Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Powdering Up For Bed

"Johnson & Johnson to pay $417m in lawsuit linking baby powder to cancer" by Michael Balsamo Associated Press  August 21, 2017

LOS ANGELES — A Los Angeles jury on Monday ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay a record $417 million to a hospitalized woman who claimed in a lawsuit that the talc in the company’s iconic baby powder causes ovarian cancer when applied regularly for feminine hygiene.

The verdict in the lawsuit brought by the California woman, Eva Echeverria, marks the largest sum awarded in a series of talcum powder lawsuit verdicts against Johnson & Johnson in courts around the U.S.

Echeverria alleged Johnson & Johnson failed to adequately warn consumers about talcum powder’s potential cancer risks. She used the company’s baby powder on a daily basis beginning in the 1950s until 2016 and was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2007, according to court papers.

Echeverria developed ovarian cancer as a ‘‘proximate result of the unreasonably dangerous and defective nature of talcum powder,’’ she said in her lawsuit.

Echeverria’s attorney, Mark Robinson, said his client is undergoing cancer treatment while hospitalized and told him she hoped the verdict would lead Johnson & Johnson to put additional warnings on its products.

‘‘Mrs. Echeverria is dying from this ovarian cancer and she said to me all she wanted to do was to help the other women throughout the whole country who have ovarian cancer for using Johnson & Johnson for 20 and 30 years,’’ Robinson said.

‘‘She really didn’t want sympathy,’’ he added. ‘‘She just wanted to get a message out to help these other women.’’

Johnson & Johnson spokeswoman Carol Goodrich said in a statement that the company will appeal the jury’s decision. She says while the company sympathizes with women suffering from ovarian cancer that scientific evidence supports the safety of Johnson’s baby powder.

The verdict came after a St. Louis, Missouri jury in May awarded $110.5 million to a Virginia woman who was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2012.

She had blamed her illness on her use of the company’s talcum powder-containing products for more than 40 years.

Besides that case, three other trials in St. Louis had similar outcomes last year — with juries awarding damages of $72 million, $70.1 million and $55 million, for a combined total of $307.6 million.

Another St. Louis jury in March rejected the claims of a Tennessee woman with ovarian and uterine cancer who blamed talcum powder for her cancers.

Two similar cases in New Jersey were thrown out by a judge who said the plaintiffs’ lawyers did not presented reliable evidence linking talc to ovarian cancer.

More than 1,000 other people have filed similar lawsuits. Some who won their lawsuits won much lower amounts, illustrating how juries have wide latitude in awarding monetary damages.

Johnson & Johnson is preparing to defend itself and its baby powder at upcoming trials in the U.S., Goodrich said.

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RelatedJohnson & Johnson says its drug shouldn’t be used to kill prisoners

They care more about them than the women and the children, and this is no longer working for me, sorry.

The one thing that might keep you up:

"Businesses fret over Congress’ ability to avoid debt default" by Victoria McGrane Globe Staff  August 21, 2017

WASHINGTON — Despite President Trump’s swirl of controversies, August still has a sleepy feel inside Washington’s beltway, where the business of government has slowed. Bosses, including the 535 members of Congress, are out of town. Lunches are long. To-do lists short.

But there’s a chill creeping down K Street, disturbing the summer doldrums for lobbyists.

Business leaders are warily eyeing an approaching deadline to raise the debt ceiling, a statutory limit controlled by Congress on the amount of money the United States can borrow to pay its outstanding bills.

Congress has flirted with debt defaults in recent years, but this is the first time the issue has cropped up on Trump’s watch. The fall deadline also comes after Congress’s bruising failure to replace the Affordable Care Act, erosion in the president’s relationship with Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell, and the severe fallout over Trump’s response to racial violence in Charlottesville, Va.

Related:

"The Senate’s health committee will hold two hearings early next month on how the nation’s individual health insurance marketplaces can be stabilized. GOP and Democratic leaders are exploring whether they can craft a bipartisan but limited bill aimed at curbing rising premiums for people who buy their own insurance. In many markets, consumers are seeing steeply rising premiums and fewer insurers willing to sell policies. A Sept. 6 hearing will feature state insurance commissioners. The next day’s witnesses will be governors. Both groups will be bipartisan. The push for even a modest compromise on Obamacare is expected to be difficult....." 

I'm sure the in$urance companies will get their bailout.

McConnell, speaking at an event in Kentucky Monday, insisted that the Republican-led Congress will act. ‘‘There is zero chance — no chance — we will not raise the debt ceiling,’’ McConnell said.

The Treasury Department says the limit must be raised by Sept. 29 or the federal government risks defaulting on its debts, a never-before breach the exact consequences of which are unknown but which experts agree probably would trigger economic calamity, and not just in the United States. Stocks would plunge, interest rates could soar, and a deep recession might result.

This has the feeling of the TARP bailout B$!

“The stakes are incredibly high. We’re monitoring this extremely closely and, along with others in the business community, we’ll mobilize if needed,” said Rob Nichols, CEO of the American Bankers Association, though he said his expectation is that “thoughtful and responsible decisions will be made.”

If the bankers want it, it $hall be achieved!

A second task also lies ahead: Before that Sept. 29 debt deadline, Congress also must renew funding for the government to avoid a shutdown. Lawmakers have 12 workdays scheduled in September once they get back after Labor Day, making for a potential nail-biter in the second half of the month.

“We are very concerned,” said Anthony Cimino, senior vice president and head of government affairs at the Financial Services Roundtable, which represents financial services companies. While previous rounds of debt-ceiling standoffs have been resolved and disaster avoided right at deadline, “I don’t believe we should be taking anything for granted.’’

“Failure to raise the debt ceiling would be a major unforced error which could have terrible consequences for US financial markets and the economy,” said J.D. Foster, senior vice president of the economic policy division and chief economist of the US Chamber of Commerce, the biggest business lobby in town, which has been among the most active pressing the issue with key lawmakers. “The fact is nobody can say with confidence what would happen, but the risk and danger is such that no one can responsibly suggest a justification for not raising the debt ceiling on a timely basis.”

Yup, keep digging that hole taxpayers will never be able too fill.

Once a routine vote, raising the debt ceiling has become one of Washington’s most politically fraught exercises, a perennial flash point in the ideological government spending and debt wars.

During Barack Obama’s White House tenure, conservatives started using the need to raise the spending cap as leverage to press for spending cuts to rein in the country’s ever-growing debt. In 2011, the standoff led Standard & Poor’s to downgrade the country’s credit rating from its coveted AAA status.

Didn't they screw up the MBS and CDO ratings?

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has pushed Congress to pass a so-called “clean” debt-limit increase, free of other policy changes, and unsuccessfully tried to prod lawmakers to do it before the August recess. But the message has been mixed from elsewhere in the White House: Trump’s budget chief, Mick Mulvaney, made comments supporting a debt ceiling increase with riders designed to spur “spending reforms.” Earlier this month, he reversed course and said he, too, supports Congress passing “the simplest debt ceiling increase we can get.”

But there is reason to worry that the political standoff could be more intense than ever this year, some observers say. Members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus are making noise about demanding various policy priorities as a condition for voting on an increase. Among those demands are making as much as $250 billion in spending cuts and including a complicated set of changes that would require Treasury to prioritize spending on debt payments over everything else as the debt ceiling nears, while authorizing the president to sell assets to keep the debt under that limit.

Yes, the bankers and wealthy bond-holders must get paid first!

Yet those are unlikely to fly with Democrats, who will very likely be needed to raise the ceiling in the Senate since it will require 60 votes, unless GOP leaders decide to use a complex procedure known as reconciliation.

I can see that after the Supreme Court confirmation of Gorsuch.

On top of that, the players are different than in debt ceiling negotiations in the recent past. With a Republican in the White House, Democrats have less incentive to play nice and get this done. Some Democrats have signaled they want their own policy concessions — such as funding payments to insurance companies that provide plans on the Affordable Care Act’s exchanges to cover the costs of deductibles and co-pays for low-income policyholders.

Yeah, screw the country for politics. 

And they wonder why they don't win elections?

“You are lacking a lot of the so-called adults in the room this time,” said Chris Krueger, a Washington analyst at the Cowen Washington Research Group. And in certain cases, “the actors who are on the same team are throwing haymakers at one another in the press,” he added, nodding to the criticisms exchanged last week between McConnell and Trump.

McConnell sparked the intraparty drama when he chided Trump for having “excessive expectations” about how quickly Congress can move legislation, which he credited to Trump’s status as a political neophyte. Trump did not take the criticism well: He launched days of Twitter insults at McConnell over his failure to move Trump’s agenda, especially repealing the Affordable Care Act.

How odd! I was led to believe that it was Trump who initiated it!

Trump, in particular, injects an added element of uncertainty, lobbyists say. He could prove to be an asset in prodding reluctant conservative Republicans to vote to lift the cap. But he also could just as easily shoot off a tweet or off-the-cuff comment that undermines deal-making on the Hill, as happened during the health care debate.

Given the stakes and Democrats’ past criticism of their GOP colleagues for trying to hold the debt ceiling hostage, Isaac Boltansky, an analyst with Compass Point Research & Trading, figures the debt ceiling will get raised, cleanly, with the help of Democrats in September. But he thinks the odds are pretty good that Congress won’t reach a funding deal in time to keep the government from shutting down. 

They know who are their ma$ters.

A shutdown carries its own economic consequences: For instance, the 16-day shutdown in 2013 cost the US economy $24 billion in lost economic output, according to an S&P estimate.

But Boltansky says a shutdown this fall could have an additional “psychological impact” that could, among other things, stall that strong stock market performance Trump enjoys bragging about.

I'll check those later.

“If Congress can’t keep the lights on, how are they going to pass tax reform and infrastructure and all of the other things?” said Boltansky.

On the debt ceiling, some in the business community are more sanguine than others. One financial industry executive said he felt confident that White House economic adviser Gary Cohn, Mnuchin, House Speaker Paul Ryan, and McConnell all understand the stakes and will figure out how to raise the debt ceiling.

“Maybe it gets done later than we would like . . . [but] this gets done,” the executive said.

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Related:

"McConnell, in private, doubts if Trump can save presidency" by Alexander Burns and Jonathan Martin New York Times   August 22, 2017

The relationship between President Trump and Senator Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, has disintegrated to the point that they have not spoken to each other in weeks, and McConnell has privately expressed uncertainty that Trump will be able to salvage his administration after a series of summer crises.

He shall be impeached!

What was once an uneasy governing alliance has curdled into a feud of mutual resentment and sometimes outright hostility, complicated by the position of McConnell’s wife, Elaine L. Chao, in Trump’s Cabinet, according to more than a dozen people briefed on their imperiled partnership. Angry phone calls and private badmouthing have devolved into open conflict, with the president threatening to oppose Republican senators who cross him, and McConnell mobilizing to their defense.

The rupture between Trump and McConnell comes at a highly perilous moment for Republicans, who face a number of urgent deadlines when they return to Washington next month. Congress must approve new spending measures and raise the statutory limit on government borrowing within weeks of reconvening, and Republicans are hoping to push through an elaborate rewrite of the federal tax code. There is little room for legislative error.

Then it will all be done so quickly you won't even see it!

A protracted government shutdown or a default on sovereign debt could be disastrous — for the economy and for the party that controls the White House and both chambers of Congress.

Yet Trump and McConnell are locked in a political cold war. Neither man would comment for this story. Don Stewart, a spokesman for McConnell, noted that the senator and the president had “shared goals,” and pointed to “tax reform, infrastructure, funding the government, not defaulting on the debt, passing the defense authorization bill.”

Still, the back-and-forth has been dramatic.

Ah, the DRAMA!

In a series of tweets this month, Trump criticized McConnell publicly, then berated him in a phone call that quickly devolved into a profane shouting match.

Makes it sound like Trump initiated it!

During the call, which Trump initiated Aug. 9 from his New Jersey golf club, the president accused McConnell of bungling the health care issue. He was even more animated about what he intimated was the Senate leader’s refusal to protect him from investigations of Russian interference in the 2016 election, according to Republicans briefed on the conversation.

McConnell has fumed over Trump’s regular threats against fellow Republicans and criticism of Senate rules, and questioned Trump’s understanding of the presidency in a public speech. McConnell has made sharper comments in private, describing Trump as entirely unwilling to learn the basics of governing.

In offhand remarks, McConnell has expressed a sense of bewilderment about where Trump’s presidency might be headed and has mused about whether Trump will be in a position to lead the Republican Party into next year’s elections and beyond, according to people who have spoken to him directly.

That is where my print copy ended it. They practically have Trump out the door.

While maintaining a pose of public reserve, McConnell expressed horror to advisers last week after Trump’s comments equating white supremacists in Charlottesville, Va., with protesters who rallied against them. Trump’s most explosive remarks came at a news conference in Manhattan, where he stood beside Chao. (Chao, deflecting a question about the tensions between her husband and the president she serves, told reporters, “I stand by my man — both of them.)

McConnell signaled to business leaders that he was deeply uncomfortable with Trump’s comments: Several who resigned advisory roles in the Trump administration contacted McConnell’s office after the fact, and were told that McConnell fully understood their choices, three people briefed on the conversations said.

Trump has also continued to badger and threaten McConnell’s Senate colleagues, including Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona, whose Republican primary challenger was praised by Trump on Twitter last week.

“Great to see that Dr. Kelli Ward is running against Flake Jeff Flake, who is WEAK on borders, crime and a non-factor in Senate. He’s toxic!”

Trump was set to hold a campaign rally Tuesday night in Phoenix, and Republicans feared he would use the event to savage Flake again. 

I don't know if he did or not.

If he does, senior Republican officials said the party’s senators would stand up for their colleague. A Republican “super PAC” aligned with McConnell released a web ad on Tuesday assailing Flake’s Republican rival, Kelli Ward, as a fringe-dwelling conspiracy theorist

Then they must be on to something to be insulted in such a way.

“When it comes to the Senate, there’s an Article 5 understanding: An attack against one is an attack against all,” said Senator Lindsey Graham, a Republican from South Carolina who has found himself in Trump’s sights many times, invoking the NATO alliance’s mutual defense doctrine.

The fury among Senate Republicans toward Trump has been building since last month, even before he lashed out at McConnell. Some of them blame the president for not being able to rally the party around any version of legislation to repeal the Affordable Care Act, accusing him of not knowing even the basics about the policy. Senate Republicans also say strong-arm tactics from the White House backfired, making it harder to cobble together votes and have left bad feelings in the caucus.

When Trump addressed a Boy Scouts jamboree last month in West Virginia, White House aides told Senator Shelley Moore Capito, a Republican from the state whose support was in doubt, that she could only accompany him on Air Force One if she committed to voting for the health care bill. She declined the invitation, noting that she could not commit to voting for a measure she had not seen, according to Republican briefed on the conversation. 

The Congre$$ critters vote on things they haven't seen all the time so that is nothing but a cop out, and the Boy Scouts thing was just a fluke.

Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska told colleagues that when Trump’s Interior secretary threatened to pull back federal funding for her state, she felt boxed in and unable to vote for the health care bill.

In a show of solidarity, albeit one planned well before Trump took aim at Flake, McConnell will host a $1,000-per-person dinner Friday in Kentucky for the Arizona senator, as well as for Senator Dean Heller of Nevada, who is also facing a Trump-inspired primary race next year, and Senator Deb Fischer of Nebraska. Flake is expected to attend the event. 

How can a guy be so unpopular and yet such a factor? 

Unless..... lied to again!?

Former Senator Judd Gregg of New Hampshire, a Republican who is close to McConnell, said frustration with Trump was boiling over in the chamber. Gregg blamed the president for undermining congressional leaders, and said the House and Senate would have to govern on their own if Trump “can’t participate constructively.” 

They should have been doing that anyway, but that looks like a COUP!

“Failure to do things like keeping the government open and passing a tax bill is the functional equivalent of playing Russian roulette with all the chambers loaded,” Gregg said. 

Why bring them into this?

Others in the party divide blame between Trump and McConnell. Al Hoffman, a former finance chairman of the Republican National Committee who has been supportive of McConnell, said McConnell was culpable because he has failed to deliver legislative victories. “Ultimately, it’s been Mitch’s responsibility, and I don’t think he’s done much,” Hoffman said.

But Hoffman predicted that McConnell would likely outlast the president.

“I think he’s going to blow up, self-implode,” Hoffman said of Trump. “I wouldn’t be surprised if McConnell pulls back his support of Trump and tries to go it alone.” 

So it won't be a heart attack but a sucide bomber that gets to him?

An all-out clash between Trump and McConnell would play out between men whose strengths and weaknesses are very different. Trump is a political amateur, still unschooled in the ways of Washington, but he maintains a viselike grip on the affections of the Republican base. McConnell is a soft-spoken career politician, with virtuoso mastery of political fundraising and tactics, but he had no mass following to speak of. 

You know, these people, and Trump learned awfully quick after Charlottesville.

McConnell, while baffled at Trump’s penchant for internecine attacks, is a ruthless pragmatist and has given no overt indication that he plans to seek more drastic conflict. Despite his private battles with Trump, McConnell has sent reassuring signals with his public conduct: On Monday, he appeared in Louisville, Kentucky, with Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, for a discussion of tax policy.

McConnell’s Senate colleagues, however, have grown bolder. The combination of the president’s frontal attacks on Senate Republicans and his claim that there were “fine people” marching with white supremacists in Charlottesville has emboldened lawmakers to criticize Trump in withering terms.

Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee rebuked Trump last week for failing to “demonstrate the stability nor some of the competence” required of presidents. On Monday, Senator Susan Collins of Maine said in a television interview that she was uncertain Trump would be the Republican presidential nominee in 2020

They are laying the ground for removal from office.

There are few recent precedents for the rift. The last time a president turned on a legislative leader of his own party was in 2002, when allies of George W. Bush helped force Trent Lott to step down as Senate minority leader after racially charged remarks at a birthday party for Senator Strom Thurmond of South Carolina.

For the moment, McConnell appears to be far more secure in his position, and perhaps immune to coercion from the White House. Republicans are unlikely to lose control of the Senate in 2018, and Trump has no allies in the Senate who have shown an appetite for combat with McConnell.

Still, some allies of Trump on the right — including Stephen K. Bannon, who stepped down last week as Trump’s chief strategist — welcome more direct conflict with McConnell and congressional Republicans.

Roger J. Stone Jr., a Republican strategist who has advised Trump for decades, said the president needed to “take a scalp” in order to force cooperation from Republican elites who have resisted his agenda. Stone urged Trump to make an example of one or more Republicans, like Flake, who have refused to give full support to his administration.

“The president should start bumping off incumbent Republican members of Congress in primaries,” Stone said. “If he did that, Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan would wet their pants and the rest of the Republicans would get in line.” 

They spent an hour with that creep?

But McConnell’s allies warn that the president should be wary of doing anything that could jeopardize the Senate Republican majority.

“The quickest way for him to get impeached is for Trump to knock off Jeff Flake and Dean Heller and be faced with a Democrat-led Senate,” said Billy Piper, a lobbyist and former McConnell chief of staff.

Well, there are 25 Democrats up for reelection and only 8 Republicans; however, if you could spin the narrative from a Republican supermajority by flipping half the seats and retaining the others to the actual election resulting in only a gain of 3 seats or so, with Democrats holding most and maybe picking off a Republican, that might be enough to do it.

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There is no ceiling for elite arrogance:

"Treasury chief’s wife apologizes for boasts about wealth"  August 22, 2017

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin’s wife, Louise Linton, apologized Tuesday for boasting about her wealth and then disparaging someone who criticized her during a nasty social media exchange, trying to quell a raft of criticism.

‘‘I apologize for my post on social media yesterday as well as my response,’’ she is quoted as saying, according to her publicist. ‘‘It was inappropriate and highly insensitive.’’

Linton, an actress and producer, married Mnuchin two months ago in a lavish ceremony attended by the president and vice president. She often travels with Mnuchin on official business, which is not customary for a Cabinet member’s spouse, but officials say they reimburse the government.

She drew attention Monday for posting a photo of herself disembarking from a government plane with Mnuchin and noting various designers’ clothes she was wearing. That drew comment from someone with the Instagram identity Jennimiller29: ‘‘Glad we could pay for your little getaway.’’

Linton responded with a fiery attack. ‘‘Did you think this was a personal trip?!’’ She added: ‘‘Adorable! Do you think the US govt paid for our honeymoon or personal travel?! Lololol. Have you given more to the economy than me and my husband? Either as an individual earner in taxes OR in self sacrifice to your country? I’m pretty sure we paid more taxes toward our day ‘trip’ than you did. Pretty sure the amount we sacrifice per year is a lot more than you’d be willing to sacrifice if the choice was yours.’’

Linton added, ‘‘You’re adorably out of touch. . . . Thanks for the passive aggressive nasty comment. Your kids look very cute. Your life looks cute.’’

Stephen Mnuchin and wife Louise Linton often travel together on official business, unlike their predecessors.
Stephen Mnuchin and wife Louise Linton often travel together on official business, unlike their predecessors (Saul Loeb/Pool Photo via Associated Press/File 2017).

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Related:

Leave the kid alone!

Yeah, where is Kathy Griffin now?

Time to check those stocks:

"Stocks around the world jumped Tuesday, and the Standard & Poor’s 500 had one of its best days of the year, as markets put a shaky couple of weeks further behind them. It has taken just two days for the index to recoup half the loss it sustained in the two weeks since setting a record on Aug. 7. Those two weeks were a jolt for markets, as worries rose about political strife in Washington, but the Senate’s majority leader said on Monday there is ‘‘zero chance’’ Congress will vote against increasing the country’s borrowing limit, and many analysts are expecting markets to drift sideways in coming weeks, with few market-moving events on the calendar. One highlight could be the symposium for central bankers from around the world in Jackson Hole, Wyo., at the end of this week. The Federal Reserve is raising interest rates and is preparing to pare back the $4.5 trillion it holds on its balance sheet, and investors are wondering when the European Central Bank will follow suit. The heads of both the Fed and the ECB are expected to speak at the symposium, and if either suggests a more aggressive pace than investors are expecting, it would likely mean another tumble for markets. But investors say the Fed, in particular, has been meticulous in setting expectations so markets aren’t taken by surprise. If markets do end up calming down, it would mark a return to a smooth ride for investors. The S&P 500 is up 9.5 percent for the year, and the climb had been a remarkably placid one until two weeks ago....."

Related:

"The European Union’s antitrust watchdog said Tuesday that it has launched a probe into German chemical maker Bayer’s planned acquisition of US seed and weed-killer company Monsanto. The European Commission, which polices competition in Europe, said it has concerns that the merger may reduce competition in areas like pesticides and seeds. Monsanto last year accepted an offer from Bayer to pay $57 billion to its shareholders and assume $9 billion in debt. Were it to go ahead, the buyout would create the world’s largest integrated pesticides and seeds company. The commission says it will also look into whether the move would hinder the access of competitors to distributors and farmers."

Yeah, I kind of merged yesterday and today.

"Brazil’s antitrust watchdog said AT&T Inc.’s $85.4 billion deal for Time Warner Inc. poses a high risk to competition, a potential complication that threatens to delay the final approval process. The transaction as originally presented should be rejected unless the companies agree to some changes that may include asset sales, according to a recommendation published Tuesday by the staff of Cade, as the antitrust agency is known. It didn’t specify what properties might need to be divested. The Cade board has until its Nov. 22 session to issue a final ruling, though that deadline can be extended by 90 days under Brazilian law. The merger combines one of the world’s largest telecommunications providers with the owner of media properties like Warner Bros. and HBO. It would also create a TV powerhouse in Brazil that may run afoul of a law that prohibits pay-TV providers from owning programming content."

Don't they know that AT&T will bring new high-speed Internet service at a lower cost?

"McDonald’s India has announced it will close nearly 170 McDonald’s outlets in northern and eastern India after the American fast food giant decided to terminate a franchise agreement with its Indian partner. McDonald’s said its partner Connaught Plaza Restaurants violated the terms of the franchise agreement, including reneging on payment of royalties. Connaught Plaza Restaurants, which runs 169 McDonald’s outlets in northern and eastern India, said Tuesday it is considering legal action in the long-drawn legal battle. In June, it shut 43 McDonald’s outlets in the capital, New Delhi, after it failed to renew their licenses."

Just watch where you step over there. 

You know, a hamburger joint in India might not have been the best idea.

"The United States has been starved for inventory, in part because builders slowed production after the last decade’s property crash and many seniors are choosing to remain in their houses rather than downsize....."

Time to hit the ATM, grab a cup of coffee and head home:

Paris tourism rebounds following drop after 2015 terror attacks

PFFFT!

Brits can have a sleepover in a department store to test out a mattress

You can fall asleep to Netflix.

Following in Father's Footsteps

You know where they lead, right?

"On a familiar battlefield, Marines prepare for their next chapter in Afghanistan" by Thomas Gibbons-Neff Washington Post  August 22, 2017

CAMP SHORAB, Afghanistan — In Marine Brigadier General Roger B. Turner Jr.’s office on this small, dusty base, there is a leather couch, a map of Helmand province, and a white board marked with half-dozen goals. One of them reads: ‘‘Get thru fighting season.’’

That aim — survival — demonstrates how modest US ambitions in Afghanistan have become.

In 2011, when Turner was last in Afghanistan and in charge of thousands of Marines spread across a constellation of outposts in this province, the fighting season was almost distinct, lasting the summer and early fall months as Taliban militants spent revenue from the spring’s poppy harvest on ammunition.

Yeah, right, whatever, WaPo.

Now Turner is the first to admit that the fighting season never really ends, and the small group of 300 Marines here is trying to help the Afghan army hold a fraction of the territory US troops controlled six years ago.

Turner’s unit, called Task Force Southwest, based out of Camp Lejeune, N.C., is the first Marine deployment to Helmand since 2014. His base is wedged between the headquarters for the Afghan army unit responsible for the province — the 215th Corps — and the derelict remains of Camp Leatherneck, the sprawling installation that was once home to thousands of Marines at the height of the war and may now be reopened. A third of Turner’s troops have been to Helmand before, and many of them wear bracelets commemorating their dead friends, steel reminders of the 349 Marines who died in the surrounding countryside.

Task Force Southwest represents what could be the next chapter of the United States’ longest war, which President Trump vowed in a speech Monday to continue fighting. 

Should have followed his instincts like he said in the speech!

He also said we, the American people, are weary of the wars. 

Mr President, we were weary of them years ago; now we are absolutely appalled.

Trump promised Monday that US troops ‘‘will fight to win,’’ and leaders such as Turner believe the Marines are trying a different approach.

‘‘We can at least see a path forward,’’ Turner said, adding that the Army unit that had preceded his Marines had controlled the ‘‘hemorrhaging’’ in the province after the 215th Corps suffered record-high casualties in 2015 and lost two districts to the Taliban.

To some of the Marines, though, optimism, no matter how cautious, rings hollow after nearly 16 years of war and new approaches that sound a lot like the old ones.

Because "winning" is just being there.

‘‘You know, it’s like everyone forgot,’’ said one Marine, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the issue frankly. ‘‘Like someone hit the reset button and now we’re out here again saying, ‘We can do this, we can win this thing. ’ ’’

General Robert Neller, the top Marine Corps officer, was hesitant to send Marines to Helmand again after he was asked by the commander of US troops in Afghanistan last fall, according to US military officials familiar with the deliberations. Before Task Force Southwest deployed in April, Neller told the 300 Marines that part of their mission, along with assisting the Afghans, was to ‘‘not get blown up.’’ When Neller visited Helmand in July, and was asked by Marines what they were fighting to achieve, he was blunt that no victory was in sight.

‘‘I can’t guarantee your kids won’t be here in 20 years with another old guy standing in front of them,’’ he said, according to multiple Marines at the meeting.

That is where my print copy ended it and where my heart sunk.

The situation in Helmand deteriorated rapidly after the United States withdrew in 2014 as part of the Obama administration’s drawdown, leaving the 215th Corps with no advisers and air support, and a false sense of confidence that they could fight the Taliban by themselves.

Three years later, the 215th has a new commander, and US and Afghan officials are confident that he can keep the Taliban from overrunning the provincial capital and motivate the ranks under him.

Major General Wali Mohammad Ahmadzai, stocky and with a thick mustache, is considered a rising star in the Afghan military. His predecessor, Major General M. Moein Faqir, was arrested earlier this year on corruption charges, including making his troops pay for their food.

‘‘The new corps commander is a warfighter, he wants to take the fight to the enemy,’’ said Colonel Matthew S. Reid, the deputy commander for Task Force Southwest. ‘‘It’s not all rosy, there’s clearly work to do. . . . They have got a lot of work to do in their basic institutional fixes — logistics, personnel, pay. The same problems they had in 2010 and 2011, they’ve kind of come back. 

All right, putting things back in the hands of warlords again! 

He must be on the CIA payroll. I mean, consider the source here!

The Marines, drawn to Ahmadzai’s aggressiveness, have helped the Afghan commander plan and carry out operations designed to take pressure off the provincial capital and relieve some of the 215th corps’ most beleaguered troops. The missions — called expeditionary advisory packages — allow the Marines to travel with Ahmadzai close to the front, providing him with air support and reconnaissance drones to help his troops advance.

‘‘I have not seen such support from any other unit,’’ Ahmadzai said of the Marines. 

Those 4,000 troops can't get there quick enough.

The US-backed operations have opened up some roads leading into Marjah, a town the Marines fought hard for in 2010, and they have also allowed the Afghans to retake a district that the Taliban has held for more than a year.

But despite some progress, the Afghans still fight — for the most part — from checkpoints, leaving them vulnerable to attack and making them difficult to monitor as the locations change hands frequently. The Marines have helped the Afghans set up a system to keep track of the more than 500 fixed positions throughout the province. In a special coordination cell, Major Paul Rivera has taught Afghan soldiers and police to plot their positions on Google Earth, and update them daily.

Air support has long been an issue in the province since the 2014 drawdown, and finite resources — including helicopter gunships and reconnaissance drones — need to be tightly scheduled to ensure there is constant coverage. The Afghan air force, still in its infancy, is helping, although the Afghan helicopters and attack planes are usually used only for preplanned missions. Capt. Brian Hubert, a Marine officer who helps staff the command center at Camp Shorab, said the Afghans ask — often via cellphone — for some sort of air support once a day.

They are still checking the strikes.

Without Marines in the field and a heavy reliance on video feeds, mistakes can happen. Last month, an airstrike directed by the Marines hit a cluster of Afghan local police in the Gereshk district. According to Marines who were in the command center, Turner studied the screen for several minutes — watching what he thought were Taliban, armed and dressed in civilian clothes, move around — before authorizing the strike. The Marines, after consulting with Afghans on the ground, were under the impression that no government security forces were in the area. The strike killed about a dozen of the police, including a father and his two sons. The Marines gave out condolence payments to the families, a familiar act during the last time they were deployed to the province. 

What is an Afghan life worth these days? 

$2500? $5000?

‘‘Look at Iraq, where you have guys calling for [airstrikes] with an iPad and radios and here it’s an illiterate Afghan who can’t read a map with a cellphone,’’ one Marine said of the difficulty of coordinating strikes with the Afghans.

To rectify gaps in air coverage, the Marines are looking at putting guided rocket artillery back in the province. With about a 40-mile range and an ability to be fired quickly and in bad weather, the rockets would free up the F-16s flying out of Bagram air base near Kabul.

The more I'm reading of the extended web version the more glum I become.

Under the watch of a pair of armed Marines near Camp Shorab, Staff Sergeant George Caldwell trained six Afghan soldiers last week on how to set up a 60mm mortar, a small piece of mobile artillery that needs to be assembled and sighted in before it can be fired. The hope is that the Afghans — after instruction from Caldwell — will then go back to their unit and train their comrades on how to use the weapon.

It’s a familiar event for Caldwell, who spent a number of deployments in Iraq and was last in Afghanistan in 2011. The US military has been training the Afghans in earnest since 2007 with only incremental payoff. Of the 60 students Caldwell teaches, 20 were instructed by Marines the last time they were in Helmand. 

Some would say it's good money after bad and most of it wasted via the route of corruption.

If so, expect more of the same. Trump dumped some $lop in the trough.

As part of their training, Caldwell runs them through ‘‘gun drills,’’ pitting two teams against each other as they race to set up the gun.

One of the Afghan teams quickly assembles the mortar. Caldwell inspects and moves to the other group, which is fumbling with the weapon’s bipod.

‘‘The biggest thing is not doing it for them, and not to interject too much,’’ Caldwell said. ‘‘We only kind of push the hand in the right direction; it’s up to them go forward with it. If we do it for them, we’ll be here forever.’’

The Last Samurai!

--more--"

RelatedModel Upton raises awareness of Marine Week

Drew a tear from the toughest.

All of a sudden the Congre$$ has become antiwar?

"Trump’s Afghanistan plan set to spark fresh congressional debate" by Ed O’Keefe Washington Post  August 22, 2017

WASHINGTON— President Trump’s decision to announce expanded US military operations in Afghanistan but disclose few details is set to spark fresh congressional debate about the future of America’s longest war and whether it’s time for lawmakers to approve a new use of force law.

Oh my Gawd, he sends a measly 4,000 troops and hands things off to the generals and they are now rising up after 16 years of two other guys with hardly a peep from them all that time (one bleat scared Obama out of invading Syria)?

Senior Republicans voiced support for Trump’s decision to endorse a Pentagon plan to boost troop levels and said it will be reviewed during public congressional hearings when lawmakers reconvene next month. But Democrats and some Republicans blasted Trump for not disclosing more information and said they will redouble attempts to pass the first use-of-force resolution since the 2001 act that authorized military action against terrorist groups in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

‘‘The majority of us weren’t in Congress in 2001,’’ said Senator Tim Kaine, a Virginia Democrat who is a member of the Foreign Relations Committee and is leading a bipartisan push to approve a new Authorized Use of Military Force. ‘‘I hope the Senate will stop dodging its responsibility and finally pass an updated AUMF.’’

Senator Rand Paul, a Kentucky Republican who is a longtime critic of expanded military operations, said it’s ‘‘a terrible idea to send any more troops’’ into Afghanistan. The senator and 2016 presidential candidate is pushing a plan to repeal the 2001 use-of-force agreement and a 2002 resolution that allowed military operations in Iraq as part of this year’s must-pass defense policy bill.

Trump’s decision to adopt a conditions-based approach to the war without a specific timetable angered Democrats, who suggested that the new plan could leave US troops in Afghanistan indefinitely.

‘‘He is declaring an open-ended commitment of American lives with no accountability to the American people,’’ said House minority leader Nancy Pelosi, Democrat of California.

Where were you the last 8 years?

We lost a long time ago.

Although Trump did not specify in his prime-time speech how many more troops will be sent to Afghanistan, congressional officials said that senior administration officials told them on Monday that it will be about 4,000 more than the 8,500 US service members in the region.

That is where my morning print copy cut it.

But Senator Jack Reed of Rhode Island, the top Democrat on the Armed Services Committee, said Trump’s speech ‘‘was short on the details our troops and the American people deserve.’’ Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, Democrat of New York, a vocal Trump critic, said the president was ‘‘lacking in details, lacking in substance, and lacking in a vision of what success in Afghanistan looks like.’’ Senator Tammy Duckworth, Democrat of Illinois, who flew Army helicopter missions during the Iraq War, said the presidential address ‘‘was filled with bluster but devoid of details and raises far more questions than it answered.’’

And Senator Christopher Murphy, a Democrat from Connecticut, tweeted: ‘‘The only new strategy announced tonight was that strategy will no longer be announced.’’

As a presidential candidate, Trump called it ‘‘counterproductive’’ for the United States to announce troop withdrawal dates. Moving forward, ‘‘we will not talk about numbers of troops or our plans for further military activities,’’ Trump said Monday night. ‘‘Conditions on the ground, not arbitrary timetables, will guide our strategy from now on. America’s enemies must never know our plans, or believe they can wait us out. I will not say when we are going to attack, but attack we will.’’ 

Like Japan at Pearl Harbor!

Maybe there is something to questioning his fitness to serve.

House Speaker Paul Ryan, Republican of Wisconsin, credited Trump for embracing a new ‘‘doctrine’’ of ‘‘principled realism,’’ telling CNN in a nationally televised town hall event that former president Barack Obama committed a ‘‘strategic mistake’’ by setting a timetable for troop withdrawals.

‘‘We shouldn’t telegraph our timetable when we’re leaving so that we can actually make it conditions-based, which is what is the purpose of being there. The purpose of being there is to make sure that we don’t have another 9/11, that the Taliban doesn’t give Al Qaeda safe haven to plan and get money and come and have a terrorist attack against us,’’ Ryan said. 

To flog that inside job false flag by elements of the U.S. and Israeli governments is so distasteful, and really exposing these political pukes for the puppets they are.

Senate Armed Services Committee chairman John McCain, Republican of Arizona, said that Trump’s new war plan will face congressional scrutiny when lawmakers return to Washington next month and that ‘‘this strategy is long overdue.’’ But McCain added that Trump ‘‘is now moving us well beyond the prior administration’s failed strategy of merely postponing defeat.’’ 

I thought he had brain cancer.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Bob Corker, Republican of Tennessee, defended Trump’s new conditions-based approach, saying it ‘‘should lead to better diplomatic outcomes, and ensures engagement with regional partners, especially Pakistan and India, giving us a better opportunity for success.’’ 

He just stirred up Pakistan and India (article follows below).

House Armed Services Committee chairman Mac Thornberry, Republican of Texas, said Trump’s new plan is a ‘‘reasonable way ahead that begins with being honest about the requirements needed to win, and the challenges in the region.’’ He called on Congress to ‘‘provide timely and adequate funding for this vital mission.’’ 

Oh, I'm sure they will get all the money they need and more.

But how and when lawmakers will debate the new Afghanistan strategy and how to pay for it is still not known.

In July, the House passed a $790 billion spending bill Thursday that would increase military funding, but it has virtually no chance of becoming law because it’s unlikely to survive in the more closely divided Senate. The bill would blow up a defense spending cap enacted under the 2011 Budget Control Act by $72 billion.

Early versions of the spending bill included a repeal of the 2001 authorization for military action against terrorist groups that had earned bipartisan support from House appropriators. But GOP leaders later used procedural moves to strip out the repeal before final approval.

Representative Barbara Lee, Democrat of California, who wrote the repeal plan, said Monday night that Congress needs to pass a new military force law ‘‘before we commit to another surge that will keep our troops in Afghanistan for years to come and cost billions more in spending.’’

The Senate, meanwhile, has yet to schedule debate on a spending plan or the National Defense Authorization Act, the bill that sets military policy that the House approved in July. Senators had expected to debate and pass the $696 billion measure before the August recess, allowing McCain to lead floor debate on the measure before returning to Arizona to begin treatment for an aggressive form of brain cancer. But Paul objected to beginning debate on the bill because he had not yet received assurances that his plan to repeal the AUMFs would earn an up-or-down vote.

Whenever debate begins, ‘‘we will be talking about the number of troops,’’ Doug Stafford, Paul’s top political strategist, vowed on Twitter Monday night.

And Congress already faces a daunting to-do list when it returns after Labor Day, including a need to raise the federal debt limit and pass a spending plan to keep the federal government open beyond the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30, plus reauthorize a host of federal programs, including the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Flood Insurance Program. 

And they want to do tax reform, too. 

Know what will happen? 

They will rush a bunch of stuff through right at the deadline, leadership will demand enough votes for passage without members having read it, and then we will find out what goodies were loaded into it.

That means that Senate debate on the defense bill is likely to be pushed into October, at the earliest.

--more--"

What will they be saying when children are being pulled from the rubble?

Will they be discussing Syria, too?

"Trump’s request for India’s help in Afghanistan rattles Pakistan" by Salman Masood New York Times   August 22, 2017

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — President Trump’s appeal for India’s help on Afghanistan set off alarm bells Tuesday in Pakistan, where officials warned that the approach risked jolting a tumultuous relationship. They also expressed relief that Trump did not call for abrupt reductions in military aid to Pakistan, which the United States has long accused of going easy on militants. 

I'm glad I wasn't the only one hearing them, but it was just meaningle$$ bluster, huh?

As part of Trump’s new plan for addressing the 16-year-old US conflict in Afghanistan, he asked India — which Pakistan has historically seen as its enemy — to “help us more,” especially with economic assistance.

Oddly enough, they don't trade that much -- according to the BBC, anyway.

Trump also reiterated his predecessors’ calls that Islamabad crack down on militant groups that have waged attacks from bases in Pakistani territory.

“We have been paying Pakistan billions and billions of dollars at the same time they are housing the very terrorists that we are fighting,” Trump said Monday, although he stopped short of cutting off military aid, as some Pakistani elites had feared.

Yeah, I saw him say that and my instant reaction was turn towards your own CIA first! It's a great ballgame they got going right now! Create the every enemy you claim to fight, and then use them as a casus belli to go where needed.

Pakistan and the United States have long had a troubled relationship, increasingly strained by differences over Pakistan’s role in Afghanistan. Even before US military and intelligence operatives tracked down and killed Osama bin Laden in Pakistan in 2011, US officials chided the Pakistan’s military and intelligence agency as harboring or turning a blind eye to militants.

I'm going to let that phony-baloney assassination slide into the see with that other corpse, whoever it was.

Pakistani officials, in turn, have cited Indian influence as a primary cause of instability and insecurity in Afghanistan. Officials in Islamabad accuse India of supporting a hostile political regime in Kabul and funding militants. 

That's likely true, but since India is an ally I'm sure they are under deep cover in my CIA media. What is interesting is no mention of Kashmir in my print version for that is where it was cut.

Even before Trump unveiled his strategy Monday, Islamabad was apprehensive and concerned.

The Pakistani military has been at the forefront of formulating the country’s foreign policy and has taken the lead in defining the contours of Islamabad’s relationship with Afghanistan and India. The civilian government has very little say, if any, in these policy initiatives. 

Then our two governments should have much in common!

Pakistani officials said they expected private contractors to take a more dominant role than troops already in Afghanistan. Senior Pakistani security officials stress that an all-inclusive engagement is the only option for peace inside Afghanistan. More troops inside the country, along with blaming Pakistan for harboring terrorists, will not work, they said in background interviews. 

There will be no peace as long as there is an EUSraeli Empire.

However, there was no formal, official response to Trump’s speech by Tuesday evening. Pakistan’s foreign minister, Khawaja Muhammad Asif, is to leave for the United States in the next few days to hold talks with American officials, a spokesman said.

The military also decided not to put forth a formal public response. In what could be viewed as a pre-emptive move, Major General Asif Ghafoor, the military spokesman, had said in a media briefing earlier on Monday that no terror group was operating inside Pakistan.

Sehar Kamran, an opposition senator who leads an Islamabad-based think tank, said Trump’s plan appeared to be “more of the same, under much more colorful language and contradictory bluster.”

“The shift from a timeline-oriented approach to a condition-based one, I think, is only the vocalization of a long-standing practice,” she said, adding. “What is concerning for Pakistan, however, is the contradiction within his statement that expresses both an acknowledgment of the country’s sacrifices while simultaneously downplaying them by continuing accusations of ‘sheltering terrorists’ and doing not enough with billions and billions paid by America.”

Kamran said that pushing India to play a stronger role inside Afghanistan would isolate Washington’s friends in Islamabad “without realizing, understanding or perhaps deliberately underestimating the impact of increasing Indian presence on Pakistan’s western border.” 

Meaning they move closer to China, Russia, Turkey, Iran???!!!!

“An unnecessary flexing of military muscles and the deployment of additional troops at this time will only undo much that has been achieved over many years diplomatically, and serve to further antagonize regional countries like Pakistan, China, and Russia,” she said.

Analysts said Pakistan’s dependence on US aid had declined in recent years — partly as China flexes its military might in South Asia — giving policymakers in Islamabad more room to maneuver.

“Pakistan is prepared to absorb the impact of a more assertive US policy toward the country,” said Arif Rafiq, a nonresident fellow at the Middle East Institute in Washington. “It’s the most economically stable that it’s been in a decade, thanks in part to massive Chinese investment, and it has managed to secure much of its border regions despite the withdrawal of most US combat forces.” 

Or maybe because of?

Rafiq said Pakistan also knows that it has several options to counter punitive actions by Washington, including closing supply routes to Afghanistan. 

That will mean war!

“I think what Pakistan hopes for is the US to engage it as a partner in Afghanistan, rather than as a contractor deputed to arrest or kill insurgent leaders named by Washington,” Rafiq said. “That requires coordination on border security and a structured dialogue process with the Taliban. I think Islamabad will remain rather firm in steering its engagement with both Kabul and Washington in that direction.” 

Is that what has been the relationship?

Other analysts offered an even more scathing view of Trump’s speech.

“By inviting India to be more active in Afghanistan, Trump has confirmed the worst fears of Pakistan’s generals: that America is in cahoots with India against Pakistan,” said Mosharraf Zaidi, a foreign-policy analyst in Islamabad.

I don't know it it means anything, but they just stabbed Sissi in the back.

“There may never be a perfect approach to convince Pakistan to abandon the Haqqani network, but this speech was a terrible attempt,” Zaidi said, referring to the Pakistan-based militant group that has been blamed for most of the deadly attacks inside Afghanistan. 

Yeah, real funny.

However, Maria Sultan, a defense analyst based in Islamabad and director general of the South Asian Strategic Stability Institute, said the Trump policy was “not as bad as we were expecting. The responsibility has been essentially shifted to Afghanistan.”

She warned that intelligence-based operations against groups inside Pakistan might increase. “This will further reduce the space for cooperation between Pakistan and US and will be counterproductive for a long-term relationship,” Sultan said.

That means not only a violation of their sovereignty, but more drone strikes.

--more--"

Maybe they could sign a non-aggression pact?

Related:

"India’s highest court struck down a legal provision Tuesday that allowed Muslim men to instantly divorce their wives, taking a stand against a practice increasingly deemed unacceptable in the Muslim world....." 

Does that help?

Meanwhile, on the western border of Pakistan:

"While the economic benefits of the deal have yet to reach the average Iranian, airlines in the country have signed deals for billions of dollars of aircraft from Airbus and Boeing. Car manufacturers and others have swept into the Iranian market, and the country has boosted its oil sales. Abandoning the deal would put those economic gains in jeopardy....."

The Globe circles back out to sea:

"Some remains of sailors found on USS John McCain" by Annabelle Liang Associated Press  August 22, 2017

SINGAPORE — It was the second major collision in two months involving the Pacific-based Seventh Fleet, and the Navy has ordered a broad investigation into its performance and readiness. Seven sailors died in June when the USS Fitzgerald and a container ship collided off Japan. There were two lesser-known incidents in the first half of the year. In January, the USS Antietam guided missile cruiser ran aground near Yokosuka base, the home port of the Seventh Fleet, and in May another cruiser, the USS Lake Champlain from the Navy’s Third Fleet, had a minor collision with a South Korean fishing boat.

The USS John S. McCain had been heading to Singapore on a routine port visit after conducting a sensitive freedom-of-navigation operation last week by sailing near one of China's man-made islands in the South China Sea.

China, Washington’s main rival for influence in the Asia-Pacific, seized on the McCain collision to accuse the Navy of endangering maritime navigation in the region. This year’s string of accidents shows the US Navy ‘‘is becoming a dangerous obstacle in Asian waters,’’ the official China Daily newspaper said in its online edition.

The McCain and the Alnic MC oil tanker collided about 4.5 nautical miles from Malaysia’s coast at the start of a designated sea lane for ships sailing into the busy Singapore Strait.

I don't know what happened out there but I'm not buying that cover story.

There was no immediate explanation for the collision. Singapore, at the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula, is one of the world's busiest ports and a US ally, with its naval base regularly visited by American warships.....

--more--"

I'm told ‘‘while each of these four incidents is unique, they cannot be viewed in isolation,’’ and I just can't help but wonder if something else is going on. 

"US imposes sanctions on China and Russia over North Korea’s nuclear program" by Eileen Sullivan New York Times  August 22, 2017

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration announced new sanctions against China and Russia on Tuesday as part of its campaign to pressure North Korea to stop development of nuclear weapons and missiles.

Gee, that about face he did was at light speed!

The new sanctions affect six individuals and 10 organizations with financial ties to Pyongyang’s weapons program. Tension between the United States and North Korea has escalated over North Korea’s recent missile tests.

“It is unacceptable for individuals and companies in China, Russia, and elsewhere to enable North Korea to generate income used to develop weapons of mass destruction and destabilize the region,” Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, said in a statement on Tuesday.

In June, the Trump administration imposed sanctions on a Chinese bank, a Chinese company, and two Chinese citizens to crack down on the financing of North Korea’s weapons program.

“I think it’s a significant action by the Trump administration,” Anthony Ruggiero, a senior fellow with the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a nonprofit group in Washington, said of the new round of sanctions.

Have you seen who are they

That is who the New York Times is turning to for Korean war analysis?

Tuesday’s actions appeared to be part of a larger campaign to pressure individuals, businesses, and countries with financial ties to North Korea, said Ruggiero, a former official in the Office of Terrorist Financing and Financial Crimes at the Treasury. “It looks like the beginnings of a broad pressure campaign,” Ruggiero said.

Among the Chinese companies sanctioned on Tuesday is Mingzheng International Trading Ltd., considered by the Treasury Department to be a “front company” for North Korea’s state-run Foreign Trade Bank, which has been subject to US sanctions since 2013.

How many front companies does the CIA run, outside of US embassies?

In June, US prosecutors accused Mingzheng of laundering money for North Korea and announced that the Justice Department would seek $1.9 million in civil penalties.

Meanwhile, western banks launder gobs of drug gang money.

The UN sanctions were already starting to have an impact curtailing trade in China and infuriating Chinese seafood importers, who had to return goods to North Korea earlier this month.

Yeah, China takes a $1 billion hit in the interests of peace and still get $lapped around.

The new US sanctions address how other nations tolerate North Korea’s behavior, particularly China, said Elizabeth Rosenberg, a senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security in Washington. 

I guess that is for "balance."

“These sanctions expand the US blacklist for companies tied to North Korea’s economic activity and are designed to curb the hard currency available to Pyongyang,” Rosenberg said in an e-mail. “I think we should expect more sanctions of this nature, including more designations to highlight the role of China to enable North Korea’s illicit aims.”

Still looks like regime change to me.

--more--"

Related:

U.S. top brass stress diplomacy first, force second, in dealing with North Korea

They always say that!

Maybe you should defect to China before it is too late.

No Repentance

They are still full of hate, dear readers. 

I $uppo$e it comes with the job of pushing the agenda, and then what

I'll save it for later as we start up top with big overnight news that was too late for the print that gets sent out here. 

Instead, this was on the front page (ugh) -- with no mention of how he got the job or what it pays.

Boylston Street should be bustling, but many storefronts sit empty

I guess that would take the target off them even if it flies in the face of the bu$tling Bo$ton narrative that the Globe has so assiduously cultivated.

Things That Work: Could underwater garages solve Boston’s parking shortage?

Didn't the terrorists try that at the WTC in 1993?

The rehearsal for the horror eight years later?

Is the opioid epidemic easing in Mass.?

How come they never talk about cutting off the source?

City employee files sexual harassment complaint against Felix G. Arroyo

Where you been?

Trump goes on the attack at boisterous rally in Phoenix by John Wagner, Jenna Johnson and Danielle Paquette Washington Post  August 23, 2017

My printed pos carried some AP slop regarding the event that the Globe has apparently scrubbed, and as for being boisterous..... 

it's all stagecraft, and the proof is in the photo:

President Trump spoke Tuesday to supporters in Phoenix.
President Trump spoke Tuesday to supporters in Phoenix (Ralph Fresco/Getty Images).

There he goes again signaling his Illuminati (for lack of a better word) handlers that everything is okay while some also see the number of the beast in such a thing. They are not mutually exclusive, nor do I want to spend too much time focusing on it. 

Just part of the scenery, folks.

"Historians: Confederate emblem ‘symbol of racial terror’" Associated Press  August 22, 2017

JACKSON, Miss. — Historians in Mississippi say the Confederate battle emblem is a ‘‘symbol of racial terror’’ that needs to be stripped from the state flag.

Thirty-four professors released a statement this week saying they expect questions from students about the recent white nationalist march in Charlottesville, Va., where some participants carried the rebel flag.

More staged orchestration, no doubt. Kids care about their self-centered stuff on the phone, not your stuff. These cultural Marxists posing as professors might provoke things, but that's all.

If not, then are you brave enough to see what was coming even way back then

Can't we all just get along?

Mississippi has the last state flag with the Confederate symbol, a red field topped by a blue tilted cross dotted by 13 white stars.

The professors from public and private universities wrote that Mississippi legislators adopted the flag in 1894 to assert white supremacy.

‘‘The threat of racist mob violence has been present throughout American history, and, as seen by the flag-wielding neo-Nazis and racist sympathizers in Charlottesville, the use of Confederate emblems echoes the racist reasoning of whites in Mississippi at the end of the 19th Century, who used terror to impose minority rule,’’ they wrote.

Yeah, let's take those reminders down.

Then you lose the memory. WTF?

Voters decided to keep the flag in a 2001 referendum. Confederate symbols have come under increasing scrutiny since 2015, when an avowed white supremacist who had posed for photos holding the battle flag killed nine black worshipers at a church in Charleston, S.C.

Some Mississippi elected officials, including the Republican speaker of the state House and both of the state’s Republican US senators, have said the state should ditch the current flag and adopt a design that would unify the state, whose population is 38 percent black.

Where print copy ended it and I'm just wondering how the presence of those statues of long-dead people gathering pigeon poop has anything to do with their current living conditions now?

Not for or against removal, just wondering what that has to so with jobs, health care, education, etc, etc, etc. How are the statues impacting them, or are they really not at all as people walk by not even giving a hoot or second glance?

If the answer is $y$temic raci$m then one must ask what have all the pontificating politicians been doing in the meantime? Why have they not addressed and corrected the problems, or are they too busy shaking down lobbyists for campaign loot and then doling out the tax loot on the other side?

Republican Governor Phil Bryant has said if the design is reconsidered, it should happen in another statewide election. Supporters of the flag say it represents the state’s history.

The professors wrote: ‘‘This flag does not reflect the entirety of the state’s history and people. It ignores the reality of the African-American experience, and it limits the scope of what Mississippi has been, is, and can be.’’

About 40 other opponents of the Mississippi flag gathered Tuesday at the state Capitol. Aunjanue Ellis, an actress who grew up in Mississippi, said the Confederate battle emblem on the flag represents ‘‘terrorism.’’

Yeah, and they were all DEMOCRATS!

Ellis has starred in the ABC series ‘‘Quantico’’ and in the 2011 movie ‘‘The Help.’’ She has been advocating a change for the state flag for several years.

You know, nothing personal, but I'm beginning to strongly dislike rich celebrity preaching to the rest of us from that immoral bastion of perversion over there.

--more--"

As for flags that represent terrorism:

"Billy Joel wore a bright yellow Star of David on his black suit during an encore at Madison Square Garden. Monday’s performance by The Piano Man came more than a week after a rally by neo-Nazis and other groups in Charlottesville, Va., ended in deadly violence against counterprotesters. When asked about Joel’s attire, his spokeswoman on Tuesday quoted Edmund Burke: ‘‘The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.’’ Joel joined with Patty Smyth onstage in taking a swipe at President Trump’s administration. Photos of fired officials appeared on screen as Smith sang her hit, ‘‘Goodbye to You.’’ Joel’s ex-wife Christie Brinkley and their daughter, Alexa Ray Joel, attended the concert. Many of his relatives died in the Holocaust (AP)."

He very well may be the greatest musician of my generation, but the CDs are now inventory for the next tag sale or flea market.

Of course, that is what this where this whole "debate" ends. No criticism of Israel, no BDS. 

Too bad Trump is Israel's best friend and that they can't see their own racism regarding Palestinians.

Related:

Screen Actors Guild to honor Freeman in January

After the Oscars excluded all blacks a couple of years ago, huh? 

They don't even see their own bias!

Retrial of Cosby put off until March or April

The judge said it was in the interests of race relations. Sorry, ladies.

Clooneys give $1m to Southern Poverty Law Center

That's nice, but Wahlberg made more.

Related:

"In the Aug. 20 Metro article “Rally speakers, surrounded by police, end their event quickly,” members of the Massachusetts chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union were reported to have participated in the counterprotest....."

That's why she wanted you to give and feel good about it. 

What is sad is the ACLU, as much as it is needed, is either a straight out agitator or -- more likely -- has been infiltrated.

Also see:

"An advocacy group is calling for the renaming of Faneuil Hall because its namesake had ties to slavery. The meeting house built in 1742 is where Samuel Adams and other American colonists made some of the earliest speeches urging independence from Britain. Kevin Peterson is founder of the New Democracy Coalition. He says the name is an embarrassment to the city because Peter Faneuil was a wealthy merchant who owned and traded slaves. Faneuil built the hall for Boston. Peterson suggests renaming Faneuil Hall to honor Crispus Attucks, a black man considered the first American killed in the Revolutionary War. Boston College history professor Heather Cox Richardson cautions that removing any part of the nation’s complicated history ‘‘unbalances it’’ and ‘‘renders it false.’’ (AP)."

Well, it's all a lie anyway, sorry, and she better go consult with her colleagues. The history that is taught and told in the schuls and ma$$ media has always been that of a particular viewpoint, with certain emphasis on some things and a passing mention of others. Some names are prominent, others never appear.

"Monday’s self-congratulatory editorial lamented, almost in passing, that no media were allowed to record what was said in the “far-right” rally on Boston Common, and noted that it “would have been better had the public known exactly what the rallygoers were doing and saying” (“Boston’s mettle is tested, but questions linger”). You clearly come to that conclusion from the popular presumption that what they were “doing and saying” was malicious and hateful — “far right” — and that hearing it would have affirmed the moral superiority of “the public” that gathered to protest it. But the reason reporters should have reported on what was said is that the presumption the rally was either “far right” or “hateful” now remains just that: an unconfirmed assumption. Its organizers said it was not. They said it was about the right to speak freely. That used to be a liberal cause. Because their speech fell into an officially imposed zone of silence, we now don’t know which account — free speech or far-right hate — is closer to the truth. Was the monumental counterprotest really virtuous resistance to hate? Or was it merely another ugly and self-righteous chapter in the long history of “banned in Boston”?

That's when I lost what little love I had left for them.

"Police reports released Tuesday highlighted several confrontations between officers and small groups of protesters. Nearly an hour after the rally abruptly ended, police were called to help a group of “people who were at risk,” seemingly referring to rally organizers and supporters. When police arrived, they found themselves surrounded by more than 2,000 protesters. A police supervisor tried to reason with the crowd and asked protesters to clear the streets to allow vehicles to leave the area, police said. The crowd refused, and when officers in crowd-control gear moved in, they were hit with traffic cones and bottles filled with urine, the police report stated. Some officers were spit on, had their protective equipment torn off, and their helmets cracked......"

No mention of the rock-throwing anywhere in the article, one of those committing the violence said “We’re Boston Strong,” and they also robbed someone.

This tweet from Saturday went viral. Here’s the story behind it 

America needs nasty women, huh?

A free-speech rally, minus the free speech

Look who is toasting it:

More liquor licenses in Boston? Cheers to that.

I'll raise one to Shelley Long.

As for the rest of the citizenry:

Former T officer gets 6-month sentence in woman’s beating 

Watch your step!

Former TD Garden guard accused of beating homeless man may have charges dismissed

I guess homeless lives don't matter.

Who was Tom Yawkey?

Who cares, just hand me a it tomato.

How is that in your eye

Another angry mob:

"Matthew Maxwell Kennedy, a 52-year-old scion of the Kennedy family, was arrested early Sunday after he argued with police officers who had responded to a loud party on Cape Cod. He threw himself into a wall, smashed a shelf full of glass objects, and refused to cooperate when officers tried to place him in handcuffs, police said. Kennedy’s 22-year-old daughter, Caroline, was arrested when she opened the door of the police cruiser her father had been placed in, according to a Barnstable police report filed in court. Both face charges of disturbing the peace and violating a town noise ordinance....." 

Did antifa have a permit?

************************

Priest urges haters to repent; reveals his Ku Klux Klan past

That's rich! 

He repented from the Klan to join a gang of pedophiles!

You can flush his moralizing, and if you don't like that expanded-upon print version you can read the Washington Post's version

"Four elderly North Carolina people found shot to death after an apparent home invasion were killed while they played cards, a sheriff said Tuesday. News outlets quoted Halifax County Sheriff Wes Tripp as saying the two married couples had been sitting around a kitchen table when they were killed sometime between Sunday and Monday morning. The sheriff said there were no signs of a struggle. He told a news conference that there were signs of forced entry and items of value missing from the home. ‘‘It’s very disturbing,’’ Tripp said....." 

Anybody check up the sleeves?

"Authorities in central Florida issued a warning last month about a man who appeared in a Facebook live video threatening to kill police officers — and that same man was arrested last week in the deaths of two officers....."

He is also aaaaaaa.... Nazi!

In chaotic meeting, Charlottesville votes to shroud statues

Maybe you would like to read the WaPo narrative instead?

The man who organized the Charlottesville rally is in hiding — and too toxic for the ‘alt-right’

They rode him out of town on a rail because it turns out he was an Obama supporter and Occupy agitator years ago. 

Thus was that one bright gleaming star another controlled and infiltrated effort as the veneer of all innocence is shattered forever. The only grass roots movement left is right here typing.

While in that neck of the woods:

"A coal country dispute over an alleged Trump promise unmet" by Jeff Horwitz, Michael Biesecker and Matthew Daly Associated Press  August 22, 2017

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration has rejected a coal industry push to invoke a rarely used emergency order protecting coal-fired power plants, a decision contrary to what one coal executive said the president personally promised him.

Uh-oh. 

I would expect to see a lot more of this. Afghanistan was only the beginning.

The decision is a rare example of friction between the beleaguered coal industry and the president who has vowed to save it. It also highlights a pattern emerging as the administration crafts policy: The president’s bold declarations — both public and private — are not always carried through to implementation.

There will be more friction to come.

President Trump committed to the measure in private conversations with executives from Murray Energy Corp. and FirstEnergy Solutions Corp. after public events in July and early August, according to letters to the White House from Murray Energy and its chief executive, Robert Murray. In the letters, obtained by the Associated Press, Murray said failing to act would cause thousands of coal miners to be laid off and put the pensions of thousands more in jeopardy. One of Murray’s letters said Trump agreed and told Energy Secretary Rick Perry, ‘‘I want this done’’ in Murray’s presence.

The White House declined to say whether Trump did initially agree to Murray’s request for help. But in a statement on Tuesday, administration spokeswoman Kelly Love wrote that the proposal was not the right way to support the coal industry. Energy Department spokeswoman Shaylyn Hynes said the agency was sympathetic to the coal industry’s plight, but likewise did not support the proposal.

The aid Murray sought from Trump involves invoking a little-known section of the US Federal Power Act that allows the Energy Department to temporarily intervene when the nation’s electricity supply is threatened by an emergency, such as war or natural disaster. Among other measures, it temporarily exempts power plants from obeying environmental laws. In the past, the authority has been used sparingly, such as during the California energy crisis in 2000 and following Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The Obama administration never used it. The Trump administration has used it twice in seven months in narrow instances.

Murray’s company is seeking a two-year moratorium on closures of coal-fired power plants, which would be an unprecedented federal intervention in the nation’s energy markets.

What do you think the overseas wars are doing? 

Protecting the petrodollar, for one thing.

Murray told the White House that his key customer, Ohio-based electricity company FirstEnergy Solutions, was at immediate risk of bankruptcy. Without FirstEnergy’s plants burning his coal, Murray said his own company would be forced into ‘‘immediate bankruptcy,’’ triggering the layoffs of more than 6,500 miners. FirstEnergy acknowledged to the AP that bankruptcy of its power-generation business was a possibility.

That will stick it to Trump!

Murray urged Trump to use the provision in the Federal Power Act to halt further coal plant closures by declaring an emergency in the electric power grid.

After a conversation with Trump at a July 25 political rally in Youngstown, Ohio, Murray wrote, the president told Perry three times, ‘‘I want this done.’’ Trump also directed the emergency order be given during an Aug. 3 conversation in Huntington, W.Va., he said.

‘‘As stated, disastrous consequences for President Trump, our electric power grid reliability, and tens of thousands of coal miners will result if this is not immediately done,’’ he wrote.

Murray’s claims raise the possibility that Trump was warned against the move by his advisers — some of whom are known to be more cautious — or that he simply made assurances to Murray to avoid immediate confrontation.

WHAT? 

The guy who is haranguing North Korea and scaring everyone?

The bare-knuckles brawler who loves a fight? 

Surely you jest!

The people who worked on the decision most directly were Perry, Michael Catanzaro, who works under National Economic Council director Gary Cohn as the top White House energy adviser, and Perry’s chief of staff, Brian McCormack, US officials told the AP. They spoke only on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss internal policy considerations by name.

He's the real president. Trump is just a frontman.

Murray and his company have been impassioned supporters of Trump, donating hundreds of thousands of dollars to his campaign and inauguration, hosting fund-raisers and embracing him as the rescuer of the Appalachian coal industry.

I wonder if they have stayed at the hotel.

The friendliness has been mutual: When Trump repealed an Obama administration regulation barring coal companies from dumping mine waste in streams, Murray and his sons were invited for the signing.

That's where the printed paper dumped it, too!

First, about those floods in Kansas.....

"Last year, standing amid piles of waterlogged debris, President Obama promised a sustained national effort to rebuild flood-ravaged southern Louisiana."

Had them this year, too. Media dropped the coverage.

Let's go down river:

Coal has become an increasingly unattractive fuel for US electricity companies, which have been retiring old boilers at a record pace. At least two dozen big coal-fired plants are scheduled to shut down in coming months as utilities transition to new steam turbines fueled by cleaner-burning natural gas made more abundant in recent years by new drilling technologies

Yeah, fracking is also poisoning the groundwater so you can't win either way.

Trump, who rejects the consensus of scientists that burning fossil fuels is causing global warming, has made reversing the coal industry’s decline a cornerstone of his administration’s energy and environmental policies. Since taking office, he announced that the United States will withdraw from the Paris climate accord, and he has moved to block or delay Obama-era regulations seeking to limit carbon emissions.

Other coal executives have urged similar government intervention to save their businesses. In a speech last week, the CEO of Peabody Energy Corp., the nation’s largest coal producer, also said a two-year moratorium on coal-plant closures was needed.

Perry has already twice invoked the Federal Power Act in narrow ways at the request of utilities seeking to keep old coal-burning plants online past their planned retirement dates. In both cases, the utilities were allowed to continue operations at plants amid concerns that shutting them down could lead to regional shortages in electricity......

Get used to the brown out, folks.

--more--"

Related:

"While Hillary Clinton did win the 2016 popular vote by a comfortable margin of almost 2.9 million votes, she won California by more than 4 million, meaning that she lost the rest of the country by more than a million votes. When combined with the Democrats’ massive reversals during Barack Obama’s failed stewardship, including the loss of comfortable margins in both houses of Congress and historic reversals in the state houses, this result makes it clear that the party has serious soul-searching to do before it can reclaim its national relevance....."

Start burning coal. Then maybe you can afford the time share in Vermont.

**********************

Deaths of North Atlantic right whales mark dangerous trend for species

My first thought was "Fukushima?"

No warning lights flashing about that.

"France wants to involve psychiatrists in preventing attacks" AP  August 22, 2017

PARIS— France wants to involve psychiatrists in preventing attacks like the one in which a mentally unstable man drove into two Marseille bus stops, killing a woman, the country’s interior minister said Tuesday.

What are you going to do, have them ride shotgun all the time?

Or will the shrink have the right to yank licenses? 

No wonder Macron's poll #s are in free fall (that's just about when the pre$$ focus turned away from France).

Gerard Collomb said that about one-third of the thousands of people on a French watch list for radicalization are known to have psychological problems. The minister said a philosophy book and a ‘‘general book on Islam’’ were found in the Marseille driver’s van.

We know what that is about.

‘‘We need to protect ourselves,’’ he said in an interview on BFM-TV.

Authorities have ruled out terrorism as a motive for the man who allegedly rammed a van into the bus stops about 3 miles apart on Monday. They said the suspect had been undergoing psychological treatment.

Like a Manchurian Candidate!

Collomb noted that the 35-year-old suspect had served time in prison and been treated in a psychiatric hospital. People suffering from certain psychiatric problems can ‘‘imitate’’ the jihadis who carry out attacks and ‘‘can take action’’ themselves, he said.

A week earlier, another driver with mental health problems deliberately accelerated into a pizzeria east of Paris, killing an adolescent girl.

What is it about car crashes and pizza shops anyway?

As in the Marseille case, authorities said the suspect had mental health problems and did not act with terror as a motive.....

--more--" 

That looks like something the Soviet Union would have done, not Free France!

Time to surface:

Headless torso found on beach identified as missing Swedish journalist

Not to lose one's head about it, but ‘‘she trusted somebody, and then this is what happened’’:

Village Voice to end print publication

I won't be missing it.