachment, New Delhi will bolster its defensive and infrastructure capacity along its northeastern border.

The Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan serves a strategic function far greater than its small size would suggest. Situated between India and China, the country acts as a buffer separating the two powers. But mounting enmity between New Delhi and Beijing is threatening to breach that barrier.

For over a month now, Chinese and Indian troops have been locked in a standoff a few hundred feet apart near the mountain pass of Doka La along India's border with China and Bhutan. The confrontation began June 16 when Indian forces intervened to prevent Chinese soldiers and construction workers from extending a roadway through the area. Bhutan claims Doka La lies within its borders, because the pass is south of its internationally recognized boundary with India and China, known as the trijunction. China, on the other hand, asserts that the trijunction is a few miles south of Doka La at Gymachen and that the pass, consequently, falls within its territory. For New Delhi, however, recognizing Beijing's border at Gymachen would put Chinese roads — and, by extension, troops — too close for comfort to the Siliguri corridor, the narrow ribbon of territory linking mainland India with its far-flung northeastern wing. The road through Doka La would also afford China access to the Jampheri ridge, a critical high ground from which it could threaten India's supply lines.

Neither China nor India has shown any sign of budging since the faceoff near Doka La began. India, hoping to avoid a conflict, has called for both sides to back down. As the lesser power in the showdown, though, New Delhi will be hard-pressed to find a way to coerce Beijing into giving up its ambitions in Bhutan or, for that matter, its wider strategy in South Asia.

An Uneven Competition

Over the past year, diplomatic relations between New Delhi and Beijing have hit the rocks. Part of the problem is China's relationship with India's archrival, Pakistan. In deference to Islamabad, Beijing has repeatedly rebuffed New Delhi's requests to impose U.N. sanctions on Masood Azhar, a Kashmiri militant based in Pakistan who is accused of orchestrating attacks on India. China likewise has used its veto power to keep India from entering the Nuclear Suppliers Group partly out of consideration for Pakistan, whose reputation as a sponsor of terrorism has hobbled its own chances of joining the organization. In addition, Beijing has forged ahead with construction on the $62 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) despite New Delhi's protests that the project undermines its territorial integrity by crossing through Pakistan-administered Kashmir.

Beyond raising concerns over Kashmir, a region India claims in its entirety, the CPEC also represents the growing challenge that Beijing poses to New Delhi's dominance in South Asia. The joint venture with Pakistan is just one of a host of infrastructure projects China has launched in the region as part of its Belt and Road Intiative. But as much as Beijing's activities in New Delhi's traditional sphere of influence may gall it, India simply doesn't have the means to deter China from its pursuits.

Though the two countries are about evenly matched in terms of population size, China outstrips India politically, economically and militarily. New Delhi, moreover, has more pressing matters to worry about than Beijing, from its rivalry with Islamabad to the Maoist Naxalite insurgency. In light of its limitations relative to China, India eschewed the heavy costs of interfering in the CPEC's construction, notwithstanding its fulminations. (Even the United States, whose military power exceeds that of India and China, has opted not to intervene in China's infrastructure projects, such as its undertakings in the South China Sea.) And for much the same reason, it is working to prevent a conflict from erupting in Bhutan. Negotiating a diplomatic resolution to the issue, after all, would give Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi a victory to use to his political advantage at home. By the same token, initiating hostilities ostensibly over a road could damage China's carefully crafted image as a benign hegemon trying to promote harmony through its Belt and Road endeavors.

Area of Standoff Between Chinese and Indian Troops in Bhutan

Checking the Borders

Even without the upper hand, India has managed to halt construction on the road near Doka La. But to fend off Beijing's encroachment elsewhere, New Delhi may have to get creative. India, for instance, could take to the seas to head off China's increasing influence. As Beijing's clout has steadily grown, New Delhi has come to view the Indian Ocean region as an even greater asset for its defense and has ramped up its naval activities accordingly. More recently, India has seized on the South China Sea as another strategic space in which to counteract Beijing. The South Asian country has joined the United States in calling for freedom of navigation in the contested waters over the past few years. The South China Sea has become a topic of regular discussion in India's summits with the United States, and the subject has come up in meetings with other countries, such as Australia, as well. India even staked its own claim in the South China Sea by securing exploratory rights for a block in a Vietnamese offshore oil field, a risky investment whose value lies in its location.

Apart from its maritime pursuits, New Delhi will probably focus on bolstering infrastructure along India's northeastern border with China. Poor regional connectivity would be a significant handicap for India in the event of a military confrontation with China (though, ironically, the dearth of transport infrastructure was historically intended to deprive invading Chinese forces of inroads into the country). And now that China is busy building its own roads near sensitive border areas — including a 500-kilometer (310-mile) road linking Lhasa to Yadong, a city near the trijunction — India is taking steps to improve its connectivity. Modi revived construction projects for 73 strategic regional roads that were first proposed about a decade ago, and as a result of his efforts, India inaugurated the longest bridge in the country in May. Furthermore, India recently announced plans to construct at least two tunnels to reduce travel time between Tezpur, where the army's 4 Corps is headquartered, and Tawang, a city in the state of Arunachal Pradesh, which China claims is part of Tibet.

Modi has also emphasized increasing military capacity near his country's border with China. On March 17, reports emerged that India had begun raising a second infantry division for its mountain strike corps, known as the 17 Corps, headquartered in West Bengal. Designed to focus on the expanse of India's northern border from Arunachal Pradesh to Ladakh, the 17 Corps reportedly is part of the Indian army's effort to shift from a threat-based force to a capability-based force. Although it will be at least two years before the new infantry is operational, the project nevertheless reflects India's push to transition to an offensive-defensive approach in securing its borders.

Having fought a punishing territorial war with China in 1962, India has little interest in embarking on another armed conflict. And so, New Delhi will keep angling for a diplomatic solution to the standoff near Doka La as it tries to find a way to discourage China from following through with its roadway project there. Both sides have reason to avoid initiating hostilities, but until they arrive at a solution that will work in Modi's favor back home, China and India will likely stay at loggerheads. The dispute offers a glimpse into the difficulties New Delhi will face in the future as it tries to counter Beijing's advance into South Asia.
152  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: US-Russia on: July 28, 2017, 08:40:37 AM
https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/28/world/europe/us-russia-sanctions.html?emc=edit_na_20170728&nl=breaking-news&nlid=49641193&ref=cta
153  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Thanks to the Kerry loophole, Iran making progress as strategic threat on: July 28, 2017, 05:34:16 AM
y The Editorial Board
July 27, 2017 7:06 p.m. ET
27 COMMENTS

One almost has to admire Iran’s chutzpah. On Wednesday after the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill, 419-3, which would impose sanctions on Iran’s ballistic-missile program, its foreign ministry called the legislation “illegal and insulting.” On Thursday Iran made a scheduled launch of a huge missile, which it says will put 550-pound satellites into orbit.

The only people who should feel surprised or insulted by this are Barack Obama and John Kerry, who midwifed the 2015 nuclear-weapons agreement with the untrustworthy Iranians. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert rightly called the missile launch a violation of the spirit of that agreement.

That is as far as she can take it because Iran’s ballistic-missile program wasn’t formally in the nuclear agreement, despite Mr. Kerry’s statements of concern during negotiations. In the end he wanted a deal more than limits on those missiles. We assume Iran’s missile engineers are at least as competent as those in North Korea, which is approaching the ability to deploy intercontinental ballistic missiles.

Advocates of the nuclear deal persist in arguing that Iran is in compliance with its provisions. It takes considerable credulousness to believe that over the course of this agreement the Iranian military won’t adapt technical knowledge gained about launch and guidance from projects like its “satellite missile” program. With or without compliance, Iran is making progress as a strategic threat.

Appeared in the July 28, 2017, print edition.
154  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / GeoFut: The Axis of the Sanctioned on: July 28, 2017, 05:32:16 AM
The Axis of the Sanctioned
Jul 28, 2017
By Jacob L. Shapiro

Albert Einstein’s definition of insanity was doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting a different result. In January 2002, U.S. President George W. Bush famously declared Iraq, Iran and North Korea the axis of evil in his State of the Union speech. This week, with the passage of a bill to impose expanded sanctions on Russia, Iran and North Korea, the U.S. has effectively replaced the axis of evil with the axis of the sanctioned – the only difference being that Russia has replaced Iraq on the list of sinners. But if Washington is expecting to see different results this time around, it’ll soon learn how misguided this expectation is.

The U.S. House of Representatives approved the sanctions bill on July 25 with an overwhelming majority (419-3). It was passed by the Senate on July 27 by an equally decisive margin (98-2). Because of the strong majority with which it passed both the House and the Senate, it’s unlikely President Donald Trump can veto the bill.

All three countries targeted by the legislation have been the subject of sanctions before. Many have debated whether this tool is an effective way to influence a country’s actions. A study updated in 2009 and published by the Peterson Institute for International Economics examined 174 case studies and determined that sanctions were partially successful 34 percent of the time. According to the study, the success rate varied based on the goal. If the goal was modest and specific, such as the release of a political prisoner, the success rate approached 50 percent. But if the goal was regime change or significant policy reforms, the success rate was only 30 percent.

The bottom line is that sanctions are an ineffective way of achieving foreign policy objectives in two-thirds of cases, according to this study. They can be a powerful tool, alongside other measures, to encourage a country to halt a certain action, but on their own they can achieve little and might actually make a situation worse.

Sanctions Won’t Change Reality

It is with that in mind that the geopolitical implications of the sanctions bill should be evaluated. Of the three countries included in the bill, Russia has drawn the most attention because of the Russian cloud that has cast a shadow over Trump’s administration since he came to office. But the bill was originally designed to levy new sanctions against Iran; North Korea was also subsequently added. These three countries arguably represent the United States’ most significant geopolitical challenges today. They also happen to be intractable issues that the U.S. does not currently have the will or power to change in any meaningful way – and sanctions won’t alter that reality.

Consider North Korea. The U.S. has been hoping that partnering with China and expanding international sanctions against North Korea, which has already been subject to sanctions for decades, could convince the regime to stop its pursuit of nuclear weapons. The existing sanctions were ineffective, in part because the regime is willing to endure some discomfort to ensure its survival, and giving up its weapons program could put that in jeopardy. China, meanwhile, is either unwilling or unable to bring Kim Jong Un to heel. In the first half of this year, it even increased its exports to Pyongyang by 20 percent year on year, according to a report by the Korean International Trade Association on July 26. (The same report also indicated that Chinese imports from North Korea have decrease by 24.3 percent in the same period.)

The Chinese government itself has also reported increased exports to North Korea in the first and second quarters of 2017. Trump even accused China on Twitter last month of not living up to its sanction pledges against North Korea.

The U.S. is beginning to get the impression that Beijing isn’t willing to apply financial pressure on Pyongyang, and some say the next step should be to impose sanctions against China. But sanctions won’t force China to handle the problem the way the U.S. wants. The dirty little secret is that China’s prestige as the chief negotiator with Pyongyang far outweighs its actual power. That becomes abundantly apparent in situations such as these.

Shared Enemy

Or consider Iran, which has been a foreign policy disaster for the United States since the 1953 military coup that the U.S. helped organize. Many believe the “unprecedented” sanctions (as they were described by U.S. officials at the time) imposed in 2010 have been effective. After all, just five years after they were implemented, Iran signed the much-maligned nuclear deal. Proximity, however, is not causality. Iran did not capitulate because of sanctions.
 
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani (C) arrives at parliament ahead of presenting the proposed annual budget in the capital, Tehran, on Jan. 17, 2016, after sanctions were lifted under Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers. ATTA KENARE/AFP/Getty Images

This is not to say sanctions were irrelevant. They were no doubt painful for the Iranian economy, and they became a major political issue in Tehran. But what compelled Iran to sign the deal was that Iran’s strategic plans were disrupted after the Syrian war broke out. In 2010, a Shiite arc of influence, led by Iranian-backed proxies, seemed poised to spread from Tehran all the way to the Mediterranean. But then Bashar Assad’s government came under attack in Syria, and it continues to fight a bloody civil war that has permanently fractured the country. More important, out of the ashes of the U.S. intervention in Iraq, a force arose that would eventually become the Islamic State.

It’s this reality – not the economic impact of sanctions, significant as it may have been – that convinced Iran to enter into the nuclear deal. Iran was wary of a potential Sunni Arab power rising on its border, one with an ideology that saw Iran as an enemy equal to if not greater than the West. The rise of IS meant that suddenly the United States and Iran had a common enemy; IS threatened the national security interests of both countries.

Now that the Islamic State is on the defensive, the subtle ties between these strange bedfellows are beginning to show signs of fraying – on both sides. The issue is that Iran wants to be the dominant power in the Middle East, while the United States doesn’t want any single country to control the region. Defeating Iran by military force is not a realistic option for the Middle East, and by toppling Saddam Hussein’s regime in 2003, the U.S. eliminated the natural balance to Iranian power in the region. The U.S. is trying to reconstruct a regional balance of power to deal with Iran, but the Saudis are weak, the Turks have little desire or need to enter the fray at this point, and no one else is up to the task. Sanctions are not going to induce Iran to stop testing ballistic missiles or to stop funding its proxy groups throughout the region; in fact, they may have the opposite effect.

Easier Said Than Done

And then there’s Russia, which has become something of a U.S. media obsession. Like George W. Bush and Barack Obama before him, Trump came to office hoping to build a better relationship with Russia, only to realize it’s much easier said than done. Trump may have thought that a positive personal relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin was going to be enough to accomplish what his predecessors couldn’t. But niceties don’t change the fact that Ukraine is a national security interest to Russia, and that the United States – even under Trump – has shown no signs of bending on the Ukraine issue. In fact, Trump has met with Ukraine’s president and has declared his support for Ukraine multiple times. The State Department’s new special representative to Ukraine even said July 25 that the U.S. might consider providing Kiev with defensive arms.

The sanctions bill won’t convince Russia that it can abandon Kiev to the West’s orbit, and it may even embolden Ukraine. It may be coincidence, but Ukraine’s recent decision to cut off electricity to Donetsk, amid other markers of tension, suggests that these sanctions could encourage Kiev to push back against Russia with an expectation of U.S. support. Russia will have to retaliate in some way. In light of this possible escalation, we at GPF may even have to re-examine our forecast for 2017, which saw Ukraine as a frozen conflict.

This is not to say that sanctions are ineffective or that they don’t have any geopolitical import. They do, and we’ll be publishing more on their impact in the near term. But by relying on sanctions that have had only a marginal effect in the past, the U.S. is insisting on forcing square pegs into round holes. That will have ramifications, but the underlying problems – North Korea’s pursuit of nuclear weapons, Iran’s pursuit of regional hegemony and Russia’s need to maintain Ukraine as a buffer – will remain long after these sanctions are lifted.

The post The Axis of the Sanctioned appeared first on Geopolitics | Geopolitical Futures.
155  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Tax Policy Principles on: July 28, 2017, 05:26:13 AM
y The Editorial Board
July 27, 2017 7:16 p.m. ET
46 COMMENTS

The ‘Big Six” GOP tax negotiators released a statement of principles Thursday, and the main news is the death of the House border-adjustment tax. A favorite idea of Speaker Paul Ryan, the BAT was savaged by retailers who feared they’d pay more for imports. The problem is that the BAT would have raised as much as $1 trillion to pay for lower tax rates, so its defeat raises a new obstacle to reform.

This shows that tax reform may be even harder to pull off than repealing ObamaCare given how politicians have laced the tax code with subsidies and carve-outs. Interests clawing to keep their favors usually defeat the public interest in lower rates. But the potential payoff in faster growth and rising incomes is still worth the political effort, so give Congress and President Trump credit for setting the goal of a signing ceremony this year.

As the debate begins, this is a good moment to offer some principles to judge how reform is faring:

–– ADVERTISEMENT ––

• The growth priority. After 12 years of a lackluster economy, or worse, tax reform’s overriding goal should be to lift annual GDP to 3% or more. The current expansion is into its ninth year and showing signs of age. Europe has grown faster than the U.S. for some time. The Trump bump in financial markets hasn’t been matched in the real economy.

Amid a labor shortage and sluggish incomes, a capital spending surge is crucial to give the expansion a second wind. This is where tax reform must focus. This means lowering tax rates on business and individuals to spur risk-taking and investment.

In particular it means cutting the U.S. corporate tax rate low enough to compete with the rest of the world and return $2 trillion in capital that U.S. companies have stashed overseas. A corporate rate much higher than 20% won’t do the job. The evidence of economic research is overwhelming that cuts in corporate tax rates flow to workers in higher wages.

The political opposition will come from Democrats and many Republicans who view tax reform mainly as a populist lever to redistribute income. They include White House aide Steve Bannon, who wants to raise tax rates on the affluent, and conservatives like Mike Lee on Capitol Hill who think taxes should serve social policy. The risk is that they will steal money for tax credits that do nothing for growth and could be used to reduce rates.

• Make cuts immediate. One temptation in every reform debate is to phase-in tax cuts to fit inside Congress’s 10-year budget-deficit box. That is a growth killer as investors delay decisions to wait for lower rates. George W. Bush made that mistake with his 2001 tax cut, which was a growth bust. He corrected it by making his 2003 cuts immediate, and the faster growth that followed saved his re-election.

• Permanence. Businesses invest with a long tail, and they will scuttle some projects if they think lower rates go poof after five or 10 years. Mr. Bush made this mistake in 2003 and Barack Obama took advantage in 2013.

Thursday’s joint GOP statement says the goal “places a priority on permanence,” which is progress. Some provisions, such as business expensing, could end after five years without doing too much harm. But tax rates should be fixed in law so future Congresses will have a harder time changing them.

• Reform, not merely a tax cut. One reason tax reform spurs growth is by reducing subsidies so capital can flow where it gets the highest return. This efficiency increases productivity, which increases wages. But this means stripping out as much chaff as possible in the tax code like subsidies for electric cars, real estate or racetracks.

Ending these subsidies also helps pay for lower rates. But the GOP has already agreed not to change the mortgage-interest or charitable deductions, and now the trillion-dollar BAT is dead. Reformers will have to fight that much harder to end the big-dollar deductions for state and local taxes and for interest on business borrowing.

If that becomes too difficult, the temptation will be to abandon reform and default to the lowest-common political denominator of a simple tax cut. This would be better than nothing, but it won’t boost capital investment or the economy nearly as much in the medium- or long-run.

• The deficit-neutral trap. The budget outline now moving through the House promises a balanced budget in 10 years including tax reform. That may be necessary to pass the outline but it could be the death of tax reform if it locks the GOP into the fiscal prison of budget “scores” by the Congressional Budget Office and Joint Tax Committee.

Speaker Ryan has worked for years to get those bureaucracies to better account for rising tax revenues that flow from faster growth, but they still use models that underestimate the growth impact of tax cuts on capital and marginal rates.

Republicans need to find an exit from the deficit-neutral trap. Perhaps that means taking a revenue score from Treasury’s Office of Tax Analysis, rather than Joint Tax. Balanced-budget fetishists might keep in mind that Ronald Reagan’s 1981 tax cuts would never have happened had Congress not tolerated deficits. Faster growth caused revenues to boom and the deficit eventually fell.

With ObamaCare repeal foundering, Republicans can’t afford another “skinny” reform that fails to deliver on Mr. Trump’s promise to raise growth and wages. Tax reform will determine whether this Congress was worth electing.

Appeared in the July 28, 2017, print edition.
156  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Strassel: Who paid for The Trump Dossier? on: July 28, 2017, 05:24:28 AM
 By Kimberley A. Strassel
July 27, 2017 6:09 p.m. ET
336 COMMENTS

It has been 10 days since Democrats received the glorious news that Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley would require Donald Trump Jr. and Paul Manafort to explain their meeting with Russian operators at Trump Tower last year. The left was salivating at the prospect of watching two Trump insiders being grilled about Russian “collusion” under the klieg lights.

Yet Democrats now have meekly and noiselessly retreated, agreeing to let both men speak to the committee in private. Why would they so suddenly be willing to let go of this moment of political opportunity?

Fusion GPS. That’s the oppo-research outfit behind the infamous and discredited “Trump dossier,” ginned up by a former British spook. Fusion co-founder Glenn Simpson also was supposed to testify at the Grassley hearing, where he might have been asked in public to reveal who hired him to put together the hit job on Mr. Trump, which was based largely on anonymous Russian sources. Turns out Democrats are willing to give up just about anything—including their Manafort moment—to protect Mr. Simpson from having to answer that question.


What if, all this time, Washington and the media have had the Russia collusion story backward? What if it wasn’t the Trump campaign playing footsie with the Vladimir Putin regime, but Democrats? The more we learn about Fusion, the more this seems a possibility.

We know Fusion is a for-hire political outfit, paid to dig up dirt on targets. This column first outed Fusion in 2012, detailing its efforts to tar a Mitt Romney donor. At the time Fusion insisted that the donor was “a legitimate subject of public records research.”

Mr. Grassley’s call for testimony has uncovered more such stories. Thor Halvorssen, a prominent human-rights activist, has submitted sworn testimony outlining a Fusion attempt to undercut his investigation of Venezuelan corruption. Mr. Halvorssen claims Fusion “devised smear campaigns, prepared dossiers containing false information,” and “carefully placed slanderous news items” to malign him and his activity.

William Browder, a banker who has worked to expose Mr. Putin’s crimes, testified to the Grassley committee on Thursday that he was the target of a similar campaign, saying that Fusion “spread false information” about him and his efforts. Fusion has admitted it was hired by a law firm representing a Russian company called Prevezon.

   
Prevezon employed one of the Russian operators who were at Trump Tower last year. The other Russian who attended that meeting, Rinat Akhmetshin, is a former Soviet counterintelligence officer. He has acknowledged in court documents that he makes his career out of opposition research, the same work Fusion does. And that he’s often hired by Kremlin-connected Russians to smear opponents.

We know that at the exact time Fusion was working with the Russians, the firm had also hired a former British spy, Christopher Steele, to dig up dirt on Mr. Trump. Mr. Steele compiled his material, according to his memos, based on allegations from unnamed Kremlin insiders and other Russians. Many of the claims sound eerily similar to the sort of “oppo” Mr. Akhmetshin peddled.

We know that Mr. Simpson is tight with Democrats. His current attorney, Joshua Levy, used to work in Congress as counsel to no less than Chuck Schumer. We know from a Grassley letter that Fusion has in the past sheltered its clients’ true identities by filtering money through law firms or shell companies (Bean LLC and Kernel LLC).

Word is Mr. Simpson has made clear he will appear for a voluntary committee interview only if he is not specifically asked who hired him to dig dirt on Mr. Trump. Democrats are going to the mat for him over that demand. Those on the Judiciary Committee pointedly did not sign letters in which Mr. Grassley demanded that Fusion reveal who hired it.

Here’s a thought: What if it was the Democratic National Committee or Hillary Clinton’s campaign? What if that money flowed from a political entity on the left, to a private law firm, to Fusion, to a British spook, and then to Russian sources? Moreover, what if those Kremlin-tied sources already knew about this dirt-digging, tipped off by Mr. Akhmetshin? What if they specifically made up claims to dupe Mr. Steele, to trick him into writing this dossier?

Fusion GPS, in an email, said that it “did not spread false information about William Browder.” The firm said it is cooperating with Congress and that “the president and his allies are desperately trying to smear Fusion GPS because it investigated Donald Trump’s ties to Russia.”

If the Russian intention was to sow chaos in the American political system, few things could have been more effective than that dossier, which ramped up an FBI investigation and sparked congressional probes and a special counsel, deeply wounding the president. This is all to Mr. Putin’s benefit, and the question is whether Russia engineered it.

If Special Counsel Robert Mueller, Democrats and the media really want answers about Russian meddling, this is a far deeper well than the so-far scant case against Mr. Trump. If they refuse to dive into the story, we’ll know that the truth about Russia and the election was never what they were after.

Write to kim@wsj.com.
157  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Sen. Bernie Sanders has a right to the news on: July 28, 2017, 05:10:12 AM
http://www.mediaite.com/online/bernie-sanders-has-reportedly-been-stealing-his-neighbors-newspaper/
158  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Pakistan: PM ordered removed! on: July 28, 2017, 05:07:30 AM
https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/28/world/asia/pakistan-prime-minister-nawaz-sharif-removed.html?emc=edit_na_20170728&nl=breaking-news&nlid=49641193&ref=cta&_r=0
159  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Venezuela Politica on: July 28, 2017, 04:56:33 AM
segundo del dia:

Venezuela's political and economic crises may soon go from bad to drastically worse. Within weeks, the U.S. government could implement sanctions against Venezuela's vital oil sector to prevent the government in Caracas from formally starting down the path to a one-party state. In their most severe form, the sanctions would wreck Venezuela's ability to export oil to the United States by denying the state oil company Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA) access to the U.S. financial system. And U.S. companies would also be barred from doing business with the PDVSA. That would lead to a quick and steep drop in Venezuela's already declining oil production. In turn, imports would contract sharply and inflation would skyrocket, spurring the mass migration of millions of Venezuelans. But the United States could also resort to lesser sanctions limited to individuals in the Venezuelan government. Either way, the unrest in Venezuela will continue.
 
The government's approval of an assembly to rewrite the Venezuelan Constitution would immediately trigger heavy sanctions. The assembly election is set for July 30. But this is just the latest in a series of security solutions the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) has used to try to hold on to political power amid rising discontent from citizens. In other moves, the administration of President Nicolas Maduro began in 2015 to expand the size of civilian paramilitary units (known colloquially as colectivos) controlled by the ruling party elite. The government also increased internal surveillance of midranking military officers, for fear that they could mobilize troops against the government. And Maduro also began planning for a new paramilitary force drawn from the ranks of party supporters — although this initiative has yet to materialize.
Long-Ranging Effects
The president and his allies are pushing for the constitutional rewrite to cement their hold on power. Amending the document could allow them to create a one-party state in which the ruling PSUV eliminates formal avenues for opposition dissent. According to a Stratfor source, the assembly originally had been intended as a way to delay the 2017 regional elections and 2018 presidential elections. Diosdado Cabello, a potent figure within the ruling party, saw the assembly process as a way to expand his political power. So what began as a makeshift solution to delay elections has now turned into a trigger for sanctions that would most likely push the PDVSA into financial default.
 
The assembly vote could also affect events outside Venezuela. If the drive for a constitutional assembly advances, Cuba could lose a key source of leverage it has over the United States. Heretofore, Havana has used its intelligence-gathering capabilities in Venezuela, as well as its influence with the Maduro government, as a way to shape talks with the Washington over lifting the U.S. embargo against Cuba. Cabello and his faction — who have opposed Cuban influence on the government — could try to use the assembly to expand their control over government offices while shutting Cuban supporters out of key positions. For their part, the Cubans are trying to place Maduro's wife, Cilia Flores, in a position to lead the constitutional assembly to keep them from being sidelined later. However, serious U.S. sanctions could threaten either Flores or Cabello's ability to control the country.
 
In Washington, the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump has at least two reasons to oppose the constitutional assembly. Politicians such as Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida and Sen. Robert Menendez of New Jersey who oppose the Cuban government (and, by extension, Venezuela's) have heavily lobbied for the administration to take a firmer stance against the measure. But the White House's opposition to the assembly likely rests on the long-term implications of a one-party Venezuelan state. Even if the constitution is changed, the opposition would continue its protests, and dissent within the armed forces could threaten to boil over into a coup attempt. Those developments could potentially prove to be bloody and spark a lengthy armed confrontation among different factions of the government. So in deciding on the oil sanctions, Washington likely would be weighing an authoritarian state against a bloody coup.
Many Avenues of Pressure
The Maduro government is facing pressure from too many parts of society to effectively defend itself. Domestic resistance in Venezuela is strong, and it is not motivated solely by the political opposition, which is generally ideologically opposed to the government. Since the collapse of oil prices in 2014, Venezuela's population has turned increasingly against the administration because of rising inflation and food shortages. Social unrest has been persistent and widespread over the past four months, even in areas where the opposition has traditionally held less sway. This unrest raises the possibility that neither Maduro nor a substitute from the ruling party could win the next presidential election.
 
The second source of pressure comes from former allies of the government, whether in the military or civilian sides of the party. These former supporters don't like the thought of losing power and have turned against the state. Individuals such as Attorney General Luisa Ortega form part of this front, which is pressing for a change of government.
 
The third source is the armed forces themselves. Some commanders have an interest in maintaining the status quo because they receive relatively high wages and profit from criminal activities, such as drug trafficking or gaming the country's currency controls. But the threat of action by the military is a crucial risk. A military rebellion would likely be motivated by the belief that regime change would help ease the immediate hardships faced by the people, whose resistance and dissatisfaction are only growing. Although Venezuela's armed forces are notoriously opaque, the government's concerns can be seen in its response to military dissent since the start of the year. Counterintelligence authorities have heavily monitored potential troublemakers and arrested more than 100 members of the military.
 
The United States is the fourth — and most important — source of pressure. Severe sanctions from the U.S. government represent an existential threat. Harsh measures by Washington could cause Venezuela's oil production, estimated by OPEC at about 2 million barrels per day, to decline, possibly by hundreds of thousands of bpd, denying the country vital oil export revenue. Washington is considering sanctions that would block Caracas' ability to process oil payments through the U.S. financial system and that would effectively end U.S. private sector cooperation with the PDVSA. Within a matter of months, these restrictions would cause significant cash-flow problems for the PDVSA and eat into the country's imports.
The Downward Spiral
As the sanctions kicked in, shipments to U.S. refiners, which amount to 750,000 bpd, would be rapidly disrupted, and Venezuela would have to find new buyers for its oil, leading to lasting damage. U.S. services businesses such as Halliburton Co. and Schlumberger Ltd. would pull out of Venezuela, and the government would have to quickly find substitutes to prevent a sharper production decline in the long run. U.S. refiners would cease exports of fuel, as well as the oil that Venezuela blends with its own crude for refining. And the PDVSA would have to try to sell oil that was bound for U.S. refiners at a discount elsewhere, further cutting its revenue. With less oil revenue, food imports would drop sharply and prices would spike, possibly driving millions of Venezuelans to abandon the country. The refugees would arrive first in Brazil, Colombia and the Caribbean islands near the Venezuelan coast, such as Trinidad and Tobago. And with the long-term decline of the economy, Venezuelans could be pushed even farther away, with some resorting to traveling along smuggling routes through Colombia to eventually reach the United States.
 
For now, Maduro's government is committed to the constitutional assembly vote as its last line of defense. But if the government elites around him try to hold on despite an oil sanctions package, a major, violent confrontation between them and ruling party dissidents could follow. The constitutional assembly could also turn into a political dead end and lead government elites to the negotiating table with their foreign and domestic opponents under the threat of sanctions. And if Maduro gives in to U.S. pressure, the ruling party will likely fragment further between those who see the constitutional assembly as a safeguard and those who seek to coexist with the political opposition. But, in the end, it's not clear that the United States or the government's political opponents can reach a deal that satisfies the elites trying to hold on to power. What is clear is that U.S. sanctions could make Venezuelan politics take a turn for the worse.
160  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Venezuela on: July 28, 2017, 04:56:05 AM
second post

Venezuela's political and economic crises may soon go from bad to drastically worse. Within weeks, the U.S. government could implement sanctions against Venezuela's vital oil sector to prevent the government in Caracas from formally starting down the path to a one-party state. In their most severe form, the sanctions would wreck Venezuela's ability to export oil to the United States by denying the state oil company Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA) access to the U.S. financial system. And U.S. companies would also be barred from doing business with the PDVSA. That would lead to a quick and steep drop in Venezuela's already declining oil production. In turn, imports would contract sharply and inflation would skyrocket, spurring the mass migration of millions of Venezuelans. But the United States could also resort to lesser sanctions limited to individuals in the Venezuelan government. Either way, the unrest in Venezuela will continue.
 
The government's approval of an assembly to rewrite the Venezuelan Constitution would immediately trigger heavy sanctions. The assembly election is set for July 30. But this is just the latest in a series of security solutions the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) has used to try to hold on to political power amid rising discontent from citizens. In other moves, the administration of President Nicolas Maduro began in 2015 to expand the size of civilian paramilitary units (known colloquially as colectivos) controlled by the ruling party elite. The government also increased internal surveillance of midranking military officers, for fear that they could mobilize troops against the government. And Maduro also began planning for a new paramilitary force drawn from the ranks of party supporters — although this initiative has yet to materialize.
Long-Ranging Effects
The president and his allies are pushing for the constitutional rewrite to cement their hold on power. Amending the document could allow them to create a one-party state in which the ruling PSUV eliminates formal avenues for opposition dissent. According to a Stratfor source, the assembly originally had been intended as a way to delay the 2017 regional elections and 2018 presidential elections. Diosdado Cabello, a potent figure within the ruling party, saw the assembly process as a way to expand his political power. So what began as a makeshift solution to delay elections has now turned into a trigger for sanctions that would most likely push the PDVSA into financial default.
 
The assembly vote could also affect events outside Venezuela. If the drive for a constitutional assembly advances, Cuba could lose a key source of leverage it has over the United States. Heretofore, Havana has used its intelligence-gathering capabilities in Venezuela, as well as its influence with the Maduro government, as a way to shape talks with the Washington over lifting the U.S. embargo against Cuba. Cabello and his faction — who have opposed Cuban influence on the government — could try to use the assembly to expand their control over government offices while shutting Cuban supporters out of key positions. For their part, the Cubans are trying to place Maduro's wife, Cilia Flores, in a position to lead the constitutional assembly to keep them from being sidelined later. However, serious U.S. sanctions could threaten either Flores or Cabello's ability to control the country.
 
In Washington, the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump has at least two reasons to oppose the constitutional assembly. Politicians such as Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida and Sen. Robert Menendez of New Jersey who oppose the Cuban government (and, by extension, Venezuela's) have heavily lobbied for the administration to take a firmer stance against the measure. But the White House's opposition to the assembly likely rests on the long-term implications of a one-party Venezuelan state. Even if the constitution is changed, the opposition would continue its protests, and dissent within the armed forces could threaten to boil over into a coup attempt. Those developments could potentially prove to be bloody and spark a lengthy armed confrontation among different factions of the government. So in deciding on the oil sanctions, Washington likely would be weighing an authoritarian state against a bloody coup.
Many Avenues of Pressure
The Maduro government is facing pressure from too many parts of society to effectively defend itself. Domestic resistance in Venezuela is strong, and it is not motivated solely by the political opposition, which is generally ideologically opposed to the government. Since the collapse of oil prices in 2014, Venezuela's population has turned increasingly against the administration because of rising inflation and food shortages. Social unrest has been persistent and widespread over the past four months, even in areas where the opposition has traditionally held less sway. This unrest raises the possibility that neither Maduro nor a substitute from the ruling party could win the next presidential election.
 
The second source of pressure comes from former allies of the government, whether in the military or civilian sides of the party. These former supporters don't like the thought of losing power and have turned against the state. Individuals such as Attorney General Luisa Ortega form part of this front, which is pressing for a change of government.
 
The third source is the armed forces themselves. Some commanders have an interest in maintaining the status quo because they receive relatively high wages and profit from criminal activities, such as drug trafficking or gaming the country's currency controls. But the threat of action by the military is a crucial risk. A military rebellion would likely be motivated by the belief that regime change would help ease the immediate hardships faced by the people, whose resistance and dissatisfaction are only growing. Although Venezuela's armed forces are notoriously opaque, the government's concerns can be seen in its response to military dissent since the start of the year. Counterintelligence authorities have heavily monitored potential troublemakers and arrested more than 100 members of the military.
 
The United States is the fourth — and most important — source of pressure. Severe sanctions from the U.S. government represent an existential threat. Harsh measures by Washington could cause Venezuela's oil production, estimated by OPEC at about 2 million barrels per day, to decline, possibly by hundreds of thousands of bpd, denying the country vital oil export revenue. Washington is considering sanctions that would block Caracas' ability to process oil payments through the U.S. financial system and that would effectively end U.S. private sector cooperation with the PDVSA. Within a matter of months, these restrictions would cause significant cash-flow problems for the PDVSA and eat into the country's imports.
The Downward Spiral
As the sanctions kicked in, shipments to U.S. refiners, which amount to 750,000 bpd, would be rapidly disrupted, and Venezuela would have to find new buyers for its oil, leading to lasting damage. U.S. services businesses such as Halliburton Co. and Schlumberger Ltd. would pull out of Venezuela, and the government would have to quickly find substitutes to prevent a sharper production decline in the long run. U.S. refiners would cease exports of fuel, as well as the oil that Venezuela blends with its own crude for refining. And the PDVSA would have to try to sell oil that was bound for U.S. refiners at a discount elsewhere, further cutting its revenue. With less oil revenue, food imports would drop sharply and prices would spike, possibly driving millions of Venezuelans to abandon the country. The refugees would arrive first in Brazil, Colombia and the Caribbean islands near the Venezuelan coast, such as Trinidad and Tobago. And with the long-term decline of the economy, Venezuelans could be pushed even farther away, with some resorting to traveling along smuggling routes through Colombia to eventually reach the United States.
 
For now, Maduro's government is committed to the constitutional assembly vote as its last line of defense. But if the government elites around him try to hold on despite an oil sanctions package, a major, violent confrontation between them and ruling party dissidents could follow. The constitutional assembly could also turn into a political dead end and lead government elites to the negotiating table with their foreign and domestic opponents under the threat of sanctions. And if Maduro gives in to U.S. pressure, the ruling party will likely fragment further between those who see the constitutional assembly as a safeguard and those who seek to coexist with the political opposition. But, in the end, it's not clear that the United States or the government's political opponents can reach a deal that satisfies the elites trying to hold on to power. What is clear is that U.S. sanctions could make Venezuelan politics take a turn for the worse.
161  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Military Science, Military Issues, and the Nature of War on: July 27, 2017, 11:46:17 PM
https://patriotpost.us/posts/50404
162  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Unpacking the history of the Baltic Forest Brothers on: July 27, 2017, 11:42:09 PM
Unpacking the History of the Baltic 'Forest Brothers'
War is never two dimensional. Edward Lucas considers one chapter of anti-Soviet resistance.
(PETRAS MALUKAS/AFP/Getty Images)

Partner Perspectives are a collection of high-quality analyses and commentary produced by organizations around the world. Though Stratfor does not necessarily endorse the views expressed here — and may even disagree with them — we respect the rigorous and innovative thought that their unique points of view inspire.

By Edward Lucas for The Lithuania Tribune

Russia is fuming about a new NATO video celebrating the "Forest Brothers" anti-Soviet resistance in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.

Outsiders mostly find this baffling. The guerrilla war against the Soviet occupation in the Baltics is not even a forgotten conflict; most people never knew about it in the first place.

To get a sense of what the argument is about, try a thought experiment. Imagine that your ancestors were gangsters. Long before you were born, they allied with another gang and attacked some neighbors, enslaving and murdering them. Then the two gangs fell out, and forced the innocent neighbors to take sides. Eventually, your ancestors won and occupied the neighbors' houses—albeit against stiff resistance. When your forebears eventually died, the neighbors regained possession of the houses.

Now the question is how to behave. Should you apologize for the past, ignore it, or celebrate it?

That, crudely, is the problem for modern Russia in its dealings with the Baltic states.

From the Kremlin's point of view, the only important fact is that the Soviet Union (our gang) beat Nazi Germany (their gang). Anyone who fought against the Soviet side in World War Two was ipso facto a Nazi. Anyone who cherishes the memory of such people now is a Nazi too.

That makes perfect sense so long as you ignore the two most important factors: the causes of the war, and the way the Soviet Union fought it.

What the Kremlin does not like to admit is that Hitler and Stalin were allies before they became enemies in 1941. It was the infamous Molotov-Ribbentrop pact of spring 1939 between the two totalitarian empires which consigned the countries of eastern and central Europe to the meat grinder­. It meant, among other things, that Europe's largest Jewish population fell into the hands of people who wanted to exterminate them.

Nor does the modern Kremlin admit that Nazi Germany nearly won the war because the mustachioed thug in Moscow was paranoid and incompetent. Luckily, the mustachioed thug in Berlin was even more incompetent.

The Soviet Union ultimately triumphed for a number of other reasons. They include geography, climate and Western military aid. The heroism and sacrifice of the Russian people (and Ukrainians, Belarusians, Tatars and others) played a huge role.

Once you include these factors, the war in the Baltics stops being a two-dimensional Soviet myth and becomes a fascinating and tragic episode of real history. Estonians, Latvians and Lithuanians did not choose to be in a position where they had to take sides between Stalin and Hitler. They were forced into that dilemma.

Once put in an impossible position, they behaved in many different ways—admirably and abominably—just as other people would.

Some collaborated with the Soviet occupiers (who deported, looted and murdered, with a particular animus against the educated and prosperous). Others collaborated with the Nazi occupiers (who engaged in bestial atrocities against Jews, Russians and other minorities, but treated the rest of the population somewhat better). The blame for that is plentiful.

When the Nazis retreated in 1944, the peoples of the Baltic states mostly did not welcome the Soviets as liberators. That is an uncomfortable fact for modern Russians, reared on the Soviet war myth. But the fact does not become comfortable through abusing its victims.

The West is now, commendably, recognizing the post-war anti-Soviet resistance in the Baltic states as a kind of proto-NATO. The really striking fact, though, is that the Kremlin regards itself as the direct heirs of the Forest Brothers' foes: Stalin's murderous secret police, the NKVD. That is (should be) the real scandal.
163  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Terrorist attack cycle on: July 27, 2017, 11:37:39 PM
Last week while attending a conference where I was a speaker, I had the opportunity to listen to a U.S. government representative give a presentation on terrorism. One of the topics he discussed was the trend in recent years toward what he called "homegrown violent extremists" — individuals we at Stratfor refer to as grassroots jihadists.

The official noted how the vast majority of jihadist terrorist attacks in the United States in the post-9/11 era — and indeed all successful attacks — have been conducted by grassroots jihadists. As he discussed the challenges for authorities that grassroots jihadists operating under the leaderless resistance operational model present, the speaker showed a slide depicting the terrorist attack cycle on which, as he clicked, most of the steps in the cycle were marked off by red X's indicating that they didn't apply in cases involving grassroots jihadists conducting simple attacks.

As red X's filled the slide, I thought to myself, "Has the terrorist attack cycle really become obsolete?" I have pondered this question over the past week, and I believe the answer is more a matter of the attack cycle being misunderstood when applied in a leaderless resistance context than it is a matter of the cycle itself no longer being a useful frame of reference for examining terrorist attacks.

The Terrorist Attack Cycle

On the drive back to Austin after the conference I discussed this topic with one of my colleagues, who asked, "Who invented the terrorist attack cycle?" That's a good question. I told him I didn't know, but that the concept was something I had always been taught. My first exposure to it came during the terrorism block of instruction at my U.S. Army Military Intelligence Officer Basic Course. The concept was repeated when I took the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center's Criminal Investigator Training Program and the Diplomatic Security Service's Basic Special Agent Course.

Later, after I transferred to the Diplomatic Security Service's counterterrorism investigation office, the terrorist attack cycle proved a useful guide when investigating attacks, especially since we weren't tasked just with finding the perpetrator, but were expected to conduct a more holistic investigation that provided guidance on how lessons learned from an attack could be used to prevent or thwart future attacks. To do this we needed to look at both the security of the target as well as the way terrorists applied their tradecraft to attack the target. Breaking the attack into the steps of the attack cycle was a useful way to identify and examine the tactics and tradecraft required to complete each step.

This is an approach Fred Burton and I brought to Stratfor in 2004. We have found that the attack cycle continues to be a useful reference for examining terrorist attacks. Indeed, we even have seen parallels to other types of crime and have borrowed the concept to create a frame of reference for examining the criminal planning cycle.
The terrorist attack cycle is best viewed as a guideline, elastic rather than static.

An Elastic Guideline

One of the lessons I've learned over the past 30 years of investigating and analyzing terrorist attacks is that it is important not to interpret the concept of the attack cycle too rigidly. It is a guideline, and an elastic one at that. For one, each terrorist is different, and the level of tradecraft a terrorist possesses affects the manner in which that terrorist approaches planning and executing an attack. For another, different types of attacks require different degrees of planning and preparation. Some complex attacks, such as the August 1998 U.S. Embassy bombings in Tanzania and Kenya or the November 2008 attacks in Mumbai, India, take years to plan and carry out. On the other end of the scale, a simple attack against a large, static target, such as the December 1989 rifle grenade attack against the U.S. Embassy Seafront Compound in Manila, the Philippines, may have taken only hours to plan and execute if the attackers already had the rifles and grenades in hand.

In a long, deliberate attack cycle, the target identification and selection stage can be quite complex. The attack planner may compile a list of potential targets and then conduct surveillance on each of them to determine their vulnerability. In a simple attack, the target identification may consist of an attacker deciding to conduct a vehicular assault against pedestrians where the attacker knows they congregate. While this step of the attack cycle is condensed, it is nonetheless necessary to select a target for attack, even if the attack is a simple one.

Likewise, the planning and preparation phase of the cycle can vary considerably in its complexity. The 9/11 attacks required significant transnational travel and coordination as well as the transfer of funds. They required the hijacker pilots to attend flight school while the muscle hijackers received intensive training in hand-to-hand combat. Even in terms of weapons acquisition during the planning phase, there can be a great deal of difference depending on the attack being planned. It takes far more time and effort to acquire and prepare the materials for a vehicle bombing that it does a simple pipe bomb attack.

Nevertheless, in all the grassroots attacks we've seen, there is still a planning stage, even if it is much shorter than the planning required for a more complex attack. Omar Mateen conducted several rounds of surveillance while planning the Pulse nightclub attack in Orlando, Florida; Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik purchased guns, tactical gear and assembled bombs while planning their attack in San Bernardino, California. Even Esteban Santiago's seemingly random attack in the baggage claim area of the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport in Florida was the result of a planning process that required several steps.

The escape step in the attack cycle can be disregarded when it comes to the operatives in suicide attacks, such as 9/11 or the November 2015 Paris attacks, but it can be applied to planners of the attacks — figures such as Khalid Sheikh Mohammed or Abdelhamid Abaaoud — who hope to survive to equip and deploy future suicide operatives. And we've seen several non-suicide attacks by grassroots jihadists, such as the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, the San Bernardino shooting and the June 2009 shooting of an armed forces recruitment center in Little Rock, Arkansas.

Although grassroots operatives who conduct suicide operations are not in a position to conduct the exploitation phase of the attack cycle, the larger jihadist movement is. Internet and social media applications have made it easy for the media wings of jihadist groups to receive video wills or statements from attackers before they conduct their attack. Preparing and transferring such recordings to jihadist group media wings before an attack is a distinguishable action that grassroots jihadists frequently take during the planning phase of the attack cycle.

There have been times when jihadists have reacted with violence when approached by police seeking to arrest them. For example, when police and agents tried to arrest Usaamah Rahim on a Boston street in June 2015, he lunged at them with a knife and was shot dead. But incidents that occur as a result of police-initiated action need to be distinguished from an intentional attack launched by a grassroots jihadist. At the very least, such incidents should not be used to support the idea that the terrorist attack cycle is no longer a relevant framework for understanding attacks.

When we view the terrorist attack cycle as elastic rather than static, it becomes clear that even grassroots jihadists operating as lone attackers or in small cells are still bound to follow the steps in the cycle, no matter how abbreviated the steps are. Any attacker wishing to conduct an attack must select a target, plan the attack, acquire the weapon(s) to be used, conduct some degree of surveillance and then deploy to conduct their attack. Indeed, in many ways, lone attackers are even more vulnerable to the constraints of the attack cycle because they must conduct each step by themselves. In this manner they expose themselves to detection at more points throughout the cycle than does a group that can assign different tasks to different individuals.

The concept of the attack cycle is alive and well. It continues to give investigators, analysts and citizens a framework for understanding how terrorist attacks are executed so plots can be spotted and stopped.
164  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Iran looking for the nuclear deal's half-life on: July 27, 2017, 11:34:05 PM
Stratfor Worldview
worldviewer35811493132323



    Written by Stratfor’s senior analysts, columns put our weekly reports into the proper context.

 
snapshots

Jul 27, 2017 | 18:11 GMT
Iran: Looking for the Nuclear Deal's Half-Life
The United States is looking for a way to use the nuclear deal to increase access to Iran's military sites.
(Stratfor)
Connections

    Regions & Countries

    Topics

    Themes

For the United States, the art of the deal on Iran's nuclear program seems to be in putting more pressure on the Middle Eastern country. The White House is pushing for further inspections of suspicious Iranian military sites in an effort to find ways in which Tehran may not be complying with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) on its nuclear program. Specifically, the United States will try to persuade Iran to permit inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) into military sites that U.S. intelligence suggests may be used for research and development that violates the stipulations of the agreement.

Under the JCPOA, the IAEA is allowed routine access to facilities related to Iran's nuclear program. But if the organization has reason to believe the country is conducting nuclear-related activities at another location — including military sites — it can request information and access to inspect those sites. If Iran denies those requests, it has 14 days to resolve the dispute with the IAEA. Afterward, the issue can be brought to the JCPOA's dispute resolution mechanism, the Joint Commission, which has seven days to issue a ruling. The Joint Commission comprises eight parties: China, the European Union, France, Germany, Iran, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States. Decisions by the Joint Commission must then be approved by a simple majority of its members. This means the United States could force Iran to open up sites to inspection with the support of its European allies alone. Should it do so, Iran would have three days to comply with the Joint Commission's ruling before sanctions against it are automatically put back into place.

The United States had already floated the idea of requesting access to Iranian military sites to its European partners during a regular meeting of the Joint Commission on July 21. But it encountered opposition from countries that said they needed ironclad proof of Iran's activities before giving their consent. The United States' probable goal is to ask for access to an array of facilities and try to convince Europe to support its request. And should Iran deny access to even one of the sites, the United States could then claim Tehran is not holding up its end of the bargain.

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

Iran officially opened its new Imam Khomeini National Space Center with a bang, according to state media reports on July 27, by successfully launching its two-stage Simorgh rocket into space. Though Iranian state television showed footage of the rocket's liftoff, neither it nor other Iranian media offered details of the mission profile or of the Simorgh's payload. Iran previously has put several small satellites into orbit using a different rocket, but the Simorgh is designed to carry a satellite weighing up to 250 kilograms (550 pounds) into an orbit 500 kilometers (310 miles) high. Whether the launch was a suborbital test of one or both of the Simorgh's stages, and what payload, if any, the rocket might have been carrying, awaits confirmation.

The launch had been in the works since at least late January, when Iran scrubbed a launch of the Simorgh for an unspecified reason. The July 27 launch is the second time that the Simorgh has flown and will add to tensions between the United States and Iran. The United States has long been concerned about the Simorgh and Iran's space program, which has ties to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). Though its official purpose is to launch satellites, the space program allows the Iranians to gain experience in dual technologies that could be used to develop long-range ballistic missiles, and the Simorgh potentially could lead toward the production of an Iranian intercontinental ballistic missile.

Iran tested a medium-range ballistic missile in late January, less than two weeks after U.S. President Donald Trump's inauguration. The Trump administration imposed new sanctions on Iran in response. The U.S. pressure and criticism may have prompted Iran to cancel the Simorgh's January launch amid suggestions that the Iranians were trying to reduce tensions around their missile program during Trump's first months in office and in the months leading up to Iran's presidential election in May. While Trump has been sharply critical of Iran's missile tests, his administration nonetheless certified to the U.S. Congress this month that Iran is complying with the 2015 nuclear deal, the provisions of which do not prohibit Iran's missile tests outright.

Clearly, the Trump administration would like to put additional pressure on Iran. With the latest launch of the Simorgh, Iran might be showing a greater willingness to test the Trump administration's resolve now that the Iranian presidential elections are over and the IRGC continues to clamor for Iran to display its strength to the West.
165  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Green cars-- not so fast,not so clean on: July 27, 2017, 11:28:02 PM
https://www.wsj.com/articles/electric-cars-are-the-future-not-so-fast-1499873064


https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/electric-cars-are-not-necessarily-clean/

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

Unsourced:

ELECTRIC CARS - IT MAKES YOU WONDER.....

Ever since the advent of electric cars, the REAL cost per mile of those things has never been discussed. All you ever heard was the mpg in terms of gasoline, with nary a mention of the cost of electricity to run it.

Electricity has to be one of the least efficient ways to power things yet they’re being shoved down our throats…

At a neighborhood BBQ I was talking to a neighbor, a BC Hydro executive. I asked him how that renewable thing was doing. He laughed, then got serious. If you really intend to adopt electric vehicles, he pointed out, you had to face certain realities. For example, a home charging system for a Tesla requires 75 amp service. The average house is equipped with 100 amp service. On our small street (approximately 25 homes), the electrical infrastructure would be unable to carry more than 3 houses with a single Tesla, each. For even half the homes to have electric vehicles, the system would be wildly over-loaded.

This is the elephant in the room with electric vehicles. Our residential infrastructure cannot bear the load. So as our genius elected officials promote this nonsense, not only are we being urged to buy the damn things and replace our reliable, cheap generating systems with expensive, new windmills and solar cells, but we will also have to renovate our entire delivery system! This latter "investment" will not be revealed until we're so far down this dead end road that it will be presented with an 'OOPS!' and a shrug.

If you want to argue with a green person over cars that are eco-friendly, just read the following. Note: If you ARE a green person, read it anyway. It’s enlightening.

Eric test drove the Chevy Volt at the invitation of General Motors … and he writes, "For four days in a row, the fully charged battery lasted only 25 miles before the Volt switched to the reserve gasoline engine.” Eric calculated the car got 30 mpg including the 25 miles it ran on the battery. So, the range including the 9-gallon gas tank and the 16 kwh battery is approximately 270 miles.

It will take you 4-1/2 hours to drive 270 miles at 60 mph. Then add 10 hours to charge the battery and you have a total trip time of 14.5 hours. In a typical road trip your average speed (including charging time) would be 20 mph.

According to General Motors, the Volt battery holds 16 kwh of electricity. It takes a full 10 hours to charge a drained battery. The cost for the electricity to charge the Volt is never mentioned so I looked up what I pay for electricity. I pay approximately (it varies with amount used and the seasons) $1.16 per kwh. 16 kwh x $1.16 per kwh = $18.56 to charge the battery. $18.56 per charge divided by 25 miles = $0.74 per mile to operate the Volt using the battery. Compare this to a similar size car with a gasoline engine that gets only 32 mpg. $3.19 per gallon divided by 32 mpg = $0.10 per mile.

The gasoline powered car costs about $20,000 while the Volt costs $46,000+. So the American Government wants loyal Americans not to do the math, but simply pay three times as much for a car, that costs more than seven times as much to run, and takes three times longer to drive across the country.
Wake up America!



166  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Mark Levin: Rep liars on: July 27, 2017, 11:02:32 PM
http://www.speroforum.com/a/FCTILKZKGM55/81414-Mark-Levin-Republican-liars-pulled-biggest-hoax-in-modern-times?utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=KRPZFGZOJH43&utm_content=FCTILKZKGM55&utm_source=news&utm_term=Mark+Levin+Republican+liars+pulled+biggest+hoax+in+modern+times#.WXq2-3okS2A
167  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Google's pre-emptive dhimmitude? on: July 27, 2017, 10:59:16 PM
http://www.speroforum.com/a/VMYTIMNHDB4/81415-Google-bows-to-Muslim-complaints-about-web-search-results?utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=KRPZFGZOJH43&utm_content=VMYTIMNHDB4&utm_source=news&utm_term=Google+bows+to+Muslim+complaints+about+web+search+results#.WXq2NnokS2A
168  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / the Hill: intel chairman accuses OBAma aides of massive unmasking on: July 27, 2017, 09:19:38 PM


http://thehill.com/policy/national-security/344226-intelligence-chairman-accuses-obama-aides-of-hundreds-of-unmasking
169  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / the Hill: intel chairman accuses OBAma aides of massive unmasking on: July 27, 2017, 09:19:07 PM
http://thehill.com/policy/national-security/344226-intelligence-chairman-accuses-obama-aides-of-hundreds-of-unmasking
170  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Venezuela on: July 27, 2017, 09:16:20 PM
The U.S. Department of State has ordered family members of government employees at the embassy in Caracas to leave Venezuela because of the worsening security situation, AFP reported July 27. The voluntary departure of non-emergency U.S. government employees has also been authorized. U.S. citizens are also advised to avoid traveling to Venezuela because of social unrest, violent crime, and pervasive food and medicine shortages.
171  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Venezuela Politica on: July 27, 2017, 09:15:54 PM
The U.S. Department of State has ordered family members of government employees at the embassy in Caracas to leave Venezuela because of the worsening security situation, AFP reported July 27. The voluntary departure of non-emergency U.S. government employees has also been authorized. U.S. citizens are also advised to avoid traveling to Venezuela because of social unrest, violent crime, and pervasive food and medicine shortages.
172  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The Atlantic: President Trump eats first on: July 27, 2017, 09:02:17 PM
https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2017/07/donald-trump-eats-first/534927/
173  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: OMG, Brits (and Euros?!) helping w Freedom of Navigation?! on: July 27, 2017, 03:49:52 PM
    Articles

    Regions & Countries

    Topics

    Themes

British Defense Minister Michael Fallon announced that the United Kingdom is planning to send warships to the South China Sea for freedom of navigation exercises. Though the ministry has not finalized exactly where the deployment will occur, Fallon made it clear that the United Kingdom would not let China constrain it from sailing through the sea. British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson echoed the statements on a visit to Sydney. Following his discussion with Australian foreign and defense ministers, Johnson elaborated that two brand new aircraft carriers, the HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales, will be dispatched as part of the exercises. Given their scheduled service, however, the deployment will not likely take place before 2020.

The United Kingdom will assume its naval role in defending the freedom of the seas, as it continues to carefully maintain a balanced relationship with Beijing and to court Chinese investment. France has also made similar proposals to support freedom of navigation in the South China Sea, specifically by working more closely with Vietnam, Japan and the United States. France hopes for regular patrols in the region. Increased maritime presence enables both France and the United Kingdom to project strength and build alignment in the region.

However, increased involvement by foreign powers in the South China Sea only complicates China's strategy to define its maritime sphere of influence and its interests beyond. Particularly prominent projects that could be complicated by developments in the South China Sea include Chinese efforts to strengthen relations with the United Kingdom, efforts to accelerate its strategic Belt and Road Initiative in Europe and attempts to further internationalize the Yuan.
174  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Recoil: CA Gun Mag Ban Stopped in its Tracks on: July 27, 2017, 03:45:35 PM
http://www.recoilweb.com/california-magazine-ban-stopped-in-its-tracks-128765.html?wc_mid=4035:7935&wc_rid=4035:28484361&_wcsid=3310334D3D21814928E35DA2B24DB22F354971D4291FADA0
175  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Geo-Fut: China-India on: July 27, 2017, 03:36:52 PM
•   India-China: Indian National Security Adviser Ajit Doval is in Beijing for a BRICS security summit. He is expected to speak with Chinese security officials on July 28 on the sidelines of this event. The meeting comes just days after Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi called on India to withdraw its troops from a disputed border area before holding any dialogue. Other reports indicate that diplomatic channels remain open and that officials from both sides are discussing this matter. We need to scrutinize the disputed area and reassess the potential for war.
176  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / An Option for Replacing Sessions on: July 27, 2017, 01:43:46 PM
https://www.buzzfeed.com/chrisgeidner/a-cast-of-thousands-of-possible-acting-ags?utm_term=.jmVkpLZgL8#.kp46G1r51N
177  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Inspector General: IRS records missing on: July 27, 2017, 01:38:50 PM
IRS Records Missing
The Obama IRS scandal continues.
 
You won’t read about in the liberal media but on July 13 the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration issued a devastating report finding that the Internal Revenue Service’s (IRS) records management practice resulted in lost records and incomplete IRS responses to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests and congressional inquiries.  Here is the key finding:

IRS policies do not comply with certain Federal requirements that agencies must ensure that all records are retrievable and usable for as long as needed. For example, IRS e-mail retention policies are not adequate because e-mails are not automatically archived for all IRS employees. Instead, the IRS’s current policy instructs employees to take manual actions to archive e-mails by saving them permanently on computer hard drives or network shared drives. This policy has resulted in lost records when computer hard drives are destroyed or damaged. In addition, a recently instituted executive e-mail retention policy, which should have resulted in the archiving of e-mails from specific executives, was not implemented effectively because some executives did not turn on the automatic archiving feature.

For certain cases that TIGTA reviewed, IRS policies were not implemented consistently to ensure that all relevant documents were searched and produced when responding to external requests for records. TIGTA’s review of 30 completed Freedom of Information Act requests found that in more than half of the responses, the IRS did not follow its own policies that require it to document what records were searched. TIGTA also found that IRS policies for preserving records from separated employees were not adequate.

In short, records of IRS employees including top officials may have gone missing.  And the IRS never told anyone about it.
 
We’ve been on top of this issue for years. In fact, just this past April we filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the IRS to obtain records relating to the agency’s “preservation and/or retention” of the email records of officials who have left the agency since January 2010 (Judicial Watch v. Internal Revenue Service (No.1:17-cv-00596)).
 
We filed the suit as part of our continuing efforts to gain information about the IRS’ targeting of conservative groups and citizens during the Obama administration.
 
Our litigation forced the IRS first to say that emails belonging to Lois Lerner, former director of the Exempt Organizations Unit, were supposedly missing and later declare to the court that the emails were on IRS back-up systems. Lerner was one of the top officials responsible for the IRS’ targeting of President Obama’s political opponents. We exposed various IRS’ record keeping problems:

•   In June 2014, the IRS claimed to have “lost” responsive emails belonging to Lerner and other IRS officials.

•   In July 2014 Judge Emmett Sullivan ordered the IRS to submit to the court a written declaration under oath about what happened to Lerner’s “lost” emails. The sworn declarations proved to be less than forthcoming.

•   In August 2014, Department of Justice attorneys for the IRS finally admitted to Judicial Watch that Lerner’s emails, indeed all government computer records, are backed up by the federal government in case of a government-wide catastrophe. The IRS’ attorneys also disclosed that Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) was looking at several of these backup tapes.

•   In November 2014, the IRS told the court it had failed to search any of the IRS standard computer systems for the “missing” emails of Lerner and other IRS officials.

•   On February 26, 2015, TIGTA officials testified to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee that it had received 744 backup tapes containing emails sent and received by Lerner. This testimony showed that the IRS had falsely represented to both Congress, Judge Sullivan, and Judicial Watch that Lerner’s emails were irretrievably lost. The testimony also revealed that IRS officials responsible for responding to the document requests never asked for the backup tapes and that 424 backup tapes containing Lerner’s emails had been destroyed during the pendency of Judicial Watch’s lawsuit and Congressional investigations.

•   In June 2015, Judicial Watch forced the IRS to admit in a court filing that it was in possession of 6,400 “newly discovered” Lerner emails. Judge Emmet Sullivan ordered the IRS to provide answers on the status of the Lerner emails the IRS had previously declared lost. Judicial Watch raised questions about the IRS’ handling of the missing emails issue in a court filing, demanding answers about Lerner’s emails that had been recovered from the backup tapes.

•   In July 2015, U.S District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan threatened to hold John Koskinen, the commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service, and Justice Department attorneys in contempt of court after the IRS failed to produce status reports and recovered Lerner emails, as he had ordered on July 1, 2015.
Obama IRS Commissioner Koskinen was nearly impeached in September 2016 for misleading Congress on Lerner’s emails.

So this new report is shocking but not surprising.  We have long battled the IRS in court over its obstruction in responding to FOIA requests about Obama era IRS abuses. It is a scandal that the Obama IRS did not tell Judicial Watch, the courts, or Congress about the loss of government records. Our attorneys will review this report to assess whether we should seek relief and accountability from the courts.  In the meantime, President Trump should finally fire IRS Commissioner John Koskinen and direct the Justice Department to reopen its criminal inquiry into the Obama IRS abuses and cover-ups.
178  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Geopolitical Futures: Taking China's maritime threats seriously on: July 27, 2017, 01:32:00 PM
Taking China’s Maritime Threats Seriously
Jul 27, 2017
By Phillip Orchard

For much of the past year, China has taken a somewhat softer approach to the South China Sea dispute in an effort to draw in Southeast Asian states. For example, it has opened lucrative fishing waters to foreign fleets and pledged progress on a code of conduct in the disputed waters. But this tactic was always underpinned by the yawning gap in maritime capabilities between China and its neighbors. Two developments this week merely exposed this reality, underscoring not only why China is likely to get its way on most issues in the South China Sea, but also why the success of its broader strategy remains in doubt.

On July 24, the BBC reported that Vietnam recently pulled the plug on a drilling operation in disputed waters off its southern coast because of Chinese pressure. According to the report, Hanoi told the company carrying out the drilling, a subsidiary of Spanish firm Repsol, that Beijing had threatened to attack Vietnamese bases in the Spratly Islands if the operation continued. (A second source has since confirmed the report, though Vietnam has not officially addressed the matter.) Just days earlier, the Repsol subsidiary had reportedly confirmed the existence of a major natural gas play in the block, which is located on the southwest fringe of China’s desired maritime boundary, delineated by the so-called nine-dash line.

The same day, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte announced that the Philippines and China are in talks to jointly develop oil and natural gas around Reed Bank, a contested area well within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone where drilling has been suspended since 2014. (Under international law, the Philippines has sole rights to seabed resources in these waters.) The announcement walks back earlier comments, when officials from the Philippine Department of Energy said the Philippines may reopen bidding to foreign companies by the end of the year to drill in the disputed waters – suggesting that Manila may be willing to sidestep Beijing, as it did prior to 2014. Duterte also reaffirmed an earlier claim that Chinese President Xi Jinping had threatened war when Duterte stated his intention for the Philippines to resume drilling unilaterally. Philippine Foreign Minister Alan Peter Cayetano confirmed the president’s announcement on joint drilling with China the following day during a press conference with his visiting Chinese counterpart, Wang Yi.

Joint Development, Under Duress

At this point, how far the Chinese were willing to go militarily in either case is unclear. Chinese threats regarding resource extraction in parts of the South China Sea are nothing new. The Chinese have a long history of small-scale coercive actions in the waters, typically involving harassment from their rapidly expanding coast guard or their fishing militias. We can assume that both the Philippines and Vietnam would have considered such risks acceptable before moving forward. And if both have indeed changed course, it would suggest that they think China is more willing to resort to force to stop the drilling than may have been expected.

Manila and Hanoi are both eager to find a way to access their oil and gas reserves without the Chinese. Both countries need the energy resources, and neither is inclined to delay drilling until the interminable process of resolving their territorial disputes with China fully plays out. Vietnam, for example, is set to become a net importer of crude oil in two years, while its natural gas consumption is expected to increase by some 60 percent over the next decade. In addition to the Repsol project, Vietnam recently launched a joint venture with Exxon Mobil and renewed an oil lease with Indian oil firm ONGC Videsh – both in blocks overlapping China’s nine-dash line. In the Philippines, meanwhile, Reed Bank is needed to replace the primary source currently feeding Luzon’s energy needs, the Matamata field, which is expected to run out of natural gas by the middle of the next decade.

Both countries also face considerable political and economic risks of capitulating to Chinese pressure on oil and gas development. In the case of Vietnam, for example, Repsol had already reportedly poured some $300 million into the project. If the project is indeed stopped, and not merely suspended, the decision could drive away international oil companies in the future over concerns about the above-ground risk in the disputed waters. Moreover, Hanoi is wary of having nationalist political forces push it into an unwanted confrontation with Beijing. Fresh on Hanoi’s mind is the 2014 standoff over a deep-sea oil rig that China moved into Vietnamese waters – sparking violent protests and minor skirmishes at sea and destabilizing the political landscape at senior levels in Hanoi.

 A protester holds a placard during a protest in Manila against China’s presence in disputed waters in the South China Sea on June 12, 2017. TED ALJIBE/AFP/Getty Images
In the Philippines, meanwhile, Reed Bank has long been a point of contention with China, which has been pushing for joint exploration since the mid-1980s. In 2003, the Philippines abruptly broke ranks with the rest of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to launch a joint seismic exploration venture with China’s CNOOC, eventually pulling a reluctant Vietnam on board. To the extent that the goal was to put aside the sovereignty dispute and conduct seismic exploration while sharing the cost burden, the initiative was basically successful, and it could provide a template for another try at joint development.

But any attempt at joint development with the Chinese will face legal and political hurdles. Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, a regular Duterte foil, warned that the Philippine Constitution bars any state-state agreements on drilling in the Philippines’ EEZ. Compliance with the charter will depend on the language of whatever arrangement is reached, but it may be difficult for Manila and Beijing to strike a deal without implicitly ceding ground on the sovereignty question. Much of the Philippine defense establishment already opposes joint development with China on principle. And public support would sour if it comes to be portrayed as the political and business elite selling out Philippine sovereignty to the neighborhood bully for personal gain. The 2003 deal, for example, fell apart by 2008 amid widespread corruption allegations, including some related to Chinese investments in the country, that had been plaguing Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo for years.

It’s Not About the Oil

China is acting with much broader geopolitical imperatives in mind. For China, it’s not about the oil, or any of the known seabed resources in the waters, for that matter. (Securing access to rich fishing grounds is an imperative for China, but it is only a secondary concern.) Rather, for China, it’s primarily about pushing outward to create a buffer that shields its internal vulnerabilities and secures access to its vital seaborne trade routes south to the Indian Ocean basin and west toward North America.

China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea, encompassing some 1.4 million square miles (3.6 million square kilometers), are intentionally vague on the fringes, ostensibly leaving Beijing room to push and prod where it sees fit. But attempts at resource extraction tend to bring China’s claims into starker relief. Allowing Vietnam or the Philippines to extract mineral resources even on the very fringes of the nine-dash line, several hundred miles from the Chinese mainland, would amount to effective recognition of their sovereignty over the waters. If the Philippines and Vietnam are going to drill, from China’s perspective, they can do so only in a way that does not invalidate China’s territorial claims. Better still would be for these countries to undertake joint ventures, framing China as a source of prosperity and progress for the region while giving Beijing yet another point of leverage for use in service of its broader aims.

This strategy helps cement China’s dominance in its backyard and prevent regional states from disrupting efforts at bolstering its defenses in its near abroad, such as its militarized man-made islands in contested waters with the Philippines and Vietnam. It also underscores the limits of U.S. naval superiority, as the U.S. is reluctant to wade into minor disputes. And if Beijing succeeds in forging a joint development agreement with Manila, it would mark a breakthrough, if a mostly symbolic one, in Beijing’s ability to navigate nationalist impulses in the region (while keeping its own in check) enough to get adversaries to engage on its terms.

The Bigger Picture

But it doesn’t automatically address China’s broader geopolitical imperatives. China’s only viable strategy to ensure access to the Pacific is to reach a political accommodation with one of the nation-states that make up what’s known as the first island chain, the archipelago stretching from Indonesia to Japan. China would need to be certain that this state wouldn’t side with an outside naval power in a major conflict. Beijing’s best bet is the Philippines.

If a lasting political accommodation is the goal, then China’s apparent willingness to resort to military force on issues its neighbors hold dear like drilling may seem counterintuitive. But hard power is working for Beijing, particularly in the small doses that assert its local superiority without dragging the U.S. into the fray. After all, despite the international backlash against China’s militarization of the Spratlys, and despite last year’s international arbitration ruling that invalidated China’s sweeping territorial claims in the region, China’s position in its near abroad has only strengthened. It has received no meaningful pushback to the island building, and littoral states are increasingly divided and negotiating on Beijing’s terms.

Beijing is betting that its overwhelming superiority compared to weaker Southeast Asian states will diminish the appetite for confrontation among its southern neighbors and turn their attention toward the tangible benefits of cooperation. A lot of people are getting rich off Chinese investments in the Philippines and Vietnam, and a lot of them have considerable influence in their capitals. In other words, China is using force to declare the rules of the game, and using economic tools to make its neighbors more willing to play.

The drawback, of course, is that there is a cost to perpetual coercion, particularly when the other states have the option of partnering with stronger outside powers. And Chinese pressure will inevitably compel Southeast Asian states to keep the United States and allies like Japan no further than an arm’s length away. The 2015 agreement allowing the U.S. rotational access to Philippine military bases is a case in point. Duterte’s framing of his concession on joint development with Beijing as being done under threat of war may reduce the possibility of a nationalist backlash against him in the Philippines, but it also makes the Philippine public more distrustful of the Chinese and more likely to support a stronger alliance with the West. It hardly fits Wang Yi’s June 25 depiction of China as the Philippines’ “good brother.”

Thus, routinely flexing its muscles in its near abroad is in many ways Beijing’s only choice. Any political accommodation with Manila would be fluid and subject to shifts in Philippine political moods, and expelling the United States from the region is a long-term project, at best. China cannot outsource the task of securing its backyard to its neighbors, nor trust that they will reject all other suitors. So China is building out its buffer bit by bit, in part by demonstrating a willingness to go to the mat over issues large or small.

The post Taking China’s Maritime Threats Seriously appeared first on Geopolitics | Geopolitical Futures.

179  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / JW launches suit against Montgomery County, MD & MD Bd of Elections on: July 27, 2017, 01:09:32 PM
second post

Judicial Watch Launches New Election Integrity Lawsuit

This week saw the first official meeting of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, which is under attack from leftists who want to preserve the ability to steal elections. Also this week, your Judicial Watch filed a new lawsuit that could serve to get key information about the integrity of election rolls in Maryland (one of the states “resisting” inquiries from the Advisory Commission on Election Integrity).
 
We filed the lawsuit simply to gain access to voter registration lists in Montgomery County, Maryland. The defendants are Montgomery County and the Maryland State Board of Elections. We filed the lawsuit to enforce our rights under the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (NVRA) in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland, Baltimore Division (Judicial Watch vs. Linda H. Lamone, et al. (No. 1:17-cv-02006)).
 
Back in April, we sent a notice letter to Maryland election officials that explained how there were more registered voters in Montgomery County than there were citizens over the age of 18.  The letter threatened a lawsuit if the problems with Montgomery County’s voter rolls were not fixed. The letter also requested access to Montgomery County voter registration lists to evaluate the efficacy of any “programs and activities conducted for the purpose of ensuring the accuracy and currency of Maryland’s official eligible voter lists during the past 2 years.”  On July 7, Maryland denied us access to the list because Maryland law supposedly restricts the release of voter registration information only to Maryland registered voters.
 
But Section 8(i) of the NVRA provides that “[e]ach State shall maintain for at least 2 years and shall make available for public inspection and, where available, photocopying at a reasonable cost, all records concerning the implementation of programs and activities conducted for the purpose of ensuring the accuracy and currency of official lists of eligible voter.”
 
In our lawsuit we noted that the registration list is covered under Section 8(i) of the NVRA:

“Section 8(i) of the NVRA contains no requirement that only an individual person or a registered voter may request the documents that the statute describes. Accordingly, Section 8(i) authorizes and entitles Judicial Watch to inspect and copy the requested voter list.”

In fact, we regularly request and receive records from state and local governments pursuant to Section 8(i) of the NVRA.  (The Director of Judicial Watch’s Election Integrity Project is Senior Attorney Robert Popper, who was formerly deputy chief of the Voting Section of the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department.)  In April, we sent letters to 11 states with counties in which the number of registered voters exceeds the number of voting-age citizens. The states are: Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina and Tennessee.
 
Maryland needs to make this voter registration information available as federal law requires. Maryland doesn’t want us to expose its voter roll mess, and we hope the courts move quickly so we can begin the process of cleaning up the rolls. This is a national problem, and Maryland is the scene of one of many legal battles we must be prepared to fight for clean elections.
180  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Mark Mills: Professionals and Managers-- you're next! on: July 27, 2017, 01:05:28 PM
Professionals and Managers: You’re Next
Automation may replace white-collar workers sooner than you expect
Mark P. Mills
https://www.city-journal.org/html/professionals-and-managers-youre-next-15289.html

Here’s the dirty little secret about automation: it’s easier to build a robot to replace a junior attorney than to replace a journeyman electrician. And that fact helps explain why economists and politicians are feeling misgivings about “creative destruction,” which, up to now, they have usually embraced as a net good for society. Technology and automation, they’ve argued—correctly—boost productivity and create more jobs overall (even as some kinds of work get eradicated).

In the age of the algorithm, though, they’re not so sure anymore, and no wonder: instead of creative destruction coming to factories and farms, it’s sweeping through city centers and taking white-collar jobs. The chattering classes have talked and written for years about the “end of work.” Doubtless many fear that the end of their work is in the offing, this time around.

Understandably, most of the media focus has been on the replacement of manual labor—real robots doing real tasks provide better visuals than an invisible service “bot” in the cloud. But focusing on hamburger-flipping androids is a distraction from where the real revolution is taking place. In any case, automation doesn’t really explain the decline in factory employment: manufacturing-sector investment in information technology has been flat or declining for more than a decade; and productivity, a critical indicator of (and the purpose of) automation has also been flat. Factories are actually underinvested in technology.

But Silicon Valley has been busy building software that will transform businesses, particularly those associated with shopping malls, Hollywood, hotels, taxis, newspapers, broadcast TV, finance, and even education. Some algorithms can teach basic math better than most humans with a B.Ed. Next up are the many paperwork tasks currently administered by bureaucrats and regulators. The white-collar professionals who staff these service-sector domains, a vast cadre, may find themselves displaced.

Consider a bellwether of more white-collar disruption yet to come: of the nearly 200 so-called Unicorns—private, venture-backed companies such as Uber that are valued over $1 billion—90 percent are in nonmanufacturing businesses. There’s a good reason for such a skewed focus. Supercomputer-class software in the cloud can perform, at minimal cost, once-daunting information-centric tasks, from reading X-rays to managing a “passive” investment fund. But the engineering challenges are far greater and many times more complex in cyber-physical systems, where software meets steel in real time. A seemingly minor software glitch that freezes a video screen can escalate from an annoyance to a fatal error if it’s involved in the interaction of the mechanical world with human beings. Self-driving car hype aside, there’s much work to be done in achieving viable sensors, actuators, power systems, security, and safety. Goldman Sachs reports that the automobile sector remains the only deeply automated industry; nearly all the rest are, at most, 20 percent to 30 percent along this path.

In due course, a cyber-revolution will indeed come to the “means of production.” Meantime, we’re in the midst of an upheaval in what we might call the “means of management.” The overall effect, I believe, will be the same as in the past—a boost to the economy and more jobs—but the makeover this time will affect the professional and managerial classes. We should expect them to be at least as vocal about it as many factory workers were a generation ago.

****
Mark P. Mills is a McCormick Faculty Fellow at Northwestern University and a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute.

181  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Islam in Paris: Woman beaten by mob on: July 27, 2017, 12:51:25 PM
http://www.israelvideonetwork.com/graphic-vicious-muslim-mob-attack-on-female-tourist-filmed-in-paris-suburb/?omhide=true
182  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / We need to be aware of these arguments on: July 27, 2017, 12:03:09 PM
https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/monkey-cage/wp/2017/07/27/pences-voter-fraud-commission-will-almost-certainly-find-thousands-of-duplicate-registrations-that-arent-duplicates-heres-why/?utm_term=.c87921a86378&wpisrc=nl_politics&wpmm=1

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2017/07/26/federal-judge-upholds-fine-against-kris-kobach-for-pattern-of-misleading-the-court-in-voter-id-cases/?tid=a_inl&utm_term=.79e6742345b1

183  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Kurdish Independence Vote on: July 27, 2017, 11:20:38 AM
http://www.oann.com/kurdish-government-officials-meet-with-trump-administration-ahead-of-independence-vote/
184  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The US Congress; Congressional races on: July 27, 2017, 11:19:10 AM
OUTSTANDING!!!
185  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / OAN: One America Network on: July 27, 2017, 09:22:31 AM
On our satellite TV, FOX is 360, FOX Business at 359 and various other news and public interest channels  are nearby.  CNN is at 202 for some reason.

Recently I noticed OAN at 347.  My wife googled a bit and apparently behind it is a San Diego businessman with other media interests as well.  I would say that OAN's orientation is "Trumpist".

There is near zero attention to the reporters and who they are.  There is near zero Washington gossip.  There are very few commercials (perhaps because the network/channel is new?).   What there is is LOTS of news about all kinds of things from around the country and around the world-- with occasional quickie segments on American history.

At present the show is one hour that repeats, with each hour replacing older segments in the one hour loop as new ones become available.

Worth keeping an eye on I'm thinking , , ,
186  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Housing Crisis predicted in 2007 on: July 27, 2017, 09:13:06 AM
Hat tip to our Doug:

https://web.stanford.edu/~johntayl/Onlinepaperscombinedbyyear/2007/Housing_and_Monetary_Policy.pdf

Interest rates held unjustifiably low from 2003 to 2006 along with lack of accountability for mortgage originators, what could possibly go wrong.

On the 'lessons learned' section he should have left it blank.
187  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / JW: Maybe that was a good regulation , , , on: July 27, 2017, 09:11:08 AM
$21.8 Mil in DHS Conferences Exposed after Trump Kills Rule Forcing Fed Agencies to Report Conference Spending

JULY 26, 2017

Weeks after the Trump administration abolished a rule requiring federal agencies to report conference spending, a breakdown of the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) multi-million-dollar conference tab illustrates the need to keep the measure in place. The mammoth agency created after 9/11 to prevent another terrorist attack fails miserably to protect the southern border, to bust dangerous visa overstays, and to remove criminal illegal aliens — but it knows how to throw a party for employees and “stakeholders.” It also knows how to hide a chunk of the tab from taxpayers and the Trump administration is facilitating the process, laughably enough, asserting that agencies have tight internal controls.

That clearly isn’t the case, even under the reporting rules that were recently nixed by the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB). DHS held 911 conferences totaling $21.8 million during a recent two-year period, according to a federal audit released this month by the agency’s Inspector General. In fiscal year 2014 DHS spent $11.4 million on 433 conferences and $10.4 million on 478 conferences in 2015. At the time, federal agencies were required to report all conferences that cost more than $100,000 each, but DHS kept two out of every three that cost north of $100,000 secret. The agency watchdog doesn’t provide the exact number, but reveals in its report that the total of unreported conferences was a whopping $3.5 million for the two years examined by investigators. In fiscal year 2014 the unreported conferences totaled $862,881 and in fiscal year 2015 they came to $2,822,561.

DHS committed a number of other violations during this period, the audit states. “The Department also did not always report all hosted conferences greater than $20,000 to OIG within 15 days after the end of the conference,” the report says. “In addition, the Department did not always enter actual conference cost data into the Conference Approval Tool timely or accurately, and in some instances DHS did not have appropriate documentation to support expenses.” For instance, the report reveals that expenses totaling $79,471 cannot be accounted for because the agency was unable to provide appropriate documentation. “Without adequate documentation, DHS cannot be assured that all conference spending is appropriate or in the best interest of the Government and taxpayers,” the report states.

Outrageous conference spending has been a systemic problem in government for a long time, which is why the Obama administration implemented rules to crack down on the waste. Apparently, the measures weren’t very effective but eliminating them doesn’t seem like a solution either. There’s no telling the abuses that a massive agency like DHS, with more than 240,000 employees and an annual budget of $40.6 billion, will commit without proper oversight. DHS has a well-established reputation for its outlandish conference spending. A few years ago, the agency blew an eye-popping $20.3 million in just one year to host 1,883 conferences under supposedly stricter spending rules. This included a dozen events that each exceeded $100,000, including $196,308 for a San Francisco forum aimed at preventing terrorism as well as “securing and managing our borders” and an additional $130,941 for a separate San Francisco shindig so 39 senior agency officials could engage with “key influencers and decision makers” in the cybersecurity industry.

Other examples listed in the federal audit include $179,053 on the International Oil Spill Conference in Savannah, Georgia, which focused on environmental impacts of oil spills and $125,348 on a Washington D.C. event aimed at “maximizing the benefits of gender diversity.” The idea behind that conference was to promote gender equity through a group known as Women in Federal Law Enforcement (WIFLE), a nonprofit created by the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the U.S. Treasury to address why women remain underrepresented in federal law enforcement. A $110,993 “outreach” summit in Washington D.C. brought Customs and Border Patrol senior managers, transportation executives and foreign government partners together to discuss “securing and managing our borders” and a $108,617 Ft. Worth Texas conference provided a “platform for conveying information regarding relevant issues in immigration enforcement.” DHS also doled out $131,868 on the Afghanistan Pakistan Illicit Procurement Network Symposium in Tampa, Florida where discussions focused on preventing hostile nations and illicit procurement networks from illegally obtaining U.S. military products or sensitive technology that could be used against the U.S.
188  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Uighirs fighting in Syria on: July 27, 2017, 09:06:17 AM
http://nationalinterest.org/blog/the-buzz/why-are-5000-chinese-fighting-syrias-civil-war-20562
189  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Trump is right on Transgender Military Ban on: July 27, 2017, 09:04:03 AM
http://dailysignal.com/2017/07/26/5-good-reasons-transgender-accommodations-arent-compatible-military-realities/?utm_source=TDS_Email&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=MorningBell&mkt_tok=eyJpIjoiWlRJNVpEWmhZakE1WlRKaCIsInQiOiJRc0ZwOXkrWE1wbFVYVlJDekpIeWpGSVdZb2ptVXhpRFQ0NW4wNUxlQVpRdU5randCMVV5MDIyR1NWcGt6R0tGNVd3K2J3eXZxeXc4TVwvVjJNamUrcW8rSm9GOXpWejBpYWo4ZzlZa1ZYY2VXTFp0Zk5mRDMrRHNiTStOXC95K3ZCIn0%3D


http://www.dailywire.com/news/19054/combat-vet-gives-powerful-testimony-against-trans-amanda-prestigiacomo

190  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Scaramucci sells company to Chinese front on: July 26, 2017, 11:10:10 PM
https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/31/us/anthony-scaramucci-business-white-house.html?emc=edit_th_20170201&nl=todaysheadlines&nlid=49641193&_r=1
191  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Debbie Wasserman Schultz and the Pakistani Connection on: July 26, 2017, 11:04:30 PM
http://observer.com/2017/02/imran-awan-democrat-debbie-wasserman-schultz-criminal-investigation/
192  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Debbie Wasserman Schultz and the Pakistani Connection on: July 26, 2017, 09:50:41 PM
With the arrest of her Pakistani IT man as he tried to fllee the country back to Pakistan, I'm thinking it is time to give this its own thread.

Though not the most , , , of sources, here's this to get the ball rolling:

https://www.allenbwest.com/dw-fbi-arrests-debbies-aide-tries-flee-pakistan-gets-whole-lot-worse/

Now check out this!

At 19:10 Tucker Carlson w Mark Steyn:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fQP9MsLiR_E

Do I have this right? The Pakistani, funded in part by IRAQI money (!?) had DWS's password?!?  And therefore leverage over her?  Is this why the DNC refused to let the FBI have its server?  Does this dissolve the assertions of certainty that the Russians were behind the hack of the DNC?!?  Could Trump be right that it may not have been the Russians?

PS: We need a good summary article of the story prior to this.



193  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Wesbury: The road to normal starts in September on: July 26, 2017, 09:34:32 PM
Research Reports
________________________________________
The Road to Normal Starts in September To view this article, Click Here
Brian S. Wesbury, Chief Economist
Robert Stein, Deputy Chief Economist
Date: 7/26/2017

The Federal Reserve made no changes to interest rates today and made almost no changes to the text of its statement. However, the wording changes it did make strongly support our view the Fed will announce the start of balance sheet reductions at the end of its next meeting on September 20.

First, the Fed qualified its reference to maintaining its current policy of rolling over principal payments by saying this was the policy only for the "time being."

Second, at the last meeting in June, the Fed said renormalization would start "this year." Now it says "relatively soon," the same language Fed Chief Yellen used at the press conference (but not the Fed's official statement) back in June.

Third, back in June the Fed said it "currently" expected to start renormalizing the balance sheet. That left the Fed wiggle room to change its own expectation, as if it anticipated the possibility of making a change to its timing. Now, by removing "currently," the Fed is essentially saying the likelihood of changing its mind is much lower.

Put it all together and it looks like an announcement about renormalization is very likely to happen at the next meeting. Moreover, there were no dissents at all from today's statement, unlike in June, when Minneapolis President Neel Kashkari made a dovish dissent.

We expect the Fed's September announcement about renormalization to follow the path suggested in June. For the first three months (presumably, October – December) the Fed will reduce its balance sheet by $10 billion per month ($6 billion in Treasury securities, $4 billion in mortgage-related securities). Then, every three months, the amount of monthly balance sheet reduction will rise by $10 billion (with the same 60/40 proportion between Treasury securities and mortgage-related securities). That escalation will continue until the Fed is cutting its balance sheet by $50 billion per month (presumably in the last quarter of 2018).

Meanwhile, the Fed softened language surrounding inflation expectations, but made it clear they still anticipate inflation moving towards their 2% inflation target over the medium term. Given the continued improvements in the labor market and consistent – if modest - inflation, we still anticipate the Fed will raise rates once more in 2017. That may change as markets react to the balance sheet normalization process and additional economic data, but, unlike many in the market, we place the odds of a December rate hike at well over 50%.

While others fret about renormalization and rising rates damaging the economy or financial markets, investors should remain bullish. Look for faster economic growth and a continuation of the bull market in equities in the years ahead.
194  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: GPS Unregistered Russian agent? on: July 26, 2017, 04:43:39 PM
Second post:


By James Freeman
July 26, 2017 4:55 p.m. ET
180 COMMENTS

Democrats are now promising Americans a “better deal,” but it will be hard to stop talking about the deal that voters rejected last November. Today The Hill reports:

    Hillary Clinton’s upcoming book will double down on Russia’s interference and James Comey’s involvement in her stunning election defeat, according to sources familiar with the memoir.

    Privately, Clinton has told friends and longtime associates that she “wants the whole story out there” as she rushes to tweak and put the finishing touches on the book due out in September.

And if there’s one thing that Hillary Clinton is known for, it’s getting the whole story out there. But readers interested in this subject won’t have to wait until September to learn more. A witness expected to testify at Thursday’s rescheduled hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee may shed some light on Russian interference in the 2016 election, though perhaps not in the way Mrs. Clinton might have hoped.

William Browder, an American-born investor and onetime cheerleader for Russia’s economic potential, has for years been among Vladimir Putin’s most effective opponents. Ever since his Russian investment fund was ripped off and his Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky was murdered, Mr. Browder has been shining a light on Russian corruption. He succeeded in persuading Congress and President Obama to enact the Magnitsky Act in 2012 to sanction Russia’s human-rights abusers.

In Mr. Browder’s prepared testimony for Senate Judiciary, he accuses a network of Beltway influence peddlers of disseminating Russian propaganda in an effort to persuade U.S. lawmakers to repeal the Magnitsky Act. According to Mr. Browder:

    While they were conducting these operations in Washington, DC, at no time did they indicate that they were acting on behalf of Russian government interests nor did they file disclosures under the Foreign Agent Registration Act.

    United States law is very explicit that those acting on behalf of foreign governments and their interests must register under FARA so that there is transparency about their interests and their motives.

Mr. Browder says that a leader of the anti-Magnitsky campaign was Natalia Veselnitskaya, who recently became famous for trying to make this case to Donald Trump, Jr. in a meeting last summer. Also relevant to the 2016 campaign, Mr. Browder says:

    Veselnitskaya, through Baker Hostetler, hired Glenn Simpson of the firm Fusion GPS to conduct a smear campaign against me and Sergei Magnitsky in advance of congressional hearings on the Global Magnitsky Act. He contacted a number of major newspapers and other publications to spread false information that Sergei Magnitsky was not murdered, was not a whistle-blower and was instead a criminal. They also spread false information that my presentations to lawmakers around the world were untrue.

So the same firm that generated rumors about the Russians having damaging information on President Trump—a project funded by Mr. Trump’s American political opponents, according to the Washington Post’s Josh Rogin—was also working for the Russians?

Fox News describes the reaction today of Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley (R., Iowa):

    “Mr. Simpson’s company, Fusion GPS, is the same firm that oversaw the creation of the unverified Trump Dossier,” Grassley said in his opening statement. “It is vital for the Committee to fully understand Fusion’s failure to register under FARA and its role in the creating and spreading of the dossier...There are public reports that the FBI used the dossier to kickstart its Russia investigation—Did the FBI know that Fusion pitched Russian propaganda for another client as it pushed the Trump dossier?”

This column asked Fusion GPS to comment on Mr. Browder’s prepared testimony and received this response:

    Let’s be clear about what’s really happening: The President’s political allies are targeting Fusion GPS because the firm was reported to be the first to raise the alarm over Trump campaign’s links to Russia.

That may be true, but it’s not a denial of anything in Mr. Browder’s prepared testimony. Speaking of which, as readers make judgments about the character of various players in this drama, they might want to review Mr. Browder’s account of what happened to Sergei Magnitsky after he blew the whistle on corruption and was imprisoned because he would not withdraw his sworn testimony against Russian officials:

They put him in cells with no heat and no windowpanes and he nearly froze to death. They put him in cells with no toilet, just a hole in the floor and sewage bubbling up...He developed severe abdominal pains, he lost 40 pounds, and he was diagnosed with pancreatitis and gallstones and prescribed an operation for August 2009. However, the operation never occurred. A week before he was due to have surgery, he was moved to a maximum security prison called Butyrka, which is considered to be one of the harshest prisons in Russia. Most significantly for Sergei there were no medical facilities there to treat his medical conditions.

    At Butyrka his health completely broke down. He was in agonizing pain. He and his lawyers wrote 20 desperate requests for medical attention, filing them with every branch of the Russian criminal justice system. All of those requests were either ignored or explicitly denied in writing.

    After more than three months of untreated pancreatitis and gallstones, Sergei Magnitsky went into critical condition. The Butyrka authorities did not want to have responsibility for him, so they put him in an ambulance and sent him to another prison that had medical facilities. But when he arrived there, instead of putting him in the emergency room they put him in an isolation cell, chained him to a bed, and eight riot guards came in and beat him with rubber batons.

    That night he was found dead on the cell floor.
195  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ on: July 26, 2017, 03:33:00 PM
Some additional thoughts:

a) Trump explicitly ran on prosecuting Hillary;

b) He went against this promise after the election; therefore unfair to Sessions to criticize him for failure to prosecute now;

c) Sessions is doing excellent Trumpism work on MS-13 and illegal immigration

d) In my opinion, Sessions has performed badly on the legal issues surrounding the six Muslim country moratorium (ban)

e) Who would replace?  Who could be approved?  Giuliani?  Nope, he supports Sessions recusal and would be much weaker on illegals.

The WSJ makes some powerful points here:


By The Editorial Board
July 25, 2017 7:54 p.m. ET
1479 COMMENTS

Donald Trump won’t let even success intrude on his presidential ego, so naturally he couldn’t let the Senate’s health-care victory stand as the story of Tuesday. Instead he continued to demean Jeff Sessions, and in the process he is harming himself, alienating allies, and crossing dangerous legal and political lines.

For a week President Trump has waged an unseemly campaign against his own Attorney General, telling the New York Times he wished he’d never hired him, unleashing a tweet storm that has accused Mr. Sessions of being “beleaguered” and “weak.”

Mr. Trump is clearly frustrated that the Russia collusion story is engulfing his own family. But that frustration has now taken a darker turn. This humiliation campaign is clearly aimed at forcing a Sessions resignation. Any Cabinet appointee serves at a President’s pleasure, but the deeply troubling aspect of this exercise is Mr. Trump’s hardly veiled intention: the commencement of a criminal prosecution of Hillary Clinton by the Department of Justice and the firing of special prosecutor Robert Mueller.

On Tuesday morning Mr. Trump tweeted that Mr. Sessions “has taken a very weak position on Hillary Clinton crimes. ” This might play well with the red-meat crowd in Mr. Trump’s Twitterverse, but Sen. Lindsey Graham was explicit and correct in describing the legal line Mr. Trump had crossed.

“Prosecutorial decisions should be based on applying facts to the law without hint of political motivation,” Sen. Graham said. “To do otherwise is to run away from the long-standing American tradition of separating the law from politics regardless of party.” Republican Sen. Thom Tillis also came to Mr. Sessions’ defense, citing his “unwavering commitment to the rule of law,” and Sen. Richard Shelby called him “a man of integrity.”

We will put the problem more bluntly. Mr. Trump’s suggestion that his Attorney General prosecute his defeated opponent is the kind of crude political retribution one expects in Erdogan’s Turkey or Duterte’s Philippines.

Mr. Sessions had no way of knowing when he accepted the AG job that the Russia probe would become the firestorm it has, or that his belated memory of brief, public meetings with the Russian ambassador in 2016 would require his recusal from supervising the probe. He was right to step back once the facts were out, not the least to shelter the Trump Administration from any suspicion of a politicized investigation.

If Mr. Trump wants someone to blame for the existence of Special Counsel Robert Mueller, he can pick up a mirror. That open-ended probe is the direct result of Mr. Trump’s decision to fire FBI Director James Comey months into his Russia investigation and then tweet that Mr. Comey should hope there are no Oval Office tapes of their meeting. That threat forced Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to appoint a special counsel.

As a candidate, Mr. Trump thought he could say anything and get away with it, and most often he did. A sitting President is not a one-man show. He needs allies in politics and allies to govern. Mr. Trump’s treatment of Jeff Sessions makes clear that he will desert both at peril to his Presidency.

No matter how powerful the office of the Presidency, it needs department leaders to execute policy. If by firing or forcing out Jeff Sessions Mr. Trump makes clear that his highest priority is executing personal political desires or whims, he will invite resignations from his first-rate Cabinet and only political hacks will stand in to replace them. And forget about Senate confirmation of his next AG.

Even on the day that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was scraping together enough Republican votes to avoid a humiliating defeat for the President on health care, Mr. Trump was causing Senators to publicly align themselves with Mr. Sessions. Past some point of political erosion, Mr. Trump’s legislative agenda will become impossible to accomplish. Mr. Trump prides himself as a man above political convention, but there are some conventions he can’t ignore without destroying his Presidency.
196  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Geopolitical Futures: Israel busy in Eastern Europe on: July 26, 2017, 03:15:55 PM
•   Israel: Israel seems to be active at the diplomatic level in Eastern Europe. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was in Budapest last week. On July 25, Israel’s defense minister visited Belgrade and signed a defense deal with his Serbian counterpart. And Bulgaria is reportedly interested in receiving gas from Israel. Let’s look into what Israel hopes to get out of its moves in Eastern Europe.
197  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Geopolitical Futures: Ukraine on: July 26, 2017, 03:13:34 PM
•   Ukraine: On July 25, the U.S. special representative to Ukraine said the United States was considering providing defensive weapons to Ukraine. On July 26, the CEO of Ukrainian state energy distributor Ukrenergo announced that the company had suspended electricity to Donetsk region; it had threatened to take this action in April. On the same day, a district court in Kiev ordered Ukraine’s State Security Service to open a case against Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko on the charge of treason, claiming that he had helped finance fighters in Donbass. These are all potential signs of a more assertive Ukraine. It may be coincidence that these developments happened after the U.S. House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly to extend sanctions against Russia, but coincidences are rare in our line of work. The bill passed with such a strong majority that it can’t be vetoed by the president. Russia is threatening retaliation of some type and has to respond to provocations in Ukraine. All of this points toward a potential destabilization in Ukraine. In the immediate term, we need to look at each of these moves and figure out whether they are a result of the sanctions or whether they were long in the making.
198  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / More Emily Farkas on: July 26, 2017, 03:10:44 PM
Given the source, read with care.

http://www.breitbart.com/jerusalem/2017/07/25/video-ex-obama-official-advocated-spying-trump-urges-intel-community-compromise-sources-methods/
199  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Russian conspiracy, Comey, related matters on: July 26, 2017, 02:18:06 PM
That as usual they are grabbed by the pussy.
200  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: China getting ready on: July 26, 2017, 02:17:33 PM
China Prepares for a Crisis Along North Korea Border
Beijing bolsters defenses along its 880-mile frontier and realigns forces in surrounding regions
By Jeremy Page
July 24, 2017 4:40 p.m. ET
290 COMMENTS

maps in original

BEIJING—China has been bolstering defenses along its 880-mile frontier with North Korea and realigning forces in surrounding regions to prepare for a potential crisis across their border, including the possibility of a U.S. military strike.

A review of official military and government websites and interviews with experts who have studied the preparations show that Beijing has implemented many of the changes in recent months after initiating them last year.

They coincide with repeated warnings by U.S. President Donald Trump that he is weighing military action to halt North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, while exerting pressure on China to do more to rein in Pyongyang.

Recent Chinese measures include establishing a new border defense brigade, 24-hour video surveillance of the mountainous frontier backed by aerial drones, and bunkers to protect against nuclear and chemical blasts, according to the websites.

China’s military has also merged, moved and modernized other units in border regions and released details of recent drills there with special forces, airborne troops and other units that experts say could be sent into North Korea in a crisis. They include a live-fire drill in June by helicopter gunships and one in July by an armored infantry unit recently transferred from eastern China and equipped with new weaponry.

China’s Defense Ministry didn’t respond directly when asked if the recent changes were connected to North Korea, saying only in a written statement that its forces “maintain a normal state of combat readiness and training” on the border. It has denied previous reports of thousands of extra Chinese troops moving into border areas.

Crisis Planning
China is realigning armed forces in its east and northeast to prepare for contingencies in North Korea.


NORTHERN THEATER

COMMAND



Sources: Jamestown Foundation (military units); James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies via the Nuclear Threat Initiative (nuclear facilities)

A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman on Monday said: “Military means shouldn’t be an option to solve the Korean Peninsula issue.”

Chinese authorities have nonetheless been preparing for North Korean contingencies, including economic collapse, nuclear contamination, or military conflict, according to U.S. and Chinese experts who have studied Beijing’s planning.

China’s recent changes in force structure, equipment and training are connected to nationwide military reforms launched last year to overhaul Soviet-modeled command structures and prepare better for combat beyond China’s borders, those experts say.

In the northeast, however, those reforms are geared predominantly toward handling a North Korean crisis, the experts say.

China’s contingency preparations “go well beyond just seizing a buffer zone in the North and border security,” said Mark Cozad, a former senior U.S. defense intelligence official for East Asia, now at the Rand Corp.

“Once you start talking about efforts from outside powers, in particular the United States and South Korea, to stabilize the North, to seize nuclear weapons or WMD, in those cases then I think you’re starting to look at a much more robust Chinese response,” he said. “If you’re going to make me place bets on where I think the U.S. and China would first get into a conflict, it’s not Taiwan, the South China Sea or the East China Sea: I think it’s the Korean Peninsula.”

China, like many foreign governments, still considers a U.S. military strike unlikely, mainly because of the risk of Pyongyang retaliating against South Korea, an American ally whose capital of Seoul lies within easy reach of the North’s artillery.

The Pentagon declined to discuss U.S. planning efforts. American officials didn’t respond to questions about steps taken by China. But top American officials say they are focused on diplomatic and economic pressure, and view military action as a last resort.

Although technically allied to Pyongyang, Beijing wouldn’t necessarily defend its regime, but is determined to prevent a flood of North Koreans from entering northeastern China and to protect the population there, U.S. and Chinese experts say.

Beijing also appears to be enhancing its capability to seize North Korean nuclear sites and occupy a swath of the country’s northern territory if U.S. or South Korean forces start to advance toward the Chinese border, according to those people.

That, they say, would require a much larger Chinese operation than just sealing the border, with special forces and airborne troops likely entering first to secure nuclear sites, followed by armored ground forces with air cover, pushing deep into North Korea.

It could also bring Chinese and U.S. forces face to face on the peninsula for the first time since the war there ended in 1953 with an armistice—an added complication for the Trump administration as it weighs options for dealing with North Korea.

Beijing has rebuffed repeated American requests to discuss contingency planning, American officials say.

China has long worried that economic collapse in North Korea could cause a refugee crisis, bring U.S. forces to its borders, and create a united, democratic and pro-American Korea. But China’s fears of a U.S. military intervention have risen since January as Pyongyang has test-fired several missiles, including one capable of reaching Alaska.

“Time is running out,” said retired Maj. Gen. Wang Haiyun, a former military attaché to Moscow now attached to several Chinese think tanks. “We can’t let the flames of war burn into China.”

He wrote an unusually outspoken article for one of those think tanks in May arguing that China should “draw a red line” for the U.S.: If it attacked North Korea without Chinese approval, Beijing would have to intervene militarily.
A man in Dandong offered tourists the use of binoculars to view the North Korean side of the Yalu River in April.
A man in Dandong offered tourists the use of binoculars to view the North Korean side of the Yalu River in April. Photo: Damir Sagolj/REUTERS

China should demand that any U.S. military attack result in no nuclear contamination, no U.S. occupation of areas north of the current “demarcation line” between North and South, and no regime hostile to China established in the North, his article said.

“If war breaks out, China should without hesitation occupy northern parts of North Korea, take control of North Korean nuclear facilities, and demarcate safe areas to stop a wave of refugees and disbanded soldiers entering China’s northeast,” it said.

Maj. Gen. Wang said he didn’t speak for the government. But his article isn’t censored online—as it would likely be if Beijing disapproved—in China and other Chinese scholars and military figures recently voiced similar views.

In recent weeks, some details of China’s preparations have also emerged on the military and government websites.

The new border defense brigade patrolled the entire frontier in June to gather intelligence and has drawn up detailed plans for sealing it in a crisis, according to the military’s official newspaper.

Aerial drones would help identify targets, supplementing the new 24-hour video surveillance and addressing problems with “information access, rapid mobility and command and control,” another report in the newspaper said.

Many other units in the northeast have recently conducted new combat-focused training for the kind of joint military operations that experts say would be needed for an intervention within North Korea.

In one drill, a new “combined arms brigade” simulated battle against a “blue team” with artillery, tanks and helicopters, state television reported in June.

The new Northern Theater Command, which controls forces in the northeast, also now incorporates units in eastern China that experts say could be launched across the Yellow Sea toward North Korea.

Meanwhile, authorities in Jilin province, which borders North Korea, are reinforcing and expanding a network of underground shelters and command posts to withstand air, nuclear or chemical attack, local government notices show.
Chinese soldiers recently patrolled the streets of Dandong near the North Korean border.
Chinese soldiers recently patrolled the streets of Dandong near the North Korean border. Photo: Jiwei Han/ZUMA PRESS

Such facilities were needed “to respond to the complicated security situation surrounding the province,” Jilin’s civil air defense bureau said in a notice on its website, which also features photos and specifications of U.S. military aircraft.

In May, Jilin’s government unveiled what it called China’s first “combat-ready big data disaster preparedness center” in an underground facility designed to protect critical military and government data from nuclear or chemical attack.

Jilin authorities declined to comment, citing the sensitivity of the subject.

China’s military reforms aren’t complete and the People’s Liberation Army, or PLA, remains ill-prepared for a North Korean operation, some experts say.

“I don’t see the PLA at this time being particularly enthusiastic about being tasked to undertake a potential near-term mission in North Korea,” said Dennis Blasko, a former U.S. military attaché in Beijing.

But China, like the U.S., has been surprised by how fast North Korea’s nuclear weapons program has progressed, say foreign diplomats and experts. Beijing also worries that Pyongyang’s actions are now harming Chinese security interests, since the U.S. deployment in South Korea in April of a missile-defense system that China says can track its own nuclear missiles, diplomats and experts say.

Beijing’s interests “now clearly extend beyond the refugee issue” to encompass nuclear safety and the peninsula’s long-term future, said Oriana Skylar Mastro, an assistant professor at Georgetown University who has studied China’s planning for a North Korean crisis.

“China’s leaders need to make sure that whatever happens with (North Korea), the result supports China’s regional power aspirations and does not help the United States extend or prolong its influence,” Ms. Mastro said.

—Ben Kesling in Washington contributed to this article.

Write to Jeremy Page at jeremy.page@wsj.com
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