Britain has accused Russia of committing “war crimes” in Syria — Obama rules out no fly zone, military intervention — Western powers are attempting to shame Russia into helping to end the suffering

September 26, 2016

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One of the most bitter meetings of the UN Security Council in recent memory

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Britain has accused Russia of committing “war crimes” in Syria as world powers rounded on Moscow in one of the most bitter meetings of the UN Security Council in recent memory.

As Russian jets took part in what rebels called the “scorched earth bombing” of Aleppo, Western powers charged Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, with deliberately undermining peace talks and flouting its historic responsibilities to the United Nations.

The almost complete rupture of relations between Russia and the Western powers played out in angry scenes at the UN’s New York headquarters, where Britain, France and the US openly condemned Russia as “an international pariah”.

 

The exchanges marked the effective collapse of the US-led Syria peace process that had tried to get to Russia to use its influence in Syria to help bring an end to the six-year war that has now claimed around 400,000 lives.

With a US-backed no-fly zone and other military intervention ruled out by President Obama, Britain, France and the US launched the diplomatic onslaught in an attempt to shame Russia into helping to end the suffering.

Ban Ki-moon, the UN Secretary-General, urged the powers to work to “end the nightmare” singling out Russia’s use of bunker-busting bombs to hit schools and hospitals operating in basements.

“How much longer will all those with influence allow such cruelty to continue?” Mr Ban said.

Earlier, Boris Johnson, the Foreign Secretary, said Russia may have committed war crimes by bombing a UN aid convoy last week and accused President Putin of not only “handing the revolver” to the Assad regime, but also helping to pull the trigger.

Syrian government forces at the largely deserted Palestinian refugee camp of Handarat, north of Aleppo Credit: George Ourfalian /GETTY

In a display of disgust towards the Assad regime, Matthew Rycroft, the British ambassador to the UN, walked out of a specially convened Security Council meeting when the Syrian ambassador rose to speak.

“Aleppo’s inhabitants… are now facing an unprecedented, unrelenting onslaught of cruelty,” he said.

“In short, it is difficult to deny that Russia is partnering with the Syrian regime to carry out war crimes.”

Mr Rycroft also hinted that Western powers must now consider coercive measures to force Russia to back away.

“We must now do more than demand or urge. We must now decide what we can do to enforce end to bombardment,” he said, without providing details.

The West could now consider economic sanctions or a diplomatic move against Russia to try to force it to change course.

Russia denied the Western charges and accused Western-backed rebel groups of causing the breakdown of the ceasefire. Samantha Power, the US ambassador to the UN, said Russian forces were guilty of “barbarism” for using bunker-busting bombs.

“Russia would have this Council live in upside-down land where bombing first responders, cutting off humanitarian aid and supporting a murderous regime is billed as counterterrorism,” she said.

“What Russia is sponsoring and doing is not counterterrorism; it is barbarism.”

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/09/25/britain-accuses-putin-of-war-crimes-in-syria-at-bitter-un-meetin/

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Peace and Freedom Commentary

Was Hitler ashamed of what he was doing?

Nope.

Does anyone in their right mind think that former KGB man Vladimir Putin will be “shamed” at the United Nations?

Not a chance. He is a man who who believes in winners (himself) and losers (President Barack Obama).

Putin enjoys huge popularity at home in Russia. He is seen as a Russian strong man putting Russia back into a place of honor and respect in the world. He has beaten the West in everything he has tried. He took Crimea and made it part of Russia. He has been engaged in a long insurgency in eastern Ukraine.

But Putin’s real place of honor in the eyes of the Russian people is this: When President Barack Obama and the United States established a “red line” for the use of chemical weapons in Syria by President Assad’s forces — and then backed away from that “red line” — Putin charged in to seize the initiative in Syria.

Obama said Putin would find himself in a quagmire in Syria. But President Obama was wrong on that. Putin is showing his power, as Russians have always known it. He is an unrelenting killer.

In Russia, and elsewhere, Barack Obama is seen as “weak and useless.”

And that pretty much summarizes the last almost 8 years of U.S. foreign policy.

Putin doesn’t care if anyone calls him a war criminal or a killer. His job is to win for Russia and any allies that Russia can support.

Whatever the White House “narrative” may be is divorced from reality. The truth is America has mostly been impotent and stronger men like Vladimir Putin jumped right into the void created by the American president’s weakness.

For better or worse, that is where we find ourselves. That is where we are.

It is also fair to say that the U.S. has “lost” one of its top allies in Asia. Philippine President Duterte, another man with no use for weakness, has decided his people might be better off in the loving embrace of China.

With North Korea still testing nuclear weapons and long-range ballistic missiles, and China now a major military power in Asia, China is making life hard for Japan — another top U.S. ally.

We are sure Xi Jinping in China and President Putin in Russia are sad to see the end of President Obama’s time in the White House. Both Putin and Mr. Xi have spread their wings in the world for the last eight years while increasing their military strength.

The weak may inherit the earth. But that will happen only after the strong blow it up….

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While Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton began what was called the “U.S. pivot to Asia.” In this photo, Hillary Clinton talks with Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi. on September 5, 2012. Today Hillary Clinton is running to become the next President of the United States and China’s former Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi has been promoted to the number three leadership within the Chinese Communist Party. China seems to be in control of most of the South China Sea and is pressuring all U.S. allies from Japan to Australia to Singapore to ally themselves with China or face consequences. In 2012, Hillary Clinton was a big advocate of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). After Donald trump said the TPP was not a good deal for American workers, Hillary Clinton became against the TPP.

 (Contains links to many additional articles about the South China Sea)

Philippine President Duterte wants reinstatement of capital punishment — Adds to his argument, “What if there is no God?”

September 26, 2016

By Yuji Vincent
The Philippine Inquirer

“What if there’s no God?”

President Rodrigo Duterte has this to say to critics of proposals to reinstate death penalty in the country who argue that only God can take a person’s life.

READ: Duterte says he wants death penalty for revenge

Speaking before the oath-taking of Malacañang Press Corps officials, Duterte on Monday made a new pitch for the revival of capital punishment, lamenting that Filipinos nowadays disregard the law due to supposed lack of fear.

“Ang mga tao sa Pilipinas hindi na naniniwala sa batas because fear is not there (People in the Philippines don’t believe in the law because fear is not there),” Duterte said.

“Every President along the way would just say ‘what if there is no God?’ I believe in God but that is my perpetual question to Him: Where were You when we needed You?” he added.

The President noted that not everyone believes in God as there are atheists and agnostics.

The revival of death penalty is one of the main thrusts of the 17th Congress under Duterte, who is waging a bloody war against drugs and criminality.

In the House of Representatives, the first bill filed in the new Congress by no less than  Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez seeks the reinstatement of capital punishment for heinous crimes through lethal injection. JE/rga

Duterte okayed Velosos execution— Widodo
Duterte okayed Velosos execution— Widodo

Read more: http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/819096/duterte-to-death-penalty-critics-what-if-theres-no-god#ixzz4LM8zy9Tv
Follow us: @inquirerdotnet on Twitter | inquirerdotnet on Facebook

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“What Happened After President Obama Failed To Support His Own Red Line in Syria? He Unleashed Hell”

September 26, 2016

Peace and Freedom Commentary

Last week we spoke to several U.S. military men and women with intimate familiarity with the situation in Syria.

Most of the mainstream news still covers Syria — not not in a very aggressive way any more.

We spoke at length to one U.S. senior officer who just visited the Aleppo area of Syria. He talked about the mounting civilian death toll, the lack of humanitarian aid and water, and the breakdown of rescue and medical systems. He said Russia and Syria here using incendiary bombs, cluster bombs and perhaps even chemical weapons.

I asked him for his honest opinion on President Obama’s “red line” and what has happened since President Obama failed to enforce his “red line.”

“With that one decision, President Obama unleashed hell,” the senior U.S. officer told us.

“Russia came in on Assad’s side in a big way. Obama said Putin would wind up in a quagmire. That didn’t happen. Syria is now mostly ruined. Refugees have headed out into the world by the thousands with no idea where to go or how to get there. People are dying today in Aleppo because of the failure of America — and specifically the President of the United States. Sometimes, failure to act is the worst possible thing in the world to do.”

“And Assad is still using chemical weapons, our testing tells us. We gained nothing and we lost it all.”

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“The President Blinked”: Why Obama Changed Course on the “Red Line” in Syria

By  PATRICE TADDONIO
Frontline
May 25, 2015

President Obama pauses while speaking in the White House briefing room on Aug. 20, 2012. In his remarks, the president said use of chemical weapons in Syria would cross a “red line.” (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

In August of 2013, a rebel-held suburb of Damascus was attacked with sarin gas — a nerve agent that causes lung muscle paralysis and results in death from suffocation.

The attack killed 1,400 men, women and children, and at the White House, officials asserted “with high confidence” that the government of Bashar al-Assad was responsible.

One year earlier, President Barack Obama had described Assad’s potential use of chemical weapons as “a red line” that would have “enormous consequences” and “change my calculus” on American military intervention in Syria’s civil war.

When Assad appeared to cross that line, Obama ordered the Pentagon to prepare to attack.

“Our finger was on the trigger,” Gen. Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, tells veteran FRONTLINE correspondent Martin Smith in tomorrow’s new documentary, Obama at War. “We had everything in place and we were just waiting for instructions to proceed.”

But as FRONTLINE details in the below excerpt from Obama at War, the president had second thoughts.

“The president was looking for a way to not have to make good on the threat that he had made,” Col. Andrew Bacevich (Ret.), author of The Limits of Power, tells FRONTLINE. “I think because the president having drawn that red line realized that he had no appetite for direct military engagement in Syria.”

Read the rest:

source http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/frontline/article/the-president-blinked-why-obama-changed-course-on-the-red-line-in-syria/

Foreign Policy of Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, John Kerry has Added To World Disorder — Obama’s ‘pivot to Asia’ has failed. China is in the ascendancy

September 26, 2016

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Xi Jinping and Barack Obama at the White House, Sept. 25, 2015. We were told that Mr. Xi told President Obama and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry that China had no intention of “militarizing” the South China Sea. That turned out to be false.

Obama is again proving an unreliable partner

By The Guardian

When the president came to power, he vowed to look east with his foreign policy. But as he prepares to leave office, the US looks increasingly impotent in the region

Sunday 25 September 2016

Tsai Ing-wen is new to the job and the strain is beginning to show. Elected president of Taiwan in a landslide victory, she took office in May, buoyed by high approval ratings. Yet in a few short months, Tsai’s popularity has plunged by 25%. The reason may be summed up in one word: China. Suspicious that Tsai’s Democratic Progressive party, which also won control of parliament, harbours a pro-independence agenda, Beijing suspended official and back-channel talks with its “renegade province” and shut down an emergency hotline.

More seriously, for many Taiwanese workers, China also curbed the lucrative tourist trade, which brought millions of mainland visitors to the island during the accommodating presidency of Tsai’s predecessor, Ma Ying-jeou. Cross-strait investment and business have also been hit.

Tsai faces contradictory pressures. The public wants the benefit of closer economic ties with China but Beijing’s intentions are rightly distrusted by a population that increasingly identifies itself as Taiwanese, not Chinese. Given President Xi Jinping’s ominous warnings that reunification cannot be delayed indefinitely, China’s military build-up and hawkish suggestions that Beijing may resort to force, Taiwanese ambivalence is wholly understandable.

This dilemma – how to work constructively with a powerful, assertive China without compromising or surrendering national interests – grows steadily more acute. It is shared by states across the east and southeast Asian region. From Indonesia and the Philippines to Vietnam, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia and Singapore, the quandary is the same. But the answers proffered by national leaders are different and sometimes sharply at odds.

The China dilemma is felt strongly in Washington. The US has striven in recent years to strengthen Asian alliances, increase trade and raise its regional military profile – Barack Obama’s so-called rebalance or pivot to Asia – in a bid to contain and channel China’s ambitions peacefully. But analysts say the pivot appears to be in trouble. For Europeans fixated on Syria and immigration, this may not seem especially worrying or relevant. That’s shortsighted. If Obama and future US presidents get China wrong, the resulting damage could be global, threatening the security and prosperity of all.

Su-30 fighters of China’s military take off to patrol over the South China Sea. Xinhua photo. China has practiced deploying aircraft like these to their newly build island-air bases in the South China Sea.

Obama is already badly off-track. His grand plan to promote interdependent economic self-interest across the Pacific Rim while excluding China – the Trans-Pacific Partnership or TPP (similar to the controversial US-Europe Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership or TTIP) – is in deep trouble.

Shinzo Abe, Japan’s prime minister, declared last week that the TTP was a crucial “pillar” of future US influence. “Success or failure will sway the direction of the global free trade system and [shape] the strategic environment in the Asia-Pacific,” Abe said.

His warning reflected alarm in Tokyo that a risk-averse Obama is again proving an unreliable partner and will fail to get the deal ratified by Congress. It has already been disowned by both his most likely successors, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.

Chinese dredging vessels are purportedly seen in the waters around Mischief Reef in the disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea in this still image from video taken by a P-8A Poseidon surveillance aircraft provided by the United States Navy in this May 21, 2015 file photo. REUTERS/U.S. Navy/Handout via Reuters

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Washington’s painfully obvious inability to curb China’s controversial island-building programme straddling the international shipping lanes of the South China Sea is seen as further evidence that the pivot is failing. Each week seems to bring news of another Chinese airstrip or newly fortified reef. Ignoring neighbouring countries’ rival claims, Chinese has effectively unilaterally annexed 80% of the sea’s area, through which passes $5tn of world trade annually. “Freedom of navigation” patrols by US warships, soon to be backed by Japan’s navy, have had little discernible impact while increasing the risk of direct military confrontation.

 

China has flatly rejected a precedent-setting UN court ruling that deemed its claim to own the Spratly Islands, also claimed by the Philippines, to be illegal. Beijing has taken a similarly intransigent stance in its dispute with Japan over the Senkaku (Diaoyu) Islands in the East China Sea.

Some observers detect ulterior motives. China’s military construction on the Spratlys and “its effort to exhaust and eventually displace Japan in a contest for the Senkakus can be seen as an attempt psychologically and physically to isolate Taiwan and to prepare the battle space for China’s possible use of military force to unify the PRC and Taiwan”, an analysis by the International Institute for Strategic Studies said.

Perceived American weakness has led some allies to take matters into their own hands. It emerged last week that Taiwan’s military is also engaged in island fortification, at Itu Aba, its sole possession in the South China Sea.

More dramatically still, the maverick Philippines president, Rodrigo Duterte, switched sides last week, announcing Manila would cease maritime co-operation with the US. China, he said, was the stronger partner. Duterte’s shift reflects his anger at American criticism of human rights abuses rather than a deep strategic rethink. But it will certainly hearten Beijing.

Other regional players are more cautious, an attitude encouraged by Beijing’s divide-and-rule tactics. Vietnam’s prime minister, Nguyen Xuan Phuc, meekly agreed in talks with Xi this month that “maritime co-operation through friendly negotiations” was the best way forward. But like China, Hanoi is rapidly building military capacity and cementing alliances with India, among others, in anticipation of less amicable times ahead.

Similar diplomatic hedging of bets was on display in Laos this month, when an Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) summit deliberately avoided mention of the UN court ruling. This feeble anxiety to play down differences – and evident lack of confidence in US leadership – plays into China’s hands.

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The China dilemma extends far beyond the South China Sea. Having made nuclear disarmament a top priority in 2009, Obama has failed dismally to halt North Korea’s accelerating pursuit of nuclear weapons. The threat was underscored by Pyongyang’s biggest ever test explosion earlier this month. China, the only country with real leverage, has helped impose additional UN sanctions on North Korea. But it has consistently balked at taking game-changing measures, such as cutting off fuel oil supplies, which could force Kim Jong-un to think again. Beijing also says it will block “unilateral” measures by other countries.

Obama’s impotence has intensified questions in Japan and elsewhere about the credibility of the American security umbrella, encouraging nationalists who argue that Tokyo should re-arm in earnest – or even deploy its own nuclear weapons. But their main concern is not North Korea – it is China.

Xi is not looking for a fight. His first-choice agent of change is money, not munitions. According to Xi’s “One Belt, One Road” plan, his preferred path to 21st-century Chinese hegemony is through expanded trade, business and economic partnerships extending from Asia to the Middle East and Africa. China’s massive Silk Road investments in central and west Asian oil and gas pipelines, high-speed rail and ports, backed by new institutions such as the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank, are part of this strategy, which simultaneously encourages political and economic dependencies. Deng Xiaoping once said to get rich is glorious. Xi might add it is also empowering.

Western neoliberals are optimistic. They typically argue that market-based economic exchanges can produce a win-win situation for rival states. In this way, China’s rise may be peacefully accommodated, they say.

Xi must also calculate that time is on China’s side. “China’s economic development and military modernisation programmes have witnessed dramatic progress since the early-1980s,” said Karl Eikenberry in the American Interest. “China’s aggregate GDP in 1980 was the seventh largest in the world… By 2014, China’s GDP had multiplied 30 times to more than $9tn and is now the second largest in the world… The PRC’s military spending, less than $10bn in 1990, grew to more than $129.4bn in 2014, second only to that of the US.” On current trends, China’s 2035 GDP could be a third larger than the US, Eikenberry said.


People watch a TV news showing an image that North Korea’s Rodong Sinmun newspaper reports of the ground test of a high-powered engine of a carrier rocket at the country’s Sohae Space Centre in Seoul, South Korea. Photograph: Ahn Young-joon/AP

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Yet for less sanguine analysts, this prospective disparity, this growing lack of balance, plus the expanding number of potential flashpoints in the South China Sea, Taiwan and elsewhere, point only one way – towards future military conflict between the US and China. The Pentagon now officially refers to the Chinese “threat”.

This is the so-called “Thucydides Trap”, a reference to the Athenian historian’s account of the seemingly inevitable conflict between the rising city-state of Athens and the status quo power Sparta in the fifth century BC. Nowadays, the US is the status quo power and China the bumptious usurper.

Open conflict is not inescapable, but it is under active discussion. A recent study by the Rand Corporation made a detailed examination of who might “win” such a military showdown. It concludes that it would probably be catastrophic for both sides. Yet the study also suggests that, if war cannot be avoided, the US might be best advised to strike first, before China gets any stronger and the current US military advantage declines further.

The dilemma is clear: amid rising nationalism in both countries, China is not willing to have its ambitions curbed or contained and the US is not ready to accept the world number two spot. These two juggernauts are on a collision course. It’s unclear who or what can prevent a pile-up.

The other players in the conflict between Beijing and Washington

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JAPAN
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Faced by what it perceives to be a growing threat from China, Japan’s government, led by its conservative prime minister, Shinzo Abe, has sought greater freedom to project military force beyond the country’s borders. This is controversial, since it involves the “reinterpretation” of Japan’s postwar pacifist constitution. Concrete steps include joint naval patrols with the US in the South China Sea and direct help for coastal states such as the Philippines.
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VIETNAM
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The communist one-party regime in Hanoi is an unlikely partner for the US, given still painful memories of the Vietnam war. But Vietnam has been wooed by Obama and George W Bush as part of Washington’s attempts to control and channel China’s regional ambitions. Vietnam has been involved in deadly fishing grounds clashes with China, with whom it fought a war in 1979. It has also sought help elsewhere. Earlier this month, the Indian prime minister, Narendra Modi, offered a $500m credit line for defence co-operation. But Hanoi is also carefully hedging its bets by keeping diplomatic lines open to Beijing.
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INDONESIA
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The world’s most populous Muslim country, Indonesia has vast human and natural resources and is seen as one of the new 21st-century economic players. Anxious to balance development needs and national pride, President Joko Widodo recently visited the Natuna Islands in the southern South China Sea, scene of repeated, minor fishing boat clashes with Chinese vessels. Widodo vowed to defend “sovereign territory” against foreign encroachment. But, officially, Indonesia calls itself a “non-claimant” country and says it is not formally in dispute with Beijing. This suits both countries, at least for now. By sidestepping their differences, they can get on with business.
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SOUTH KOREA
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The Seoul government is more worried about its unpredictable northern neighbour than it is about China. Its defence minister said last week that South Korea has plans in place to assassinate Kim Jong-un and the North Korean leadership if the nuclear threat becomes critical. Seoul sticks close to the US, which maintains military bases in the country. But abiding South Korean distrust of Japan, Washington’s other key east Asian ally, dating back to the Second World War, has undermined attempts to present a united front to Beijing – with which Seoul maintains friendly relations.
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INDIA
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Like China, India is rapidly expanding its military capabilities, spending an estimated $100bn on new defence systems since Narendra Modi became prime minister in 2014. Like China, its ambition is to project itself as a regional superpower looking both east and west. This potentially brings the two countries into conflict. They have long-standing border disputes in the Kashmir/Xinjiang and Arunachal Pradesh areas. In a forerunner to Obama’s pivot to Asia, George W Bush’s administration launched a strategic partnership with Delhi, partly as a counterbalance to China. For its part, Beijing maintains close ties with Pakistan, India’s historical foe.
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RUSSIA
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China and Russia are old enemies dating back to the cold war, but these days, they claim to be close friends. A visit to Beijing by President Vladimir Putin in June saw the launching of a number of trade and oil deals worth up to $50bn. China sees Russia as a valuable provider of raw materials but also as a political and military partner in relation to the US. In defiance of Washington, the two countries held large-scale war games in the South China Sea last week, practising taking over islands in disputed waters. Putin also values collaboration as a way of circumventing sanctions imposed by the US and EU after Russia’s invasion of Crimea.
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We at Peace and Freedom believe that the refugee crisis the world is now engulfed in was caused by the inability of all nations involved to prevent or stop the conditions that caused this mass migration. Before Barack Obama was elected President and Hillary Clinton was the U.S. Secretary of State, there was not the “migration crisis” as the EU likes to call it. For us, when President Obama failed to enforce his “red line” in Syria,  everything in the world changed. Putin in Russia and Xi Jinping in China concluded that the U.S. would no longer stand up for international law. Putin charged into Syria, making a very bad mess in the Middle East even worse. China went into the South China Sea and built islands that it now claims as its own. China has ignored what President Obama has called the “binding” nature of the ruling on July 12, 2016 by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague that said China’s “nine dash line” in the South China Sea was invalid under international law.
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While Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton began what was called the “U.S. pivot to Asia.” In this photo, Hillary Clinton talks with Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi. on September 5, 2012. Today Hillary Clinton is running to become the next President of the United States and China’s former Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi has been promoted to the number three leadership within the Chinese Communist Party. China seems to be in control of most of the South China Sea and is pressuring all U.S. allies from Japan to Australia to Singapore to ally themselves with China or face consequences. In 2012, Hillary Clinton was a big advocate of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). After Donald trump said the TPP was not a good deal for American workers, Hillary Clinton became against the TPP.

 (Contains links to many additional articles about the South China Sea)

Fiscal Constraints Await the Next President

September 26, 2016

Either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump would have little latitude to spend money

Images of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump on a CNN vehicle, behind a security fence, Saturday at Hofstra University.
Images of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump on a CNN vehicle, behind a security fence, Saturday at Hofstra University. PHOTO: PAUL J. RICHARDS/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES
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Sept. 25, 2016 7:03 p.m. ET

Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are likely to recite their varied promises for fresh government spending at Monday’s first presidential debate. One reality they’re unlikely to note: Whoever wins in November will enjoy far less latitude to spend money or cut taxes than any president since World War II.

Not since Harry Truman will a new leader enter office with a higher debt-to-GDP ratio. And for the first time in decades, the new president will face the specter of widening deficits despite a growing economy.

“The next president, no doubt, is going to be very constrained,” said Rep. Charlie Dent, a Pennsylvania Republican who sits on the House appropriations committee and hasn’t endorsed anyone for president.

A President Trump or Clinton could try to barrel ahead anyway, of course. But Mrs. Clinton, in particular, is likely to be checked by the opposing party’s control of at least one chamber of Congress. And that doesn’t take into account what would happen if the U.S. enters another recession, when falling revenue would send deficits even higher. In that scenario, the Federal Reserve and other central banks would have less room to respond if interest rates remain near today’s ultralow levels.

Due to this erosion in the “policy arsenal” available to monetary policy makers, “the burden for any classic Keynesian response would have to fall more on the fiscal side, which is why the political constraints on action are more scary,” said Timothy Geithner, President Barack Obama’s first Treasury secretary.

Those fiscal constraints, though, are increasingly palpable. Spending on discretionary programs, or those that lawmakers fund directly every year, is being crowded out by spending on what are known as entitlement programs, including Medicare and Social Security. About two-thirds of all spending—including interest payments on the national debt—is in that latter category, compared with about half in the 1980s. Just one-third of spending is actually set by Congress and the White House through annual spending bills.

By 2022, nearly every dollar of revenue the U.S. collects will have been committed before Congress even takes a vote, according to an analysis by Eugene Steuerle of the Urban Institute.

With more and more federal spending on autopilot, there is “almost no discretion or flexibility to act to address new challenges without having to renege on past promises to the public,” says Mr. Steuerle, a Treasury official in the Reagan administration.
Failing to tackle these issues will make the next president “a lame duck for most of his or her term because they’ll have no room to do anything else,” he said.

Previous Republican presidents have gotten leeway from GOP lawmakers willing to tolerate deficits in favor of tax cuts. Mr. Trump has advocated a tax-cut package that could reduce revenue by 10% over a decade while endorsing big spending boosts for infrastructure, veterans’ health care and national defense. He has also promised to spare Social Security and Medicare, the biggest drivers of spending over the coming decades, from any changes.

Mr. Trump’s advisers say stimulating growth is a bigger imperative than balancing the budget. “Like Ronald Reagan, the deficit maybe isn’t Mr. Trump’s highest priority,” said Lawrence Kudlow, an economist who served as a budget official in the Reagan administration and has been advising Mr. Trump.

On the Democratic side, Mrs. Clinton’s proposals implicitly acknowledge the budget headwinds by including offsetting revenue increases for most new spending. Those offsets avoid running up deficits, but they face extra hurdles to being politically palatable.

She has promised a five-year, $275 billion infrastructure program in her first 100 days, a package roughly equal to a highway-funding reauthorization Congress approved last year. She also has proposed to dramatically cut families’ child-care costs and college costs by increasing spending and offering tax breaks.

The 2000 election turned on how to spend a large budget surplus, and President George W. Bush quickly put in place sweeping tax cuts after taking office. In 2008, Mr. Obama proposed to pay for a range of new programs, beginning with the health-care overhaul, by repealing those tax cuts and ending foreign wars. Both presidents faced recessions in their first year, sending deficits higher still.

The 45th president could have one beneficial tailwind: markets suggest interest rates could remain lower for much longer than most imagined just a few years ago, a consequence of slowing global growth. As a result, the cost to service the national debt has fallen to its lowest level in nearly 50 years as a percentage of the nation’s gross domestic product even though total debt as a share of GDP has doubled to about 75% since before the 2007-09 recession. Some say the next president should see that as an opportunity.

“We have a window here, courtesy of central banks of the world, to borrow money very cheaply,” said Jim Millstein, a former Treasury official in the Obama administration who is working on an infrastructure-bank proposal. With low rates deterring private firms from investment, he said, “we’re going to have to use public capital.”

Doug Elmendorf, who as head of the Congressional Budget Office from 2009 until 2015 warned frequently of the toll unchecked deficits could take on the economy, now says the next president should tolerate wider short-term deficits to boost public investment in high-quality infrastructure or education programs.

“My thinking has changed because interest rates have fallen so far,” he said. Policy makers should now recognize the declines have created “a sea change” in the conditions they now face, he said.

These stimulus advocates say not all spending should be treated equally. They don’t support more money on increased benefit spending, for example, that adds permanently to federal outlays.

Others say the case for stimulus isn’t compelling anyway. “If short-term stimulus spending programs were the formula to economic growth, we’d all be studying the Japanese economic miracle of the last 20 years that never happened,” said Andy Laperriere, political strategist at Cornerstone Macro who served as adviser to former House Majority Leader Dick Armey (R., Texas) in the 1990s.

Write to Nick Timiraos at nick.timiraos@wsj.com

http://www.wsj.com/articles/fiscal-constraints-await-the-next-president-1474844585

Welcome to the bizarre new world of “post-truth politics”

September 26, 2016

By Jonathan Eyal
Europe Correspondent

Politicians may be strident in misleading voters but professionals must stand up to expose the lies.

LONDON • Since live televised debates between United States presidential candidates were first staged more than half a century ago, electoral campaign managers insisted on negotiating in advance every technical detail of each confrontation. Everything, from the nature of the questions and right down to the studio lighting, was haggled over, time after time.

Yet in the run-up to tonight’s televised showdown – the first of this year’s presidential campaign – organisers were confronted with an unusual demand from Mr Donald Trump, the Republican candidate: That what he says and the facts he may use to make his arguments against Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton should not be challenged by the TV moderator for accuracy; the debate should simply carry on, even if what Mr Trump says may be untrue.

Welcome to the bizarre new world of “post-truth politics” – an age in which politicians who utter the most brazen of lies not only get away with it, but even contest the right and legitimacy of those who try to expose their falsehoods. Post-truth politics are based on the assumption that reason or facts no longer matter, and that people can be persuaded to vote for a cause on the basis of just mood and innuendo. Few developments are more dangerous and more corrosive to good governance than this post-truth age.

Politicians have, of course, been accused of lying for centuries, and often with good reason. But, as a rule, in countries which have open elections and where politicians fight to lead, lies were traditionally intended to cover up inconvenient or embarrassing episodes; they were short-term expedients, subterfuges.

In today’s post-truth age, however, lies are not merely occasional mishaps, but the core of an electoral strategy. And lying is not something one does surreptitiously; it is thrown in the electorate’s face.

A classic example of this is Britain’s recent referendum on whether the country should stay in the European Union. Those who advocated its departure from the EU started their campaign by proclaiming that Britain paid £350 million (S$616 million) each week as an EU member, a sum that could supposedly be used instead to build up Britain’s domestic health service.

Lies! ILLUSTRATION by MIEL, The Straits Times

 

The lie was so egregious that Britain’s politically neutral Office of National Statistics issued a rare public rebuke to anti-EU campaigners for “undermining trust” in government accounts. Still, the Brexit campaigners continued to use this false figure on all their campaign posters and buses, on the assumption – which ultimately proved to be correct – that the more a lie is repeated, the more it stands a chance of being accepted as truth.

Brexit supporters also used big lies to dominate the narrative of the referendum campaign. They claimed that, if Britain remained in the EU, it would have to accept millions of Turkish migrants by the end of the decade. Every Brit knew that Turkey is not in the EU. Almost every voter also knew that Turkey is highly unlikely ever to become a member of the EU. So, this was pure invention from start to finish.

But it also worked as intended, for the more British government officials and academic experts tried to refute scare stories about Turkish migrants, the more they drew attention to the question of immigration, something which clearly favoured the Brexiters. Ultimately, the entire campaign to pull Britain out of the EU succeeded because it rejected reason altogether. As Mr Michael Gove, a senior British minister, memorably put it, voters “have had enough of experts”.

NO SHAME

Mr Trump in the US adds to these tactics a further refinement: He uses lies not merely to promise a fake future, but also in order to recreate a false past. He constantly claims, for instance, that he has opposed the US-led invasion of Iraq, despite absence of even a shred of evidence for this in hundreds of hours of taped interviews Mr Trump gave over the past two decades. He also constantly claims that America’s immigration problem was deliberately created by Mexico, whose government apparently had a plot to send its criminals to the US.

However, the moment such big lies no longer serve a purpose, they are dropped without as much as an explanation, let alone an apology. Immediately after winning the referendum, supporters of Brexit simply scrubbed from their website the promise that all the money which they alleged was paid to the EU would now be diverted to build British hospitals. And, when Mr Trump recently decided that there was no longer much point in accusing President Barack Obama of forging his birth certificate, he simply claimed that it was not he but Mrs Clinton who questioned whether Mr Obama was born in the US. Seldom in the history of modern politics have so many lies been told by so many people with so little shame.

A number of reasons account for the rise of post-truth politics. One explanation may be psychology: Plenty of electoral surveys indicate that voters believe stories which reinforce their preconceived ideas. Mr Trump’s anti-establishment supporters are ready to believe that the federal government in Washington is capable of any crime. Similarly, British voters who hate the EU were ready to believe that any amount that Britain spends on its EU membership is a waste, so the fact that politicians lied about how much Britain actually pays the EU made no difference.

TIME TO EXPOSE LIES

There is also the phenomenon which one US TV comedian termed “truthiness”, namely an assertion or claim which has no basis in fact, but instinctively sounds right and ends up being believed. Ask voters in most Western nations whether they think that the number of immigrants in their countries is rising, that crime rates are soaring or that there are many more fatal car accidents, and you are guaranteed to get a nod of approval; tell them that this is the case, and they are likely to believe an unscrupulous politician. Unsurprisingly, therefore, claims by Mr Trump that America has allowed in “too many” Muslims, or that the US has “no idea” how to fight terrorism fell on fertile ground.

And then, there is the proliferation of media platforms, allowing people to form their own virtual universes, their own echo chambers where they are persuaded to believe the absolute worst about political opponents. If you are an American voter watching Fox News, you are likely to believe anything bad about the centre-left of American politics, including a potential claim that Mrs Clinton eats children for breakfast; conversely, if you watch the MSNBC TV network in the US, you are liable to believe claims that all right-wingers are just closet Nazis. Feeding lies to such audiences is the equivalent of lighting matches in dry forests: It’s guaranteed to create a firestorm. And once this firestorm rages, assertions from post-truth politicians suddenly acquire an aura of credibility.

Ask voters in most Western nations whether they think that the number of immigrants in their countries is rising, that crime rates are soaring or that there are many more fatal car accidents, and you are guaranteed to get a nod of approval; tell them that this is the case, and they are likely to believe an unscrupulous politician.

Yet there is plenty that can be done to fight back against this post-truth phenomenon. The rising popularity of fact-checking websites, providing instant analysis of politicians’ assertions, is an encouraging sign. So is the fact that professional organisations – scientists, lawyers and various academic disciplines – are increasingly prepared to stand up and debunk claims made by campaigners of whatever stripe.

But ultimately, the mainstream media also has to help by dropping its reluctance to brand false statements from politicians for what they are: just lies. The reluctance is understandable: mainstream media platforms jealously guard their professional reputation, and do not want to appear strident by branding some statements as untruths. Still, the old adage that “everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts” is as valid today as it was when uttered by the US Senator Daniel Moynihan in the 1960s; lies should be exposed and branded as such in the mainstream media.

For the descent into a miserable post-truth world is far from inevitable. A recent survey compiled by the Institute of Government, a British think-tank devoted to promoting good governance, found that the bulk of British voters still believe politicians try to make government work well, and an overwhelming majority still want real experts involved in government decision-making.

In short, truth and competence still matter. Time for the moderator in today’s US presidential debate to make a stand on this point.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 26, 2016, with the headline ‘Is this the era of post-truth politics?’.
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We at Peace and Freedom believe more than ever that the truth is widely available to anyone who will read….
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We also believe that the refugee crisis the world is now engulfed in was caused by the inability of all nations involved to prevent or stop the conditions that caused this mass migration. Before Barack Obama was elected President and Hillary Clinton was the U.S. Secretary of State, there was not the “migration crisis” as the EU likes to call it. For us, when President Obama failed to enforce his “red line” in Syria,  everything in the world changed. Putin in Russia and Xi Jinping in China concluded that the U.S. would no longer stand up for international law. Putin charged into Syria, making a very bad mess in the Middle East even worse. China went into the South China Sea and built islands that it now claims as its own. China has ignored what President Obama has called the “binding” nature of the ruling on July 12, 2016 by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague that said China’s “nine dash line” in the South China Sea was invalid under international law.
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 (Read the Associated Press)

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 (Obama legacy is the loss of a free South China Sea and the loss of much of the Middle East, Crimea, Ukraine)
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While Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton began what was called the “U.S. pivot to Asia.” In this photo, Hillary Clinton talks with Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi. on September 5, 2012. Today Hillary Clinton is running to become the next President of the United States and China’s former Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi has been promoted to the number three leadership within the Chinese Communist Party. China seems to be in control of most of the South China Sea and is pressuring all U.S. allies from Japan to Australia to Singapore to ally themselves with China or face consequences. In 2012, Hillary Clinton was a big advocate of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). After Donald trump said the TPP was not a good deal for American workers, Hillary Clinton became against the TPP.

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Russian Tupolev Tu-22 M3 strategic bomber of the Russian Air Force are now taking off from Iran to bomb hospitals and American allies in Syria

France: Hollande in Calais pledges to combat illegal migration — Promises to “completely dismantle” the “Jungle” camp — Construction on British-funded wall continues

September 26, 2016

AFP

France’s Hollande visits Calais after vowing to close ‘jungle’

© AFP file | French president François Hollande.

Video by FRANCE 24

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2016-09-26

President François Hollande on Monday will visit the northern city of Calais, home of the notorious “Jungle” camp that he has vowed to close despite growing controversy over the fate of thousands of desperate migrants at the squalid settlement.

Hollande is due to arrive at 8am for a visit that comes just days after one by his conservative predecessor Sarkozy – who is hoping to make a comeback as president, with a harsh line on migration a key part of his campaign.

Hollande will meet with city and law enforcement officials, but is not scheduled to visit the camp itself.

Migration has been a low-key issue under Hollande’s four-year-old presidency.

But he has been forced to take a visible stance on the issue, under pressure from brash right-winger Sarkozy and far-right leader Marine Le Pen.

Each are promoting platforms of security, patriotism and national interest in early campaigning for next year’s elections.

Under pressure from the right wing, Hollande last Saturday stepped up his own pledge to combat illegal migration, promising to “completely dismantle” the “Jungle” camp.

His government has said this will happen “before winter” and a flurry of preparations underway there suggest the operation may begin shortly.

But plans to relocate the migrants have sparked controversy and protests, with local residents in areas where new shelters could be established vehemently opposed to the move.

The “Jungle” camp has also become a sore point in relations between France and Britain.

© AFP | Workers dig the foundations of a wall near the Calais migrant “Jungle” camp on September 20, 2016 to stop migrants from jumping on lorries bound for Britain

Last week, building work began on a British-funded wall to clamp down on repeated attempts by migrants to stow away on trucks heading for Britain.

Rights groups have also strongly criticised the difficulties and dangers facing the up to 10,000 migrants living in the camp, with a 14-year-old Afghan boy killed by a car just last week as he tried to get onto a truck.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

Related:

The wall being built in Calais is to stop migrants from jumping on lorries bound for Britain

Border wall/fence — Bulgaria’s frontier to Turkey

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Japan Scrambles Fighter Jets In Response to China’s 40 Aircraft Air Armada

September 26, 2016

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Chinese Su-30 fighter jets take off. Xinhua photo

Japan scrambled fighter jets on Sunday after spotting Chinese warplanes fly through a strait between Japan’s Miyako and Okinawa islands for the first time. Beijing said it sent more than 40 aircraft to participate in military drills in the Western Pacific.

The Japanese military said they decided to put their fighter jets up in the sky after spotting eight Chinese aircraft, including four bombers, two fighters and two surveillance planes. The military added that they later made a U-turn and flew back to the East China Sea without violating Japanese airspace.

Japanese defense officials said this is the first time that Chinese fighter jets have passed through the area, according to local media.

The People’s Liberation Army said it sent warplanes over the Western Pacific to practice surveillance, coordination and in-flight refueling. The drill was part of China’s effort to assert its control over parts of the East China Sea, which it designated its Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) two years ago.

ADIZ declaration means that China expects all aircraft traveling through its airspace to identify themselves with Beijing’s traffic regulators. Japan was among the nations, which condemned the move, which they saw as an attempt by China to boost its power in the Asia-Pacific region.

China’s relations with Japan have been marred by a longstanding dispute over a string of islets in the East China Sea, known in China as the Diaoyu and in Japan as the Senkaku.

Earlier this month, Chinese warplanes flew through the Bashi Channel that separates Taiwan and the Philippines, two other regional players unsettled by China’s growing military capabilities.

https://www.rt.com/news/360567-china-air-exercise-japan/

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Britain will suffer ‘economic shock’ if there is no free trade deal with the EU after Brexit, minister suggests — Says British businesses must stop “mainlining” immigration “like a drug”

September 26, 2016

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Britain will suffer an “economic shock” if the European Union refuses to sign a free trade deal after Brexit, a Government minister has admitted for the first time.

Lord Price, a minister in the International Trade department and the former managing director of Waitrose, admitted that the Government must “ensure” that British and European businesses “don’t find themselves staring at a cliff face created by a gap in our trading relationship”.

It came as Boris Johnson, the Foreign Secretary, continued to heap pressure on Theresa May over Brexit, urging her not to let the negotiations “drag on”.

He said that the Government should “get on” with triggering Article 50 – the formal process for leaving the EU – despite being rebuked by Mrs May just days ago for saying the Prime Minister should do it “early” next year.

Mr Johnson also accused British businesses they must stop “mainlining” immigration “like a drug” as Britain prepares to leave the EU.

Lord Price’s comments, made in a speech last week in Hungary, are in stark contrast to those of other senior Tories who insist that the UK could sever all ties with the EU and still flourish.

Both David Davis, the Brexit secretary, and Liam Fox, Lord Price’s boss in the trade department, have previously suggested that the UK could quit the EU without doing a free trade deal with Brussels.

Experts have claimed that a failure to secure a free trade deal with Europe could cost Britain billions of pounds a year.

Lord Price said: “And as I look to the future, my role will be as much about negotiating free trade deals, as it will be about making the case for free trade.

“I want to ensure that when we leave the EU, British and European businesses don’t find themselves staring at a cliff face created by a gap in our trading relationship.

“Such an event would cause an economic shock that the EU and UK don’t need.”

Mrs May has warned her ministers not to reveal any information about Britain’s plans ahead of the start of the Brexit negotiations.

She has repeatedly said that she does not want to “put Britain’s cards on the table” before the process has even started.

Speaking to the BBC’s Andrew Marr programme, Mr Johnson indicated that he would like to see the Brexit negotiations – which can take up to two years – wrapped up before the next set of elections to the European Parliament in May 2019.

“There is obviously Euro elections coming down the track,” he said.

“I think people will be wondering whether we want to be sending a fresh batch of UK Euro MPs to that institution which, after all, we are going to be leaving. So let’s get on with it.”

Attacking businesses over their reliance on foreign workers, Mr Johnson said that unlimited immigration from Europe for the past 25 years had left firms addicted to cheap labour from abroad.

He said: “For 25 years, UK business and industry has been mainlining immigration like some kind of drug without actually investing enough or caring enough about the skills and the training of young people in our country.

“That’s what Theresa May and the new government want to focus on.”

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/09/25/britain-will-suffer-economic-shock-if-there-is-no-free-trade-dea/

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Chinese Minister of Public Security in Vietnam to discuss border security, cyber and drug crime, anti-terrorism, law enforcement

September 26, 2016

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Vietnam President Trần Đại Quang (R) receives Chinese Minister of Public Security Guo Shengkun

HÀ NỘI – President Trần Đại Quang welcomed Việt Nam and China’s jointly-signed agreements to collaborate in fighting crime on Saturday.

The President hosted a reception on Saturday for Chinese Minister of Public Security Guo Shengkun, who is in Việt Nam to co-chair the fifth ministerial conference on anti-crime co-operation.

President Quang said that increased bilateral collaboration through diplomacy, national defence-security and law enforcement contributes to strengthening mutual trust and development between the two nations.

He upheld that it is in the two countries’ common interests to ensure an environment of peace, stability and cooperation for national construction and development. Recently, both sides have reached a common consensus toward increasing strategic exchanges, enhancing political trust, promoting mutually-beneficial co-operation and settling outstanding differences and emerging problems with efficiency and care.

The President spoke highly of the collaboration between the two public security ministries over the past years, especially in the fight against cyber, drug, and human trafficking crimes.

Minister Guo Shengkun, in reply, highlighted how both sides of the conference discussed at length issues regarding anti-terrorism, border crime prevention, cyber security and personnel training.

According to the minister, the two ministries also plan to expand coordination toward a diverse array of fields.  — VNS
Read more at http://vietnamnews.vn/politics-laws/343389/president-hails-deals-with-chinese-security-ministry.html#i21p0O4aQSBRzQDL.99