May 27, 2017

Posted by orrinj at 7:38 PM

THE ONLY UNTAINTED:

At Odds With Trump, Nikki Haley Charts Her Own Foreign-Policy Path : Trump's U.N. envoy travels to Middle East to highlight needs of Syrian refugees while White House presses budget cuts that could harm them. (COLUM LYNCH, MAY 23, 2017, Foreign Policy)

While President Donald Trump basked in the pomp of state visits to Saudi Arabia and Israel, his U.N. envoy, Nikki Haley, chose a decidedly less glamorous itinerary for her own maiden Middle East trip: Visiting Syrian children in refugee camps in Jordan.

The dueling images of America's president being decorated with a golden necklace by an Arab king and Haley high-fiving displaced Syrian schoolchildren couldn't have drawn a sharper contrast. And for Haley, that may be the point.

Four months into her tenure as the envoy of a president she once denounced as reckless, Haley has carved out a distinct foreign-policy path, one that sees Russia unambiguously as an enemy, touts America's role as a human rights champion, and advocates for continued U.S. leadership on the humanitarian front.

While it may be too early to discern a Haley foreign-policy doctrine, the former South Carolina governor has been building a strikingly independent political brand that distinguishes her from a White House that has veered from one crisis to the next while showing little regard for human rights or the plight of the poor.

In many important ways, her foreign-policy views hew more toward those of Republican Party stalwarts -- like Senators Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), the chairman of the appropriations subcommittee that funds the State Department and international organization -- than to the president's.

Posted by orrinj at 7:33 PM

DUDE, RESIGN WHILE YOU CAN:

DONALD TRUMP AND THE AGONY OF H.R. MCMASTER: WILL THE PRESIDENT DUMP HIS SECOND NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER? (JEFF STEIN, 5/27/17, Newsweek)

Is H.R. McMaster, the White House national security adviser, on the way out? By some signs, he is: President Donald Trump not only excluded him from a key meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his national security adviser Monday night in Jerusalem, he was kept "outside the King David [Hotel] room during the course of the entire meeting," according to an eye-catching Israeli account.

Taken alone, the perceived shaming wouldn't amount to much: Trump has a habit of slighting his aides in public. But the incident came only days after a report in The New York Times that McMaster had fallen out of favor with the president. Trump had "complained that General McMaster talks too much in meetings," and "the president has referred to him as 'a pain,'" The Times said in a report that was not challenged by the White House. By the time Trump left Israel for his meeting in Rome with the Pope, right-wing news sites closely allied with the so-called "nationalist" wing of the White House were serving up full throated criticism of McMaster, a distinguished Army general.

Posted by orrinj at 7:26 PM

WINNING THE WoT:

Market Body Slams OPEC (ROBBIE GRAMER, MAY 25, 2017, Foreign Policy)

Industry analysts say the latest price drop may be in part because everyone expected the announcement. The world's two top oil producers, Saudi Arabia and Russia previewed Monday's OPEC announcement when they agreed last week in advance to joint oil production cuts.

"A nine-month extension of the output cuts is already baked into prices," Olivier Jakob of Swiss consultancy Petromatrix told CNBC. "This shows there's not much more OPEC can do."

Industry analysts say investors may also be wary of rising output in Nigeria and Libya -- both are exempt from OPEC cuts as they grapple with their own internal conflicts. Iran, too, is exempted from sharing OPEC's pain as it struggles to regain market share after years of sanctions on oil exports.

Posted by orrinj at 6:39 PM

LAUGHINGSTOCK:

It's Time to Get Rid of Donald Trump : Donald Trump has transformed the United States into a laughing stock and he is a danger to the world. He must be removed from the White House before things get even worse. (A DER SPIEGEL Editorial by Klaus Brinkbäumer, May 19, 2017)

Donald Trump is not fit to be president of the United States. He does not possess the requisite intellect and does not understand the significance of the office he holds nor the tasks associated with it. He doesn't read. He doesn't bother to peruse important files and intelligence reports and knows little about the issues that he has identified as his priorities. His decisions are capricious and they are delivered in the form of tyrannical decrees.

He is a man free of morals. As has been demonstrated hundreds of times, he is a liar, a racist and a cheat. I feel ashamed to use these words, as sharp and loud as they are. But if they apply to anyone, they apply to Trump. And one of the media's tasks is to continue telling things as they are: Trump has to be removed from the White House. Quickly. He is a danger to the world.

Posted by orrinj at 5:14 PM

THEY MADE THE FLIGHT 93 ELECTION:

'Final act of bravery': Men who were fatally stabbed trying to stop anti-Muslim rants identified  (Amy B Wang, May 27, 2017, Washington Post)

"This suspect was on the train and he was yelling and ranting and raving a lot of different things, including what we characterized at hate speech or biased language," Portland police spokesman Pete Simpson said at a news conference Friday evening.

At least two men tried to calm the ranting passenger down, but "they were attacked viciously by the suspect" when they did, Simpson said.

"It appears preliminarily that the victims -- at least a couple of them -- were trying to intervene in his behavior, deescalate him and protect some other people on the train when [the suspect] viciously attacked them," Simpson said.

About 4:30 p.m. Friday, police responded to calls of a disturbance at the Hollywood Transit Station in east Portland. There, they found three stabbing victims, all adult men. Despite attempted lifesaving measures, Best, a resident of Happy Valley, Ore., was pronounced dead at the scene, police said.

Namkai Meche, of southeast Portland, died at a local hospital; Fletcher, of southeast Portland, is expected to survive, police said Saturday.

The attacks occurred just as Ramadan, the Muslim holy month, was set to commence at sunset Friday. Simpson said that Portland police had already reached out to Muslim organizations, mosques and imams in the community to talk about extra patrols during Ramadan -- and that those extra patrols would continue.

"Our thoughts are with the Muslim community," Simpson said Friday. "As something like this happens, this only instills fear in that community."

On Saturday, people mourned the stabbing victims and praised them as heroes for their actions. Namkai Meche's sister, Vajra Alaya-Maitreya, emailed a statement to The Washington Post on behalf of their family, saying her brother lived "a joyous and full life" with an enthusiasm that was infectious.

"We lost him in a senseless act that brought close to home the insidious rift of prejudice and intolerance that is too familiar, too common. He was resolute in his conduct (and) respect of all people," she wrote. "In his final act of bravery, he held true to what he believed is the way forward. He will live in our hearts forever as the just, brave, loving, hilarious and beautiful soul he was. We ask that in honor of his memory, we use this tragedy as an opportunity for reflection and change. We choose love."

Posted by orrinj at 4:33 PM

CAN HE GET AN "AMEN!":

This Republican Senator Is Trump's Public Critic And Private Adviser (Tarini Parti, 5/26/17, BuzzFeed News)'

[T]o hear Corker tell it, when he speaks out, his comments don't come as a surprise to the president or White House staff.

Days earlier, Corker had spoken to Trump over the phone about the firing of FBI director James Comey -- an incident the Tennessee Republican publicly said would "raise questions." And in a previous late-April private dinner, Corker said he made it clear to Trump that the turmoil in the White House was making it harder for Republicans to move forward with anything in Congress.

"I actually shared many of the same concerns, OK? Respectfully, of course," he said in a wide-ranging interview with BuzzFeed News Wednesday afternoon.

"We've got close relations and talked frankly with people (at the White House) often," he continued, repeating two words for emphasis: "Frankly. Often."

"If you look at what I said, the entire statement -- not just the 'downward spiral' portion -- all of it, I don't know, would 90% of the Senate agree with it? I think so."

But his Republican colleagues weren't as blunt, or as public as Corker was.

"Yeah, and Micah maybe didn't want me to publicly say it," he said looking in direction of his press secretary with a laugh. "But it's just kind of who I am. I wasn't saying something publicly that I hadn't already said privately. And I didn't say it actually to be destructive. I said it to be constructive. And I think there were probably people over at the White House who were cheering."

Corker immediately rephrased: "I don't think that. I know that."

Posted by orrinj at 4:29 PM

...THIS CLOSE!:


Posted by orrinj at 4:24 PM

NO ONE KNOWS WHAT IT'S LIKE TO BE THE BAG MAN...:

Trump Returns to Crisis Over Kushner as White House Tries to Contain It (MAGGIE HABERMAN, GLENN THRUSH and JULIE HIRSCHFELD DAVISMAY 27, 2017, NY Times)


As reports emerged about investigators' focus on Mr. Kushner, he and his wife, Ivanka Trump, discussed the possibility of having Donald F. McGahn II, the White House counsel, issue a statement denying that Mr. McGahn had been contacted by federal officials about Mr. Kushner. Mr. McGahn, who has been increasingly uneasy in his role since Mr. Trump ignored his advice to delay Mr. Comey's dismissal, said he was not the person to write such a statement, suggesting that doing so would create a precedent requiring a response to each new report. Mr. Kushner's private lawyer issued a statement instead.

Move over Ishmael....

Posted by orrinj at 1:37 PM

NO ONE HAS IT HARDER THAN THEIR FATHER DID:


Posted by orrinj at 1:33 PM

WATCH OUT FOR MR. CZERVIK...:

Out of step: G7 leaders take a stroll, Trump takes a golf cart (Tom Kington, May 26 2017, The Times)

The distance between Donald Trump and his G7 partners was spelled out dramatically today when Theresa May and the leaders of Italy, France, Germany, Japan and Canada strolled the streets of Taormina, Sicily -- while he followed in a golf cart.

Posted by orrinj at 8:37 AM

THE UR AND THE ART OF WAR:

ISIL: Target Russia : Thousands of ISIL fighters are training in the mountains of Afghanistan, plotting an attack on the Kremlin. (Al Jazeera, 27 May 2017)

Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) have always considered "the West" - and the United States in particular - the ultimate enemy.

But following President Vladimir Putin's policy of military involvement in Syria, Russia may have taken its place as ISIL's main target.

At the moment ISIL's rage is directed at Bashar al-Assad and Putin.They are the main enemies of ISIL because Russia has smashed ISIL in Syria and the same in Iraq. They will do anything to get their revenge on Russia.

Ahmad Saeedi, Dawat University, Kabul

Thousands of ISIL fighters from Syria, Iraq and elsewhere are regrouping in the virtually impregnable mountains of Afghanistan, plotting revenge against the Kremlin.

ISIL's high command have given orders to target Russian cities, with thousands of trained fighters ready to act at any time.

Most recently, a lone terrorist on the metro in St Petersburg demonstrated the vulnerability of any modern city. On a moving train, in the middle of the day, a young Uzbek man with Russian citizenship detonated a bomb made with TNT and packed with shrapnel. Dozens were hurt and 15 killed. The bomber was later reported in the Russian media to have been in Syria with ISIL in 2014. 

If it had been intentional, luring Putin into Syria would go down as one of the more brilliant masterstrokes in strategic history.

Posted by orrinj at 7:45 AM

THE TIES THAT BIND:

Senate Intelligence Committee requests Trump campaign documents (Robert Costa May 26, 2017, The Washington Post)

The Senate Intelligence Committee, which is investigating Russian interference in the 2016 presidential race, has asked President Trump's political organization to gather and produce all Russia-related documents, emails and phone records going back to his campaign's launch in June 2015, according to two people briefed on the request.

The letter from the Senate arrived at Trump's campaign committee last week and was addressed to the group's treasurer. Since then, some former staffers have been notified and asked to cooperate, the people said. They were not authorized to speak publicly.





Posted by orrinj at 7:11 AM

...AND CHEAPER...:

Wind energy's watershed moment (Ann Harder, 5/25/17, Axios)

Ben Fowke, the CEO of Xcel Energy, now says he's fine with wind power on the electric grid.

"I don't think 5 or 10 years ago I'd be comfortable telling you we could not sacrifice reliability when we're going to have 35% of our energy come from wind," Fowke said on stage at the American Wind Energy Association's annual conference in Anaheim. "I'm telling you, I'm very comfortable with that today."

More a shed coal moment.

Posted by orrinj at 6:58 AM

WHILE THE SUBURBAN MOTHERS ASK, "HOW DOES THAT GET THEM A DESK JOB?":

How Finland broke every rule -- and created a top school system : It's not just a "Nordic thing" (WILLIAM DOYLE February 18, 2016, Hechinger Report)

Children at this and other Finnish public schools are given not only basic subject instruction in math, language and science, but learning-through-play-based preschools and kindergartens, training in second languages, arts, crafts, music, physical education, ethics, and, amazingly, as many as four outdoor free-play breaks per day, each lasting 15 minutes between classes, no matter how cold or wet the weather is. Educators and parents here believe that these breaks are a powerful engine of learning that improves almost all the "metrics" that matter most for children in school - executive function, concentration and cognitive focus, behavior, well-being, attendance, physical health, and yes, test scores, too.

The homework load for children in Finland varies by teacher, but is lighter overall than most other developed countries. This insight is supported by research, which has found little academic benefit in childhood for any more than brief sessions of homework until around high school.

There are some who argue that since Finland has less socio-economic diversity than, for example, the United States, there's little to learn here. But Finland's success is not a "Nordic thing," since Finland significantly out-achieves its "cultural control group" countries like Norway and Sweden on international benchmarks. And Finland's size, immigration and income levels are roughly similar to those of a number of American states, where the bulk of education policy is implemented.

There are also those who would argue that this kind of approach wouldn't work in America's inner city schools, which instead need "no excuses," boot-camp drilling-and-discipline, relentless standardized test prep, Stakhanovian workloads and stress-and-fear-based "rigor."

But what if the opposite is true?

What if many of Finland's educational practices are not cultural quirks or non-replicable national idiosyncrasies -- but are instead bare-minimum global best practices that all our children urgently need, especially those children in high-poverty schools?

Finland has, like any other nation, a unique culture. But it has identified, often by studying historical educational research and practices that originated in the United States, many fundamental childhood education insights that can inspire, and be tested and adapted by, any other nation.

As Pasi Sahlberg has pointed out, "If you come to Finland, you'll see how great American schools could be."

The key insight about American education is that almost no one has any interest in what or whether kids learn.  

Posted by orrinj at 6:49 AM

DONALD WHO?:

Top Trump aide: Coal doesn't make 'much sense anymore' (Matt Egan, May 26, 2017, CNN Money)

"Coal doesn't even make that much sense anymore as a feedstock," Gary Cohn said, aboard Air Force One on Thursday, referring to raw materials that get converted into a fuel.

Cohn, who serves as director of the White House National Economic Council, instead praised natural gas as "such a cleaner fuel" -- and one that America has become an "abundant producer of."

While Trump rarely talks up the potential of renewable energy, Cohn sounds like a fan.

"If you think about how solar and how much wind power we've created in the United States, we can be a manufacturing powerhouse and still be environmentally friendly," Cohn said.

Posted by orrinj at 6:37 AM

IN THE DRIVER'S SEAT:

How America's immigrant workforce is changing (Octavio Blanco, 5/26/17, CNNMoney)

Baby Boomers are retiring and U.S. birth rates are falling. With fewer native born workers coming into the job market, the country is becoming more reliant on immigrants than ever before to keep its labor force growing, according to the Pew Research Center.

Today, immigrants make up about 17% of the U.S. labor force -- and nearly one-quarter of those immigrants are undocumented.

Without the current rate of both legal and undocumented immigration, Pew found that the total U.S. workforce would shrink dramatically over the next 20 years.

May 26, 2017

Posted by orrinj at 9:11 PM

THE TIES THAT BIND:

Exclusive: Trump son-in-law had undisclosed contacts with Russian envoy - sources (Ned Parker and Jonathan Landay, 5/26/17, Reuters)

U.S. President Donald Trump's son-in-law and close adviser, Jared Kushner, had at least three previously undisclosed contacts with the Russian ambassador to the United States during and after the 2016 presidential campaign, seven current and former U.S. officials told Reuters.

Those contacts included two phone calls between April and November last year, two of the sources said. By early this year, Kushner had become a focus of the FBI investigation into whether there was any collusion between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin, said two other sources - one current and one former law enforcement official.

Before the election, Kislyak's undisclosed discussions with Kushner and Flynn focused on fighting terrorism and improving U.S.-Russian economic relations, six of the sources said. Former President Barack Obama imposed sanctions on Russia after it seized Crimea and started supporting separatists in eastern Ukraine in 2014.

After the Nov. 8 election, Kushner and Flynn also discussed with Kislyak the idea of creating a back channel between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin that could have bypassed diplomats and intelligence agencies, two of the sources said. [...]

FBI scrutiny of Kushner began when intelligence reports of Flynn's contacts with Russians included mentions of U.S. citizens, whose names were redacted because of U.S. privacy laws. This prompted investigators to ask U.S. intelligence agencies to reveal the names of the Americans, the current U.S. law enforcement official said.

Kushner's was one of the names that was revealed, the official said, prompting a closer look at the president's son-in-law's dealings with Kislyak and other Russians.

FBI investigators are examining whether Russians suggested to Kushner or other Trump aides that relaxing economic sanctions would allow Russian banks to offer financing to people with ties to Trump, said the current U.S. law enforcement official.

Posted by orrinj at 6:21 PM

MY WORK HERE IS DONE; GOLIATH NEVER STOOD A CHANCE:

Ancient Slingshot Was as Deadly as a .44 Magnum : An excavation in Scotland shows that Roman soldiers used lead ammo with lethal accuracy. (Heather Pringle, MAY 24, 2017, National Geographic)

On a fortified hill in Scotland some 1,900 years ago, a Roman army attacked local warriors by hurling lead bullets from slings that had nearly the stopping power of a modern .44 magnum handgun, according to recent experiments.

The assault seems to have been deadly effective, for the local warriors were armed only with swords and other simple weapons, says John Reid, a researcher at the Trimontium Trust and one of the co-directors of the archaeological fieldwork at Burnswark, south of Edinburgh. "We're fairly sure that the natives on top of the hill weren't allowed to survive." [...]

To clarify the picture, Reid and Nicholson decided to scour Burnswark for traces of ancient Roman ammunition. American archaeologists had used metal detectors successfully at the site of the Battle of Little Bighorn to locate buried bullets and shells and map the combatants' movements across the battlefield. So Reid and Nicholson decided to try something similar at Burnswark. As a first step, the researchers learned to calibrate a metal detector so that it could distinguish the lead in an ancient Roman sling bullet from other metal artifacts buried at the site.

Trained metal detectorists then combed Burnswark's hillsides and summit, producing more than 2,700 hits that Nicholson carefully recorded and mapped. Then the team ground-truthed the findings by digging five small trenches. The excavations revealed more than 400 Roman sling bullets right where the metal detectors indicated, as well as two spherical sandstone missiles known as ballista balls. The results suggested that 94 percent of the metal detector hits were in fact Roman bullets.

Impressed, the team began analysing the locations of the metal detector hits to better understand what had happened. They discovered a concentration of lead bullets across the entire 500-yard-long southern rampart of the Scottish hill fort, directly above one of the Roman camps. "This is just what we would expect from a besieging assault," notes Reid. A second, smaller concentration lay to the north, along what may have been the defenders' failed escape route.

The Roman slingers would have exacted a heavy toll. Recent experiments conducted in Germany showed that a 50-gram Roman bullet hurled by a trained slinger has only slightly less stopping power than a .44 magnum cartridge fired from a handgun. Other tests revealed that a trained slinger could hit a target smaller than a human being from 130 yards away. "That's exactly the distance from the front rampart of the south [Roman] camp to the front rampart of the hill fort," Reid noted.





Posted by orrinj at 5:27 PM

THE WAHHABI TO WHOM DONALD JUST PLEDGED FEALTY?:

2017-22-05_Ansor Declaration on Humanitarian Islam : World's Largest Muslim Youth Organization Publishes Road Map to Address "Rapidly Metastasizing Crisis in the Islamic World" (Bayt Ar Ramah)

The two-day event concluded with the proclamation of Gerakan Pemuda Ansor's Declaration on
Humanitarian Islam, an 8,000 word analysis of the rapidly escalating crisis within the Islamic world,
including the role of orthodox Islamic teachings--"weaponized" by state and non-state actors--in
precipitating this crisis, and a detailed road map that calls for "a serious, long-term socio-cultural,
political, religious and educational campaign to transform Muslims' understanding of their religious
obligations, and the very nature of Islamic orthodoxy."

In the words of Ansor Chairman H. Yaqut Qoumas, which also appear in the Declaration: "No progress
can be made towards neutralizing a threat, unless it is understood and identified. It is false and
counterproductive to claim that the actions of al-Qaeda, ISIS, Boko Haram and other such groups have
nothing to do with Islam, or merely represent a perversion of Islamic teachings. They are, in fact,
outgrowths of Wahhabism and other fundamentalist streams of Sunni Islam..." The Declaration goes on
to state, "For more than fifty years, Saudi Arabia has systematically propagated a supremacist,
ultraconservative interpretation of Islam among Sunni Muslim populations worldwide... [Legitimate]
Saudi opposition to Iran[ian], ISIS and al-Qaeda [supremacism] does not and should not absolve it from
responsibility for promoting the very ideology that underlies and animates Sunni extremism and terror...

"Muslims face a choice between starkly different visions of the future. Will they strive to recreate the
long-lost ideal of religious, political and territorial unity beneath the banner of a Caliphate--and thus
seek to restore Islamic supremacy--as reflected in their communal memory and still firmly entrenched
within the prevailing corpus, and worldview, of orthodox, authoritative Islam? Or will they strive to
develop a new religious sensibility that reflects the actual circumstances of our modern civilization, and
contributes to the emergence of a truly just and harmonious world order, founded upon respect for the
equal dignity and rights of every human being?"

Posted by orrinj at 1:11 PM

THERE WAS NO BUBBLE:

U.S. home prices to rise at a strong pace on tight supply: Reuters poll (Hari Kishan and Rahul Karunakar, 5/26/17, Reuters)

U.S. home prices look poised to rise at a robust pace over the next few years, mainly because of a chronic shortage of houses and steady demand, a Reuters poll showed on Friday.

We're going to need a lot more immigrants.

Posted by orrinj at 8:58 AM

IT'S A DEFLATIONARY EPOCH:

U.S. inflation path since 2012 is worrisome, policymaker says (Ann Saphir and Minami Funakoshi, 5/26/17, Reuters)

The current level of U.S. prices is noticeably lower than what it would be if the Federal Reserve had delivered on its 2-percent inflation target, St. Louis Federal Reserve President James Bullard said, calling the trend "worrisome."

In slides prepared for delivery in Tokyo on Friday, the U.S. central banker said U.S. prices are now 4.6 percent below the price level path established from 1995 to 2012, when inflation was growing near the Fed's target of 2 percent each year.

The only worrisome thing is that the Fed appears intent on raising real interest rates to historically high levels.

Posted by orrinj at 8:50 AM

IT'LL NEVER FLY, ORVILLE:

Handheld 3D-printing pen for custom cartilage implants succeeds in sheep trial (Andrew Masterson, 5/25/17, Cosmos)

A handheld pen that produces a bio-ink containing a patient's own cells could one day be used to repair knees damaged by osteoarthritis.

In a pilot study written up in The Journal of Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine, a team led by Gordon Wallace from Australia's ARC Centre of Excellence for Electromaterials Science reports the 3D-printing pen produced "exceptional" results when tested on sheep.

The Biopen is effectively a new tool available to surgeons.

In the study, cells drawn from each sheep were mixed with a specially formulated bio-ink. During surgery, the device was then used to create a precise, bespoke implant that replaces cartilage lost through osteoarthritis.

Posted by orrinj at 8:46 AM

KNOWING YOUR ALLIES:

The triumph of Iran's liberals (The Economist, May 25th 2017)

WHILE the leader of the free world bopped with sword-waving Arab princes and denounced the ancient Persian enemy, Iranian voters on the other side of the Gulf danced for detente. Men and women packed the streets countrywide, revelling most of the night. They were celebrating the re-election of President Hassan Rouhani. They cheered his vision of opening Iran to the West and his success in trouncing Iran's isolationists and hardliners, championed by Ebrahim Raisi, who mustered only 38% of the vote on May 19th against Mr Rouhani's 57%. In local elections on the same day, the hardliners were beaten in all Tehran's 21 seats.

Defeat is growing familiar to the hardliners. The last time they won was in the parliamentary election of 2012, and that they owed to a mass boycott by reformists. This time the hardliners campaigned particularly hard because they sensed they were not only picking a president, but also, perhaps, the next supreme leader (a more powerful post). The incumbent, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, is 77. This presidential election may be his last. Formally, the Assembly of Experts selects a successor from among its 88 Muslim scholars. But the last time it did so, in 1989, it picked the then president. "The vote isn't just about four years of presidency," says a confidant of Mr Khamenei. "It's about Iran's future for 40 years."  [...]

Within hours of his victory, reformists whom the authorities had detained in the run-up to the election were released. His advisers also predict that he will appoint his first female minister, and perhaps even the Islamic Republic's first-ever Sunni one. More radical change as well, they say, could be coming.

Posted by orrinj at 8:25 AM

THERE'S ONLY ONE SAFE HARBOR:

Japan's big insurers expand their appetites for U.S. Treasuries (Tomo Uetake and Takahiko Wada, 5/26/17, Reuters)

Big Japanese life insurers, who are major bond investors globally, are primarily focusing on U.S. bonds while staying cautious on European bonds, earning reports and comments from industry executives show.

Posted by orrinj at 8:15 AM

...AND CHEAPER...:

Tesla's Solar Roof Is Cheaper Than Expected (Tom Randall, 5/26/17, Bloomberg)

Tesla Inc. has begun taking $1,000 deposits for its remarkable solar roof tiles--to be delivered this summer at a price point that could expand the U.S. solar market. 

Tesla will begin with production of two of the four styles it unveiled in October: a smooth glass and a textured glass tile. The French slate and sculpted Tuscan versions of the tile will be available in 6 to 9 months.  Roofing a 2,000 square-foot home in New York state--with 40 percent coverage of active solar tiles and battery backup for night-time use--would cost about $50,000 after federal tax credits and generate $64,000 in energy over 30 years, according to Tesla's website calculator. 

That's more expensive upfront than a typical roof, but less expensive than a typical roof with traditional solar and back-up batteries. The warranty is for the lifetime of your home. 

"The pricing is better than I expected, better than everyone expected," said Hugh Bromley, a solar analyst at Bloomberg New Energy Finance who had been skeptical about the potential market impact of the new product. Tesla's cost for active solar tiles is about $42 per square foot, "significantly below" BNEF's prior estimate of $68 per square foot, Bromley said. 



Posted by orrinj at 7:51 AM

...AND CHEAPER...:

The solution to America's health-care problem is obvious: Medicare. For. All. (Ryan Cooper, May 26, 2017, The Week)

[T]he important thing to remember regarding the state budget is that California already spends about $200 billion on Medicaid and Medicare -- it's just that those programs are administered at the federal level. Per the state analysis, employers also already spend an additional $100 billion to $150 billion, so the state would "only" have to find $50 billion to $100 billion in fresh revenue.

Still, that is a tremendous amount of money. But California is a big, rich state, with GDP of nearly $2.5 trillion. A price of $400 billion represents about 15 percent of their total economic output -- far higher than the developed nation average, but actually 3 percentage points of GDP less than America as a whole.

So, nevermind that we'd save 3% of GDP right off the bat, the ratchet downwards--even if it only gets us as low as Sweden and France--saves another 3%.  Get it down to Canada/Australia levels and it's another 2%.  That's 8% of GDP we can invest in the productive economy instead of wasting on unnecessary medical costs.  Clawing back 2% of the similarly wasted military spending gets us to a 10% infusion of capital into economic investments.  

We'd prefer universal catastrophic/HSAs, so that cash is going directly into personal investment accounts and helping end Social Security too, but universal Medicare is, obviously, an effective alternative to the current mess.  And it becomes ever more likely as the GOP opposes increased coverage while offering no alternative.

May 25, 2017

Posted by orrinj at 7:22 PM

LIBERTY IS NOT LIBERTARIAN:

He Built Better Than He Knew (RICHARD REINSCH|. 5/25/17, Law & Liberty)

The truth about America, Lawler argued, was that our Founders had deployed a Lockean liberalism to justify and explain their act of creating a new political order.  However, this Lockean freedom had never been understood in an unrelenting ideological fashion that made America the inevitable republic of liberated individualism. That outcome could happen, and was in fact a potentiality in our Founding, but other resources were certainly present. Moreover, the freedom of the Americans had always been understood, beginning with the Puritans and by numerous other oncoming religious groups--the Baptists, Jews, Catholics, and Mormons--to be at the service of our relational personhood. A nation conceived to protect natural rights had become a home for the homeless, and this included religious wanderers. And while persecutions did exist for dissident faiths, in time, these same communions found unparalleled opportunities to practice their faiths and build their communities.

So we were free to be citizens, but we were both more and less than citizens, Peter taught in his magnificent introduction essay for the Intercollegiate Studies Institute's edition of Orestes Brownson's The American Republic (1865). Our freedom was really meant to be put in the service of our relational duties as parents, spouses, members of religious communions, workers, and, of course, citizens of America; or as Peter had taken lately to saying, we needed to employ "libertarian means in the service of nonlibertarian ends."

This meant that our Founders, in the words of Brownson and John Courtney Murray that Peter never tired of repeating, "built better than they knew." The act of constitutional founding, Peter relayed, had been done amidst the background of the natural law and the full scope of the Western legal, constitutional, philosophical, and religious inheritance. Our providential constitution was where you needed to start to understand our country.

In later writings, Peter made clear the ways in which the individualist strand in American political thought had increasingly come to dominate more and more of our social, cultural, and religious existence. What had begun as a noble liberal attempt to free humans from tyrannical government by employing a constructed government in the service of natural rights had outstripped its political bounds. And many Americans, following elite discourse, increasingly viewed the family, religion, and even thick notions of republican citizenship as collectivist attempts to rob them of their freedoms.

As Peter so eloquently put it:

The modern individual is liberated from the philosopher's duty to know the truth about nature, from the citizen's selfless devotion to this country, from the creature's love and fear of God, and even from the loving responsibilities that are inseparable from family life.

The ultimate and undying source of resistance to this Progressive logic was human nature, which, as Peter noted, always carried a mighty pitchfork. Lawler pointed out America's problems as a loyal friend. Friends tell the truth, but do not exaggerate faults. Peter, like Tocqueville, did the former without succumbing to the latter. We could actually, he insisted, see from a position beyond modernity and its limitations. He called it postmodern conservatism which affirmed "as good what we can really know about our natural possibilities and limitations," thus challenging "liberated postmodernism... and the modern premises it radicalizes." 

Posted by orrinj at 7:06 PM

TREIF?:

Jared Kushner Now Under FBI Scrutiny in Russia Probe, Say Officials (KEN DILANIAN, PETER ALEXANDER and COURTNEY KUBE, 5/25/17, NBC News)

Jared Kushner, the president's son-in-law and one of his senior advisers, has come under FBI scrutiny in the Russia investigation, multiple U.S. officials told NBC News.

Investigators believe Kushner has significant information relevant to their inquiry, officials said.

Posted by orrinj at 7:01 PM

WELL, GIORGIO THOUGHT SO TOO:

Ivanka's own goal: first daughter mistakes Lazio star Chinaglia for a saint (Stephanie Kirchgaessner, 25 May 2017, The Guardian)

Ivanka Trump, the former model and presidential adviser, mistook a picture of a revered Italian footballer for a saint during a recent night out in Rome.

The first daughter was dining with her husband, Jared Kushner, at Le Cave di Sant'Ignazio on Tuesday night when she spotted a picture of former Lazio star Giorgio Chinaglia - standing on a pitch, his arms stretched out to the heavens - and asked: "Which saint is that?"

Posted by orrinj at 6:52 PM

HIS MASTER'S VOICE:

'Putin will be thrilled': Former NATO ambassadors say Trump just dealt 'a major blow' to the alliance (Natasha Bertrand, 5/25/17, Business Insider) 

"Putin will be thrilled at Trump's refusal to endorse Article 5," said Tom Wright, the director of the Center on the United States and Europe and a fellow in the Project on International Order and Strategy at the Brookings Institution. "Unimaginable under any other president."

After Trump called NATO "obsolete" in a January interview, Russian President Vladimir Putin's spokesman said Moscow "shares Trump's opinion that NATO is a remnant of the past." 

Trump hands Putin a win at first NATO meeting (Robbie Gramer, May 25, 2017, SF Gate)

"Trumps behavior at this NATO meeting in Brussels is a definitive win for Putin," said Jorge Benitez, a NATO expert at the Atlantic Council who was at the NATO confab. "It just increases a lot of the doubts and fears and concerns our allies have had," he told Foreign Policy.

"Every US President since Truman has pledged support for Article 5-that US will defend Europe. Not so Trump today at #NATO. Major mistake," former U.S. ambassador to NATO Nicholas Burns wrote on Twitter.
Trump said he was "very direct" with NATO Secretary Jens Stoltenberg and other leaders about ponying up more on defense spending.

His refusal to explicitly endorse the principle may rattle U.S. allies who were already nervous that Washington won't come to their defense in the event of an attack. Baltic countries, in particular, are worried about massing Russian military forces that could overwhelm them, and were hoping for the typical, ironclad U.S. commitment, but left disappointed.

Optics-wise, things didn't fare much better, with passive aggressiveness out in full force. French President Emmanuel Macron went out of his way to leave Trump hanging for a handshake as he greeted the phalanx of NATO member leaders.

In another cringe-worthy moment, Trump shoved Montenegrin leader Dusko Markovic out of his way to clamber to the front of the pack to preen for a photo-op.



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